life of m

Sustaining the Self and Beyond


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Note to Future Self

This year has been one for the record books, at least my own life record books, full of unanticipated stresses, betrayal, drama, anxiety, and many opportunities to shake my attachments to outcomes and life plans. The month of September, which included negotiating the beginnings of the sale of my house in Alaska, a trial by telephone from Brussels to Alaska, illness, a temporary exodus of my life partner to the United States while I moved through the final four days of my second yoga teacher training, was one of the more stressful spans of weeks of my existence. It seems that for the first time since beginning this blog, I actually did not post a single piece for the month of September. I created this blog in the July 2010, and I have never missed a month until this year.

 

Something I have wished for during the past year has been a less exciting existence, particularly in the realm of finances. My husband and I have crossed our fingers for the trial to go well, for my house to sell, and for him to receive funding for his doctoral studies in Brussels. So far, we continue to keep those fingers crossed.

 

Another desire I have held in my heart since the passing of my beloved wolf dog and since my parents “borrowed” our beloved Naih husky while we searched for a place to rent where we could have a dog and then expressed a desire to keep her around “for a while longer,” has been to bring to a canine companion into my life once more.

 

The bar is quite high, however, for a canine companion, which puts a lot of pressure on any being who might walk through the doors of our quiet home in a forested corner of Brussels.

 

My mental (and yes, I do mean this for the many entrendres it carries) wish list for a canine companion has included the following tenets:

 

Will be wolfie

Will be my shadow

Will be most bonded to me

Will get along with my cats (at least with the cat who thinks he is a dog)

Will be a gentle giant

And so on and so forth…

 

With this list, I found it difficult to ever settle on a possible dog to rescue and bring into our home. How could the dog ever meet my ridiculous standards? I was certainly not setting up any dog for success. There was also so much unknown. When we first met Okami at the husky rescue we adopted him from, he was not at all interested in any member of our family.

 

I vividly recall exchanging a glance with my husband, replete with shoulder shrug: Well, I guess we will just bring him home and see…

 

Within 24 hours, he had become my shadow, but it was still a challenging transition in all of our lives for us to adjust to this new member of the family and for him to adjust to life with our three cats and us.

 

The first night we brought Okami home, we thought we would just put him on the run outside since that had been the preference of our previous husky, Blue. We went to bed but were soon roused by the most haunting, mournful howling I had ever heard.

 

Ok. Okami was not going to be an outside-at-night kind of dog. First lesson learned.

 

Next lesson. Okami was terrified of small, enclosed spaces. He would never set foot in the bathroom, and the wire crate we had set up for him was definitely out of the question. What to do if/when we had to leave the house?

 

We tried to always either bring him with us or make sure someone was at home. At the time, my husband’s daughter was still living at home (the summer before she headed to college in the Pacific Northwest), so we were on a kind of round the clock Okami caretaking committee.

 

The times we did leave the house, he would try to break his way through the window screen to get out and knock things over in the house in the panic-ridden process. With time, he began to adjust, and after years of remembering the ease with which we settled into our life together, it was not until bringing home a new rescue dog that I was reminded of the initial stresses and anxieties of that transition time.

 

Enter the being I have been referring to as BWD (big, white dog).

 

We have a perfect life, Marieke, my husband told me on several occasions this past year when I would bemoan the absence of a dog in our life in Belgium. It is peaceful, and you have the love of two cats.

 

Cats are not the same as dogs, I would retort.

 

Can’t you be happy with what we have? Isn’t it good enough?

 

I guess, I would respond, but my heart remained steadfast on the idea of a goofy, gentle, shadow canine. Like so many things in my life (ukulele, mandolin, dog, red shoes, etc.), once I get my mind or heart set on something, it turns into a strange obsession until I either let it go, or more often, until I bring it home. It doesn’t matter how unreasonable or ridiculous the idea, I can’t seem to shake the desire. It takes root and grows at an alarming rate.

