Today, for some reason more than most days, I was craving a piece of France. It’s been nearly a year since I was back in my beloved adopted country and the withdrawal is only getting worse.
In high school, I spent a month with a French family, learning the language and the culture. The Girauts were a kind family of six who lived in Tours, but who traveled North to Normandie every weekend in the summer to spend time at the family country home. In France, every old home has a name.
Courtoulin was a large stone house surrounded by an apple orchard, a neighboring farm, and pastures of cows grazing all day long.
In the mornings, I’d awaken to the sound of birds chirping and a soft breeze wafting through my open window.
And before breakfast, the two young boys would wander over to the farm next door to get fresh milk and eggs. They invited me to come along and I knew this was an experience not to miss. In a way, it felt like we were walking back in time, as if with each step, we escaped the future. The farmer was a quiet proud man. He would open the barn door with a smile and usher us in. In turn for the milk and eggs, we would deliver berries and other treats we had picked from our garden.
On the walk home, we’d pass a small chapel where everyone in the Giraut family was married, and where everyone in the Giraut family was buried. It seemed the entire family history could be told from the pulpit of that little stone chapel.
Our days were spent doing chores: the women prepared three elaborate meals each day, while the boys did boy things like search for snakes and make sure our glasses were always full of the alcoholic apple cider they brewed in the barn. It was a simple life. It was a beautiful life.
Nowadays I find my days are filled with phone calls and emails and honking car horns. And though at times, it is an exciting life, at others, it seems a waste of my precious hours. In the country, everything tasted better, the air smelt sweeter, and thoughts flowed onto my journal pages like water.
I’d like to go back there someday and sit in the little chapel. I imagine the conversation I’d have with those walls, the light coming through the small stained glass windows and making me see the important things in life.
I think I’d pray for fresh milk and eggs and perspective.