Oi vey. Ready for the first most over-used, horrible Nice joke now that I’ve made you suffer through mine?
Nice is nice.
There said it. Oh but for good reason. Now listen, if you read my last post you know that I was absolutely smitten with Pau. So when I got to Nice, I never gave it a chance. Nothing was like Pau: “Oh but in Pau, it was this way. And in Pau, this was that way.” Yeah, yeah. I went there, blinded to the treasures of the Côte d’Azur with the sickness of comparisons. But hey, I wasn’t letting go of Pau without a fight. I’ll admit that I spent my first night in Nice with a chest full of heartache and a stomach hungering for gâteau Basque (not really; I didn’t care much for that regional sweet.) But alas, today I succumbed to the languid blue of the Mediterranean. It wasn’t hard. Once I realized the universal verity that our ability to fully experience good is not limited by location. “Listen,” I told myself. “The things I loved in Pau are still the things I can love in Nice. What is stopping me from loving those same things right here?” Yeah, nothing. I had to suck it up. And love Nice. You would too. It’s nice.
I could go on about my lovely accommodation with Dominique, a retired woman and her brilliant, lovely 25 year old daughter Mathilde in their spacious, tastefully decorated 1830’s apartment near the seashore (I can hear gulls squalking outside my bedroom on the third floor, AND they have a library in their house with walls of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves crammed full of volumes.) Or I could go on about the simply pleasant weather which was “terribly cold today” as Dominique told me (it was 62 degrees.) Or I could tell you how I am making friends with the four students at our language school from Liechtenstein through our common languages of French and English since one of them, Martin, is sharing the apartment with me, Dominique and Mathilde.
But instead I will tell you a little about how I am discovering my same “loves” in Nice, just as I discovered them in Pau, and just as I treasure them in my little home town of San Rafael, California. Here’s what I really love in Nice: walking with friends to lunch across the square and having a good conversation about the lessons we’ve been learning in France so far with my friend Trisha; hiking up a hill of cobblestone streets, tightly packed, rustic homes with ivy covered walls, and sleepy stray cats to a chateau filled with Renoir’s artwork; sitting on the floor of a packed public bus on the hour long ride home and getting a new perspective of the world and the people who live in it; hanging about in a cafe after “school” (you will actually never have any idea how hard we’ve all worked this semester) with two friends and talking about life, God, and laughs over coffee and crêpes; learning how to ask for a haircut in French and then going out and doing just that– getting a haircut in France; talking about politics, culture, French and American history, and how to make pot brownies (don’t ask), and laughing plentifully with Dominique, Mathilde and Martin after dinner in the kitchen– all in French, pausing once in a while only to ask how to say an unknown phrase or word in French.
These are the things I love everywhere. I love forging relationships. I love exploring what makes life meaningful with friends, over good food. I love learning. I love good ideas. I really love living. I love being in love with what life is. It’s simple, childlike, essential, trusting, lovely, and free. Call it naïve if you will but I argue that it’s the most rational way to live life. I look at my experience so far– the challenges I have overcome, the mountains I have climbed, the friends I have met, the complicated, possibly devastating personal dilemmas I have seen gracefully resolved, and I think to myself: “Damn, something’s working.” I believe the secret lies in a willingness to examine life anew continuously, a willingness to be curious, a willingness to be awed by the world and the people around you. A willingness to be a wise child in a beautiful world.
This is not a rejection of challenges, the things that make us doubt the goodness of the world, others, especially ourselves. I can’t tell you how many times I have been reduced to tears by what feel like insurmountable odds, injustice, emotional pain or just plain old life-confusion and discouragement. But I have also been moved to tears of gratitude and genuine joy at the graciousness of true forgiveness, the beauty of what man is, God is, what the unthinkable, infinite possibilities of life are. These precious tears are worth what felt like rending pain, though I have since learned (and continue to learn) that challenges are stepping stones, not barriers, as I read in an article by a Christian Scientist. So then what is wiser than living generously and making life an adventure of learning? What is bolder than having the humility to trust your desires and dreams and actually live them, though being never quite where you will eventually end up? Tell me, what else is your life for? If you think of a better reason, let me know. Because I am trying to find the best one. I think I have learned some good things so far but I look forward to apprehending ever more the grandeur and delight of existence. Join me! Happiness loves company.
“We live in an age of Love’s divine adventure to be All-in-all.”
– M. B. Eddy