Tuesday, October 5, 2010

La fille au verre d'eau

It's a common writer's plague to not know what to say in your first line, and since that's exactly what I'm thinking right now, I decided to be frank and just say it. There you have it. I'm in a meditative mood, so I'll let it take its course and write what comes to mind.

I went running this afternoon in a light drizzle and thought quite a bit. Running is an easy way for me to let my mind wander, because I'll be the first one to admit that I have a difficult time staying in the "present" moment. I say "present" because time is a funny thing, and the way we humans perceive it has a funny way of sneaking up on us. I often preoccupy myself with the future, but running let's me get away from that, and so I ended up running 8, rather than my planned, 5 miles. But as the French say, c'est pas grave. All I can think though is how can you not want to wander the earth for a while when there's a sweet fog rolling over the countryside and a blanket of gray over Paris with the silhouette of the Eiffel Tower beckoning you?

I had another "Lindsay" moment, which involved me running outside the walls of Le Terrasse Andre Le Notre looking east at Paris while listening to Taio Cruz's "Dynamite" and moving at a (YES!) easy 8 min/mile pace, and it got me thinking about how the one thing I truly fear is uncertainty. It's one of the reasons I decided to do this in the first place: I was uncertain I'd find somewhere to live, I was uncertain I'd even like this country, I was uncertain I'd like life post-college, and I'm still uncertain about what may come. I have to learn to live with uncertainty, and I figured this is one of the best ways to do it.

Uncertainty is difficult for me because I'm trained academically to find patterns and see plots and themes and motifs, to interpret and make certain what is not certain, and if I may say so, I'm pretty good at it. It's simply the way my mind words. I draw connections where others may not perceive them, I think I can see denouements down the road, I look for repetition. The problem is that I like to apply these academic skills to my own life's uncertainties, to "novelize" my own life, to find a way to may coherent sense of it all. Naturally, a certain French author named Proust agrees with me that the only way we can truly comprehend our lives and ourselves is to produce a work of art, to aestheticize ourselves even if that demands that we sacrifice everything else to that aestheticization. He certainly did. I don't know yet that I agree with that, because I don't feel an intense desire to aestheticize the world around me in the way Proust did. I enjoy the nitty gritty, and I'm not afraid of it. However, I can't help but think that if I were to sit down and have a conversation with him about making life coherent, we would agree that novelization is a formidable tactic. And I'm a mere 20 minutes west of the city of Hemingway, of Fitzgerald, of the art of artists and masterpieces of masters.

I was also thinking about the movie Amelie. I adore that film, and it was my summer prelude to France. Yet no matter where I go, what country I may live in, what language I may speak...I can't help but identify with "la fille au verre d'eau."
In this scene, the ever painfully introverted Amelie explains to her neighbor, M. Dufayel, who is in the middle of painting his umpteenth replica of Renoir's "Le Dejeuner des Canotiers," and cannot quite make out the expression of the "girl with the glass of water", that perhaps she is merely different from the others. M. Dufayel remarks that she is "at the center," and yet she is "outside."

I have no intention of being melodramatic here, but am intrigued by how perfectly I feel, at times, that expression fits me. Our self perceptions are some of the most difficult we have to encounter, in my opinion, as humans, and this "perception" struck a chord with me. Perhaps, like me, the "fille au verre d'eau" is uncertain, and is struggling to deal with the uncertainty of what will come after her lunch, after the day is over, after the sun dawns on the next day. Or, maybe, she is observing her surroundings, recording memories in her mind for the day when she will need to recall them, or want to recall them at will. This is certainly me. It was brought to my attention recently that I have an eerily intense ability to remember things in great detail, which I had never known--I thought that everyone had the same capacity for memory. (Don't even get me start on what Proust has to say about memory). Nonetheless, I'll take my capacity for memory as a sign of my capacity for observation, and much like the "fille," I'll take in what surrounds me.

This is why, if you'd like to know, I'm not much of a picture taker. I prefer to keep things as I see them in memory: untarnished, impeccable, beautiful. I promise I'll let go of my introspective observation enough this year to make use of modern technology, but in all honesty, I've always preferred my memory.

And so I write this, in honor of the memory of the day, in honor of uncertainty, for all those who have ever felt so "centered" and yet so "outside," spliced between two halves, and above all, for all the "filles au verre d'eau" in the world, patiently sipping and watching the world pass by.


  1. Beautiful Lindsay, simply.

    I read this the other day; I share.

    "You are in the middle of a river, facing downstream. The future approaches you from behind...only to recede into the past. If you could look far enough downstream you would see the beginning of the stream and, in essence, everything."

    I need to catch up on your other posts, I love reading them

  2. I have trouble with my first sentences too...