Saturday, April 6, 2013

East, West, South, and North Somewhat

Does it count as getting lost if you don't have a defined goal, and are just wandering where your feet take you, where your eyes pull you, where chance and luck and accident and misfortune and fate and destiny and the actions of others and your own actions or lack thereof send you bouncing randomly through life, like a pachinko ball that might, just might, end up dropping through the winning hole?
Sometimes it still seems so incredible to me that I am here. Here, as in France, and here, as in the world, alive. It's so easy to forget what a gift it is to be able to see and hear and breathe. It's so easy to get sucked into sitting at the computer all day, turning this particular here into a generic anywhere. Working (and playing) in the virtual world makes my life easier, but I want to be doing something else soon. If I had unlimited funds, that something else would be travel, and lots of it.
And yet things are coming together faster than they are falling apart, which is nice. I am simultaneously stressed out and relaxed, in a state of confident worrying, of optimistic despair. I'm enjoying my cheese classes and the company of my fellow students. I've got good leads on places to do a month-long apprenticeship in August, and have learned of another professional license program that would allow me to continue to work with cheesemakers in France through the next year. And yet if none of this comes to pass, there will be something else that will be just as good, or perhaps even better. And if it's worse, that's an excellent opportunity to stop and reevaluate the situation.

The three weeks with Mom and John will be a good time to do some reevaluation, as well as simple joyful tourist exploration. I'm going to take my laptop, but just for blogging and e-mail and Google searches and maps with directions to interesting places. I will have my research paper done by the 10th of May so I won't have to think about school, and I have already written and scheduled my paid blogging posts through mid-May and will finish them through the first week of June, soon, so that I won't have to think about work either. A real vacation, in a life that already seems like one sometimes.
Next week will be nonstop school work, but Saturday morning I'm getting a ride to Paris. I'm looking forward to tasting wines made by monks and going on a treasure hunt and eating a gluten-free Sunday brunch. This weekend, it's laundry and cheese research, writing letters and making contacts, with freelance work tucked around the edges and a trip to the store for the quinoa and calcium supplements and vitamin D pills which have been on my shopping list for a week, except I keep forgetting the list. Or going to a store that doesn't sell quinoa or calcium supplements or vitamin D pills. In fact, I think I'll go to the health food store this morning, after I load the washing machine.

There are streets in Paris where nearly all the shops sell the same thing, or provide the same service. The first time I got lost looking for Helmut Newcake, I ended up on a street that only sold children's clothes. A few weeks ago when I was looking for NoGlu, I found a street with nothing but dealers in gold exchange and old coins, and another that was devoted to philately. There's a long street somewhere that is lined with Chinese jewelry sellers, but I don't remember where I saw it.

I was disappointed, however, that Rue Poulet is not devoted to chickens. Instead, it's where the African diaspora goes to have its hair cut. The steep narrow cobblestoned passage was crammed with people, and handfuls of black brown bronze frizzy curly straightened hair were clumped behind doorways and under car tires.

I wasn't precisely lost when I found the Church of St. Elisabeth of Hungary, though I definitely was not headed in the direction of the riverfront as I thought. Yet if I had been going in that direction, I wouldn't have found this lovely church. This is something that I try to keep in mind when I get so focused on one thing: sometimes relaxing and letting go, while still moving forward with intention, is the better choice. Or if not better, equally good but different. There are a hundred thousand futures in which I am happy doing something as yet undefined, and all are possible. I am in a quantum state right now, almost reluctant to focus my attention on one thing and collapse the possibilities into a certainty. But then I sigh, and pick up my to-do list, and move forward again. I think I'll concentrate on the short term this weekend and stay in the present, instead of getting lost in the future. Laundry. Shopping. Letters. Research. Deep breathing, and perhaps a walk around the lake tomorrow if it's not raining, or maybe even if it is.

"Un grand obstacle au bonheur, c'est de s'attendre à un trop grand bonheur."
- Bernard Le Bouyer de Fontenelle, Du bonheur (1724)

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