Ringed Recognition

We were looking at some old pictures the other days, and came upon this one of a kid in the ringed T-shirt. Without even looking at the date, we knew right away it was from the late 1950s or early 1960s. Why? Because just a picture of the ringed T-shirts of our youth calls up such a sense of familiarity, nostalgia and comfort. h-lefebvre-1960s-boy-jeans-striped-t-shirt-holding-bow-and-pulling-arrow-out-of-target-bull-s-eye

We wore them as kids, all the other kids we knew wore them (at least until they were replaced by the tie-dyed shirts a few years later). You weren’t a little kid during that area, in certain parts of the world, without having some version of the ringed T-shirt.

It’s old, personal magic.

The field in rows.

The field in rows.

So why is it that the ringed lines of of the harvested field near our house have the same effect on me?

I didn’t grow up here in France, I didn’t even grow up around fields, and certainly not around wildflower meadows that get harvested for winter cattle feed.

The field, post-cut and pre-rowed. So many different kinds of grass and wildflowers.

The field, post-cut and pre-rowed. So many different kinds of grass and wildflowers.

Still, this early summer vision, which I’ve seen for almost 20 years now, has the same effect on me as a ringed T-shirt. A sense of comfort, a confidence in the familiar progress of the seasons. The meadow grows wild every year, reaches a peak, and then grows wild again until its second harvest in autumn.

A note: This is the same favorite meadow that just a week ago looked like this:

When they were still upright and green.

When they were still upright and green.

Every year, I miss the wildflowers and watch the butterflies bob aimlessly through the empty field for a week or so. And then the new growth begins.

Cherry Diversion

The view from beneath a cherry tree.

The view from beneath a cherry tree.

It’s been a hectic few days and I’ve gotten behind on my posts and other writing, but sometimes life requires a different kind of presence besides work.

I was already at my desk this morning, ready to write a post, when my neighbor called. There were three key points she wanted to make: First, the cherry trees in the orchard between our two houses were heavy with ripe black cherries, and the farm owner had kindly placed a large ladder against one of the trees should we want to help ourselves. Second, she could see a major storm cloud approaching over the Jura range behind us, a black wall of rain. And third, the farm owner, who usually picks the cherries, is out of town for a week and the incoming rain will probably ruin all the ripened cherries.

The sheep follow us when we pick, hoping for scraps and offering the occasional leg lick in return.

The sheep follow us when we pick, hoping for scraps and offering the occasional leg lick in return.

It goes without saying that I dropped everything, picked up a bag and a camera, and marched next door with the sole mission of saving several pounds of cherries from impending rain damage.

The cherry orchard has been sold to developers. By this time next year, the old trees will be gone and this orchard will have nine double townhouse constructions, several driveways, and if the other suburban projects are any indication, no trees (or sheep) at all.

Lamb diversity.

Lamb diversity.

The owner’s sister came by to water the farm’s kitchen garden, and told us that these early ripening black cherries – planted by her father back in the 1950s, were a naturally resistant variety. The black cherries planted much more recently by her own neighbor down in the next village – a more fragile variety – are susceptible to worms and mold.

These old farm cherries have just kept putting out hundreds of kilos of magnificent cherries over the decades, fertilized mainly by successive generations of grazing sheep herds, and with no pesticides.

One of the cherry trees, and my intrepid neighbor at work.

One of the cherry trees, and my intrepid neighbor at work.

 

And so my neighbor and I picked cherries among the sheep, achieving a ratio of perhaps 70 – 30 when it came to cherries that landed in the basket versus cherries that landed in our mouths. Now, obviously, I am back at my desk.

Today’s other unplanned task will be making a batch of cherry jam, as well as a batch of drunken cherries bottled in (what else?) whisky.DSC02249

Come winter, we’ll have cherry jam on toast and marinated cherries in champagne.

We’ll drink to the orchards of spring and summer, and to seizing the day.DSC02265