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Day 2 of Writing 101, here I come! When I read today’s prompt, I had no trouble choosing the subject of my post, there wasn’t a shred of indecision in my mind. Here’s what we were asked to do:
Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?
Yes, definitely somewhere I’ve been, definitely luring me with the power of nostalgia. Here goes!
If I could go anywhere right this second, it would have to be a little hill nestled in a high mountain valley close to Briancon, France, in the department of the High Alps (les Hautes-Alpes). The first apartment I lived in during my time in Briancon boasted a lovely view of countless mountains including two which I came to know intimately– le Mélézin and la Roche Motte. From my apartment window I could just make out the valley in between the two peaks. I remember wanting to go there, curious about that valley for several months, and then one day, driving up the winding mountain road, parking in a little village, and hiking in. Magical. Pine forest, gorgeous wildflowers, mountain breeze, sunshine, heaven. Mushrooms here and there–I expected a fairy or an elf would just saunter by at any moment. The path was winding and long and I stopped every now and again to sip some water and breathe in the most gorgeous perfume of fallen pine needles, rich earth, wildflowers, and rock. I rounded le Mélézin and faced the hot sun beating down upon me. When I came upon the hill, I just knew I had to climb it and sit and watch life happen from this vantage point. I never knew the hill was there until I hiked in and saw it cradled there between the two peaks–a proper hill, a BIG hill, a hill that was steep and rocky on one side and gently sloping on the other. I chose my steps carefully, from rock to rock, across a rushing stream, and then I picked my way through some mushy grass, wet with the spring thaw melting into summer. The greenest grass, marmots scrambling, sheep pastured for the summer, hearing the bells they wore clanging intermittently, peppering their bleats with monotone music…at the far end of the valley, a shallow, ice cold torrent of melt-off from the surrounding peaks–the wonder of seeing snow in the middle of July, and I was so hot after my long hike. I was also completely alone, with nothing but the blue sky and the birds and the marmots and the sheep to witness me summoning my courage, stripping off my clothes, taking a dip for a few refreshing AHA seconds, water just up to my ankles, feet nearly numb, hands cupping icy water to pour over face and body…and then dressed again, tingling skin warming up in the sun, walking back to the beautiful round hill, round like the earth, round like a woman in her 40th week of gestation, round like wholeness, like completeness, round like balance. And I was fulfilled, I was content, snacking on fruit, bread, cheese, nuts, dark chocolate, drinking water collected from the village fountain, water collected straight from the mountain spring, water of life.
I dream of this place, surrounded as I am today by the sprawl of urban progress. I dream of going back to my mountain heaven, taking my little children with me. Walking the path I walked, watching them sniff the scent of pine needles, of wind, of wildflowers, of perfection. I want for them to hear the marmots’ whistles, and I want to hear them laugh at how they waddle quickly to return to their burrows when they get spooked. My children were with me that first day on the hill, as they have been with me since before I was born. The dream of them came to me when I was resting on the hill one melancholy day, looking up at the impossibly blue sky. I was grieving and had gone back to the hill for her solace, her wisdom. I knew, in spite of my sadness, that one day my belly would be round like this hill.
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Do any of you read French? Are any of you French? Here’s a little blurb for my francophones out there:
Je rêve à retourner en France. Ce pays est dans mon cœur et il me manque terriblement, une manque qui me touche au plus profonde de mon être. Le jour òu j’ai quitté la Françe, j’ai laissé une partie de mon cœur, et il n’est plus entière depuis. Cette partie m’appelle de loin, et je l’entends, et quelque fois c’est la torture. Parfois je me souviens de mes experiences là-bas, et je me r’appelle de me sentir bien assimilée dans la culture–après 9 ans aux E.U., je continue à me sentir plus française qu’américaine. J’imagine que ce sera mon état d’esprit pour toujours.
Here’s my poem of the day:
The mountains are in my heart,
they’re in my soul
and for nine years I have wanted to return to them.
Why am I in the city when I feel most fulfilled walking in the forest,
hiking up a mountain, heart pounding, lungs full of fresh air?
Real life has taken over I suppose,
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but perhaps one day this real life
will take me back to the place I miss so much
so that I can find the piece of my heart that stayed behind
when I left nine years ago.