Thursday, November 19, 2020

Walking out of Lockdown

It was the simplest of decisions. Instead of turning right, as I always did at the Porte Saint Dominique, I turned left. Within these three years of living in Avignon, I have never walked that particular path lining the 14th century fortified walls. But the light beckoned and if I have held tight to one important rule, it is to follow the light whenever you can. Roll in it, may it heat you, let it stun your eyes.

This second lockdown feels both ambiguously different and yet numbingly the same. But admittedly, having an idea of what to expect has been truly helpful. I know where my pitfalls lie but also how to divert them. While staying very safe, I stretch the laws when needed, just as I pay attention to any back brain whispers before they hurl into tantrum howls. For I can't let myself go back to that first set state, one that scared me (says one experienced with depression). And yes, I had happily begun to claw my way upwards exactly when this quarantine was announced. 

After a few weeks of feeling pitched at sea, I inhaled deeply and dug out my old tool box, which has served me well in days gone by. Within are items that remain a part of my daily routine, such as making gratitude lists. But I have also made a "schedule" of such quintessential tips as "make bed immediately, change out of pyjamas." It is written in black ink with large loopy letters and is displayed prominently. Delightfully, I am rediscovering others that I haven't touched in years, such as three pages worth of journalling in the morning before that Pavlovian reach for my phone. It feels so comforting to write while knowing that no one will ever see my scrawly wanderings, my thundershow doubts. I do well to not think before I put the pen to paper. "Just go, Heather," I tell myself instead. "Go." 

It feels the same on my daily walk. As with the previous quarantine, we are allotted one hour per day and are allowed to stray no farther than one kilometre beyond our habitation (I have personally decided to define that as a radius, which offers innumerable possibilities). Yes, we need to have a signed "attestation" at the ready, although I must say that I do not see police patrols now. None at all. Regardless, I move. In the beginning, I could handle no more than a lumbering stroll. My lungs are still achey from being sick in March, whether it was indeed COVID, or not. But with time, I find that my pace is increasing in spite of my intentions. My feet dance in a straight line. I feel hungry to be outside of my own four walls and while I have no desire to think, it feels so delightful just to see. Just that, to see.

And so back we go to the left-hand turn. The light is at its peak - a dripping honey that edges towards amber. It clings to the cream stone rempart walls, pulling out each crevice, including the mysterious symbols left behind by each stone-cutter as a means to get paid. So much history, resting solidly, darkened only by the shadows of the last-leaved trees and pedestrians stretched out like spaghetti on their meander towards home.

Again, I don't know this territory, not at close range and so every few paces leads to a clip "aha" as well as the occasional pause to pull out my phone. The non-existent "click." I am used to people looking at me questioningly, wondering what on earth I am trying to capture. Later in my walk, an elderly woman bangs the shutter at her windows purposefully as I fixed upon the scrabbled layers of paint on her building. It was as if to say, "Off you go, you have no business here." 

Ah, but you see? I do. I most certainly do. Every single second that I am rooted in the present - not shadow-pulled towards the past or worrying about an impossible future - keeps me sane. Or at least largely so. This is what freedom feels like. Just to walk and breathe. La liberté that no quarantine can steal. My heart beating, drenched in the warm light of autumn, heals me and holds me like nothing else can. 

On we go. 
My goodness, it is complicated. 
One day at a time.
With Love and infinite Gratitude, 
Stay safe. Be well. Be kind,


Ps. Well this is a bit odd...a little of one-hand clapping. But. Unfortunately, it makes me rather sad. It would appear that Mailchimp suspended my account without any way to recover it. So it would appear that from several thousands, you, my friends are now in several hundreds at most to get notifications of posts. If I am not mistaken, it seems as though only those of you who have a Google or Blogger account are contacted. If anyone wants to chime in about this, please go ahead.
And better yet, if anyone has truly solid advice as to how to get me onto another platform without losing ten years of posts (I am petrified), I would be happy to listen.

Bisous. xo

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Return to the harvest

"What is this, some not even winter night? When we are all looking at each other with neither surprise or delight? We are holding our own souls tight."

So, where are we? Where am I? Yesterday it helped me enormously to go out and walk to look for the leaves green who don't lie, at least not on purpose.

Just a week before, I was back in the harvest. And that action of bringing something to fruition felt like nothing as simple as hope. One that came unbidden, not forced.

It was at their house. Yes, my friends at La Mas de la Fourbine who saved me more than once before, quite literally, and yet here I was again, back in that bed so soft as to give least of dreams, for once a restful night.

Back to this bedroom and this joyful family. 

Today, I had a thought of young Juliette demanding during a break, "I like it when you make your legs like that," meaning mine crossed like Buddha and her sitting in the middle that was left. I would love to watch her do that simple manoeuvre of pulling herself up towards me with one hand and a book in the other while trying not to wonder too much what is the beauty to be a Mom. I would correct her quietly, as she sounded out the words but not every time that she made a mistake. Sometimes, it was fine to listen to that otherwise confident voice testing out the sounds, learning in live time. 

During the days, I would pick at the olives so quietly. I was most happy when I was inside the tree.

I would rotate the swampish green fruit between my fingers and marvel at the perfume. Picking without thinking, time rotated from between "until lunch" to "until sunset." And then, we were done. We folded up the nets that had been placed under the trees in the near dark with wispy exhales that reached up towards the cold, stubborn stars. 

I would have stayed another day if there had been more to be done. Another week, another year.

And now those treasures, fought for with a declaration of, "No olive left behind!" (that was me, on the first morning, a bit giddy) will be pressed and strained until they have transformed into something else entirely. A briny, initially spicy, oil. A promise of something that will continue to change and develop over time.

I know that feeling. I know it well.

As there was so little to take this year, R and N relied on their friends to do the picking, a traditional provençal style affair. And I would chat and smile with these strangers, instigating conversations. Curious. Stealing a laugh when I could. How different an experience from when I last participated in 2016, a period when I could barely understand the pain as it ripped through my body, let alone the challenges to come. The trees held me up then. I hid behind my camera. Don't see me. Don't see me, please. My hosts were generous in their carefulness.

Will I always be one, or two days behind of believing again, truly? Sometimes. But not always. In those recent few moments I felt rooted with that balmy earth. I wasn't as desperate for the light of the moon as usual. The sun felt rather good. 

I suppose the point of this story (remembering it once again) is that I am still here. I have grown. And although I am still not able to forsee the possibilities, I can start to feel them coming. Or hear the door creaking on its hinges as if begging for a push. 

That moment with my friends preceeded, directly, the US presidential election. In the joy of the past few days, with the dancing in the streets, it feels like a harvest of another sort has also taken place. How I cried to see Despite what lies ahead. I kind of know where I am, as a person and as a person of the world. My community. My family. And hopefully, there will also be more kindness and love towards my struggling self. 

That one still to be completely refined. May I rest inside those branches in peace. 

May we all, each in our own way.

With Love, always,

Peace and peace and yet again,
Heather, somewhere in Provence