Cold, wet, early September. I get on the 9:46 train Boulogne-sur-mer to Paris, after a perfect weekend rendezvous with my sister, who has crossed the English channel to meet me before returning home to Chicago. Why here rather than London? The high cost of living. getting lost in a big city, or fanning the fantasies of a simpler life, one we have never had...
I pull the several layers I am wearing more tightly around me. The long ride ahead promises several stops, and I am hoping that as we move southward, the thermometer climbs, even if only a degree or two. I have taken a seat in what I gather is the first class car -carpeted, with plush seats like the one I sink into. Though it isn´t what I have paid for, the train in empty on the Monday after the vacation season has ended, and besides, on my way here, the railroad clerk paced up and down between cars but never asked to see our tickets. My wager is on more of the same.
From the tracks, some of the towns we stop in, or whizz eagerly past with not even a gesture in their direction, have a depressed, decaying air to them. There was one that must be a kind of ghost town à la française; others perhaps fare better, further from the railway station, which is what I wonder about when I see dilapidated buildings, one of them all boarded up and bearing a half-dismantled side reading 'Centre Social', as we pull quickly into and out of a place called Abbeville.
Yet the French countryside is lush in its summer's end exuberance, and I think of the autumn that is beginning to seep into the breezes and chills the drizzle of days, how it brushes me with its lessons of changing seasons, my life long ago in the temperate zones, the splurge, surge of colors. Yet here I am now at the halfway point on this most recent adventure, and - before the cold heart of northern winter in this hemisphere has too much of a chance to mistreat me- will return to an adopted country, engulfed in more turmoil than I had ever expected. And I won´t be able to turn around, to ask for a second chance, to go over mistaken steps or garner the extra time needed to perfect the way a tongue rolls, lips pucker, sounds join and join and separate again... A last chance, perhaps, to reinvent routes, landscapes, encounters? How thin the line that separates chance and beauty, the austerity of work, routines honed in need or belief. Tout (ne) peut (pas) changer!