Translation: The wind makes you crazy.
Here in Aix en Provence we are partially protected from the wind because we are situated in a valley. Don't get me wrong, we get the Mistral, but in Arles or Avignon, for instance, it can be far worse. If you're the economical type, there you can treat yourself to a free, full facial exfoliation simply by situating yourself properly during the mistral and its ensuing blowing sand.
The mistral wind has truly moulded the landscape of this region with its ferocity. In many places in Provence our trees grow at a slant because of the wind's force. Growers anchor their fruit trees on 3 sides to guard against toppling, and farmers plant rows of Cypress around their fields to protect against its violence. Traditional Provencal architecture has also taken the wind into account. Farm houses, particularly in the Camargue, are built facing south with very few or no windows on the north wall, and our bell towers are often fashioned out of lacy iron so the wind can blow through them rather than blow them over.
Yes, the Mistral can be a bad thing. In the summer when the landscape is hot and dry, it can pick up a spark and turn it into a ferocious and devastating fire in minutes. I was having dinner near Martigue one night last summer as one of these balls of fire roared past us. Everybody told me not to worry because the wind would move it south so fast it wouldn't touch us. They were right, it didn't, but an entire town that was unfortunate enough to be in its path had to be evacuated. And the Mistral can turn a perfectly warm, inviting Mediterranean sea into an ice bath overnight with no thought at all for anyone's weekend beach plans.
There are good things about the Mistral however. The mistral is precisely the reason that Provence is Provence. First and most importantly, it helps us grow great grapes! But also, this cold, dry wind generally blows away the clouds and clears the air giving us the exceptional Provençal light that so many painters have spent decades trying to capture on canvas. Though the winds generally come in winter or spring, on a hot summer day a mistral can drastically change the temperature and the humidity in all of 5 minutes. The first time I felt this I was sure I was going to see a major tornado blowing down the Cours Mirabeau (a natural thought from one born in "Tornado Alley") and I got out my video camera in anticipation.
And the Mistral brings gifts. I have received several pots, laundry baskets and mop buckets that have blown in from elsewhere, as well as some completely useless things like (ick) various and sundry socks and underwear.
Several weeks ago after a particularly maniacal three day mistral, I opened my terrace door and found this.
Yes, a another gift from the Wind Gods. The barbecue grill had blown in from somebody else's terrace and landed smack dab in the middle of my terrace, on its feet and in perfect working order (I did put the grill on straight for the photo). The mistral also brought a gift for Arthur-the-Cat. You can just see his ears peaking up from that cozy comforter that landed so conveniently on his chair and which he accepted as if it were his due. Of course Monsieur Mistral also brought all the other debris that is laying on the terrace and I'm finally getting around to cleaning it up today so I can do the planting.
I don't need this present since I already have a little one that is just the right size for me and my little terrace but I'm leaving it exactly where it landed, at least for a little while. I'm thinking that the next wind might drop a couple of steaks or some nice, fat sausages directly on the grill. Come to think of it, I'd better get the fire laid in advance for this great moment.
And if I'm really lucky, or unlucky depending on where I'm sitting at the time, this might blow in as well.
The guy above and behind me stores his bike on the roof. There is another one on the roof above that. If the Wind Gods stay with me, my terrace should be their direct target.
But now that I look at this photo, I realize that my neighbor's lush forest of pot plants has disappeared. Pouf! Gone with the wind. Well shitballs, I wonder who got those?