In the village just up the road, Julie has a very close friend whom is suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease. Lou Gehrig’s is a debilitating neuromuscular disease in which the muscles in one’s body literally stop working, due to lack of oxygen, nutrition, and a breakdown of the muscular neurons which in turn does not allow proper nerve flow. While a person is in a state of paralyzation due to their motor neurons malfunctioning, they can often still taste, see, feel, and hear. Julie’s friend, Denny, has a complete loss of motor function and has no ability to speak, however his sensory neurons and much of his brain are still active. Nearly everyday, rather than go to apres ski in Chamonix and boogie on the tops of tables, Julie goes to visit him and just be with him, she puts her hand on his arm so he can feel her warmth, she brings him beautiful bouquets of flowers to see and smell, and she recited poetry and sings songs to him that come bubbling out of the wellsprings of her heart. Julie mentioned to me the other evening how it is so powerful when we learn that being with another person, is so much more than all the confused, over-stimulating conversation and activity that we often turn it into, and often times it’s simply the experience of being in one another’s presence.
Much to everyone’s relief and glee (at least, I can only assume that’s what they were feeling considering the parties, fireworks, and dancing), I spoke very little today. I woke up to a chatterbox of my new 8-year old friend, Stassa, who was getting ready to depart from our humble chalet. I listened to her wild stories and “As the World Turns” soap opera dramas as I made her some pancakes for breakfast. I may as well have sent my ears along with her back to Barcelona, because she pretty much talked them off. She would also appreciate that mine are pierced multiple times and perhaps could use them on her own head, since her dad will not let her get hers pierced until she is 12 (tough world)!
After Stassa and her dad left, another unique sound wave echoed through the rooms of the house. Unlike the terror-inflicting boom of the avalanche gun from the day prior, this one was a sound of peace…
And a simultaneous sigh which came from Tom, Julie, and myself.
I got into cleaning mode, an activity which talking is not really appropriate when you’re doing it by yourself. Unless of course you begin singing praises to a bottle of Windex, which is not exactly socially acceptable. I brought Julie’s laundry to the caretaker’s wife, whose expression tells me she does not appreciate my attempt at hair-braiding and cutesy smiles, saying “For Julie,” was saying more than enough. I can not really remember saying more than two short squawks all morning, partly as much of it was consumed with a two-hour nap. Then I walked to town and found most places to be closed, except for the UMarche. I just translated for the first time, the name of this store in my head yesterday –YOU EAT –which is a GREAT name for any grocery store, I wish we were as clever in the U.S.A….but instead we come up with names like “Giant Eagle”, “Piggly Wiggly”, “Shaws” and “Hannaford’s”. What does a big bird or a some dead guy’s last name have to do with my grocery cart!?
At the grocery store, I had a huge list of things to buy, which meant a huge bag of things to carry home. A bicep workout I was willing to accept. I went through the store without saying a word except “Pardon” when I stepped on some person’s toes while trying to reach the last box of pig liver donuts on the top shelf, and “Lay off my Eggo” while ravaging the chicken coop for some of their freshly laids. The checkout line was moving at a very fast pace, which made me even more speechlessly frantic than I already was. Then I booked it out of the store and began carrying my heavy burden back to the house to unload it all.
The snow from the days prior had settled and wispy, foggy clouds were settling over the tops of the peaks. There were also muddy patches all over the sides of the mountains where avalanches had come down. The whole view was surreal, and every direction I turned was another ecstatic piece of eye candy. My camera was even speechless. As in, the batteries died after the first 200 photos that I took.
While walking back, I also noticed people’s facial expressions as their method of communication. The way that a father pulling his two children in a sled up a hill grimaces a little, but is enjoying it thoroughly as he labors in love for the sheer purpose of their thrill. The way people’s eyebrows raise when I walk by them wearing turquoise leggings, red boots with orange fur, and a my bright pink 80’s ski jacket…what? They’re all the rage in the States, ask Fergie! (I don’t honestly know how to spell “Fergie”, and I am proud of that fact, so if I spelled it wrong, thus it remains.) The way an older woman’s eyes warn you of where she is going to walk on the sidewalk, so you know that she will be the one walking on the pavement part, while you get to trudge through the slushy side. And the partial smile which breaks out onto someone’s face when a dog presumptuously drops it’s business next to a group waiting for the bus, much to it’s owners embarrassment and dismay.
A wordless bus ride, an invigoratingly silent walk through the city of Chamonix as the red sky melted into my blood veins along with the sunsetting over the mountains, the secret elation of purchasing a new hat (even though I am surprised I ended up in a hat shop and not a pet store with my battering of the French language), ending the day with a quiet and comforting meal with Julie and the professor, and an attempted video chat that turned into my fingers whispering across the keyboard to talk instead, as I think I broke my camera by looking into it. Altogether a day of luxurious silence in all the right places (minus the video chatting dilemma).
Sometimes the most important things in life, we are able to say, hear, explain, and feel without even using our Mariah Carey singing voices. The deepest and most life-changing connections can be made by saying nothing at all. I can honestly say (since I am trying to balance out yesterday by being my usual overly-talkative self) that being in France right now, my mind is the most uncluttered it has been in as long as I can possibly remember…and I can remember being three years old. I have things that I worry about –like if Kate Middleton and the Willie are going to make it, whether or not I can find organic tofu, and working on keeping my abs toned while still enjoying Le Fondue. All these serious issues aside, it is really nice to be in a space of mental cleanliness for awhile. To me, it feels like that space I find myself when taking one of my epic 2-hour afternoon naps. That state of half-awakedness where I am sure that there are the most brilliant dreams awaiting you on the other side. If I just sink into that next breathe and let myself drift off. Or maybe I need to lay off the roofies (the guy at the pharmacy said it would cure a stomachache!)
Now, if only the oven timer had been a little bit more vocal, I think I smell a burning pumpkin squash!!!
More than words,
~ Emily ~