My first morning in Paris, I was briskly shooed out of our shared apartment with a moral charge to get café creme, write in my journal and watch French people.
Karen is going to have tea and oatmeal. I loathe oatmeal and taking orders. And more so, demands to know my Plans-for-the-Day before I’ve had coffee.
I was the only patron at the Boulangerie de la Butte aux Cailles, because the French don’t hurl themselves out of their apartments like Californians from South Carolina, ahem. I have crumbs from an excellent mini-crossant, pain au chocolat, sticking to my lips and an excellent mug of coffee beside my journal.
I wonder if the French get tired of this school girl naivete that presumes to study them from cafe tables? (Will a few French customers please step in so I can notice you?)
I will never tire of cafés. In our Parisian neighborhood, several to a block. I felt loss returning cars and freeway structure in California. Friends assured me there are cafés in San Jose. But you have to drive to get to them.
What a café speaks to me is this wonderful value people find in talking to each other…and sitting and thinking, or having a drink or two. Socializing, at once casual and sophisticated.
A café is like a writing attitude.
Invite your ideas to sit down with you. Do a bit of idle noticing….maybe have another cup of coffee and scribble a bit. There’s no hurry. And perhaps you can tell a friend when the words are there. Or not.
In my peripheral vision is James. Mr. K., as his adoring students call him. My second husband and lost love.
James. Not the alpha male, but content in his own skin. And very fine, brown skin down his long back and well-formed arms indeed! The curl of dark hair touching his tanned neck I still recall. James, the sensual man, the nature lover. Tall, lean frame astride a BMW or the bike de jour, leaning into a turn rides my memory as an archetype. The peaceful warrior, the knight in black leather.
James, we lived through so much B.S. with that mission church turning to a cult. I tried so hard to be the perfect wife that it really wasn’t your fault I lost touch with you. Being a guilty bystander to so much strangeness incapacitated intimacy. So-called “prayer” drove me to isolation. And, how could you know the black hook in my heart, the cult leader being the reincarnation of my violent/schizo alcoholic father? You married a girl tied to the fear trip of surviving her daddy. But was my bit of neurosis really reason to abandon me?
With very frightening people I walk very carefully, not wanting to make waves. You left, afraid, at least able to articulate your fear. I was numb. Or the remnant brethren ran you off. But the point was, you left without me. You said you needed space.
James had the wide territory of my heart. Yet, his Leave-It-To-Beaver Willow Glen heritage made him hide in “keeping it positive.” Mr. K, I could not tell you my problems. I was becoming something monstrous while you watched from your superior perch. I bore it alone, like your alcoholic Mom.
So I broke our legal bond, with the most deliberate sadness ever. It was March 4th when I had the papers served. A march forth, a long time ago. I fiercely wanted not to love someone who would walk by me weeping piteously on his recliner while he collected his Fiesta ware and homemade jam. Your apologetic air wasn’t enough to save me. When you wrote love letters from the “outside” I burned them on the patio grill because your words didn’t match your actions.
Years later, I would finally stop looking back in regret, stop longing for the simple comfort we took in each other. The ache of seeing another put his arm around his girl, or two being silly in a grocery store. The pain of spring blossoms screaming I’m alone without you.
Once we walked, you as Abe Lincoln in a 4th of July parade, and I, of course, worked well as the short wife, eccentric and supposedly mentally ill. I remember that now, since Speilberg’s film is out. Yes, I seemed crazy trying to loathe someone I loved.
And that’s not the real tragedy. Not the great loss. The lie of a sealed system of “correct” belief that was paraded as salvation was tragic. The unabated emotional cruelty of cult leadership was obscene. However, the saddest piece may be that I married you when I believed you’d never stay with me.
Whimsical Parisian graffiti reminds and recalls my time and-thing-stricken mind to pause… to regain the creative stance.
Gaze. The up tilted head is composing position.
And the sky is all the possibility of discovering what I think. The chance of synthesizing some new meaning from the traffic of present experiences, the Metro of events streaming through my busy professional life.
The sky. I sense my big picture thoughts and optimistic core when I look up. I get the mood and tone of my mind. Perhaps a memory or two will make emotional weather and precipitate some writing.
However, for now, I enjoy the quiet and stillness of simply looking up. Regarde le ciel…
Watching the storm come up the hill from the sea, we’re on the deck, after Scrabble and walking in the wildflower twilight. Sometimes an idea invades like that.
Sipping Vermouth rouge with a lemon twist, we see the thin curtains of rainfall at the coast. A few sprinkles pass over, and we keep talking until thunder and sideways lightning starts. Normal life goes on, but something imperative takes over. Surrender.
The blue gray clouds advance, real raindrops pitter on bushes, so we move the furniture inside. There is a mood not to be ignored, and I break my journal. The rain sweeps up and the coastal hills and rocks turn into slate silhouettes.
The pine branches that arc over the patio and the rock below brush the landscape Japanese. That is how prose poetry happens.
At OChateaux, the first wine translates, “far from the eye” — grapes grown in the shade. Its fragrance is lemony like magnolias, its taste tangy. I liken this delicacy to the phrases and lines that arise from recent memories, from the writer’s private, poetic joy in nature, flowers and solitude.
The Chablis is clean, a clear accent over goat cheese, very smooth, no bite. The taste of directly rendered, simple experience without qualifying, without impressing an audience. My moments are valuable, some more so than others, and what I have to say is worth the while of writing.
The Clos Hermitage smells like fresh spring rain in the morning, complex. It pairs nicely with sheep cheese. Some writing times are filled with creativity, unbidden, to be enjoyed momentarily. Some rich overlap of ideas and experience get into words on a page and revised with craft and care. Because these lovely tastes are not daily fare does not mean I should not write.
Le Prieuré 2009 smells smoky offering a rich woodsy flavor of raspberry. It has a filmic quality like Florence; pairs with brie with truffles. A mysterious ferment to write, some appellation that I cannot remember, brings me back to blog, to send notes to loved ones, but mainly to meet myself. One way that I taste life is by swirling it in a glass, noting its color and composing.