When a Door Opened …
and a new light came into their lives!
A tribute to our friends
I used to work in Southern California in a fully air-conditioned building without windows. Inside, the neon lights illuminated the linearly arranged workbenches and all the machines. When the workday was over and employees began to leave, the heavy steel door opened for a few moments and the light of the bright California sun came in. When I left, I saw the green, tree-covered hills behind the factory building. Then, driving home, I saw the wide and wonderful, blue Pacific Ocean and the beautifully curving Santa Monica Bay. What a blessing if a door opens on our life and lets new light come in. Most of our lives do not run along the same track or drift slowly to new directions. Sometimes, at a certain moment, a door opens, and a new light falls onto our lives—as if giving us a new life! Leaving high school and entering college was such a moment for me. Or leaving college and starting a real job with interesting work and good colleagues. Much to my surprise, the beginning of retirement was such a moment for me and for many people, but, unfortunately, it is not for all. Let me talk about my friends who can be role models for many.
Paul and Marie lived in Hossegor, a fashionable seaside resort on the Atlantic coast of southern France. They were both in their late fifties. She was petite, with dark eyes and black hair, and a radiant charm. He was a little taller, with gray eyes, rather a type of northern France, and a bit reserved.
They started a small travel agency. Through hard work over many years of their younger life, they established themselves against fierce competition. They always worked many hours every day together in their office, often until late into the night, even on weekends, knowing that only very good work would provide them with loyal customers and success.
After a while, they were able to buy a pretty little apartment in a modern building with a balcony overlooking a large and beautiful, green atrium that featured an undulating lawn, some decorative bushes all around, some trees here and there, a small pond in the middle, and even a decorative fountain.
Inside their apartment, everything was very tidy, yet a bit artistic. There were some nice pictures on the walls—dreams of beauty in nature—and on a glass shelf, Paul’s collection of toy locomotives, symbols of his dreams of exciting travel.
Thus went week after week and year after year. Don’t you have to be grateful for a decent life and harmony?
Eventually, they began to think of retirement—if only they could sell their business at a good price—and hoped for a quiet life in their little apartment.
One day they went to an art exhibit in town. A small picture showed a view of some scenery they knew very well, but they agreed that the picture was not very well done. As they left the show, they passed a stand selling art supplies. Marie stopped and looked, obviously interested. Paul, ever the gentleman, purchased some colors, some brushes, and a canvas for Marie. What a wonderful day! Marie kissed Paul, and they went home hand-in-hand.
After only two weekends, Marie produced quite an acceptable little picture of the same scenery, only a bit nicer. The two promptly hung it in their office, where it earned the applause of several customers. They explained to them that it provided a dream of nature in their matter-of-fact office world.
When the end of the business year came, work overwhelmed them, and Paul and Marie had no time for any distractions. But later, as the beautiful spring of the southern climate progressed, Marie returned to her painting and created two more pictures in quick succession.
Paul took great pleasure in Marie’s work. Being a practical person and in order to contribute something, he began making frames for her pictures. He purchased the proper tools and found a source of artistic moldings. The combination of Marie’s pictures and Paul’s frames was perfect.
One day, it happened that a client of theirs was in the office and wanted to purchase one of Marie’s pictures. At that moment they realized that their lives had taken a turn, and a new light had come into their lives.
Their business finally sold, and their life in retirement began. Marie painted more. She even dared to participate in a local public art exhibit. She was promptly awarded a nice little prize! This encouraged Paul to rent some space in an abandoned store and mount a short exhibit of Marie’s paintings. This turned out to be a considerable success, was written up in the local paper, and many people visited the show.
Later in the year, when a regional art exhibit came along, Marie was invited to exhibit her work, and her paintings garnered yet another prize, this one more prestigious. Not to be overlooked was the fact that Paul’s frames for Marie’s paintings were part of the success.
And more successful exhibits in various parts of France followed.
Then something unexpected occurred. Paul had a dream of traveling on a train pulled by one of his little toy locomotives that he had sitting on that shelf in their apartment.
The next day, Paul took down that specific locomotive, which represented a historic French steam engine of Provence, and held it in his hand for a while. Not too long before, he had read a book of short stories about traveling. His mind began to develop the dream he had had the night before into a wonderful little story. He told Marie about the story.
Later that day, she came home from some errands with a wonderful blank diary book and an equally nice pen. She put them down in front of Paul and smiled at him. Paul kissed Marie, and they held hands for a moment.
By dinnertime, Paul had written out several paragraphs of his story, and he read them to Marie. She approved of them enthusiastically. Had their lives taken a new turn? Had a new light come into their lives?
When Paul finished his story about the historic train, he sent it off to some friends. Their reactions were encouraging. Soon, Paul wrote a second story and a third one.
The modern world offers many surprises. A friend of Marie and Paul put Paul’s stories on a Web site, provided with a suitable title and subtitle to facilitate the stories being found through Google by people interested in travel on historic trains in France, or just by any amateur of historic trains.
Within a short time, many people from different countries—from France, from Canada, from French speakers in the United States, from the area of the former colonies of France, and from vacationers anywhere—read Paul’s stories on the internet. His name became known: when typing only his name into Google, the reader was directed to his stories.
On the side, Paul began to visit and study the areas where those historic trains had circulated or were still in use. He learned all about their history and geography. Soon he was an expert in those fields of knowledge. Most importantly, he met local people in those areas, learning about their lives and, thereby, enriched his stories.
Last summer, Eva and I visited with Marie and Paul. They were perfect hosts for a delightful meal at their apartment. Before we left, I asked if I could take a photo of them. But the light in the apartment was just not bright enough.
We opened the door to their balcony, and the warm, golden rays of a wonderful afternoon sun of Provence came into their apartment.
It almost looked as if the light was then emanating from them.
We cherish this almost symbolic photo and remain fond of our friends.