(**imagery, high resolution, on flickr)
july 2011 - ceyreste, france | a journal.
it started with a walk that began to pick up speed until i was running down a 1 car road. i ran down the hill and towards to the village.
i knew something had gone wrong when i found myself silently crying deep in a village alleyway alone in southern provence, my fingers trembling,
a dreamer's tears cascaded down my freckled cheeks, melting themselves to my speckled shoulders and watering the dusty road, a trembling chin trying to maintain its stillness, half failing. i sat in my mother's striped vintage jumper, the one she wore when she was pregnant with me; at least that's the story that her pictures seem to tell. she was always touching her stomach when she wore that jumper. it's amazing what you think of when you think, sometimes.
there i was - 28 years later, and so happy i was wearing it; a bit ironic.
an hour passed as i sat tucking into my knees, on ancient cobblestone, looking up at the village's medieval watchtower, silhouetting itself so perfectly in front of a dry and waning Mediterranean sun. i traced old engravings that lay beneath my feet, lovers professing their love in stone. in stone. when had it been written?
if it was in stone they must have meant it.
i pictured starcrossed lovers using miniature wooden chisels; i pictured them running away and laughing into the night, despite their parents. but, perhaps, that was too archaic or too romantic.
still... i hope.
i remember shutting my eyes over and over again, just to savor the smallest, most beautiful luxury: watching the entire spectrum crushing itself into my lashes, with every blink.
i told the sun, ''please renew me. you are the only one i know here.''
i said it aloud, maybe a whisper, maybe not.
i told myself to sit there however long it took, until i was strong enough to know i was strong enough, even if i became another statue on someone's historical tour. their tourist book would read: "to your right is a woman that sat so long in contemplation that she became a statue."
my breaths were so short, and offered only shallow exhalations, all trying to grow wings.
i could smell the wind bringing the sea air to me, so wildly untamed that they'd closed the mountain passes. it seemed invincible. i could taste the croissants i'd eaten for breakfast: one filled with chocolate, the other with apples. the bread was so cakey that half of every bite would float to the ground. i could hear a wild symphony of cicadas, hitting me like percussion. i remembered the little brother i'd played swords with, with broken sticks. he'd win every time, mustache painted on with big sister's eyeliner, chanting his victory in a foreign squeal. what a charming little Zorro. i thought about his father who was a mime, eating his morning baguettes, each drenched in bowls of coffee. i thought of his wife, who ate pie with her fingers, making motherhood and cooking look so elegant. i was all ears when she told me that she learned english during her time in ireland.
i picked every thought i had and replanted it, and began to see beauty in all of the un-sung cracks. i remembered just days before - the night of French Independence Day - watching a drunk woman dancing (flailing) to 'YMCA' in the village square. she was going all.out. i remember so wholeheartedly laughing as i meandered down old streets, meeting new people and never knowing, upon introductions, how many times i was supposed to kiss their cheeks. sometimes it was 2, sometimes three, and once it was even four. that night, a man gave us the entire oral history of his village, albeit in French, without us asking. i think i know a lot about that village, considering i didn't understand a word. he was just so passionate. the memory of that night has engraved itself into me. so much fervor.
it must have meant it.
as i continued to sit, i pulled lavender fronds from my pocket (a recent gift) and rubbed the flowers to my temples, to my wrists, below my nose. it was a faithful meditation, that rolled through my joints like a wave.
sometime shortly after, a lizard ran across my foot and i jumped just enough to be half funny, and so i let out a half laugh. i wondered if the sky saw any of this. the sky sees so much.
i was somewhere lost in the middle of 'figuring it all out' when a child came up to me and handed me a disheveled wildflower. he said a sentence i'll never know, but the message carried. in that moment, just for a moment, i felt as if i knew and understood everything there ever was to know about life. the past, present, future were in the eyes of a smiling child, his beautiful eyes reflecting the sun. the same sun that warms me, wherever i am.
i touched his cheek, hoping i wasn't breaking any sort of local custom, and smiled in relief. i said 'merci beaucoup' (sighing into my words and blushing) and touched my heart with both of my palms. i couldn't relay what a moment he'd broken up.
he giggled and bounced away with that vibrant, youthful zest i adore in humanity.
i said thank you to the sun, and promised myself that when i returned stateside i would take a photo recording the feeling of that day, that village, that particular moment.
the entire moment, that hour, was so completely existential.
when i returned home i put on a medieval nightdress (my personal homage to the starcrossed engraving i'd found) and pretended i was still looking up into the provencial sun or into the eyes of that little boy. i like to think, in some alternate reality, i still am.
this is that photo:
and some others:
living out of a suitcase and pleased as punch,