 

The other night, as I desperately texted with my husband about the stress of the reality of having all of my canine wish list granted, he responded, When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers (which he later told me came from an Oscar Wilde play, An Ideal Husband).

 

I am not one to admit defeat all that readily. By nature, I am quite competitive, and I really like being right. I rarely give my husband the satisfaction of being right, but he was definitely spot on with this one, and I let him know this without shame.

 

I was clearly crazy to bring such chaos into our perfectly peaceful life.

 

So, on the first chaotic evening with my this new, furry being, I tried to remind myself, You asked for this. There’s a reason this is happening. I was at the point of tears, listening to the strange yowling howling sounds coming from downstairs, where I had attempted to put the dog in his kennel for the night since he couldn’t figure out how to go up the stairs, and my terrified cats were hiding upstairs.

 

I eventually decided that maybe I needed to ease him into spending time in the kennel and went to sleep on the couch downstairs with him. He eventually settled down and slept on the dog bed I had placed beside the couch. Periodically through the night, I awoke to see his big head right in front of mine. He gave me kisses and went back to sleep on his bed. In the morning, I fond him sleeping on the other half of the couch, his head nestled next to mine on the pillow, the bottom half of his body extending off of the couch and onto the wide stair beside it.

 

The next day I informed my husband of my concern that I had ruined our perfect, peaceful life.

 

I still feel really freaked out about bringing a dog home, I admitted.

 

It will be fine, he assured me. Patience.

 

I hope so. I am worried, and I miss the cats and the second floor.

 

Just give him time. He needs a safe place to land, just like Jack. (Jack is a young boy in one of our favorite books series by Deborah Harkness, who is taken in a couple after a life with stability in the streets of Elizabethan England).

 

Ohhhhhh, I responded. I love you!

 

I love YOU!

 

Maybe he chose me, and it was not really me at all making the choices. So I am not to blame. I plead insanity, I responded.

 

Ha…no, you are.

Damnit!

 

Ha!

 

I am L

 

But it is FINE. Really. Or, it will be.

 

I’m worried about money, too. And our freedom to explore.

 

All in good time.

 

Ok.

 

The dog will open up different doors to explore.

 

True. I have talked to more people in Boitsfort since he arrived and more of our neighbors than in the past six months. So I am learning more French!

 

We engaged in many of these kinds of texting conversations. They mostly involved me freaking out over this huge transition and questioning my sanity and whether life could ever be peaceful again.

 

For example:

 

I don’t know what I was thinking!? I texted my husband.

 

I really think it is going to be just fine. You should write a blog or note to your future self, telling how you are feeling right now and how the initial experience with BWD is going.

 

So my future self will never adopt another dog?

 

No, so your future self will remember how nervous you were and how good things are “now” (in the future). Showing you that things WILL work out just fine.

 

Oh my gosh, I STILL love you.

 

Well, that is good.

 

You get the idea. So, future Self of mine, remember this:

 

Remember this crazy time.

Remember the peace of life with two relatively subdued cats and the overwhelming stress of bringing a new being into the mix.

Remember how nervous you were about whether or not everything would work out.

Remember wondering if the dog and cats would ever carve out an amicable or at least tolerant existence.

Remember the stress of the unknown.

And, most importantly, remember to keep breathing!

 

Everything is already alright.

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It’s about the adventure

In my life after being a park ranger, I have become a kind of Renaissance woman, cobbling together a humble living as an editor, yoga instructor, and songwriter (the latter has been mostly pro bono since moving to Belgium). Editing tends to be slower in the summer, as the bulk of my work comes from students during the fall and spring semesters of the academic year.

 

To keep myself busy, I pore over animal adoption sites in search of a dog I might be able to convince my husband to let me bring home. I study texts about philosophy and the path to enlightenment, I practice handstands at the wall, and I go for walks. I also do a lot of writing.

