Winter is starting to creep in. It’s pitch black by four pm, and the rest of the day is grey. No snow yet as of Saturday morning, but you just know that nasty bitch is coming for you.
Chilly morning spent in a quiet dark house. Radio off; tiptoeing in the kitchen, making coffee. It’s still quite early, and the odds are that Benjamin will snooze for at least two more hours. A sleeping husband, a hot coffee, a warm blanket, and a mellow dog content to nestle beside me on of the sofa. Pretty delicious combination if you ask me.
My social media newsfeeds are filled with Paris: reports, opinions, comments and loads of political propaganda. The death and injury toll grew overnight. My heart feels unbearably heavy…not just for Paris but for the state of the world. School shootings, online bullying, rape culture, extreme poverty, the threat of terrorism, actual terrorism, the unreliability of the media. The Kardashians. Global warming. It’s all so terrifying. It’s like the planet is a pressure cooker on roller skates trying to cross a tight rope over a pit of wildly infectious vampire zombies. The odds are just not looking good as to whether it can get across safely.
It makes me sad. It makes me feel helpless. Every news story you hear about any violence is depressing, but the City of Light is especially upsetting. I’ve never been to Paris, and I’m quite keen to go. It’s been high on my list for so long, it just hasn’t happened yet. Waiting for the right time to include it in an epic European adventure. Just me, the Bear, three to six weeks, two back packs and a couple of train passes. Benjamin and I have gone on many adventures in the last 18 months–New York, Mexico, Las Vegas, Seattle, Portland, Bend and Vancouver–with a trip to New Zealand planned for Christmas. I keep envisioning that Europe would be up next up for us. We take on extra projects, work weekends, and are always striving to get closer to the goal of seeing more of the world. It’s an insurmountable project and the investment has little value in regards to a mortgage or mutual funds. Sometimes travel is the only thing that matters, sometimes you wonder what it’s all for. Still, there’s no place I’d rather be than to my next destination.
I think about the state of the world and the age of my biological clock and it all feels like one hell of a tight time line. Wondering how my time is best spent. Sure, I could pop out a wee one and then in twenty years go see what’s left of the world. That’s quite the gamble. There’s also the issue of what we leave behind for said offspring. Between all the worlds ailments…there’s not much more that can be said or done.
I am my truest self on the road. I am alive in a new place; all I have to do is eat and explore, take pictures and breathe. When Benjamin and I were first married and heading off to Australia, we planned for a few weeks on the South Island. We would start with Christchurch and finish with a road trip. Then an earthquake happened. It was like the clocks had all stopped. The tremors forced a sudden self-governed state. Everyone evacuated, dogs loose on the streets, traffic at a stand still. Everyone trying to move forward.
It was easy as catching a Tuesday matinee on a rainy morning. Getting comfortable in your seat. Getting lost in a story. We had been exceptionally happy in Christchurch. Our trip was so pleasant. We had had a lot of immigration/visa related stress, and that had come to the end. I remember sitting on a bench outside of the Cathedral. There was a marketplace set up, and people milling about. Benjamin is buying a hat. I’m sipping on a latte, watching the passersby and catching short snippets of strange conversations. An accordionist is on the church steps, playing music from Amelie. The whole thing was very Kiwi-Parisian. It was one of those rare moments in life when you feel feather light. No pain, no fear, nothing to avoid, no schedules, no agendas, no worries. To me, that’s pure bliss, the high of every holiday; to be a stranger in a foreign place.
Suddenly. Suddenly, we’re running though a forest, splashing through dirty water. Being pulled along by your wild eyed husband.
Leaving the car behind and rushing across a broken bridge. This mass exodus of stunned survivors. Trying to get home. Trying to get to their people. Calls weren’t going through, and there was no way to know how anyone was. The crack in the radio announcer’s voice when he tried to get a message to his wife. They played a lot of happy songs. Bob Marley and whatnot. I wonder if there is pre-recorded music for states of emergency. Nothing sad or sentimental. Pleasant, respectfully mellow–maintaining positivity, but not so excitable that you’d need to break out the ABBA.
It’s the apocalypse after all, not Mardi Gras.
People can survive, cope, recover…it’s amazing really, the resiliency that forms when there is a sense of purpose. Supporting your neighbour, establishing a game plan, pooling resources, tending to children, collecting water, preparing food, developing a small community to weather the storm. Treading water until things settle, or until the shock wears off and everything becomes a new kind of normal.
Obviously, a terrorist attack and a natural disaster aren’t from the same source. Terrorism is hateful, violent deliberate action–a blood spattered spectacle to capture attention and assert authority. A natural disaster is a brute force in itself, and there are no means to reason with it. Its intentions are not cruel though-that’s the only difference. The consistent thread is how the worst of circumstances can bring out the best in people, the abundance of generosity. Of course, it also brings out the worst–but I’m trying to keep things borderline ABBA here.
The individuals who orchestrate violent acts, or those who abuse the circumstances of natural disasters (the looters, the thieves who scoured the news for names of the dead and pillaged abandoned houses) are without an explanation that I can provide. How they justify their actions to themselves is beyond comprehension. That’s not what we should focus on anyway. I think about the little boy standing on the sidewalk with a working garden hose, a bar of soap and one towel, offering an opportunity to wash your hands and face. People with access to power setting up movie nights and charging stations. Opening up their homes to those who were without. Humanity is a mixed bag. Is it naïve to think that people are more the spare towel and soap kind over the gun toting extremist kind? I want to believe in kindness, in fairness, in forgiveness. I want to believe that Paris is exactly how Audrey Hepburn left it.
This attack exposes my selfish desperation to travel the world in its entirety, and the deep-seeded fear that I will never see the destinations I have yearned for since my youth. That the planet is spiralling out of control, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. It makes me weep alone in the darkness of my living room.
The sleeping husband and an obligation free Saturday was a tender mercy; I decided to soothe my blues with a little cinematic therapy.
Amelie is the obvious choice. It’s a sweet and melancholic love story that celebrates the small pleasures in life. It is also a perfect postcard version of Paris.
Amelie is lost and lonely; she finds her purpose in helping others…not necessarily in a practical way, but by appealing to their own secret small pleasures. She discovers this passion through a strange turn of events: hearing the news of Princess Diana’s fatal car accident in Paris causes her to drop her perfume lid, which led to the discovery of a box of childhood trinkets. She shuts off the news and focuses on returning the box to it’s rightful owner. Yes, life can be futile, bleak, forbidding and unfair…but there is something to be said for tiny treasures. Joy is endless when you insert yourself in the lives of others to bring the thinnest shred of comfort.
Colorful and whimsical, sincere and quietly optimistic, Amelie is comfort food for the soul. As always, Paris looks divine, and the length of the movie usually feels like a little holiday. Today fat tears fall down my cheeks as I watched Amelie gallivant all over. Crying because I love that city; because I don’t know it and wish that I did. Crying because darkness engulfed the City of Light. Crying for fear of suddenly; afraid of losing what little control I actually have left.
Images Courtesy of Google, Ashcroft & the Fine People Behind the Internet