Don’t you enjoy the changing of the seasons? I know that we do and this year is no different. Where we were raised in the United States, there were four distinct seasons and depending on the month, one knew about what to expect (i.e., what flowers would be in bloom, what type of possible weather might be on the horizon for that month, etc). They were each beautiful in their own way and we would so enjoy preparing for the next yet to come. It has been the same here in the south of France and we have enjoyed celebrating each new season.
Yet over the years of living here, I have begun to realize that there is a potential mysterious “fifth” season that is not officially listed and seems to be a moving target — invading people’s lives when they least expect it. It isn’t very long in duration and one does not know when it might occur, however it gives a powerful punch and is distinct in its own way.
Its official title in French is the “Canicule” or “heatwave.” Just the mention of this word evokes the beginning of many conversations, whether one be a native, long-time expat, or a vacationing tourist. Anyway you say it, the result is the same-- heads nodding in agreement and empathy over the veracity of this temperature swing. In order to find relief from the sweltering heat, one has four options: run to the hills; run to the beach; run to the mall or workplace where there is air conditioning OR remain at home in a lockdown situation. (For us, option four remains the most viable option.)
A remedy to beating the heat and to keeping the house cool throughout most of the day is to have all the windows in the house opened fairly early in the morning and then completely shut down by 9-10am. In France, all the homes have “volets” that are either wooden shutters that open outward or these volets are made of aluminum and roll-up into a fitted track in the window itself. We have come to love this system of privacy, because when the volets are closed for the evening one can sleep like a baby until morning with absolutely no light being able to penetrate through! So it is that during these weeks of the mysterious 5th season, people live most of their days in darkness, not venturing out until after the heat of the day has subsided.
A couple years ago, one of our friends who was moving generously gave us their air conditioning unit. John fitted it to our living room window and now we have the extreme joy of being able to turn this on periodically throughout the day for short bursts of relief.
Over these past years I have been sharing what living in France has looked like for our family. The “canicule" is just another tidbit of summer life here and how people find relief.
So for right now, as we are currently experiencing an “early” 5th season, you will probably find us working in our dark house with the lights on, even though the sun is brightly shining outside; enjoying short shots of air-conditioned air; and looking forward to the next season yet to come!