 

Since we are on a limited budget with my work being part-time and even less than that during the summer months, I have also begun researching different foods that I would like to be able to eat but cannot really order at restaurants, essentially because we don’t ever go to restaurants in order to save money. My most recent epiphany was that I should try to make dim sum. This revelation came when our favorite couscous stand was absent from the Sunday market in Boitsfort, so we opted for Thai and Balinese. Both were super overpriced, which completely bummed me out. The Thai food was disappointing all around, especially toward the end when I found a hair in mine (this is never fun). My husband suggested that I pretend I didn’t see it, but I was not very successful in this endeavor. The dumplings from the Balinese stand cost 8 euros for four tiny morsels. The shrimp dumplings were amazing, but the friend sesame ones filled with red bean paste were pretty sad.

 

All told, we spent 7 euros for the sad Thai noodles, 8 euro for the dumplings, and 5 euros for two glasses of white wine. The wine won on all fronts.

 

Maybe, I could just figure out how to make the foods I love to eat? I suggested to my husband.

 

Go for it, he acquiesced.

 

Ok, so 20 euros on the Sunday market lunch was nothing when compared with the small fortune I spent at three different Asian markets and two western grocery stores this morning and afternoon. My morning trip was shared with all of the adorable, old ladies of Watermael-Boitsfort, who left their carts sitting in the middle of the aisles so it took me a while to wind my way from one end of the store to the other.

 

My day of adventuring began with a visit to an Optician for an eye exam. Learning about inner workings of the health care system in Belgium is also a challenge, particularly when French is not my native tongue. I had a lovely time visiting with the Optician and asking all kinds of questions about the machines and method he used, all the while trying to decipher the code and meaning of his explanations, which were, of course, all in French. It turned out that I had gone about the eye care process in reverse, as most people began with a visit to an Ophthalmologist to test for tension in the eyes, glaucoma, and an overall medical exam, which an Optician could not provide. (At least, the eye exam was free!)

 

Learning the ins and outs of a foreign culture is an exhausting adventure, which requires figuring out public transit systems, following maps to find venues that Google claims exist but in actuality have long since closed, and beyond. My stamina is not what it was ten more more years ago when I last lived in a foreign land; however, I somehow made it through an eye exam and a visit to five different grocery stores (the sixth had come up as an Asian market but did not look like through the windows, so I didn’t go in because at that point I was beyond exhausted). The final stop of my day was also the highlight. I found the Alimentation Asiatique and quickly befriended the owner.

 

His name was Wang, and he was delighted when I asked if he could help me find some items.

 

Do you like Chinese food? He asked me.

 

I do! And I love trying new things.

 

Then you must try the radish. I just opened some. You can try first before you decide to buy it.

 

He went into the back and brought out a pair of chopsticks and bowl of radish coated in something red, which looked spicy and dangerous for my sensibilities.

 

Can you use chopsticks?

 

I can, but I am not sure I hold them correctly.

 

I modeled my chopstick holding stance.

 

Good enough, he said. He was now speaking in English, explaining that he spent three years studying in New York. Apparently, most of the English speakers who came into the shop had British accents and had a hard time understanding his English.

 

I have a hard time understanding a British accent.

 

Me, too, but it’s so wonderful.

 

It is! I love British English accents, I agreed.

 

I gingerly picked up a piece of the radish, brought it to my mouth, and smiled.

 

It’s so good! Definitely spicy.

 

And it’s very cheap. Everything here is much less expensive than other places because we sell to restaurants.

 

He continued: Where are you from?

 

The United States.

 

Where?

 

Arizona, but I have lived all over. I started listed states on my fingers.

 

You are very nice. You smile all the time. I can tell it is because you travel a lot.

 

Well, not everyone who travels is nice.

 

True, but we can ignore the people who aren’t nice.

 

Yes, we can.

 

I went through my ingredients list, asking about different items. When I asked him if he had red bean paste, he lit up, handed me a can, and told me how his mom would put red bean paste into things she cooked as a treat for him when was a child.

