Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Life on Pause

Le Moulin à Barbâtre, à la nuit tombante

I apologize once again for my unexplained absence, but this time around, I do have a good excuse: I was on vacation, and I simply didn't manage to squeeze in a moment to explain that directly here on my blog before departing. Although I figured the message was pretty clear with my previous "Vacation Reading" post... (Read between the lines?)

I left for Noirmoutier, an island off the Atlantic Coast of France, in the Vendée region, three weeks ago today. I actually returned to the office on Monday, but I've been digging my way through personal and professional e-mails, as well as countless blog postings on my Bloglines account -- I sincerely doubt I will ever catch up with all of those! -- since fumbling into the office a bit dazed and still stuck in my vacation haze. Blogging friends, please forgive my dilatory attitude... Three weeks away will certainly transform your approach to things, make it all seem less important, less urgent and perhaps near-unnecessary. My brother even sent me a few reproachful messages, wondering when I was ever going to return to my regular ol' daily existence and resume the grind that we are all used to plugging through year-round. (He lives in America, after all, and isn't used to any extended absences from the office -- I honestly don't know what I would do without these breaks from time to time at this point in my life.) I had told him about my blog months ago, though, and strangely enough he hadn't popped in to visit for a while, so he could hardly scold me!

I plan on resuming my "regular" blogging habits from here on out, although you could hardly call me the most consistent blogger -- I'm well aware of that. But I've made progress from time to time; it just has yet to become consistent progress.

All that time away, of course, was calming and relaxing -- I can't remember the last time I turned off my "thought process", my anxiety-ridden brain, for such an extended period -- and I obviously didn't have access to a computer or to an Internet connection. At first I wondered if this would bother me, but then I realized that I had always survived just fine without it before, and that in fact before the early 21st century, I was far from a fan of anything computer-related. It took me at least a few years to get the knack of things and to even acquire any fair interest in the virtual world. There are still a lot of things out there that baffle me, and how I wish I could improve my own graphic skills so I could jazz up this here blog of mine, but that will simply have to wait until the moment propice.

But there is definitely something to be said for escapism, running off to a fairly secluded place and spending an extended amount of time in completely different surroundings. Even though the weather was not all that great for, um, I would have to say about 13 of my 18 days away, I was still able to immerse myself in a whole new life and pretend like my life back "home" didn't exist -- put it all in parentheses, if you will. I did read quite a bit, but not nearly as much as I had hoped, and I have to admit that I was more than ambitious in my hope to complete seven entire novels while away. Of course, I guess I didn't take into account the fact that there would be three small boys running around me for a good part of my vacation, and also that we would be spending many meals with extended family members... Which I thoroughly enjoyed, because for the most part I love all of my boy's family. (Um, was that a contradiction of sorts? Let's just say I'm being politically correct here...) But family meals always lead to family memories and family quibbles -- and you get where I'm going with this, so I think I'll stop right there.

My choices of reading in the end were a bit arbitrary and depended on my mood, which should come as no surprise, but I did at least require myself to alternate between French and English. I can highly recommend Muriel Barbery's L'élégance du hérisson, of course, although I had a hard time getting into the first 10 pages or so (a bit heavy and dense from the get-go, but then it settles into a certain sublime style, and it's irresistible). Once you're into it, though, you're in it for good. It's a beauty, and I believe it's a novel that will stay with me for some time. I stretched out the last 20 pages or so because I didn't want it to end...

I'm actually working on Sarah Waters right now, but again, I haven't quite gotten into the story yet. Granted, I've hardly finished the first chapter, so I know I may need to be a bit patient. But I won't neglect my reading list, trust me: it will just take me a bit longer than expected to make it through the pile...

In the meantime, I leave you with some of my images of Noirmoutier, personal shots that are the furthest thing from touristic -- because in fact I didn't end up doing very much tourism. We stayed close to the "vacation" home and only ventured out to the beach when the weather was fine, which wasn't all that often. I was fascinated with the moulin, as you can see in the number of photos where the windmill stands as the sole subject, as well as the lavender branches near the house. It was all very sauvage and rustique, and I loved every minute of it.

P.S. You'll note the distinct absence of any photos of myself -- that's what happens, I guess, when you keep the camera under wraps and only whip it out when inspiration strikes. There were times when I realized, when it was clearly too late, that "Wow, maybe I should have taken a photo of that?!" (And in any case, anything else I left at arm's length was grabbed by 3-year-old hands and abused, so I believe I may have for once used good judgment with regard to burying my personal effects...)

