Thursday, August 7, 2014

What Gets Left Behind...

A few years ago Larry and I were heading to Paris for a week's vacation.  We hadn't been away in a while and I was feeling rather stuck, in need of change.  It was to be a working vacation - as many of ours are. I'd packed my clothes in a wheelie that we'd carry on. But the important things were in my black backpack. My journal, my paints and pencil kit, the book I planned to read (IQ84, I believe), our camera, my meds, my makeup, and several manuscripts of stories and a novel I planned to work on in the cafes.  Just a week, but that was what the doctor ordered.

We loaded up the car and drove to Newark where we'd park in long term parking.  A van would pick us up there and take us to the terminal.  As we're unloading the trunk, I'm counting the bags.  And it takes a few moments for it to sink in.  Because my backpack with all my work and my journal and writing tools isn't in the car.  "Where's my backpack?" I asked Larry, my voice trembling.

"I thought you took it?"

"I thought you were loading up the car."

So began our sinking argument that would travel across the ocean with us.  He said he was packing the car; I thought he'd see my backpack and put it in.  We struggled for a solution.

Did we have time to go home? Could we order a car that would go to our house and our tenant could give it to the driver who would bring it to the airport?  All kinds of options were considered and discarded.  A car did pick up the backpack but got stuck in tunnel traffic.  And so I was going to be flying without any of the tools of my trade into a great unknown and in a very bad mood.

At Larry's suggestion we went into a bookstore at Newark.  I bought something I thought I might read.  I don't remember what it was at the time.  And then Larry pointed out that they did have small journals and I could buy some pens.  "It's something," he said.

To me it was nothing.  I wanted my journal.  The one I'd been working in.  The one that contained all my notes for the stories I would soon be writing.  Still I bought it, assuming all that would be in would be my venom.

We barely spoke on the flight.  Upon arriving we went to a pharmacy where I began the tedious job of reconstructing what medications I needed, what I could get over the counter, what my doctor in the US had to fax in a prescription for.  All this before we even got to our apartment.

At last we went to the apartment.  It was small but cozy right in the Marais.   We were exhausted and though normally we'd try and stay awake to fight the jet lag instead we tumbled into bed, waking just at dusk.  "Come on," Larry said, urging me out of my anger and lethargy.  "let's take a walk."  As is often the case with my husband he had an ulterior motive. He recalled the store on the Boulevard San Michele that sold art supplies and ever so gently he steered me in that direction.

I had my little journal with me in my pocket, though I had yet to write a word.  Normally I write on the flight, but not on this one.  Before nightfall I found myself in the store where I bought a small watercolor kit, a few pens, a glue stick.  Then we wandered over to a cafe where we drank several glasses of wine.

The next day we woke to the sun shining.  I pulled my little collection of supplies together and off we went, heading no where in particular.  We bought some coffee and croissants and plunked ourselves down on a spot near the Seine.  Beside us an elderly couple were making out.  A child played with a ball.  An accordian player got on a loop of romantic Parisian songs.  It wasn't long before a Japanese bride and groom appeared.  She wore a bright fuscia gown with black fishnet stockings and a black veil and he was in white sharkskin with an odd shaggy dog hairdo.  Their photographer crossed paths with three guys who told us that they were shooting a music video for Julien Clerc. A green balloon floated by.  Somehow the bride and groom ended up in the music video.  We wandered over to la Flore de Ile for ice cream.

It was late when we staggered back to our little apartment where we ate olives, grilled toast with goat cheese and smoked salmon and sipped Bordeaux.  Why we hadn't killed one another I didn't know but life was starting to feel good again.

Over the next week I did none of the things I'd planned.  I worked on none of the stories, or the novel.  I didn't continue my journal.  Instead I started something new.  A small Paris Journal.  In time I came to love its size and compactness.  The pages absorbed color well.  And I could do what I truly love doing best. Sitting in cafes and bar, scribbling, drawing, painting.

I found myself oddly unencumbered.  No enormous tomes to read, no work staring me in the face.  It was as if leaving that heavy bag behind enabled me to travel light in so many ways and that was what the journey should have been about from the start.    

1 comment:

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