Loving Paris as I do, my Instagram feed is filled with hundreds of photos of the city of my dreams on any given day. On Facebook, I follow every page and blog I can find about Paris. I read articles about Paris and even know if a double rainbow appears over the River Sein. And, yes, I take silly Buzzfeed quizzes to see how Parisian I am, how well I know Paris and whether I’m living a Parisienne enough life. So the news articles and commentaries about the fact that the city is permanently removing the “love locks ” from Pont des Arts began trickling in from every social media I use minutes after the news broke on Friday.
So, I have confession to make. As in love with Paris as I am, I actually hadn’t heard about the love locks at the time of our honeymoon (May of 9 years ago), when we spent one day in Paris, or in the summer of 2009, during our week-long trip there. I am actually a little ashamed to admit that. How can I call myself Paris obsessed when I didn’t even know about this, the touristiest of activities in Paris? On our honeymoon, we attached a lock to Ponte Vecchio in Florence with our initials and the date we got married. We have photos of it. But, we were in Paris and I didn’t even know of the existence of the love locks!?
Ever since I’ve heard about them though, I’ve thought that one day when I visit again, we’d go to Pont des Arts and tell our little girl about the love locks and maybe even click our very own onto the bridge. I’ve seen hundreds of photos of the love locks and have always thought of the idea as romantic, even if a bit corny and oh-so touristy. Even when I read that the City regularly cuts them off and disposes of them, I wasn’t deterred. I understood that they had to, but I couldn’t understand why the Parisians seem to hate them so much. I’ve read that they think of the locks as a huge eyesore. That they’re viewed as defacing a city monument. Really? Really! In the end, I simply shrugged my shoulders (such a Parisian thing to do), and decided that what made the city’s residents think that way was that they were quintessential Parisians–perpetually unimpressed, the very definition of jaded, and permanently unmoved by corny sentimentality that involved their structures and historic sights. But, I still was baffled by their utter lack of enthusiasm for an act of love—a beautiful gesture of love, in the City of Love! I could understand the need to take them down and stop people from putting anymore on. I just couldn’t understand how anyone could be so jaded.
In January 2015, we packed our beloved little apartment and moved into a more specious townhouse we purchased 20 miles to the south. We might as well have moved to a new state or even to a new country. Everything feels different and foreign. And as much as I’d love to move to France, this move that feels like it’s been made to a new country isn’t what I had in mind. While our new home is a great place for our fastly growing baby daughter, her parents are having a rough time adjusting to the area, away from every thing and every one we love about and in Los Angeles.
We now live just a few short miles down from the hills that lead into the panoramic, photogenic and very far flung Palos Verdes and its beautiful surrounding towns. The road to the ocean is plucked right out of one of those sexy luxury car commercials. You know, the ones that show a silvery bullet-like sports car zooming through a narrow winding country road through hills, valleys, trees and along the edges of oceanview cliffs. Once you go up and then down the first set of hills, you hit another winding narrow road that passes by beautifully manicured lawns and gorgeous sprawling mansions dotting the hills, with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean to the West. I’ve even seen a few sheep grazing atop one hill and there seems to be some type of vinyard, shining like a large gleaming emerald atop another hill. The drive is beautiful and reminiscent of what a drive by the Mediterranean Sea might look like. At least that’s what I think of every single afternoon when I do this drive in an attempt to get my one-year-old to quiet her busy little head long enough to nap. There is something very soothing about driving up and down peaks and valleys, swaying back and forth, because she usually falls asleep within about 5 minutes into our beautiful drive. I often park at the lighthouse, step out of the car for a couple of minutes to take a few photos and then I’m back in the car, trying to enjoy the only quite time of the day, while I hear the soft snores of my daughter in the car seat.
This time, this drive, this road, this view—these are the only things I love about the area I now call my neighborhood, at least for now. I miss LA, I miss my friends, I miss my old neighborhood, and the closeness to the city. I miss everything about my life before our move. But, most days, our sunset drives redeem our new surroundings and bring me great happiness.
