Rain and Revelations

           It rained and rained and rained while we walked through the fields of Combloux, a serene mountain town perched above the small mountain city of Megève. A fog had rolled through the green valley that afternoon and you could not see the tops of the mountains. The fog made the mountain range flat, like, a vintage postcard. Above, the clouds were apocalyptic and threatening. Andrea, Jean’s girlfriend, was the one to suggest we go for a walk in the rain before dinner. The afternoon was turning to evening, but the rain was light and everyone agreed that a short promenade through the French alps before dinner would be good for us. None of us had packed for the current elements, but Jean’s family had stored away a bounty of winter clothing. A few minutes of rummaging later and we had packed on enough mismatched, waterproof clothing for a quick jaunt. What we lacked in defenses against the elements we made up for with adventurous fervor. The sheer beauty of the French alps was enough to insulate our spirits against the tumultuous weather.

            Walking through the rain in alps is a revelatory experience. The only sounds you can hear are the bell collars of the cows and the rattling of rain against the thick forest. The air, saturated with the smells of pine and mud. The things you can’t hear, the hum of traffic, the murmur of the crowd, the ringing of cell phones, are forgotten as if they never existed in the first place. These mountains clean you out if you let them. As we ventured out into a field behind the abandoned farmhouse at the end of Jean’s street, thunder cracked above our heads and lightning flared through the voluptuous clouds. The sky opened and rain came down in droves. A little bit of adrenaline started to pump through our veins. The stakes had been raised.

            We lost a few members to Jean’s chalet with its plush couches, fluffy red blankets and view of Montblanc through its gaping windows, but Jean, Andrea and I carried on. Andrea, a true Spaniard, was overcome by the blood of the conquistador flowing through her veins. She wanted to be inside of the forest and proposed an expedition. Jean and I were hesitant about such bold ideations. Our shoes were oversaturated sponges at this point and it was getting quite dark. With no form of lighting handy the notion of plodding through the cavernous forest seemed unreasonable to him and me. But not to Andrea, who vanished into the woods as soon as she found a break in the tree line. The two of us apprehensively followed her down a long narrow path to a small shimmering brook. Talking was kept to an absolute minimum and the blue evening light penetrated the trees with pinhole rays.

            Thoroughly soaked and ready for some vin chaud, a hot wine made with cinnamon, oranges and plenty of sugar, we shimmied our way out of the forest and headed for home. The moon hid behind the clouds, permeating the overcast sky with a ghostly blue light and the orange glow of chalets spotted the otherwise deserted mountain range. An inquisitive king Charles spaniel joined us for the walk home and refused to leave when we arrived. Rather than abandon the poor creature in the dark, stormy night, I read off the number on its collar and Jean called the owner. Jean omitted our part in the dog’s journey in his report to the owner. The grateful and tipsy owner of the dog showed up an hour later with a formidable bottle of wine and many thanks. We laughed and decided that accidentally kidnapping dogs was a good business.

            Our friends, Juliette and Claude, were installed on the couch in front of the dancing fireplace with a plate of charcuterie and a pitcher of vin chaud. Andrea ignited her jazz playlist on the Bose sound system and a feeling of arrival filled the room. I shed my damp clothing and brought myself back to life in a hot shower. Jean and Andrea did the same. Once we finally settled in for the night I threw a couple of pieces of prosciutto wrapped chicken I had filled with Boursin into the oven. As a side dish, I boiled the fresh spaghetti we had purchased at a decadent épicerie in Megève and topped it with a vibrant puttanesca sauce. Dinner was finally served and, by the time we were done, we were done. Our palates for fine mountain food and adventure satiated in top form, we quickly dispersed to our warm beds and slept the sleep of the just.

 

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David Sohmer