Wednesday, March 28, 2007

on being suburban

I have to pass through three villages to get to Troyes. Before and after these villages are fields as far as the eye can see - and that's pretty far when you live on a plain - interrupted only by a farmstead here, a cluster of trees there. Some of these fields are already green and others are brown with churned earth.

new years day
New Year's Day 2007, a field in Haute-Marne

Last summer, we were driving our houseguests, all residents of Paris, from our house to Troyes for our anniversary party. One of my guests, from the Upper Midwest, sighed and said, "It reminds me of home." Another one, from Kansas, sighed and said, "Me too." And I was silent, because it didn't remind me of anything thing at all.

I am neither a city girl nor a country girl, though I am certainly comfortable in each environment. Maybe I get the city vibe from my mother, who was really a Long Islander but had no fear of negotiating any metropolis that got in her way. Dad was born less than five miles away from the family farm where his mother grew up. It hasn't been a working farm in some fifty years, the barn was pulled down when I was a kid (One of my favorite memories is my one ride on the huge red tractor, Dad at the wheel, my sister and I standing behind the seat and holding on) and the fields have been reclaimed by overgrowth and pine trees, but we still call it "The Farm."

No, I am of that class that city folk and country folk despise - The Suburbans. We were Country Club people; Dad played golf and I lounged at the pool. We lived on wide avenues in big ranch houses surrounded by vast green lawns. Yeah, it was paradise; I didn't know it then but looking back it's obvious. I'll never forget getting on the bus one morning and one kid, noting the street where I waited, said, "You must be rich" and I laughed until I cried because seriously, if we were so rich why did Mom make us buy clothes at Wal-Mart? No, we weren't rich, but we weren't exactly hurting, either.

But my point is, there are no fields in Suburbia, unless it's the baseball or soccer variety. If there was any farming at all, it was groves of oranges and grapefruit, and even those were far away from where I lived, where nature was carefully cultivated for taking a long walk with a stick and a small white ball.

storm's edge
May 19, 2006 on the bus to Troyes

Yesterday, I passed countless fields waking up on a misty morning. On these drives, it's all I can do to keep my eyes on the road. My eyes are distracted by how much the wheat in this field have grown or the tractor working his way across his field just on the horizon. I feel like I've landed on a whole new planet. Sometimes, when the weather is warm and it's the end of the day, and I'm driving home alone, I roll down the windows and shout with joy. I am intoxicated by the fact that I am surrounded by fields that have been cultivated for food instead of for pleasure. The air is warm and clean and my heart is full to bursting. All my worries of learning a new language and integrating myself into a new culture slip away and there is nothing but blue skies and green fields and me.

May 1, 2006 colza field

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