Everyone wants it to be July or August when they visit Provence. At this time the lavender harvest is in full swing, the yellowish soil has been baked to a dry crustiness like a loaf of wholemeal bread which has been left in the oven just a little too long, the cicadas scratch away from dawn to dusk in the shade of the pine forests, and the air is thick, sweet and heavy with the fragrance of any number of the medicinal plants that grow wild in this enchanting part of the world.
There are probably over 50 medicinal plants native to Provence (mostly the lamiaceae family which includes lavender, thyme, hyssop, rosemary, the mints, savory, etc). Malte suggests that it is the extremes of climate—dryness followed by downpour, hot summers followed by winter blizzards, the baking sun which gives way to the cold mistral wind that blows down the Rhone valley from the north—that ‘stress’ the plants, ‘stretching’ them from one polarity to another and allowing them to produce their precious essential oils.
(Perhaps, in the same way, it is the times of intense stress in our own lives that stretch us, rudely waking us up from the comfort zone we had settled into, taking us to new levels of experience on this seemingly never-ending growth of knowledge and understanding? Just a thought…)