Shelter in This Place: French Countryside Edition

June 18, 2020

Filed in: C'est la Vie

It felt like something was wrong. The streets were the quiet you usually find in August, on a spring Tuesday. Bags were piled on the floor, clothes and monitors and schoolbooks spilling every which way. The trunk of the car was brimming with food amongst the suitcases, no time for tetris.

We piled in, one too many, taking in the scene that rolled before us. Lines for the grocery stores that stretched for blocks and the empty autoroute as the clock ticked towards noon.

After two hours in near silence, punctuated by whispers and conference call replies, the car bumped down a dirt road adjacent to an expansive field populated by a bare, towering willow tree. After tumbling out of the car and hauling our bags into the stone cottage, I took a look around.

Early spring in the country is not much to look at. The trees are naked and the only thing green is the grass.  But, 60 days later, the transformation was complete. Generous, flowing peonies drooped under the weight of their own silky pink petals; the lavender was budding; and the last of the rhododendron had fallen. As a special treat, perhaps a sign of better days, it rained cherry blossom petals across the garden on Easter — a promise of life and hope.

Cold and biting days cloaked in grey gave way to sunshine and abundant blue skies. We traded our winter coats for shorts and straw hats; dusted off the butterfly net; and pulled the bicycles out of the shed.

I was prepared for a lot of things going into quarantine. But, as it goes, I learned the most from everything I wasn’t expecting.

Quarantine taught me how to practice being present. With no where to go and no expectation to be anywhere, if we wanted to catch butterflies for three hours in the Jane Austen field, we were going to do it. If we wanted to lay in the grass and nap, we did it. Worrying not about tomorrow nor the next minute, being aware of where we were in the moment. When we can’t plan for tomorrow and can’t grasp at a string of control, being present is really the only option.

This was my quarantine, and I’m thankful for it.

[Nikon F100/Fuji 400h/Portra160/Fuji Velvia/HP5]

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