We have the good fortune to be spending time in the mountains in the south of France this winter. While staying in an old converted barn and eating baguette every day is far from our regular life, one thing remains similar. Waking up is never easy. Last night, the wind pushed smoke down the chimney, and into the room instead of lifting it out. So, I cleaned out the fireplace, and we used a gas heater until nightfall when we called it all off, and decided to get cozy under loads of fluffy blankets.
The alarm woke us up at 8 a.m., but my cold nose, and the sound of icy drizzling rain outside made it more difficult than ever to get out of bed. Dragging along, we ate some oatmeal, and had tea with lemon, but I thought that it still seemed too early for anything good to happen as I layered my clothes, top and bottom, and put on my raincoat, and took the dog out for his daily half hour walk through the countryside.
We walked up a wooded hill filled with bare armed Chestnut trees, and lush green Oak and Pines. The path cleared after a few minutes, with a small field on both sides. A white horse ate from an old white ceramic bathtub tilting on the hillside. The sun cleared through the thinly spread clouds, and I looked ahead. The bushes on the side of the road looked as if they were dripping with crystals as the sun shone through their branches. The sky opened into a bright blue canvas, and the air seemed to intensify every color.
I looked further ahead to the rows of empty grape vines, and the old stone shack further on. Beyond them lay hills after hills, and beyond them, snow tinged mountains. The weightless clouds crept through every crevice and boulder, intensifying the definition of each nook and cranny. Each consecutive layer of hills appeared a different shade of rich dark green. My heart seemed to beat, not harder, but more fully.
I turned around, to look at Chris, and ask him if he had brought his iPhone/camera/alarm clock, but alas, it was still laying next to the disheveled blanket laden bed bed. Facing in the opposite direction, I looked down the road I had just travelled, and through the dark trees. Above the trees, the branches of a bare tree held the base of a vivid rainbow, which soared through the clear sky, over the direction of my home. The rainbow appeared as wide as the bare hands of the tree jutting over the skyline, and more deep in color than any I’ve seen before. Beyond the rainbow, terracotta roofs speckled the hillside, and further up, a distinct line clearly indicated the section of trees that were draped in snowy frost. The further I looked up the mountain, the whiter it became, until it blended into white cloud, and was captured by the sky.
I pined after these images, and longed to find some magic to make them permanent. Normally, Chris’s phone/camera is there to snap, and load to Instagram, or the blog. But, the rainbow was fading, and we decided that if we ran back to get the camera, we may loose the picture entirely.
I remembered, with hope, the camera I had learned to use in elementary school. It is free, and easy to use, but there is absolutely no way to share it with others. I closed my eyes, staring at the blackness, hoping I remembered the proper steps as I called them out to Chris. I opened my eyes, and stared straight into the image for 30 seconds, trying to identify as many details as I possibly could. Snapping my eyes closed again, I tried to re-create the image on the blank screen of my eyelids, to see it slowly develop like a Polaroid picture. I turned around, and took another picture in the opposite direction, and afterward set a quick pace through the golden sunlight. I don’t know if it will work, but I keep returning to the two pictures in my mind; they are all I have.
The walk continued up and through the hillside, and though every mossy tree, and stone was saturated with icy mist, as we returned to the spot where we had captured the images, my worry was confirmed, and the view was once again a wash of gray. If I had slept in another 15 minutes, we never would have experienced those moments at all. I don’t know if the pictures will really last, or if that one that I took in elementary school of looking up through golden-green shaking leaves was a fluke, but I do know that I did all I could to soak the essence out of that moment.