Have fun looking at the horses today, the mister said as he walked out the door of our holiday rental in northern France last week, laden with rock climbing paraphernalia. It's what you wanted to do.
Indeed, I had told him, with dreamy eyes and arms pretzeled over a fence, that I could stand there watching the small herd of four all day. His lighthearted comment struck me swiftly and without warning. Humans are adaptable, yes, but adapted isn’t synonymous for well-placed. Each second in the countryside reminds me that I never yearned to live in a city. I'm fine and dandy in Amsterdam, but plop me in the sticks of France, and I'm nearly high on the pollen-burdened breeze. Bumblebees as big as chestnuts floating heavily from blossom to sky. A German shepherd loping past our gîte every morning next to an old man on his bike. Rolling fields of yellow rapeseed blossoms. Winding gravel roads with only the occasional tractor grinding by. Wind not overshadowed by human- or machine-generated noise. I tolerate the city's din, accept its bustling tourist season, and, most days, even take pleasure in its conveniences and constant offerings of human connection. But hunger for it when I'm away? Nope. Not once.
Just past the garden fence of our holiday rental, horses with their swans' necks angled at the ground grazed close enough that I could hear their tail swishes and stomping and contented sighing from the kitchen. I doubted that they'd been ridden in recent history, but they were friendly and once cared for dearly; they quickly accepted my existence after a successful nose-to-pocket inquiry yielded notes of carrots, apples. With my fingers I stripped the the sweating old mare of her haggard winter coat and left it for the birds in great, dander-dusted mounds. She stood still, breathed deeply, lowered her nose into my hands when I was done. Later, I saw her gallop across the vast pasture, just for a moment, before her hollow haunches reminded her of her age.
I went without for two weeks. Internet, that is. I had everything else by my side. Five and a half books, several restful and late mornings, an embarrassing number of baguettes, and half a sense of peace later, I am slowly reconnecting. The transition from countryside-quiet to interwebs-loud is quite intense, I tell you what.