Les Grands Massifs

I started writing this on the 30th of December, when we were gathered at home and almost completely socked in by inclement weather wedged into the Alps. Looking out the picture window, there were dozens of cloud structures that moved about like the Transport express régional trains—they were all stop and go, tumbling up, down, and through the various mountain ranges: the Vercors just in front of us, the Chartreuse up to the left, and probably also the Belledonne standing taller yet beyond line of sight from the house.
On the morning of le réveillion, the last day of 2017, things looked much better outside. I awoke to an almost unfettered view of the valley. It’s always this way after a good rain because the majority of cloud cover has been batted away, taking with it the region’s unfortunate pollution. France’s official sunrise is of course rather hidden here, but morning still plays music in a way that is impossible to silence. The mountains, very much like the sea, have their own stories to tell in shifting light, and it’s a distinctive tale that can’t be replicated anywhere else. It’s the reason why I stand on a freezing balcony in bare feet and take a dozen crappy photos in an attempt to capture it. Nothing does more for short winter day than to witness a sunrise or sunset. Even as I returned to bed and tried to gain a few more minutes of morning rest, I kept popping up to see what was happening in the composition unfolding against the mountains. I can’t help it. I don’t get back here often enough, and when I have the chance to attend to this kind phenomenon in simplicity, I know that it’s better than any cinematic experience I could purchase. Sleep just can’t offer the same level of restoration.It did take me far too long to return to Grenoble, even though the last time I was here I swore that I wouldn’t be a stranger. Déjà un an et quatre mois passe depuis your last visit” was the text I got from one of my friends. He was right. The problem is that there is only so much time in a year, and there are many friends, family, and friends who have become family that I am always super keen to see. Life happens, work demands that you are nailed to a desk. It becomes evident quickly that we will never get to see everyone as often as we would like. Sometimes it takes a year and four months.But the people and the topographic profile of the Dauphiné Alps are special to me. Almost sacred. One year and four months spent away has been far too long. I know this because the people here are the sort who are extremely valuable and hard to come by. They hop over the boundaries of catching up-variety politesse and get on with speaking candidly. They remind me that while we have come to the end of a crazy 2017, I must cultivate my expectations and ambitions that are laid out for 2018 and beyond. My friends will support my goal to return and stare at their mountains, but what they really want to see me do is not only invest time in them, but also in myself. And I want the exact same things for them.  I’m extremely fortunate to count my friends in Grenoble as people in my network. They are people who make me want to push myself harder, but only to a positive outcome. They motivate me to wander into Fnac on a rainy afternoon and buy a novel written in French, even if it’s been years since I’ve cracked a book that wasn’t written in English. I did it not only because it’s a good practice and I don’t want any nuance lost with an English translation, but more importantly I did it because my friends have more confidence in my shaky French they I do. It seems like a silly example, but to me the purchase points to a larger concept.It gets quite easy to doubt yourself when you are far away from a reality that you know or one that you “used to know”.  As a person who lives far from her closest friends and family and also travels frequently solo for my job, sometimes a calibrated perspective becomes elusive. You start to doubt your capabilities, or the path on which you are traveling. It is for this reason that I find spending time with familiar faces and places to be so prescriptive. Both remind me that there is much fallacy in this kind of solitary thinking.This past year had tons attached to it, just as I know the coming year will offer more of the same. I look forward to capturing more of these moments with as much frequency as I humanly can. To be given more mornings where I wake up to not only a view of mountains, or a lighthouse, or an Irish countryside—but more importantly opening my eyes and being amongst the nonjudgmental and silently knowing faces of people I know and love well.   I could spend next year and the rest of my life trying to set foot in every country of the world—and indeed, some people may suspect that this is exactly what I am doing. On the contrary, I am neither organized nor interested enough to attempt such a feat. The truth is that I have a far more serious goal in mind: it’s preserving and constantly renewing the openwork community that I’ve built over the past forty years. I hope that I can provide for all of these people—the Grenoblois and beyond— what they have already given to me: the very best of themselves in 2017 and realistic hope for more of the same in the years to come.

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