Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Ground Anywhere

I projected this image of dangling in the air, my feet with no grounding. I presupposed that I might feel that way living here in France. There were these images of me getting sick or lost, with no grounding to save me.
But I have found that being on the ground here, is like being on the ground anywhere. I do not mean to say that France is the same as America; it certainly is not. But my two feet are on the ground, and the walls of the houses come up around me and the cars drive past and the buildings box me in and the streets wind and the people talk and the wind moves through the trees in my front yard.
Everyone everywhere is living on the ground. Surrounded by their own environment, their own reality that makes them real and true and alive.
So I am here in France, but I am on the ground like anyone else.

There is a way of living here, an equation of comfort that is specific to France:
Bread is a side dish to every meal. Du pain with casserole, with melon, with pasta, with a burger and fries.
This is a function I can easily adapt to.

Coffee isn’t a “to-go” kind of deal. If you order a café at anywhere-coffee-shop-France you will most likely be disappointed as an American because the biggest cup of coffee for sale is a shot of black espresso in a tiny cup – milk not included. Nowhere will you find bottomless refills of coffee at a home-style breakfast place (home style breakfast is baguette with jam). And nowhere will you find a drive through designer coffee shop where the masses can quickly fuel-up for $3-5 a day and move out to work.
France just doesn’t really “move out” to anywhere.

When you walk down the streets of Paris there are little cafés lining the roads and plazas and street corners with small round tables, wooden chairs and red umbrellas. But the people sitting in the cafés aren’t grabbing a quick lunch with friends or even doing some homework over a cup of joe. Les Parisiens are sitting, chairs all turned to the street, watching the faces and cars and families and outfits and stray cats and pigeons. Some are talking and some are just sitting, sipping some espresso in the shade on an afternoon in Paris. It is easy to miss this detail in the city on your fast-track tour of the Louvre, Notre Dame, the D’Orsay Museum and the Seine. But this life is there. This French life and these French people who are on the ground in France where they know the ground and streets and corner shops like I do in America. This is their environment. Their history written on the country-sides dotted with castles, stone and brick. Their museums and libraries filled with French authors and playwrights and artists and poets. This is their environment where a baguette is a daily purchase and where all the café chairs face the street. La vie française.


  1. I was enjoying the cafe experience in Donostia/San Sebastian when I was there until a pigeon let go on my table. i do love that aspect of France. We'd all give a lot to be that relaxed.

  2. Love this description of Paris!