I just woke up in my own bed for the first time in a month . Yesterday morning, up at 3 a.m., I drove through the French countryside, village after village, on the slowest route I could find to the airport. The spectacular full moon hovered all the way. I noticed a while back that if I drove in the country with my windows down I could hear cricket sounds the whole time.
This morning in North Carolina, I drove to the grocery near dawn so I could have milk for my coffee. Over and over I have forgotten I’m not driving a manual transmission, romping the brake like it might be the clutch. My Honda seems so doleful after the fun of rolling over hills in a peppy little rented five speed. Leaving the grocery store, I saw a clerk arriving for work. Without thinking, I lapsed into appropriate behavior for France, where one never encounters anyone in public without acknowledging them with a greeting. “Good morning” I said. She smiled, I think with a little touch of surprise, and said the same to me.
In the night I woke up and the moonlight filtering through the trees cast patches of glow on the floor and walls, and half asleep, it registered on me as beautiful– as the moonlight I’d left.
The yard is green from the rains I missed. The roses are in full bloom from the fertilizer I said goodybye with. Today there’s the gentle cloudy light that comes before a rain.
I walked over to Grier and Kim’s farm to say hello, and they gave me a dozen eggs from their hens, and sent me to pick all the fresh asparagus I wanted from their beds, just like an early morning trip to a French farmer’s market.
All morning there have been a brood of wild turkeys grazing in the pasture, right under my nose. And I set the fountains to bubbling next to the outdoor table. It’s every bit as magical as the view I left behind.
Among the piles of bills and letters I came home to, there was a postcard from a dear friend. It said “She dreams in perfect French”. I do, sometimes, when I’m around it all day, but it is far from perfect. Sometimes it’s just a voice speaking nonsense sounds that echo the intonations and rhythms of French speech. Sometimes it is the odd word or phrase, for no particular reason, like an echo in my dreams, ringing over and over in a kind of random rhythm.
It was a rough ride home, hauling six new paintings, and all my tools and the treasures I found, down concourses, across parking lots, through long lines. But the actual soul transition from countryside paradise to countryside paradise is not so radical. In both places there are thorns attached to every single rose. In both places there’s beauty enough to break your heart.