In the lavender fields…
Men with pitchforks were throwing the stalks and flowers up like hay. Another stood on top of the shaggy load, shouting. Then, when it seemed not another petal could possibly cling on, and the mauve tassles were dripping in every direction, the order was given to sway off to the corner where the alembic had been pulled in by a donkey.
More lavender, and a glimpse further into the past. In the crossroads
, best known for its Sunday morning market, stands the Musée de la Lavande, the lavender museum, where these evocative old photographs from the 1920s and 30s hang on the walls. village of Coustellet
It was back-breaking work, on an arid landscape and under an unforgiving sun at harvest time at the end of July. There were no mechanical aids for the cutting and gathering of the stems, just a hand scythe and a cloth bag worn over the shoulder. The women would have worn clothes like this:
I was given a bag, a small sickle and a starting place. Although he asked my name and nodded, he did not introduce himself. For several days afterwards, until I got to know some of the other girls and exchange information, he would remain simply the man in the waistcoat.
‘Watch out for the bees, and the vipers,’ he said.
‘They hide under the flowers.’
I put on my apron and pulled my cotton scarf up over my head. My eyes were already hurting from the relentless sun.
Nervously, I began. It was tiring work but I was keen to prove myself. The bag grew heavier and bumped against my legs. The scent was heavenly, all around in heavy fumes, so intense that after a while it seemed to pulse.
from The Lantern
Musée de la Lavande: Route de Gordes (D2), 84220 Coustellet
For their website click here.