10 years ago I was living in the south of France, supposedly teaching English. One late afternoon, I was hiking around outside my new digs and came across a large hill. I started walking up it, and that walk soon became a run. When I reached the top, huffing and puffing, I looked down the other side of the hill and gazed upon an expanse of grapevines beneath a setting sun. I inhaled deeply, spread my arms, spun around and laughed. Despite the fact that my employment and living situations were dubious, and that I knew no one anywhere near the small town of Gassin, I was overcome by a feeling. The feeling.
For years (well, 10 of them now) I’ve tried to put the feeling into words… hope, happiness, love, delight, trust. None of these words quite grasp it. Stick all of them together in a lexical blender and perhaps I’d find it (but no portmanteaus, please). For several years after the “vineyard event” I chalked the feeling up to being the byproduct of twenty-one-year-old Euro-obsessed naiveté. I would still think that today if I hadn’t experienced the feeling several times since then. I think I’m stuck with it…and I’m more than OK with that.
The feeling often hits me during a time in my life when many things are uncertain and at least one thing is drastically wrong (to my mind, at least). An acutely beautiful event (not necessarily as “spectacular” as a sunset over a vineyard, perhaps more quotidian) triggers the feeling and elevates my mind and soul to a place of clarity. For a split second, I feel more connected, more alive and stronger…and I am thankful for it.