It was one of those days.
Those days when you can’t decide what to wear.
Those days when you spill coffee on your shirt seconds after leaving the house.
Those days when you choose another outfit only to leave the house again and find it’s too hot for what you finally decided upon.
Those days when the denim slip-on sneakers you washed are still too wet to walk in.
Those days when you take the metro six times and feel as if you haven’t actually gone anywhere.
Furthermore, it was the longest day of the year, which means there was ample time for more of the above to manifest.
In fact, it was this particular day itself—the 21st of June—which probably caused it all. And I’m pretty sure Mercury is not in retrograde right now.
Logistically-speaking, I blame it on the yoga.
Or, really, the early-morning yoga, as opposed to the yoga itself, which I can never fault for anything because it keeps me centered and aligned and balanced.
I had decided to start the longest day of the year with a 7a.m. class under the Eiffel Tower. (As any new-to-Paris yogi would, oui?) Doing so required a 6a.m. arrival time, and therefore a 5:25a.m. alarm because my apartment in Montmartre is a good two-transfer metro ride away.
While I am fairly chipper and bright-eyed almost immediately after waking, I didn’t get much sleep the night before because whenever I need to wake up early, my body can’t trust the alarm, which causes me to toss and turn all night. As a result, I now try not to book early-morning flights regardless of the cheap price because it just ruins me for the whole next day.
Before it hit me, though, I joined 700 other bright-eyed yogis dressed in white for a one-hour vinyasa flower under the Paris icon with famed New York teacher Elena Brower. While I’m no stranger to yoga in unusual places, having practiced in locations as untraditional as Times Square and Citi Field, there’s nothing quite like raising your arms in a sun salutation to look up and see the massive iron lattice monument.
Sponsored by the Canadian activewear brand Lolë, we were all asked to wear white and instructed not to bring mats as they’d be provided.
Because I’m a sucker (and, let’s be honest, was craving some new gear seeing as I hadn’t visited a Lululemon since October), I bought a pair of white pants from Lolë for the occasion. Plus, I take my dress codes very seriously. I was almost offended to see some people in black bottoms! Who let them in? I kid, of course. Good for them, doing their thing, refusing to spend money and just joining the (otherwise free) zentastic movement.
With the skies as cloudy white as my ensemble, when it ended at 8a.m. I decided to snuggle back into bed. I didn’t sleep long, though, as I had much on the agenda for the rest of the day.
See, not only was it the first International Yoga Day and the Summer Solstice, but it was Fete de la Musique, an annual celebration of music that began in France in 1981, and sees various forms of melody-makers break out into song at nearly every corner. In fact, it’s now celebrated in over 100 countries worldwide!
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, even when a few weeks prior I’d began receiving (and subsequently RSVP’ing) to various Facebook invites from places I frequent that were having special celebrations for the day. I was under the impression it was an all-day event, but when I finally left the house at 3p.m., it seemed as if they were only just getting started. And by getting started I mean plugging in amps, setting up microphones and erecting makeshift bars on every rue, boulevard and passage. A friend wanted me to meet her at 8p.m. down by the Champs Elysees, which seemed about as appealing to me as walking through Times Square on Matinee Wednesday, but celebrating with people seemed the way to go, so I began wandering rather aimlessly with that as my eventual destination.
Slowly, my zombie-like status started to rear its nearly-dead head.
I spilled the coffee.
I went back to change. Twice.
I ate a stale rice cake.
As I wandered south through my own neighborhood in Montmartre, I came across various displays of music, all of which seemed worthy of just staying put—as opposed to high-tailing it to a BBQ in the 11th, or a cafe near Place de Clichy where a DJ was spinning, or way down to Champs Elysees, aka tourist central, to hear a cover mash-up band called Jungle Zoo. But all I saw were groups of people toasting and cheers-ing and laughing together, while I wandered around alone. On the longest day of the year. Which also happens to be the first day of summer and my parents’ anniversary and, as the calendar fell this year, Father’s Day.
So I continued to venture towards a place I could be with people, all the while realizing that maybe my being tired from waking up so early wasn’t the only reason I was feeling so dazed and confused.
I missed my family.
I missed New York.
I missed the boat ride they were all about to take with the two dogs.
I missed seeing Jurassic Park in the theater as the Lieberman Tribe.
I missed Dad inevitably spilling something on his shirt as he always does when out for a nice occasion, making my doing so just an hour before worthy of a giggle and then, of course, a tear.
By the time I made my way to Champs Elysees—after I’d woven through crowds near Palais Royale where I thought I might catch the free performance by trumpet player Ibrahim Maalouf and subsequently gave up, only to then enter the metro at the wrong turnstile, causing my pass to deactivate—I had had enough. I immediately turned back around, descended into the metro for the 6th time that day, and headed back to the one place I knew I’d feel, well, at home: my neighborhood in Montmartre. If I couldn’t be in Oceanside, at least I could be where I’ve begun to feel comfortable. Where I didn’t need to RSVP or join a group or weave through crowds or follow Google Maps. Where being alone felt somewhat OK.
Once I’d settled on a place to just be, I was able to ease into the slow-pace flow of the day. I bought myself a glass of rosé from the presse agent who was selling them for €4, and sat on a stoop to listen to some jazz on Rue Caulincourt. Then, I followed a round of applause to find a crowd gathered in front of a striped-shirt-wearing choir.
I snuck in towards the front to listen, and quickly became taken by this group of singers whose wide-ranging song selection included “Animal” by Mike Snow, “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.
Of course, this is when the tears started to stream. I couldn’t help but think of my family celebrating the longest day, among other joys, without me.
“You’re not missing much,” assured my sister over WhatsApp.
Whenever I express an ounce of home-sadness to any of my family members, this is their response. Because they are awesome and they respect my wanting to live life differently.
Only, on this day, despite the incredible yoga class I’d taken under the Eiffel Tower, and the countless musicians filling the air around me with notes of wonder, and the seemingly everlasting light this city has to offer no matter how many hours of the day the sun shines and whether clouds appear amongst its rays, “not much” felt like everything.
For the first time since being in Paris, I felt the desire to go home. And for the first time in my life, I became the teensiest bit eager for the days to grow shorter—if only because it means my August visit is that much closer.