This morning the air met my face damp and drizzled, and I felt exhilarated. I love this weather; it reminds me of our former home, and the birthplace of four of the six of us, 8000 kilometres away. Back there, where we lived on the southern west coast of Canada, winters were never very cold and the mornings would be wet. By afternoons, there would be sun glinting between tall cedars dripping rain.
I drop off X at the school an ocean’s depth from our home here in France, and this time allow Y and Z to stay at garderie for the hour before their first class starts, as they wish. They don’t feel like walking in rain, and it’s better if they’re not wet before school anyway.
I kiss them goodbye and drive away, noting the fuel tank marker of the van getting low, take two turns around the vacant roundabout at the bottom of the town, checking the price of diesel as I drive by the fuel station. Then I remember I have to go to the city tomorrow to pick up W anyway. Fuel is always slightly cheaper there. I hold off another day.
I exit the roundabout to head to the recycling bins, sort glass, plastic, bits of cardboard into small round openings in huge bell-shaped containers. Sometimes people leave masses of boxes here, which won’t fit through the holes, stacked outside the bins; once I found about twenty bags of clean clothes that had been dropped off, rifled through by someone else, then spilled all over the ground. I took them home, washed the dirty ones, refolded them and bagged them, brought them to the textiles recycling/donation bin, which inexplicably is a block away. But thankful it now exists anyway. And that someone tried to find a better place for them than the garbage.
I drive to the lake, park the van, decide on clockwise. The air is so fresh and moist, and the sky is dark velvet blue, as is the lake. It’s just past eight in the morning. I walk along the sand of the small beach, the street lamps placed to illuminate the path behind it, causing the whitest grains of sand to be brightly lit. I stop and stare at the wonder of what I am walking on… pulverized rock of various hues, a substance that is very hard, but now made soft by its reduced size. What if our planet is one grain of sand on the beach of space?
My toes are warm in my cosy ankle boots, and I lift my chin joyfully to better inhale the freshness as I stride along, thrilled to be alone, thus fully able to absorb all the sights and sounds of this quiet, curving place, where all the elements form a jewel, where once there was a disaster. It used to be a stadium and fairgrounds, engulfed during a coal mine collapse. In the dark-blue light, I see the lamps on the land bridge to the campground that divides one end of the lake in two, standing like a row of orange-yellow torches.
To my right, across the water, the hills are kissed with a down of mist like grey fleece. Visible through that mist are only the windows of the high school gleaming at the top, their light matching that of the electric torches on the land bridge I now walk towards. The surface of the lake is wrinkled but silent, all the thin ice from yesterday melted, the slightest wind now encouraging the surface to move westward.
As I set foot on the bridge, the lamps suddenly go out; the town’s electrical sensors have announced the dawn. And as if in agreement, now the sky, without the contrast of bright lights, suddenly does, seconds later, look much brighter. The deep blue has faded to cobalt grey, and the dark winter shapes of poplar and ash become more pronounced, in their hugging of the water’s edge.
A group of crows, and an unknown-to-me bird that oddly sounds like a cat, announce the end of their meeting in the birch trees, flying up and away. Likewise for a group of ducks I pass on the southern grass bordering the lake; their short, strong wings together making a low whistling sound as they whir onto the water.
I see my favourite walker — the lady of my favourite dog, Jeannette. Là on n’est pas bien, ça fait triste; she says, about today’s weather, versus yesterday’s. I am putting my nose to Jeannette’s small black one, as she puts her furry front paws happily on my bent knee, her stub tail wagging vigorously, silently telling me how much she loves this mild rain upon her silky white fur; how much it enlivens her.
I tell my favourite lake lady that I was born in a climate of this kind of weather. She tells me she is born under the sign of the fish, and I tell her that must be why we always get along so well, for so am I. Le quinze, I say, and she says, et moi, le cinq.
She tells me she can’t swim, ever since she tried and nearly drowned, some decades ago, as a child. I feel worried for anyone who can’t swim; what about in the case of an emergency? “It’s more dangerous not to try again,” I plead, in French.
She nods agreeably, just as I might, when someone gives me advice. And I realize that part of what I like so much about her is she never gives me any. No matter if I have no hat in the rain, no matter that my jeans are covered in doggie mud prints, very contre-couture, contre-culture; never does she say I should change.
We part ways, she continuing counterclockwise, with the earth; I continuing clockwise, like a record player, or like the second rock from the sun, or the direction in which the earth would be said to spin, if clocks had been invented on the opposite side of the equator. I pick up bits of strewn garbage and deposit them in the intermittent bins; a wet pizza box, an empty can of energy drink, another one of beer, a receipt, a tissue, a plastic lid, a lollipop stick.
By the time I return to the northern end of the lake, which hardly takes any time at all, without the kids, the sky is white, the lake is pale grey, and all the worries of the previous day have lifted away.
I write this scene in my heart, in case my soul has need of it again some day.
Inspired partly by the incredible song “The Lost Words,” by Folk by the Oak.
[THE LOST WORDS: SPELL SONGS: Singing Nature Back To Life (full interview)]
Nadine inhales & exhales words & images from current vantage point in Auvergne, France. Thank you for reading. ❤︎