I had been here before, only 2 years and 3 months past, but it feels like a lifetime ago. The Seine then had been lined by stately trees adorned in the glorious colors of fall. Now the same trees are pale and bare, their branches thrown upwards in seeming surrender to a gray uncaring sky. The air then had been cool and crisp, the October sun giving light and warmth. Now, January, it is raining relentlessly, bringing the kind of cold that burrows deep into one’s bones.
And I? I am different too.
My eyes before had sparkled with excitement. “I’m crossing a street in Paris!” I’d beamed. “I’m drinking coffee in Paris!” I had soaked in the unrealness of a dream trip come true; I had thought the world wonderful. Now, the light in my eyes are somewhat dimmed by a layer of disillusion. I had learned, within a too short span of time, that some dreams do not survive a brush with reality.
The Batobus at least is the same, I think, as I board the hop on-hop off service at its Hôtel de Ville stop. The boat’s transparent dome was perfect for such a wet and miserable day as this. One could cruise the Seine, see the Eiffel Tower, catch a glimpse of the Louvre and Notre-Dame, all from the boat’s warm and dry confines. It was also ideal for spotting the little charms along the river: the golden beasts of the Pont Alexandre III, the green bouquiniste stalls, the love locks, the bridges, the promising benches, even the various waterfowl that seemed enviably oblivious to the winter chill.
I spot an old silver camper near the Champs-Élysées dock and I wonder if someone was actually living in it. I wonder if I could live in something like it — be a traveler always, even at home. Then I wonder if it had been abandoned after all, if its owner had given up an itinerant life. Had the camper gone places I could only dream of? Was the wear and tear from the journey worth it? Had it traveled not wisely but well?
We pass by the Bateaux Mouches dock, where many of its boats were currently moored. Until tourism picks up again? Or only until later in the day? Did the winter slack leave some workers unemployed? What did they do for food? Did they hibernate until spring?
If only people can hibernate until the winters of their lives pass — until the pain, the paralysis wrought by grief is gone. But perhaps it is in these seasons that the seed is readied for bloom. Perfected, like wine and butterflies.
I hope so. I am in winter myself and I sometimes wonder if it will ever end.
Across the Musée d’Orsay, several rows of trees line the right bank, and I think: how beautiful it must be in spring, when the leaves burst forth and the trees come alive again. And how fitting it is that I am here in winter, when I too feel bare and barely alive.
The seasons will change. They must. Not even the harshest winters can stop the spring.
“Hang in there, trees,” I whisper, and in my mind I see them bending down their stiff, sad branches to pat my head and tell me the same thing.
Adapted from my journal entry last January 15, 2014 for the “Build Your Own” Weekly Writing Challenge. © Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.
This piece is very powerfully written and I like the contrast between the bright fall, signaling excitement, and the harsh disillusion of winter. I hope that your personal winter has ended now.
Thank you. It is ending, I hope. 🙂 Thanks for dropping by. I am loving reading about your damson cake recipe. Getting back to it right now. 🙂
Very heartfelt and touching. I was going to say the last three paragraphs are the best, as I’m sure they will resonate with so many of us, but the whole piece fits together.
P.s old Camper vans are great for a few days or weeks. Many have, but I personally wouldn’t want to live in mine for too long, it would lose the appeal of being a vessel for fun!
Thank you! And that’s a nice point about something that you do/use for fun losing its appeal if you have to do/use it all day every day. I have never tried living in a camper (even for one day) and would like to try it in the future, but I don’t think I’d last a whole week. 🙂 Thanks for dropping by!
Keep up the good work. I love the honesty of it.
It has also prompted me to work on a little memoir of a trip to Morocco.
Yay! Can’t wait to read it.
This is beautiful. I’ve had times in my life when I’ve felt the same- waiting for the winter of my life to pass, hoping there is a seed in there, somewhere, getting ready to bloom. And usually there HAS been a blossoming, and I hope that will be true for you as well… or that there already has been. (Also, Paris is wonderful any time of the year, but especially in the spring. You’ll have to go back for that experience). 🙂
Thank you very much! Fingers crossed, both for the blossoming and for spring in Paris. 🙂 I love your Camino posts and find them so inspiring. And I am sure it’s not just me; you are, in your own way, helping people get over their own winters. Thanks for that!
This was so kind of you to say… I think that for so many of us, in sharing our own stories and experiences, we unknowingly help others going through similar things. It’s all about knowing you’re not alone: in an experience or a feeling or a state of mind. Thank you, and I really look forward to reading more from you! 🙂
This is absolutely beautiful…absolutely, absolutely beautiful.
Thank you very much Tinesha. You’ve made my day. I hope you don’t find it beautiful because you can relate to the grief…or if it is because of that, I hope things are much better for you now.