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  • My grandparents owned a farm on the border of Belgium and France. I spent summers there as a child. The land wrapped its tendrils around me and never let go. Here's an excerpt from a short story I'm working on that is set in this region.


    There are nearly 900 citizens in our village of Haut-Ivergne, nestled along the central northern edge of France. The number declines a little every year. To get here from Mons, point your car southeast. At each fork, take the smaller road, and eventually you will find yourself here, most likely wondering where you made a wrong turn. To most people there isn’t much to see: the one pub, the newsagents which also functions as a post office, the hardware store and the bakery. One clothing boutique. A few semi-detached houses radiating from the roundabout marked with a granite monument to the heroes of the Great War. Further out, isolated stone farmhouses built in L-shapes around cold tidy farmyards. Paris is another four-hour drive south and feels as foreign to our senses as Istanbul.

    There is beauty here, if your eyes are open to it. At this time of year the sky presses down and the town is a watercolor study in soft greys. Mist blankets the fields and crows etch arcs over the sodden earth. In summer wild poppies dot the landscape like crimson paint drops. Green plums heavy with juice plop into deep orchard grass, where wasps gather at their split, sugary seams. Woods strawberries grow in dappled clearings, their taste as vivid as pure color. We take deep pleasure here in twin lambs, in fat pig hocks, in the hot engine oil and hay smell of barns in August. We don’t take any of it for granted. There isn’t a farmer’s wife who doesn’t know how to use every bit of a slaughtered pig. We all know ten different recipes for using up stale bread. You would too, if you’d ever walked through a ripe wheat field, full of seed heads bent in benediction.
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