Fire season is raging.
One of the things that surprised me most in Québec was how careless people were about fire. They build fires in their gardens and let the embers sprinkle all around the fireplace without even checking where they fell. I never got completely used to it.
It’s the heartbreaking side of summers in Provence: everything burns. Forty hectares here. A couple of square kilometres there. Sometimes fires rage for weeks before they can put them out, and when they find the culprit, a pyromaniac fireman or just a careless driver tossing their cigarette butt through the window, it’s too late. One moment of littering like a jerk, and the next thing you know, half of the country has been destroyed.
Burnt forests still stand, sometimes. They may douse the fire before it is too late, and then the trunks stay here, blackened and dead, but sometimes tiny leaves start sprouting again, only a few days later. Not far away from here, the oaks have grown resistant to the fire over millenia. The piece of cork they use as a bottle stopper once evolved as a fireproof mantle for trees. In the Maures mountains, burned forests are still alive. You can touch the trunks years later and gather soot on your fingers, but the tree underneath is unscathed. Unfortunately, not all trees managed to find this trick.
We took our bikes for a ride around Aix today. In most places, the plateaus are covered by pines. Pines are fast-growing, and they are the first trees to colonise the empty space left by fires. But in some spots, you suddenly end up in unburnt forests. There, old white oaks still stand. Few things are as beautiful as an oak forest. White oakw grow hard, not tall. They are shaped like labyrinths. Even their bark is wrinkled, lacy, criss-crossed with ivy. They take centuries in the making.
I hope they are still there in a century or two.