March 13 2013
Yesterday was one of those days that interrupts the idyll. Funny how it almost brings a sense of relief for, as we know, crap must eventually encroach on the good times. As a result, a prolonged stretch of happiness ultimately must cease and perversely one almost invites its demise rather than waiting for it to come of its own accord. Control freaks, every one of us.
I liken it to a long volley in a game of ping-pong: at first you’re just happy to return serve, then you go into a stretch of ecstasy as the ball continues it’s uninterrupted journey over the net and for a moment you’re lost in the rhythm of it and then you remember it’s a win/lose game and the tension mounts and you can’t stand it and bingo…you drive the ball into the net and the tensions ends. Thank God, you mutter, only to immediately feel the despondency of being closer to defeat.
So that was yesterday. It started out sunny and warm and we decided to drive to Sault where, nearly 2 years ago, we had enjoyed a lovely lunch during lavender season, Sault being known for its panoramic view of a multitude of lavender fields. The town is also known for having the best artisanal nougat in Provence; that honeyed taffy confection studded with almonds. And wasn’t the drive itself a nougat metaphor, the day soft and sweet the journey up the gorge randomly punctuated with blossoming almond trees?
Sticking with metaphor, you could say that while geographically Sault was the peak of the day, the actual arrival was anti-climactic. The town, which in summer had been bustling with energy and outdoor dining, was now half-shuttered. The lunch we had looked forward to was nowhere to be found and the nougat shop had one of the sourest of salespeople we have yet encountered, a sourness made all the more ironic for being surrounded by so much sweetness.
And the day went downhill from there…literally and figuratively. Whereas the drive up had been sunny and invigorating, now the sky was a grimace of cloud through which a harsh glare did nothing to enhance the landscape. Suddenly spring seemed to have turned and fled leaving behind the detritus of winter; the tiredness of trees and fields devoid of color, the all of it resembling a threadbare tapestry beyond repair. Hungry and dispirited we drove in almost sullen silence, having decided we’d lunch in Apt before heading home.
By the time we got there the sun was doing its best to breakthrough the pall and we thought we might have a bite in one of outdoor cafes on the square which, on market days, always seem filled with sunlight and laughter. But no; the sun declined and the wind was up. So we returned to a little restaurant on a back street that had looked promising. But it, like the day, started out well and gradually disappointed. The first course, bright and tasty, gave way to a bowl of ingredients in various shades of brown, a culinary feat that inspired a dessert in the same hues. Oh, well, we thought, at least let’s accomplish something and stop at the Post Office and pick up the 3 boxes of Provence books that were awaiting us there.
It was at this moment, as if to ward off any possible hope for a rebound, that we embarked on one of the most maddening and ridiculous arguments we’ve had in a very long time, consisting of a volley of accusation and denial that would have sat well on any stage performing a gender-defining play, possibly with the words ‘Venus’ and ‘Mars’ in the title. As it was, we enacted our drama within the confines of the parked car so that, while we had definitely regressed to a point we both thought we had long ago passed, there was some small comfort to be had in at least having the wisdom to not be engaged in battle while speeding along a four-lane highway. Although I’m sure to any passerby the car could be seen to be dangerously rocking from side to side. And by golly, neither of us was going to let the ball drop, let alone smash it deliberately into the net. I’ll give my husband credit he’s got a great backhand. Then again, I can put a wicked spin on that ball.
I don’t remember which of us called ‘time-out’ but we eventually got the car back in gear and made it to the Post Office where I sat glumly in the parking lot for 20 minutes while Joel did his best to retrieve the packages, to no avail. We would later learn we had gone to the wrong door. Who knew? And who, on a day like that, was going to tell? Still, maybe it was a blessing as when we finally got them today we found many of them had been damaged due to improper packing; something that would have brought us to our knees yesterday.
As it was, Joel had a headache and I a sore throat. And as we tried to unravel the knot of the argument and our heightened responses it occurred to me how infantile we humans are in many regards, no matter our years. In a strong relationship like ours, most of the time it’s possible, if not always easy, to be there for each other when one or the other is in need of comfort. When both are in need of comfort at the same time the relationship becomes rudderless and even in a ridiculously small event like yesterday’s bleakness the sense of aloneness can be frightening and rather than accept that in fact we are, all of us, actually always in this alone, we create an ulterior situation which allows us to lay blame. For where there is blame, there is hope.
Now, 24 hours later, we sit by the fire working side by side, stopping once in a while for a cup of tea or to bring in firewood. The score: love-all.