How to making iced tea in Provence.... (As for how to make lavender wands... read on!)
1. to plait, to braid; to twist
2. to weave, wreathe (basket, garland)
Tressons, tressons ces fleurs, hâtons-nous, jeune amie, Les songes et les fleurs demain ne seront plus! Let us weave, let us weave these flowers, let us hurry, young friend, for the dreams and the flowers will be gone tomorrow. --from the book "Irlande: Poésies des Bardes" by D. O'Sullivan
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
"The time to pick the lavender is now, while it is fresh," Marie-Françoise explains, as I follow her over to the scented driveway where purple flowers mingle with rosemary in one long line, like juilletistes convoying toward the sea.
"We'll take a bunch from the bottom of the bush. You won't even know they're missing!" Following Marie-Françoise's example, I begin snapping up stems from the base of the lavender plants near our mailbox. My husband’s aunt has a knack for wildcrafting and before long she has collected enough spiked flowers for my lavender braiding lesson. I hand over the stems I've collected and our bouquet is now 34 flowers strong. Next, Marie-Françoise tosses out one of the flowers…..
"Eh, oui! she says, noting my confusion. "We'll need an odd number in order to weave them!"
It will soon be no secret how the French make lavender wands. First, we pluck off the leaves then gather the stems, tying a ribbon around the neck of the bouquet, just beneath the flowers.
Wondering how to help out, I reach over and put my finger on the ribbon, in time for my aunt-in-law to knot it. Next, she turns the bouquet upside down…..
I have only ever weaved ribbons through my hair as a child in Arizona, adding bright beads in turquoise, coral, and silver—colors that inspired the native Indians. I liked the ochre of Sedona, the blue of Navajo jewelry, and the silver in that lining along the eastern sky I would one day follow to France. I hadn’t yet discovered lavender or the fields of Provence, didn't know that one flower's essence would match my very own. Meanwhile France was budding within me, there along the edge of the Mojave.
Far from the desert, in the Rhône Valley, Marie-Françoise tells me that what we have here is lavandin—which smells just as good as lavender. “We will create une bouteille de lavande” she says, admitting the shape is more like an amphore than a “bottle.”
We’ll make the lavender bottle by weaving ribbon through the stems that have been bent back over the flower bundle.
Fishing out the longest ribbon, pulling it to the top, Marie-Françoise begins to weave. As she passes the ribbon through the bars she tells me hand-woven lavender has been used from time immemorial to freshen drawers and armoires and to keep out moths. The making of these Provençal pest busters is a family tradition. Not far from the Pont d’Avignon Marie-Françoise and her sisters would get together and weave up a lavender storm. When out of ribbon, the sisters got creative—raiding their closets for old sweaters (in search of the satiny loops found inside--normally used for keeping the garment from slipping off the hanger). “String all the colorful ends together and voilà! Ribbon for weaving!”
Noticing the relaxed expression on my aunt's face as she weaves, I wonder whether her thoughts are drifting off, like mine, to yesteryear… to giggling French sisters rifling through an armoire and, for me, back to the desert, to coral landscapes and warm breezes through my braided hair, weaved with turquoise and silver linings from a French horizon.
tresser = to weave or braid
le (la) juilletiste = one who vacations in July
eh, oui = that's right
la bouteille de lavande = lavender bottle
une amphore = ancient jar for storing oil or wine
More in-context French vocabulary in the book Words in a French Life: Lessons and Language from the South of France
Look how high that lavender's grown! Two dogs high, when Breizh stands directly beside it.
Happy 4th of July, to those who celebrate. And happy 21st wedding anniversary to Jean-Marc and me! Also, happy happy birthday to my dear father-in-law, John.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety