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Life goes quickly...but even quicker when we slow down! (standard:travel stories, 730 words)
Author: CyranoAdded: Sep 10 2007Views/Reads: 2110/0Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
No more than a reverie over coffee.

‘If the fates are kind,' I read somewhere, ‘the wise man will gradually
release himself from the harness of years and shrug off the routine of 
a days work.' 

Sitting here in the shadows of Saint-Paul de Vence, a small, medieval
town in southern France, far enough from the Cote D'azur to escape the 
sun-seeking tourist, I hear the wisdom in these words. 

Not that my own life is fraught with anxiety, far from it, after all,
I'm here on a three-week vacation. But making a conscious decision to 
stop work, even gradually, now that's another thing. I don't do any 
less now than I did when I was twenty. Up at the crack of dawn, 
sometimes before, and following a certain routine. Not unpleasant by 
any means. Hot shower, hot cup of tea, walk my dogs and then a good 
half an hour spent browsing through the newspaper before researching 
the stock market. 

When is enough, enough? On what day will I cease looking to the markets
to make money, but instead to buy groceries? I know wise men; men who 
have willingly, gleefully resigned themselves to having little. Men I 
respect, but I am not such a one. 

So, I ask myself, as I wander, enraptured by the scent of flowers
hanging at the corner of place Du Frene, what is enough and when will I 

Only the deep, almost erotic smell of freshly roasting Arabica beans
entices me to stop ambling and sit awhile. I remove my hat and watch 
young lovers strolling, a tangle of arms, joy on their faces and hope 
in their hearts. The man sitting opposite me is clearly, unmistakably 
French. His beret, worn only as a Frenchman can, reminding me of 
stories surrounding the French resistance, sits skew on his head. If, 
and this is merely my imagination at work, there were a baguette under 
his arm and a bicycle close by, then the cliché would be complete. 
Alas, that is not the picture. He looks seventy, perhaps more, a 
lightweight, tan jacket worn over a lilac colored shirt. I look at him 
for some minutes, wondering about his life, perhaps its simplicity, or 
maybe the heartache. 

Saint Paul de Vence has another smell, the pungent smell of history
before the richness of cheeses and vino. Though originally a Ligurian 
town, Vence was important during Roman times, and equally significant 
in the early years of Christian France. During the Wars of Religion, 
the town was besieged by Huguenots, but did not fall; a fact 
commemorated each Easter with a festival. 

I am unfortunate in that, for me, there is peril born of boredom. Some
medical experts say it is unwise for a man to give up his life long 
work at sixty-five or seventy, for pretty soon he will wither away and 
die. Work has never been something that took over my life, but it 
consumed the greater part of it.  Money itself holds no interest for 
me, just what it enables me to do, such as sit here on the sidewalk of 
a beautiful café in Saint Paul de Vence without once considering the 
cost. It is the reward for a life's labor of love, not the result of 
seeking wealth as the first cause. 

The old man wearing the beret knows nothing about me, or I him, yet I
wonder if we share a real sense of the things that are important to us 
and he, like me, has given over time and thought to troubling matters. 
Doubtless he's born of a liberal education. I feel confident this is 
true. In France the beret is worn mostly by the elderly and worn with 
pride, the signature of a peasant, and the word ‘Peasant' by no means 
insults a working class Frenchman. 

He sips at his coffee, removes a timepiece from his pocket, checks the
time and throws coins on the table. He gets up and leaves; a slow, 
somewhat agonizing gate to his step. 

Vence begs you to wander. It insists you care about art, about religion,
and about beauty. There are many places like it in the world. I come 
here every three or four months to peruse the streets,  far from my 
home in California.  I take my coffee on the corner of place Du Frene. 
Perhaps one day you'll walk by. If you do, say hello. 


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