Tuesday 3 April 2012

Eternal regeneration

When April with his showers hath pierced the drought
Of March with sweetness to the very root,
And flooded every vein with liquid power
That of its strength engendereth the flower;
When Zephyr also with his fragrant breath
Hath urged to life in every holt and heath
New tender shoots of green, and the young Sun
His full half course within the Ram hath run,
And little birds are making melody
That sleep the whole night through with open eye,
For in their hearts doth Nature stir them so,  .  .  .  .  .
Chaucer.  Canterbury Tales
Modernish English Version 

Almost everything is changing almost all the time.  Modern life is as exhausting as it often seems superficial.  But in Châtillon-en-Diois, Spring has arrived again on schedule.  After some bitterly cold weather in February, March warmed up scoring almost unprecedented temperatures. And with April, as in Chaucer's time, Spring has arrived just as it did in Canterbury in the 14th Century.

Amongst the vines in the Valley of the Bez, the routine, both for man and nature, is also remarkably similar to Chaucer's time.  The vines have been pruned back, laboriously almost to the ground, with one or two shoots left to bear the new vintage.  The cherry trees, which are traditionally planted in the vineyards, are flowering spectacularly and the bees, like the vineyard workers, toil long hours, seven days a week.
Châtillon is the best of places   -   a medieval village dating back to well before Chaucer's time, as is the tradition of vine-growing on the fertile valley soils.  With the surrounding mountains we have a cornucopia of natural riches,  protected and partially isolated in a sub-Alpine valley.

The stone-built cabanons used to provide both storage and a roof for the night when families walked from Châtillon to tend their vines.  Not that it was a long walk back to the village but the alternative of a pleasant and well-watered evening under the stars, away from the cramped village streets, appealed then much as it does today.  And evenings in the vineyards still keep the villagers up into the early hours around the cabanons.

'Les Cerisiers', aptly named, has some splendid old white blossoming cherry trees and some pink and red ones recently planted.

The bumblebees were working so hard on our last visit that we could only find workers with their heads buried deep in the flowers.