Over the years people have used the following words to describe me: bombastic, intense, gregarious, loud, funny, dramatic. However, these are people who actually don’t really know me — they only know an aspect of my personality that I chose to reveal. And although I do have a flair for the dramatic, I actually crave solitude. I prefer the sound of my own two feet on a pavement than the chatter in a cafe. In this stretch of time I can think. Vague, inchoate fragments turn into the stories I’m able to share with you here, finish a conversation with a beloved because I’ve found the right words I wanted to say, allow me to explore a kaleidoscope of a future that will one day come to pass.
I never feel alone or lonely, in fact I seek out time with myself. There are days when I just don’t want to talk to anyone; the very act of smiling is exhausting, and I can see myself performing — “putting on the grand show,” as one would have it — just to fill the pauses. Just to pass the time by. One of the most gripping scenes in English literature is the opening scene of Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road. You witness April’s crippling failure in a high school auditorium as her dreams of Broadway are vanquished. Her desire — for life, the very blood and sinew of it — runs hard up against truth and comes out the worst for it. In reality, she’s a terrible actress and she knows it. In the car ride home, her husband tries to console her but all she wants is for him to SHUT THE FUCK UP. Allow her to think, and he won’t even give her that simple act of kindness because he doesn’t know she needs it, doesn’t know or won’t admit that he and his wife are, and will always be, second rate. April explodes and I understand. All she wanted was quiet and no one would give it to her.
This week has reminded me of that, of my need to practice quiet even in the frenzy of a busy workday. Because do I want to remembered as the court jester? I don’t think so. What I want people to see is a woman of character. The words multi-faceted construction come to mind.
Strangely, I was thinking about all of this while aimlessly walking around the town of Provence. I vividly remember reading and re-reading Yates’ scene, and I stumbled onto Côté Bastide. The airy, minimalist shop seemed familiar to me and then I recalled procuring lotions in Shabby Chic on a day where I needed quiet. Where I needed to make my home a safe and beautiful place. The woman in Shabby relayed that the products are rarely sold in the U.S., so when I entered the store in Provence I stayed there for quite some time. I sniffed soaps, fingered cotton nightgowns, uncapped bottles of lotion and bath gel. I love these products because the are perfect in their simplicity. Fragrant, potent, efficacious, you feel luxurious when you use them. Personally, I love the orange + almond scented lotions and body oils. They aren’t pungent, but you can smell the real essence of the ingredients and your skin feels like cashmere. An insane indulgence, but a worthy one if you can spring it.
Years ago, I was watching Nigella Lawson and she talked about her trips and how she never really shopped for trinkets and souvenirs, rather she went right for the food. She purchased spices and foodstuffs that she couldn’t get in the U.K., and for years I’ve followed this practice because it felt right to me. Only purchase that which you cannot get at home. To this end, I found Aix & Terra (same day, same wandering, same strange thoughts). Provence is known for many things, however, they are famous for their lavender, truffles, figs and preserves. Touring the region of Provence, the owners ferret out recipes and goods from local artisans. Here you will find the most pungent truffle oil and salt you’ll ever lay your hands on, the most luscious chocolate hazelnut spread that makes Nutella look like JIF. I loaded up on a few items, keeping holiday gift-giving in mind.
And if you leave this post with anything, give yourself the gift of yourself. Dine alone, watch a movie without friends, take a long, winding walk.