The lavender cutting has begun. When the wind catches the fields, warm gusts of scent rise into the air. And when the harvest is in, and distillation begins the other side of the hill from our terrace, the fragrance of lavender will get stronger.
I took these photos with a zoom lens from the track that leads to our property, when the crop was still blooming. We're not as close as it looks, but imagine what it would look and smell like to live in the hamlet with a vista like that sea of lavender!
"Marthe went to live with the Mussets at the farmhouse surrounded by lavender fields halfway between the plateau and the town."
from The Lavender Field, part II of The Sea Garden
"Iris pulled off the wrapping. It was a bottle of perfume: a voluptuous lavender scent with the label Distillerie Musset, Manosque.
‘Was there a message?’ she asked, desperately trying to damp down her hopes.
‘No card, Miss. But the gentleman who brought it did say something.’
‘This is from Xavier.’"
from A Shadow Life, part III of The Sea Garden
In the novel, the unexpected gift is wrapped in a tatty Francs-Tireurs propaganda sheet on which Iris’s name was scrawled. Today, the newspaper might be La Provence, on which the lavender harvest was front page news the other day: the "blue gold of Provence".
And the feature on the inside pages actually shows the present day harvest on the Valensole plateau, close to the location of my fictional farmhouse belonging to the Musset family. The rest of the caption reads: '...where the lavender fields spread out as far as the eye can see'. When there's such dreadful news in so many national newspapers, the sense of tradition and continuity is as comforting as the scent of lavender itself.
The industry is nothing like as large-scale around our way, but I wrote a post about the tiny Distillerie les Coulets, close by, a few years ago before The Lantern was published. You can find it here: The lavender distillery.