Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cleaning Up

There are many many trees in Tours, and in the Touraine region in general, an area that since the 15th century has been called "le jardin de la France." Most of the trees are deciduous, and there has been much falling of leaves over the last two months. The oaks in the woods across the way and the chestnuts in the small park behind the apartment have been enthusiastically flinging off their clothes and baring their skin to the cold weather, and the city has provided an army of street sweepers to keep up. I always dreaded the autumn season in downtown Portland, because the leaf blowers on practically every corner made it a sonic hell for six weeks or so, but here for the most part there's just a quiet scritch of the twig broom, a muffled shpumph as the leaves are dumped into the barrel, and the rattle of the cart wheels as the sweeper moves on to the next stretch. I have seen one - one - powered leaf blower (and that was in Paris), and ninety-nine brooms. I was waiting for the bus a few months ago and watching a team of two street-tidiers. The first went along the street and sidewalk, hand-pulling all the weeds from the cracks in the concrete and along the curb. The second followed behind, sweeping up the trash and leaves and weeds; when they got to the end of the block, they stopped for a cigarette break, and then trundled their equipment to the other side of the street. I wondered if there was an unbreakable tradition of doing things by hand, or if this guaranteed more people employment because it took longer, or if the noise and general lack of aesthetic charm of a howling smelly machine just is not French enough. I was walking back from the store the other day and came across another sweeper, and I asked him why he wasn't using a leaf blower. He'd prefer to, he said, because it's quicker and easier, but he uses the twig broom because that's how they do it here.

Whether it's because of the street cleaners or the habits of the people here, it seems I don't see as much in the way of litter scattered about. Empty liquor bottles for the most part when it's there, and of course cigarette butts, but not as much of the careless tossing of candy wrappers and trash on the sidewalk. Some of the trash makes an appearance at the weekly vide-grenier at Place Victoire, however, along with miscellany from a dozen cleaned-out attics, the detritus of forgotten lives.

I've been trying to be more careful with my photography but I think I need to take a class, or get a non-point-and-shoot camera, or both. I thought about buying a new camera before I left Oregon, but the one I liked was large, and I wouldn't have been able to put it in my bag or carry it in a coat pocket or in my hand. I'm still not at the point where I'm comfortable carrying a camera on a strap around my neck, but that may come in the future. When I see the quality of photos that are possible with a really good camera, it makes me want to get one, but I will wait until and if I need to have a camera of that quality, or until this one gives out. In the meantime I will keep practicing.

I need to clean up at home this week. My work schedule is much lighter now, after having finished two big projects (and several related ones) for one client, and getting the first draft of another out to a second. Other than my daily paid blogging, I don't have anything on the agenda, and yesterday I wrote and scheduled posts through the middle of the month, so I could take the rest of the week entirely off if I wanted to. But I think I'll work ahead as much as I can instead, so that I don't have to worry about working over Christmas. I haven't decided if I'm going to take my computer to Scotland. My room is a mess (I know, nothing new there) and I have been thinking that I need to go through all my cheese materials and figure out what to do with them, and spend time reflecting on cheese and what I want to be and do and become in the months and years to come. Or at least in the near future, while I am here at school in Tours.

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