No, this is not the picture you were expecting.
Not Louise Penny.
But, I'm betting most of you do know who it is.
Louise's own beloved Michael.
If you don't know their story, you can read it here, and I promise - 'tis a lovely one, indeed.
As is her latest contribution to Meanderings and Muses -
by Louise Penny
I’m a big believer in having a Plan B. A fall back position. ‘Just in Case’ could be my motto. When I get into a plane I always scan for the ‘nearest exit’. Just in Case. When I get to a hotel I find out where the stairs are. When I drive and am passing a big truck I look at what’s on the side of the road. Grass, a ravine, trees.
Just in Case.
Michael, my husband, describes it as ‘living in the wreckage of my future’.
I, of course, disagree and argue that it’s only sensible to have a fall-back position. I’m not actually expecting these bad things to happen, but if they did…. And if he wants me to lead him out of the burning building he’d better get on side. But the truth is, he’s quite right. My brain is a near continuous factory of worry. This doesn’t mean I’m not generally at peace. I am. But only because I have a Plan B.
Once I know what I’d do if…. Then I can relax. Totally. With confidence. (however illusory)
With one exception. I’ll tell you first what my Plan is.
It’s a community of close single friends. I can see it all. We’d live in the countryside, in a sort of village. There’d be a communal kitchen – with a big stove and a walk-in fridge. And a long pine dining table. There’d be a wall of cookbooks with colorful and luscious illustrations. It would smell of wood smoke, from the open fireplace and wood stove, and herbs from the kitchen garden, and fresh ground coffee.
There’d be another, separate, building with comfortable armchairs, and tables for quiet games of chess or backgammon or cribbage. Games of bridge or poker. Sofas would be grouped around the stone fireplace, for conversation or reading. There’d be books and magazines and jigsaw puzzles.
In another building there’d be a cinema. Not huge, but big enough to get us all in for movie nights. In the day it would be used for exercise and yoga classes.
There’d be a small chapel, for prayer or meditation.
We’d each have our own, separate homes. Small cottages. With a bedroom, and living room. A small kitchen area and lovely bathroom.
Each friend would be able to cook for herself. To spend the evening at home, watching television or reading, or painting, or writing or blogging. Walking the dog, or watching the cat, curled in front of her own fireplace. Doing whatever she wanted, in privacy and solitude. Or the friend could go to the communal kitchen and help prepare the meal for the night, and sit at the table with anyone else who craved company that night. They could then spend the evening play crib by the fire.
It would be a community of friends. Of like minds. Not a community of debaters. Of intellectual folk arguing over politics or religion or philosophy. Over how best to chop a carrot, or whether women should have cosmetic surgery. Not a bossy community.
I’m tired of arguing and arguments. Of debates. What I long for instead, and have found with close friends and Michael, isn’t complete agreement, but complete open-mindedness. A desire to understand a different opinion without the need to convince. Or belittle. Or dismiss.
This would be a community where people don’t all think alike, but we all respect and love each other. And accept those differences. A community of friends who listen.
That’s my Plan B. The biggest, ‘In Case’ in my life.
And that’s the problem. In case of what… You might have already guessed.
In case something happened to Michael. My Plan A is to go before him. But on the off-chance I don’t get to decide, there is some comfort in having a fall-back position.
My Plan B offers comfort in that is assumes life really would go on. And a life of friends and love and company. A community of other older people who find themselves alone.
But the real comfort is in realizing that I have never needed any of my Plan Bs. They’ve gathered dust, as the plane arrived safely, the train stayed on the tracks, as, against all odds, the hotel did not burst into flames and the car made it by the big truck.
Far from being a wreckage, my future has only ever proved more beautiful than I could have imagined. And that, finally, is what offers comfort. Nothing I’ve feared has ever happened.
But still, I design my village, in case. And when I imagine that little community of single friends I try to see what’s there, and not what’s missing.