Technically, today is the longest of the year but I will make a strong case for yesterday evening. Frederique had sent off a quick email: "Drinks on my terrace?" and I instantly shot back "That would be lovely!" Fred, as I call her, is the type of friend that extends herself towards others when she is having an off day, wanting to make them happy. Something, I think that says a lot about her character. Is that just a ridiculously old-fashioned thing to say? Maybe. In France, we talk about les bonnes manières, or manners (or these days have increasing conversations about the lack of it) but not what the core of who someone is or can be. Maybe we assume that we all know each other by now, in this capitalistic industrial world that we have all morphed into a uni-being. I shouldn't exaggerate but sometimes it seems like so many of us spend more efforts getting ahead than being true.
Heavy thoughts to take into such a light evening. Luckily, climbing the stairs to Fred's rooftop terrace is like being shot out of a cannon filled with feathers. Lifted out of the wear and tear into a realm that is just this side of different. To have a view, a subtle shift in perspective and a bottle of rosé--what more can you ask for? Remi, Fred and I settled in while our dogs whipped and rolled around us. Me on the sagging Indian daybed that had been a cast off from our garden and not quite comfortable. Popping tiny cherry tomatoes in my mouth that were still warm from the vines sneaking up a trellis. None of us were in a hurry to make conversation and what a luxury that is in any friendship.
We let the evening settle in around us. The sun gaped out an open-mouthed yawn. Nobody moved. We had been warned that we were invited "just for one drink" as Fred had things to do but at some point she popped downstairs and came back with a bunch of little plates on a tray. Saucisson, chorizo, cubes of cream cheese dusted with herbs. And so of course we stayed. I shifted on to a stack of thick cushions on the floor and mainly listened. Occasionally lost in my own thoughts while the others talked over and around me.
I had spoken to my friend Brooke on the phone for the first time earlier in the day. I think that it is going to be too complicated for us to meet during her upcoming holiday in France. For her to drag her entire family down here would be hard work and that certainly isn't the experience that I would hope them to have in Provence. But something that she said during our brief but full conversation (this despite an annoying international cell phone lapse that left me feeling as if I were stepping on her toes) got me thinking about the importance of the time that we have in our lives: how we perceive it, how that shapes how we see, then how we go through the world. Does it weigh on us like wet clothes or does it buoy us forward? I have experienced both, or otherwise I would say that the answer lies in our character. An answer that is trop facile. I have made some unusual choices in my life and currently I have an ample amount of it. Something has shifted in me in that I don't feel so afraid or greedy about that. So maybe I will meet Brooke next year or the year after that. Suddenly, everything doesn't have to be now.
We didn't know what hour it was when we finally got up, stretching and smiling at the same time. The birds swishing past at eye level, making their last dive before nightfall. The red at the last of its run. Lost in the heart of Arles. And yet no, not lost, not at all.