Apple whiskey

I found Honfleur by accident, though apparently lots of people a whole lot smarter than me have known about it for centuries.

I followed the Seine on a map, saw where it slid into the sea, and for no better reason than that, decided I wanted, maybe even needed, to go there.

I was not disappointed.

Artwork seen on a street in Honfleur

Despite the Germans, despite the English, and probably along the way despite what few Oirish staggered through these streets proclaiming their love “pour les francaises” in awful French, Honfleur remains Honfleur.

It’s not that Honfleur is particularly special (although it is to me). And it’s not that the French (even les Parisiens) are particularly special (even though they are to me).

It’s that there are other ways to live (really live) besides what this great land of ours here has to offer.

(I’m not being fair–we got quahogs free for the raking, trees for the cutting, bees for the hiving, and squirrels for the…OK, not for hunting, tasty as they are, too fookin’ cute.)

It poured one day while we were in Honfleur. We say a class of school children walking from the park, in their yellow vests, soaking wet, as though this was normal, and in France maybe it is.

I miss it.

Marina in Honfleur

(Should you go, the folks in Honfleur do not laugh when you attempt French, and will go out of the way to make you feel comfortable, and it goes beyond being part of the tourist invasion taking over their streets in the summer.)

I think they know what they have in Honfleur. Maybe the rest of us trampling through their town remind them of this.

Traveling is a self-indulgent activity; writing about it may be more so.

Still, if you ever get the chance, make the trip.


Waves on the inner harbor of Honfleur (taken by Leslie)

I have been mostly deaf all of my life, so I pay more attention to sound waves than may be healthy.

For the same reason, I pay way too much attention to light waves as I stare at people’s lips as they talk.

I talk with the universal accent of the congenitally deaf, and a big piece of my learning how to talk was touching the throat of my mother as she taught me the various sounds people make when speaking English.

Waves in the Cape May inlet

I learned most of them, but I’m still struggling with “r”. Grrrr….

Waves allow us to know what’s going on with the things not actually touching us. (Well, sound waves are mechanical, so I guess one could argue that the air particles need to touch our ear drum, but the particles are not the wave.)

Basil flower on a winter windowsill

We do not observe waves directly–we see what our brains allow us to see, forms and sounds that keep our breathing bodies from quickly becoming carcasses.

Still, as I catch a glimpse of a patch of snow glinting in the optimistic light of a March sun, my eye converting waves of light that only I have seen, I realize how little any of us can know, and how much of the universe casually exists outside our senses, our imagination.

So I write about it, to no one in particular, for no particular reason.

On afferent nerves

Anatomy in Honfleur

Everything we know about this world outside of us, whatever that world is, we sense through impulses sent through our nerves.

While our interpretations are complex, the mechanisms are not. Nerve impulses travel as action potentials to the brain, each action potential identical to the next.

The piercing of a nail in one’s foot, the smell of a loved one, the sound of the waves lapping the bayshore all come down to simple signals sent along simple axons, then interpreted in complex ways.

The signals themselves differ only in their frequency, not their magnitude. The sensations differ only because the signals hit different parts of the brain.

The nerves are not conscious, of course, and most of their signals are ignored by the part of the brain that makes you consciously you.

But you can, at only moment, choose to focus your attention on a particular set of nerve signals.

Lichen on a cedar Adirondack chair.

Right now, as you breathe in, the nerves along the trachea are triggered to life, sending signals that the brain interprets as a gentle swirling in your chest.

If you focus on it, you can feel the miracle for what it is.

(And if you don’t, the miracle will happen anyway….)