‘I guess it goes to show that you just never know where life will take you. You search for answers. You wonder what it all means. You stumble, and you soar. And, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll make it to Paris for a while’. (Amy Thomas, Author of Paris My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light).
Being as ‘highbrow’ as I am, plenty of my spare time is spent ‘researching’ on the inter webs – with Instagram being a source of much of my inspiration. I found the above quote under a beautiful photo of Jardins des Tuileries yesterday and it really struck a chord – particularly in my current state of ‘deep seated cliché’.
I have dreams of listening to Edith Piaf while plowing through endless novels in my dimly lit loft- where, in reality, I have seventeen novels (and counting) forming a leaning tower of literature beside my bed, and no idea where to start with any of them which ultimately, would help me start to determine the end of all of them. Each night I fall into my bed thoroughly exhausted and too tired to read a page, with blistered hooves and a constant loud ringing in my ears, after hours spent walking the streets attempting to dodge endless scaffolding as sirens blaze around me and jackhammers operate like woodpeckers in a forest of fir trees.
Peace is found in the many gardens and parks that pop up like little green Meccas in and around this city. Some days, I find myself lost momentarily beneath the arms of perfectly manicured trees, watching in admiration as my beloved pigeon friends puff their out their chests (we have a love hate relationship after one too many incidents involving their bowel movements). They stand proud in moments of heightened happiness and anticipation, before fluffing their feathers and shuddering through a feathery havoc and with that (as if the whole world has been lifted off their pigeony shoulders), they chase baguette crumbs across the ground and then repeat the whole exercise.
Bonheur is the French word for happiness. And, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sad pigeon in my whole time as unofficial ‘director of pigeon affairs’. They are so much fatter in Paris – who isn’t, with endless boulangeries to visit, croissants to devour and my new favourite, chaussons aux pommes, to munch on? (Parisienne’s, that’s who).
I’ve been known to shake myself in the street in a fashion not dissimilar to a pigeon as I remove evidence of ‘another’ sweet mistake which has made its way neatly onto the collar of my jacket or a crease in my neck that I never even knew existed. I find crumbs in the strangest places which can, from time to time, be a little bit embarrassing.
I will freely admit that there have been times in the more recent years of my life, where (unlike a Parisian pigeon) I haven’t been entirely happy. I’ve searched for answers, I’ve wondered what it all means, and I’ve nearly torn my hair out in moments of complete frustration. I’ve been unprofessional in the way in which I’ve dealt with situations at work- overwhelmed by it all and not really sure what the next corner will reveal. A healthy mindset is everything, but so often it is one of the hardest things to acquire.
I’ve had no real reason to be unhappy, and I can only suppose much of this confusion has been brought about by an unwillingness to change my situation and to allow the universe to work a little bit of its magic.
I’m a great believer that the unknown can often hold the answers to all of the questions we ask in our feather downed comfort zones, but with the unknown comes that question we so often ask ‘what if?’.
This recent change in my life has brought me one step closer to feeling as though I’m ‘soaring’ (ungracefully) rather than ‘stumbling’ (hopefully, half gracefully). Over the past few months I have muttered ‘what…and stuff’ under my breath (or words to that effect) and have experienced moments of great vulnerability where I’ve felt like a baby pigeon in a big humans body, trying to climb back into my nest after being tipped out, but for the first time in a very long time, I feel in control of the ‘what’ and not so afraid of the ‘if’.
Yesterday I emerged from the apartment just before sunrise and braved the cool air as I headed out for a long run along the Seine and into the Tuileries gardens. The smells of the morning can be putrid in Paris and, as long streams of light projected from street lamps lit the ripples in the river, I breathed in a cocktail of drying up booze and human excrements, a sad reality of the darker side of the city of light. A rat scampered out from under a tree as I negotiated the cobble stones on the rivers edge, before he executed a ‘rat Olympic’ worthy dive into the water. The sound of ‘mon ami rongeur’ making his splash, broke a silence unique to the early hours of the morning in this city that seemingly, never does actually sleep.
During the day and well into the night, the endless sounds of sirens wail, the ‘clip clop’ of heels sound on the street below, bike bells ring from nowhere and the chug of choking moto’s soar as they weave through traffic, competing with church bells that chime drunkenly at irregular hours and in competition with the neighbouring ‘église,’ and the jack hammering through the walls of the beautiful buildings that make this city such a joy to exist in, is endless. These sounds form a playlist that is a uniquely Parisian soundtrack, and moments of peace like those that I experience early in the morning as I attempt to run while clearing my head in preparation for the day, are as much of a joy as they are utterly beautiful.
Today marked the end of day two at La Sorbonne and, on both days I have walked out into the afternoon sunlight following a morning of classes, feeling as puffed up as the fattest of Parisian pigeons. With a professor who is as thorough as she is intriguing, I walked home last night feeling a long sought sense of happiness and excitement for what is ahead. Happy that I too, have been able to make it to Paris for a while.
The printed text on my new canvas book bag reads ‘la Reine de La Jungle’ (the Queen of the Jungle) – it was either that or the other option ‘I love my basketball shoes’. Decorated in green block printed palm fronds waving at the backside of a cheetah looking into the distance, I felt it a suitable purchase from my bearded friend at the hardware store on the weekend, in preparation for the semester ahead.
And, while you may not hear me roar as I focus not to stumble but rather, to soar- just like the cheetah on my book bag, you might just (for a moment) hear me purr, in my new found bonheur.
Pictured: the most beautiful clothing store downstairs from my apartment. I stand in the window each night on my walk home and just admire the beauty of everything inside.