A winter day in France Profonde By Aaron C. Greenman

“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.”

— Albert Camus

At 6am, the roosters crow, but it’s still dark in the house, the shutters sealing the dank air from the bedroom. Who would know that a sun exists? Nothing could penetrate the thick fog suspended in the air.

Ancestors survey from their frames on the wall, their fixed gazes and long necks echoing the adjacent crucifixions. Be productive today, their eyes seem to say, no use in waiting to be bathed in a warm, sunny glow.

When the windows are opened, the cold enters, equalizing as if in the depth of space. Cobwebs dance around baroque, gilded mirrors that reflect with a dusty patina. Are those horror film spiders or the shadow of an old chandelier? Morose, sleeping trees appear like witches’ broomsticks from the gloom.

There is a still silence, as if the world has not awoken, but indeed it has, and it’s time to go to the market. This is not romantic yellow light bathing the colorful summer fruits and vegetables of the Mediterranean, but an altogether difference experience. Navets, crones, topinanbours, choux verts, dull, earthy tones and tortured shapes that appear to be wriggling and worming from the chill.

And animals everywhere. Not parts, cleaned and arranged, antiseptic in their appearance and taste, but beasts. Soiled, lumbering Charolais making their last trip off the farm, canard, chevres, and volailles, turning aimlessly and ready to be snatched upside down, one step closer to the knife.

Ancestors rest peacefully on the hillside, welcoming visitors to the view those long passed can no longer admire. The Pion, small and insignificant in any language, becomes more magisterial in the afterlife. Horses trot on soggy grassland, waiting for the kind hand of affection that braves the frigid air. A duck, in solitude, glides on the half frozen canal. In the distance, vignerons trim the vines, burning them on the spot in their cheminée ambulante.

Thankfully, winter also brings families together, those longing for voices frequently or seldom heard but remembered fondly nonetheless. They dress in their country finest, a dash of color in an otherwise dormant landscape, ready to enjoy the noises and flavors of the holidays, experiences rarely new nor exciting but always comfortable.

And once a year, it’s back out into the stony darkness of the night, for midnight mass, the cold stone protecting its visitors from the unforgiving night breeze. Through it all, the moon surveys overhead, playing hide and seek behind curtains of clouds, which disappear again with the morning fog.

Again, Camus: “The world is never quiet, even its silence eternally resounds with the same notes, in vibrations which escape our ears. As for those that we perceive, they carry sounds to us, occasionally a chord, never a melody.”

– Aaron C. Greenman

Aaron C. Greenman has been a photographer for more than 25 years and has lived and worked on four continents. For two decades he has documented life in rural France. He has previously been profiled on The Leica Camera Blog for his work in the Far East, the Indian Subcontinent, Africa, Israel, Turkey, Russia, and Europe. More of his portfolio images can be viewed on his website, and he has several books available for the iPad. Custom prints of his work are available for purchase on request.

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