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A Weekend in Paris

If we rush through life, we’re likely to miss the sweet moments that offer the only real thing we are here to experience: joy.  Ellen Yeoman

Every step I take in the light is mine forever.  Vivekananda

“We have all the time we need!”  I say it in yoga, session after session, and I feel it in a genuine full-bodied way as we lie on our backs, knees bent, feet planted in the ground, legs swaying side to side.  We have all the time we need, no reason to rush through the poses, to leap ahead to something that isn’t even present in this present moment.  I say it and I believe it and yet there are times that my days are so packed that I can’t imagine how I’m going to fit it all in and I often don’t and it never really matters anyway.  And perhaps it takes a weekend away, say a weekend in Paris, to remind a gal that what is true on the yoga mat is also true while living and breathing and moving through the moments and hours and days and years of a lifetime or two lifetimes  or three lifetimes or more.  “We have all the time we need!”

“It’s not long enough!” some of our friends exclaimed when we told them about this getaway to Paris that my husband and I had planned for the last weekend in February.  But it never seemed that way to us, this four-day jaunt across the Atlantic.  And perhaps that is one of the mind games that we humans can play to create a spacious life.  Cam and I  knew, for some reason, just knew that we were going to have all the time we needed.  We expected the two and a half days in the City of Lights  to open up for us.  And they did!  And frankly, even with this expectation, I was amazed at how they did.

Our initial flight this past Wednesday was set back a few hours, our connections messed up, and we didn’t even arrive in the center of Paris until the early evening on Thursday, and, yet, those hours on Thursday evening stretched out wide and slowed us down and glimmered with light and somehow we fit it all in, the list of things that we didn’t even know we had compiled.  We strolled along the banks of the Seine as the sun sunk down and the city lights sprung to life.  We stepped through the massive entry into the Cathedral Notre Dame and hushed our voices and felt the centuries slip away.  We wandered through the medieval cobblestone streets of the Ile St-Louis, gazed into the windows of the gray-stone shops, oohed and ahhed at display after display of candies and pastries and stuffed animals and puppets and hats and sweaters and scarves and shoes, each one, a magnificent work of art.  And, after a dinner on the Isle, we bought a lock from a young man on the bridge, wrote our names, “Helen and Cam”, in blue marker on the lock’s gleaming surface, clasped it shut onto the chain of millions of clasped locks woven through the bridge’s metal sides, tossed the keys into the gleaming nighttime river and kissed just as the young man instructed.  It was wonderful, this kiss on the bridge, this evening in Paris.  And the next day, there was more, the miles and miles of walking, slow and easy at times, brisk and spring-like at other times, a morning exploring the Marais, a noon-time meal at a cafe, another jaunt along the River Seine and through the grounds of the Louvre, winding and weaving and making our way over the river on Pont Alexander III to my favorite spot of all, the one that I’ve known my whole life, the Eiffle Tower.

And you might say, “Well, of course the time is going to open up for you in a place as magnificent as Paris!  Of course, life is going to be magnificent in this City of Magnificence!”  And I would say back to you that it wasn’t all magnificent, that there were moments of minor horror.  There was the moment, a shared moment for my guy and I, at the little restaurant of crepes, a place we thought we had remembered from our first visit to Paris seven years ago, that moment when we, hungry after a day of travel, bit into our buckwheat crepes that looked so good on the outside, only to discover that wrapped on the inside of each was an almost raw and very slimy egg and a layer of creamy canned-seeming spinach, and, in Cam’s case, a long skinny hot dog that was totally unexpected.  Do we still  have all the time we need when our food choices miss the mark?  When our life choices miss the mark?  Can we remind ourselves that there is another cafe, another bistro, another meal, another chance to get it right?  On this trip or the next or the next?  And, can we allow those moments when we don’t think that we’ve gotten it right, can we allow them to be perfect just as they are?  Can it become a highlight of a trip to laugh at the meals that disappoint?  At the moments that aren’t up to our feel-good standard?  Why not?!?  And can we bring this reminder home with us in the bags we’ve packed with the goodies of Paris?

And what about the two full days of getting there and getting back home again?   When a guy and a gal commit to a weekend trip abroad with the expectation that they are going to have all the time that they need, then the hours, the many many hours spent in airport lounges and in the airwaves better be a positive part of this experience.  We’re good travel companions, my guy and I.  We know how to charge through airports when charging is required, how to be silly when over-tiredness is begging for a deep full-bodied laugh, how to haul out the chocolate when a jolt of endorphins is the ticket to happiness.  We know how to play together and how to give each other space.  And all of these things came in handy during our weekend adventure.   And so did the sky lounges on either side of the trip.  Dare I say that two of our best meals were at European airport sky lounges, that the adventure of watching the Olympics from a European perspective in the lounges was a thrill?  Dare I say that it was fun, this time in airports and in the air, that we watched a movie together as we sailed through the sky toward home, that we got downright stupid in our silliness, that it’s with us now a day later, all the richness of this trip?

I do dare to say it, that we can we can tell ourselves that we have all the time we need, that our moments can open up, full-bodied and spacious and fun, that we can be gentle with ourselves, relax our shoulders and soften our to-do lists, that we can allow our days, the ones spent at home and the ones spent traveling to faraway lands, to unfold in ways that surprise and delight us.

Our first selfie:  Cam and Helen at Eiffel Tower: Paris, February 21, 2014

Our first selfie: Cam and Helen at Eiffel Tower: Paris, February 21, 2014

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