Soaring high above Saignon came years before the actual close view of the medieval village perched along a ridge on the Luberon massif in France. Saignon, not to be confused with the Saigon in Asia, is poised high above the valley like a signpost; hence the name comes from signum, Latin for sign. Now that the name game is clarified, I would like to lull you into the dreamy vision of Saignon, sited notably as a stopping point for religious pilgrims since the Middle Ages. You say you are not transported yet?
“Visions of France”, a Public Television presentation available on disks, and possibly other media, is the ticket to glide above France. Music matches the mood when the camera is high above rocky crags, or drifting above the lavender fields where the purple flowers seem to yield their fragrant scent. I bought the package of beauty as a present to myself, and I’ve soared ever since like a bird, homing my way back to each village with the melody both soothing and enticing my yearning for an actual taste of the scene playing below me.
Yes, I soared over Saignon and added it to my list of beauties to be seen despite the fact that it did not appear in my guidebook. I could observe with my keen, birdlike view as the scenes played on my television that Saignon was the real thing, like a step back in time, closed to traffic, peaceful and distant from the modern world. Ancient stone buildings studded the hilltop, aligned at the crest and spread over the edges, clinging together with impregnable architecture. Winding, narrow lanes lead to squares with fountains. The wealth from hundreds of years ago is apparent even from afar with buildings that I was able to pinpoint on the screen when the aerial photographer flew above this distinctive site. Oh, yes, soaring above Saignon while seated on my sofa cushions instead of an airplane seat lured me, and the music lingered in my head!
A good book, or movie, can transport you to a different place like Saignon. The imaginary vision may create disappointment when one is confronted with reality, but Saignon did not disappoint. The movie production could only hover and show the skeleton of the colorful medieval village. The doorways with flowery entrances seemed to welcome me inside, where I was comfortable as snuggling on my sofa. Stress and any notion of rushing around melted away at the center of the village where three roads meet by the graceful fountain with the water playing a melody of restfulness and well-being. The lingering sound of the music from the movie had followed me to France. Beginning on the flutter of butterfly wings, the notes in my head soared and built to a crescendo when I was fully immersed in the panoramic view from the rocky crags.
Soaring above Saignon, I could not see the rich colors of the vines on the ancient buildings. I could not see the mailbox decorated with a delicate bouquet. I couldn’t find the artist with the red hair and the coat edged in white fur. I couldn’t smell the bread in the boulangerie, or enjoy the warm soup on a cold day. I could not see the tile with the two birds mating, or hear my little girl voice asking my mother long ago: “Mama, why are the birds fighting?”
I did not know that three whimsical chairs held flowering plants in the seats. I could not imagine a tiny window with a bulldog’s face painted to surprise and amuse. I did not see creeping vines, bright as chili peppers and yellow begonias soft as butter.
I did imagine a view of me with my smile spread wide lingering by the fountain with the emerald water. Jim and I walked from one side to the other and back again, trying to cover every nook and cranny. I saw one youngster waiting around the corner of an arch planning to surprise his mom when she walked through. I thought of Jim’s incident in the borie with the French lady, and I had a private laugh in remembrance. (CLICK here for “Lavender or Stones?” if you have not read the story.) Jim admired the old cars in the village, and we drove to our rental home a few miles away near Roussillon.
Later I realized for a certainty that the distinctive hill in the distance from the hillside, staked as ours for our short time in Provence, was indeed Saignon! In the morning light, I peered across the fields of grape vines, beyond the sycamore trees lining the road to the village of Saignon.
At that moment with the cool morning air on my face, I realized I knew the lovely village from a face-to-face meeting, shaking hands with her and introducing myself, not soaring by in the distance. While I was sitting in the car with my eyes romancing Saignon, Jim was tossing away our garbage into the separate containers for glass, plastic and ordinary garbage creating a smash and splatter band of his own. Provence vibes recycled by Alabama Jim!
That’s life for you with garbage on the left, beauty on the right and the road stretching ahead with a generous amount of tedium.
Keep on soaring. I am thankful for every day.
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