Deconstructed Salad: Compose a salad with ingredients of your choice each in its own place on the plate. Add French Vinaigrette and enjoy!
The French Connection
It was my first trip abroad and it was, for me, epic. I found a place of personal peace and calm that I have never experienced in all of my – I’m going to say it! – 44 years. It has taken me that long to learn to disconnect from cares, worries, and planning propensities.
As I pondered what dish to share with my Trio friends, I thought about how I had come to take this amazing journey to Paris in the first place. Savoring in memory each meal I had eaten there, it occurred to me that there was a great metaphor to be found in both the complexity of a wonderful onion soup, and the way that a deconstructed salad makes an inspired whole out of many disparate parts.
The secret to a lovely Soup D’Oignon (as the French call it) is not to rush the caramelizing of the onions. It is a slow and masterful cook who can perfect this principal ingredient, and a superior soup can never be rushed. With a deconstructed salad, ordinary ingredients that don't seem like much on their own combine to create a beautiful (and delicious!) whole. In short, my recent trip overseas happened because a lifetime of experiences converged, in perfect timing, to create a personal ongoing odyssey.
First, I repeated the first grade. I did it because the year after completing the first grade in English, our school offered a full French immersion program. My parents were immigrants (to Canada from the US) who did not speak French and they wanted me to have that advantage. I don’t sound pretty, but the Parisians found my Canadian prairie accent quaint, and I was able to get around on my trip quite comfortably even after all of these years. My first grade teacher, who still speaks to me in French when I run into her in my home town, would have been proud!
Second, as my husband will attest, I have not always been a keen flier. I never imagined I could last eight hours in a hurling tube thousands of feet up in the air. Frankly, I never even considered leaving the mainland in an airplane. On one of our first trips as a married couple, I remember flat out refusing to get on what I learned would be our commuter flight home (rural living has its cons). Panic, and probably divorce, may have flashed through my husband’s mind as I stood there preparing for imminent death. I was terrified. Obviously, I got on the plane, survived and we live in harmony now. Happily, I’ve not let flying completely deter me from travel plans, and after many two-hour flights home from college, four-hour flights to see my grandparents across the country, and finally one long flight over the ocean to my brother’s wedding in Hawaii, I actually like to fly. I especially like to fly alone because I don’t hear, “MOM!” at 33,000 ft.
Third, I have learned the art of shifting. I joke and say that I’m a Thought-Shifting Ninja. Many are surprised to learn that my frequent travel does create the same stress, guilt, and chaos that most women feel when they walk away from their daily schedules. So much depends on us. However, I have learned over time that our family ebbs and flows with every trip I take. We all go our separate ways, and we all come back with our own stories to share. I know that our time apart as a family is beneficial. This time, each of our family members was in a different country for nearly two weeks. And while I had anxiety around that before I left, we all made it. We all had our independent experiences, which is what life is about. It’s about your experiences that lead to your choices that lead to your odyssey.
And as I walked the Chemins de Grandes Randonees from perfect village to perfect village in the immaculate countryside of France, I felt nothing but contentment. I understood how monks on mountain tops can find enlightenment. It’s not that the world fails to exist or that your mother isn't taking your child out for dinner every night and failing to monitor his bedtime routine (hey, she’s the grandma!); it’s that you don’t have to be responsible for it at that moment.
Now that I’m home, I’m working on finding that feeling while the usual family chaos thrives around me.
Since re-entry, I can confirm it is far easier to find contentment and peace while wandering through beautiful vistas far away. However, I now have a compass to steer me towards what it feels like to really be in the moment. If things “turn to custard” (my new favorite saying from our trip), I imagine myself taking an elevator down a few levels, where the imaginary door opens to the rolling hills and quaint village of Collanges-La-Rouge. It’s how I reconnect to that feeling – breath and memory.
I’m so grateful for the lessons of France. They have helped me recognize that all things converge for our goodness. Those life experiences and events that seem random in our daily lives are what will eventually bring us to something epic – and our next great lesson.
Trust me; it is not so much the skill of the chef, but his patience that creates the masterpiece.
You just can’t rush it, like a nice French Onion Soup.
Peace and Light, The Busy Buddha