Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Plan B by Louise Penny

 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 - 

Plan B
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.

Or not.

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.


Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Louise - Hi! A huge welcome to one of the most gracious women I've ever had the pleasure of meeting.


LJ Roberts said...

Louise - Your Plan B is the one my friends and I have had for years. Perhaps our Plan Bs could join forces. I can contribute 6,000 mysteries, crochet and needlepoint lessons. My friends are wonderful cooks, they knit, one makes jewelry, and one is a dab hand with DIY. I think it's a wonderful plan. May we each great one another with arms wide open.

jenny milchman said...

That village of villas and great communal spaces sounds idyllic. But if you ever live in it one day, I hope Michael is there enjoying the time together with you.

I am the same way about emergency exits--and driving in challenging situations--and a host of other things. But interestingly enough my Michael (named Josh :) gave me a present for my birthday last year. It was a photo of an open road and had a quote by Will Smith on it.

The title of the quote was, No Plan B.

I think that in your writing and career, Louise, you seem to be Plan A all the way--telling stories that get better one after the other--with everything you have in you.

Lovely post--thanks to you & Kaye.

Bobbi Mumm said...

Louise, what a lovely community you've imagined. I can picture it clearly and the only change, for me, would be to set in down in the middle of Paris. If we're dreaming we might as well go crazy. Thanks for your post and your wonderful books.

Julia Buckley said...

You have a beautiful Plan B, but I hope you never have to use it. And of course there is always the chance, when it is time to Cross the Bar (as Tennyson put it), that Fate will have you go together.

But it sounds like you have your idyll right now, and may your blessings continue.

I look forward to reading one of your books--I've always meant to, but I never have, so now's the time!

bo parker said...

I got my wish, but it was the opposite of yours. I needed a Plan B, something to which I’d never given thought. But I had one without realizing it. FRIENDS. I’ve learned the truth expressed in “people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”
Your Plan B, in lots of ways, sounds like Three Pines. To me, the town is more metaphorical than geographical. It’s a state in which to exist more than a place in which to live.
It is as your reference to Auden on you website. After the terror comes the goodness. And that goodness is FRIENDS. To me, that’s all one needs for a Plan B.

Janet Rudolph said...

Nice to have a Plan B without ever having to implement it, although I must say I like your Plan B, and I'm signing up for it now. Perhaps I'll make it my Plan B, that way it will be there for both you and Michael. It certainly sounds wonderful. Quiet and peaceful. Three Pines? but with no murders.

Donna Fletcher Crow said...

Louise, I don't expect you to remember me, but I loved meeting you and Michael at Bookfest in Calgary a year ago. Thank you for being so open to your avid readers of whom I am one.

Bobbie said...

What a lovely post, and don't we all need a good Plan B in this quirky world we live in! And your mind has made up a wonderful Plan B, Louise. Imagination itself is a wonderful Plan B! Thanks for a great guest blog today, Louise. And by the way, I agree, you ARE a wonderful author and a very gracious woman, I met you in Muncie Indiana a few years ago. You are a keeper-and so are your books! :-)

Deb said...

Lovely, Louise. Just lovely. But I think we should have a Plan A which includes Michael and Rick and all the other wonderful partners. A community where everyone can contribute but doesn't always have to agree. And there is always company or solitude, depending on the need.

Um, sounds like Three Pines. Maybe I need to re-read A Trick of the Light.

Are we old hippies, or what?



Louise Penny Author said...

Kaye, thank you for inviting me - and thanks to all of you for your beautiful comments. And I agree whole-heartedly...Three Pines is an allegory, for a state of mind. For a place we live in when we choose kindness. And in my Plan B, that is always the currency. Kindness. And, as Bo says, friends. Thank you for letting me know I'm far from alone. I'll keep popping in to read more comments, if there are any. And a special hi and hug to the remarkable Debs - my friend Deborah Crombie! You, and Kaye, definitely have a home in my imaginary commune. Lx

Earl Staggs said...

My Plan B is similar, but I wouldn't be alone. Sandra Bullock would be there with me.

I'm kidding. Your Plan B is the one I want, too. A simple, uncomplicated life, surrounded by friends, books, good food, and an occasional poker game.

Anonymous said...

Louis, if you build it we will come!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great Plan B! I wish I could be part of it. The closest I'll ever get is playing backgammon online, though.