Sunday, January 16, 2005

Yearning for the Lubéron

As we are thrust, once more, into the icy arms of winter, I seek my sustenance, cuddled under a stack of warm, soft flannel sheets and downy feathers, from books. Specifically, I am speaking of the books of Peter Mayle. His beloved Lubéron beckons to me, from his novel, Hotel Pastis to his memoir, A Year in Provence.

No matter how much I try, I cannot separate the weary face of the late British actor John Thaw, who played Mayle in the English mini-series, from the man I read about in these books. Such is the danger of "seeing the movie" before reading the book. Nevertheless, his is a warming presence in my mind's eye and I welcome it.

And my dreams of Provence! Even now, I can hear the wind whistling outside my very windows, as the panes rattle ever so slightly in their frames. It may be, in reality, a Canadian cold front shushing down through the Ohio River Valley, but, for me, it's the legendary Mistral blasting through the south of France. My house, although somewhat lacking insulation, is still superior to Peter's stone farmhouse. At least (knock on wood!), my kitchen pipes haven't frozen yet!

Still, I long for warmth and springtime and the re-birth of all the rosemary and lavender, with their almost resinous fragrances, lining the paths to my imaginary garden. Grey-white foliage plants that thrive in sun, hedges of rosemarys, lavenders, and sages, mingling with heirloom roses: the beautiful Bourbons like the incredibly fragrantMadame Isaac Pereire, the richly pink, camellia-like Louise Odier, the red-and-white striped Variegata di Bologna; the fine Gallica, Duchesse de Montebello; and the wonderfully fragrant Hybrid PerpetualThe Reine (des Violettes).

We shall meet there and dine beneath the darkness of the starry night as the warm breezes rustle the leaves in the trees. The Cotes de Ventoux is lovely, but no more so than the company we keep.