Tuesday 24 November 2015

The French Provincial Lady is restless

When I was a child and being restless in winter, Mother used to tell me what HER Nanny told her when SHE was a child: "snow is coming".

At the beginning of the week, snow was coming, snow came, and snow is gone. Anyway, we had snow on the 23rd of November in the Dordogne. Even if it lasted only until a little later after noon and then melted, there was snow. That is unusual and to be “marqué d'une pierre blanche” (it marked a milestone, or it was an event).

On Saturday and Sunday, I was unusually restless. Was it due to the coming snow as Mother would have said? Perhaps. It was more probably due to a conjunction of facts, feelings, and emotions.

I had a serious panic attack for no reason other than the delayed shock of the Paris events. Nobody I know was hurt or died this time. But while receiving the last e-mails, I was both relieved, grateful and shaking. My whole body was shaking with fear. In retrospect. With my mind's eye, I was playing the events again and again. But I was playing other events that I have seen in other countries that have been at wars. Those mutilated trees throwing stumps towards the sky. Those razed houses clinging to the earth in a last embrace. Those lost human beings who do not know whether they still are human beings or already animals, full of pure and unconditional fear. Those animals wandering like human beings, looking for something, for someone, bleeding, stunned, snorting, crying, shouting. The dust. The noise. The silence at the heart of the noise. Oh, I have seen war and the after effects of bombs and rockets, as well as of half human and half electronic and distant violence. How can and how may one be deprived and denied of one's humanity? To be reduced to neither tree nor house nor animal nor man or woman?

Delayed shock said my GP. Delayed trauma. Unseen horror which stays hidden in the depth of depths and makes one roll in a tight ball and shout and cry and snort. And doubt. No, not doubt. This is past doubt. This is horror and fear in the rough.

Snow was coming. Leaden sky. Is it better to die in the full light and heat of July, in a field of wheat and cornflowers, than in the bleakness and cold of a furrowed brown earth in November?


And the individual takes its course, leaving behind the crowds and their collective hurts.

Once there was a family with great-grand-parents, grand-parents, parents, great-uncles and great-aunts, uncles and aunts, cousins by the dozen, brothers, and sisters. A tribe. A family. They have gone one by one. Where are they now? Some have grown new families, young off shoots that do not need the older roots and branches. Some are dead. Some are ageing. Some are dying. 

My last great-aunt is dead. She was 97 and would have been 98 this Christmas. She was the last link in the long line of great-grand-parents, grand-parents, parents, great-uncles and great-aunts that I have known. How many uncles and aunts? And then? Then, it is I, the last link who remembers and is in charge of the line and its memories. Is it so soon? How ridiculous, how touching is life! So little. So fragile. And its testimonies are so brittle, and yet enduring. A sentence in a will: "to my great-niece who has always given me respect, friendship, and affection, I leave..." Shall I see her any time I shall look at myself in the looking glass? Shall I feel her any time I shall caress the chest of drawers so old that it is like satin under the hand. She is. A tiny second. She was. The looking glass is empty.

 How can one live among these walls and objects that have belonged to others? What am I? A human being in its own singularity or a simple link in a long line of ancestors? And what will come after me? Or am I destined to end wandering on one of these roads, deprived and denied of humanity? Is it the end of my world that I see or the end of a world that we contemplate? Or both?

There is no answer. A wave grows and floods all. Water. Foam. Noise. Onslaught. Silence. Silence. Immensity, depths and silence.

Yes, the French Provincial Lady has been restless. She still is. 

 (Janine Jansen plays Bach : Chaconne)

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