Wednesday, June 12, 2013

calm waters

Home is good. Home is best. Home feels safe.

But Sorede, where I am these weeks, offers me its own unmatchable kind of safety. Here, I'm without issues -- the petty, the profound -- all subdued, stashed away somewhere, I don't know where - temporarily missing. I imagine this is what being on drugs is like: your spinning mind goes blank, the senses take over. Except Sorede isn't a pharmaceutical high. Sorede is the real deal.

It's a wonderful thing to have every once in a while -- this empty mind. The day unfolds, impressions set in -- tentative sketches on a blank canvas, filled in very, very slowly. Everything moves like on the gentle cycle on your washing machine.

You'd think that the computer -- my connection to real life -- would keep every worry front and center for me. Right now, at the table at the cafe bar where we're enjoying breakfast, I should worry. But it doesn't do that. I plug into my world back home and I think  -- it is what it is. I sleep soundly despite all life's imperfections.

In addition, the weather today is so glorious, so sunny, breezy and warm that it's not possible to imagine a more perfect union of the elements -- perfect for a beach outing that is. And so it's time to make the drive to La Franqui.

La Franqui is a small hamlet some miles up the coast. Smaller even than Le Racou. I don't imagine anyone actually lives at La Franqui except maybe the few who operate cafe bars or the like. Because it's squeezed behind a cliff and because it has a large inlet running north of it, when there, you feel like the world has disappeared. We have before us a few buildings, and the very wide and very long strip of sand, and the water -- the sea to the east, the inlet to the west and beyond that -- the Corbieres -- those old hills that mark the northern border of the great Roussillon plain.

La Franqui at this time of the year is virtually empty. You could swim naked and no one would be able to tell. But here's what I love most about the place -- unlike at le Racou, the sea here is shallow -- waist deep for a very very long stretch. And so whereas at le Racou I swim, at la Franqui, I play.

For all these reasons, it is and always will be my very favorite beach in the world.

But it's not close by. And so we'll go there maybe two times in the course of our two week stay here in the south of France.

In studying the weather maps, I knew for days already that Wednesday would be la Franqui day.

Still, there is no hurry in the morning. We're never willing to linger more than at most three hours on any beach, no matter how perfect it is. So we move slowly through the day -- to our local bakery for pain au chocolat, to the cafe bar on the main square for a long pause: cafe creme, the pains, a book to read...

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And even after breakfast we do not rush. First, a stop at the cool bakery for the bread. And to admire the pastries. For future purchase?

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And since we are so close to it, I suggest we go the Carrefour to pick up extra sunscreen. The stuff from home is a tad old and you cannot have enough of protection on a day like this. And I suggest, too, that we buy a beach umbrella.

You're kidding -- Ed shakes his head in disbelief. Spending money on things is truly something he rarely does and never with any great pleasure.
I'll buy it. It can't be more than 10 Euros. We'll leave it with our hosts. Maybe it'll be here when we come back in the future. And if not, we'll surely use it this time.

Neither of us likes to spend long hours out in the sun. I get plenty brown from being outdoors so much, I don't need more sun exposure and Ed positively dislikes being far from shade.

To Ed's surprise (and actually to mine as well), the Carrefour has plenty of beach umbrellas. We pick up a large one for 8 Euros -- one that does fancy tricks of bending this way and that. It is the smartest purchase we've made here and still, I think that it solidified in Ed the uneasy feeling that I think he carries in his pocket here -- that he has become a staid person. The type that lugs a beach umbrella and sunscreen and who splashes in the water some and then calls it a day. These kinds of images I'm sure send him dreaming about the day he will again sail from Maine to Cuba on his own (he did that some decades back). I have given him a taste of the tame life. That, more than old age causes him to squirm.

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  a boy, fishing

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looking for the perfect spot to settle in

But, as I said, the umbrella is indeed a godsend, even as the wind is brisk and we worry that it would break the stokes before we have a day's use.

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It doesn't break. It holds steady as we spread under it's glorious awning and it continues to hold steady when we put out our picnic lunch...

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... and it stays strong and steady as we take our plunges into the sea (Ed only once, me -- three separate plunges and for long stretches each time. Where else can I play without thought to the silliness of it all? For instance, ever try doing a cossack dance under water? Or a yoga downdog as the waves splash against your ankles?)

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A La Franqui day ends for us with a quick ice cream and an espresso for me at a cafe. It's a way to sweeten the departure. And to not think about how rare playfulness enters into our lives in the everyday.

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The drive home (about an hour away) is on local roads. Past sail boat lessons and apricot orchards...

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... and cherries and vineyards too. We note a fruit farm-stand and we pull over. Are you closed?
Well yes, but you're here and I'm here and if you want something, we can go ahead and get it for you.

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This is how we wind up with the best strawberries we can ever remember tasting (If anyone of you come across this variety in the States -- it's called 'Mara de bois' -- buy it, plant it, eat it! You will not be disappointed.) And quite excellent apricots. And killer cherries. And lemon cookies and a bottle of rose... Mmmm.

So home now. Sorede home. Ed is napping, I'm fixing supper. The usual beans (because they're so good here!), potatoes, a funky leaf salad, eggs. The sun is still going strong at 8:30 when we eat outside.

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I'm sure when the bevy of issues hits me again back home, the real home across the ocean, I'll remember exactly this day. And doing downward dog poses at the edge of the sea.