We persist in living like tourists: rather than closing our shutters to the day's indomitable heat as do the pragmatic locals, we keep them flung open to the light. I don't want to even imagine living in a perpertually darkened house, so I don't, but the price is paid at night. Accordingly, I have been spending my nights out on the terrace under a light blanket and an endless host of stars, my face bathed in the gentle cooling breeze. This is far more pleasant than the confining, close air in the house. Being on the terrace also means drowning in the frog chorus. I have isolated five different calls, among which one that bleats like a robotic sheep, one that sounds like a duck, one that sounds like a squeaky swing. It's raucous out there. And then of course the rooster starts up with the first lightening of the sky.
All the structure that binds the rest of the year is released. No set anything, not even bedtimes, not even for the littlest. Night swimming happens, as do ambling conversations into the deep night with old friends. I have been watching the thousand shades of green temper into something more average as the grasses dry. The lettuce have bolted, and the tomato plants demand their share of the water hose. The cigales begin screeching their two-note chant as soon as the day's heat sets in. The blackcurrants are tucked in cellared jars, ripening in their alcohol baths to beome something finer than one has a right to expect. The liqueur will be ready in a few months. The cherries have been amazingly prolific and sweet this year, but now there are only the dark remains, drying on the ground, attended to by clouds of butterflies, who rise and fall in undulating waves as we walk by.
In this sustained chaleur, fragrant mint and ginger-inflected iced green tea is the order of the day. That and a trusty sweaty glass (or two) of gin and tonic. Hydration is a good, good thing, especially if you are to make a trek into the village to celebrate France's independence.
On the eve of Independence Day, once night falls, there is the pétanque competition, and the band tunes up.
There is the repas dansant, table after table set up in the village square to accomodate families, dogs, conversation and eating in the caressing night air. The wine and beer flow (which help explain why the celebrations happen on the 13th: recovering people sleep in on Bastille Day, except in, say, Paris).The children gather for the retraite aux flambeaux, a parade lit by paper torches the children wield at the end of bamboo canes. Imagine a river of bobbing, rainbow-colored lights, wending its way through the narrow village streets. The parade finishes at the soccer field, and the late arrivals make it just in time for the fireworks. Vive la France!