La fin

IMG_3724With summer’s breath still warm on our necks, the first fumes of wood smoke tickle my nose. As the leaves on the trees begin to change, I realize with regret that it’s time to put away my sandals until next year.

Fall has always felt like a fresh start to me, with its back-to-school rush and the energy of cooler days. Other than November, that dreaded dark month, autumn is the season I love best. Only three months until Christmas! Time to get on that to-do list!

But this year we have had such a glorious summer, it is hard to see it pack its bags. The first true hot summer weather in years, du début jusqu’à la fin. It got nice early in the spring and stayed that way throughout July and August. We were able to enjoy long evenings on the deck, drink and eat outside all the time. I complained, of course, that it was too hot. After all, who feels like working when the pool beckons?

But it’s time to let go. This past weekend I packed up all my summer clothes and sorted through the fall and winter ones before making the semi-annual switch. This is something I do twice a year, partly because I don’t have enough closet space to keep everything in circulation but also because it’s good to sort through what you haven’t worn lately and make a cull. Sometimes it’s an excuse to go shopping. “Out with the old, in with the new!” The charity shops enjoy it, too.

I am not a huge fan of endings. I find most things start out better than they end. When deeply enthralled with a book, I often skip ahead and read the ending so that I can relax and enjoy it without the suspense. Sometimes I get two-thirds through a film and can’t be bothered to watch the rest. But I love the bittersweet time of transitions – endings and beginnings. Summer’s end means the beginning of fall, and a new year just around the corner.

I guess that change is in the air. My yoga teacher announced that today would be our last class. She is a very good instructor and an inspired soul who puts a lot of herself into teaching, but she’s having too hard a time making a living at it. She told us today that the fall season is deeply associated with change, that it is a time for letting go. I guess that means it’s time for me to accept that all good things must come to an end.

C’est la fin de l’été.

IMG_2569How do you feel about endings and beginnings? Do you embrace change or go out kicking and screaming?

Speaking in tongues

Lord Ganesha

By Ranjitphotography93 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I’m spending the week at a yoga retreat near Angoulême in southwest France with a group of people from all different backgrounds: English, Irish, Welsh, Swedish, South African and American with a dose of French, German and Moroccan influence thrown into the pot for good measure. With limited access to the outside world, conversation has been our main form of entertainment in between the ‘oms’.

The stories and voices of my fellow yogis have been echoing so loudly in my mind that I found it difficult to write my planned blog post. I changed topics three times before finally deciding to write about being a sponge for other people’s voices.

I’ve always been fascinated by accents and different ways of saying things. When I was a child I decided it was much more interesting to speak with an English accent, so I contrived to speak that way. Needless to say I got teased relentlessly and dropped the act.

Now, when I feel a strong connection to someone, be it a colleague or a close friend, I will unconsciously imitate their way of speaking, even pick up on some of their preferred adjectives or verbal tics. “It’s so-o-o-o lovely,” I find myself saying in uncharacteristic accents to a Brit. “Whaddya reckon?” I’ll ask a friend from down under. Or continually add “Ya know?” at the end of my sentences. Worse, in conversation with someone whose English is halting, I’ll occasionally go to their level and begin to speak pidgin. It gets embarrassing.

When I was learning the mechanics of French grammar, I got my head so inside the French way of saying things that for some time it felt like I could no longer speak proper English. “You must go around before to cross the bridge,” I would say confusingly when asked how to get to the other side of the Seine in Paris. (Il faut faire le tour avant de traverser le pont.) Or, ridiculously:  “I envy a chocolate croissant.” (‘Avoir envie’ being to feel like having something). Temporarily losing my ability to put a sentence together in English was a growing pain of learning another language.

I suppose that internalizing other people’s voices is a form of empathy. It’s my way of actively listening in order to put myself in their shoes. But sometimes it feels like a handicap.

As a writer, you have to find to your own voice and remain true to it. I’ve felt unsure of that voice many times over the past months, convinced I was all over the map in this blog. But reading it back with a bit of distance, it does feel fairly consistent. So I need to let the voices quieten in my mind this week before I go back to my next planned post, or it may sound a little out of sync.

Yoga is stretching me in more ways than one. I may be stiff and sore for a few days from opening up to different ways of thinking and doing things but hopefully I’ll find my voice again soon. With perhaps just a hint of somewhere else.