Everyone asks what I am doing here, in France, to which I know I have rather unsatisfactorily yet confoundingly gleefully responded "Nothing!" I am finally ready to elucidate, to tell my story about "nothing".
We arrived last July at the end of a five month cycle of rain to a damp house and It took us three months to get settled. We had begun our life here, in a totally new location with an empty house, getting the lay of the land as well as drying out and furnishing our place, along with unpacking 60 cartons took time!
Getting used to accomplishing daily tasks in French, finding a class and conversation Gurus took not only physical time but mental time and space that I used to fill in other ways. I admit I approached it all rather casually, after all, here, time is my ally, not something to be hoarded and parceled out, but to use and spend as if it were limitless.
My dreams were dense and profuse, I seemed to be processing my whole adult life and especially my working life in my sleep. I dreamt of people I had not seen nor thought of in many years, like the first person who hired me as a Designer cropped up over and over until those three years in the 90's got somehow digested, along with all of the delightful new food I was eating and cooking. My dreams triggered memories and thoughts about everything I had experienced and worked my way through for the 23 preceeding years, this took time too!
In fact my mornings were spent mostly THINKING, and deciding about Lunch. Lunch here in Provincial France is the two hour period from 12:00 to 2:00 when everything (except for our uber modern enormous supermarket) is closed, and everyone has the luxury of chatting and eating with cohorts. Our afternoons got quickly absorbed by a few errands, which can only be accomplished after 2:00 or 2:30, an exploratory mission or two, exploring this or that neighboring village or coast, and then there was Dinner plan for! I mastered my Beurre Blanc as well some other classic cooking techniques and dishes, with the help of Marmiton, the French cooking and recipe site, learning all of the French terms for handling ingredients and operations, many of which were completely new to me. This is my kind of fun! Every ingredient here, as well as my infuriating oven and stove, has required me to assimilate a completely different learning curve. It all behaves differently from what I expected, with lots of daily revelations.
There were likewise tons of revelations about all of the elements of daily life here, none of which have anything in common with life as we knew it before. To live in another country, rather than just visit, it is necessary to jetison almost every expectation you have of how things "should" be. After you are seated at a restaurant here, it can be ages before you get a menu, and there can be a number of steps to take (Aperitif? Water? Wine?) before your order is taken, then you are largely left alone as you move through your meal, and the check is only presented when you ask for it, so sacred is the time spent at table.
It has taken us time to become part of the flow of French life instead of unconsciously running counter to it. This is the interesting part of becoming part of another culture, and it takes time. Additionally, Pierre and I were having totally different reactions to our new circumstances! If you have been following our progress, you have read about Pierre's initial confusion about the "home" that he had returned to after so many years in the US, while for me it was all new and intriguing. I did not have an internal map I was trying to follow, I was just on the wave of my daily experience. We learned to have our separate experiences, each assimilating them on our own terms and sharing what we could without imposing our individual realities on eachother.
Happily we now find ourselves in the same place, but this took time. As I sat down to write this post, I knew that most of my time has gone to "thinking" but I couldn't really put my finger on what the heck I was thinking about. When one is busy "accomplishing" things, the mind is working in a more linear way, but when time has less structure ones thoughts are more formless, and it is hard to quantify non linear thought.
Now that I am on the other side of becoming acclimated, I can see that my thinking was partly narrative -- processing my life until now, and cooking -- and the rest has been non-narrative, kind of a call-and-response to daily living in a completely different culture and life. I always said that I just really wanted to "do nothing" but I didn't know that I only wanted to do it for 9 months.
Next up: now what do I do?