Sunday, May 22, 2011

One Of The Flock

I was running away from the news, from the computer. And looking for a snack.

Sunday afternoon in rural France. Good luck finding anything to eat. The shops and restaurants are closed. Most of the bars are closed. And even the ones that are open don't have much in the way of food. Some peanuts maybe?

Then I remembered - it's springtime! Vide greniers, flea markets. People selling old stuff and always a few tables with cans of foie gras, cassoulet. Bottles of wine, apples. Usually a cake or two.

So I was navigating the tiny roads, fuel gauge on E but no gas station between me and the closest flea market. I figured it was worth the risk, to get a snack.

I never imagined I could enjoy driving a manual car - not back when I was learning. But now that I know the roads, where to brake and shift, through muscle memory as much as anything, I feel capable when driving again. The way I used to do back on the open roads of the USA.

Back. I'm going back! I can't stop thinking about it. Everything I do I'm thinking, "if all goes well I won't be here this time next year." And this (brake, shift, shift, accelerate) will all be a memory. I am ready to go.

Round the corner in front of Chateau de Brie, start to descend and there's a car in front of me, slowing down. A flock of sheep is being driven along the road. They're so cute.

And annoying. Really annoying. The woman urging them on isn't really urging hard enough. She's smiling a little too smugly, and her clothes aren't exactly farmer clothes. A sheep farmer come lately?

At first I'm smiling too. Look at the little one, trailing behind his mother. So cute.

Then I'm cursing, the same as if I was stuck in traffic on the Williamsburg Bridge or on Chagrin Boulevard or Hillsboro Road. "Would you move your fucking....sheep?!"

Finally make it to the flea market. And it's like every person I ever met around here is there. Not friends I've made but people like the butcher and the massage therapist, and the evil boulanger and the kooky woman who used to sell old furniture. I'm thinking maybe I died, back by that flock of sheep. It could be that this is what it's like in purgatory, because nobody that I really really love is there, and we're all going to be stuck together for eternity unless I make amends for...things.

I see Nick and Angie and that hints at a more promising forever, but they're headed in the other direction. Then I hear Shania Twain blaring out of tinny speakers that are hanging everywhere. That would be about right, for purgatory. I like Shania okay, but with all the country music I love to choose from, it would be pretty sad if she was the soundtrack I had to purify myself to.

I hear the thumping of boots on a wooden stage, and across a field I see a team of country line dancers. All togged up in jeans, plaid western shirts and matching straw cowboy hats, they are kicking and stepping, slapping leather and turning and clapping, then changing position and doing it all again. Brows furrowed, mouths set in grim determination, eyes staring straight ahead - they don't appear to be having much fun. I see the woman who owns the lingerie shop execute a joyless heel and toe. The man who works at the dump, the lone male dancer, is the only one who smiles.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Inside I do a little of both while dialing in "wry smile" for a facial expression. Then I find the table with the cakes. I buy some and hurry back to the car, which I wisely parked facing away from the fete. I must've known I'd want to flee.

"If the car starts, and has enough fuel to get home, I promise to be a better person," I pray. I turn the key.

Then I see Bob Dylan's "Modern Times" on the seat. I put it into the player. "Thunder On The Mountain" comes in. It's not purgatory any more. Or if it is, it's not so bad, because someone I really really love is there.

The lousy and wicked and perfect things people do and the future in front of me and Eric, and whatever missteps behind and ahead - like a good acid trip, Bob still helps me feel like it's all leading to something. I guess that's called hope? Happy Birthday Bob.

I'm tempted to go back to the flea market and force them to stick Dylan in the player and see how the line dancers do. But the gas tank light just came on.

16 comments:

Charente Gems said...

Love it Amy ! ! ... people who don't really know The Charente might think you made it all up ( but WE know differently !) Yes, Bob still does it for me too. They been showcasing his early stuff , and the documentaries, on the TV all week - still brings the hairs up on the back of the neck. Magic.

Vigna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wreckless Eric said...

Who deleted their comment?
We'' have to get a car with a manual gearbox if such a thing exists in America.

And some sheep...

Amy said...

Wait, John - we thought the Charente people were way more sophisticated than Limousin types?! Even though we are just over the border...

Eric, I have to think it was Bob himself. He then decided "aw shucks, better keep quiet".

One of those paneled jeeps? Perfect for moving sheep around. And that'll solve the grass cutting problem.

Chris Coolidge said...

They do not fly so much as plummet....Baaathump. You can find plenty of sheep here in Vermont, they're second most popular farm animal after cows, Vermont being a dairy state. There's even farms that make sheep's cheese.

KudzuCarl said...

And here in Georgia we have sheep, goats, and horses down the road, beef cattle next door, and milk cows across the street. You'd fit right in.

Anonymous said...

I've sucked the milk out of a thousand cows. Think its time to leave France.

stribs said...

Amy, beautifully written as always. You really ought to follow in your hubbie's footsteps and write a book. Stribs

Amy said...

Thanks Stribs - you know, every time I write on here I feel guilty cause I should be working on the book. But it's all writing (though the book is a lot harder...)

Anon. - it's really something to hear that line as I drive past a field full of cows. Like so many Dylan lines, it connects, oddly.

Carl, animals are nice but I'm looking to lessen my involvement with livestock in the future!

Thanks Chris, I will be looking for some locally made brebis (sheep's milk cheese - it is delicious...honest, i am a fan of sheep. Just not in the road, when I'm hungry) in the US. Much lower fat than cow's milk. Vermont won't be far away...For a time I imagined Brattleboro (and Bellows Falls) would be a nice place to live - but I don't think we could hack the winters.

the fly in the web said...

I found people to be nicer in wine making areas of France...some areas are just so gloomy, even when, as in the dancing, the activity should be happy.
Mark you...line dancing....you have to be desperate.

Wreckless Eric said...

Sucked the milk from a thousand cows??!!?? Sore lips and intense queasiness I'd imagine...

Amy said...

There is a darkness in the hills for sure Fly (though the same can be said for the Beauce and that's pretty flat - same with parts of Ohio - it must be the agriculture vs. viniculture.)

Some Lactaid and Blistex will sort that out Eric x

kriswhoosh said...

I adore your writing Amy. It's Teenage Angst without the spottiness. It's a clear vision of what's wrong. Even amongst the obvious beauty of rural France, you feel the pang. That is why you are the artist that you are. Eric and you WILL find your ISLAND PARADISE. I only hope I do too, one day.

Anonymous said...

whats 10 meters long and smells like urine?

That same line dance at an old folks home!

Amy said...

You mean the Black Country isn't it Kris? You would do well anywhere in the world! Thanks for the nice thoughts, n see you soon -

On walkers, Anon. I feel a music video idea coming on...

Karl Webster said...

Hi Amy (and Eric)

Karl here, from Saturday night in Le Dorat, the one who needs to get a moped, and insulation. It was lovely to meet you both and reading your last few posts has made me feel really excited for you and the next part of your adventure together. Actually with the perpetual rain, it's started to make me feel a little jealous. I love your blog, Amy. Wistful and inspiring at the same time. And very pleased to see that one of you is reading Tropic of Cancer. Have a great time in the States.

x