Rising Above It

In these grey, wet, cold, foggy, soggy days you do not have to fly to Bali or Mauritius to find warm happy sunshine and friendly people. You need a car (or, in extremis, a bus or a bike or a cable car) and off you go – up up and away into the local hills.

Here at Foggy Bottom where I live down beside the Rhone River, there are days when the sun never shines. So you go up the Salève, the Jura, or even up the top of the next hill, and you are in a different world—a world of clear vision and light and smiles.

And, once there, you go for a little walk to pick up some energy to take back to the lowlands. On these walks you meet people like yourself who are out taking the air and enjoying the view—for once above the sea of fog, you instantly forget that there are human beings down there breathing the insalubrious vapours and busy being grouchy. You are on a disconnected higher plane of existence.

Firmly ensconced in this world, you mention to casual fellow-walkers that at your place it’s a horrible grey pea-soup fog. They either agree (they live there too) or express surprise, claiming they’d never have thought it (these are the ones who live a little higher). You cheerily hail people working in their gardens in a spring-like manner. They either say nothing (as they consider that you are a lunatic who has been let out of the asylum for the day) or they fall in with your happy fantasy.

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog 1818 by Caspar David Friedrich

A perfect conversation goes something like this:
–Bonjour! We’re just standing here admiring your view.–
–That costs two Euros.–
–But it was only 1.50 E last year!—

Guffaws all around and you’re off. You ask the obvious question to elicit easy answers. I suggest starting with –Are we in France or in Switzerland?– As your new casual friend will then feel a vague sort of pity for your innocence and immediately realize the non-threatening nature of your existence.

The state of the walking path can also be minutely discussed, as can the proximity of hunters and their dogs—who these days have a sort of radio wrapped around their necks. Noisy, smelly teenage dirt-bike hooligans are a common enemy. You give people directions to Santa’s Village and to the next cross on various bits of the St James Way to Santiago de Compostela (follow the shells) in the region.

So the horrid fog’s silver lining is to lead us up into the land of the glorious walks and, as my old neighbour up in the mountains used to say, to “causer bien”—to practice the fine art of conversation with perfect strangers.

Joy Kundig

Joy Kündig-Manning est née en Angleterre et a vécu au Canada. Spécialisée dans la littérature anglaise du XVIIIe siècle, elle a travaillé comme traductrice, enseignante, et écrivaine. Mariée à un Suisse, elle est venue à Genève en 1977. Elle est très contente de tenir le premier blog du Temps en anglais!