We went to France for Easter, to follow the work on our barn renovation and for me to try and finish my book. Progress was made on both fronts, but completion was a fleeting objective. Days were full with the usual wonderment of the place. I’d like to share some of that with you here.
Just south of Dijon it started. And it didn’t stop, not even at the Nitry exit. I discovered it even in the fields of our own small town, tucked behind the canal along the bike path I like to take toward the mill, and in strips high up on the hills above the “neighborhood chateau”. But yellow isn’t a commodity crop, and farmers aren’t in the business of harvesting colors. So what is this sun-drenched carpet?
When I first saw this yellow stuff blanketing the rise behind our barn, I assumed it was mustard, planted between crops of winter wheat and corn. It emits a mustardy odor and the profuse yellow flowers are befitting the romantic notion that it ends up on our table in lovely earthenware pots and ornately labelled jars. But according to the town butcher, it’s “colza,” or rapeseed, the mustard-related seed that’s used to make Canola oil and bio-fuel.
The aroma is over-powering—sweet, slightly medicinal, bordering on cloying. And the color, the purist iteration of yellow, deserves mention in my favorite book on color, “I Send You This Cadmium Red” by John Berger and John Christie. It’s the color of technicolor roads to follow, of adventures unfolding, of a dubious wizard’s answers to nagging questions and of mile after mile of a well-cultivated weed. There’s nothing to do but go where it leads, and marvel at its brilliant hue.