Friday, August 26, 2011

The Last Best Place Is Home

It is Friday 4 am in the morning; it is the day after my return and my mind is still reeling with thoughts France. Somehow I feel the memories and thoughts of that extraordinary time slipping away as I grasp to hang on to my connection to it and not let go of the impact it’s had on me. The last day has been a period of adjustment, mostly allowing my body to become decompressed from travel. This morning it is dark outside still, I know the dawn will break soon, but for this moment, in my mind I am back in France. I have fixed some very strong coffee with milk and sugar. Cut the left over baguette from last night’s dinner lengthwise and spread it with butter and marmalade. This is my petit déjeuner. I put on some ballads of the French singer Edit Piaf on the studio sound system and the beauty of Paris vividly returns to my mind. Yesterday when I went to the supermarket I said “Bonjour Madam” as I entered and made eye contact to a woman in the store. Then, when I accidentally bumped into someone and found myself saying “Excusez-moi monsieur” in French with out even thinking. This morning I ponder the difference between our countries and cultures. I have always heard the French are rude and are portrayed in American culture as being difficult, au contraire, I now find that a myth made up by others who have probably never left our country, because I experienced their people as the exact opposite. They are a gentle culture that is concerned with a polite courtesy toward others that is filled with a gracious generosity. It is a culture of mutual respect. Everyone I met was extremely grounded, entrenched in their sense of history, pride, and a stoic humanity. These are the elements I remember about my grandfather, who was also French, and spoke the language to me as a child. They are the best qualities of me, and a part of my own heritage that I never quite understood until this trip to France. Paris is a city of noise, almost deafening at times, yet the people are quite and reserved. Stepping back into the US airport again, the first thing I am aware of is how noisy and loud the people have become, a constant roar of chatter, saying nothing really, but just talking, talking, talking: and I want to retreated back within myself. We are a culture that consumes things, and then discards it when we are finished, constantly trying to live outside of ourselves. Where everyone has some sort of notable dysfunction that is namable for which we can prescribe and consume something to overcome it. I realize this is what we are sold on early and how we have been conditioned to live. There was a kid that sat next to me on the plane, very young, didn’t really appear he had much means, but though the course of my 3 hour flight from DC to Denver, be pulled out and used the newest laptop computer, an I-pad and an I-phone. He then ordered a snack box on the plane for $10; a cardboard box filled with packaged processed food without any nutritional value and when he pulled out a wallet of credit cards to pay for it I began to understand his means of survival. I pondered to my own astonishment about how this value has become the norm for our culture and I began to question why did life in France seem so much simpler. I was lucky this trip I got to stay with a real Frenchmen in a real French apartment. His world was so self-contained. All the time I was there he really didn’t leave the apartment except to go shopping for dinner. The building he lived in was old and you could tell had been many different spaces before it became an apartment, but everything was adequate, and each day the whole place was filled with the most beautiful light. There was a standard television, and adequate sound system. The apartment contained a very small kitchen with a two-burner hotplate stove, a portable inside grill, a half size refrigerator, a built in dishwasher and clothes washer under a very small sink but no clothes dryer, just a rack to hang things on. He somehow prepared the most extraordinary meals in such a small space. It was small, but absolutely organized and functional. I asked how long he had lived there and he said 10 years. He seems to live a life filled with contentment and mostly worked from his home. The only thing new was a computer, which he used for work. I also stayed in a typical French hotel. It is a very old city, and everything feels like it has been retrofit to and pieced together to make it functional, yet it all containing a real ambience of place and history, what we would consider substandard by US terms. The French seem to be a people not filled with internal conflict or strife, settled, content not overly concerned with grooming and appearance and all those things I feel insecure about within myself. In many ways Paris feels like a dirty city though I constantly saw people cleaning it. Washing the streets and sidewalks and I realized it’s just old and well worn, part of its charm and beauty. There seems to be something historic about everything that surrounds you and its citizens wear the connection to that history as a badge of honor.

On the voyage home I kept making lists of what I now need to accomplish and try to come up with a plan or approach on how to get these things accomplished. But walking through the door I realized my life is already complete and perhaps none of that really seems to matter anymore. This is a remarkable place; Montana, my studio/home and I live an extraordinary existence. Everything I have ever wanted is really here. I have accomplished everything I have ever set out to do. I lead a life doing what I find meaningful, things I am passionate about. I have created a part of myself I have been able to share with so many others. I have been accepted in the world that I was so afraid to face. As I stepped into my oversized shower, that I have built with my own hands, to wash away the remnants of a city I left so far behind, I felt a keen sense of loss but also a feeling of comfort to have the luxury of my life I have for so long taken for granted. I am glad to be home where I belong. Joy and contentment fill my tired ragged worn body as I became keenly aware that this is turning into the finest year of my life. As I know this is only the beginning.

VIEW FULL IMAGE: Lucas #312

2 comments:

Elizabeth Lister said...

Welcome home, sweetie. Glad to think of you safe in Missoula, surrounded by those you love, and at peace with your life. I'm so glad you had such a wonderful journey and found the inspiration for your future :)

André said...

Bravo!