Francesca and Robert – some random thoughts

bridges

I first read ‘The Bridges of Madison County‘ at an age when one believes love is only for the young. Anyone above forty would  have been done and dusted with romance and got lost in the mundane things of life. It was no wonder that the book left a kind of disbelief in my mind. Really? A fifty something house wife, somewhere in the wild falling in love with a wandering photographer? Not just that, plunging headlong into a full blown affair? And then, celebrating their anniversary? The feeling was of a mild disgust – how could she do this to her husband – and total disbelief.

Well, at times, with age comes wisdom and acceptance. So does a gradual change in the definition of romance. It is really difficult to remember when the change starts taking over you. The sudden surge in hormones that brings forth a luminous glow in your eyes, that makes your heart rate go at the rate of a super bike and turns your bones into jelly, slowly transitions to something deeper.  Looks doesn’t seem to matter much anymore. You are more interested  in what comes out of a mouth guarded by those sensuous lips rather than imagining a scorching kiss on them. Along with family and kids came a better understanding of Francesca, but questions remain aplenty.

Few days ago, a friend of mine shared this beautiful love story. It’s about a night that Sir Isiah Berlin spent in Leningrad in 1945. Through a friend, he met the famous Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, twenty years older to him and about whom he did not know much. The article goes on about how as the night progressed, they went from one topic to another, discovering more and more about themselves, the books, thoughts and philosophies they had in common, “They had read all the same things, knew what the other knew, understood each other’s longings,” is what Berlin’s biographer says about the meeting. That night was something the two of them would never forget in their lives and probably influenced many a story and poem that the two brought out. A rare connection of heart and intellect.

Reading the story, my mind automatically went back to Robert Kincaid, the ‘peregrine’ photographer who had come to Iowa to capture the covered bridges of the county. He meets Francesca, wife of a country farmer and the next few days define the rest of their lives. They would have never imagined or even had the wildest dream  about such a confluence souls.

“It’s clear to me now that  I have been moving toward you and you toward me for a long time. Though neither of us was aware of the other before we met, there was a kind of mindless certainty humming blithely along beneath our ignorance that ensured we would come together. Like two solitary birds flying the great prairies by celestial reckoning, all of these years and lifetimes we have been moving toward one another.”

Call it destiny, fate, luck, serendipity or whatever you may, the essential feeling is the same, that this was bound to happen. All is well as long as the two of you are unattached and you know no one is going to get hurt. The power of recognition and love is so strong, it is just not possible to find fault in their relationship. Yet, a question keeps gnawing at the corners of my heart, “what if it was me? Would  I have jumped at the chance?”

Francesca was a free and passionate spirit and wanted to see the world. She had jumped at the chance to get out of her small Italian village, so got married to the dashing American soldier, only to live the rest of her life in a remote farm land in Iowa, miles away from civilization. Into her conventional life comes this leopard-like handsome creature, upsetting her plcaid existence and pulling out all that she had pushed down into the deepest recesses of her heart. She realizes that at her age, there could never be another chance. And she decides to give that gift to herself.

Not surprisingly, I haven’t given much thought to Robert, except as the handsome Clint Eastwood. He is free to do anything he wants without too many repercussions. It is Francesca that kept stealing silently into my thoughts, “why didn’t she take the chance of a lifetime? she could have had the life that she always dreamed of, why did she let go?” And then that nagging question again, “what would I have done, in her place?”

More often than not, we want more than what we already have. Especially so, if you are a dreamer. We are in constant search of that someone or something that would make you whole and complete. Someone who fits into the contours of your soul, mind, body and intellect with perfect ease, as if you were parts of the same puzzle. Alas, the imperfect mortals that we are, with all the associated faults and foibles, perfection turns out to be a mere chimera. So what would you do, if you are one of those rarest ones, who is lucky enough to find that elusive mate, even if it is only for sometime, irrespective of whether you are young or old? Would you grab that chance with everything that you have and let go of all else? Would  you just ignore it or would you do as Francesca did – fill her soul to the brim and feed from it for the rest of her life?

It was Francesca who gave me my answer,

“The paradox is this: If it hadn’t been for Robert Kincaid, I’m not sure I could have stayed on the farm all these years. In four days, he gave me a lifetime, a universe, and made the separate parts of me into whole. I have never stopped thinking of him, not for a moment. Even when he was not in my conscious mind, I could feel him somewhere, always he was there.

But it never took away from anything I felt for the two of you or your father. Thinking only of myself for a moment, I’m not sure I made the right decision. But taking the family into account, I’m pretty sure I did.”

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About wanderlustathome

Dabbling in numbers for a living while dreaming of words all the while.

Posted on May 12, 2014, in Art, Beauty, Life, Love, poetry, Real Life Stories, reflections, Romance. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. As you already know, this is one of my favourite books. I fell in love with Robert Kincaid while reading this book, and still am. 🙂

    If I were in place of Francesca, what would I have done? I really don’t know. If I think deeply about it, I think I would have done the same thing that Francesca did.

  2. The cynic in me wonders – were Francesca and Robert so happy because they only spent four days together? Would they have felt the same feelings for each other if they had gotten married, lived together for the rest of their lives? Would faults and foibles not crept into this sublimely beautiful romance then?

    • I am going to agree with this point , that they had only four days together.. because it was too less a time to bring out all the faults etc ..

      but then on other view ae we saying this because maybe we have had long relations and we were unable ot live together like these two did for four days .. maybe its our experience which tells us that had they lived together for longer it might now have been same 🙂

      • I think as we get familiar, we start overlooking the small things that gives us joy, or rather we tend to take it for granted. As time goes by, we need to remind ourselves constantly on what made us fall in love….easier said than done, I know 🙂

  3. I fell in love with Robert when I read it the first time. Then it was Francesca that took over completely, especially so after watching the movie. Meryl Streep was brilliant, the strongest emotional twists were portrayed by her so subtly.
    As for the so called cynicism, I would prefer to call it reality. We are destined or programmed to take perfection in small doses only, I guess 🙂 If they had decided to go ahead, Francesca would sure have been killed by guilt

  4. I should get hold of this one ASAP… loved the little snippets you added .. they are beautiful

  5. I havent read the book, but I have seen the film. I remember feeling a bit uneasy and yet a sense of empathy taking over me. The film was undeniably romantic! Clint Eastwood…sigh!

    Just loved the way you analysed the story, Bindu!

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