Spring Snow in Pau, France
The past year has been without much rhythm, a time of starts and jarring stops, a year a bit here and there and everywhere. I have only spent six weeks in Pau total since October, four of which I was too sick with a flu and a deep, body-shaking cough to even leave my apartment.
As soon as I’d recovered, I went home to California. But for the first time there was no home there, there was no house, no room, no bed. No driveway to bump into and park myself in. The bed I have had since I was a child, had been disassembled and living sideways in a storage unit with all my remaining artifacts of my childhood home since December. I have been a traveller in so many places, but this was the first time I felt like a traveller in California too.
While I was in the states I slept in a total of 12 different beds, 2 air mattresses and 2 couches. So it was with relief on Tuesday night, that I curled up in my own bed in Pau,the small French town I’ve been living in for the majority of the last three years, after what seemed like a lifetime away.
Despite having been 10-18 degrees Celsius in the previous weeks, the temperature dipped suddenly on the day I arrived back in France, and while I slept gratefully in my bed it began to snow. It doesn’t snow often in Pau, although we are within site of the Pyrenees – in fact I have only personally been present for one day of snow in the last two years – so I was thrilled. I spent several hours on Wednesday, my first day back, just walking the slick, cold streets, looking around me, taking pictures.
It’s been a long time since I have really made the effort to look closely at Pau. It is a small town and because I have already been here for what seems like a very long time, and I don’t particularly want to live here much longer but may have to anyway, I have felt somewhat trapped and claustrophobic. There is so much beauty here, but sometimes it seems very static. And when I am so aware that there is a such a big, bright world beyond these small streets, I can feel very limited here, with life narrowed down to just one fine point of view, one small vantage (even if it IS a beautiful vantage overlooking the Pyrenees). I miss cities, and I miss wilderness, places full of life and energy, and I find that Pau usually feels somewhere uncomfortably in between.
But yesterday’s walk reminded me I have to try to be more present and engaged here. This may not be the ideal place for me, but I am here, and there is of course a lot to appreciate all around me every day. My boyfriend asked me where I walked for so many hours, because he knows there isn’t really anywhere to walk TO. The truth is I walked in many circles…and for awhile it seemed like the town inhaled deeply, and the world around me expanded somehow. When you take the time to look closely, small things and places seem to grow, because the details add depth if not length and breadth.
Snow in the near springtime seems like an apt metaphor. Something about the fresh, innocent vulnerability of the all the new blossoms wilting under the intense coldness of the fresh, wet snow seems important. Renewal and healing can be a messy process, and learning does not happen in a straight line. For awhile it can appear like we are getting somewhere, only to find ourselves seemingly back where we started later on. And yet if it snows in mid-March, do we start to doubt spring is still coming? While the macro-graph may show progression, things on the small-scale don’t move forward in a predictable, constant way, but rather in tides, sometimes smooth, sometimes in fits and starts, sometimes regressing, sometimes leaping ahead. I need to have a little more faith in my own process; I have to be patient, and just do the work I need to do. It has been a hard year or two, but I can feel so much strength and potential peeking through the broken pieces, through the still-falling snow.
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