It’s raining in Toulouse tonight and the homeless guy is out in the dark feeding ducks before ducking into his tarp-covered tent. He lives behind the monument to World War I and not far from one of the open pharmacies. Two guys sit at a bus stop but it is late and the buses are few so I think they are just taking shelter.
The lights in the empty church were on and so the green and blue glass was illuminated in the rain. I walk and walk on the empty streets, under the drops, in the wet. I am sad for my heartbroken friends, for my writing buddies with no priority if they get sick and a little bit for myself. Four weeks and now four more weeks. No dancing, no canoodling, no sitting out with a drink on a spring evening.
Tonight I have no clever metaphors. I think of the woman whose journey I followed for a long time who set her goal to row across the Pacific Ocean heading west from the US. Winds buffeted her back to her starting point, things broke, currents took her the very longest way. While I was all alone in my little house in Ashland trying to raise a baby and have a job, I read about her adventures to give myself fortitude.
Her journey had to be aborted for all sorts of reasons but it took a long time before it ended. I thought of her sleeping alone in a little shell in her boat and knowing that day after day after day it would be the same thing again. Salt in her cracked hands, sun on her head, small cans of tuna and all the rowed progress gained in a day could be lost, or more, in a night.
The first time I came to Toulouse, 20 some years ago, was to row the Canal du Midi. Rowing is both comforting and exhausting. Quadriceps, back, hands and even feet suffer in the constant bending forward, folding knees. Nonetheless, on all that water, and with the body doing something against which it can fully push itself, something therapeutic happens. Years later when I did EMDR to confront my own traumas I thought of my hours and hours of rowing, of bike riding, of moving my body over and over for comfort.
I went rowing once on the Garonne when I first moved to Toulouse but I decided I just wasn’t angry enough to need that kind of workout. Digging in my whole body and grunting against the water wasn’t the kind of healing I was looking for at the time.
Today my child tore apart a cardboard box with his teeth. He wishes we had a boxing bag or some way to build huge bonfires. Our oars aren’t digging into anything but the metaphysical and its such hard work but the boat just won’t move.
Tomorrow I will rise with the sun and be thankful again for the joys of this petite vie but tonight it is sad that we have been rowing so long and made no progress at all. Here we are.