Monday, May 3, 2010

Wet world

When I look out my window of a morning and see the Cournouze shrouded in mist, it doesn't take much imagination to realize that the landscape is wet, if not water-logged.

It's not the same dampness as in Brittany, caused by a constant delicate drizzle. Here, the humidity seems to be present in the earth and rocks, and it has to escape upwards into the sky. Just as it's said that an Eskimo has many specific words to designate all the different varieties of snow, I think there should be a linguistic distinction between the various kinds of wetness. I must meditate upon that theme...

The nearby cliffs of Mount Barret, seen through my bedroom window as soon as Sophia wakes me up of a morning, are a kind of barometric litmus paper.

When there's lots of humidity in the air, the primary hues of the rocks—the creamy limestone, the brownish ferrous patches, and the vast dark-gray surfaces of weathered rock—all become more intense… as if I had turned up the contrast level with Photoshop. Incidentally, in that last photo, there's a glimpse of a recipient that I obtained a few days ago from my ex-neighbor Bob: a galvanized steel water trough for the donkeys.

Curiously, the donkeys rarely seem to want to quench their thirst. Their relationship with water is strange, quite unlike that of a horse. A donkey won't normally wade through a shallow creek. They seem to be afraid of a flowing hose that's being used to fill up a trough, as if the jet of water might hurt them. On the other hand, they get a thrill out of dragging an empty hose far from its normal position, and they like to use their powerful jaws to drag plastic troughs and turn them upside-down, emptying any water.

The other day, Bob and I were amused to see that Mandrin had invented a new game. A flexible plastic water container was held in place by two long steel rods, passing through handles on its rim, and hammered into the ground. In this way, the donkeys couldn't simply knock it over, or drag it away. But the container could still be raised vertically along the rods. Well, Mandrin got involved in a weight-lifting exercise. He would drag the container as far up along the rods as he could, and then he would let it drop, creating a big splash. He seemed to be proud of his invention. It was funny to see him repeating this exercise until nearly all the water had splashed out of the bucket.

The other day, I erected a makeshift support for half-a-dozen tomato plants, alongside the little fig tree.

Now, guess what this is:

It's my strawberry patch… but it's in urgent need of weeding, as soon as the ground is not quite so wet. (I like to crawl around on my hands and knees when I'm weeding.)

By far the best barometer at Gamone, to determine whether the wetness is likely to hang around for a while, is the visual aspect of the end of the valley.

As you can see, there's little doubt about the answer. It's going to stay wet.

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