Easter in France

As in the UK, we’re just emerging from Easter weekend here in Southern France. Yesterday, we went out to celebrate ‘Paques’, loaded with fresh eggs to cook over a wood fire.

We picnicked on a carpet of shocking verdant green, accompanied by the sound of the melt-water river hurtling down from the mountains of the Pyrenees, liberated from its long winter freeze.

Fallen branches snapped easily, and flamed with gusto. The cloying smell of wood smoke. We cracked the warm eggs, mud and feathers still clinging to their shells. They had nothing of the tangy edge of week-old eggs. They tasted as clean and cool as the mountain air and water.  They went down smoothly, accompanied by a salad of sorrel and fresh asparagus. The odour of wild garlic beckoned from amidst the trees.

Walking into the shadows of the forest, everything felt unexpected for its freshness.

Revealed there, the abundance of wild garlic, leaves curling and falling over one another like waves lapping on the shore.  The warmth of the sun, and the cool, sharp air rising off the river. The swelling purple bluebells.

I did swim, (or rather dip down) in ice-cold, cloudy white-blue river. I felt a terrible aching, right through to my bones. My blood surged beneath my chilled skin as it met the warmer air, and tightened over my core, redefining me. In the clash of the remnants of winter, with the flush of the promise of spring, I felt I might shed my skin like the snake.  Unlike the so-called ‘new year’ of the dark of January, it now seems possible to be reborn in a myriad of ways.

Writing Begins With Living.

Taking part in life is vital because it’s a reality check on our preconceptions of how things are, and the tired clichés that can emerge on the page from stopping really experiencing.  As the masterful writer Paulo Coelho says,

"You cannot take something out of nothing. When you write a book, use your experience."

I once wrote and directed a short film that was a version of The Pied Piper of Hamlin story.  We hired sixty rats, who arrived with their handler. He knew each one by name. When we came to edit the film, and put the sound of the rats over the images, something jarred. I resorted to the sound archive and tried many variations of rat sounds, none of which worked. Then I tested a range of other sounds including a car’s screeching breaks and various small animal noises. In the end, it was bird song that worked best. When you watch the film, you think you hear rats, but actually, you hear birds. Reality, and perceived reality are not the same thing.

How can we bring the freshness of the newly-laid eggs, mountain rivers and air into our writing? How can we see and hear, smell and taste as if for the first time? How can we allow ourselves to be woken up by our experience of living?

Writing Prompt - Rebirth

In keeping with the season, write a poem or piece of prose which takes as its theme ‘rebirth’.

P.S. You might also be interested to read about ‘The Wainwright Prize’. It seeks to reward the best writing on the general outdoors, nature and UK-based travel. A £5,000 prize fund is presented to the winning book.It is sponsored by Thwaites Brewery, who produce a bestselling beer called ‘Wainwright Ale’, and is awarded in association with The National Trust.