Saturday, November 7, 2009
Attention to detail
One of the things I like about France is the sense that order and beauty and pride have their places in ordinary life. The Jardin du Thabor in Rennes exemplifies this. It's a large park in the middle of the city, with wide paths, old trees, sculpted lawns, no litter, and on the large forecourt of the conservatory, where we ate our lunch of baguette sandwiches in the sun, nearly a dozen city workers replanting flowers and tending the beds with exquisite care. It was nearly November; how many times do they change the flowers in the course of a year?
Compared to Paris, Rennes itself might be considered ordinary (certainly, Parisians would have no trouble making the consideration). With its huge student population, it could easily be scruffy and down-at-heel. But it's not - it's lovely and sophisticated.
And when the ordinary workers in their ordinary trucks make sure of their daily supply of baguettes, you know this is a place for living.
We could use a dose of this respect for everyday living in our messy American cities.
But ultimately, the Jardin is a little too perfect, the workers a little too complacent. I for one need the messiness of the Maine woods, and the knowledge that our little corner of crashing surf doesn't need a Michelin star just down the road to make it perfect.