The pause is where it's at. Yes, I know I just ended that sentence
leaving that preposition dangling, which is not always a crime, unless
it feels like it has lost its object. Before the arrival of Corona and the need to remain home for great lengths of time, my object(ive) had been buried in the sands of necessity. Languages, to me, were a goal, something to conquer, to translate, to distribute as needed. It was as if my soul had nothing to do with this prescription for perfection. I had become (almost) rote.
It was only in the interval that the thought occurred, in the sweet breath taken as one awaits what is not coming any time soon, and slowly exhales into the void where images and new ideas take form. Into this space came a question.
"If not this, then what?" "If I am not interpreting, if my children have no need of my tutoring, at least not in math, really, mainly not in math, perhaps in history or English for a second, but when I am not engaged in these specific tasks, what could I be doing? What do I desire ?"
I let that float out of my hands and into the air, falling gently as a feather, then catching an updraft and spiraling into greater heights, zipping back through as though pursued by a mad genie of invisible tornado, stopping and dancing right in front of my nose. A will-o'-the-wisp, a fantasy...
What I desire... is to be immersed in language, in the lyrical, in the most noble part of what words are capable of creating; humor, insight, community and belonging. Images are born when the words connect. An unadorned "t'en fais pas, mon petit" (don't worry, sweetie) whispered in one's ear offers hope and power. I return to Cabrel, deNoailles, Carrera, Brel. And French grows magical again.
The passion for the culture that I had been living for years, day to day, became a cherished place to explore anew. All of this was from my desk chair, to be sure, but the mind is a treasury and mine is rich with years of the most exciting memories of and ideas about France and the French language. I did not simply dream about these things when I was 17, I planned and carried out the plans to experience the country, the people, and so much more than I could have imagined.
But I also know the deep longing for all of the places I have not seen, touched, tasted; Tokyo, Marrakesh, Istanbul. I read and I watch and I learn still, from those who are there, from those who have been. Someday I will go and see them for myself, but for now, there are two things I know well; the Midwest and France, the language of Shakespeare and that of Colette. The secrets I hold of le français, la France, her perfumes, her people, her words can become yours as we bring them to life for you.
Rekindle the flame of a language that once spoken, will make every encounter and every trip to a French-speaking land a real, living breathing place and not the one sputtering through the headset of a tour operator for you. To sit quietly instead in a train, until it almost empties out and the man across from you turns to the only other passenger, you, inquiring, "avez-vous un mouchoir, mademoiselle?" igniting an exchange that may last the hours of travel from sunny Toulouse to the smooth-pebbled beaches of Bretagne or the Gare Montparnasse. C'est ça, la magie du langage.