 

We then spoke about our moms and how their cooking is wonderful and full of love.

 

My mom lives far away, so now I have to try cooking things myself, I said.

 

Wang was all about helping simplify my cooking experience. He suggested that I buy frozen dumpling wrappers and already made ravioli.

 

I explained that I really wanted to try making the recipes myself but that I would buy some ready made to put in the oven if I failed so I could pretend that I had made perfect ones.

 

When I asked about bamboo steamers, he said not to waste my money and drew me a picture for how I could put water in a pot and place another bowl inside, covering the pot so the boiling water would create vapors to steam the dumplings.

 

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Later in the evening, when I had spent hours attempting to make the ravioli with the flour I used because I couldn’t find wheat starch, I told my husband that I probably should have listened to Wang.

 

He laughed.

 

We had a good time trying everything. While the proverbial fruits of my labor were a far cry from the photos in the recipes online I had been following, I felt pretty good about my first effort.

 

It’s all about the adventure, my husband said. You should be getting out there, exploring and meeting people.

 

It’s true, I said. Thank you for braving my most recent adventure!

 


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The belly of the beast

I received some interesting and hilarious responses to my first post about our adventures in Darmstadt. One friend wrote of Darmstadt that it was “the intestine city,” a description which has now begun to weave itself into our conversation as we have moved through our second day here.

 

We had a relatively restful night’s sleep, though I could hear someone walking around in the room above us and experienced a few waves of panic, hoping this would not turn into a repeat of the nightmare neighbor we recently escaped from at our first apartment in Brussels. Thankfully, a simple turning on of the air fan and earplugs solved the noise from above. My husband was elated at the opportunity to sleep through the night without interruption from the two feline characters who share our home. He practically did a dance he was so giddy (ok, he definitely did a little dance, and it was adorable). I really love this man.

 

The day before I had called down to reception to ask about the internet, so this morning it was my husband’s turn to call to see if breakfast was included in the price for the hotel (feel free to judge, but we are on a student and part-time editor budget). Breakfast buffet was indeed gratis, so we headed down to the dining room.

 

We were greeted by the sounds of men in the lobby speaking American English.

 

Where are we? I asked my husband.

 

The little placard in our hotel room had informed us that there were more than 50 options at the buffet, and I would say the majority included some kind of meat and/or dairy product. While I have been impressed to see many vegan and vegetarian signs posted on the windows of restaurants around the town, the breakfast buffet at H+ Hotel was decidedly leaning toward the carnivorous with omnivores a close second.

 

There were little signs telling us the names of all of the meat products in German and English.

 

Huh, bacon is bacon in German and English, I noted, not that either of us are going to eat any. I did wind up with a couple of rogue pieces of bacon in my eggs, however.

 

The soundtrack for the buffet was decidedly weird. When we first walked in, we were serenaded by a male voice, telling us, you’re in the army now. Oh, oh oh, you’re in the army now.

 

Ok, I thought. Why not?

 

I wonder what the + is for? I asked my husband when we were seated at a table on the patio. A truck had pulled up, and the workers we had seen putting up a relatively small hotel sign the day before were unloading a much larger one to put up today.

 

 

Seems a little strange to be staying at a hotel that isn’t actually labeled as such, but the patio is sure nice, I continued.

 

We sat beneath a beer tent with Pilsner written in various locations. The breeze was lovely. I found myself feeling anxious and hurried and took a moment to exhale fully.

 

I’m quite happy to sit, my husband said in response to my fidgeting. There’s no hurry.

 

Ok. So what’s with the weird music? I asked. You’re in the army now? Really? I never even heard that song in the United States.

 

The things you hear in the intestine, my husband replied.

 

After breakfast, we headed on foot into town to wander around before the start of the conference we were here for my husband to attend.

