Monday, July 25, 2011

Trying to be French

There is nothing better to soothe and quieten my soul than the repetitive staccato of the pattering rain falling softly from the mist outside my window.  It's a day of gentleness, peacefulness, and contentment.  A day to put my feet up and grab a good book.

If there is but one fault in our family, it is in our obsession with books.  Our kids read books voraciously; we pack them out of our public library by the bagful.  I, in moments of weakness, order them online through or paperback swap.  And at $0.50 per softcover, the local Salvation Army Thrift Store has contributed many times to a rapacious library that I know I can't possibly consume or contain within my lifetime.

Still doesn't change the obsession.  There is something about written thought, preserved on paper, that lures me over and over into a longing to embark on another literary journey.  And without doubt, I have many of such journeys progressing at any one time - all so compelling, all so inviting.  To wander through worlds of stories, ideas, places - each page opening up new avenues and streets I didn't even know were there.  Who can resist such a call?

"The French have a word for this.  When someone goes for a walk with no particular destination in mind, willing to go wherever the wind blows him, that person is a flâneur.  He saunters.  He strolls.  He takes a right out of his apartment building one day, having taken a left yesterday.  He walks until the smell of fresh bread leads him to make his first turn, down a side street with a bakery.  He continues his walk with a fresh Danish in his hand, until a jogger passes him with a sleek gray dog on a leash.  The jogger turns right at the next light so the flâneur does too, going about half a block before he finds himself in front of a stamp and coin store that has always intrigued him.

"Since he is a flâneur he has time to go in.  When he comes back out, he knows that Bhutan, of all places, is known for its postage stamps, which include Walt Disney characters as well as commemorative issues featuring the British royal family.  After that, he chooses his turns based on the associations with the names of the streets, ending up on one he has walked many times before.  This time however, the window boxes in front of one house are full of of freshly planted red geraniums.  He knows the smell so well that he does not know if he is really smelling them or only imagining that he is smelling them.  Either way, life is good for this flâneur.  Because he is going no place in particular, he does not miss a thing.  Plus, this pleasure is affordable.  So far this morning has cost him $1.49, the price of a cherry Danish."  (p. 81 Taylor, Barbara B.  An Altar in the World.  2009 HarperCollins)

Books do that for me.  So today is such a day to embrace the call of the flâneur; pick up that used tome and wander unfettered to see where it will lead.  

Call it a tincture for the soul.

The spattering drizzle is waiting.

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