Wednesday night my plan for the next day, Thursday, was to cycle to Ceret. The weather was forecast to be fine, I have not been on my bike, and I would like to see Ceret, a village in the Pyrenees Orientales. It is a ride of something less than 25 miles, probably 45 miles round trip, with very little climbing by Berkshire standards. Part of the draw to that town is the fine museum, respected for its collection of painters known collectively as Les Fauves, including Derain, Cezanne, Picasso. Cherries: Ceret is also famous for its delicious, first-of-the-season cherries. Typically May is cherry season, but the spring is late and chilly, and I have yet to see any.
Thursday morning. I woke early by my French standard, made coffee, ate something, showered, dressed, took a look at the sky, took a look at the map. Stopped, and took another look at the sky. It was almost that startling blue Collioure is famous for. Not quite, it has been wet and moisture remains in the air. Still, very blue. Things started shifting. I started making excuses, they went like this:
"Oh, but my nagging painful hip, I don't want to aggravate it again. Oh, but look at those red roads, (Departementales, a map designation) they might be busy, with cars whizzing by. Oh, look at those towns I will need to find way through. Oh, perhaps if one of my Berkshire cycling buddies was here with me.
I took another look at the sky. Not a cloud. Clear. Saturated blue. Now all of those things are true, of course. None really gives me a moment's pause, except the hip, an issue that doesn't disappear.
But, whatever my brain's chatter and expectations, the fact nonetheless emerged: I wanted to continue yesterday's quiet reflective pace. Wanted to walk along the Mediterranean. That was the heart and truth of it. My changed intentions had nothing to do with that chattering brain's excuses. My real desire was to walk along the sea, where I knew there was a path, sometimes high on the cliffs, sometimes at water's edge.
Thursday, I didn't get on the bike. I walked.
As I sat I remembered how the sound and sight of the sea so deeply quiets me. The smell plays a part also, here more subtly. The Atlantic has a strong, pervasive, salty smell that I associate with the ocean. The scent of the Mediterranean is milder, sometimes almost unnoticeable. Being at the shore is a rare experience for me these days, and it has a strong effect, one I have recognized for at least 30 years
I waded in the water: it was not cold, but not warm enough to be inviting for a swim. Sitting again, my feet became sunburnt, as did the back of my neck. I became hungry: lunchtime had passed, hours had passed. It was time to move. I returned by the same path to Collioure.