To build a home

Notre Dame has blown its top. It has lost its hair, that is all. I had been scared about how it might look, this friendly giant which woke me every week last year with the tolling of its Sunday bells. I am back to looking at it affectionately from a high window. I am home!

With each passing day, as the love grown and cultivated in this place percolates my mind and body, warming me like red wine, I am slipping away, and I feel you slipping away. It is not enough to subsist on memories, not now anyway. I feel the bonds loosening, bonds formed through proximity, shared purpose, that far away from each other we cannot maintain.

Notre Dame at the same time last year

Here my mind is fed, my soul nourished, by endless gentle, considerate, intelligent conversations. New Zealand, that land of such beauty and grandeur, fed the animal in me. I morphed into my animal self and ate raw salt, skin, the water of the lake. The sea, sand, sun, and mountains make a creature of me.

My animal shrinks away now, under the civilising force of Parisian history, the dusty march of tourist feet in the warm spring European months. But it longs for its food again. I realise more and more how my animal needs feeding – to feel the muscles of my body ache with new learning, and my senses to be stimulated from all angles.

And then there is the cerebral stimulation yearned for by the other hungry side of me, that longs to talk into the night, to feel my words meet an equal’s. Here in Shakespeare and Company is a place where I am valued, hugged, home. I can devour books and feed on ideas and feed my literary longings.  

Anya and me getting our morning coffee after opening up shop

The dark side of the moon / la lune cachée

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon 50 years ago. The Grand Palais has an exhibition celebrating the moon’s many appearances art and culture through time. The terminator is the name for the line separating night and day on a moon or planet. The moon moves 3.5 centimetres away from Earth each year, affecting the tides. I thought of the tides I’d learned about doing my beach lifeguarding course – the spring tide and the neap tide.

I thought about the strange coincidence that means that although the moon is 400 times smaller than the sun, it is also 400 times closer to Earth than the sun – so to us, they look like they’re the same size in the sky. The Muslim calendar is lunar; Ramadan, which has just ended, begins with the appearance of the first crescent at dusk. 

Reading list

The new(ish) releases I read and enjoyed while at the shop…

  • Little Labors by Rivka Galchen (2016)
  • The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells (2019)
  • Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney (2017)
  • In the Shadow of Wolves by Alvydas Slepikas (2011 / transl. 2019)
  • Amateur by Thomas Page McBee (2018)
  • Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge (2017)
  • Happening by Annie Ernaux (2000)
  • The Idiot by Elif Batuman (2017)
  • The Word for Woman is Wilderness by Abi Andrews (2018)
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (2019)
  • The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable by Amitav Ghosh (2016)
  • Walking: One Step at a Time by Erling Kagge (2019)
  • Enigma Variations by André Aciman (2018)
  • How to be a Good Creature: a Memoir in Thirteen Animals by Sy Montgomery (2018)

Listening

13 Minutes to the Moon – BBC World Service

George Whitman
“I’m sick of all these people saying they don’t have time to read. I don’t have time for anything else!”
George Whitman

5 thoughts on “To build a home

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