Saturday, January 2, 2010
The sound of the snow is an agreeable crunch under my boots as I go down to the street late this morning to get the newspaper. The air is dry and cold, about 10 degrees (-12 C for my Euro-followers), and the sunlight bounces off the white ground like something off of something else--similes elude me at the moment.
According to my original schedule I would be in New Orleans at this moment, shuttling out to the Hilton across Highway 61 from the airport, to retrieve the car and head north to Mississippi. But a couple of days ago I decided to do what I thought I'd end up doing almost from the moment I got to Grand Rapids two weeks ago--I put off returning to the walk for a week. Two weeks of respite at any other time of the year probably would have been enough, but this fortnight has been so filled with comings and goings and family dramas (and some fun, to be sure) that it feels as if I got home only yesterday. This afternoon Laurine and I take our 13-year-old grandson Mario to the airport, where he's headed back to Clearwater, Florida. After that the house will be just ours.
My original return time having passed, I'm beginning for the first time to look forward to getting back to the walk. Funny how that works, but it does. The tiny increases in the daily allotment of sunlight are stimulating, too. Even though I'm outdoors all day when I walk, the shortening days began to get to me during December. Don't think I'd do well in the Arctic.
For now I am beginning to accumulate bits of information about New Orleans. The history of the city has been written, of course; I'll try not to reiterate too much of that. And I have very little interest in all that Ann Rice/creole voodoo/Spanish moss/sacrificing chickens/"drums beatin' cold English blood runs hot" crap. As always, I'm more intrigued by things like the fact that New Orleans was named for Phillipe Charles, duc D'Orleans (1674-1723), who was the second son of the younger brother of Louis XIV. Not least because naming a city after the Duke of Orleans, rather than after the city of Orleans itself, is quite like the way New York was named--for the Duke of York, not for the city of York. In effect, the cities were sort of given to them as gifts. Here, your grace--a city for you. I can find no evidence that old Phillipe ever personally gave a rat's ass about the city of New Orleans, but he might have. Also, it seems that in the French monarchy duc d'Orleans was a traditional title (and duchy) given to a second son, just as in the English monarchy the title of the monarch's second son is Duke of York. In England the Duke of York became king, as James II, while in France the duc d'Orleans became Regent of France for a time before Louis XV took power, and was acting in that capacity the city became his namesake. Also, for you trivia buffs, this Phillipe Charles is a direct ancestor of several reigning monarchs--King Juan Carlos I of Spain and King Albert II of the Belgians, not to mention Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg.
Those who might have been concerned that I was losing too much weight on my walk can rest easy. I'm in the process of gaining it back. Around here we follow the suggestion of another member of the French royal family: "Let them eat cake." Of course Marie Antoinette was really from Vienna, where they specialize in cake. Had she been French she might have said, "Let them eat cheese and pate de foie gras with truffles." In an effort not to favor the Habsburgs over the Bourbons, I have been eating everything.