It’s high summer. The time of first fruits from the garden, long sunny days, kayaks on the water, cool starry nights, village fêtes, music rising from parties all along the river…
When we planted the first row several years ago, I didn’t fully realize that lavender is much more than a flower. We knew of the medicinal properties against insect stings, and also hoped to deter some mosquitoes. But now, several plantings later, the spectacle of evening lavender has become central to the setting of high summer.
Just before sunset is best. I sit on a broken old straw chair, slide my feet amidst the roots and draw a handful of stalks to my face. The perfume is intoxicating. Pungent, sweet and powerful, all in one draught. Intoxicating for its richness. It is our richness, this wealth, this luxury of simply being enveloped in – so much lavender!
Evening is the time when the mass of swaying purple flowers vibrate with the work of hundreds of fuzzy, darting, focused insects. The pollinators are out en masse, collecting their last booty of the day. I watch diligent workers packing up cargo, swooping in and out, never crashing into their neighbors, humming their tune “plenty for everyone…”
There are of course, the seemingly professional honeybees that we think come from a neighbor’s hive, ever precise and efficient. Then come the colorful, wide-winged rainbow colored Hummingbird sphinx (Macro glossum) with long beaks and a mesmerizing prowess at hovering. There are the varied, indigenous pollinators that live in stray stacks of wood or in the earth.
But perhaps our favorite are the chubby, black striped Bumble Bees, so aptly named, for they do indeed bumble about awkwardly, heavy with pollen, seeming to lose direction as they zigzag drunkenly back to headquarters. One swarm has taken up lodging inside the garage and we laugh as they try to find the path to their own door, always seeming to forget the entrance they built. They are the clowns in the act, not aware of their own precious selves and their preciousness to us.
In an era when pollinators are in such danger, we feel lucky they return, more numerous each year. So every spring we plant another row for the delight of witnessing their numbers multiply. From my evening seat I think, soon we’ll establish our own beehives and maybe they’ll be kind and share some of their honey with us.
And with that thought – yet another plan for the future – I halt.
While I was simply watching the bees, time stood still. There was nothing but the lengthened evening shadows, the iridescence of the last rays of sun on the waving sheaves of purple, the undulating flight paths, and the soft, high, delectable buzz of the bees’ wings.
But as soon as that never ending to-do list rears its head, something evaporates. The intrusive future shuts down the now. Already I’m pondering when and how I’ll prune to best encourage next year’s growth. I imagine drying the flowers for uses in the cupboard. And with no ado, I’ve been highjacked to premature scenes of end of summer: the departure of the swallows, departure of friends, goodbye to alfresco dinners with bottles of frosty Rosé, goodbye to summer vegetables picked that morning and stirred up that night…
Goodbye to the vision of a hot, still, Summer Solstice era afternoon: there is Henri under the centurion tree, teaching young Emma and Matteo to meditate. Further on under the shade are Julien and Carol stealing a brief rest from the long hours at the Taverne. There is John on a lounge chair, hat over his face, snoring away, oblivious. Dante, comatose in his fur coat fit for mountain winters, is stretched out at his feet. Beyond, there is splashing in the pool, Genevieve and her friends here for her July birthday, a celebration of one more year of life, and best of all – life in a place far from war and sadness.
Already I’m saying goodbye to the time of planting, goodbye to the time of coming to fruition and find my heart pounding at the prospect of the imminent months of Autumn work in the winery.
I shake myself. Try to shake off the tyranny of the intrusive future. Yes, this will all end. But not today.
Words of Eckhart Tolle come to mind: “The Now is the only point that is out of time. The eternal present is the space within which your life unfolds, the only factor that is constant. Life is Now.”
The lavender waving in the evening light is the epitome of being in the Now. How to hold on to it? There is no holding on. It is slipping through my fingers even as I take note of its beauty. Here, and then gone. Here, and then gone.
So I find my place under the old tree where the clan sleeps away the afternoon heat, knitting up their raveled spirit-sleeves in this place and interlude of peace. Lie down on the grass, turn to the swaying purple cloud, close my eyes.
Like the others, give up, give in, doze off to the buzzing of honey bees, and the perfume of a lavender now.
and then something to wake us up…