This weekend we reached the half-way mark. We’re now midway through our stay here in Alsace. And it feels like home. But now is the turning point. After today, there are fewer days ahead than behind. So I want to savour this “being in the middleness.” This time before the end starts to loom large.
Getting to know the landscape in which we live with its hills, valleys, scenic routes and backroads has been a big part of settling in. But it’s been the web of relationships that we’ve woven around us that has really made me feel this is home.
I love the way we’re part of some of the daily rituals of this place. For example, we’re now a member of what I think of as the “Rue des champs newspaper relay.” It starts with my neighbour slotting the Alsace Journal in my doorhandle, which I then pick up after returning from the school run in the afternoon. Next, after I’ve read it over my breakfast cereal the following morning, I stumble up the stairs in the pre-dawn light to leave it on the doorstop of my neighbour opposite just before we head off to school.
And we’re also members of another sharing arrangement: the school “co-voiturage” or car pooling. In this case, the handover takes place at the public car park in town just down the road. Silas hops in the car of his classmates every Wednesday morning, and Delphine and I then head off to our regular Wednesday market without battling the traffic to school. I pick him up at the same spot and return the favour on a Thursday afternoon, when I have the pleasure of chatting with a delightful Class 6 student in the passenger seat as Silas and his classmate giggle in the back along with Delphine. Last week, this mature teen had some very coherent and compelling views on Gilets Jaunes.
Another regular on the calendar has become my coffee catch-ups with the Minister at our Protestant Church. She is an elegant woman, of that type that exemplifies how make-up and fancy clothing are not at all necessary to exude class. I love our conversations – me struggling along with my upper intermediate French to talk about social justice, theology and the challenges of living in today’s consumerist, individualist culture. And in turn, she is fascinated to hear about our progressive church back home with its organic community garden, outreach to local people doing it tough, and passion for speaking out on behalf of migrants and refugees. She’s already planning a “potager” (vegetable garden) for the large grounds of her country parish…
Then there’s the school craft group. I smiled when I heard that, just like at our school back in Canberra, parents gather each Friday morning to make hand-made objects to sell at the school fete. As we stab away with needles turning wool into felt, I’ve been having the same conversations here as in Canberra: the challenges of being a parent to young children, what we want from their education, what we hope for them in the future.
And harder to capture but so deeply treasured is the warmth that emerges from my regular conversations with Delphine’s pre-school teacher. Within 5 minutes of being in her beautifully prepared room, I feel my shoulders relax. The fractiousness of the out-the-door morning rush and the stop-start commute to school fades as I’m enveloped by a deep sense of reassurance.
Before we left, I’d worried about the risk of isolation. But instead, I’ve found myself surrounded by people who are friendly, interested in where we’re from and why we’ve come, and, most significantly, fully embrace us into their daily routines, despite the fact that we’re here for only a season.
What a wonderful lot we can be, us human beings. When we’re not stressed and pushed for time, our true spirit comes through: one of wanting to live convivially together, to share with others the things we love, our lives and our wonder and confusion at all life brings our way.
So at this time of year’s end and of hopes for the new one about to start, I shout out with joy “Peace and goodwill to all (hu)men!”