When you leave a place you love, when you know you never get the first time a second time. When you wonder what life will be like when it’s really your life, after you’ve left and come back. And also there’s the simple ache of being elsewhere. Ailleurs. I love this word, in English and in French. It captures all of the wistfulness and the hope of displacement.
Before they took me home, those currents carried me out of my green woods and into the mountains. The Pyrenees, where the earth beneath your feet looks paint-splattered on account of the flowers tucked into the landscape.
And when you look up, you lose your breath from the glory. Mountains somehow manage to feel eternal and minute all at the same time. They seem sturdy, but I know they are not. Formed by the heaving of hot minerals, worn into shape by wind and water, dressed in the ever-changing costume of ecology, of plants and critters and rocks and snow. That elements so small can create something so epic…this is the magic of life. Not that it lasts, but that it exists at all.
Despite all my wonder and grandiosity, I manage to feel my own personal sadness as well. To be leaving. To go elsewhere. It is strange to travel from one home to another, to feel bereft and cradled all of a piece.
I will miss the ancientness of France. The whispers of the woods, the different kind of birdsong. I will miss the language: the pause in my brain before I speak; the discovery of the world and myself through new words; the history and personality of those words.
And yet, it is not as though I am adrift where I am now. This is home. I know this place, and it knows me. The palm trees talk to me; the sunshine feels familiar; the smell of salt and sound of sea lions reminds me of the many lives that I have lived in this place. This is the place that I come back to, between all other lives. I suppose that’s where I am now, a bit between two lives, preparing for a future that doesn’t yet exist.
What to do but profit from the sunshine and pass time with those who love me? Oh, a few official things–the consulate will see me soon–but not much besides that, and not much complaining will be heard. 🙂