I decide to take the dogs up on the ridge before it gets too hot. By 10AM, we are heading down the trail. I didn’t bring the camera because I wanted to walk, not stop and take photos, but I’m regretting it now – it’s so lovely up here. Hang on, why don’t I try to paint a picture with words, so I can share with you?
I’m walking, Cookie on her retractable leash, Cinnamon trotting on ahead of us. Both dogs fixate upon something just after the start of the trail – there must have been sangliers (wild boar) or deer here recently, because they make repeated attempts to break away down the steep, scrub covered hillside to my left. I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t leave Cookie off leash as I hear something big crashing through the bushes below and we all stop and look downwards, but I can see no sign of whatever is making the noise.
We continue. The sun is warm on my back, but there is a light breeze blowing and welcome patches of shade cast by trees. The air is alive with birdsong – twittering songbirds, the hoot of a collared dove, the laughing whinny of a green woodpecker and a distant cuckoo. I am pursued by a bee for a while – it even lands on my hat and hitches a ride for a few moments before buzzing off again. There are lots of them around, fast moving honey-bees and big, fat, lumbering black bees who fly sedately by, emitting a steady drone as they go. I find myself walking along with an inane grin on my face, I can’t help smiling at the wonder of it all.
Two eagles circle up in lazy spirals from the valley below. I stand and watch for a while, then give in to Cookie’s impatience and carry on. Cinnamon trots ahead, positively jaunty (Heart murmur? What heart murmur?) ears pricked, eyes sharp, ever on the alert for lizards. She spots movement and both dogs pounce, Cookie bouncing after her prey eagerly but unsuccessfully. They repeat this many times throughout the walk – that game is never going to grow old.
The Luberon Massif lies ahead of us, blue in the Provençal haze. Far behind us, the trees at the start of the trail look blue now, too – this light is amazing, I can see why it has fascinated artists for centuries. The Downy oak trees have finally shed their russet foliage and have turned the surrounding hills into a sea of grey/brown, with islands of green evergreen trees dotted around. Close up I can see that new growth is pushing out vigorously on the bare branches – it won’t be long before everything I see up here is green.
The sun beats down and despite her cocky air, I worry about Cinnamon and turn for home. There are butterflies flitting up and down along the trail now that it’s warmed up – tiny blue ones, orangey brown ones that are never still long enough to allow me to inspect their markings, bright clouded yellows and a few pretty swallowtails.
It’s nearly 11AM and getting warmer. The dogs drink from the rapidly shrinking puddles that still dot the trail since the last rainfall, ten days ago. I regret not bringing a water bottle and I stop for a moment in the shade, taking in the vista again – scrubby oaks leading down into the valley, a patchwork of ploughed and green fields dotted with farmhouses, spreading across the valley to the hazy blue bulk of the Luberon, looming over it all.
Why would I want to be anywhere else?
The only thing that could make this better would be to have some of my favourite people here to share it with.