Afternoon In The Square: St. Jean de Luz

Regatta has done something that few other ships have done. She squeezed behind the breakwater and dispatched her guests into St. Jean de Luz.

From my table here in the square “Place Louis XIV,” I am witness to a scene so lovely that it engages the aesthetic sensitivity of the soul.

Locals outnumber tourists; Spanish mixes with French. On the border between two countries, we are in the land of the Basques.

The square is encircled by plane trees (think sycamores) and cafes. Aproned waiters sashay between tables with trays of wine, beer, coffee and water.

A church bell rings, a boy rides his bike, white-haired ladies sit on a bench, one clutching the leash of her white miniature poodle, the pooch’s hair matching hers.

An obese man in a wheelchair sits at a table with friends. Tanned and with bushy white brows, he sips a beer while talking and gently gesturing with his hands. The sun illuminates his kind face; his friendly demeanor infects those nearby. Apparently he is well known in the village, as many people stop to talk to him. Standing, they bend, supporting their bodies with hands on their thighs. The heavy man listens, then speaks, gesturing carefully so as to not to spill the beer that his wife allows him. I say this because it appears that she is his caretaker. The blue bathrobe he is wearing and a flotation device tied to his wheelchair suggests they’ve just come from a therapeutic swim. A good heart gone bad?

The pleasant scene is disturbed by a boy who crashes to the pavement while running. He screams; his mother comes to the rescue. The church bells chime again. An hour has passed with no consequence.

If I cupped my hands, I could scoop up a handful of the sunlight filtering through the plane trees and stick it in my pocket. To capture the light’s tangible texture on canvas, artists poise at their easels. I too try to make the afternoon indelible.

Time has little relevance here, except for 7:30 p.m. I half think of missing the last tender. Would that be so bad?

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