 

Here are some of our observations from our wandering:

 

People in Darmstadt are kind and helpful. Apart from being skeptical of our choice to take an extended holiday in “the intestine city,” expats and locals have been quick to offer assistance to the foreigners who clearly do not speak the language and have no idea what they are doing when they try to place an order at a restaurant or bar.

 

I took a photo of a house on one street, and a man walking toward us who lived in the house wanted to tell us all about its history in a mix of German, English, and enthusiastic hand gesturing.

 

 

People have adorable dogs in Darmstadt. This man’s dog had hardly any teeth but smiled as only a dog can nonetheless and was very gracious in allowing us to place our hands by its muzzle so it could smell us. My husband and I even got to give its head a good pat before it went running toward its house.

 

The man stayed and told us how the front façade of the houses on the street were from 1600-1700 while the houses built behind them were of newer construction. Previously, there had been farms and chickens. The man was not enthusiastic about the graffiti that had been sprayed onto the front façade of many of the houses, so I waited until he had moved on to take photos. I am fascinated by the culture of graffiti, street art, stencils, and stickers that I find in places I travel, and I take a ridiculous number of photos everywhere I go (my husband can attest to this because we will be walking and I will stop to take a picture without saying anything so he either walks several paces ahead before realizing I am not there or walks directly into me when I stop abruptly to take a photo).

 

 

Shoes seem to be reasonably priced, but my feet are too small to fit into even the smallest sizes. Score one point for my bank account.

 

Food also seems to be very reasonably priced. Our entrees at the Mexican restaurant Hacienda were each under 10 euros. The water we ordered was the priciest part of the meal. I really need to figure out how to ask for tap water in German.

 

When I asked for an insalata at a Kebap place, I received a salad large enough for several meals. My husband ordered a pizza funghi (mushroom pizza), which became lunch for him and leftovers for dinner for me. The total cost was also under 10 euros. Apart from swimming in the yogurt style dressing they seem to serve at restaurants (from my experience at two), the salad held up pretty well for lunch and then an early dinner.

 

There are a lot of advertisements for cigarettes, as well as little cigarette vending machines placed all over town, but we have seen very few people actually smoking. I am refraining from sharing any photos of these advertisements so as to not promote the agenda of any cigarette companies.

 

Blue and white striped shirts, bicycles, and hippie pants are in. At one point while we were walking, we passed a group of people and three out of the five were all wearing blue and white striped shirts. The two women who bicycled past us at this same scene were wearing identical blue and white striped shirts.

 

You fit right in, my husband told me.

 

Yeah, but my shirt is purple and blue stripes. I think there may be some kind of striped shirt conspiracy going on here.

 

There were a couple rogue pink and white stripe shirts and red and white, but otherwise blue and white were the colors of the day.

 

I am not habituated to walking around a city where the number of people riding bicycles seems to outnumber those on foot and easily rival the number of cars driving around. I have been the cause of several near collisions. Every time my husband has to repeat my name before I realize I need to step out of the way. Walking around on my home after dropping my husband off at the conference center, I have gone through several more slow motion close calls. It’s particularly interesting when the person on the bicycle isn’t looking where they are going because I do a kind of tenuous step the left and then the right, trying to guess which way they will move past me. I’ll get there.

 

We walked to a park with our carry out lunch and sat in the shade of a large oak tree to eat. With our shoes off, a cool breeze whispering by, we were completely blissed out. Well, mostly.

 

 

I can’t ever feel fully relaxed with my house in Alaska stress, I sighed. It’s always there.

 

It will sell, my husband assured me. There is no question about that, so maybe you could put yourself into that future where it’s all done and spend some time there. You could think about time as not being so linear. It’s what I did when I was in Alaska. It was so hellish that I would visit places in my memory. It’s more than a visit, though. It’s really experiencing it. It’s a more intentional embodiment of the experience. You really try to viscerally feel and relive it. It’s like the memory of being at my grandpa’s pool as a kid and lying in the sun. I could feel the heat of the sun when I embodied that memory. So, there’s no reason why you can’t go into the future, especially something like this when you absolutely know that it’s going to happen. You can think of it as reliving it before it happens. In a sense, it’s a kind of time travel.

