My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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in the garden in Gordes

What can I hear as I sit here in the garden at nearly 9 p.m. with my little white Mac? The drilling cicadas have all gone to bed. Birds trill, an occasional one flaps past. Flies buzzing, wind breezing, a neighbour’s voice and barking dog from afar. If only these flies weren’t so noisy. There’s a car passing on the road above. Two cars. Ah, the rumble of an airplane, very distantly. More birds. More flies. A child chatting somewhere, and a mother’s response. Such cascades of birdsong – what are they saying? The sky is the palest blue to the left, richer blue to the right, puffy cumulus clouds straight ahead. A strenuous flapping of wings. My fingers on this machine.

For a writer, this is the planet of perfection. Today, after Denis left at midday for work, it was just me and my thoughts and dreams and stories at the desk in my room, which is the childhood room of my goddaughter. I tapped, thought, tapped, and went outside to warm up, because my host is so strict about the windows and shutters trapping the cool air inside and keeping out the hot that the house is like a cave, cold even when it’s roasting on the other side of the walls. So I went out to look at the garden, pull a weed or two, warm up my feet in the scorching sun, go back to work.

At 1.30, time for melon, ham sandwich, salad, chocolate. This is the summer of the ham sandwich, that’s for sure. The Frugal Traveller in the Sunday New York Times wrote about how to do Paris cheaply: picnics was his great idea. Ham sandwiches, in other words. Been there; done that.

Reading, email, and then, when the shops open again after the siesta – who can comprehend tourist stores that close for lunch for several hours, still? – I walked down the scorching cliff-side path to the village. There’s a place on the path where the houses and trees stop and there’s a panoramic view of Provence, its hills, farms, fields divided neatly into rectangles, houses, roads – with nothing stirring. Like looking at a giant photograph or painting. Ran into a German couple on the path, extremely red of face, who wanted to know where they were; I was happy to tell them, though I wanted to say, you are in Provence, which sometimes, like today, is heaven.

Arrived in the sleepy village and went to the stationary store to buy this week’s Elle magazine. Lynn says it’s not worth buying Elle in the summer, it’s all bathing suits and the staff are on holiday, but in this one there’s an article on the “normal” Frenchwoman who killed three of her new-born babies, and on whether the burqua should be allowed in French schools. I fingered newspapers – the International Herald Tribute, which has most of my favourite comic strips; the Telegram from England with a big article on the family life of Michael Jackson, but resisted. (Even the ultra-intellectual, serious Le Monde had a front page article on Michael Jackson. A sad, sad story.)

And then marched up the broiling trail home, to drink a very large glass of cold water, have a swim, do some yoga exercises under the trees, breathing and stretching, and then go back to work.

Denis came home and made a quiche in seconds – ready-made pie crust, toss in a packet of lardons – pork bits – cream, spices and Swiss cheese and put it in the oven. I washed lettuce leaves and in half an hour we ate, discussing, this time, whether the idea of negative and positive voices is a North American construction, when to him positive and negative are a matter of choice, balance and self-development. He told me he is in fact extremely lazy but has managed to overcome this handicap. I said of all the words I would use to describe him, lazy was the last. So we agreed to disagree, as we always do.

And now he is doing something somewhere and I’m here in the garden, tapping to the merriment of birds and the fading of the light. The sky has darkened; the clouds are dark grey with a lining of red gold. The child still babbles and the mother still responds, and I still listen, and tap.

Two hours later: All is not perfect in this Garden of Eden. There are bugs. Big bugs, small bugs, many bugs. I had to ask Denis to remove, carefully, two enormous Daddy Longlegs that had decided to keep me company in my room. Right now I’m at my desk, it’s nighttime, and the quantities of winged creatures trying to get into my room is a tad offputting for a bugphobe like myself. There is a big horned beatle – I mean beetle, the other spelling is automatic – on the wall outside, preventing me from opening my windows to close the shutters. I will therefore wake at dawn, with the light, because of my stupid phobia. But there’s no way I’m opening my window and getting near that enormous black creature with too many legs.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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