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Glacial wind and rattling houses

January 28, 2010
Caught in the Mistral

The frigid wind nearly blows me over as I step outside of the warm house and dart across the gravel path (otherwise known as the Cousignac wind tunnel) to our kitchen in the building next door.  With temperatures in the negatives and the howling Mistral, the weather feels glacial and I have no desire to battle the girls for shoes, coats, hats, etc. just to get them next door for dinner.  We’ll be eating on the coffee table tonight, an adventure that’s becoming a regular habit this winter due to the negative temperatures, the periodic rain storms and the two days of snow we had at the beginning of the month. 

Cringing as the girls drop noodles (thankfully, only lightly buttered) on the living room floor, my sighs are drowned out by the whooshing of the wind through the cracked roof tiles in the attic just above, the banging of the shutters in the empty bed & breakfast room down the hall, and the whistling the wind makes as it seeps under the door in our living room – the one leading to the unheated cave.

In Pittsburgh a wind like this usually announces a raging thunderstorm on its way – or tornado perhaps.  In Provence it’s common and something the locals don’t even notice, most of the time.  I imagine my kids do not think twice about the wind.  In fact, today they went out to play with the dog in it.  (I’ll take snow over wind any day.)  In a drafty stone farmhouse, winter is a learning experience. 

In my early days in France, if I found myself alone in the apartment on a dark windy evening I, well, it freaked me out.  A house with 400 years of history, much of which is unknown, in the middle of dark fields, the only sign of life an odd light shining in the distance, my mind would start to imagine all sorts of spooky or frightening things.  I had to turn the TV on loud and leave all the lights on until Raphael got home. 

He’s out this evening but I’m used to the sounds of the house on a windy night.  I would prefer not to have to go out in it.  It’s bitter cold and goes right through my heaviest coat, clothes, and skin all the way to my core and stays there until I take a hot shower. 

It’s said that the wind in Provence, which has two types the more famous Mistral or south wind and the north wind, comes in series; one day (preferred), three days, or seven days.  This is the end of day one of a strong Mistral.  How they can tell it comes from the south I don’t know.  To me it seems to be coming from all directions at once.  With the force with which it’s blowing tonight, I doubt it’s a one dayer.  But that’s the thing about wind in Provence, it could stop as swiftly as it’s currently blowing.  With any luck, tomorrow I’ll wake up to calm and sun, the reason Provence is so magical.

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