Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Causse

My village, Cadrieu, sits along the Lot River. Laury's house is actually the closest to the river of the village houses; the rest of the village marches uphill from here. The range in village elevation is 460 to 1293 feet. It's definitely a place of up and down. Over the millenia, the Lot has carved out this deep valley leaving narrow flat places below that are now farmed, while steep sides lead to the causse above. Defined as a limestone plateau, the causse is also called 'the upland.' As you go even further uphill from the village, the causse is an area of rocky, hard soil more suitable for livestock than agriculture. The sides of the valley are alternately sheer limestone cliffs with more gently sloping tree covered areas in between. Even the more gentle inclines are difficult to traverse as they are a tangle of trees and thick underbrush. Life is hard up on the causse. It's more arid, the soil is poor and full of rocks, and it can be extremely hot in the summer. The first of the two photos shows the steep cliffs of the causse that rise up beyond the neighboring village of Montbrun. The second shows the more gentle slope of the causse behind our village church.  The American poet, W.S. Merwin who once owned a home in southwest France captures the timelessness and the characters of the causse in his 1992 book "The Lost Upland: Stories of Southwest France."  In this book Merwin, our newest United States Poet Laureate, has written three novellas that read as evocatively as his poetry and reveal the hard life on these uplands with respect, dignity and great attention to the details of daily life. While France is a land of glittering cities, gourmet food and great beauty, it also a land defined by rivers, valleys, mountains and the causse.

No comments:

Post a Comment