France

Virginia Woolf’s stones

I tried to imagine what was going through her head, as she walked to that river around where she lived and wrote, her pockets filled with heavy stones, marching to her death. Probalby not very close to reality, or what that moment was like, but I always loved that scene in The Hours, with an unrecognizable Nicole Kidman playing the role of a tortured, strange Woolf, walking into the river with that heavy step. 

It was more or less easy to imagine because there I was, at a late dusk–the sun goes down around 10 PM these days and it was around 9–with my sweater pockets filled to the brim with at least a pound each of heavy grey stone pellets, walking straight into the receded Atlantic on a beach deserted of everyone except my mother, a crab and a couple of hungry seagulls. 

Granted, there was nothing suicidal in my march, just a desire to walk into the sunset, straight towards the freezing ocean with heavy pockets. I hate wet feet, so I didn’t even get that close to the water. 

I get it from mom, that love of walking on the beach and looking for stuff. We do it for hours, when we’re together. Walking on empty beaches, looking at pools of crabs and anemones, moss, and sea snails, lumps of snot (I’m sure even they have a name), mussels, oysters, all kinds of other shells. Picking up sea glass and shells, stones and handfuls of sand we stuff in our pockets to find months later and remember what that late afternoon was like. 

We’re in Bretagne right now, in a beautiful untamed part of the French coastline called “les cotes d’Armor”, a fiercely beautiful and proudly guarded part of the natural national heritage. Britons are extremely independent and have a regional identity almost separate from their national one.

For example, all French highways are toll-roads–they’re the most beautiful and best-maintained roads on earth and they are expensive as heck to drive on, tolls can be up to a couple hundred bucks for a long trip. Well…in Brittany, there are NO toll roads. There’s a story behind it, about Britons never having bowed down to paying for roads and they had it written in stone that they would never allow toll roads to go through their country, and they haven’t.

They’re just “insoumis”, indomitable. You’ve read about Asterix and Obelix…well, this is their country. It’s beautiful, it’s wild, and it’s as indomitable as the people. Sweet, loving, butter-and-crepe-and-cider-loving people but with a temper. 

Everything is beautiful here and everything is green. Little tiny two-lane roads that curve around stone houses with slate or thatched roofs and blue shutters, huge, wildly colored flowering bushes up to six feet high popping your eyes with the brilliant hues, the sweet smell of sea-water and wild flowers everywhere in the air, mixing in with the cooking coming from houses and small cafes. Fishing boats and yachts in the distance, a rugged coastline with perfectly maintained paths. Overlooks into the ocean speckled with  hundred-year old crosses signaling a lost boat or deaths at sea. 

This is beautiful country. This is my France now, I prefer to come straight here, rather than spend any time in Paris, that I know too well and where I can too often predict the altercations over silly stuff. You’ll hear people say it often, here too. Life is more “human” in these parts. And they have all kinds of fun stuff on the beaches to fill your pockets with. 

This is where I am, courtesy of Wikipedia:

And this is what it looks like, a half-mile from where I’m sleeping:

4 thoughts on “Virginia Woolf’s stones

  1. i figured i better know where my sister is at by checking here. Thanks for the updates boss! Looks like you’re having fun.

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