Since I came to Salies, nothing ever seems the same. What I mean is that each time I walk down a street, the same street, everything I see is different, like a kaleidoscope shifting unrecognizably with each tiny move. Is it because I am more present? Thinking back, remembering, I can see how my life has always been lived projected into the future, perchance a very near future, but future nonetheless; or dragging helplessly behind, hanging on to the past that has already gone its way. Yet, since moving to Salies, something has shifted. For example, when I leave my apartment to go for coffee each morning, I walk the same sidewalk, traverse the same parking lot, take the same street, cross the same small bridge over the Saleys River and arrive at the same Café des Thèrmes to meet the same Kiwi-san and order coffee from the same Madame Ça-Marche!, and yet the moment I step out of the door, each day, everything is different. I am immediately in full presence before the new sky, the blueness or cloudiness of it, the thousand variations in color of the trees, the damp or dryness of the sidewalk, a flower that wasn’t there yesterday, the way the light falls on the cluster of ancient tiled roofs on the sixteenth century béarnaise houses that line the street, each person who crosses my path, each new voice saying “bon jour”, the sounds never heard before, the newly fallen leaves in the parking lot, a potted plant on a window sill that has suddenly burst into bloom, a basket someone carries overflowing with vegetables, the black dog I didn’t noticed yesterday, birdsong that never rang out in the summer months and now accompanies each step, gnarled branches no longer hidden by leaves, each and everything changed, shifted, re-colored, moved.
Why, only the other day, as I walked with Salomé towards our usual destiny she suddenly crossed over to the sidewalk in front. Naturally, not wanting her to be crossing back and forth under possible cars, I joined her and we began walking on the side of the street never taken before. Suddenly, I was in a different town or at least on a different street. The houses I passed (on the other side) had never been seen before for I was always walking directly under them. All at once I saw a whole array of new windows and colored shutters and French doors and differently sloped roofs and painted or unpainted walls. I walked past windows through which I got peeks of different lives inside the béarnaise houses. I noticed which buildings were in need of repair and which had already been prettied up. And this doesn’t only happen when I am going to the Café, it happens every time I leave my building, every time I glance out of my windows (and there are three directions and five windows I can look out of) at every moment of the day, I discover a new world outside, one never seen before, created in each instant anew until the heart can hold no more beauty, no more joy and I must stop looking and do something normal.
There! I’ve said it! What is happening to me in Salies is not normal, at least not in my life, not in the life I have lived up until now. Was it because I have always lived before in large cities or was it because I have always before lived in my head and never in the world? Was it because I wasn’t in the places I passed by, but already –in my mind- arriving at the place to which I was going? Did I spend almost seventy years of my life projecting myself into the future or dragging myself along as I dawdled in the past? I’m afraid so, because there is such a difference between the aliveness I am experiencing today and whatever has gone before. Every moment is vibrant, all my senses are acute, and every nerve ending on my skin is alert with new sensations. I’ve no doubt that this is what it really means to be in love. Not that clawing, painful longing for what is not there in each moment and what can’t seem to be achieved even when it (or him/her) is there, but this immediate presence, this total aliveness, this awesome gratitude for each and every sensuous experience, this tingling in every nerve as life unfolds so simply, so splendidly around me.
