“how the mind clings to the road it knows”

Posted on 18 July 2006

I notice it has been a week since I last wrote an entry and the longer I wait, the harder I find it to talk about what I’ve been up to. Not much really. Lots of thinking down the same old routes that make me as restless as hell. I need to look at my life from a different angle. Difficult. I was reading Mary Oliver this morning, a poem she wrote about Robert Schumann and she notes “how the mind clings to the road it knows” and though it’s fine and dandy to stick to the familiar – feels safe – there is something stultifying about it as well.

I like change. I call myself a nomad. I love new sights, new places, but what I love most is being anonymous, being where no one knows me, no one expects anything from me; but having written this, I think that it is not other’s expectations or what they ask of me: it’s me who offers to do, to give. For instance, two Danish builders were in town last week, finishing some work on a house. They dropped in because there is some work Rob and I want them to do in our house. They were in frenzy to complete the job and didn’t have time for the final clean-up before their flight. Guess who offered?

Part of me likes the part of me that is happy to help another and feel useful. But this is difficult too because often people, myself included, find it difficult to receive, feel an obligation to return the favour.

Besides cleaning a stranger’s house and musing about my universe, I have had several social moments that brought me pleasure. One night, Susan and David came over with David’s younger brother and his wife, who were visiting from Scotland, for bubbly wine and appetizers. George’s wife, Sandy is Peruvian, full of life and mischief, smart too. And I especially liked it when she said she thought her husband “the bee’s knees.” [Do bees have knees? But how nice to hear one of a partnership praise the other.] And then Ruth, who is a classical viola player, dropped in and I worried the background music – Joaquin Phoenix, John Prine, Leonard Cohen – might not be to her liking but she said that she loved it – “mine is so boring… no words.” And I have to believe her because later in the week she invited me to a Rock & Roll concert in Gaillac that unfortunately was cancelled because of a sudden wild storm.

This past Saturday all the town was decorated with paper flowers for an Italian wedding. You’d think you were in Italy, not France, with all the Italian visitors in town – talking loudly with exuberant hand gestures. Early afternoon, a crowd of them – perhaps a hundred, dressed beautifully, stood outside the Mairie’s office, and began applauding when the groom walked toward them, looking very classy in his dark suit and cream waistcoat. And then the bride appeared on the arm of her brother. She looked like Cinderella going to the ball in her long cream satin dress, covered in antique lace. Bare shoulders, over-the-elbow gloves, satin ribbon and flower around her neck, and long veil, trailing behind her.

Bride and Brother

After they were married by the mayor, they moved into the church and were married by the priest. [In France, church and state are separated. You cannot just be married in a church though you can just be married by the mayor.]

And though I say, quite openly, I do not believe in traditional marriage: it doesn’t work, I enjoyed watching this solemn young woman walk proudly into the square on the arm of her handsome brother – her father was killed in a fluke accident several years ago – and felt I was watching a fairytale – especially after reading “On the Way to the Wedding” twice.

Tonight, I am attending another magical event. I am going with Carol of Carolina and David and Susan to see a classical concert on the grounds of Chateau de Mayraques even though I know next to nothing about classical music – I think it Mozart and Britten who will be played. I simply love the scene, the chairs in the huge garden, under the night sky, people-watching and dreaming.

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