Saturday, June 30, 2012

LEAVING AMERICA excerpt - November 2007

The Fool's Journey

             "I like the shores of America!
              Comfort is yours in America!
             Knobs on the doors in America,
                        floors in America!" 
                  Anita - West Side Story 

People here are always asking us why we left "America?" Sausalito, Ca. to be exact. The French ask us (FYI:  the French adore SF, Ca. so even if you are from Climax, Pa. say you are from SF.-- some French folks would really like to escape the obligatory Sunday family lunch that the rest of us think is the societal glue that holds France together), other expats, Brits, Scots, Irish, Finnish, Latvians, Russians, etc. inquire & all seem perplexed and somewhat troubled by our flight.  From time to time there is even a chuchotement (whisper) of scandal, an inference that we are on the lam, escapees from a troubled past. One local wag suggested K might be a CIA agent??!!  The same thing happened to us before we left the states--queries boiled down to around two:  1)  Why are you leaving?  2)  Do you speak French?    Answers:  1)  Destiny called 2)  Not very well.  We didn't run away from anything--we ran towards something else.  We weren't even sure what that something was.  It started on the Canal de Nivernais on a "drive your own barge" through Bourgogne. Maybe it was the french woman playing a concertina in the moonlight on the banks of Auxerre, where we tied our barge up for a night--her husband's head resting on her shoulder.  Or the french children playing simple games with a broom and a ball after handshakes all around, or the old couples strolling arm in arm, in the late Autumn of their lives. Or even wilder yet, 12 years ago a channel had told us we had a lifetime together in la belle France, "married with many children"--a happy life, but a busy one in which we had only scraps of time for each other. He said we'd come back to continue the nocturnal conversation of marriage.  We found this tape in the bottom of a box a few months ago.  Voila!

One forgets reasons and motives as the energy and attention focuses on pouring new foundations, stabilizing and settling into the ill fitting garments of a new life.  And after all it is FRANCE, not Transylvania or Timbuktu.  But I decided to revisit some of the things I wrote to family and friends after we arrived.  First thought, best thought, as the Buddhists say...

Darling G...
It was a hair raising exit (we felt like we were hanging onto the landing skids of the last helicopter out of Cambodia a la "The Killing Fields")...but we made it, & we are adjusting, see below--just a quickie to give you an idea of our first entry impressions. It all feels right, and I am reading & writing & generally feeling like a Disney animator, drawing in the lines of my life.  The interior world has many shadows, and I am faced with myself in this realm as in any other.  Alan de Bord, a clever Frenchman coined the term "psychogeographer" to describe a sensualist who likes to ferret out nooks and crannies, secret passageways in a landscape.  That is me...walking down the  narrow ancient roads here, "whistling down the wind", slipping around the corners of buildings as well as my own psyche.

I am reading Annie Dillard's "The Writing Life", Ann Patchett's "Magician's Asst.", Harry Potter in french and listening to O'Donohue's "Beauty" CD's, (all of it good brain/soul food) when not staring into the fire or gathering eggs from the hens up the road.  We are off to La Rochelle on Wed. for a few days to visit French friends, then down to the Dordogne till March 1st.  The Celtic Cross spreads I have been doing with the Tarot cards have been luminous and challenge is to dispense with the habit of "worry", liberate myself! or as a divine Persian mystic once said:  "I deliver myself unto myself with tender mercy".

Thinking of the Sacred Music Festival in Fez in May...any chance you might come and twirl with me? I miss you, no resident mystics like you here, but the french are kind, the Loire is generous, maybe it's all the mistletoe in the trees, why they are always kissing...


Dear Friends,

First Installment:  DEPARTURES & ARRIVALS

Nous sommes arrives (we have arrived!)... We are in the Loire Valley (Valley of the Kings), village of Pontlevoy, equidistant between Blois & Amboise (home of Leonard de Vinci/La Clos de Luce where Kevin bought me the luminous Leonardo Da Vinci tarot deck).  The river Loire to the north and the river Cher to the south.

We drove in a hard dark rain after circling Paris roundabouts for what seemed like hours (even Tom-Tom couldn't save us), finally reaching Pontlevoy via one lane roads with wild hares leaping from behind sighing Poplar trees and les moutons with their wooly backs braced to the wind.  There is an annual "Fete du Mouton" -- sheep festival.  If all else fails perhaps we can become shepherds.  In town there is a thousand year old Abbey--large Benedictine monastery--built from the bourre stone, which has an ochre cast, so when the sun strikes the facade, it gives off a golden glow.  And if one angles the laptops just right, it is possible to pick up a wireless network near the eaves where some cheeky Magpies nest.

Our house for the moment is a restored stone cottage built stone by stone by two Americans from Long Beach that shed those lives many years ago.  There is a surprisingly luxurious bathroom & a microwave (amenities not anticipated). In the mornings we find dozens of dead flies who have entered the house for the warmth and then flown against the windows towards the sun, plunging to their deaths in the bathroom sink.  Houseboat life devoid of insects has not prepared us for these "killing fields".

Their mother-in-law, Joanne, lives in another cottage down the road from us, speaks no french & so we look in on her, pick her up some taco shells and mango chutney from the Super U, and read her Tarot cards--she has just come out from ten weeks in hospital, so I am hoping she doesn't pull the Death card!*  C&K, les Americaines, have gone off to Uruguay for a vacation after a Marx post transport strike rerouting bonanza.  So now it is Kevin & I, Joanne, Mac the Cat, and the chickens to keep each other company.  In a book of old photographs taken from 1903 to 1934 I found on a shelf here, there are postmen and delivery carts drawn by dogs.

Service de la Poste par Voiture a Chien
 But the photo above is "actually from a card found for sale by 'some ole gal' owner of a 10 seat bar in a teensy village in Les Cevannes", given to us by one of our dearest friends (we shall call her Mme X-Mouse) as we fretful immigrants set off for the new land. Wrapped inside, along with joyful tear stained wishes, was 100euros. She said to never mention it, but she can't stop us now.
Setting Sail for New Lands

You never do it alone, whether it's coming or going.  There was a cast of dozens who helped us exit, like L& DC who handled the piles left behind at the very end, & A&B who helped us navigate the rough waters ahead. And my dear brother who bought our beloved car and crammed extra stuff into his already bulging storage unit.  To all those who gave of their time and energy, resources, you know who you are, & we can never merci you enough.  And to those of you who said we'd fall "flat on our faces"....well, as our friend, Valerie, the gay french stone mason says:  "Putain"!

*Death card - Joanne died two years after this was written- RIP Joanne
*Aloha - RIP Casey, our shining star

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