Feuilleton: Meeting Monsieur Farjon "The Plant Whisperer"


In the town of Sault, the last week of June, the lavender fleurettes were too shy to show themselves, so I snapped a photo of these instead.

Order a bottle of Domaine Rouge-Bleu and read what wine enthusiasts are saying about our first vintage.

fleurette (flur-et) noun, feminine
    : floweret

conter fleurette = to say pretty things, to flirt
la crème fleurette = liquid cream
fleurettes du chou-fleur, du brocoli = cauliflower / broccoli sections


                          "Professor Plant"

I watched a skinny-legged spider trot back and forth across Monsieur Farjon's wool hat and wondered, Should I swat it? And would he, if tables were turned? But spider-swatting didn't seem to be Monsieur's style: for one who loves plants must love insects... er, arachnids.

Beneath the Chinese mulberry in my front yard, I sat with the One Who Loves Plants, trying to ignore the light-footed araignée* that ran laps around Monsieur's tweed cap.

Sliding a tray of dates and pecans toward my guest, reaching to refill his cup with cool water, I listened to Farjon talk about the flowers, the plants, and the seeds that he had brought me, and marveled at how each had its own story.

Handing me a leafy stem, Monsieur introduced me to the yellow-budded "pastel des teinturiers,"* and told me how the French once used its green leaves to dye their textiles blue. He talked about the Guerre des Gaules* and I listened to a funny anecdote about Napoleon, who once sniffed: "C'est affreux, ces Gaulois vétus de bleu!"*

Monsieur passed me a branch of paliure,* which he referred to as "l'épine du Christ." I noticed the thorny bits in between the delicate yellow flowers. The innocent-looking branch, I learned, formed the cruel crown that Jesus wore to the cross. I tucked the delicate branch aside; it somehow held more meaning than the "charm" on my necklace.

Had I ever visited the church at Mornas?, Farjon asked, raising another dried flower, one resembling corn on the cob. In ancient times they dipped the épi* in suif* and the lit fleurettes* became a torch. This "Herb of St. Fiacre" can still be found in the town of Mornas, Farjon explained, where the protestant Baron of Adrets* placed stakes at the foot of the cliff and made Catholic prisoners jump to their deaths. When one of the prisoners joked with the Baron "You go first!" The Baron, amused by the prisoner's sense of humor, set him free from impending death.

After several of Farjon's stories, that light-footed spider had fallen to sleep and so tumbled off the side of Monsieur's tweed cap. As for me, I was wide awake and at the edge of my seat. I had never been good at history until, plant by plant, Monsieur brought the subject alive for me.

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Psst! : Read The Man Who Planted Trees -- a touching, fictional story of "Elzéard Bouffier", who devoted his entire life to reforesting a desolate portion of Provence, in southern France.

... and why not read it in French?

une araignée (f) = spider; le pastel (m) des teinturiers = woad http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woad ; la guerre (f) des gaules = Gallic Wars http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallic_Wars ; C'est affreux, ces Gaulois vétus de bleu! = Frightful sight, those Gauls dressed in blue; le paliure (m) = paliurus, "Christ's-thorn; un épi (m) = ear (plant), cob; le suif (m) = tallow (from suet) obtained from the fat of cattle and sheep and used to make soap, candles, and lubricants; la fleurette (f) = floweret; Baron des Adrets = François de Beaumont http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baron_des_Adrets


Un, deux, trois... French numbered dice - and original and inexpensive gift:

Madeline Child Costume

In music: Christine Albert: Paris, Texafrance

The Eight - an "astonishing fantasy-adventure in which a computer expert banished to Algeria by her accounting firm, gets caught up in a search for a legendary chess set once owned by Charlemagne. - Publishers Weekly

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety