Saturday I wanted to get in another walk in my neighborhood before starting dinner, which is hard for me to find the energy to do right now. There was my ever present heaviness of heart that just is a part of me now; that this city girl needed to be alone with.
Sometimes one of the pluses of living in a huge city is the anonymity I can have walking alone in the crowds. When you are depressed or grieving, the city can offer the feeling of being invisible.
It is a different type of self imposed solitude surrounded by people, who are oblivious to you. Like being in a bubble that no one sees.
I am not trying to glorify solitude, but only to give it validity as sometimes being a welcome thing from time to time.
Human beings are not social robots programmed to be always connected by talking or socializing, especially us introverts. Even more so if grieving or going through depression.
Even the extroverts admit to needing that aloneness from time to time, though they don’t need it as much as introverts.
Creating your own space is necessary for acknowledging your own selfhood. We need it also to decipher and interpret our feelings and to give them validity.
Yes, I love and cherish being with my friends too, and treasure being a therapist where I am privileged to help those who suffer. Life requires a balance of both of solitude and togetherness.
I want to share how this small town Louisiana girl learned she really prefers the big city. The “normal” apartment woes of my first years here lead to my little adventure of being an experimental country girl , which did not turn out at all as expected!
I started to feel a strong craving for the countryside, the rolling hills and ever green pastures of quiet, where the sun would shine more often than not and it wouldn’t be so gray and cold in the long winters.
Besides the weather, those desires were mostly fueled by some of the folks in my apartment building where I was renting. Though the location was ideal next to Jardin Des Plantes, some of my fellow occupants weren’t.
The house of the mean and insane, mind you, might have been a better term. First, there was the concierge out of hell, who took pleasure in jabbing me and others with verbal attacks.
My immediate “neighbors” definitely were mentally ill, and although I had much compassion for them, their lack of hygiene really posed a problem to me quite often, with odors you would not want to smell upon leaving or exiting your door.
Worse was the daughter acting out her anger and paranoia, by trying to set fire in the hallway, fortunately quickly extinguished, that left a blacked wall nevertheless.
Then there was the angry face lady who gathered up some twigs in a plastic bag to leave of my door knob with a nasty note, because some had fallen from my plants hanging two floors up in the dirt garden below.
The worse was a real crazy mean one who knocked on my door and proceeded to enter and throw strikes at me, because of my doggie had disturbed her briefly with barks. My landlord confided she had tried to push him down the stairs as well.
Fortunately, she was eventually asked to leave the building forever, and they outed the snarling concierge as well, much to my relief!
After dealing with all of the above I started dreaming of living in the country. I was longing to be in open nature without a another neighbor in sight.
I wanted to have a real garden again, instead of hanging multiple pots out of the windows and I dreamed of offering a real backyard to my beloved little dachshund, to run around and sniff to his heart’s delight.
I even went to far as visiting several houses for sale in several parts of France, along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coast.
Two of them were in very isolated locations, one in the Vendee and the other in the Gers department in southwestern France .
The one in the Gers, famous for foie gras, was a magnificent very old former convent sitting next to a pretty church and in the back there was a huge vineyard laden with purple tannat grapes.
The mouldings and interior was really exquisite, but the big drawback was it also overlooked the church cemetery! After all it was an ancient convent!
I visited several houses in the south of France on the Côte d’Azur, some set on hills and some in
small enclaves. All I can say is thank God I didn’t buy any of them!
A few months later my daughter accepted a job in a famous psychiatric clinic overlooking Lac Léman in Nyon Switzerland, which is near the French border.
With neither one of us being able to live apart from our beloved doggie, this was a perfect opportunity to go live in a small village and experience country living before investing in a house.
Preferring to live in the French side, we ended up in a
very small village with gorgeous scenery nestled between the snow capped high peaks of the French alps with Mont Blanc in view and the forested green mountains of the Jura near Geneva.
Our rented house had a literal garden of Eden surrounding us. There were several varieties of apple, pear, plum and fig trees, and even Kiwis that I did not discover till they popped out after the first autumn frost!
I loved picking the fresh berries the most, as the plump red raspberries and red currents were just superb! Grape vines produced sweet purple grapes and there was some wild strawberries or fraise de bois too, along with a huge rosemary bush and mountains of sage.
The big terrace was delightful for eating meals overlooking the flowers and trees, except during heavy snowfall, which happened often in the winter.
Snow skiing and cross country trails were 20 minutes away by car. Rackets or snowshoes were fun to hike around in the heavy snow.
In back of my garden, was the beautiful old rectangular fountains constantly spouting water that dotted the countryside. The water was classified good enough to drink, and in the past it also served as a “lavoir” or washing basin.
I liked the sign above one of them, reminding that it was against the law to wash before 8am and after 5pm.
