A Quiet New Years Eve

Just when we thought that we had the best of jet-lag, it proved to have the best of us. We both awoke at 11:30 p.m. with the feeling that we were ready for anything… except apparently being awake in the beginning of what we’d hoped was a restful night. Solid sleep was once again interrupted for me (Emilie) at 4:00 a.m. and I decided to get up and do something.

A few days ago, I mentioned writing fiction to our hosts, and Saira eagerly shared her encouragement. She said intently that in order to write, you really need to write every day, and to not censor yourself. I asked a few questions about the difficulty I feel in that I don’t ‘like’ anything I write. The closest thing I can describe to my relationship with my own fiction is that it is like the feeling you had as a child when your parents ran into someone they know, and begin talking to that person while you are straining with the desire to let go of their hand, and turn the corner into the Build-a-Bear workshop. She reiterated, “keep writing.”

I asked another one of my perpetual questions, which is how much reality is O.K. to include in fiction. Her response can be paraphrased by the idea that sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. She claimed that often times the details of a factual event may seem outrageous to a reader. When she said this, was resigned to agree. In the Young Adult Literature course I took in college, I recall being irritated by the outlandishness of a scene that had something to do with a Golden Retriever. I remember thinking that the scene was totally ridiculous and silly. The following week, we had the honor (no sarcasm intended) of a Skype conversation with the author. One student in my class asked the author how much reality he incorporated into the story. To my surprise and horror, he mentioned the self-same passage that had driven my bonkers in reading, and in class discussion. I suppose i just thought it was a misfortunate fluke, but after the conversation with Saira, I am lead to believe that she is simply correct. This kind of indulgence is simply too risky.

I had hear much of this advice from various sources, but the sincerity of her tone resonated in my writing bones. This is all to say that at 4:30 this morning, I began writing something that I actually like, and it felt good.

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Even as I write this, I am surprised that this all occurred during the same day, but what can I say, I guess C and I just wanted to pack it in before the year ends at midnight.

Maybe later he will tell you about the time that I accidentally flung Muttley poo onto his sweater…

This morning, the three of us walked the glorious, sunny 15 minutes into Premian, practicing how to ask for baguette. We got to the boulangerie/marche, tied Muttley to the fence, and walked past the trailer that is, apparently, the extent of the town butcher shop, and into the shop. We were both nervous, but we observed the items for sale, hoping not to look like birds as we waited for the sole patron to finish her business. We grabbed some sparkling rose because our pecking eyes picked out the 6E sticker, and felt that it would be an acceptable expense for our low-key New Years Eve. When the counter cleared, we marched up, I in front, and when the woman there said, “bonjour,” I became stuck. Jaw agape, eyebrows knit, I turned to Chris and waved my downturned palm over my head, which is where I assume my command of the French language had gone.

And so the pupil has surpassed the teacher, I thought, as he masterfully requested the baguette. The clerk was kind and, according to my assumptions, thought that we were just darling in our ruffled feathers. We stepped back, with our bounty, and turned to go as we noticed the gateau. New Years cakes, all long jelly-roll in appearance. though with various flavors and colors stopped us in our tracks. In the moment, cake seemed luxurious enough to make our modest celebration worthy of the New Year. We mustered all the sugar-lust we could manage, and returned to the counter. This time it was my turn, and it was two points for the Maierhofers that day.

We retreated, and walked down the narrow stone sidewalk to the post office to buy some stamps. On the way, I realized another hazard: I did not know the word, “stamp” in French. Again we tied up Muttley, and we entered the most quaint post office, with an open box of chocolates on the counter, a Christmas tree, and stuffed animals littering the cramped one-chair workspace. I did the only thing I could; I looked at the clerk, smiled, said, “comment dit-on…” (How does one say…), and pointed to the top right corner of the post card i had just bought.

She said, “timbre.” I repeated, “timbre,” “timbre,” letting the word filter into my lexicon like a Plinko chip. And, really, who cares about the rest. What a success!

As we walked back, Chris asked how many points we get for the day. We decided that today was a “practice round,” where no points are given, but I was willing to give him a blue star for saving the day in the bakery.

At 11:00 a.m. we began work for the day. It consisted of various things that made me very sore. Everything here is up or down, lifting or pushing, bending or swinging. The beauty and excitement of our current sation make those matters seemingly invisible (until you stop moving).

For dinner we made a soup with bacon lardons, carmalized onion, carrots, leek stems (removed before serving), sunchokes a.k.a. Jerusalem Artichokes, a.k.a. fartichokes (for obvious reasons) that we harvested today by the wheelbarrowfull.  Additionally, we found that placing a portion of baguette on the wood-burning stove (that we constantly stoke to heat the house) creates the perfect just-from-the-oven texture every time. Next, we had a cheese plate, and now… are simply filling our time with odds and ends until it is time to eat cake and drink bubbly… I mean midnight 🙂

Not every day is wonderful, not every year is wonderful. Sometimes this day comes, and you just feel desperate that the next year will somehow be fresh and yield some semblance of sense. Today. I have the unique blessing of being with my best friend, far away from all anxieties I face. I feel full of love and wonder. I hope that you do too, but if not, please remember the springtime. Eventually, everything will be new once again.

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