We have been home for a week today. I am surprised by what memories come to mind, and which images stand out from the nearly 3,700 photos we took over thirty days in France and Spain.
I am delighted to discover some of the sights and feelings have not faded and that, in fact, some show up with an insistent tenderness for notice and appreciation. Like this one: feeding the crows at Jardin des Plantes on our last full day in Paris.
We walked 104.98 miles over streets and up and down subway stairs (much of it looking for public restrooms), strolled through gardens and museums, stopped in at a few churches and said some prayers (please, no more stairs). Oh, and the Parisian cafes! I can’t forget all of the delightful sidewalk cafes and brasseries, bistros and patisseries, and late late LATE night suppers with a few friends. (Too many unforgettable meals to remember!!).
But my boots are toast (and not tasty French toast either). So much so that I am throwing them away in the itty bitty trash can supplied to us in our teenie weenie warehouse-style dorm room at Paris-CDG airport. Au revoir, black suede shoes. You served me well. (Your euthanasia was well earned.)
At lunch today, we talked a little about chores we’d face when home, finished our dessert, then stopped in at our apartment for a short rest.
It’s getting close to that time when there are fewer days than a week before we leave. I notice that funny little butterfly-feeling in my tummy that shows up when saying goodbye to fun new places and carefree, calorie-less (I wish) days of enjoyment. But… we are still here. Now.
We still have time for more late evening walks inside the walls of old Avignon.
Washing up dinner dishes at the kitchen sink, I look out the window towards closing shops and a few people walking lazily through the narrow cobblestone streets below. An easy Avignon breeze brushes up against me. It carries a hint of music, pleasant aromas of evening cooking, muted sounds of laughter and dishes being cleared. And for a moment, I almost feel like this is my kitchen, my country, my life, and I think: what a good life this is.
I turn and see Les is pointing his camera my direction. He asks me to just stand there. And what I would normally hate – being asked to pose and have my picture taken – I do. Because, he saw it too. The light? The moment? The dream.
Sometimes whole dreams are lived in just one moment.
Reflecting on a day of self-directed pilgrimage to Lisieux, France, and the spaces where St Therese grew up, prayed, became a Carmelite, and died at the early age of 24.
So many statues, chapels and shrines, mosaics and gilded edges, and this is the one that draws me in. Just a damp, cold corner in one of the side chapels in Lisieux Cathedral – the church where St Therese and her family worshipped before she entered the convent at age 15.
Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to be here, but somehow “the show” pales against the story of her life as she shared with us in The Story of a Soul.
These are a few of her words that still speak louder to me, and with more love than what the finest of architects or Popes can display.
– I am your sister and your friend. Forever I’ll watch over you.
– Have confidence in the infinite mercy of the Good God.
– An amiable smile often suffices to make a sad soul bloom.
It is easy, when you travel, to fall in love with a place and to dream about making a life there. I am reminded of this tug as we train across France.
As I see the charming cream stucco and stone houses, and infinite horizons of yellow rapeseed fields, green meadows and dense woods, I fall into fantasizing how we might uproot and move to one of these hamlets thousands and worlds away from home.
But, I am also reminded to ask if the attraction is not so much to this particular place as it is to the nature of any landscape, slow and different? Or, are these emotional pulls fueled by past and familiar thin-space experiences in England, or Scotland, or maybe even to some degree, fields of Illinois?
I am cautioned to not think too much about all this, or dream so much as to miss the reality of now. This now.
This quiet, slow rocking train presenting spectacular views that I will try to recall in meditation back home in the city.