Throughout the days I heard the tinkling bells from the many cows at pasture across the street and the a rustling cascading stream of water that grew huge in the spring from the melting snow running off the mountain that fed all those fountains in the village.
Twice a day, traffic on the tiny village roads was stopped to allow the cows to head to their milking shed. It was an adorable sight that I hope never disappears!
I enjoyed the melodic church bells announcing the hours each day and night, and the village cock that crowed religiously around 5 each morning.
I use to walk regularly up a very steep mountain road from the village pass those cows and beautiful scenery below, chanting Hail Marys as I walked as in a trance.
At least there was a church and one post office, and it was France with wonderful food marchés and many scenic paths up the Alps and snow slopes to frolic in. Geneva and Lac Léman was 15 minutes away by car.
In many ways it was paradisiacal and idyllic, but despite all the pastoral beauty, I was starting to miss Paris and seeing my patients! You had to drive everywhere for anything!
Then an opportunity came along for my daughter to work in an American military hospital in Germany, that paid twice as much.
Moving to a very small village in rural south-western Germany was a cultural shock in many ways. Many more cows and orchards of mirabelle trees, but little else, not even a post office, zilch.
In comparison to the quaint pretty flower draped French villages, it was drab and lackluster.
Although I did not speak any German, the Germans were friendly and kind, except one neighbor who ran out to scold me of my incorrect snow shoveling of the sidewalk, which one had to do after every snowfall.
There was steep road behind our house, which made for good cardio again, with a surprisingly good farm restaurant at the top for wiener schnitzel and egg spâtzle.
Dead silence day and night, except a slight dim drone of an off distance highway, and some welcome church bells .
Weekends were spent going to the border of France 40 minute away to buy the beautiful cheeses and wines and fresh seafood that I had grown accustomed to Paris.
The monotony of the hills, though pretty was often covered in snow from autumn to late spring. The days were long and boring, being unable to get out beyond the country during the week.
Before long I became very depressed and started craving the Paris I had left behind. I missed all the fabulous cultural events and activities.
I missed the noisy hustle and bustle and that indescribable Parisian energy that excites my sense. Even Paris had more sunshine and warmer temperatures than these rollings hills.
I missed the advantages of Paris being the crossroads of Europe for easy travel back to the states and other european countries.
I then devoted my time scouring the Paris real estate market online. I desperately wanted to come back to my beloved city of light!
Even though I had all the space I needed in the houses we lived in and certainly the beautiful nature that surrounded me, I wanted to return to the magic of Paris, crowds and all.
I knew very well that I would be coming back to living in small apartment again, but that never really bothered me that much.
You might have a huge castle or château in the forest, but that does not make up for the advantages in living in the city, at least not for me!
Instead I looked to buying an apartment that would at least afford me to garden, albeit one “suspendue” several floors above the rooftops, so a balcony or terrace was a necessity.
It had to have a garage as well for the car bought out of necessity during our country living spree. Plus I wanted an open unobstructed view that was pleasant to my eyes, and near a park.
Well, it all fell into place and that constitutes another story worth telling in another post.
I have learned that I need more than just beautiful snow-capped mountains or flowered hills to gaze upon. Maybe a close up sea view would be different because of the empowering energy.
Living in the city affords me of all the activities I could think of doing and many that I would not have imagine and I love that!
Throughout the year, there is a true kaleidoscope of pleasures here in Paris for free. Walking her streets is an ever changing event with different people, different store fronts, but the majority of the city remains in its historical splendid beauty that Paris is famous for.
I live in the “green” arrondissement because of the prevalence of green spaces throughout, which I like. It is not as touristy when I lived in the fifth, but just as animated and bustling with all that I need nearby.
Because I live on a huge avenue the constant noise of traffic does pose a problem, but I can shut it out by closing my glass doors to the balcony.
I like waking up to the flowing clouds and flying birds and seeing far off airliners start to circle northwards for their descent towards CDG airport north of the city.
My balcony garden always in view through the floor to ceiling glass walls is adequate enough and filled with various fruits, herbs and loads of flowers with the rooftops of Paris in the background.
I love being able to walk everywhere again just for the fun of it and see so much beauty and history on practically every street.
Its great and very convenient to have outdoor markets, several grocery stores, the best bakers, pharmacies, restaurants, church and every store you can think of within short walking distance.
Not having to depend on a car is perfect way to guarantee you’ll keep those joints moving and mobile, and as you get older that is essential. The car is only for driving out for occasional weekend adventures and road trips.
The countryside and villages are beautiful and yes they offer a needed respite from the noise and pollution, but I can no longer see my myself wanting to live there again.
Better to rent a gite(small house) from time to time, than be permanent placed in the hills. I am glad I was able to experience country living on a temporary basis, that allowed me to learn what I really prefer and value the most and don’t.
We are all different, so being a country mouse versus a city mouse depends where we are in life and our personal preferences. Both are wonderful for different reasons and periods of time.