I’m beginning to feel a little melancholy these days. Summer is ending in a few days and our time in France is over in little more than a week. The fetes and festivals are mostly over except for harvest festivals. The light has changed, almost imperceptibly, but it is now a lower, slanting light, rather than the high in the sky light of a month ago. We were so busy with our tourist activities last week we didn’t notice the inevitable change.
There are fewer patrons at the bar, in fact for an hour on Friday evening, I was the only patron. The traffic is lighter, there are fewer cars, campers, caravans, and horse trailers heading back from a day at Lac Montbel. Over in the Aude, the grape harvest has just begun and the air is at times a little smoky with things burning in piles and smoke rising into the air.
The fantastic pace of summer is over. To me it is reminiscent of Yellowstone as the summer draws to a close; the visitors head home, the kids go back to school, and the bears continue steadily, purposefully fattening up for hibernation.
The weather is still perfect, at least today. It’s warm during the day and nicely cool at night and in the morning. Doves still call in the evening and bats are still busy at dusk.
The Marche Nocturne Leran is over and it was great fun, but we couldn’t go on at that pace for too much longer. We’re not in college anymore and the activity is unsustainable. Still, it leaves me a little sad.
We prepare to leave France. We are buying food in small quantities and trying to eat up things that have been the refrigerator all summer. We contemplate how to say goodbye to everyone and we realize there is no perfect way to say Au Revoir. We are thinking about what we need to do to prepare the house for a long winter with no one home. We have a possibility of renters taking the house but at this point we don’t know.
I’m sitting at the bar alone on a Friday evening, making notes for this post, and where once it was all hustle and bustle, now it is quiet. You can hear birdsong and conversations drifting down from windows along the street. It’s that quiet. Cats lie in the sun along Cours St. Jacques now, instead of in the shade.
I’m the only one at the bar. I drink much slower.
The leaves are just beginning to turn and some have already fallen. Here and in Mirepoix the city workers are already raking up a few leaves as they clean the streets. Brown leaves blow across the Cours St. Jacques. The color of the trees has changed from bright vivid green to the tired, dry, brittle green that precedes autumn. Some leaves have a hint of yellow. Out in the countryside, the fields are brown, some recently turned over, recently plowed. The sunflowers that were once so bright yellow are now brown stalks with drooping heads awaiting threshing.
My thoughts turn to the hot tub in Moab on freezing, cold winter mornings. And we have had scary thoughts about how the dry, red desert landscape will look after a summer in this lush and ancient land. We must be some of the last summer people left in Leran. The ‘Le Fumers’ are long gone and mostly forgotten. The kids are back in school. Moms and Dads escort the little ones to school in the morning even though it’s only a short block or two away.
It will be good to see some of our old friends back in the US. We anticipate seeing some of our friends from Montana, heading down to the desert for a last snow free hike, or a last backpack trip, or the last river expedition of the season. It will be good to see our old friends as we pass through Colorado and our friends back in Moab.
It will actually be good to get away from here for awhile. Ten months back home will sharpen our senses and we will return with fresh eyes. But these last few days everything seems more special, even insignificant things. Will this be the last time I sit at the bar? Will this be the last time I see what seems like a driverless British car cruising down the road with no one in the driver's seat?
These past few days, everyone asks us, “When do you come back?” And we don’t really know for sure.