15 July 2014


You haven't lived until you've tried to hang up laundry to dry in the Mistral winds of southern France. It's like flying a kite if your kite is a giant bed sheet that's out of control.

Mistral (meaning masterly in some dialect that has something to do with French) winds are sustained winds that last for hours or days and range in speed from 40km/25mph to 100km/60mph. 

As I'm pinning everything to the line the clothes and sheets billow into me, over me, and sometimes try to tear away to the heights of the atmosphere as I doggedly hold on to them, keeping them grounded.

Each time I take clothes out, I start by pinning them on the right side of the line, using three times as many pins as normal. When I go back a few hours later, they're all scrunched to the left, twisted amongst each other.

Once I left the laundry basket by the clothes line like I do on calm days. I found it twenty yards away in a corner of the yard.

I was thinking how, being from North Dakota, normally when I experience winds of this velocity, they're cutting and icy, blowing snow and burning your cheeks and fingers. Here the sky is clear, it's a pleasant 75˚ F (24˚ C). I barely know what to make of it.

There are also creature comforts to southern France. I've already stepped on one frog and found another one in my room. And last week we found a gecko in the house, a little tiny gecko. He was on the ceiling and none of us could catch him. Until a couple of days later when I found him in the bathroom I share with the teenage boys.

I share the upstairs of the summer home with the teenage boys. They have their room, I mine, and my shower is separate (and larger) than theirs. The toilet, a real water closet, we share though. The room is two inches wider than the narrow door and has room for a toilet, a standing human, and toilet bowl cleaner. I'm the only one who makes use of the toilet bowl cleaner. Incidentally, since being in France, I've been in elevators as small as this W.C. we share.

One afternoon I walked into the toilet (in Europe that is the name of the room not just the receptical) and saw the gecko skittle behind the cleaner. I shut the door and started the chase. I pounced (short distances, of course) from corner to corner yelling, "I'M TRYING TO HELP YOU!" Which is true because nobody should have to share a toilet with teenage boys. 

I was trying hard not to catch it by the tail, knowing it would rip off and serve no one, then I caught it by the tail and the rest of him scuddled away. The tail wiggled in my fingers, I decided I should keep holding it while I tried to to catch the rest of him, which I eventually did no thanks to the squirming tail. The poor little thing tried to bight me, but couldn't. He's free in the yard somewhere with his newly regenerated tail. I also put the tail in the yard enjoying imagining a lizard growing from the tail. He doesn't know it, but I saved him.

Today was my last day of work. Last of lots of things, not the least of which is doing the kids ironing. I was just delighting in this fact while ironing the young daughter's dress when I was overwhelmed by a sneeze and had to put the dress back in the dirty clothes. And I won't have to wash it. No, no, it won't be me who washes it! This makes me exceedingly happy. See, below is a happy face that happens to be my own:


Oh they don't warn you. They don't warn you when you're little and reading every book you can get your hands on and dreaming of your own adventures and world travels that once you step out the door, away from your home, millions of tiny holes will be ripped in your heart, first, for your home and then for every place you go, person you meet, and goodbye you say.