February 16, 2015 in The Camino
I want to see poppies.
That exotic red flower that populates the fields of France and Spain; that stand guard over soldiers graves and who makes cowardly lions and young girls in ruby-red slippers sleep. The reverent and solemn poppy with a mysterious beauty that makes you want to weep for all it stands for. The Helen to the Troy of the drug world, the opiate, she lures you in with her gorgeous red blossoms and yet innocently withers when plucked. Such frail petals has she, soft, silky and oh! The colour! Red. Tomatoes, blood and a vamp’s lipstick, she offers the fruit of temptation and I can’t help but to be lured in to love her, to search for her, inevitably to depend on her when walking the Camino becomes a brow and bone beating endeavour.
Jenn and I are in the Rollerskate. It is a nickname we have attached to our little rental car. It is a tiny, black toy that barely holds our backpacks. Jenn is an amazing navigator as she zips through the narrow streets of Paris. We are looking for the highway that will lead us south through the French countryside to a small village called Pau. It is a beautiful day for a drive. The sun is bright and warm and the few clouds that pepper the sky hang innocuously patient and still.
We find the highway and France opens her arms to us. We drive past rolling fields and grassy knolls. We admire the architecture of picturesque farms dotting the valleys. In the distance high-speed trains skim over the landscape like snakes through grass. Memories come flooding back to the time I spent in France years ago. I was young then but still retain enough sense memory to start salivating at the idea of lunch in the countryside. Fresh baguette, fromage, viande et vin (rouge)!
This is it. We pull into a service station and I see my first poppies. They line the embankment, waving at us, beckoning us to come over and visit. I leap from the rollerskate and rush into the grass to touch the poppies. They look strong and vibrant but really are fragile. Like people I suppose. And I gently caress the petals and pluck only one to press into my journal. After several photo opportunities with both Jenn and the poppies, me and the poppies and of course the rollerskate with the poppies we then purchase our French lunch and find a quiet table to eat at behind the building.
We find ourselves in a tiny yard full of cherry trees. The breeze is soft and warm and Jenn and I are happy. So happy. Relaxed. Jenn wanders through the orchard and comes back to the table bearing fruit to add to our luncheon. We are so satisfied after the meal we hardly want to move. We take a moment to soak up the sun before climbing back into the rollerskate and driving on.
We are so close to the Camino. As we wind our way further south we see bits and pieces of the Camino trail. We are thrilled and curious. What will the road be like for us? What paths will we cross and what sights will we see when we start walking?
More poppies in the fields and I long to walk among them.
The rest of the drive is quiet. I think about the time I spent in Nice when I was young. A month there with my family, on the beach, up and down the coast of the French Riviera. I wish I had more time in Europe. We are not quite that far south when we pull into Pau but we are south enough to see palm trees at the bus station where we trade in our little black car for tickets into the little town that will see us launched to St. Jean-Pied-Du-Port.
This trip gets better every day and we haven’t even started walking the Camino yet. I think the poppies are a good omen. I will come to think that they are there for me as I eventually walk through their fields in Spain. They will raise my spirits when the road is long and dry.