Instead, each post seems merely to recount, to offer a catalogue or litany of sights seen, foods eaten, roads pedalled.
I'd also hoped to sketch each day, although I brought only my tiny travel case of paints, watercolours in small hard pans, and a very modest assortment of brushes, a 5x7 Moleskine sketchbook. The Moleskine's thirsty, lusciously textured pages are still nearly empty, though, and I'm glad I left behind the other supplies I'd considered bringing. I couldn't bear the reproach...
Nor are we accomplishing some of the smaller travel goals we'd entertained for this trip. We'd talked about making at least one swoop, by train, to another city where we would probably stay for a night or two. Bilbao was top of the list, but we'd also tossed around the idea of Lyon or Tour, or, closer to home, Arcachon or St. Emilion. A bit impatient with our tardy planning, we phoned and emailed a few places last week, hoping to bike to somewhere 50-70 kilometres away, stay overnight so that we could bike the area a bit, then pedal back again, no day too onerous, but still a satisfying trek overall. Too late. Dommage. Everyone was booked, not surprising considering the excitement of the vendanges right now, in the middle of wine country as we are.
I'm inclined to be rather annoyed with us about this failure, the failure to act, much earlier, to turn an idea into a plan, and bring the plan to fruition. Actually, to be honest, I'd prefer to be completely annoyed with him because, you know, deflecting blame, if immature, can sometimes be temporarily satisfying,...
And I must thank my husband for his stabilizing wisdom here. It's mostly he who finds and points out the compensatory "however"....
However, as that wise man points out, this trip was not meant to be work. It's good to plan and to have goals, but these 7 weeks away from home were meant to launch my retirement, to ease my way into a time of our life that will increasingly be spent together. I'm still working out the balance between my introvert self's desire for time completely alone, preferably in a space of my own, and my very good fortune in having a compatible and accommodating partner. The last few days have seen me a bit fretful, anxious, sometimes even melancholy, evaluating how we've used this time, as we prepare to leave for Rome next week. There, I'll have even less solitude, happily trading it for days with babies and their moms and dads.
Part of me will probably continue to pine for those quiet mornings in a sunny room just off a charming cobbled street that people walk along with their baguettes. In the imaginary mornings I pine for, I'll complete entire drafts of essays, chapters of a memoir, a thought-piece post on travel in "the third age." Finishing my morning's writing, I'll run or cycle or take a yoga class, with or without my wise husband. After a nap or some reading time, there'll be time for sketching, either at home or at some nearby picturesque site. Of course, I'll also have my good camera with me as well in this alternate fantasy trip, so instead of sketching, perhaps a photographer's stroll before dinner. (I left my Nikon DSLR behind this visit, in deference to our carry-on-only policy, and I've only missed it once or twice. But then really missed it, those times.)
In the real world, here at the breakfast table we are so fortunate to sit at in Bordeaux, my pining and slight melancholia have launched a long conversation with the one who knows me so very well. He listens to me swerve wildly from frustration over not writing enough to - quelle surprise! - existential angst and a dissertation on the banality of this nevertheless often glorious pathway of life. Not only listens, he even nods occasionally, and, finally, admits that he's felt some of the edginess himself lately. And he relates completely to my concern about making the most of these next/last decades, having had a head start on retirement, his own having begun five years ago.
And while I'm not completely reconciled (because really, who could one ever be? It's a jolly old frustrating puzzle this life-old age-death continuum, no?), I swallow the last of my tea feeling much better about our travel-planning. I'd almost forgotten that one of the unspoken but understood goals of these long periods away together is the insistent daily contact with very few distractions. Walking together for so many kilometres, conversation evolves organically, and there is time to process without impatience. There's time, also, for the restlessness to arise, for grievances to be remembered and either aired and worked through or examined quietly and relinquished.
There's time to catch up with each other, to extend what Lisa says in a recent post. Time to work out those little knots and to remember why kindness is important. Time to think about what routines might be changed back home and which ones we can't wait to get back to. Time to wonder why we didn't plan as well as we might have and to decide how, if we want to, to improve that for our next trip.
And, funnily enough, as I realize how important the "wasted" time is to a regenerated coupledom, I see that I have something I want to write about. And my guy tells me that if I'm really serious about wanting to write, I need to start doing it instead of making excuses (yes! Even if he's the excuse!). Three hours a day, he suggests. Would that be so hard? We'll see. Big commitments and declarations are not only somewhat frightening, but I'm not sure they're wise in the uncharted territory of retirement.
But here are a few hours for today, for what they're worth. And I finished a watercolour as well. Perhaps I'll show you that next post. . .
I'm thinking I might try to get together a longer post once a week until the end of our trip, and keep my other posts mainly photo-based. We'll see how it goes, but I hope that might suit. Meanwhile, your comments are very welcome. Do you have a tough time with transitions as well? And/or do you bump into conflicted feelings even on a trip you're enjoying? Do you find it tough to balance your goals and needs and schedule with those of others? Do you ever want to smack yourself for feeling melancholic and fretful in the midst of such crazy good fortune? (No? Just me, then...) Oh, all kinds of questions I could ask you, connected to this post, but I think I'll just wait to see what you have to say. . .