By leaning over the garden wall, I could scratch with my finger the poultry-house roof. The Upper Garden overlooked the Lower Garden - a warm, confined enclosure reserved for the cultivation of augergines and pimentos - where the smell of tomato leaves mingled in July with that of the apricots ripening on the walls. In the Upper Garden were two twin firs, a walnut-tree whose intolerant shade killed any flowers beneath it, some rose-bushes, a neglected lawn and a dilapidated arbour. At the bottom, along the Rue des Vignes, a boundary wall reinforced with a strong iron railing ought to have ensured the privacy of the two gardens, but I never knew those railings other than twisted and torn from their cement foundations, and grappling in mid air with the invincible arms of a hundred-year-old wistaria.
That is the second paragraph from the first vignette in Colette's . I read it long ago and, when first I saw the back garden of the house I now occupy, I remembered it. I remembered Sido's house, and her garden, and the apricots (which I somehow remembered as pears), and when I moved in here, I thought of it as the Colette house. Even though it doesn't have walnut trees or apricots, even though it's not in France. It does have wisteria. It's good enough for me.
Down the coast, on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, is a writer's hotel , named for Sylvia Beach, an American émigré who founded the Parisian bookstore Shakespeare and Company and who was the original editor and publisher of James Joyce's . Each room of the Sylvia Beach Hotel is named for a writer, and one of the best of them all is Chez Colette. Last week I stayed there, in that room, for five days, and rediscovered the Colette I had learned to love many years before. The Colette of "My Mother's House."
I have another copy coming in the mail, as well as . Most of my favorite writers are English. I'm afraid I've ignored the French, mostly for the entirely ignominious reason that I can't pronounce the names. Colette is the exception. She loved gardens and cats. She loved beauty, smells, and sounds. She delighted in the world, and that delight infuses every word that she writes about the things, the places, and the people she has loved.
I only hope some of that delight crept into the writing I did in the room that was named for her. I'm delighted to have her back in my life once again.