Sunday, July 1, 2018

A Walk Down I-Don't-Remember-Much Lane

So, I'm in Pau, France, getting ready to start a bike tour tomorrow. I took advantage of jet lag to go for an early morning walk today that was intended to be a stroll down memory lane. Thirty-three years ago, I was a Mormon missionary in Pau and lived here for three months. I thought that walking the streets would bringing memories back. I have a few, but not many.

I walked by the Chateau de Pau, which I remembered taking pictures of way back when, but never visiting.

Then I walked on to Place Gramont, which I remember riding my bike through, it being only a few blocks from our apartment.

Place Gramont

Our apartment building

I walked through Place Gramont and then down Rue d'Etigny. I tried to remember which side street it was that came down a steep hill which we'd ride down, careening around the corner, usually ignoring the stop sign at the bottom of the hill. 

Thirty-three years is a long time. Still, I thought I'd remember something, feel something. But there was nothing. 

Perhaps this is due in part to the fact that I wasn't very happy when I was in Pau, and I was doing a lot of soul searching. I did a lot of reading of literature, works of Hermann Hesse and Oscar Wilde for example. Definitely not missionary-approved reading, but it made me feel alive to read it. And I needed to feel alive. I needed to feed a part of me that was starving to death. I was struggling with a lot of things then, including whether I should come out when I returned home and leave the Mormon Church. I eventually chose, however, to stay in both the Church and the closet.

Me, in our apartment in Pau, September 1985.

Now, of course, it's a different story. I'm an out and proud gay man, and it's interesting for me to come back here as such. 

I thought about this as I walked back to our hotel this morning along the Boulevard des Pyrenees. I remember riding my bike along that street, which offers--on a clear day--a nice view of the mountains in the distance. I also thought, "When I was a missionary, I never explored the landscape that I saw from the Boulevard des Pyrenees." I couldn't. I didn't have a chance.

Later in the day, I went on a warm-up ride with three other people on the tour. We rode into that landscape, up and down hills, past farmland, vineyards and woods.

Scene on our ride today.

It was as I was riding that the thought came to me that the experience of looking out at the scenery from the Boulevard des Pyrenees was a metaphor for my life: For much of my life, I saw scenery in the landscape of life only from afar, and that landscape remained unexplored. I couldn't explore it. Until I could.

And then, finally, as I was writing this post, it occurred to me that the purpose of my visit here is not to take a stroll down memory lane, but to set off into that panoramic landscape, both the Pyrenees and its foothills as well as (huge metaphor here) the landscape of the future of my life. Of course, the Universe knew that eight months ago when I signed up for this tour; I, however, did not. Now, I do.

Me, somewhere in the Pyrenees, October 1985. It's good to be here again.

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