Yesterday as I went to see Chris after his surgery my journey again took me along tree lined vineyards carpeted in a soft kiss of white blossom petals. Tractors slowly churning the rich soil, men toiling alone, bedecked in large hats to protect themselves from the intensifying sunshine as they pruned the vines and fruit trees. I meandered through a gorge and approached a medieval bridge, which zigzagged its way across the ‘Rive Gardon’ just a few miles downstream for the Pont du Gard. I remembered Kate’s recent comments when we drove this road together, that as she looked down over the parapets she could almost see the Roman centurions sitting in the dusty, dried up riverbed lacing their sandals.
Yes, time in this sleepy, unspoiled part of France seems in many respects to have stood still. Crops to be planted, tended to and nurtured, people working the fields to earn a living. Little has changed over the centuries or been touched by ‘progress’. Only the occasional road sign and the sudden pathway of electric pylons reminded me that I had not stepped into the past.
Of course the incessant car screeching up behind me desperate to overtake on an almost blind corner helped to jolt me into reality but most of the time I just marveled at the peacefulness of all I beheld. The beauty of the spires of a medieval village suddenly coming into view as I turned a corner. All of it so soothing to my anxious, fretting mind as I drove to a hospital hoping that all was well. A reminder that the basic, simple things in life are and always have been the most important, your health first and foremost.
I pondered on what happened to people before the miracles of modern medicine when having beavered in the fields and labored to build the villages so beloved by myself and many others, people injured themselves. I imagined a life with unrelenting pain and agony, pain I had recently witnessed in Chris’ face and felt grateful that in that respect it was good to be alive now where science could mend our broken bodies. I thought how life is so much about balance. How fortunate we are to live in a time where medical intervention can restore us to health. Yet ironically an age which drives us all to meet so many deadlines; answer phones, respond to emails and texts, to tweet and post and all manner of other things. How so much of life balance is out of kilter, how within this connected, global village we all exist in we are expected to be responsive ‘24/7’. How we are all striving to get to this ‘somewhere’ that doesn’t actually exist, this goal post or place when ‘things will be calmer’.
I reflected on my own morning, sending emails to 3 different continents, putting out fires with clients who faked concern for Chris but then in the next sentence were demanding answers from him regardless of the fact that today he was having surgery.
I thought of the words of a poem I hold so dear ‘The Station’ by Robert Hastings. For so many of us our life is like the train journey of this poem. We travel along cheered on by waving people as we whizz through each of life’s station consuming ourselves with life’s busyness looking forward to getting ‘there’. Only we never get ‘there’ because the journey is the ‘now’, this very moment, the joys, the tears and all the messy bits in between called ‘life’.
It reminded me why I had come to this beautiful part of France in the first place. In truth partly to escape, because in my heart I truly believe that life is not about the destination but the journey. Having the time and more importantly taking the time to stop and notice the vines, the blossoms and the church spires.
When I got to my journey’s end and was sitting by the side of the man I have loved for over 34 years, slowly waking from surgery I gave thanks for his recovery and held his hand with renewed determination that we were going to slow down and take the time we had together to smell those cherry blossoms and very soon I hoped.