Evenings with Lou

My host mother stopped in the middle of dinner tonight to take me on a tour of her backyard garden. 

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I’m definitely going to miss being able to leave my door swung open all day to let in fresh air…not to mention this view.

Daylight savings time just began yesterday; we’re sitting on the couch where we eat, marveling at the evening glow outside and the flowers blooming in the backyard.

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Catching the magnolia tree in full bloom is a rarity — it happens only in a two week window.

“I love having that high wall over there, it gives me a microclimate so can grow all sorts of species that aren’t native to Provence. I call it my English garden,” she says with a small laugh. I twist back around from gazing at said English garden and see her looking how she sometimes does — eyes gazing off in the distance — and I know she is someplace far from here, about to offer some tidbit of gardening advice or launch into a story from her past life.

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English Garden.

This is the thing I love about Lou: if we divide seasons of life into chapters, she has an entire library. And it’s a library she often takes us to visit — some nights to the section called “Italy,” where the books are mostly adventure stories of hitchhiking with rich men, eating gelato after class, and jetting around with her best girlfriend. There are other ones about going out with her Italian boyfriend; another is the complete recount of how she met a man on a ship she took from New York to Italy, who would one day be her husband.

Other favorites are called “work” and “travels” — often those two are mixed. Another is “daughters” — that one makes her smile.

Just then, she set her fork down in the middle of the fish and stood up to open the sliding doors to the terrace. “I need to show you what I’m talking about. I forget the word for it.” I knew to follow.

She looked back and saw me outside the entrance, in my stocking feet.

“Why are you standing there?” she asked.

“I only have socks on,” I replied. 

“That doesn’t matter. Come on.”

Now – I must make two things clear: Lou is in love with gardening. I am not one to walk in the garden with socks. I’m imagining the grass stains and caked mud just sitting here thinking about it.

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It’s not usual to see this much green in Aix, let alone be surrounded by it during late morning breakfast on the back porch.

But, I knew that I would anyways. That’s probably one of the first things I learned when I moved into my homestay this past January: you just gotta do the thing — it’s how you build your library. I think that’s something we all spend our lives doing, whether consciously or not. And someday if you find yourself pouring out into someone else like Lou does to my roommate and me, you’ll realize what kind of books you’ve been writing. Sometimes, you can’t choose. Things will happen to you and you’ll have those stories on your shelf forever whether you like dusting them off for a re-read or not. But most of the time, you get a say. Make sure you take the opportunity to write the books you feel good about — the ones that matter.

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My white wall.

As you have probably already realized, this is not just a gardening-in-my-socks thing. Nor is it exclusively a study abroad thing. It’s a life thing. And it’s pretty exciting.

Sarah S. is the Spring 2017 MOJO Blogger in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is currently a Sophomore studying English Non Fiction Writing & French at University of Pittsburgh.

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