Thursday, February 23, 2012

Haunted, 2

Hello everyone, I am delighted to announce that I have my first guest post ever up today on the exceptional blog, From The Right Bank. Ally is one of those people with whom I just clicked. We share quite a bit in common--we are both nomads who have spent time living overseas and live for travel. She also has an insatiable curiosity (regarding more fields than her already encompassing blog can show) and appreciates putting her creativity to use wherever she can. It is a true thrill to have been asked to participate in her "Living La Belle Vie" series and I hope that you will enjoy it. 

Thanks to all of your interest for the first in my Haunted posts. The photos continue below with an entirely different subject matter as I am really fascinated by the culture shift during my visit back to the States! 




I stare at the photos of these old stones blinkingly. The quiet reverberating inwards, secrets held as tight as an embrace or a throttling, your choice. It couldn't be more different than my current environment. 


I love the "joyful noise" of the United States. My fingers hover above the keys while I take in the sounds coming at me from all sides. 



I am nowhere special. Just at a coffee shop during the lunch rush on any old Monday. So few people are alone. A Mom and son sit across from me, heads nodded together in complicity. A newish couple behind me flirting: "You're hi-lar-ious" he just punches out into the sky, drawing out the syllables until she smiles unwillingly. Just beyond two co-workers, one shy enough that she laughs into her palm with a "Woowoowoo" like a cartoon ghost, her companion reacts with a hair shake and a whinny.


I know that everyone can't be happy but it certainly seems that way. I love the volley of volume. The unselfconscious clink of silverware. Or even determined tapping of a silver spoon on the side of a mug in time as someone chases after lost thoughts. The staff enquiring earnestly "How are you doing today?" or "Do you have everything you need there?" without the least bit of cynicism. I had to do a double take.



Hands flutter in delicate gestures, drawing glasses to lips. "Do you want to try this? It's very good," I hear over and over again. As well as a chorus of polite "I'm sorry"'s at the pile up at the trash can. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Sheepishly. 



It is President's Day (can you imagine a president's day in France where we don't even cheer for the current leader on Bastille Day as he parades down the Champs Élysées?) so there are families crowded around small tables pushed unevenly together. Little squeaks of asking followed by patient explaining. Hiccups of giggling.



It is now nearly 2 pm so the voices have lowered into a post-repas lullaby. Sentences no longer leap for my attention. I can feel a pull at my back and look behind to see a braided ten-year old using Ben's velvet  painting eyes on me while sucking on a straw, immobilized. I wonder what it is that she sees in me or is she just lost in thought? Funnily enough, I find enough space around the sound. Wide-open spaces, like America.



My attention snaps back to the screen and these old stones are still there, in that haunted abandoned village far away. It must be night now with the time difference. No light but the stars, no sound but the wind.


How different, how unchanging. I will walk back soon to my Mom's apartment, wrapping my pashmina around my neck with each step, rearranging it while waiting at the light. I will most likely be the only person not driving as I was on the way here.  I'll keep an eye out for the cardinal that lives in the tree outside her front door. Weeks from now, I'll remember the bell-ringing "all-righty"'s and "You have a nice day now" as I walk around the Roman Arena in silence, utter silence knowing one is not better than the next, just different and unchanging.

33 comments:

I Dream Of said...

Oh Heather, this is just lovely. Thanks for sharing your musings with us! This post caught my eye while I'm supposed to be getting ready for work, so I couldn't spend the time I'd like to think along with you-- I'll have to come back a less rushed time. And catch up with you over at The Right Bank! XO

LaPouyette said...

All my best wishes, dear Heather, for your 'wallpaper-change' in America.
Don't get lost in NY, don't get homesick of Arles, the beautiful old stone work will be still there when you're back!

Enjoy your time...
A bientôt et amicalement,
karin

Lost in Provence said...

Thanks Jeanne. I know that I have a post of yours to read as well! Have a great day at work. :)

Lost in Provence said...

Merci Karin. I am actually in Michigan where the rest of my family now lives. A slower pace but still so different! J'espere que tout va bien pour toi et la petit Oskar. Bisous.

Murissa Maurice said...

Great writing and great photos.
I am in the midst of studying the Sublime and Romanticism in art and your ruins are exactly what I have been looking at in the form of art this past reading break.
Also, great writing! I am also in the midst of preparing a presentation on literary travel writing and I have to say what is missing from most literary travel by women is lovely sentences like you have written! Particularly Brenda Faser :P Her book, all over the map is terrible so far!

Oye, can you tell I have locked myself inside my apartment to read all week?!? ha

The Wanderfull Traveler

Acquired Objects said...

This post was so beautiful Heather. I could almost hear the voices in among the ruins. It makes you wonder why the people left that village. I hope you're having a wonderful time in NYC with your family.

Enjoy your Thursday!
XX
Debra~

Judith A. Ross said...

I just love the juxtaposition of these photos with your words about being in a little coffee shop in Michigan.

I really do wish you would make them into prints and put them with others into a book. Enjoy your time with family.

chcmichel said...

I love how you describe your surroundings be it the "haunted" village or the coffee shop. Where abouts in Michigan are you? I spent the first 20 years of life except for several years in Alsace and then vacations at grandparents in the South of France in Southwestern Michigan.

puppyfur said...

How beautiful. It seems to me that we U.S. expats sometimes forget from whence we came when we suffer regular reminders about how loud, fat, ill-mannered, ........ (fill in the blank), Americans are without remembering the lovely sounds and sights you've described. I can remember very similar scenes from my hometown, and you've managed to make me homesick (in a good way.) Your photos are beautiful, too. What a lovely juxtapositional piece of writing!

