Toast and Other Miracles in France

Posted on Mar 6, 2012

I haven’t felt like writing. Still, I don’t, and yet I am compelled. Here it comes… almost as though I don’t have a choice.

There is a pain in my chest like when I swallow a French fry whole because I’m so excited and then it jabs and spears me the entire way down its trip through the esophagus…little bugger.

Yes, I am practically paralyzed with the condition of reverse French fry chest. It must be that the Writing needs to be burped up. Ms. Brontë said it well:

But this I know; the writer who possesses the creative gift owns something of which he is not always master—something that at times strangely wills and works for itself…. If the result be attractive, the World will praise you, who little deserve praise; if it be repulsive, the same World will blame you, who almost as little deserve blame.

Charlotte Brontë

It’s been a curious morning in the French countryside.

I awoke thinking I needed toast. I like toast. But with the armor-crusted bread here in the heart of Gascony, France, creating toast is no small feat. One must strap on safety goggles to protect the eyes from the flying crust as it launches off the loaf, and the broom must be at hand for the fallout to be swept from the floor. Yes, it is an undertaking. So while I longed for toast, I also accepted the fact that I may in fact be too urgently compelled by this stupid laptop’s keyboard and I wouldn’t have enough in me to undertake toast.

Little did I know a miracle was about to occur.

I ventured out to the kitchen and promptly discovered an entire tray of sliced bread at the ready. And wouldn’t you know it, a lemon-coloured sticky note was slapped on its saran wrap dome, “Yes, I feel like toast. Please toast me.” Sometimes the only appropriate thing to say is Holy shit. It was one of those times.

French bread

I did as the bread asked. I toasted. But first I had to pause the dishwasher because I most certainly did not have the time to walk five minutes out to the edge of the 16 acre property to flip back on the big breaker which trips every time we run two things at once in the western half of the house. The toast popped and with raspberry Bonne Maman jam in place with fresh chevre cheese, an apple for good measure and an earl grey tea with milk and raw sugar, I was off to the races…

Well, back to my French bed, anyway. I sit here now…. Banging on the keys, saying nothing of importance and feeling really fricking good about it.

With nothing to say there is no pressure to come up with something clever and certainly no concern about the shittiness of the writing. One is free to ramble and make horribly incomplete sentences that go nowhere and mean nothing.

I feel like life should be more like this roaming writing… Free… Without pressure to do something. All this bullshit about DOING something with one’s life. Bullshit, indeed.

So little needs to be done, really. Were it not for our greed and fear, we’d be far more relaxed, happy and abundant, I’m sure. Well, not sure. Sure isn’t the most healthy place to be…

French windows

From the comfort of my now-bread-crumby bed I squint out the sunny window. They’re out there tending their vines. The season is just beginning and another year’s vintage of Armagnac, France’s oldest brandy, begins to come to life as the vines wake up from their winter slumber. I can spot the vine man through my single-paned French glazing. He’s way across the yard and through the trees, down the slope. He’s about the size of my pinky nail when I hold my hand out at arm’s length. How far away is that? Actually, he’s smaller, because my nails are long right now. He’s checking each vine. And it’s not to increase production or be more efficient this year. It’s not so their corporation can grow by 38% over last year’s revenue. It’s not so that he can then go back to his office and write a memo for the shareholders and report back to the board on the status of their KPIs and goals.

No, he’s doing it because he loves his vines. He is caring for them. Real care. I can easily imagine he’s speaking to them, one by one as he does a little trim here and a little clip there.

My former business partner would argue that this man is indeed checking for performance indicators on the vines… that he’s gathering data and analyzing and strategizing. Oh f*&# off. Really. These vines have just weathered a shocking blow of winter, a cold snap like this region has rarely known – the man is talking to his plants! Try as you might, Mr. Business dude, to apply your business black box formula (x inputs = y outputs) but we cannot boil this down to only logic and data.

Of course, I am eternally romantic and optimistic (and I like it that way), and I see colours, meaning and ideas where others stare blankly… but in this moment it must be clear that there is more going on here than merely the production of Armagnac brandy.

vines in armagnac, France

The appellation is controlled. The plots that are planted with vines may remain vines. But no new land may be planted. What’s here is here. Period. This limit is absolute freedom, as I see it. The playing field is established and we will simply do our very best with what we’ve got. No fussing over growing the business or amping up production. No, instead we will concentrate our efforts on giving the very best care to our vines and we will have the patience to wait 25 years before tasting the fruits of our labour. There is no rush. There is no hurry to dominate the world market.

In this moment I wonder about visiting the winery/distillery chateau up the road. It is run by the Deche family and is called Chateau de Millet. But it seems the clouds are rolling in… so maybe another day.

My writing buzz is waning now. The tea is hardly warm and I ate all my toast. But such is life with its ebb and flow.

Original Images © Glamorous Monk

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