I confess. There have been times in the last week that I’ve craved life in the slow lane.
This morning, after breakfast with my host family, after two hours planning a seminar, after lunch with my students, after a seminar in the park and after a visit to Aix’s cathedral, I arrived there. By myself. In a lovely square off Rue Gaston de Saporta next to Aix-en-Provence’s Tapestry Museum. For about 20 minutes, I just sat, sipping a fresh-squeezed lemonade and trying to make sense of the French conversation at the next table. Then, as the late afternoon light danced through the windblown shadows, I took in the old buildings around me, the heavy dark wooden doors, the flower pots in windows. And I began to take pictures, something I haven’t had much time to concentrate on during this visit.
I’m strictly an amateur, mind you. But I’ve begun to find that when I look at the world around me in search of a good photo, I notice things I’ve missed and, in general, slow down as I scan what’s before me. It’s a discovery I hope to play with in retirement soon, something new to work on along with the damnably difficult task of gaining some traction in the French language.
After awhile, I paid and walked down the cobblestone streets of Saporta until I reached the Place de l’Hotel de Ville with its clocktower and ornate statue atop the post office. And then, as I came around the next corner to Place Richelme I heard the harmonies of a group of young men, on guitars and violin, making music in the afternoon for themselves as much as for an appreciative crowd. (This was not a please-put-money-in-my-hat crowd). A little girl listened, eating a big ice cream cone. There was laughter. No one was in a hurry.
Once again, I had returned to the Aix I knew and loved, one in which it’s possible to suspend time in the midst of the bustling tourist season and simply enjoy the moment.