Exactly one year ago, I travelled to France.
I don’t usually share personal pieces that I’ve written, but I really wanted to share these. They explain a bit of why France was so special. Enjoy!
That Last Night
Tonight was my last night at La Roche d’Hys in Burgundy, France. While people were reading at dessert, I kept looking behind me at the vast expanse of land and beauty. Would I eversee this again? I wondered. I hope I do. If so, will it be different? I asked myself. I didn’t know the answer to that. All I knew was that it wasn’t ever going to feel the same. As nothing in life ever really was. The details would all be different. The person reading the poem in the background, the people, and the sound that each of their laughs makes when combined together in mutual joy and smiles.
I started memorizing. I wanted to remember everything. I wanted to be able to close my eyes five years from now and be able to transport myself to this place again. I memorized the hills and how they glided and folded in the landscape like waves in the ocean. I memorized the way the table was set up with bread baskets that stayed full for about three minutes before their contents were devoured and they had to be refilled – and they always were. I memorized Priscilla’s colourful blue, red, and white nail polish, and Lisa’s fuchsia lipstick. I memorized Gillian’s cute, contagious laugh, and the serious but passionate look on Howard’s face when he was telling us an interesting fun fact. I memorized the way Marty told a story, with his wide eyes and animated hands. I memorized our evening readings: iPhones on top of books and journals that lay beside spoons and crumpled napkins; the frantic nerves that I felt right before I read my poem and the huge gust of relief I felt after; the soft voice of person reading with the lullaby of the crickets; the rare chuckle, the smirk, the roar of laughter that filled the air at the end of every hilarious line; the smiles on our faces as we listened to others share a part of themselves; the warm feeling I had in my chest when we all connected…. I memorized everything.
The Moveable Feast: A Reflection
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
Hemingway said to write the truest thing you know. And that sentence is what he wrote about Paris. When I first read it, I was a bit hesitant to believe him. But though it might sound cliché, I know now one thing to be absolutely true: This journey will be a part of me forever, for it is a moveable feast. I finally understand Hemingway.
But what makes it unforgettable is not the delicious, natural food or the simple, chic clothes. It’s not even the ancient looking doors and the intriguing windows. It’s the people. It’s their attitude towards the food and clothes. It’s their beautiful, simplistic lifestyle and captivating culture. It’s the way Howard wiped his plate with bread so as not to waste food, and the way Jeannette exercised with her whole body and soul. That’s what will stick with me.
Reflecting back in their books, Hemingway and Callaghan’s most compelling moments in Paris weren’t with French people at all. They were with Americans or Canadians like themselves. I found this to be very interesting because I feel the same way about my most remembered moments in France (my interview with Carly, my conversations with Lisa, laughing with Priscilla, discussions with Jenna and Haley, talks with Gillian, and of course, the evening readings). I’ve come to the conclusion that when Hemingway said to “transport oneself” he wasn’t just talking about writing. He was talking about life. We physically transported ourselves to another country, immersed ourselves in a different environment, and in the end, were able to connect on a raw human level with other people who have done the same. It’s crazy that when we strip away what we’re used to, our surroundings and material items, and really have a conversation that we connect in a way that we probably would’ve if we were back home. There’s camaraderie in travel.
Jim Haynes seems to have already known that human connection is the secret of great memories because his Sunday dinners explore exactly that. He’s an American who travelled and now lives in Paris and has weekly dinners. But he wasn’t meeting only French people at dinner. No, he was meeting Americans and other English-speaking folk that came to visit him – sometimes even from across the world. It’s those people who are traveling in search of something that find that something in others like them who are also searching. The intriguing thing about Jim is that he seemed to already know all of this. It’s wise, fascinating people like Jim that I will remember. And it’s the people I shared my poetry and my thoughts with that one night in Burgundy that I will never forget.
Check out my France Photography here!
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