Saturday, March 28, 2009


Orthez is a small town in the southwest Bearn region of France. A female resident would be called une Bearnaise like the famous sauce which was not created here, but, by the chef of a regal Saint Cloud restaurant. He was un Bernais. This area has only been a part of France for the last four centuries.
I had gone to mass on Easter Sunday at the town's 12th century church, Saint Pierre d'Ortez, a couple of years ago. With a pronounced Bayonne accent, I wasn't at all sure what language the preacher was speaking. He was very convincing all the same.

The river, Le Gave, runs along the edge of town. Crossing Le Pont Neuf (built a century ago) you can view Le Vieux Pont which dates back to the 13th century. Water, water, under the bridge. Fantôms, love stories, family feuds, and religious wars all under the bridge. We're not counting the fish. Le Gave is renowne for its river trout and salmon. They are all upstream, sans doute.

Orthez was not spared la grande tempête that devastated the region in January. Walking up the hill to a nearby park, I saw giant oaks literallly uprooted. There were others that seemed untouched. And still others that had only been split at the top (I knew what that was all about) .
Work clearing up the debree was still in progress. I examined the rings of a fallen trunk that had been chain sawed for transport. I began counting the rings. First tediously, then, by groups of tens. It had stood for more than a hundred and fifty years.

La Fontaine's fable "The Oak and the Reed" Le Chêne et Le Roseau"came to mind. Then, Jean Anouilh's parody written three centurys later. raised my spirits.
parafrasedThe oak tells the sassy reed.
"Yes, it's true that I can not bend like you.. .And, if a great wind blows, I could be knocked to the ground, but, I am still an oak. Je suis toujours un chêne."
I spoke with the guardian of the grounds.
"You must have been heart broken."
He nodded . "Oui."
Futher up the hill I saw that three new trees had been planted attached to polls for support.
I went back down the hill now crossing Le Vieux Pont.
"Je suis toujour un chêne." I thought.

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