Springtime in Essoyes
For the first time, I’ve been able to spend a whole spring here, and what a beautiful day-by-day evolution that has been to observe.
When I came here the plants in the fields next to our home were at a height somewhere between my ankles and my knees. Every day they grew, and every day you could see changes, sometimes ever so slight, sometimes–depending on the weather, the time of day, and the light–dramatic.
Unfortunately I did not have a working camera for my first few weeks here, so I cannot show you what I am talking about. I can only tell you that it was miraculous, in the miraculous everyday way of nature.
The fields I walk past every day are of wheat and colza, which is called “rape seed” in English, and that is a word I hate. So I prefer to use the French word.
Colza is the grain from which canola oil is made, and when the flowers are in full bloom they make a person really understand the meaning of the words “yellow” (!) and “brilliant” (!) This is how colza looks from a distance, seen across a field of wheat, in springtime.
There are many pictures, and paintings, of these patchwork fields of green and yellow, which can be seen in spring throughout much of northern France, especially in Champagne, and in l’Yonne. One of the things that is so interesting about these fields is that while from a distance the yellow looks like a blanket tightly hugging the earth, when you are close to these plants, you can see that by late spring they are actually shoulder high. (I know this picture does not actually show anyone’s shoulder, nor does it give you the sense of the plants being shoulder-high. I tried to do a shoulder-high selfie, I tried several times in fact, and the result was just too ridiculous to share. You’ll have to just trust me on this.)
Eventually poppies begin to appear. (In French they are called coquelicots, a delightful word.) Here are the first ones I sighted, can you see them? (Okay, look, I am not a photographer, okay? Just do the best you can. That’s what I did 🙂 )
Meanwhile the vines on the surrounding hills are slowly beginning to turn green, and the forested hills, which were a kind of brownish gray in early spring, have already done so. And the wheat, which is bright green now, with broadish, flat stems, will turn to tufted stalks, and a color sort of midway between golden and amber (yes, as in “amber waves of grain”) before it is harvested in late summer.
That is (some of) the beauty of spring in this part of Champagne, the southern part, near Burgundy, which is called l’Aube.
Of course there are flowers too. And there are the bells ringing out from the village church, and there is the sweet singing of the birds.
But more about all that on another day.
Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing, and of literature. She divides her time between the U.S. and France, where she offers writing workshops in Essoyes, a beautiful little village in the Champagne region.