12 comments:

joy suzanne said...

Mmmm, sounds like a wonderful break. I just finished up a few weeks of "vacation" and I'm much more run-down than I was before left! But then again, my teaching-and-translation schedule is mostly (almost totally) open at the moment, so I had no real daily-grind to return to...

I'm going out to get that book you mentioned! I shall pass the rest of the summer with my nose in books. ;)

Betty C. said...

A lot of bloggers seem to have been on vacation in August. Maybe it should become a tradition!

jchevais said...

Good to have you back, gurlfriend!

joy suzanne said...

Oh, and joyeux anniversaire, aussi!

Many happy returns.

The Late Bloomer said...

Thanks very much, Joy Suzanne! Very sweet of you to mention it. All those years growing up I was always used to being away on vacation with my family when my birthday came around, so I rarely got to celebrate it with friends. But I was happy to have a quiet celebration with my boyfriend, in a really nice restaurant in Noirmoutier. It was lovely. He spoiled me, and I even feel a bit guilty about it...

Betty, you're probably right -- as it's already such a tradition here in France, we might as well make it an expat blogger tradition! Hope you've been having a good summer too. A lot of bloggers have been able to keep up with writing WHILE they're traveling or away, though, which is something I just couldn't do -- mainly because I don't have a laptop, and we didn't have any Internet access at all while I was away.

Jenn, I don't know if I can say that it's "good" to be back or anything, but at least we have sun in Paris -- for the moment! (bite my tongue...) And I'm looking forward to seeing my friends again, as I already mentioned to you!

ColourMeCrazy said...

Welcome back! It looks like you had a great vacation from the photos! I want to put my life on pause also!! I've just come back from a holiday and need another ;-)

sognatrice said...

I'm easing back in to regular life too. I didn't go away for my August break, but daily blogging was certainly not in the plans....

Just wanted to let you know, also, that I mentioned you on my blog today :)

SydneyOpera said...

I just want to say "Salut" to Ace - we were colleagues in Paris and now that I have moved to Australia, I really miss her! Friends - Ace is just a wonderful person and I think her blog reflects this.
Ace - like you, I am a bibliophile and I just wondered whether you knew 2 websites that cater to us bookworms :
http://www.lrb.co.uk
http://www.nybooks.com
Bonne lecture to all and bises to Ace!

Yansor said...

Nice to see you back... :)How interesting that you spent your holiday in the very place my new books takes place !

You must pursue with the SW. Is it "Nightwatch" ? I loved it.
However, I never was able to get by page 30 of the Hérisson....
Should I give it another go ? I even gave the book away to someone...


take care !
TR :)

Scribbit said...

Well if I were traveling in a place that was that beautiful, I wouldn't be blogging either. Wow. How lovely!

The Late Bloomer said...

CMC, I know what you mean about needing another holiday as soon as you get back from one! I sort of discussed that earlier on in my blog, after my trip to Spain... La reprise is so tough! Especially after going away for a few weeks... Much-needed, but it almost makes you feel like you're living a separate life for a short time.

Sognatrice, thanks so much again for thinking of me... I was very bad and didn't manage to get my post up on 31 August for Blog Day -- I wonder if I can still do it this late? Wouldn't really count, I guess... You've inspired me, you know, with your reference to simple, Italian cuisine: this weekend I made a Caprese salad with a twist -- I just added avocado to it! It was perfect.

Claire, is that you? :) I'm pretty sure it must be! I hope you are doing well. If you're working at the Sydney Opera, then you must have found a terrific new post -- that's excellent! Félicitations ! Things are not the same here now that you're gone... I've tried to set my computer up with Skype here at work, but for some reason it's not working.

Yansor, I seriously felt the same way about Hérisson at the beginning: it just seemed a bit too overdone to me at first. But then I stuck to it and gave it a chance, and despite its extremely literary/academic style at times, it turned out to be a wonderful story (I also loved the references to Japanese culture and the ritual with tea). I loved it in the end -- I just wish she could have done away with some of the "overdone" parts! (eg., the tangent on Marxism at the beginning?!?!) I would say to try to give it a go again, though.

Hi Michelle! I'm still catching up on my Bloglines, but I promise to return to my regular reading schedule as soon as possible. Hope you had a great summer in Alaska!

sydneyopera said...

Yes, it's me, but my name is just a name, no indication of anything else. :(

I miss you guys a lot and Skype with the people one floor down from you - it would be great to Skype with you too.