I will walk ... I will walk....
It’s Tuesday and it seems like for half the day I did errands. In France, I did an equal amount of errands of running to the post office, the bank, the library, but yet the experience epitomizes the difference in the way we live in the bay area compared to the small village in France. It all starts with a 15 minute commute from our house; squeezing on to the major thoroughfare between SUVs, mini vans, and a number of BMWs with parents driving their kids to school. The stop, go motion is making Zoe sick and she yells, “There are so many cars.” Finally we reach the traffic light and head on around the far side of the hill on the windy road lined with secluded multimillion dollar homes over looking the bay. The tall eucalyptus trees and various heights of evergreen bushes shade us from a clear view of the bay, but still provide a feeling of relief not to be in the freeway congestion.
Earlier, Zoe-Pascale ran into my arms, crying tears of sadness. ”I miss France.” Our usual routine of leisurely waking up at 7:30, curling up on the couch with a cup of hot tea and reading for 30 minutes before leaving for school at 5 minutes to 9, has been smashed and condensed. Now it’s a struggle to wake up at 7:00 and do anything but get ready before we leave at 8:00.
After dropping her off at school, I headed back onto the populated Hwy 101, once an easy drive up and down California is now the main thorough fare for Marin and Sonoma County. For the next two hours I wind up and down the freeway, swerving my way through the stream of cars to an off ramp 10 minutes down the road. A quick stop for file folders, labels, and computer paper I hop back on the freeway. Unlike France where the peage is used for long hauls and fast speeds, Hwy 101 is a major four lane thorough fare in constant state of repair and traffic jams, but practically unavoidable. Heading back home I hop back on the freeway to the next off ramp, 5 miles further on. Here the scenery changes from lovely views of the bay and Mt. Tam to dreadful cement block buildings in which the architects were definitely not paid for ascetics, large car lots hanging on the frontage roads, and a slew of cars going about their merry way.
Driving back towards the town of Tiburon, I notice that a few people are walking on the walk/bike path, but it is for exercise not for doing errands. I head over to the bank and park in an almost empty parking lot. I quickly go about my business with a friendly teller and look around at the empty streets with not a pedestrian in site. The library is next, a short walk away, but somehow my body on its own accord turned toward the car. For a flash I thought about walking. How good it would be for my health, save the environment, and give me some needed exercise, but the thought of lugging a bag of books slowed me down without hesitation and I felt so awkward being the only one on the street with cars rushing by. I was picturing the police coming after me asking if I was lost or worse a bag lady – walking the streets.
By the time I drove to the Library, a mere two blocks, I was pissed at myself for being so lazy and already beginning to ignore what I loved so much about living in France.
What am I thinking?” I ask myself. I would have walked throughout the village of Uzes and St Quentin and never thought of driving. Somehow the large imposing buildings all separated by large parking lots, the big 2-4 lane highways running through the villages and the lack of people walking on the streets prevents me from following my heart and what I want to do. Next time, I am determined to park my car and walk the few blocks to the bank, library, and post office. I’m determined to see how it feels and say hello to everyone I see. I’m determined to not forget.
I’m teary half the time feeling like my easy way of living was torn from me like a snake sheds a skin. It just has left me and I miss it so. While I wait for Zoe at ballet instead of sitting in a café in the middle of a village I sit in the lobby (albeit on a more comfortable chair) and read a book sipping my water bottle. I have no visual stimuli to catch my attention, no café au lait to sip or beautiful architecture to admire. I’m sad and wonder what I did to make this happen. Is it possible to find those easy joys in life here as well? It’s not fair to compare although I can’t help not to. The ballet school is wonderful; Zoe-Pascale loves her teacher and is dancing with joy to be in a Nutcracker Suite performance. Yes I wanted more stimulation and more friends who I could talk easily with and yet I miss the simple village life.
A luxury problem someone told me. We have a luxury problem. She didn’t feel so sorry for someone that walked through the green vineyards in springtime and sipped the cote de Rhone wine in the sidewalk cafes. Someone that had time to immerse herself in two hours of sublime reading a day. This may be true and we are as grateful for our experience and time as a family, but it doesn’t make it any easier that we miss it so.
If you asked me however, what we all miss the most, I would have to say it was our being together so much of the time. We truly miss each other. I know the gift of togetherness and experiencing life together everyday was like a sparkling diamond we didn’t expect and it is hard to give up.
Our journey continues and this is a short chapter until we can work out the details of creating the life of togetherness and peacefulness that we loved so much. Meanwhile I will walk the streets more and wave hello to everyone I see.