Saying Yes: Notes from a Gypsy Traveler

Categories: Inspiration,Noticing

Recently, I’ve considered adopting the French response to meeting someone—enchantée—in place of “nice to meet you.” It feels infinitely better to say, “I’m enchanted . . .” doesn’t it?

I was enchanted by my time in Sancerre, France.  Every day, I studied French with my teachers Marianne and Guillame, practiced my exercises at Marco’s house on Rue Basse des Remparts or maybe in a café in Nouvelle Place, the village square. I got lost a lot, as the streets wind up in circles or steep paths to the top of the hill to Le Coeur de France. Some days, our class included an outing to the local boulangerie or fromagerie or le petit marche.

Yesterday, I had the most delightful day. One of those days where if I died tomorrow, it would be okay. Not because I’m morbid. Not because everything was perfect or finished . . . I don’t have the answers to ANY of my biggest life questions just yet . . . but I said “yes” to so many things.

When I first arrived, I walked the little streets to get a sense of the town. With fewer than 2000 people, everyone seems to know everyone, and there are cafes and shops and boutiques featuring local artisans. On the weekend, visitors crowd the cafes and shops (some shops are only open on the weekends) and most of the English speakers are American, Canadian or Australian, and almost all of them are going to the school.

I found a boutique with beautifully colored wovens and woolens on my first day. Dangereaux. The colors were bright and clear. I found a few things I wanted to take home. The tiny shop, La Boutique Ephemere, featured the work of three artists: Charlotte, a ceramicist, Svetlana, who created felted scarves, hats and birds, and Birte Braun, a textile weaver. I selected my items—a gorgeous merino and angora poncho and a scarf—and went to make my purchase. No English at all in the shop, and this was my first day, so I had even less French. They didn’t take cards and she drew a little map to tell me where the cash machine was.

For four days, I tried to get cash from the two machines in the town. They either didn’t work, or they were out of money. Finally, one had only 10 euro notes which it dispensed in small amounts. For four days, I’d go by the shop to try to make my purchase, or let them know I was trying to get cash, and it was closed. Finally, Marianne helped me call Birte, who lived in a nearby village to ask her if she would come open the shop.

Birte, who is originally from Germany, met me at 1:15. She was a stunning woman with pale green eyes. She was so happy to meet me and could speak English and said that often she did not know where her creations were going in the world, so she wanted to be there to see me. We unpacked my items so that I could try them on with her and she began to tell me the story of the merino wools, the angora yarns and her weaving. When she was only 7, she learned to knit, and all she wanted to do was knit. Her family didn’t have the money to buy all the yarns she wanted, so she went to the local shop and told the owner she had a proposition for him. If he would give her all the yarn she wanted, she would knit sweaters for children which he could sell in his shop. He agreed.

The scarf, which can be worn looped twice, or around the shoulders or even up over my head and around my neck, is turquoise, French blue, sage green, a dusty gray and cream. When she saw I had selected that one, she said, “I must tell you the story of these colors.” She began to tell me about sitting in an olive grove knitting on a trip to Greece at age 7. She could see the sea and the leaves on the trees, feel the dry soil beneath where she sat. As she talked, she moved her hands and looked up, trying to describe her memory. “It was as if all of the colors of the place moved through me, to the needles of my knitting,” she said, looking a little shy. “This might not make sense.” But I understood perfectly what she meant, and I stood there listening, as if I had no place else to go, because I didn’t.

I got a text earlier in the day from another friend, “I wish I had your life,” she said, as a response to my travels and stories I’ve recently shared. I am grateful. I am not unaware. But the truth is that I’m just the same in Seattle as I am in Sancerre. I’m as extraordinary in Tuscany as I am in Tennessee. It’s not hyperbole: I just say yes. Yes to noticing. Yes to taking my time. Yes to curiosity. Yes to not knowing every little thing that will happen to me. I don’t have a clue what’s next. And that’s tres bien with me. I’m enchanted.

Libby Wagner
Author: Libby Wagner

Libby makes her home in a lovely West Seattle neighborhood in a house with turquoise walls and an amazing view of the Puget sound and Olympic mountains. A former Air Force “brat”, she continues to bounce from one corner of the world to the other, working with Fortune 500 clients, hopeful artists and authors, and aspiring entrepreneurs. She has a Master’s in Fine Arts and Poetry from Eastern Washington University where she also began working in the Writers in the Prison program.