One month ago, our protagonists were chomping on steamed broccoli as they sped down the pre-dawn highway toward the O’Hare airport. They were well stocked with Jiffy-to-Go packs, and several pairs of wool underpants to their name. The Maierhofers then waited, and flew, and drove, and flew, and waited, and rode trains, and waited, and rode in cars until their final destination was realized: Les Seilhols.
Dazed? Yes. Confused? Not in the slightest.
Their Midwestern work ethic, and general good looks allowed the pair to infiltrate the sleepy town of Premian almost unnoticed. The first few days in southern France skipped along like a child with a lollipop in one hand, and a balloon in the other. The optimism could only last so long, however, as one of the most sacred days of the year came riddled with disaster. Emilie’s birthday was nearly ruined. If it were not for, “Our Lady of Premian” and her blessings of freezer pizza and hand dipped chocolate truffles, all may have been lost.
The days continued on, like a child dragging a week-old mylar balloon, and appraising the lollipop she found beneath the couch cushions. The next few days included both snowstorms and rainbows. Elation and frustration stumbled into each other upon occasion, but our dear protagonists soldiered on. Inspiration, determination, exaltation: as the days of constant reflection undulated, the Maierhofers seemed to reach a lull. It had been nearly one month, and though many moments exceeded any expectation, still others remained unmet.
Social things that they are, the Maierhofers longed for companionship, and input on a wider scale. They searched, and planned for their next adventure, hoping to patch the pock marked holes in the drywall left in an attempt to replace the Bon Iver print with a Cezanne (hint as to where we are going next!). They steamed broccoli once again, this time with a sauce Maltaise a la Julia Child, and considered their lives. Though the days of reflection led to irritation at times, by the end of day 29, it seemed as though the clouds were ready to part.
That day, the three donkeys called a foul, and liberated themselves from their confines. The Maierhofers stalked down the hillside with intensity in their eyes. Approaching the posse, they noticed Paulette, head in the doorway of the building which stored her hay. Pulling out a mouthful, she was too heady with the sweet spicy hay to resist the Maierhofer herding maneuver. As Chris re-assembled the gate, Emilie looked off into the distance, noticing one donkey on the ground, and the other descending to a half barrel roll; she noted the lavish lives of the renegade beasts.
The next day brought forth the first injury as Emilie nearly removed her left ring finger at the second knuckle while splitting wood. It was no longer clear whether they were nearing a summit or plateau. Bruised and bandaged, they prepared the last of one large pumpkin that had taken weeks of creative recipes to defeat. The fire was put out for the afternoon and evening, as the heavy winds increased and subsequently filled the house with smoke causing the couple to labor once again to heat the home. Then, in the final hours, like a dove with an olive branch, the pair watched a TED talk. A deep and honest conversation followed, and peace reigned in the cabin once again. The pair hoped that everyone they loved would have the opportunity to learn the truths about human nature that they were discovering in themselves as a result of Brene’s research.
In retrospect, Emilie noted, “I don’t think that this much understanding, both of myself, and of you [Chris], and of our relationship could have happened under any other circumstance. We needed all of this time, to work, and think, and create, in order to reach this point.”
Their conversation continued until the tea lights on the table began to flicker. Within the context of the TED talk, the insecurities and misgivings that each had harbored in regards to their own professional future all seemed to settle, not like the layer of soot that initiated a icy-toed afternoon, but like the encompassing roar of the newly built fire as it partners with the glowing warmth of the evening.