 

As he spoke, I typed away on my iPhone, and my husband joked, did Richard really say it if Marieke didn’t write it down?

 

Earlier in the day, I had spent the better part of our walk to the town center typing his words while he spoke.

 

I had laughed and said, Dear diary, my husband says the most amazing things. (Insert the line: He’s ever so dreamy, and I could be a 1950s gal. well, it might take a bit more than a one-liner to get my frizzed out hair and big personality into that box.)

 

Well, I responded, I think it’s important to share, and it seems to speak to people. We’re not the only ones who struggle with this stuff.

 

True.

 

After our picnic, we headed toward the conference center where my husband would be spending the bulk of his remaining time in Darmstadt. It was an incredible building that was constructed around ancient looking stonewalls.

 

I used the restroom (because I never know if or when there might be another opportunity, and I have a thimble bladder), and then we parted ways for the next several hours.

 

 

I wandered around the city center for a little while and then headed back to the hotel for a cold shower, a few sips of whisky, and some quality time editing a dissertation.

 

I thought about my husband’s earlier musings about the city of Darmstadt.

 

I like that it’s that not pretentious, he had said. It knows it isn’t Berlin, and it’s ok with that.

 

I thought about this later on my walk back to the hotel. Darmstadt reminds me of Lowell and Boston. Boston is easy to love. It’s all right there on the surface. Lowell takes some dedication and persistence. It isn’t typically love at first sight, and it isn’t always a smooth relationship. However, if you take the time to get to know Lowell – I mean, really get to know it – you will find the full spectrum of emotions that accompany love.

 

Given time, I think I could come to love Darmstadt as well.


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Je ne sais rien

December 13, 2015 ~ Phoenix, Arizona

I begin this piece from a hotel near the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Early the following morning, my new husband and I will rise in the dark to begin an only slightly belated honeymoon, thanks to the generous donation of miles and financial hugs from many friends and family. This will be my second honeymoon for my second marriage, and I head into it with heart open and vulnerable.

December 19, 2015 ~ Bordeaux, France

This evening, I write from a loft in Bordeaux, where my husband and I will stay until Tuesday morning. Already, we have spent several days in France. We have covered many miles and seen some things of great beauty and others I would un-see if I could.

 

At the airport Charles de Gaulle, we waited with baited breath for my checked luggage to appear on the baggage carousel. Bags and ukulele in hand, we headed for the train.

 

Maybe, we should find a bathroom before we get on the train? I suggested.

 

You just went ten minutes ago, came the reply, accompanied by a look of exasperation.

 

It was twenty minutes ago! I pleaded. The look I received was enough for me not to insist. Instead, I harrumphed inside and furrowed my brows for a long time. I swear, people with large bladders will never understand how us tiny-bladdered people live. Sometimes, it is minute to minute. There just isn’t enough room in my body for all of these organs plus a bladder. The second I empty it, there is plenty of liquid just waiting to rush in to take the place of what was once there.

 

December 15, 2015 ~ Gare de Lyon

Can you tell us where to find the Hertz location de voitures? I ask a third person.

Oui. Vous tournez a droite, et continue.

Merci.

 

We had already attempted the right turn and straight ahead option a couple of times. Apparently, turning right gives one many options in this particularly spacious station. Finally, we find the tiny car rental office. To get our car takes what feels like ages. Many French people come and go while we wait. We are offered insanely high insurance rates, which we refuse, and I hope we have made the right choice.

 

Traveling in France already feels so different from previous visits and longer stays. We have intelligent mobile phones that bring the United States with us and tell us where we are at all times.

 

Except when underground.

 

Settled into our burgundy Renault rental car with soft black interior, we quickly realize with increasing angst that there is no cell service underground. How will we figure out which way to go once we leave the garage?

