Saturday, June 4, 2016

Other Worlds

My good friend and reading buddy blogged about her memories of Paris in this post. It is logical for all of us to have Paris in our thoughts, as the city is flooded. The internet is full of picturesque scenes of the city's monuments surrounded by mirror-like still waters, which reflect the scene as though it were an alternate reality, an underworld, a city towering low down into submerged depths to unimaginable worlds.

I must confess, even though I have a great deal of fondness for books set in Paris, this is not my favorite city in the world. I feel little kinship with its beautiful cobbled streets and the Seine. I have visited the city more than once and have always felt like a visitor. However, today, I feel a yearning to visit it. I long for the quiet days meandering through the Louvre (I deliberately forget the long lines to get in and the forever crowds, no matter the day or hour); I long to stand in the navel of the world, beneath the Rose window of Notre Dame (again, I am not going to mention the perennial crowds); I long to get lost in Shakespeare and Company, one of my favorite places in the world.

So yes, I do miss the cafes, the flower pots hanging on terrace grills, the soft consonants and curling vowels mingling with my excellent morning coffee, warm bread and some of the best cheese I have ever tasted. The used book-kiosks along the Seine were wonderful places to waste the day away and afforded a nice view of the opposite river bank, with the ubiquitous kissing couples. I remember wanting a caricature sketched, but the footpath artist at Mont Martre quoted a price that I could only stare at. Now, I think the next time I visit, I would bargain.

And undoubtedly, there will be a next time. I cannot imagine not going. My kidney disease has me tethered to this city, the city I write this from, allowing nothing longer than day-trips. But surely, this is a temporary state of affairs? How can I be bound to a single locale? I was not made for that; I was made to walk down cobbled-roads that are ancient and not mine; I was made to touch millennium-old wooden doors, hard and smooth as stone, and rub my forehead on them. I was made to ask for coffee and bread in strange languages. I was made to weep at the beauty of history and the relics that take my breath away.

My friend's post reminds us all that the rains will come for us all. I want to remember the cities and towns of the world after the rains, colored in sparkles and rainbows, redolent with the fragrance of all things wet and fresh. I want to remember the world before the rains, dry as dust on stone, stubborn against an unforgiving sky, smelling of heat and parching.

I cannot imagine the cruelty of an imposed home, a stagnant existence; that is not living! The kindness and love of a home can only be felt upon a return from other lands. Staple fare tastes best after a wandering through the moveable feasts of the world.

This post goes out in hopes that the still waters will recede, taking the strange underworlds with them, leaving the well-loved, well-remembered cities renewed and recognizable, to enable many happy returns. 

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