It’s Beginning To Feel A Lot Like…?
Changes….changes happening everywhere. It seems to be the word of the week for me and it’s got me thinking.
It all started with the weather, which has gone quite crazy and can’t decide which way it wants to go. One minute it’s raining, the next the sun peeks out and then suddenly it decides to hail. It’s been like this all week with storms that have rolled through in harmonic succession, like wild waves crashing on a beach. Not so bad if you’re inside a warm house watching it all, but not so fun if you happen to be out walking the dog and get caught in the middle of it all. We’ve done both.
Our garden is crazy confused too.
Most of it has gone to sleep, trees bare and flowers gone, but our cherry tomato plant keep popping out new fruit, and autumn colors are not quite ready to let go. It feels so strange to taste summer sweetness of in the middle of winter grey, and to see yellows and oranges so late in the day.
Even the ground we walk on is different.
Weeks of rain have left it soft and moist, like a giant sponge. At night, when all is quiet and the only sound alive is the hollow hoots of owls that travel hauntingly through the black, you can hear your feet squish on the lawn. In a year when most things have been so serious, it’s a small and silly thing that makes me laugh out loud. Anyone that happens to hear probably thinks I’m going mad, cackling away like an old hag in the middle of the night, but these days I take my laughs where I can.
It’s all part of the change, part of the movement of life in a year where nothing seems to have moved at all. Changes and not changes. It’s where I’m at and it’s what I’m sharing with you today.
I’ve Changed, We’ve All Changed
This year I feel I’ve aged. Well, obviously I’m a year older so there’s that little gift, but I also feel that I’ve aged mentally and physically in ways way beyond my actual years. We’ve all had to go inwards this year, and the experience has been different for everyone.
For some folks these past months may have been restorative, perhaps even a welcome repose. I’ve read about artists who thrived under the lockdown, families who found their groove, people who re-discovered their love for all things domestic, and businesses that managed to go online and prosper. Those are the lucky ones, the ones, where 2020 was a boon. For others this year has been tragic, with losses personally or financially, relationships strained, mental challenges and day-to-day struggles. A very different kind of year.
One could say both these things would have happened in any year, but the pandemic has certainly made them much more apparent and intense.
Personality also comes into it.
Introverts have undoubtedly fared better this year than extroverts, home-bodies better than nomads. Then again, perhaps not? I read a rather interesting article not that long ago about the struggles of introverts under lockdown, that the initial solitude can be welcoming, but under prolonged isolation their psyche can flip. Likewise with extroverts, who can become unexpectedly withdrawn in confinement. In other words, no matter what our personalities, we all seek a balance to some degree.
For someone like me, who thrives on interaction and feels alive when I travel, it’s as if the tap that feeds my soul suddenly got turned off this year, like a river run dry with all the nutrients of life gone with it. Admittedly it’s been a struggle which I’m sure you’ve sensed through my ups and downs on the blog. Of course I’ve worked to find other things to fill the gap; gardening, baking, exercise, French paperwork, house projects and day-to-day routines. All decent things, all fulfilling in their own way.
But after a year of sitting still I have to admit I feel the loss most keenly. I guess some parts of our personality can never fully be tamed no matter the place, even with time and age. I’ll always be semi-feral; half wanderer, half chameleon, half here, half not, and if I’m to thrive I must explore, even if only part of the time. Hopefully next year will allow that again.
So, I guess you could say I’m changed, and yet not changed. Perhaps you feel the same?
France Is “Open” Again, Kinda
On a practical level, as far as France goes it’s full steam ahead on the multi-stage re-opening plan that the government announced at the end of last month. Or as I like to call it, the “let them have Christmas” plan.
Basically folks are shopping and planning get-togethers for the holidays, despite the fact that virus numbers have not come close to the magic 5,000 infections/day number that was declared “critical” to hit for the re-opening plan to continue. Instead, with cases still hovering around 13,000/day the government have decided on yet another compromise. Shops remain open, but theatres, cinemas, museums, restaurants and bars will remain closed. And folks will be allowed to travel & get together for Christmas, but New Year’s Eve will go under curfew and is thus totally shut-down (can’t wait to see how that plays out…).
Not much logic in it all, as far as controlling the virus goes, but for the sake of businesses who rely on Christmas sales & the mental sanity of the general population, I can’t say I blame them. Sadly however, it will probably cause another infection & hospitalization spike a month from now, which in turn means we’ll likely have to go into lockdown again sometime in Feb, but I guess that’s the cycle we’re in, for now.
Change, yet not change….
Oh, and in case you are wondering what happened to the ski stations that I mentioned in my last post?
After much deliberation & undoubtedly long-winded and impassioned discussion, the government announced their (very predictable) exceptions this week. Ski lifts will remain closed except for professionals, ski clubs, young athletes, and other select people. In other words, ski lifts are closed unless you are authorized to ski, in which case they are open. Yup, about as typically French a declaration as you can get.
As for us, none of this really affects us except that as of the 15th Dec we can now travel between regions again, and we can (finally) ditch the paperwork. No more “attestations” needed every time we go out. Wheeeeee!
Yuletide Is In The Air
On a more positive note the days are counting down to Christmas, and you can sense it in the air.
Our kitchen is decorated with gold stick-on snowflakes and lights that glimmer through the window every night. Our nisser (Christmas Elves) are making mischief, as they always do, and a small mass of presents are slowly piling up underneath our newly-decorated tree. Soon we’ll plan Christmas dinner, bake some special cakes, and perhaps even sample a new secret brew we’ve been making. More on that to come….
We even went to a Christmas market this week!
Of course they’re all officially closed this year, as you well know. But as with all things in France, exceptions can exceptionally be made, if you know who’s who and what forms to fill out. And somehow the teeny little village just down the road from us managed to do just that.
So this morning all three of us took the ~10 minute drive over to do some “essential” Christmas shopping from the local vendors, picking up artisan chocolates, organic wine, natural soaps, and beer. All locally made, all organic and all quite wonderful. Paul had a lovely long chat with the beer guy, exchanging brew ideas while dad and I enjoyed the outdoor entertainment (billed as a “spectacle de rue”) which consisted of an elderly gentleman, his wife and their teeny dog playing a wind-up street organ and doing their very best to sing along.
All very festive, as such things go, and super positive too.
I have to admit I am constantly amazed at the wealth of produce and talent we have in our area. Rural France is changing, as everything is in the world, but here I do believe it’s going in a truly positive direction. Younger folks are seeking the countryside, working to re-invigorate the local areas, creating small businesses and bringing life back into older towns. It’s a good trend.
So yes, change and not change. It’s been a weird year has it not? I’m sure you’ve all felt it differently, depending on your own circumstance and place. And of course I know it’s not over yet, but I’m certainly hoping 2021 will be different, for all of us. A true change, perhaps even a return to normality, if we can envisage or hope for such a thing. Or at least something not quite so crazy. And perhaps a bit of travel? That would be nice indeed.
Do you feel it too, my friends and readers? A change? A not-change? Or perhaps a bit of both. I’d love to know how this year has impacted you on a deeper level. Do feel free to share and comment below.