Monday, September 22, 2008

Windows to Blue

French Cafe

Night has fallen here in Paris. I walk across an old wooden floor, open the window and look out at the Eiffel tower. Blue with light. It shines cobalt blue. And now it sparkles, hundreds of white lights that look like stars blinking. On and off. The whole galaxy here outside my window, it seems.

To travel is to go nowhere. It's just like being anywhere else, says my Little one. Yet it is also to go a world apart. At times, it feels nothing is familiar. Simple things like faucets, locks, subways suddenly become adventures in living.

I notice things like... many people here wear scarves, and they tie them in a unique looping fashion. Even the old homeless man who emerges from the metro... he wears a scarf, blue like the sky. And on Sunday afternoons, people here walk with a liquid smoothness.

The children have lilting voices, Mama! they cry. Children with cropped hair, confident eyes, strong simple clothes in plain dark colors. And I... I feel like a child... my language eclipsed... sure, I can speak to get by, but my writer self is put aside and instead my eyes and ears are tuned to sights and sounds, while I stay mostly silent.

Silent, mostly, except for a lot of Merci! and S'il vous plait. Thank you, please. Gratitude expressed, mercy asked. Please and please and thank you. In a way, to travel is to go nowhere. But in a way, it is to get outside oneself, to fall out of one's little window, to go a world apart, to come back to simple please and thank you. Gratitude and mercy, language universal.

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Blogger Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

You're there!

Gratitude and mercy... it's all we ever really need, wherever the road leads.

Keep following it, L.L.

All's grace,

6:09 PM  
Blogger Joelle said...

"language universal" . . . I'm beginning to be convinced that everything--every person and blade of grass and star and breeze--speaks the same language, the same word over and over--Grace. Enough, all, yes.

6:13 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I love the things you notice, particularly the old homeless man and his scarf. That reminds me of the time I spent in England and how I noticed their scarves, imitated them, and had people start asking me for directions (seriously!).

Grace, mercy, and gratitude...a language universal indeed.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Quite interesting, L.L. Sounds like one of those times that will be etched in your memory forever.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

This makes me so nostalgic for Paris. I remember the scarves. (And I have that same CD!)

Enjoy yourself.

9:09 PM  
Blogger christianne said...

Okay, I totally missed the note at the end of your last post that said you'd be in Paris this week. Oui! I missed it! I got to this post and was all confused. :)

How incredible that you're there. It's such a beautiful city. But I certainly understand the disorientation. The language barrier was the hardest thing for me there.

As I read this post, I could hear you reading it out loud. There was a lilting and a gracefulness to your words here, and all your observations. Thanks for sharing. Blessings on you and your family while you travel there.

11:12 PM  
Blogger Every Square Inch said...

Sounds like a fun vacation! May God bless and refresh you

11:15 PM  
Blogger kirsten said...

sigh. mais oui, elle est a paris. je suis un peu jaloux.

it's amazing how the ordinary becomes extraordinary when you're in a new place: even things like gratitude and mercy which, perhaps, should never be ordinary.

12:51 AM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

I read your post aloud... with a French accent. That was fun.

How long do you suppose it will take before the scarf trend catches on in the States? Better yet, how long, do you suppose before "please and thank-you" catches on?

10:06 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Ann, yes! Here, enjoying the sights, the sounds. And we marvel that even the subways smell divine (in most spots). That would be because of the fragrance of croissants! Amazing. (New York, it always smells like burned pretzels. :)

Joelle... beautifully put. there's a poem in there somewhere, don't you think?

Sarah... I think I'll refrain from tying my scarf the French way, at least while I'm here. I wouldn't be so good at giving directions! As for noticing, that's the fun, isn't it?

Ted... I'm not so much the traveling type, I believe you're right... these things will etch themselves on my mind, for they require me to be braver than I really am.

Ruth... I've always wished I could be a fashionable scarf wearer. Maybe this will be my beginning...

Christianne... sorry to confuse you! I actually didn't make a big thing of it, so rest assured that it wasn't so much you as me. I love that you imagined this being read aloud.

Every... I'm beginning to feel relaxed, thanks!

Kirsten... oh, I really like that thought.

Craver... I wish I could have heard that! Very funny! And as for please and thank you, I thought they did that in the Midwest. ;-)

12:35 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

The smell of croissants everywhere? Mmm...I always had wonderful visions of Paris. If it smells good too, then it must be wonderful.

Interesting thoughts on the familiar and the unfamiliar in a different place. I like your daughter's observation in particular.

Enjoy the rest of your trip!

7:39 PM  
Blogger kirsten said...

bonjour, madame!!

spoken in a french accent:
at last, i have completed the meme of five ways blogging has changed my life!!


10:27 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

A Musing... daughter, yes. She's my little philosopher. In fact, on the train to Marseilles, she began writing all these thoughts like, "Nothing is ever finished." And "You can never totally keep a promise. There's always a speck of dust. [meaning, something else to deal with]" And questions like "Where does truth lead?" I was marveling at her sweet nine-year-old thoughts.

Kirsten... bonjour! Or I guess I should say bonsoir. It is probably 9 hours ahead of where you are... night here. Great to see your meme up. : )

3:49 PM  
Blogger Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

God morning. I have a blog award for you at my place.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

So when do you bid adieu to bleu?

1:09 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Craver... manana. (Oops. I tell you. I've been speaking more Spanish here than French... all by accident of course! : )

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i liked the bit about falling out one's little window.

3:35 PM  

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