Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cuckoo’s Nest

I'm nesting roost is considerably smaller than it used to be but I’m nesting nevertheless. Spring is doing it’s best to arrive. And each year, when it appears, so does some inherent, primitive genetic memory that drives me to these sorts of activities. And what are the two things one must do in the spring? The answer is obvious. On rainy days, the basement and the linen closets get cleaned. On nice days, the garden is prepared for the glories of summer. 

Last weekend it rained so I tackled the basement. This was an epic task at my home in Wisconsin. Mostly because I am a walking, living, breathing antonym to the word “neat”. And also because my basement was like many Midwestern basements...big. Cleaning my “basement” now, in my little 400-year-old apartment in France, involves lifting up the bamboo rug in my kitchen, removing the piece of plywood that is the “basement ceiling”, climbing into the 3x3x3 foot hole in the floor that constitutes my cellar and emptying it of several years worth of somebody elses's dried up paint, a few terra cotta pots and several moth eaten rugs. That’s it! C’est tout! All I really needed to do was find was a little space to stash a suitcase or two since I have no closets (thus there is no need to clean them). Mission accomplished in less than 1 hour. Whew, that was exhausting…this calls for a glass of wine and a little relaxation! 

As much as I love living in the heart of the city, it does have it's drawbacks, the most dire is the lack of green space. I'm accustomed to a yard. You know what I’m talking about! Big enough to handle a neighborhood touch football match or a game of fetch with the dog. And though I don't miss mowing or raking, I miss getting my hands dirty in the soil, the smell of worms after a rain, watching tiny shoots grow into a lush community of green, firing up the barbeque and the smell of the roasting meat, and lounging with a cup of coffee or glass of wine (this wine thing seems to be a pattern) and surveying my kingdom. 

My "kingdom" these days is a 9x9 terrace overlooking a terracotta-tinted canopy of rooftops, with chimney and TV antenna emergents scattered about. Not my former empire, but I've decided to establish rule nonetheless. So Saturday, with all my extra time after cleaning the basement, I went to the store and bought a few more pots, soil, plants and a big umbrella to protect me from the unrelenting summer sun. As has always been my habit when it comes to gardening, I went overboard. But really, how bad can that be aside from an unplanned dent in my wallet!

I spent the next day removing all the old wires and lines that crisscrossed my terrace, planting, rearranging, trying to follow the parasol assembly directions in French and generally having a wonderful time. And it took one, itty bitty portion of an afternoon. I can now sit on my terrace, wine in hand (oops….this may be a problem!)  and when the sun actually shines (it’s been a rotten spring), it releases the heady scent of jasmine, rosemary, thyme, lavender, basil and mint. In a few short months my tomatoes will be begging me to eat them.

The pièce de résistance is my little green barbeque grill. It’s kind of a useless thing actually. It doesn’t even have any ventilation (I have to provide that with my lungs) but I have managed to cook some kebabs and a couple of hamburgers. And it was cheap. But it’s the jewel in my “garden” and makes it feel like home. Last night, I lit some candles, put my feet up, and purred.

Now that everything’s ready, it’s time to have a party to celebrate all that is spring. It’s to be an American party complete with beer, Johnsonville Brats (yes, I actually found some), hamburgers, ketchup, potato salad and chips, with a little dip made with Velveeta cheese thrown in for true authenticity (my friend just received some in a package from the states). The guests will be both American and French but we all generally speak in French.  One American friend responded to the invitation by saying, “It’s an American BBQ…let’s make a rule that EVERYONE has to speak English, and let’s drink beers and enjoy watching them squirm with the language challenges for a change”!

That made me laugh but I know it won’t go that way. We will speak French and I’ll be the one squirming as usual. And if it rains, we won’t have the option of playing pool in the basement. But everyone can gather under the umbrella in shifts and watch me, the human bellows, try to keep the fire going! All in all, it sounds like a delightful evening and a worthy inauguration of spring, don’t you think? And I deserve it after all this strenuous work!

Bon Printemps!


  1. Looks brilliant Delana!

    Take some advice from me... bung a couple of heads of Garlic on the BBQ and, before you know it, everyone will be speaking perfect French!

    Seriously; you don't really need much more than a terrace, a BBQ and the scent of garlic.

    Just make sure you grow some herbs; Thyme is bluddy luvverly to throw on a BBQ!

    Hope you have a delightful evening!

    Hope you've invited someone special to enjoy it with You!

    Hope it doesn't rain!

    All the best


  2. Oui cherie! Sounds lovely indeed and I sure hope I'm invited. Soooo looking forward to seeing you and my beloved city tomorrow!

  3. Not 30 minutes ago... She said,"What is that familiar smell by the garage." He said,"Worms."

  4. Your 'backyard' looks lovely and I hope the party is a blast. Enjoy!

  5. It's all about balancing the good with the bad - e'g' you don't have much green space or storage but you live in a bustling vibrant place with lots to do. I live surrounded by the countryside and have so much storage that I've run out of things to store - but life is quiet and provincial here.

    So you cherish your cellar and transform your outdoor space into somewhere pretty. I escape to London and Paris for 'fun'.

    It's all good.

    As for the barbie - have a great time and I find the best way to speak perfect French is to drink too much.

  6. What a sweet little piece of heaven you have carved out. I'm a terrace dweller myself.
    Bravo for, once again with your grace of words, drawing a delightful picture of the beauty of the simple things in life.

  7. I ALWAYS go overboard with gardening, too!

    Your green space looks FANTASTIC, hope the party's a hit!! Good luck!

  8. I LOVE your terrace - very charming!


  9. You have made a cozy, loving and comfortable space for home and a BBQ.

    Sounds wonderful!

  10. I swear I replied to everyone's comments...geez, I'm losing it!
    Keith: oh garlic..maybe with a little oil and roasted in tinfoil, spread on a thick toasted baquette! And I haven't tried thyme in the coals. I threw rosemary in last week and it was lovely.
    Chausette: you've already returned and we had a lovely morning at the market today.
    2b2: you're back at the lake, I just know it!
    Tanya:it will hasn't rained for 2 days now!
    FF: I think I'm balancing pretty well. Maybe a chicken on my terrace would "complete" me. As for alcohol and works like a charm. It was even suggested by my former French teacher!
    Michelle: Terrace dwellers unite. Do you think we could start a collective health insurance plan?
    Anything: There's something to be said for being excessive! Thanks for the good wishes.
    Moxie: thanks. I randomly enjoy it! :)
    Joanna: it is lovely. And I'm heading there right now. Too bad it's so hard to see the computer screen in the sun!


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