My most amazing friend and college roommate, C., introduced me to George Moustaki when she returned from her Junior Year Abroad in France, way back in ‘81. One of his songs, “Le Temps de Vivre” captured my angst, my hope—my innocence—as I looked ahead to the life I’d been given, that was just beginning to unfold.
It spoke reverently of time, and our capacity to seize hold of it, for the sake of living and love. I grew up in Colombia with parents who insisted we know world events. When I heard Moustaki sing about the words written on “the walls of the month of May,” I knew immediately that it was a reference to May of 1968 in France, a time of great upheaval and unrest. There are any number of ways to understand what happened in those days. I, a university student when I first heard him, believed passionately, that ‘68 was a year of profound hope that took hold in the hearts of university students there and all over the world, including Colombia.
In “Temps de Vivre,” Moustaki insists, “that change can come one day, that everything is possible, everything is allowed.” Even 12 years after ’68, I believed change could come in the social order. Not only that: this new beginning would be a mirror of the young love I so eagerly awaited and just knew would come for me as well. When it arrived, it would be endlessly available, endlessly open, endlessly focused on my beloved.
That kind of time Moustaki sings about came, and of course so much else did too: The loss of innocence. The willingness to accept more and more complexity in politics, in relationships, in just about everything around me. Love has ebbed and flowed in my marriage. So has the clarity about my vocation and work. As a mother, I have found myself on my knees begging for God’s mercy more than once, not knowing how to get through the next hour.
Now, standing on what is the ‘other side’ of the arc of my life, I am reaching the halfway point of my month-long time of vacation. As much as has been dismantled by life itself, these days have revealed a core, something so fundamental and strong, that I can look back on that song and those hopes with affection, even knowing as I do now, how often life gets “disassembled, rearranged.” They have been days remarkably free of regrets, nostalgia, planning, or anxiety about what lies ahead. They have been an invitation to inhabit now—not yesterday, not tomorrow—and to do so without the burdens of expectation and anticipation.
We have made real progress on the chicken coop and have made a few mistakes that required do-overs. Drilling into wood with 3 ½ inch screws takes way more effort than it looked like when it was Sherod holding the drill. I’ve immersed myself in learning more about keeping a larger flock of chicken and we are now creating a space that will accommodate a pair of geese to help keep the chickens safe. When the weather has permitted, Sherod and I have knocked off work early to jump in the pool for a while and I have gotten to visit a couple of friends I was missing. Stuff on my ‘to do list’ has gotten done after months of postponement.
This morning, I watched Sherod maneuver his tractor with great dexterity and skill; my heart melted, not just because of him or what he was doing so well, but because he, and he and I, are still able to do something silly, fun, and good, really good. I knew I couldn’t take for granted that we’ll have other opportunities like this, and I also had the certainty that I simply couldn’t stop, worry, grieve in anticipation, or strain to see the what and wherefore of time not yet received. All I had to do was inhabit this moment, this place, this love.
Today is half-way over and then we will have tomorrow. Early on Friday morning, Sherod will open the doors of his truck and Mo, Tux, and I, will head up to Birmingham so I can fly out to Portland. I have to allow all that to sort itself out on Friday, though. Today, we are taking Sunny to the vet to get her shots, and we’ll stop at the Ace Hardware store in Hayneville to get ‘barn red’ wood stain and the paint I need for the inside of the coop. There’s a lot of painting now.
All this allows me to say in response to Moustaki’s song: “Nous avons pris le temps d’aimer, d’être libre, mon amour.” We have taken the time to love, to be free, my love.