The Ohio river hugs you, just as the Seine river hugs Paris. This cool June the river in Paris was swollen, stealing a bit of the magic of the city. It is quite different from your giant sluggers and horse statues.
Paris was a city of many sights and sounds. The buildings were uniform with curly black rails and flowers draping down. Some statues were covered in graffiti, while others sat in parks, fading away. The sounds of cars whizzing and sirens roaring echoed at all hours. Then there are the smells. Sometimes the Paris streets would smell like yeasty baguettes baking or buttery crepes cooking. Other times the streets smelled like urine.
On the second day, I couldn’t find my station and I missed my train. After a mad scramble to find a latrine, all I wanted to do was sit. So I got iced coffee and sat in the coffee shop far from where I needed to be and far from my Kentucky home. My heart felt heavy wanting my Kentucky hills instead of littered streets. The sounds around me clattered and voices felt like megaphones. Just stillness would be nice. No fast trains, busy streets, or cardboard dreams.
Then the voice I knew so well began to sing. “When will I feel this. As vivid as it truly is… Rain or shine, I don’t feel a thing, just some information upon my skin.”
In another country I was comforted by a familiar song playing in a coffee shop. I wondered if those speaking French could understand the poetic and powerful English lyrics. Instead of moving about I stayed and let the song heal my sore feet. Just a taste of home and hope is what I needed to find the train.
“I miss the subtle aches when the weather changed, the barometric pressure we always blamed…Invisible machinery, these moving parts inside of me. Well, they’ve been shutting down for quite some time, leaving only rust behind…”
Paris involved many travel mishaps. I don’t regret one bit of the trip, but my mind, body, and soul were exhausted. What was once exhilarating made me feel alienated and small.
The mechanical and metal atmosphere is Paris desensitized me to peace and patience. Instead I was filled with disturbed feelings of fretting. The longer I stayed in Paris, the more I would become like the city, running on a clock with predictable and rusty movements.
After a long journey back to Scotland, I went to the highlands. Over and over again I listened to the song that comforted my soul so much in that coffee shop in Paris. As I watched sparkly lochs and green mountains blur by the bus windows, the meaning of the song began to pulse in me.
Beauty comforts. Sitting by the Loch Ness on a rock away from industrialization of Paris did wonders for my soul. The organic feeling procured freedom and washed away the weariness of the city. Then I felt content in where I was.
“Well I know, I know – the sirens sound, just before the walls come down. Pain is a well-intentioned weatherman, predicting God as best he can, but God I want to feel again, Oh God I want to feel again….”
Cities have their place and spectacle, but concrete sidewalks and steel rails can’t feel the way the trees do. They don’t move with the wind or suck up water in their roots. There man made form is not quite the same.
A breath of fresh air melted away the tension and put some more wanderlust in me to keep on going. I could feel again.
Note: Lyrics from “Atlas: Touch” by Sleeping at Last