I knew I was off kilter when the afternoon crazy bells started sounding. Closing the garden gate I thought I had a good thirty minutes to get to the bakery and the little village store. But somehow it was already 12:10 and I was going to have to hustle to do my village errands before the shops closed at 12:30. My little brain said, “Welcome home, get back on track, slow down and hurry up.”
There are quite a few things that take some adjustment when re-entering the Old World.
There is the smell of an old house. Closed up for a month one can smell the ages. It’s a mix of a musty damp, an open chimney, and something just old. This perfume is not unique to our home. It’s a rock solid, stone house smell of Old World homecomings spanning hundreds of years.
To freshen up the air we immediately fling the windows wide open. There are no screens in the Old World. Yes, there are bugs, but they just come and go as they like. Yes, even flies. They haven’t killed us yet. We are seldom worried by mosquitoes. I couldn’t begin to explain why pollen isn’t an issue. I bet you couldn’t find a screen in a window for 100 miles around us - maybe 300 miles - and then only in windows of second homes owned by Americans.
The physical problem of reentry is the dreaded jet lag. The first morning back I managed to happily stay in bed until 11:00, well maybe closer to 11:30! It wasn’t until I walked out the gate and heard the crazy bells chiming 12:10 that I really woke up and realized that if I didn’t get a move on down the road I was going to have doors closed in my face by the little grocery and the bakery and we’d go hungry until all things opened up again at 2:30. And was today Wednesday the day the bakery is closed, or Thursday the day the grocery is closed, or one of the five extra holidays in May when everything is closed? No more was I in the land of 24-hour anything and everything.
When running around in the busy, crowded New World it is easy to forget the intimacy of living in a small village. Remember, Bourdeilles has about 400 full time residents. A walk to the grocery entails speaking to neighbors, the grocery owner and at least saying “hello” to other shoppers. There is no anonymity. On this first outing I entered the grocery just ahead of a man I had seen before but thought was someone just passing through during the winter. A sort of homeless, vagrant looking person. I noticed the owner of the grocery duck into his back room coming out with a bag of day old fruits and vegetables that he handed to the man. Boy, I thought, that’s kind of him. I also thought isn’t that encouraging bad behavior. Was this really any of my business? I have to continue this story to the next day. That is when on my way home from that morning’s errands I saw the “homeless” man walking the dog that belongs to the grocery store owner. That’s when I realized that there was an exchange happening. A kindness being done by both parties. Not something I might have been aware of in a life of anonymous hustle and bustle in the New World.
It’s funny living in the middle of nowhere. It’s discombobulating changing worlds. It’s amazing living one’s life to the rhythm of the village bells. It’s lovely slowing down and noticing a few details of small village life.