Clasping the money in my hand I rang the bell of the little stone lodge and observed through ornate wrought-iron bars the sun-drenched seventeenth-century château and gardens slumbering peacefully. Straining my ears a little I exhaled with pleasure: the sweet sound of bird song was the perfect musical overture for our afternoon plans to wander around the grounds of La Chatonnière Château. After a few, long and pleasurable moments of anticipation I rang the bell again and recalling the unhurried pace of the concierge crossing the courtyard two springs ago I decided to amble off to meet her. My children and husband drawn by the exquisite beauty of our surroundings had already walked through the open entrance gates to explore the gardens which are suffused with the magic of childhood French fairytale authors; Charles Perrault and Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy. The concierge greeted me with a warm, lazy smile and we chatted gently. "You only need to pay for two tickets not four", she assured me. "The flowers are only barely coming out, you see".
And yet, just as the Spring Equinox is the calendar day most certain to raise our spirits, watching a garden unfurling in early spring gives as much pleasure as a summer garden in full swing; wouldn't you agree? The whole blessed and delirious flower pageant is still to come and I cannot help but agree in this case with Robert Louis Stevenson's wise words: 'it is better to travel in hope than to arrive'. Spring is dragging her heels this year it would seem but she was very much present at La Chatonnière on this sunny afternoon.
The children were caught up in the magic and unbridled joy of discovering an Italian Renaissance inspired garden with its various levels. After clambering up a steep woodland path strewn with wild violets they observed the maze in which they had been playing below was in fact leaf-shaped.
The particular spot which drew me back this spring is Le Jardin de la Danse: a tiny corner of paradise I first discovered in the presence of the great garden photographer, Eric Sander, whose book on La Chatonnière will be launched early April. Remembering my sadness this time last year I did not wish to miss out on the daffodils. Le Jardin de la Danse is dedicated to a very particular choreography dedicated to daffodils - le bal des narcisses - as it is poetically named here. It is breathtakingly beautiful.
The blooms are staggeringly wonderful this season. As my eye jumps from whole flower to stamen, foreground and background, I wonder; are they daffodils or narcissi? All daffodils are narcissi, but not all narcissi are daffodils. Technically, they differ according to number of flowers per stem and length of trumpet. Daffodils are poisonous although I have never heard of anyone dying from a meal of daffodils. The sap contains sharp crystals of calcium oxalate, an irritant that also seems to bother other flowers, which wilt if they share a vase with daffodils. My mind wanders to Gaspard our dog who, as a very young puppy last year, diligently dug up our yellow tulip bulbs; foolish creature. I hope he has the sense to steer clear of our daffodils this spring.
There has been a different kind of dancing taking place these past few nights mostly in the comfort of my armchair! A shawl has been made with a little simple lacework which I have named Sugared Primroses.
A very special friend, Christina, is getting married in Bangor, Wales the weekend after Easter and I know she loves daffodils and the colour yellow almost as much as her future spouse! I knew which yarn I desired for this shawl; Juno Alice. I had great difficulties obtaining the perfect shade of buttery yellow Christina loves and ended up contacting directly the enchantress behind Juno Fibre Arts, Asti Grafham. She was wonderful and promptly shipped out two skeins of her magical Juno Alice in Corn Dolly which is like spun gold and reminds me of the fairytale character, Rumpelstiltskin, who was able to weave gold. This pattern, Sugared Violets, which I have had my eye on for quite a while now, only required one of those skeins.
And why do I make the connection between knitting and dancing? The thought struck me during those late evenings of working through three hundred odd stitches that lace knitting is a strange form of choreography: a simple stitch sequence which is repeated a (large) number of times. As I worked religiously and, dare I say, a little tensely, through these sequences a wonderful thing happened. I found my fingers and needles began to dance in time with my quietly chanting mind like a couple learning to dance the waltz will repeat the steps under their collective breaths. It wasn't boring but quite beautiful. I will be sending this secret gift off this week with a kiss and a box full of good wishes for a very happy wedding and a future full of wonder. My notes, as usual, can be found on Ravelry.
I will be back soon with some Easter delights to share with you. Thank you so much for being here. I wish you all a very happy week.
ps Please forgive me if I have not been leaving many comments recently on your lovely blogs which I have been reading and enjoying. For some mysterious reason my computer fails to recognise my Google account address and password so I cannot log in to my account. Let us hope Mickaël finds a solution soon.