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  • Writer's pictureShannon Elisabeth

a Dilettante in the garrigue

Clutching a picnic basket and shifting my weight to avoid the garrigue's prickly junipers, I led my guests through the Provence scrubland and paused there, engulfed by the heady scent, surrounded by twisted pines, catching the unmistakable transcendental look on the traveler's faces.

Time and time again, I have witnessed my guests unfurl, not unlike flower petals after raindrops.

Lizzie knelt to get a closer look at the plants. Her pale blue eyes searched across the lines of lavender, and her wrinkled forehead smoothed as she couldn't contain a broad grin. It was the first I had seen her smile since arriving. Like most of our guests, Lizzie arrived weary from her fast-paced life in New York and needed time to surrender fully. "I've carried too much weight on my shoulders for far too long," she said during our welcome champagne toast, "working sixty hours a week for ten years with exhausting vacations," her voice trailed, "And it's as if I have been chasing pleasure like it's a prize to hang on the wall."

We continued to saunter among the olive trees, brushing against thyme and loose gravel, toward our picnic spot by an ancient bridge.

The wicker creaked as I opened the basket, revealing thinly-sliced saucisson, fresh goat cheese wrapped in a fig leaf, bright red cherry tomatoes, flower honey, and black olive fougasse shaped into a shaft of wheat.

Sweat beaded down the chilled rosé bottle as I pressed it against my forehead.

Marie, another guest, proudly held up some pale yellow immortelle flowers she gathered along the way, quickly whispering as if she would forget, "they smell like green tea and irises, she beamed." After flinging the picnic blanket to the rocky ground, I unpacked flea market plates with painted birds and roses and looped linen napkins around silverware shaped like twigs.

My guests walked toward a stone shepherd's hut, leaving me a few moments to set up the picnic.

As I peered through swaying tufted stalks at the edge of the field, I thought back to when I, too, chocolate shop, which would re-shape how I spent my days thereon.

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