Yesterday I took William to the park to run his bare toes through the grass for the first time. I don't know who was more thrilled, him or me!. As we lolled on the grass I looked around and was struck by how special Paris is in springtime. We all know the song, and Paris in Spring is practically a cliche, but there is just something about it....
Like many places the first hint of spring is the crocuses (crocii?) poking their sweet little faces out from the still dead, still cold earth. Then, in what appears to be an effort to speed Spring along, the florist shops begin to sell 'jonquil' or daffodils; this encouragement must work because before long daffodils are springing up everywhere: in gardens and parks or, more intrepidly, along roadways or naturalized in the few natural areas Paris has.
Then slowly, softly, unknowingly, Spring starts to happen. One morning the air is softer, the light more liquid. Suddenly, instead of going home for dinner in the dark, the sun is still up. People begin to shed their big parkas (although Parisians must be a cold blooded lot as they cling to their winter coats for an exceedingly long time) in favor of flirty skirts and billowy scarves. Overnight, leaves pop out on the trees. Then the chestnut trees bloom, which is a pretty sight as they march up the grand boulevards. Before you know it, the sun has more than a hint of warmth when it caresses your face.
I know what I describe here is very much how Spring arrives in every other part of the Northern Hemisphere (well, except Ottawa where Spring is that week between slush and humidity). But there is something special about it here, a languidity of arrival, like it is taking its time and enjoying the process. In this way, the Season of Spring is very like French people. For I think more than anything it is the way people respond to Spring here that makes it special.
As Willsy and I lolled in that park, there were plenty and I mean plenty of other lollers. Tourists sat on benches to ease their tender tootsies, businessmen loosened their ties as they watched their Blackeberries, and lovers sprouted on the grass like seeds just waiting for sun. Teens skipped school to picnic (or more likely had a spare....there aren't too many skippers here) and nou nou's brought out the babies for a stroll. The pace was leisurely, the scene serene, no-one rushed or hurried. The sweet air, the soft grass, the bright flowers were all savored. Collectively, we breathed.
This collective pleasure is what makes Spring in Paris so special to me, indeed, what makes Paris itself so special. The desire -no GOAL- of pleasure is a phenomenon Greg and I notice again and again as it is so different from North American culture. Don't get me wrong: people here work hard, and they have to hurry-to-pick-up-the-kids-at-daycare-so-they-can-make-dinner too. But relaxation is OK. People make time for it. Moments are savored. Pleasure is on the to do list. I hope this ability to savor -moments, people, seasons- is a habit that I learn and keep from my time here in Paris.