It is the last day of my great journey and I sit here on the 5th floor of a 17th century building in the heart of the Latin quarter in Paris, France and think about my trip and all that has happened. It will take a long time to process. There are experiences I have had to compartmentalise until I get home in case the reopening blows me away and I cannot function.
I have a late flight and will be hanging round the airport for a while. It is tempting to have my computer with me so I can write, but I want to travel home light. It's paramount that I travel home light.
I have left so many burdens behind me. I have felt each church, each cathedral, each sacred space take them from me willingly and with great love. I have left them there in safety and they have been dissolved. This has not come without a price, this letting go of old painful things. I have been called to heal on many occasions. Mostly when I least expected it, and often when I had no strength of my own. In that honest vulnerability, I was able to find the compassion and love that was necessary to help another and in the doing, help myself. And strip away the bullshit at my core to get to my very being. It has been a humbling and powerful rebuilding of the woman I thought I was...
I sit here in Paris, a few metres away from a park which fed my soul. Lodged in my heart. Restored my energy. It lies only a short distance from the great cathedral, Notre Dame and yet, it gave me more than all the cathedrals put together. This is my reward from the land I have found. I didn't come seeking this connection - she found me - everywhere I went, every step I took, she found me and brought me home to myself...
Paris. A city of contradictions. A city of smells and sights and temperaments. Languages and gestures. Romance and pain. The sight of beggars didn't surprise me - in fact they all looked the same - in their old womans uniform with the obligatory headscarf and walking stick; the young ones with their burnt dark skin and caramel eyes full of pretend innocence and guile. The men sitting back, reaping the monetary rewards.
I saw the family who sit at the end of Rue de la Hutchette with their children under a blanket. Not overtly begging. But living on the street all the same while a few metres away the towering gothic spires of two churches rise over them and the bells peal for the tourist masses to come Spend! Spend! Spend! I found it almost too much to bear.
Or the young man asleep under a urine soaked and rat infested hedge near the park where I did my early morning reading. Dewclad and desperately pleading with me not to tell the gendarmes, hurriedly gathering his clothing and his meagre and pitiful belongings together in a plastic sack. I bought him coffee and breakfast and listened to him talk. It was the only thing I could do.
All the while, people walking past, not looking or looking with disgust and the occasional disgusting spitting in the street indicating their displeasure. The young man was only one of the thousands I saw...
And the architecture... I could rabbit on for hours about the incredible majesty and beauty that surrounded me at every step. I could wax lyrical about being in a city that was so old I couldn't in any way comprehend it. I could also smell it... Strongly.
But I want to go home now. I've had more than my poor tiny antipodean brain can handle and I need my kids and my cat and my bed. And my own tiny space in my head that until I left on this trip, thought Australia a big place. I used to work hard on the journey within to myself but I realise now I was only capable of a shallow journey because I had a very small reference point. Through other people and the lands I visited, I found myself.
The world is bigger than I had ever imagined...