«I am from the dirt under the back porch.
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.»
The tarn river runs west from the Cévennes mountains through the gogres and canyons of the Gorges du Tarn to Moissac, where it joins the Garonne. An occasionally brutal lifeline, it is known as one of the most dangerous in Europe. The flooding of 1930 saw the water rise seventeen meters in a day, leaving thousands without a home and three hundred dead. These days it is the land of wine and rugby, spirit and passion combusting under the harsh sunlight of South Western France. This land is also a stage for the spectacular. The Norman Foster designed Millau Viaduct spans the valley of the river tarn, standing three hundred and fortythree meters tall (taller than the Eiffel tower in Paris) it is the tallest bridge in the world.
This was not my home.
Growing up in Scandinavia, the sound of bluegrass and smell of bourbon is lurking in the corners, as a steady bass rumble guiding the cycle of work and weekend on its way. The western was the benchmark of epic beauty, the coal miner the indominable working man. And so as I was finding myself to a score of Nirvana and Oasis, the sounds of Bill Munro and Loretta Lynn were there in equal measure. Wherever I lay my head, from Berlin to Paris, these songs of lust and lament were there to guide and to comfort. But all the time they represented a foreign ideal, someplace different from where I lived and the people I knew. Then an unexpected turn of events landed me in the heartland of south western France. There was no Berghain, no Galeries Lafayette, no Uber. Just wine, cigarettes and horses. The lights of flashing strobes had been replaced by the clear and steady illumination of crisp moonlight.
My eyes quickly adjusted to the blinding sunlight. It took a while longer to realise I had inadvertently arrived at the stage of the fictions of my formation. Bit by bit the pieces came together. I noticed the awesome family bonds, their ties to the land and a meaning of family completely alien to an urban northener like myself. The fruits of the land, from the home made foie gras to the world class wines being produced on the neighbors property, were both a source of pride and community. I also got to know the no longer wealthy communities left behind when the mining companies moved on. So in this land of sun and kindship lay embedded this innocent beauty and joy of a spring morning, played against the backdrop of lament and nostalgi of what once was and will not be again. What better place for telling stories?