'Imagination will take you everywhere'
The olive tree stands in a grove overlooking the vast, rolling hills of the Luberon. Beyond its twisted branches lay a blanket of fields; a patchwork of vineyards, a sprinkle of terracotta houses, a few clusters of woodland.
It was a view worthy of the click, click of a tourist’s camera. But this place is secret. Remote from the crowded picture postcard villages, the only tell-tale signs being voices emanating from nearby villas – with the occasional splash from la piscine.
Evening sunlight hugged the tree’s knobbly curves, flinging shadows over the dusty earth. Around it stood younger trees; the trunks slender, the branches smooth, the leaves light and fluttery. But nothing could match the grandeur of their older neighbour. Its wrinkly skin bearing witness to years of struggle; battered by the harsh Mistral wind in the winter, baked by the Mediterranean sun in the summer. Its roots sprawled into the ground, anchoring its creaking body, while the branches grew reaching for the sky, and then entwining like two lovers. Together forever.
Amongst its silver leaves grow plump green olives, not yet ripe but rapidly darkening in the hot climate. That is not all the tree holds; stories from centuries ago, stories from decades ago, stories from yesterday. It was there when the farmer arrived and built his house, it watched the family grow up – the children playing around its trunk – and eventually move out to be replaced by holiday-makers renovating the barns into villas. Now tourists come and go.
It has heard the church chime every hour of the day. It was there when the fig tree was planted and watched the small, bulbous sacks ripen into velvet purple fruit, filling the air with sweetness and mixing with wild sage to create a chorus of smells. It sees the light aircraft buzzing just above the pine trees, and beyond that the white airplane trails criss-crossing the blue canvas of sky.
When the nights envelop and temperatures drop, the ancient olive tree provides shelter for the animals, like it has done for years. The rabbits, the lizards, the birds, all know their place, while the breeze whispers and the cicadas sing.
At the end of the summer months, the olives are bursting with flavour and juices, but the best are always from the oldest olive trees. The ones with the stories.
Read my other post on exploring the inspiring land of Provence.