With the evening sun warm in the sky, the children and I drove northwards along my favorite stretch of freeway yesterday. We were in the shimmering company of the spirits of time past. Summoned by our choice of music, from a period when my husband and I were younger creatures, I could see their vague traces; two youthful figures seated together on warm evening in an Oxford pub while the music flowed all around them.
We’re preparing for our summer departure to Europe this week in fact. The suitcases have been staring reprovingly from the corner of the room for days now and it’s finally time for the packing to commence. It always surprises me, as I swing into action at this time of year, how quickly a life that seems settled and permanent can dissolve into fluidity. I guess all of our lives are like this really- most finally apparent when the ultimate ending to this beloved dream appears inescapably before us- but one of the striking aspects of the role of the exile is how fragile our normality appears when the annual call of home is heard.
It’s a trip that we’ve taken each of the nine summers that we’ve lived in America. As is often the case for expat families, the children and I leave before my husband and enjoy a longer period both in London and then in the Dordogne at our Buddhist retreat center. This year I’m keenly aware of the passage of time as it’s the first occasion that my son will return early with my husband; high schools here in Los Angeles commence at the highly uncivilised time of mid-August. And so my daughter and I will spend close to a month longer in France and already the quiet space for contemplation and the days untroubled by the mundane are calling with their siren song of gentle ease.
I have long loved the works of Arthur Rimbaud and I always hear the echo of the words of Sensation, one of his short poems, whenever my mind turns to our French summers beneath the hazy sunshine amidst the green hills and blue flowing rivers.
In the blue summer evenings, I will go along the paths,
And walk over the short grass, as I am pricked by the wheat:
Daydreaming I will feel the coolness on my feet.
I will let the wind bathe my bare head.
I will not speak, I will have no thoughts:
But infinite love will mount in my soul;
And I will go far, far off, like a gypsy.
Through the countryside- joyous as if I were with a woman.