Glamour Drops said...

Do you mean the "culture shift" since you lived in the States, or the "culture shift" simply between France and the States? I wonder if it is a little of both?

LA CONTESSA said...

Absolutely engaging................I too think you should write a book.Think about it!

helen tilston said...

Hi Heather.

There is something special when we are with our own people. The language and accents of our birth speaks to our soul. I also find when I return to Ireland, I see women and men who resemble my late parents.
Enjoy every minute with your family and Michigan

I will visit From The Right bank

Helen xx

Lost in Provence said...

Murissa, this made me giggle! I know so much what it is like to get lost in the life of the mind. Time to get outside and go for a walk--and good luck with all of your amazing projects!

Lost in Provence said...

Hi Debra! I am actually in Michigan--a lot more peaceful than NYC! Thank you for your kind words. I think that I am behind on your posts--I hope that you will understand that I am spending every spare minute with my family and will be caught up soon. :)

Lost in Provence said...

Made my day Judith. Bisous.

Lost in Provence said...

I am in Ann Arbor although we lived in Mason when I was younger. I can't believe what an amazingly cosmopolitan town Ann Arbor has become. We also spent time up at Manistee during my last trip here and it was crazily beautiful. Whereabouts were you?

Lost in Provence said...

Is there such a thing as homesick in a good way? ;) Yes, I took a Buddhism class tonight that made me wonder how much I let myself be defined by what others impose on me. Good to come back to the source now and again, so to speak.

Thank you for the kind compliment as well!

Lost in Provence said...

Good question, Virginia but I do think that I just meant between France and the States this time around. Certain societal aspects really are unchanging, even if they do evolve...

Lost in Provence said...

Oh my goodness! I will! :)

Lost in Provence said...

Helen, thank you so much for this. I see so many people here who like like me! Or my family. It creates an instant ease in communication doesn't it? I really appreciated yours and Virginia's kind words over on Ally's post. Again, merci!

Karena said...

Heather what a heartfelt post, the images with your words so moved me!

xoxo
Karena
Art by Karena

Judith said...

Oooh you are in Ann Arbor. My niece lives there!!!

Lost in Provence said...

Judith, you would LOVE it here!

Lost in Provence said...

Thank you so much Karena! Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

Chris said...

Hi Heather,
I enjoyed your post on Ally's blog and left a comment! It is so prophetic that you should mention the 'unselfconsciousness' of Americans. It has been too long since I have been in a cosmopolitan area in France and it has been pointed out to me that we, Americans, are as such; much more vocal, gregarious, aggressive, loud, if you will, than the French. Perhaps the French are more private, self-preserving than we. Simply, culturally quieter?

As I spend valuable time with friends and family, a robust laugh or giggle, or a heated discussion, seems like a heartfelt expression of honesty and joy. It is easy to understand, however, that we must paint an offensive visual of the differences in culture, illustrating the 'ugly-American' identity.

What is your experienced view?

Plus bon voyage!
xoxo, Chris

Lore said...

I love your post. Your writing is so good. While I was reading the wonderful words I kept building images of the coffee shop everyday scenes. The contrast with the images is excellent, like the contrasts we all have and love sometimes.

Lost in Provence said...

What an interesting question, Chris and thanks for asking it. The response probably deserves a post in itself. Yes, I would absolutely say that the French are culturally quieter than we are in exactly the way that you mentioned which goes beyond simply talking more quietly while out in public. As you so perfectly said, they are more private than Americans are (let's face it, we tend to share our life stories with strangers sitting next to us on the airplane), certainly in public. With friends in private, it can be entirely different! But even then, I think that Americans have an exuberance in their expression that I have never seen in any of my French friends or aquaintances. And yes, it feels wonderful to be here and let out the big laugh with my family!

The "Ugly American" is a tricky topic and one that seems to stem from ideas of respect. My French friends talk quietly in a restaurant as it is a public space and one to be shared, not dominated out of respect for their fellow diners. Similarly, they do not walk around in sweats to go see monuments and museums out of respect for their history. And lastly, sadly, I see so many American tourists in Arles that don't make the slightest effort to speak French. Not even "Bonjour" or "Parlez-vous anglais?" which makes me cringe. French folks rightfully love their beautiful language and that lack of effort is also a lack of respect.

I am still in the States until Tuesday--I can't wait for the Oscars tomorrow!

Lost in Provence said...

Thanks so much Lore!

French Girl in Seattle said...

Bonjour Heather. Catching up on my reading. We just came back from our Mexican vacation. I am lucky I got to read both "haunted posts" at once. ;-) Great stories, both. I have to agree with your other readers. You are one talented writer. If you and I meet one day, we would have fun sitting somewhere and people watching, here in the US or in France. It is a wonderful feeling to be "home" and surround yourself with familiar sights, smells and sounds. I am glad you got to spend some quality time with your family these past few days. Like you, I will be watching the Oscars tomorrow evening. Guess what movie I will be cheering for ;-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

HRH The Duchess of State said...

great writting & wondeful stories dahhling...

Elizabeth Eiffel said...

Another beautiful, evocative post. Such talent. Thank you.
E XX

Carla said...

Haunted just beautiful Heather sounds like you are really appreciating being home......enjoy the rest of your trip and congratulations on the "guest blog post" Brava!

Carla x

Lost in Provence said...

Gosh, such lovely compliments! Thank you so much talented ladies!

Vero, I know that you understand the importance of being in our home country--speaking our native language and enjoying our local culture. It just feels wonderful--like slipping into a warm bath!