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Words

I try to pinpoint words that when strung together, like beads in a necklace, express something with texture and richness; I hope for the occasional sparkle of a well placed gem. I frequently fail miserably. But on a good day, as with a candid photo, I unexpectedly capture a heartbeat, and it feels as if I've successfully seized fog with my hands.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Matin Sans Pluie

After being deluged by rain for days with floods in Genoa and Nice dominating our news, we awakened today to sunshine and blue sky. Though breezes from the south carry ominous clouds that will no doubt douse us again, it was crisp and dry when I went out. I was able to walk the area this morning successfully avoiding puddles and ruts of mud. It was heaven.

At home I have no need to rely on instinct and senses to make decisions about direction and safety. My surroundings are known. Each rock, house, road, sign, and person. On the off chance a place is unfamiliar, well, there's TeleNav on my cell phone. But today I chose one neighborhood for my stroll based on pansies planted at the gate. What did Shop Girl say in “You’ve Got Mail”?  Daisies are the friendliest flower? Nope. Pansies are. I laughed at myself.

I used my very best French for the occasional passing stranger. “Bonjour, Monsieur.” I was the only madame I saw while on my walk. One man’s unleashed dog stopped to be petted and I took the wagging tail as a message that the dog spoke English. Another canine guard scared the pants off me as he jumped, growled and barked from behind a gate. Hazard of walking in a new place. Wasn’t expecting that dog. Loved that gate.                             

My hostess, Joce, has experienced burglary and is strict with her ritual for locking down the house. I follow it as a good guest should but I don’t know whether her protocol is a reaction to a “once burnt” event unlikely to happen again, or if I’m situated where it may. I know what she would say so I stay alert sometimes feeling foolish at being such a 'fraidy cat, jumping at the whistle of the wind, or the rattle of a shutter.  
      
                                                                                        
We’ve reached a truce about my doing a few chores. I fancy myself a good roommate but she sees me as her guest. We had to wrestle for dishwashing rights and she lets me win from time to time. I feel better for it.

I’ve made many trips to France and one fascination that hasn’t diminished is the ever present graceful coexistence of modern usage and regional antiquities. A Roman arena in which children play soccer. A 19th century aqueduct with a paved road running below. A hotel abutting a second century rock wall. Occupied apartments and homes originally built a few hundred years ago, each with a television glowing through a tiny open window.

The U.S. isn’t old enough to offer this. We get a taste at the North Bridge in Massachusetts or the missions of California, but historic sites are preserved in a manner that precludes day-to-day interaction. It’s the French assimilation of old into new, and new into old that delights.

L'Aqueduc Roquefavour
When I think of the difference between American and French sensibilities I’m reminded of my mother’s saving the good china for special occasions instead of enjoying it. Do we save our good buildings for tourists, our nation's company? At home one of my great pleasures is crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. We use that historic site. I like that.

Joce lives in the red rocks of Provence. I’ve seen red rocks and bauxite but not with flower fields and evergreen trees at their feet. Newly wetted crimson hills provided a beautiful backdrop for rows of active greenhouses during today’s promenade.

As I wrap this note clouds gather and the temperature drops. Time to close the kitchen window and begin preparing lunch. A first trip to the French Alps is in my near future. And there will be photos.

C'est tout, pour maintenant. Merci pour venir. A bientôt. 

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