solitude

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fountain at bordeau d'antony

solitude

I did it! I went out, by my self, for a whole hour.

Brilliant.

It felt weird and wonderful, walking down the street with no babies in tow, no one but little old me.

Of course, when the opportunity arose for me to go out (Elena was asleep, a bottle of expressed milk in the fridge, and Louis was napping as well!) I was feeling totally lazy and didn’t really want to go anywhere.

But one of the great things about this blog is that when I say I’m going to do something I feel I have made a commitment to do it. I feel accountable to all you people who read it – and sometimes that’s just what I need!

If I hadn’t gone out I would have regretted it, and then all week I’d be feeling desperate to have some time alone. I might still feel that way later in the week, but at least I did what I could today. I walked up our gorgeous cobbled street and had a gawk in the back of the old church there. After a few minutes I went inside. There was a man sitting in a pew about half way up, praying I presume. As I sat down, in a rear pew on the far side, he crossed himself and stood. He left then and I was by myself.

I looked around at the ancient stone pillars, all worn and uneven, the cross-arched roof, the stained glass windows (and tried to guess who the people were meant to be)…   Then I thought it would be a good time to pray. But then, mind blank. So I recited, or rather prayed, the Lord’s prayer, in my head.

I used to think that praying a pre-written prayer, especially if it was written by someone a long time ago, in a way that I would never speak, was phony; that it could not possibly be genuine because it was not candid.

But nowdays I just lap up that stuff – prayers that are like poetry and liturgies that have been used for generations. So much thought and care has gone into words that my mind/heart/soul so often want/need to say (for words are powerful) – but I can’t always find the words.

Then I thought, ‘what next?’ It felt a bit like playing a game of ‘church’. I figured a Hail Mary was probably the next line in the script. Only I don’t know it beyond, ‘Hail Mary mother of God’.

Some other people came into the church and I soon left only to realise I’d got the Sister Act version of ‘Oh Maria’ in my head.

I walked a bit more, looking for an open cafe, humming ‘Salve Regina’. (I now realise that’s the actual name of the song.)

It being a Sunday afternoon, not a single cafe was open. I bought a snack from the bakery down the main street, then went and sat in Le Parc Bordeau d’Antony. I wrote in my journal, looked around me, ate my chocolate brownie, took some photos.

Chocolate brownie for company, a fountain babbling and bus engines humming a soundtrack, a fresh breeze…

A chateau, ornate lampposts, towering trees, meandering paths… nice park.

I hadn’t worn my coat and summer is a bit of a joke here at the moment (a not so funny one). Too cold to stick around comfortably, I wandered toward home again. I pass another park on the way home, one that I hoped would be more sheltered.

More lovely meandering paths and ornate lampposts.

I walked and took photos, but never found a seat I liked the look of. I was thinking I’d work on a scene of my novel, but all the park benches seemed like perfect places for bug bites, or they were right beside a playground full of children (and I get enough of that during every park visit, every week), or they were in the blustering wind.

And then I heard the church bell toll once – half past four. It was time to head home and get ready for church.

We go most Sunday evenings and this evening the theme was reverence. This seemed rather fitting with my thoughts of earlier in the afternoon – about spontaneous, but careless, prayers, compared with the more thoughtful variety. As a teenager I liked to think of God as a good buddy. He was someone I could be honest with, someone I didn’t need to put on nice clothes for, someone who required no effort on my part.

I suppose I still believe a version of that – that God accepts us as we are, warts and whatever else, and all that. But I think there is a place – an important place – for reverence and respect, not because God has an ego he needs us to stroke, but because he is God. We are not. Reverence is merely an acknowledgement of that, if that’s what you believe.

And I do. I don’t talk about faith much on my blog. I suppose it’s very personal, but it’s also something I find it hard to talk about without feeling super self-conscious. In person, in context, with tone-of-voice and expression to aid in understanding, I don’t mind talking about it, but black and white, words on a screen, are wide open to be misunderstood. And so I’m going to save this draft and check it over tomorrow.

I am trying to write the central character of my novel in a spiritually honest way –  she thinks about spiritual things, acknowledges and struggles with her beliefs and the way they fit, or don’t, with her life and experience.

It’s been a goal of mine for a while – to write a ‘spiritually honest character’, I wrote in a list at the start of the year. Easier said than done. The character is not much like me and so I can’t just put my thoughts/feelings into her internal monologue. I have to use my imagination, and yet stay real – believable, honest.

Picasso said “Art is the lie that tells the truth,” and I’d say that is the goal of good fiction. The story isn’t ‘real’, in that the characters, setting, events, etc. are all made up. But the story says something about human nature, human experience, our struggles and hopes and fears and all.

I managed to write both days this weekend – a rarity! – so here’s hoping for a good monday to top it off. I have a teething toddler who might be hoping for something else. The sun is out (it’s now Monday morning and I’ve done my editing) so perhaps a walk to the park, the bakery… a little vitamin D, a little baguette, a little fresh air. Sounds good to me.