Monday, September 17, 2007

A Golden Closure

I walk outside the door and everything is shades of gold. In my limited experience, I think it's hard to screw up autumn. The weather is intended to entice you out of those dog-days of summer. But it's been hard to start new projects lately. I have fallen into a funk, wandering from room to room. We leave on Sunday, and the last few days in a place give me that limbo-like feeling (not the dance but the place that unbaptized catholics were sent).

Everyone keeps asking us when will we be back. Jeez, we haven't even left yet! But maybe it's their way of saying that we will be missed. The truth is that we don't know when we will be back, but it probably won't be for 4 1/2 months again. Unless (1) the French Consulate opens an office in Moab; (2) the dollar ends its downward spiral and begins a 'surge'; (3) Ryanair or some other airline begins a Moab-Carcassonne route; and (4) we could figure out how to operate Mr. O's Place guest house on an "on-your-honor" basis. Likely? J'ne sais pas.

We don't intentionally keep our friends in suspense with vague answers. We just can't commit. So then they pry deeper. What will you miss the most? Knowing that Doug crafted a well thought-out list, I felt compelled to do some soul-searching. I can't find fault with any of his items, but what will I miss the most?

I find it hard to put into words, but I will miss life on the street. Right now, I sit in a chair pecking away at the computer and am inches from the front window that is inches from Rue du Four. Our curtains are never closed, and we only close our shutters when we go to bed (OK we do go to bed early). We watch everyone go by, and whether we admit it or not, everybody looks in open windows. I'm guilty. Eye contact from house to street always elicits a 'bon jour'.

I don't know all my neighbors names, but I know their habits, who and what times they go to the boulangerie, their garden plots, walk their strollers or just sit in their doorways. I never grow tired of the "Screamer" (real name: Benjamen) and his endless motorcycle and race car sound effects from the seat of his bicycle up and down Rue du Four. I know when Marc is home by the sound of his toilet flushing. I know when Jake is going to school by someone calling Roy and Thor for their walk. Camille opening his shutters every morning and straighting his bug curtain is almost a religious ritual. Doug once asked the handsome beret-wearing bicycle-riding neighbor with two garden plots what his name was, but couldn't understand it; we watch him pedal by several times a day hauling produce, cuttings, or firewood kindling. We joke that he'll live to be 110, or maybe he is already. Every evening he sits with his lady friend or wife in the doorway down the street. A few of our fellow LeranCestralers, Pascaline and Berte (whom we have called Betty), live down the street or around the corner, so they are regular passers-by. And there are new-comers. The other night, a friend's parents were visiting, and as his Polish father was strolling by he saw Old Smokey and exclaimed through our open window, "Where did you get a tank like that?" He then came in and chatted for awhile before heading further down the street.

I have never had "life on the street" in the States. The closest I came is living in an old brownstone in Chicago. But I was in college at the time and the building was chopped into wasn't even close. I'm sure at one time things were different in Chicago, because my dad used to talk about everyone sitting out on the front porch, the place where life happened. I think suburban architecture in the States has put an end to the front porch, and replaced it with a remote-controlled 3-car garage so you can enter your house without leaving your vehicle. And then go immediately into your privacy-fenced backyard without interacting with anyone.

Life on the street in Leran has, admittedly, at times been a great source of irritation and frustration (remember Le Fumers...). Now I find it rather ironic that it is the memory I will treasure most.


Judy said...

I know what you mean about "being on the street". In Bozeman we loved sitting on the front porch watching all the walkers going by on their way to Main ST. I swore that the next house we had would also have a big front porch. What happened here in Lincoln? We got a house with a postage -size front porch. Go figure.
You know, that second house we had on 3rd. ave also had an upstairs porch on the front of the house. We loved having lunch there watching the world go by and talking to those we knew.
Our new house in Omaha will have a front sitting area...not really a porch as everything is ground level with no , I mean no stairs.

Whatever happened to your meeting in Voix about the possibility of the roof garden? I have great hopes for your ability to 'get-er-done".

We have really enjoyed your summer in France...great pictures and stories. You guys have a great way with words.
Have fun on your few days in England. Judy

Anonymous said...

As I read your last two blogs I can see that you are in the early stages of "Leran withdrawal" is evident that you will miss Leran and the folks in Leran will miss you...and even though it is sad to be leaving, there is a joy in knowing that you have new friends and a wonderful summer adventure to remember with ever-growing fondness.

You will return to Leran...the date of that return is not as important as just knowing it is are now part of have a place in the social fabric of the town.

Luke is in the initial stages of "blog withdrawal"...I shall miss my almost-daily doses of France! The good thing is that your blog, like a good book, can be read and it's never totally gone. I can re-read the comments also...we have all made new friends over the "French summer"...and I have enjoyed meeting all of you...friends and family of Nancy and Doug!

Sadly, there is competition for the dollars needed to visit you in France (when you return to Leran)...I really need a new car...but I shall endeavour to increase the size of my "little herd of greenbacks" so I can wing my way across the Atlantic! Or perhaps I can compromise and stop by to see you in Moab. I am, of course, assuming that I would be welcome! HA!

Have a safe trip back to the states. Thanks again for the pleasure your blog has given me.

Noah said...

Beautifully written Nancy. Meloncholy suits your literary stylings.