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Travelogue D12

June 3, 2015

Back out in the main thoroughfare, though higher up and to the left, I fiddled with my bag in a small square before an old lawbuilding. Several floors of brick galleries and passages rose before me, open to the spring chill. Though I watched for some few minutes, at no point did any of the doors open to admit a barrister scuttling from one wing to another. From surrounding signs, I gathered that another building, razed in the 19th century, had once stood on this place and had, naturally, hidden the galleries from public sight. Perhaps contemporary officers of the law had learned a valuable lesson to which their early modern forebears had not been subject, namely that the law is better served by the unseen than the apparent.

After no little distance, the lane’s historical buildings yield to more modern constructions and installations: épiceries selling infinite shades of honey from all manner of flora; restaurants pushing fare both fusion and traditional; the organic ice cream shop and its bevy of flavours. The only shopfront before which I lingered was, strangely, a small shop of rare plants with, for its only advertisement, a collection of its most interesting specimens spilling onto the cobbles before. Indeed, this alone was visible of wares and shop through whose windows not a soul was to be seen, only slightly fogged windows and mist-wreathed greenery.

In time, I passed from the lowlands of the old city across the Saône to the heights of Montrouge from which Mont Blanc, barely there, can be made out with the naked eye. That said, given the distance and atmospheric conditions that day, it required something rather like faith to distinguish it from the clouds populating the eastern horizon. Its white summit, above red roof and forest black, proved far too subtle for my camera to capture.

I knew that my time in the city was at its end, and so I set out again from the heights and picked out a way down via the veritable hive of stairs connecting Montrouge with the Rhône. Lying along the old city walls, these stairways had retained their function with changing warfare and now provided a link, albeit slow and wandering, between high and low in Lyon. At frequent intervals, the white-grey stone gives way to bright spraypaints and graffiti, and the walls bloom with hearts and cats, abstract and floral motifs or even mere tags, as seen the world over.

Upon reaching the final stretch of stairs, some hundred in a straight shot down, I was no longer certain whether I had accomplished many of my intentions for this travelogue, which had started from the margins of incident and yet passed through what were arguably main sights. Had I occupied that delimited space left by humans to chance, where accidents collide and pile up? Perhaps that space was less occupation than orientation, more heading than habitable, for contingency cannot be lived in such fashion. So I should have expected no more from myself than that, to be drawn ever outward, to live contingency in reverse.

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