 

Desperately, I try to plug in the address for the friend we will be visiting in Bretagne, the rainy northwest corner of the country.

 

Nothing.

 

I open our Michelin guide to France, take one look at it, and fold it back up. There is no way in hell I have slept enough to try to figure out how to get around this crazy city, known for its predictably unpredictable drivers.

 

My husband turns right, turns once more to the right, and then thankfully pulls over and parks in a no parking zone.

 

We sit and fidget with the phone. Technology is wonderful when it works, but when you have been traveling for more than 24 hours and it doesn’t, it can be painful. Not that we were really complaining. A GPS not working is clearly a ridiculously decadent problem to encounter, especially with the current state of the world.

 

Finally, GPS up and raring to go, address plugged in, we pulled into the realm of Parisian vehicles. And we survived, arriving in Quimper well into the evening, 42 hours of travel after leaving our Phoenix hotel at 3am the previous morning.

 

December 15, 2015 continued ~ Loin de l’Arizone/Far from Phoenix

We spent two fairly wet but lovely days visiting with French friends who are like family. We wandered the streets of the Centre Ville, walked along the river Odet, drank a lot of wine, ate a lot of bread, cheese, and the most delicious olives in all the world, and talked for hours with dear friends.

 

Visiting Quimper and La Bretagne is like returning home, and I felt full of joy and sad to leave. Being there was also bittersweet. I was reminded of friends with whom have lost contact, an ex-husband in Wisconsin, and the many years that had passed since I lived there, ten and a bit to be nearly exact.

 

I have sometimes envied people I know who have settled in one place and who have a community of friends. I have moved so many times that I have had the opportunity to meet remarkable people, people who are full of life and love; but I often feel as though I have no friends at all when I am sitting at home on my couch. They all seem far away, both in body and spirit.

 

But then, when I imagine living in one place for years and years, I feel a sense of being imprisoned. I wonder if this desire to keep moving stems from the belief that I can somehow grow older more slowly if I just keep moving.

 

Lately, I am beginning to realize that this may be the case, and I am growing ever aware that it is as far from the truth as anything may be.

 

It was more than ten years ago that I wandered the streets of Quimper. A lifetime has passed since that time, one that has encompassed a Master’s degree, a marriage, a doctorate, a divorce, and a second marriage.

 

December 18, 2015 ~ Loin de la Bretagne/Far from Quimper

Five hours after leaving the familiarity of Quimper, we joined a line of cars attempting to slowly enter the center of the city of Bordeaux.

 

We knew that Bordeaux would present us with the challenge of parking, but we didn’t think about being tired, hungry, and super cranky while attempting to find parking.

 

Had we spent only one night in this strange city, I would not have fond memories to recall. Nightmarish parking, super expensive shops downtown, and fatigue combined to flood my body with a feeling of being completely out of place and out of my element.

 

What was I doing here? What was I doing with my life? Why would I want to travel when I could be comfortable, snuggling with my cats and dog in my home in the desert.

 

After a good night’s sleep, I felt restored. We woke up early to rescue our car from possible ticketing or towing and walked in the dark, following the signals of our GPS to find our way.

 

As we approached the car, I saw a woman and a man in the distance. I couldn’t tell if they were arguing or if she was laughing. The man wore a green jacket with a hood pulled over his head.

 

When I heard him call out, Donne moi le monnaie, I knew something was not right.

 

Give me the money, he had said, as if this were a movie.

 

It seemed that she gave him her wallet, but he was not satisfied and tugged at her purse.

 

Mais, non! I heard her respond. But he did not stop.

 

Arrete! I called out. Stop!

 

But he didn’t stop.

 

We walked toward them, but it was too late.

 

I was in a daze as I attempted to provide directions from the GPS while we drove away from the center of the city of Bordeaux.

 

Don’t let me out of your sight, I told my husband as we left the scene behind.