I recently was able to spend ten days in a cottage in the middle of cornfields in France. The poppies were flowering; the corn still green, with a hint of gold; the air was pure and fresh, and the pace of life was slow. On the first morning, I woke earlier than anyone else and so was able to enjoy a moment or two of solitude in the garden. I
I pull aside the curtains and open the French doors leading into the garden. The thick walls of the old barn have kept my inner world silent, but, as I step through the doors the universe bursts into song.
The gnarled old trees in the garden next door are heavy with ripening fruit, and the neglected lawn is chest high with grass, each stem bearing seeds for the delight of the birds that fill the air with their joy at the warm summer morning.
Today the sun is not shining. It is damp and misty. The heavy cloud cover bears down on me and promises the rain that is forecast. So I take advantage of the remnant of dry weather and bring my generous coffee cup full of steaming vanilla latte into the garden.
I take deep breaths of the still, pure air. It smells of damp earth and life. I am accustomed to the dry, city air of my African home, so this morning, this clean country air gives me as much joy as the birdsong and the green light and the taste of my coffee (a forbidden treat – an indulgence on this holiday morning).
I hang my binoculars around my neck. They are cumbersome as I write on my lap, but the birds here are swift. I drop my pen and gaze through the glasses at a blackbird who has found a ripening cherry. He stabs and pecks at the bright fruit for a moment, his yellow beak contrasting pleasingly with the pink – not yet red – cherry and the green leaves.
A chaffinch joins her voice to the harmonies that surround me. Perched on top of a bare, lichen-covered branch of an old apple tree, she declares to the world her presence and her joy at being alive. Her song is bright and cheerful and she is a treat for me on this first morning of our stay in this place.
In the distance, I hear two donkeys calling to their owner for breakfast. They live in the village across the valley, far enough away not to be intrusive, close enough to hear. I smile, imagining them standing at their gate, impatient for their petit dejeuner.
And as I think of their breakfast, my thoughts turn towards my own. French bread (what else?) a block of butter, home-made jam – and another steaming mug of coffee. Not perhaps the healthiest of meals, but for me, food always has, and always will be, one of the joys of holidays, so once again I intend to indulge myself.
So, for the moment, I lay aside my pen and my binoculars and step back into the well-appointed kitchen to prepare my own feast, which I will enjoy just as much as the blackbird enjoyed his cherry, and the donkeys will enjoy whatever it is that donkeys have for breakfast!
I am content. This is the stuff of holidays. Here I hope to write to start my next novel and to be in the presence of good friends and of God.
Here I am on holiday – the first morning – and all is well with my world.
It was a special time for me …