I wish I could remember word for word something that Jonathan Franzen wrote in his book, The Corrections. Honest would be how I would sum up his style in a single word. His descriptions are so powerful, yet specific, and oftentimes I will remark to myself how interesting it is that he has had the same thought. F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.” This is how Franzen makes me feel.
He wrote the other day something to the effect of being pulled by things autumnal and nautical. I felt as if that he had written that for me, and a desire to head back to Bretagne transpired, just in time, I would say.
Cup after cup. One in the morning at breakfast, and another in the afternoon, frankly to pass away the time and have somewhere to get some work done. I could feel the effects of the caffeine, however–a noticeable increased heart rate, anxiety, shaky hands; I could feel the blood pulsing through me as I stood by the bus stop with my pack ready to head to Rennes.
“You must be a runner,” the nurses would always tell me whenever I went to the doctor for a yearly checkup.
I looked forward to hearing them say it, and in fact, I took a bit of pride in this confirmation of my health.
Standing by the bus stop, being able to feel my heart race and knowing simply that it was faster than a 60 beats per second, I thought to myself, “This is it. I have officially entered adulthood at the age of 22. I have finally begun the rough decent to high blood pressure, terrible vision and hearing, aching joints…”
Yes. It was indeed time to go somewhere.
I went to Rennes, located in the region of Bretagne, or Brittany, in English. The food is excellent, especially the traditional meal of galette, crêpe, and cider. Furthermore, Bretagne has a rhythm and a hum of its own. When I go to Minneapolis, I think progression, hope, farmers markets, and bike lanes. When I’m in Fargo, I think eternity, but in a good way. I have ridden so many times on country roads that seem to go on forever, and when you’ve gotten into a rhythm pedaling and the sun is in the middle of setting and beautiful, you feel like you could go on forever. Bretagne is a city as carefree as a loose sail in a light breeze. You drift in Bretagne, down the ramparts, from shop to shop, hand in hand with someone you care about, and you admire the sea, watch the waves, and sit with the warm sensation of feeling in-love (most often due to the cider).
Sitting in Le Corps de la Garde, a crêperie in Saint-Malo, I watched and observed all the people passing by. They peeked in, I peaked out. For both of us I imagine it is like peering into a fishbowl. You may make eye contact with the fish, but it’s not awkward, you just observe one another.
I felt that I had known them before, as if, in a strange way, they were my favorite cousins I only got to see twice a year, and as if the last time we had seen each other, we were 12 and had spent a lazy afternoon eating apples and talking in the only tree in my grandma’s backyard big enough to fit us all. Their names are Laura and Guillaume, and I had the pleasure of couch surfing with them for two nights in Rennes.
They inhabit an apartment not far from the heart of the city. It has charm–the framed photos on the wall of the two of them, pictures and souvenirs of places they’ve traveled sitting quietly on the bookshelf, the comfortable white futon where I had slept, the clay teapot that sat forgotten in the living room, a handful of dishes left in the sink for tomorrow morning.
The first night that I was there, we had a Breton meal–homemade galette, a sweet crepe for dessert, and some cider. The second night I made them pancakes with berries, hazelnuts, all lathered in peanut butter, layered in banana slices, and doused in maple syrup, huevos rancheros on the side. We stayed up late both nights talking and played poker on the second night.
The next morning Laura and I woke up early for a run down by the canal–7am. It was peaceful. There was mist rising off the surface of the water, and the moon was still out. When we came back, Laura took me to the boulangerie connected to their building, and we had tea and pastries for breakfast along with an assortment of things to spread on top. I chose caramel au beurre salé–caramel spread made with salted butter. The night before, she took me to the grocery store, and we bought 6 different jars of different kinds of spreads because I had not tried many of them, and as Laura said, “it’s a party!” She was kind enough to send me home with the jar so that my friends could experience caramel au beurre salé as well.
It’s weird when you think about it. We hadn’t known each other before, and in two days, we became friends. She was so nice to me, I felt guilty half the time, for no reason other than the fact that she was so kind, always asking me if I wanted more of something, if I was comfortable enough, coming with me into town before I could meet up with my friends so that she could give me a tour, offering to drive to me across town to my friend’s house so that I would not have to ride the bus. Where is this kindness coming from, I thought? It was, beautiful, in a way, and, in-tune with how surfing with Lucie made me feel, I felt truly connected to humanity, in-love with it.
All things nautical and autumnal. I feel refreshed in a way, steady and supported.