Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Je mendierai ma vie sur les routes de France

After having spent the last six months talking more to boys than girls - mostly Simon and Andrew, and now Ricky - it's funny being around three girls of my own age suddenly. I admit it was fun trying on clothes in fancy-schmancy stores and discussing anorexia qnd gynecology over dinner, things which just don't happen much with guys. That said, the past days have made me truly apppreciate the beauty that is travelling by yourself.

Paris with Ricky was the anti-tourist experience - refusing to take photos of landmarks and speaking an atrocious Danish-French hybrid on the street to avoid sounding like Americans ("Det regner." "Oui, un peu, men det er ok.") Being with the three girls from DIS is the ultimate tourist experience. If I have to appear in one more photo or go into one more souvenir shop while they exclaim over light-up plastic replicas of the Eiffel Tower, I'm going to run away. This morning I made my excuses and have had one last day blissfully free of playing tour guide, not having to carry anyone else's lunch or speak English. I wandered the Quartier Latin all morning whistling and feeling very French in my wool skirt and giant black scarf. Men smiled and an old lady told me I was a good whistler. I love being able to pass, just love it.

Sunday evening on the metro I sat opposite an woman wearing a wedding band, ugly black shoes, and a scarf tied over her head. She looked old, but it was the kind of look that comes from a hard life more than actual years. She was holding two bouquets of beautiful white lilies that looked expensive. I was trying to copme up with a scenario in which someone had given her the flowers, but I just couldn't imagine it. I think she was on her way to church to leave them, probably for the Virgin - if I had been alone I would have followed her to find out. The striking thing was that she looked as if no one had ever given her flowers, or at least not in decades. Why did she choose that way to show her faith? Why the lilies?

One could tell a lot about Bryn Mawr students just from looking at the offerings we leave for our statue of Athena - chocolate, condoms (ironic gift to a virgin godess,) the first orange maple leaves, lipstick, cherry blossoms, bubble gum, pennies, tampons, origami. Things we have in our pockets, things we like and use. When I came upon the statue of St. Joan of Arc in Notre Dame, my childhood hero, my brave girl, my first reaction was to burst into tears and my second was to light her a candle. As Ricky pointed out, fire was probably the last thing she wanted, but people like light and warmth so they offer lights to their gods and saints. I think that woman loved the lilies, so that's what she chose to give away.

As we go marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry of bread
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew
Yes, it is bread we fight for, but we fight for roses too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I truly miss you Julia. I am jealous that you are a vagabond now travelling the world. I wish I could join you.