Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Long Lunch

In a refuge far away from all, even during my youth, continuing my foibles, ever my own life, I have come, as always, here to withdraw and dream. Here has always been a place for me to simply exist and then I don’t exist as myself but as a shadow without murmur, without rustle as a robe without a body.  The forest after such a mild year, so unlike my own, has grown in shades of greens decidedly and most eerily mint halo-ed into the garderobe gathered, a hue collecting momentum throughout the air that is not alive and not defunct but present as a tinted suggestion of some delicate salon grandeur, a débutante's faltering step a hall away from winter’s deeper ballroom.  Winter has not yet come neigh January, although the frost on the ground was heavy this morning. The ground is strewn with bitter orange leaves, toasted the citrus rinds, crippled cold and swept aside by the wind against the garden walls.  My feet are hooked at lunch on the ancient wooden kitchen chair where I have often sat and they hung so to listen to news that does not resound of my life, but here of the cat napping French village life that sees all although the eyes pretending to be in repose, here where here my ears are told of a world that my feet will not, most likely, traverse although my toes have grasped at the cobblestones.  Perched I as a bird, not a sleek brown one but small and slightly exotic, transitory and curiously welcome to feel at home sucking on a cup of coffee, carefully dropping half a cube of sugar into the bitter brew with dancing left hand fingers inspecting the blue Tupperware container for the best piece because it takes hold of a partial of such a precious minute in the delicious hour, holding the dented silver teaspoon in my right hand, the small handle resting in the crevices of my thumb, waiting for all pleasures to take suit in whatever direction they so open as tongues of chrysanthemums.
The border between my outside life and this refuge is no mistake and the luncheon guest reiterated this point. She sniffed that I here came for far longer and under wider circumstances than herself since beyond the ages when our eyes first met within the walls of a musical institution, already burnt to the ground more than once. Perhaps it is true that I came here before I existed in atoms to lunch along the Seine.  I sensed she too wanted this privilege. Another touchstone of moot competition. Passons.
As this morning I watched the Seine roll past, the dog standing on a frozen puddle, the inert swiftness of time, unmoving hovered invisible in the blades of grass at my feet, pigeon toed and indecisive on the yellow path. Would I loop around on the muddy path between the garden walls demonstrating stones dug up from the giving earth, or would I take the Roman road back? Yellow like French paintings, the custard path on the island premeditated, set in the jelly cake form; no winter swan in view. In spring the swans are regal a top the grey green waters; this morning I merely saw a barge plow through the river in front of the houses, many for sale.
Every year the inundations move fortunes far quicker than the changing of wall paper along the quay.
My fortune, what I dream, for I have never slept better than in this village between forest and Seine, is the richness of slumber. As if the beds, for I have slept in many rooms over the years of the house, beckon tranquillity and cotton massaged limbs, moreover placid visions, pulling my body down into the crook of the quicksand mattress, the bedcovers as quilted saran wrap over a sunken Cinderella.  Never has nightmare set a foot in my enchanted slumber here, no unwelcome prince has awoken me. No, I do not seek that release from this enchantment, thus it’s only the train that each time pulls me away, the resentful ticket in my pocket to other places I must attend but yet I never leave here in spirit.
To this place she, the guest, came for lunch. “You will laugh,” she said recounting what another had told her of two 18th century artists, “Boilly was related to Leveque. You will laugh.” She did this gravely and we did not laugh, alert that we must all appear erudite as the suggestion to laugh was the key to the tale. One must know this finesse here, for it is most important. We listened charmed, as we drank champagne, to a musical air attributed to Marie-Antoinette rendered on the harp and sung by the small child in our company.  Lunch lasted several hours, “You will not be able to work.” I was told beforehand. I knew this as well as I knew I would be fairly tipsy at lunch, or even before lunch, all of us well prepared by the apperatif.  For you see, there is no penalty for creeping away to write, read or sing, or engage in long explanatory discussions and aside from a luncheon appointment of a guest more infrequent than myself every so often, there is a freedom. Later, whatever the day extends, the reward is the abandonment of all fretful ideas when night falls and the cradle calls. I am lulled into timelessness rolling by and vaguely marked by the village bells. Years ago, when I first came, the church chimed time all night and it was a particular comfort that sleep so dark, as a shadowed and audible souvenir, was lauded. Those applauding bells of human folly daring to clock time no longer ring because the outsiders, having moved inside the village for idealism were disturbed by the hourly events.  Although part of the magic of this corner of the planet encapsulated in such charm has been rendered modern and inoffensive, still to me, I come here as always, for I could not deny myself to fly to this forest and river. “When the gypsies raid your house, they leave the pearls, for they believe they are living things with souls.” This wisdom I learned on the kitchen chair sipping coffee via the repose of wandering time. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Ah, but you don’t have the poems….

“The poems make it special. That’s what we have that you don’t have.” This was stated to me years ago by a solid Dutchwoman.  By a solid Dutchwoman, I mean a no nonsense, count the pennies, buy cheap and reasonable, don’t expect much from your purchases type of woman who often wears unflattering horizontal stripped sweaters and somehow they seem slightly sexy spread across her broad chest and shoulders.  Those garments happen to remind me of the old fashioned chore of milking cows. People, I’ve heard say, work for weeks on the poems, sweating out the days up to December 5. Every present must come with a poem, one that rhymes. The presents don’t have to be worth a lot of money, just well presented themselves with a thoughtful poem. Imagine it, a cozy family evening where everyone gathers round and listens to little poems, funny, touching, clever, mundane about the mysterious gift under the wrapping, adding a little extra special sparkle to a pair of socks.

Long ago I too had my share of these evenings, except they were not particularly warm and cozy.  My hostess, the godmother to my now ex, was an alpha female type of woman. Mother of three sons, she ruled the roost and didn’t like any female competition. Her three sons got around this problem by 1. refusing to marry all together and live with his long term girlfriend who was brutally honest to the point of painful and therefore didn’t get along with his mother but didn’t mind or notice, 2. marry a foreigner who didn’t get the culture or speak Dutch 3. sleep with a series of potted plants and settle on the fern type.  As the godson’s wife, I was classified in category 2.

All women who entered the house suffered on December 5, like the one time our hostess went to a sex shop or perhaps it was a naughty kitchen shop and bought us all tasteless aprons representing us as sex objects in a variety of diminutive underwear bits strewn on the naked body printed on the large plastic covering.  We had to line up in them and get our picture taken. Oh how she laughed…..and we didn’t.

It was Son Number Two who was the most fun to watch during these evenings. He had a slight problem with substances, and holding his rum and Coke, the fourth of the evening, swaying in a corner, he’d surreptitiously tear off the poem and throw it behind the couch.  He didn’t want to hear another rhyming poem about crashing his mother’s car total loss, having to pay for a replacement tree, getting out of jail, another failed business plan, and how many of those water filters remained unsold in his parents' garage, etc. Usually his mother, doting but feeling it her duty to try to curb him, ended the poem on a hopeful note.

That’s a nice touch, the hopeful note. Recently an idea was brought to my attention, one in which at the beginning of the New Year you fill a jar with notes of events or ideas you’d appreciate in the coming year and after 12 months you open it up and make little piles depending on the results.  I’ve been thinking about this a bit, a kind of positive projection. I think it would be wise to take in consideration careful wording, like when making up a magic spell.  For instance, when it needs to rhyme:

Wisps of lost association

Make for a better location


Or perhaps no rhyme necessary:


A new tea pot,

One that doesn’t leak