So when I decide the nervous system needs a rest doing something that has at least seemed normal during the previous period of my life, I retreat to my computer and play a game. My passion is word games, things like Word Slinger, Scrabble, Text Twist, Book Worm although I also play Solitaire and Mah Jong. Here too things change, but it is no way like a love affair. It can be an obsessive, addictive part of life when I allow the game to take me over and I enter into competition with it. And each game has, as it must, a natural “shelf-life” or should I say “screen-life” because it shifts from something new and exciting, to the usual game on which I improve little by little, to finally something that approximates ‘boring’. There is no fidelity in games, they wear out and are left to pine away on the nether regions of the computer screen. I began with Bookworm and loved every minute of its challenge; one day its place was taken by Text Twist until that game too ran its course and was replaced by Word Slinger which is presently being substituted by a passion for Scrabble. Scrabble has so grasped my fancy and challenged my verbal skills that I am presently playing in three forms: on I-phone and over internet against Kiwi-san (who beats me miserably every time), and by myself against the computer where I can usually win up to the level of advanced although pro, master and genius are still above me. But games –I learn today- are also part of that unstable, kaleidoscope world. Suddenly my computer screen changes too. The games are gone; their symbols are there but a click with the mouse no longer leads to the board: my computer man came, cleaned the machine (maybe I shouldn’t call it that for it is definitely more than a “machine” in the gross sense of the word), anyway, cleaned the computer and zappo: games gone! Interestingly enough, after a whole evening of hard work and some frustration, I managed to get all my games back but one: Scrabble. It seems that Scrabble, Inc. –if that exists- won a law suit over all the internet sites that offered the game and now there is no longer any way to download it and play on your computer. However, when I went looking over a week ago, some strange glitch in time or in the computer, allowed me to download a game that the program says no longer is available. And my game was so nice, so green, so user friendly and so winnable, that I am mourning my loss. A few days and it will pass and my interest will be caught by some other verbal plaything, but for the moment it is a death on my screen, one that has left its useless imprint on my desktop to remind me of its loss. Perhaps, if the game had been there still, I would not have written this piece tonight. Who knows: “would have” or “wouldn’t have” are just the past imperfect for the verb “What-to-do?”
And then there are always the gnats, at least there always have been the gnats as of about six months ago. They arrived with a lovely Amaryllis flower I got from my downstair’s neighbors. The flower long ago died, the pot fell off the window sill and broke and, dirt and all, has long since been gone and the neighbors recently moved away, but the gnats remained. For months, I have occasionally killed one when it has flown out from under a flowerpot or settled on the table beside me, but recently their population seems to have grown and suddenly they are a presence -an annoying one at that- in my life. They become specially active at night when I am on the computer, flying to and fro between me and the screen, hitting the screen which –being a touch model- blinks strangely under the tiny impact and even fluttering into my eyes and nostrils. Their presence has become a menace to my peace of mind… no, have to rephrase that: my thoughts about their presence have become a menace to my peace of mind. I have turned into a murdering madwoman, clapping my palms loudly and furiously in midair in hopes of squashing one of the pesky critters, something I rarely achieve although the loud sound manages to startle poor Salomé every time. I find myself stalking around the house at all hours peering at the window panes where they sometimes alight in hopes of killing but one more. My average is three a day but they seem to reproduce more rapidly than I can eliminate them. In spite of my ecologically prone resistance, I am getting to the DDT-spray-stage in hopes of finally wiping out the blossoming population, but my fervent prayer is that some “green” soul will come forth with an effective countermeasure before I buy the bomb. Yes! It is war! My apartment is not the proper ecological niche for little black winged creatures! SLAP!!!! BANG!!!! Got one! Unfortunately I know damn well that for every tiny black death, there lurks around me a process of reproduction that has me stymied before I even begin. Alas, perhaps my friend Snailquake (please do read her blog Tea Time at the Zoo) will come up with a solution before I resort to chemical warfare. Fingers crossed.
And then there is the rain. At last it arrived, and arrived in full. It has been raining almost non-stop for two days and the forecast says it will continue for two more. My walks with Salomé become a bit more complicated: my raincoat, her raincoat, an umbrella to carry along with the leash and a need to towel her down upon reentry to dry paws, ears and moustache. But the countryside is loving it, and the Saleys River is racing full, noisy and joyous having finally overcome certain stagnant odors that were beginning to pall upon passing. The streets have been washed clean except for the autumn leaves which have finally begun falling en-masse. The air, though still not really cold, has cooled to a humid 15º C and smells clean and wet. It will be good to see the sun again when we do, but in the meantime I am thoroughly enjoying shower, after shower, after shower. At night I sleep with the window open and each time I awake, be it to readjust my pillows or take a trip to the toilet, I can hear the gentle patter against the sill and smell the dark cleanliness on the breeze that wafts through the opening. It is heaven to be in a warm bed, under cozy blankets when the rain falls outside and the wind blows and an occasional burst of thunder rolls across the heavens or lightening illuminates the distant hills. Then I snuggle down and Salomé leans in against my back and we both drift off again to our individual dreamlands.
Yes, things change, but only every waking second, and each change reminds me of the marvel of the life that is mine to enjoy (or not, if that is my choice as with pesky gnats or lost Scrabble games) and invites me to stay in the present, delight in each moment and be thankful for each one as it moves swiftly into the past. Slap!!! Bang!!! Oops missed.