02 September 2006

France: The Worker in the Vineyard

During our stay in the Lot Valley, it was important not to rush around seeing things and taking pictures but to give in to the rhythm of the tiny village in which we stayed. We wanted to experience everyday life in rural France.

Mornings we drove down to Cahors, prowling the markets and the shops and cafés. Afternoons we preferred to stay closer to home.

The lovely house our friend loaned us after my husband’s surgery was too enchanting, with its tile floors, massive armors, comfortable sofas. Herbs and lilacs grew in the yard; everything was green and lichen-covered. Why leave? Here was sheer magic!

Nearly 300 years old, the home turned its back on the village and faced a vineyard. Afternoons while my husband rested, I sat by the pool listening to the calls of roosters and cuckoos and the droning of contented and very benign bees in the warm spring sunshine.

Looking down into the vineyards, I noticed a solitary worker, who began his task of staking the vines at about 9 a.m. each day. He worked until noon, took the traditional two-hour hour break, and went back to his vines. Between 2 p.m. and about 6:30, the sound of chain saws and tractors would ring out across the valley again, competing with the roosters and cuckoos.

The man in the vineyard went about his work, never looking up. I wondered if he could hear so strong was his attention to task. I later learned he could not.

For a week, I watched his progress. I don’t know if he ever saw me up there, but I considered him my companion on those sunny afternoons.

I sometimes think of him, when I am working at a repetitive task and giving it my full attention. I wonder if he is content with his job. Or does he merely tolerate it? Does he wish for a different lot in life? Is he happy staking vines and caring for grapes used in making the famous Black Wine of Cahors. I hope he is.

Several bottles of wine from the very grapes he tended had been left for us by our hostess. They were deep and rich and tannic and we drank from them in the evenings, once we closed the shutters and settled in. Our wine tasting was always accompanied by hooting from an owl that sat in the lilac tree each night.

Those were wonderful days and nights, the vineyard, the worker, the wine, the owl, the church bells and the smell of wood smoke and herbs. Such deep contentment!

6 comments:

Jann said...

The worker,the wine and the owl....could be a title for a great book?? I enjoyed the story-felt as though I was standing out there somewhere watching you watch him....I am a people watcher,too.....

christine said...

Beautiful post Mimi. When were you in the Lot? My husband and I were around there last fall and the photo of the vineyard and the rolling hills looks so familiar. We drove from Cahors up to Gourdin and on to Domme and Sarlat. We stopped several times along the very small road we were on, taking in the beautiful countryside. I found a very tiny village along that route that I told my husband I wanted to have a house in so I could go there whenever I wanted. Such dreams.

Katie said...

As someone who has more than 500 vines to tend...is he for hire? Where can I find him? It is back-breaking, boring, tedious work...but the end result is worth the effort. We're picking in 2 weeks...

Mimi said...

I don't think I've ever known such happiness as I did sitting near that pool, looking at those hills and vines.

Midway between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, I thought I caught a wift of sea breeze, along with the lilacs and juniper and sunshine.

L Vanel said...

Very nice, Mimi. I also felt like I was sitting in the garden looking out from your perspective.

Tanna said...

I am transported after a very tedious chore if only for a short moment I have been engulfed in the beautify of the French country side! Most of the time if we look we can find beauty but where you were is stunning!
I absolutely love the French and France! We've had such great trips there.
Thank you so very much.