Philosophical in France | My Family Travels
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I’ve never felt small before. Despite being five feet tall and seventeen, living in the third largest state in the US, dwelling on a planet that is so often criticized as being insignificant in the vastness of the universe, I’ve never felt dwarfed absolutely by the beauty of something. But then again, I had never seen mountains before I visited France.

It felt like nobody in the world had seen mountains like these, because if they had, they would have been recognizably changed. Some of the beauty would have rubbed off, leaving a kind of consistency in their features, a permanence on some level that reflected the eons that the rocks themselves had clung to the earth. But there wasn’t. Not even on me.

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I thought that, upon arriving back in the US, the change Mt. Jura had brought over me would have been perceptible to all who saw me, that friends would pause and then tentatively inquire as to what had happened. What had changed? But they accepted their chocolate souvenirs without pause or question, taking the look of satisfaction on my face to be proof enough. Though there was so much more to it than that.

It’s difficult to describe, which is cliché and uninformative and awful, but it’s true. Epiphanies aren’t so much bolts of understanding as slow comprehension. A thought that you had been thinking for years, but is only just surfacing. It was like that, looking at Mt. Jura.

I was standing in a wheat field in France, in the shadow of a mountain, in my own personal paradise, and belatedly appreciating the knowledge that this moment was just as important as any other. Because here I was: traveling by myself, experiencing wonder, feeling the wheat stalks tickle my calves as I tried to run through this field, and it was every moment before this that brought me here.

I was with my host sister, Megan. We had spent the day exploring her small town of Prevessin-Moëns, and with each passing minute cycling through, I had fallen more in love with this rural piece of France. That she would ever want to leave was baffling and strange. Where I came from was flat and wet, humid and all too hot, all too often. This place was magical, plain and simple.

Where else could you lie in a field of gold, a virtual sanctuary and place of perfection? The blue sky stretched out, disappearing behind the peaks of the mountains, daring daydreamers to drift. The feeling of peace and simultaneous smallness reminded me of being in church as a little girl. The stained glass windows would paint my face, much like the shadows of the plants, and I would lose myself in reverent thoughts, for God, for life, for whatever was especially spectacular.

Upon growing up, I had lost most of my religious habits, but being in another country had moved me to adventure, and I had made Megan take me to a church. As we stepped over the threshold she confided that she had never been in a church before. The mass of the European architecture overwhelmed us both, and it became blatantly clear why tourists of all disciples, all beliefs, visited them. It was to be reminded that we are small. That each moment is small alongside us, but together it all becomes this beautiful life.

I felt the same way in that wheat field. My new haven, my new church. My new lesson acquired, I felt free to explore the rest of my vacation, the beautiful continuation of my life.

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