Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Am I ready?

I had been biking in the rain for several days. I was excited at the possibility of shelter, a roof of any kind; a shower house, a picnic pavilion, at that point a port-a potty would have done. Sleeping in a French vineyard in a damp tent in damp clothing no matter how I romanticized it, had grown tiresome. I rolled into the campground, and true to French hospitality I was turned down for camping. The campground was open, others were camping, but for some reason, according to the mean little woman in the speaker box, the campground was closed. Chit. A German couple leaving the campground overheard me arguing with the speaker box woman and gave me directions to another campground close by but up a steep hill. It was shelter and I was thrilled. At this campground I got to talk to a human behind the desk, was assigned a camping spot and told they had free hot showers. Whoo hoo, I was happy. I went to my spot and started setting up when my neighbor, a woman from England came out and offered me a "cup o tea". Could it get better? We chatted in the light rain while I drank the tea, ate the biscuit and asked for another. When I finished, she gathered her cup and plate, said good night then gave me a hug. My eyes welled up. A tear rolled over the edge. A lump choked off my air. When she let go to say good night again and pat my shoulder she looked at me and said "alright,alright what's this?!". I asked her for another hug. That interaction was my first inkling, my first clue. The next week the weather improved a bit, but not much, so I was still looking for campgrounds at night, and maybe another hug. One evening I was set up, cooking dinner when an elderly woman walked by with her three dogs and five cats. I could not resist. I got up and tried to talk to her. She didn't speak English but she "told" me the names of all her friends and then invited me to her trailer in the campground. She was a permanent resident and was happy to have a visitor. She showed me her whole house, her drawers and their contents, where she did her dishes, her canned goods, the medications she took, (holding up each bottle then showing me on her fingers how many pills she took of each), and the plumbing problems she was having. She indicated that I should help her feed the cats, gave me a can to open and the bowls. The cats came running. She was smiling. I was smiling. The cats... were hungry. I eventually said good night and went to my tent. In the morning she appeared with her entourage and we waved recognition and hello. There wasn't much to say, or much that could be said. I watched her walk by and watched her turn the corner. One by one her animals turned the corner and went out of sight as well. The last one, a cat, dawdled, smelling something, then as it slowly turned it wrapped, then unwrapped its tail around a light post, and was gone. I welled up. I was getting ready.

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