Cafe Musings

 

As I sat at my favorite café the other day, I gazed on the Place de Republique considering the simple but serene panorama of Limoux on a typical afternoon.  I considered the fact that in less than a month this would all be just a memory.  I have spent many an afternoon enjoying a cigar and a beverage while reading, people-watching, conversing with friends, or daydreaming contentedly.

 It is late April, and spring has arrived in all its verdant glory in the south of France!  I see the blossoms bursting from all the fruit trees, the grapevines, freshly pruned have begun greening and start another season of growing a season’s bountiful harvest.  Flowers bloom everywhere.  Birds returning from a season in the warmth of African habitats trill their arrival in the Languedoc region.  The ever-quacking ducks on the river outside my bedroom window teach the first fuzzy ducklings to swim in the cold currents of the Aude as it cascades toward the Mediterranean.  Early fishermen cast their lines silently hoping for a trout to bite. 

We arrived during the harvest season some seven months ago.  Then, everything was new and often everyday tasks baffled us.   Now, the mystery of French driving is routine for us.  No longer do we hold up checkout lines at the grocery nor try the patience of clerks and waiters with our hesitant Franglish.  We’re fluent enough to make our wishes known with few apologies for grammatical errors or mispronounced French.   We wish our French were more competent, but have stopped being self-conscious about it.   We are no longer mystified about which cheeses are made from cow, sheep, or goat’s milk.  We know how to braise endive, marinate salmon, bake a fluffy quiche, use a knife while dining, determine if a wine has legs, pump gas, use a French ATM, convert to degrees Celsius, order by the gram, ask and give directions, and so many other skills for tasks mundane or exotic we acquired over these months.  We casually travel by rail taking advantage of discounts for seniors, and extricating routes and timetables from the hieroglyphics of the SNCF website. 

Almost all the people in the Place de Republique recognize me this afternoon.  I have become a fixture here in the Place with my cigar in the afternoon.  Several people greet me with a wave, a nod, a handshake, or a kiss.  Buddies from the rugby team invite me to sit with them.  Guys from the gym say hello.  Neighbors or fellow students from French class ask how Signe is doing.  I recognize many people I don’t know who I’ve nicknamed over the months of people-watching.  There goes Mr. Never-stops-talking-to-himself.  And there’s Skinny Lady With the Cane.  Here comes Mr. Panhandler.  There’s the Town Coroner.  Mathilde or Eliza will soon ask for my beverage order for today after inquiring as to my health.

I know in a few weeks time, I will leave Limoux and perhaps never return.  It’s sad for me to imagine all this continuing as it has for the past seven months, without me here to give people nicknames, or annoy with my cigar.  But as I look around at the walls of this Medieval plaza, I know over the centuries since it has been a gathering spot, many others have spent time here, called it home, and left it for the next wave of invaders. I know I will miss this place.  I know Life will go on here as it has for centuries….without me.

 


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