Once, I mentioned our end of the day ritual to a mom I stroked a conversation with at the local library’s storytime. She said: “oh, have you seen the peacocks yet?” Peacocks? What? She told me that there are wild peacocks all around the area, and suddenly I remembered the weird shrieking I had heard at dusk once or twice. Ah! As if the area wasn’t enchanting and the homes impressive enough, there are peacocks!!!?
It took a few more days before I had my first peacock sighting. Since then, I’ve seem them with their beautiful tails fully opened, and I’ve seen them gracefully perched on white picket fences, their feathers hanging like intricate ball gowns. They’ve flown right in front of me and they’ve walked across the road before me, oblivious to my existence. I’ve seen couples, I’ve seen singles and groups. Every time I spot one, I smile an uncontrollable smile and want to squill and clap my hands like a little girl. I don’t because my baby’s asleep and I spend these beautiful drives in complete silence. But I feel such a thrilling rush, such giddiness. I am the witness to unbelievable beauty! These people who live in these hills are so fortunate. What a great place to live: surrounded by beauty, wealth and peacocks to boot!
Then I Googled the peacocks of Palos Verdes and began reading about them. I was shocked and rocked to my core to learn that some residents of the area hate these peacocks. They consider them a nuisance. They lament the noise they make and all other incidental issues and problems that come up when rich humans and peacocks share a neighborhood. They’ve even been killed by people! What!?
On Friday, I got lost in one of the hills, trying to find a new spot to explore. It was past 5 pm on a gray day and the locals were getting home and pulling into their luxurious driveways all around me. I turned into a side street and saw them: two beautiful peacocks, standing as if they were intertwined, right in the middle of the street. They were unphased by the big, shiny black SUV that was trying to get around them. I was on the opposite side of the street and I slowed down, afraid that the SUV might scare them enough to jump in front of my car and get run over. I was overjoyed at seeing them right next to my car. I actually contemplated pulling my phone out to snap a quick photo as I carefully rolled by them, when a barrage of horns snapped me back into reality. Apparently, the residents of the street are so jaded that even breaking and slowing down in order to make sure one doesn’t run over the peacocks has become annoying. They have places to go and people to see and have no patience for a non-local human or the local fowl.
How could anyone in his or her right mind see a glistening blue, magestic, lovely crowned bird stroll past and think anything other than joy?
My confusion over the human and fowl residents of Palos Verdes reminded me of the love locks of Pont des Arts. In the face of poetic gestures, romantic acts and Mother Nature’s beauty, the jaded residents of these two places are unmoved by sentimentality and unphased by the loveliness they live so close to. To them, this stuff is old news and nothing amazing. They’re tired of the hoopla, and of the outsiders’ enthusiasm. They’ve had it with the nuisance and they like it all gone. And I will never get that!
I hope I never become that jaded about anything. I hope I remain just as thrilled at the sight the remnants of lovers having passed by, and the heavenly birds stopping traffic for a minute or two as I am right now. I hope to always feel like squilling and clapping my hands when I see these peacocks. I hope I never find life’s treasures boring or annoying. And I hope I get to pass on this bottomless enthusiasm to my daughter in the future. I want her to stop and notice every monarch butterfly that flies by. I want her to notice and giggle whenever she sees a lizard doing push-ups under the sun and I want her to feel a sudden rush of giddiness whenever she notices a rabbit with a fluffy cotton ball tail. Because I know from experience that being mindful of all the beauty around us makes for a lovelier life. And being mindful of the good stuff makes the hard stuff easier to endure. It does for her soft-hearted mom and it will for her. And that’s my fondest wish for my child: to never be too jaded to feel utter joy at the sight of life’s beauty.
For the life of me, I’ll never understand the Parisians or the Palos Verdians (okay, I made that word up).