November 29, 2:30 pm, cloudy and bone chilling unless you are moving fast. Jim is up there now on the hill blowing leaves that are destined to build the big mulch pile up the hill. There he goes again, a tarp of enormous dimensions over his shoulders and dumped on a pile now over six feet high and double in length. The maple leaves have been gone a month and these leaves are oak. They are large and tough and they hint at the health of the tree and the size of the acorn crop, and that in its turn suggests the bumper acorn crop and the stampede of squirrels who are hiding them in their nests for winter eating, and in the ground against future seasons of famine.
At this point in my narrative, if I were Betsy I would climb off this imagined vessel I am on and get back to correcting papers. Betsy’s strength is her ability to commit to a plan she will have devised even before she has thrown back the covers in the morning, while I am distracted by the slightest breeze, but the whole topic of squirrels inevitably brings up gun control and that whole desperate question of danger, protection, power, control. Before you know it you have managed to outline a book that’s a few hundred pages long and nothing I had thought to deal with today. I’m not going to let myself get all dizzy with that however.
Because I intend to circumnavigate my mental globe, passing lightly over the initial phase that I had chosen as the binder for a complete assessment of one day in the life of…..Of all things, while checking in the notebook drawer for misplaced socks, I ran across a notebook I had kept on our last trip to Europe.
you can see that leaf pile is big enough for a park, and I wonder if we could make mulch and sell it. With the amount of stuff we throw away because nobody will eat it…..
This section of the notebook recorded our two-week stretch in Aix-en-Provence We were walking every day up Mont Saint Michel thinking about Cezanne and Zola and their great friendship and their great works of art. That is when we weren’t walking up the road to Vauvenargue and another look at the Picasso château. You can imagine how fired up our imaginations were. Picasso was buried right there in what we Americans might call the front yard. Mrs Picasso (I forget which one, but I believe it must have been the last one)
isn’t it odd that as soon as I start talking about Picasso’s wife I act as if she was just this extra business part of his life and not his beloved model named Jaqueline Roque.
Anyway, when we walked to Vauvenargue, we always ended up at a great little hotel whose owner was a chef. One day when we sat down at what had become our table, he ran quickly to grab Harry by the elbow to tell him excitedly that very morning as he strolled through his garden, he began finding great big snails. H was so proud of these snails and of course he planned to present us with a complimentary plateful. Harry, who had no shame, refused the offer, but I didn’t dare. He was, as I said, so proud. So I took the plate, took the lesson of pulling out the new boiled snails and felt so hopeless when each snail went tsst as it broke free of the shell, and I popped them one after another into my mouth with the snail tweezers, and chewed.
it’s too cold here now for snails. we have a strange one that comes by the gross during prolonged rain and they do terrible damage…..
But the chef had a reward for us when lunch was over. He took us in his car up the mountain to a medieval hut that looked out to the Alps and over the very routes that the Barbarians would take to get into France. The young couple who lived here rode horses all over Europe, even riding when it was time for the young wife to deliver their second child. They were in Norway when that happened, but they still rode back home to France and their stone hut with its fireplace wall and its wooden furniture from long ago.
It looks like Jim’s going to go out to buy some wine. Our neighbor, who had been in rehab after a hip replacement just went back to the hospital today with an infection. I don’t like the sound of that, but I can’t help thinking that if we lived in a stone hut what would we do when a hip gave way. I don’t want to think about it. Better to think about the dinner Jim will be cooking with chicken and sausage and pasta. Knowing Jim, I think there will be some art connected with that, too.