Full-blown Brittany Blues

West of Brest, Brittany, France

West of Brest, Brittany, France

I’ve decided I don’t like spring. I’m embarrassed to say that because most people I know get giddy about the season. Sure, the lacy look of lilac-laden limbs knocks me sideways. And you just can’t beat violets, daffodils, iris, poppies, and the rest of the gaudy, gauzy palette. Those little chartreuse tips working up through snow and soil thrill my soul, no matter weed or pea. Songs swoop and soar, sweet words lilt off lips, bodies luxuriate in warmth and sore muscles. Bursting with energy, it’s all grand. So what’s not to like?

First, there too much sex in the air. It’s like living with a passel of teenagers. Hours-long preening, silly and seductive lies, passionately petty squabbles, chaotic confusion and dramatic exits wallop me like Tchaikovsky tympani. crash crash crash crash BOOM! And, it’s everywhere. The birds are outright hussies but even the plants are ostentatious, flaunting all they’ve got right in front of me.

Second, winter and spring cannot decide who’s onstage and they bicker about it for months, wearing everyone and everything to a frazzle. Winds moan and groan, whistle and whine, trumpet, holler, and play the piccolo all night long. Some numbskull tom cat yowls at our windows from midnight to 3:00 AM and the four spayed girls pummel me as they race back and forth across the bed following him and warbling to be let out the door. Personally, I can’t fathom their dither and I end up greeting each morning bleary-eyed and grumpy. Do I need a fire? Yes. I build one, get too hot, go outside, sunburn, freeze, come in, build a fire, get too hot, go outside, sunburn, freeze, come in, build a fire.

We’re kinda arid right now out here where I live in the red-stone upper western corner of the Llano Estacado. I think this is the fifteenth or sixteenth, maybe the twelfth, year of severe drought; depends on who’s telling the story, but we all agree it’s damn dry. We’re in the national news as a slap-down to the folks in Massachusetts who might yip a bit about their weather. Those flouncy winds I introduced earlier tease us pitifully with rain potentials. They’ll rustle up some dark and mighty rainy-looking clouds five times a week, spend the day rolling them our way, get close enough for us to smell the rain, and then dribble an eighth inch on our ecstatic upturned faces. I’m serious. In the past two weeks three-eighths an inch of rain filled our gauges. Three weeks before that we got almost an inch. It’s dry.

Spring also ramps up my addiction to gardening, as its designed to do. There’s something wondrously special about dirt, broken fingernails, back spasms and promises of glory that grabs my full attention. With the first hint of impending warmth, I begin my schemes about besting the weather. Each year I believe I’ll finally plant the perfect New Mexican combination of vegetables and herbs to survive the wind, the drought, the late freeze, the early summer, the plague of grasshoppers, the el Niño flooding in June and September. When I lived in Colorado I grew fabulous medicinal herbs—my luxurious mother’s wort was six feet tall and I harvested more than a pound of Roman chamomile from that tiny backyard in Denver. Gosh, I was proud of those beautiful plants! Down here I can only work my magic with some flowers and a few culinary herbs. All vegetables die a pitiful death. It’s embarrassing since many of my friends are extraordinary farmers. But anyway, spring forces me to remember unholy failures and accept that I’m a dilettante gardner. Piffle.

Why else do I hate spring? Because it’s short and outrageous and I want the flowering and flirting to last and last and last. Because every fruit bud and green leafy thing can freeze in minutes and often does; I witnessed a hard freeze in mid-June that ruined nearly all fruit crops in my favored fertile valley. Because spring’s very capricious nature fills me with hope and deflates my enthusiasm several times a day. Because I’m manic-depressive and this hourly dance revs my hope to breaking point as I plummet to Earth.

But really? After stoically surviving and heroically thriving through sixty high plateau desert springs, how could I possibly come to loathe this splendid season of renewal?

Last year in May I went to Brittany. As the plane circled Brest, fields of yellow flowers hemmed in by verdant vines draping grey stones welcomed my eyes to an undreamed extravaganza. An aroma of rich soil and flowers greeted me as I drove the rental car away from the plane fumes. I spent a week driving down well-tended, narrow country roads, exclaiming at herd after herd of undoubtedly the most beautiful cows I’ve ever ever seen, losing my way to anywhere, circling lush gorgeousness casually gracing everywhere. Alone, without a single word of French remembered by my stunned brain, I cavorted in more green than I knew existed, even though I’ve camped in the Pacific Northwest and sojourned in New England. The ocean mixed temperate salt water in with the heady Earth smells and my lungs gulped the oxygen-rich air. My giddy nose trembled at the waves of growing vitality. My pores plumped with gentle green vibrancy. I soaked, reveled, relaxed, rejoiced, and healed in magical vistas. I don’t recall ever feeling that much at home, anywhere. I was ecstatic, truly lost in wonder and beauty, for six days. A numbing 27-hour return trip, cacophonous hours milling amidst my fellow Americans, and driving through the desiccated bare bones of my homeland broke my heart. I mourn still.


8 thoughts on “Full-blown Brittany Blues

  1. Beautifully written, Jeanne. I lived in Massachusetts for many years — huge garden. Even in Maine I could grow things. New Mexico was a complete mystery – no matter how much compost, manure and good soil I put in my beds I could not grow very much. But recently I walked from a rainforest (albeit manufactured) through savannah to Baja Sonoran desert (again, manufactured) and felt I could breathe again. Still, I look with envy on luxuriant gardens.


  2. Your writing is beyond 1st Class JET…You really are very good. I enjoyed your lively , humorous piece a lot. Excellent, warm, full of intelligence and humanity. My step-father..also M.D….went ‘wonky’ every spring and Xmas. So did one of my ex live in lovers..a recovering alcoholic. Interesting. Keep writing..!!..kristine marceltina


  3. Love your writing style.

    Piffle. Have not heard that word in a long time. Last time, I think, was in a FB entry.

    Love and miss you much!



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