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A moment of culture shock while I was an Educo student in France in 1995 par Isabel Rivera

Le coin des anciens

I remember being invited to my host mother’s summer house in Normandy when I was an Educo student in France.

Not only was the concept of a “summer house” alien to me, since I’d only lived in apartments growing up in the US, but, more curiously, the extent of freedom to safely wander that one could have in the French countryside was breathtaking.

While staying at the house, I remember distinctly one day sneaking away after dinnertime and roaming the countryside under a full moon. The sound of grass crunching under my feet could be heard as I explored an unpeopled terrain of blanched trees and bushes a long way from the house, past cow pastures. Was it a coming-of-age moment for me? I surely didn’t hear my mother’s voice calling out after me for my safety here. I was out for a long time.

Coming to rest beside a pond lit up by moonlight, I found a big boulder to sit on to contemplate the beauty of nature. The silence was engulfing and all I could hear were the sounds of crickets and my own breathing. It was then that a music could be heard distantly, and increasingly clearly, as if rippling out from my heat – Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”. My eyes rested on the traces of light dancing on the water, as I gave in to my private listening session. I couldn’t believe that I had found a place like this, where this kind of getaway could be done on earth!

On the way back to the summer house, I was half-expecting to run into somebody, anybody. But I didn’t. I certainly wouldn’t be able to find a place like that now to enjoy in New York City, where such a sense of safety and serenity can scarcely be had.

Sometimes I go back to that place in my mind, when I am in need of an idyllic place to imagine after a stressful day. It seems to me that that moonlit paradise was perhaps the kind of landscape that Debussy might have composed for in “Clair de Lune”.

A vignette by Isabel Rivera (1994/95)

Automne 2011