Sans Réfléchir

I realize,

yet again,

among all of my endeavors,

that this topic is not unique.

There are many blogs and books and essays and articles about France —

Francophiles,

French things,

French culture as experienced by Americans —

yet,

I still have my own unique experience of it.

And as I’ve embarked upon a decidedly private life,

I know that this may only be read by me or maybe my children as they sift through my life at some point, perhaps wanting to know more about my days of wanderlust; my days abroad searching for myself. I have never felt myself, my real self,  at “home,” wherever that was, South Dakota, Nebraska, Texas.

Always itching to leave, to expand, to break out of the boxes, I have found myself most comfortable, most awake, à l’étranger.

I find myself so comfortable amidst the French. I knew I would. The first time I came was so short and even though it was magnifique, I found myself missing something in my soul when I left. For three months after I was desperate to find a way and a reason for to go back.

And when life fell apart for the millionth time, I just said,

Fuck it.

I’m going to France.

I wanted to learn the city of Paris like I taught myself the cities of New York, London and so many more. Alone and mostly on foot or by subway, wandering neighborhoods and strolling without any sort of itinerary or time clock. I wanted to do it alone so that I wasn’t bound by anyone’s needs or agendas or limitations. If I wanted to linger in a French pharmacie for two hours, that’s what I would do. No hurrying, no rushing, no need to get and do. I just wanted to learn and absorb the culture. I wanted to sit at brasseries and listen to conversations, not to intrude, of course, but to listen to the language. This was what I was yearning for — a bigger perspective — so big that I had to translate it word by word in my mind until it became … without thinking.

Sans réfléchir.

So without thinking that it becomes a part of you. A way of being.

Here is what I notice about people in Paris.

It seems as though they are all uniquely themselves, from what they wear to what they do. It does not seem a herd mentality, where everyone is trying to keep up or have and do what everyone else has and does.

Long skirts,

sneakers with everything,

crossbody bags + a carryall for shopping,

heels — crazy — how?

smoking and vaping,

Aperol spritzes,

jeans in all styles, wide leg and long straight cut and cropped, all colors, all sizes,

sitting shoulder to shoulder on open patios,

blazers over everything,

walking walking walking.

Le metro or le bus,

and where are all the cars? Underground parking, bien sur.

Where is the trash? I have no idea.

Where are the bugs?

The heat?

The cold?

The

The

Small denim jackets over everything,

sitting drinking talking eating.

No phones at tables! NONE. Unless someone is alone. Even then, they have a book or a newspaper.

Or they just sit and be.

The French flag drapes

always

like fine silk

whether from the center of the Arc de Triomphe or a flagpole on a rue.

It drapes.

Like its name, le drapeau.

Every flag seems to be made of a semi-transparent fabric that drapes and flows. The French drapeau moves like the skirt of a finely made dress.

I love this country.

It is the beautiful, intriguing, loyal man I've always hoped for, the girlfriend who walks with me arm and arm, the mother I didn't have who teaches me about beauty and love, the mentor who will guide me and mold me into what I was really meant for.

C'est mon amour perdu depuis longtemps.

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