Early Autumn in Essoyes

EssoyesSunsetSept9_2017.jpg

September sunset, Essoyes. Photo by Janet Hulstrand.

Well, it is happening. The days are getting shorter; mornings and evenings are getting cooler. And there is that early-autumn “nip” in the air.

Having grown up in Minnesota, I do not mind any of this. In fact it makes me feel very comfortable and deeply “at home.” This is just the way things should be in September, if you ask me.

I was gone a lot this summer, and it has taken me a while to regain the feeling of peace and “settledness” that I so treasure here in Essoyes. But it is beginning to come back now, and it’s wonderful.

One thing I am enjoying is the pleasure of being once again on the edge of the forest. Listening to the birds, noticing new species, or species I haven’t noticed before, hop around on the railing outside my window, or peek inside. Enjoying the sound of wings flapping–is it an owl, is it a hawk? I have no idea, but whoever it is that goes scuttering out of the tops of the trees when I walk down the path in the mornings to get wood for the fire has very big, strong wings! Enjoying watching the squirrels prance around as they gather whatever they are gathering for the winter ahead. (The squirrels here are what we would call “red.” The French say they are roux).

Another thing that was really nice, and also made me feel very much “at home” is when I returned here from a couple of days in Paris and found a plastic bag hanging from my door. And what was in it?

Tomatos&Squash.jpg

In case you didn’t know the French name for that kind of squash, it is called “BOOT-air-nut.” I’m not kidding! I asked! 🙂 )

Another delightful surprise awaited me a few days later when my friend and neighbor the forestière invited me to join her and two other forest rangers for dinner at her house, and then to go with them to witness the brame des cerfs. Though I had no idea what the brame des cerfs was, my neighbor sounded excited about it, so I eagerly accepted her invitation, and figured (as I so often do in France) that I would figure it out as I went along.

Well, it turns out that the brame des cerfs has to do with the annual mating season of deer, which occurs at this time of year. My friend, and her friends, explained to me that during this time the deer, especially the male deer, become basically obsessed with the need to procreate, and they manifest this in various ways. One of them is by making some very interesting, and rather mournful, calls in an attempt to attract their mates.

And so, after dinner, which included–as always in France, interesting and pleasant conversation along with good food, and always cheese!–we piled into a couple of cars and went to a spot they knew, a few miles away, where we would be able to hear these mating calls of the deer.

My neighbor was right, it was impressionante, it really was. We got to the right spot, where we quietly opened and closed our car doors, got outside, and then stood still, waiting. We didn’t have to wait very long to hear what we were there for: from various points of the horizon, we could heard the wailing, or squalling, of the bucks, which was sometimes mournful, sometimes sort of humorous. After all, we all know that feeling, right?

We stayed there for maybe a half hour, just listening, enjoying the clear and starry night, so peaceful, so beautiful. Wishing the deer well in their endeavor.  Picking out constellations, looking for shooting stars, at least I was. We were not talking. We were just listening, occasionally whispering to each other.

And then we drove home quietly, through the starry night. I think my neighbor was pleased that I was as moved by the experience as she had hoped I would be. And I felt so privileged to have been invited.

Here is a daytime version of what we heard.

What else is new in Essoyes? Well, the vendange has already come and gone, it was early this year. I wrote about it here.

And there will be more to report soon, I’m sure. In the meantime I am trying to dig back into my work, deeper this time. Wish me luck with that, okay?

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the U.S. and France. She leads book groups at the American Library in Paris, writing workshops in Essoyes, a village in the Champagne region, and teaches “Paris: A Literary Adventure” each summer, in Paris, for Queens College, CUNY.

 

 

 

 

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