France: The Chestnut Trees of Montcuq

At 4 p.m. today, the sky turned deep blue and the low-hanging sun shone amber on the nearly-bare branches. The park is littered with brown leaves now, and the colors of scarlet and persimmon are but a memory. The glorious foliage of fall is all too fleeting.

But I love the mellow sun and the gray days of November. Each month seems to have its colors, and the colors of November are the colors of metals, of steel gray skies, pewter afternoons, bronze sunsets and copper leaves.

Fall comes early to chestnut trees, and by the end of September, the chestnut tree in our side yard, so glorious with its candles of white in June, is nearly bare while the lawn is layered with brown leaves. We've been told the chestnut is not suited to our cold climate, but it has been in the yard forever and it will stay forever as far as my husband and I are concerned. We have found it rather ironic that since we have been making nearly annual pilgrimages to France, the tree has seemed healthier. The half a dozen blooms of years past have multiplied in early summer, and the tree keeps its leaves later in the fall.

It's as if our chestnut knows it has to perform, now that we've seen its cousins in Paris.

The chestnut trees in Montcuq, an old hillside town about a half hour southwest of Cahors lose their leaves early, it seems. While area south of the Lot River was nearly all green in late September, Montcuq's chestnut leaves had fallen to the ground. They crunched under our feet as we walked down the sloping boulevard near the center of town.

It was noon and the shops were shuttered. Save for three or four rather seedy characters lounging about the café, we were alone. One young woman, probably a worker at a nearby business, sat at a table with her lunch and read a book. I felt drawn to her; she reminded me of myself, a sometimes loner with a book.

We took a dozen or so photographs, preferring not to linger. Montcuq (make sure you pronounce the final "q" or you will be saying, "my derriere") is a lovely little town, but it made me sad on this particular Friday. We made our way home by the backroads, and had a late lunch of cheese, saucisson, olives, and bread.

I felt a sense of contentment that day, as I did this afternoon when the sky turned metallic. Despite the challenges ahead, life can be good. Cherish these moments.

Want to roast chestnuts for the holidays? Here's how!


Judy said…
Hi Mimi, thank your for the beautiful walk. I love your posts that take us for walks with beautiful scenery and memories. You are such a great writer and storyteller. I'm kind of a loner with my book too.
We loners aren't rally all that much alone in the larger sense, I guess.

Where would my life have gone without my books? I cannot fathom that scenario.

Thanks, Judy!
Puant said…
Awesome article. I was in Door County this weekend, I went for a couple of 'walkabouts' and a run in the woods and on little-used country roads. I felt the same way--Nice piece of writing!
Thanks, Puant. I must pop over to see what you are up to. I will be in your town this weekend. Usually, I am merely passing through.

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