Feeling Like Family in Montpellier

There is nothing that compares to the quality of life in the French countryside. My seven days here passed easily. Too quickly. I got lucky, was invited to spend a week with wonderful people and squawking chickens, among vineyards and olive trees, into a home of full bellies and fuller hearts. I slipped into a pattern of living only in the present. Realigned myself again with the natural flow of electricity and released myself from the pain of overthinking. I peeled away layers of excess and exhumed an unfettered, unburdened mind. The past and the future seemed eons away. It was a joy of being that absolved me from the guilt of not working and, instead, my productivity was measured by the seconds I felt alive. It was simple and sensory. It was the deep breath you take before a white horse wave.

Mornings began with the crow of roosters and a table laden with homemade bread, cheese, marmalade, and two cups of rich coffee. Evenings ended at the dinner table, over a bottle of wine or a glass of porto, after conversation and laughter had saturated the air. I was thankful for a warm sun and a strong breeze and for a family that accepted me immediately, with grace and gusto.

Biking down dirt roads and cobblestone, stopping for kebabs and sunsets. Long siestas cocooned in the backyard hammock and long walks picking grapes and ripe berries for snacks.

Fumbling over French and Spanish and how to delicately sever cheese into perfect, thin slices. Learning that I love fresh oysters, as it turns out, and that a good meal and a glass of wine are the most important things on earth.

Discovering people and places from David's past, embracing village traditions, and running from the bulls with locals at the Fête de Mauguio.

Watching stained glass filter beams of sunlight through an old cathedral window and following the elegance, the prismatic dance, coloring columns and framing bold paintings of contorted bodies and newfangled crucifixes.

Remembering there is much more to sitting at a dinner table than opening your mouth and chewing. It's about giving, expressing, savoring, and sharing not just the food, but existence, and these ephemeral, ineffable moments.

Trusting my words and speaking with conviction, making sure to always say what I mean.

Learning that learning is about wanting. And nothing else.

I feel like my time here has healed me. And immediately my mind tries to sabotage my sublimation. My mind tells me to wait for the veil to lift, for the euphoria to subside. But, my heart says thank you. Let it be.

 

JOSALIN SAFFER resides in Atlanta, Georgia, where she received her B.A. in Journalism. She spent the last year living, writing, and working as an English teacher in Thailand and exploring Southeast Asia. This fall, she will continue her journey as a writer and teacher in the Czech Republic. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian WeeklyThe Matador Network, and South East Asia Backpacker magazine. To read more of her published work, visit www.josalinsaffer.com.