We arrive late at night. The drive has gone quickly as Jnanamati shares with me some of his experiences in India and we unpick possibilities and deconstruct dilemmas. As we turn off the main road at Bessais the village is quiet, shutters closed against the night air and respectable inhabitants in their beds – it is after all half past ten at night. I have felt buoyant all the journey, but suddenly as we take the little road to the house a strange residue of emotion surfaces in me and I feel overwhelmingly sad and low. It is such an interesting example of conditioned mind. All I can imagine is that some remnant of half acknowledged feelings from January are still lurking ready to be activated, or more precisely I have carried their seeds through a period of increasing optimism. Not that I was low in January. There were low patches, but I also felt great pleasure in the slow, steady recovery after my accident and the limited horizons brought me times of peace too. But there were lows too, wondering what problems the accident would leave me with and how well I would recover.
The mood hovered in the background as we drove up to the house, but on stepping out of the car excitement broke through as I gazed up at the sky studded with so many brilliant stars and felt the warmth in the air which spoke of balmy spring days.
The mattresses were piled in the kitchen, so easily retrieved, but sheets were harder to find as the light bulb seemed to have gone in the upstairs of the écurie where they were stored. After some groping around, however, I found two sets of single sheet, duvet cover and pillow case.
Morning started with confusion. Looking at my watch, my immediate thought was that I had an hour in hand because I had set it to French time yesterday so it was an hour fast. Then I remembered I was in France. It is funny how stupid one’s thoughts can be when half asleep. The bright sun streamed in through the crack in the heavy old velvet curtains. I could hear the cooing of pigeons outside. Peeping out, I saw an expanse of lush green growth.
A tour of the land reveals that spring has somewhat been and gone. The daffodils and cowslips are largely over and the woods are fill of early summer flowers; bluebells are profuse at the top of the champ d’avoine and stitchwort and a purple-blue flower whose name I have forgotten are everywhere. The garden has a good carpet of weeds, though the mulching we did last autumn has held the grass somewhat in check, and the pond is very low, punctured by stones which broke off and tumbled in during the harsh winter I suspect. A big job in prospect. I wonder if the fish is still in there - the water looks very murky. Stinging nettles have taken over vast tracts of land around the house - the garden in front, the area behind the barn and the grass between the house and the orchard. Nettle soup for an army! Everywhere one feels a love hate response to nature – delight in her profusion and anxiety at the amount of bramble, blackthorn and clematis already encroaching on the paths. In fact it takes a heart of steel not to be daunted at this time of year.
Jnanamati and I walk the site, identifying priorities – weeding soft fruit and the orchard, making a start on the garden and finishing the blackthorn clearance in the secret field. The house also needs some work to spruce things up before the summer and it would be good to insulate the out houses which now have electrical sockets. We could do with at least twenty volunteers. Anyone interested? As we walk the paths, we are surrounded by birdsong, and two deer run ahead of us across the path in the bonfire field. I cut some of the early growth of brambles and blackthorn. knowing these are just the first outriders of a steady onslaught which will grow over the comimng month or two. As we come back towards the bamboo I am startled to see a snake in front of my on the ground, basking on an area of open ground beside the drainage ditch. He is as shocked as I am by my cry and disappears very quicky into the undergrowth. I am uncertain what sort he was but make a note not to be complacent.
One thing which is very noticeable is how dry everything is. The bright green growth which covers everything contrasts strangely with the dusty dry soil. I hope that we will get rain, though of course the sunshine is wonderful, for the last year when it was dry like this led to the drought of 2004 when we lost so many trees.
So we settle into work, unloading the car and scything the grass so that we can put the picnic tables out beneath the walnut trees. Another summer has begun.