Mesmerising majesty demands awe and respect

Sunflowers oil the delights of a summer day out – WHILE REMEMBERING VINCENT VAN GOGH (Here follows a guest post by Chris Aspinall. His blog can be read on http://indeepschiste.substack.com) IT is, I think, very easy to take the places where we live for granted. I may only have been in the Orb Valley for […]

Sunflowers oil the delights of a summer day out – WHILE REMEMBERING VINCENT VAN GOGH

(Here follows a guest post by Chris Aspinall. His blog can be read on http://indeepschiste.substack.com)

Sunflower fields in France cc Chris Aspinall

IT is, I think, very easy to take the places where we live for granted.

I may only have been in the Orb Valley for a year but getting away – for a day in Toulouse – reminded me that other places are not the same.

Heading west from Carcassonne, the landscape was very different. Hectares of sunflowers were at their most spectacular – and not restricted, as the mythology surrounding artist Vincent Van Gogh deludes us into thinking, to the area around Arles in the Rhone Valley, about 200 kilometres (approximately 140 miles) to the east.

The flowers, I remembered, are heliotropic – seeking direct sunlight – and turn from east to west during the day, “unwinding” during the night, ready for the next day, the simultaneous slow movement reminiscent of rank after rank of soldiers all looking in the same direction during a formal military march past. This happens most when the plants are immature and their stems more flexible.

The colour is a deeper yellow than the rapeseed flowers that will have characterised acre after acre of the English counties of Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire two or three months ago. The seedheads of the sunflowers glow a rusty red-brown, like a matte copper cladding of an ultra-modern building. Alternatively, they represent blank faces, surrounded by bright yellow frilled bonnets, the massed ranks made all the more marvellous by the sheer numbers, thousand and thousands and thousands, tightly packed in fields that may be two or three kilometres long.

Even in the greyness of this particular morning, they have a mesmerising majesty that demands awe and respect.

Next to them are fields of maize, still relatively young. Unlike the early-year cereals that have already been harvested, leaving fields decorated with bales or rolls of hay, the cobs of corn will not be ripe until well into the autumn. The fields of grain still waiting to be harvested glow in the morning light, despite the cloud, like nutritional gold.

Cooks and chefs will no doubt be using oils from the sunflowers and corn, as well as the olives of the rocky slate schiste to the north east, in the months ahead.

No, the striking sunflower is not solely to be found in the fields of Provence but here too in the west of the Aude and the east of the Haute-Garonne départements – bringing a glow to the landscape, smiles to faces and helping enhance the gastronomie of a people renowned for their gourmet tastes.

© Chris Aspinall, 2021.

THE TOMB OF VINCENT VAN GOGH ( CC MARILYN Z. TOMLINS)

TODAY – JULY 27 – IN THE YEAR 1890, VINCENT VAN GOGH RECEIVED A BULLET IN HIS RIGHT THIGH WHICH CAUSED HIS DEATH ON JULY 29. THIS HAPPENED IN FRANCE, IN THE TOWN OF AUVERS-SUR-OISE.

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

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