August 22, 2014

French Friday: La Rentrée

La Rentrée -- back-to-school, the end of les grandes vacances, "the reentry" -- I love this French expression! August in Paris is quieter due to the mass exodus of French citizens retreating to the countryside, the mountains, or the sea, leaving tourists in their wake. The French take their vacations quite seriously. Time away is deemed necessary for one's physical and mental health, in turn making time at work even more productive. Granted most Americans don't have five weeks of federally-mandated paid vacation, but whether we get away from our normal routines for a month, a week, or even just an extended weekend, the pace of life changes in the summertime. The days are longer. We spend more time outside. We slow down to be with family and friends, to linger over a meal or a beverage, to watch the sun set, the moon rise, the stars and the fireflies flicker. Yet, one day near the end of August, we start to feel another shift. It's subtle, but if we pay close attention, we notice that the sun is lower in the sky, the mornings are chilly, and the leaves have lost their vibrant verdancy, preparing for even more vivid color. C'est la rentrée!

As much as I relish summer's languid pace, late August makes me eager for change. As Jordan Baker told Daisy Buchanan, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” (F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby). I love the cooler weather, the cozy sweaters, fires in the fireplace, hot cider, and football games. School starts on Monday, and even though I never really left this summer, I'm almost ready for The Reentry. But first, my own annual ritual, my personal holiday: Il dolce far niete (I know it's not French, but Italian is a beautiful language too). Each summer I take one day before school starts again to enjoy "the sweetness of doing nothing!" Today's the day: coffee on the deck, the September issues, blogging and online shoe shopping this morning, followed by a back-to-school mani-pedi and The Hundred Foot Journey this afternoon. Then I'll be ready for La Rentrée.