July 22, 2018, Back Home in Princeton…

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I came down to my office a couple of weeks ago. It was early morning and I needed to get something. Once down here, I thought I’d check the AC filter. I was expecting dust and cat hair. What I found was a small handful of ants. A bit of a shock but nothing I couldn’t handle. I took the whole mess outside, sent them on their way, and slipped the filter back into place. Or tried to. Except I couldn’t get it back in. And since I’d turned the unit off before pulling out the filter, and since it was already hot and humid outside, the room was heating up.

It was only then, so intent had I been on the filter, that I noticed the real problem. A huge stream of ants was pouring in through a tiny opening at the seam where the window meets the wall. Hundreds of ants, winged and wingless, invading my now sweltering office.

I raced upstairs, grabbed the vacuum, brought it down, plugged it in, and began my attack. It was brutal. I was brutal. It was overwhelming. I was overwhelmed. And those ants kept coming. At a certain point, I had a moment of pure terror.

And that was when it hit me. I realized that what I was feeling was not so different from what people opposed to immigration feel. My border was breached and I was desperate to protect it.  That was the moment my heart opened.

Which is not to say  I’ve changed my position on immigration, refugee crises, and open borders. I have not. Closed borders make no sense to me. I’m as engaged as I can be in the fight to right what I believe is a terrible wrong. But those ants showed me I’m not so different from those “others” I tend to vilify. We may profoundly disagree. But I am damned if I’m going to let my heart close down. The ants taught me that.

There is no great moral to this story. I tell it to bear witness to my determination to stay open to people with whom I disagree. It’s really that simple. If I’ve learned one thing in seven decades of life, it’s that staying open is actually much safer than shutting down. And a whole lot more interesting.

I’ve been catching up on Krista Tippett’s On Being podcasts this week. If you’d like some excellent soul medicine for staying open, I highly recommend her conversation with Luis Alberto Urrea. Click here to listen.

 

A French Interlude, Part 2.

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May 23, Paris – Nice – Haut de Cagnes

People talk about the haughty French, especially Parisians. This was so not our experience. Even Olivier, the meet and greet guy at our apartment warmed up after his initial disdain. My cousin Lorin (who manages this apartment for his in-laws) had warned us — Olivier is very punctual and has a very French way of being (this is a way of saying that he behaves somewhat like he’s annoyed all the time). Nevertheless, he will meet you at the apartment at a pre-established time, give you the keys, show you around, and reluctantly answer your questions — so we were appropriately zipped up and met his Parisian attitude with our own 😉

That first day in Paris we were in an “I simply cannot believe I am here” state.” Coby’s sixteen years of studying French 2nd grade through college came back within moments of landing at CDG. I’m in awe of her facility with this language. When I don’t understand someone or can’t communicate what I want or need, I just point to ma fille and she takes over.

Once Olivier had departed and we were all settled into the apartment, we went down to the street in search of le petit dejeuner. And right downstairs, among a plethora of boulangerie, was one with a line snaking into the street. Baguette and croissant perfection. A designed in heaven pear pistachio tarte. And a smoked salmon, creme fraiche, and cucumber sandwich to die for.

Although I have a great appreciation for food, I’m nowhere near foodie status. And  have realized on this trip that I am not an adventurous eater. In other words, I pass on organ meats, sweetbreads, rabbit, lamb, foie gras, and pigeon; am not a huge fan of goat cheese, even when it’s really really fresh; or truffles; or for that matter, caviar or cassoulet. That still leaves an abundance of plenty and walking through the markets here (les marchés) is like entering heaven.

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Every French market we visited was a feast for the senses and medicine for the soul.  So satisfying to walk through stalls laden with fruits and veggies, eggs, fish, cheeses, breads, meats, desserts, spices, dried fruits, nuts, flowers, on and on it goes. And to buy directly from another human being so there’s that moment of exchange between two people. It’s quite intimate really. Very different than shopping in the supermarket. There’s that sense of community, of camaraderie. Of we’re all in this together.

People generally thought I was British, not American. At the Bastille Market the day after Harry and Meghan’s wedding, every shopkeeper I spoke offered congratulations on the joyous event…

Here I am at the flower market in Nice. In all my years of buying and arranging flowers, these were possibly the freshest and most aromatic roses I’ve ever encountered. We walked all around Nice carrying that huge bouquet. Stopped for lunch, then a 40-minute bus ride back to Cagnes-sur-Mer, 15 minute shuttle up the hill in Haut de Cagnes, and the final walk from the shuttle stop to our house. I was concerned that so much walking and riding in the afternoon sun would take a toll on our roses. That they’d be wilted and sad when we finally got them home. Au contraire. These were, after all, French roses. They had attitude. They had joie de vivre. They had shakti!

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Late lunch in Nice and a glass of shimmering rosé.  I tried to drink a glass of rosé every day. Didn’t quite make it but came close. It really was like drinking sunlight. Then I came across this quote attributed to Galileo. Yes!!!

“Wine is sunlight, held together by water.”
                                                            -Galileo 

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A French Interlude…

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2 June. 2018. Haut de Cagnes.

It’s Friday afternoon in Haut de Cagnes. I thought I’d take my laptop outside and finally do some blogging but the internet connection on the terrace is intermittent at best and it was impossible to motivate myself to stay indoors. Until I realized I could sit on the floor by the windows. Our house is called “La Grande Vue” and you can see from the above pic why…

We’ve been here for nearly two weeks. I sit on the terrace every morning, writing in my journal and gazing at the sea. More gazing, actually, than writing. More gazing actually, than just about anything. Including my intention to blog every day. The Mediterranean sings to me and her voice is so much more beautiful than my own, all I can do is imbibe it. I find myself unable to do much more than simply be…

I started a France Trip Blog when we were still in Paris and managed one post before the vortex of this journey swept me away.  Now that this journey is near its end, I’ve decided to bring that lonely post over here and create a French Interlude within the Monday Night Blog. And so, voila…

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19. May. 2018. Paris.

Four days in Paris and already the thought of leaving seems impossible. I knew this trip was important but thought my “through the stones” moment was more about Provence. Which may yet be the case. But for now, being in Paris has me in that same sense of wonder I experienced in St. Paul de Vence fifty years ago. That same sense of belonging. Why this is, je ne sais pas. And why it’s taken me fifty years to return is a question for another time. But here I am and what a joy it is.

In the months before leaving, everyone had suggestions of must-see must do’s in Paris. Being here though I have little interest in doing anything. Content to simply be here. Wandering the streets, soaking up l’esprit de Paris, stretching into the grace and light and beauty of this most magical city.

 

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20. May. 2018. Paris.

I can barely find words to express my experience of being in Paris. I walk around in awe, marveling at the beauty and grace of this icon of icons city. What has been most startling however is the deep sense of connection I feel.  The irony is, that when I look back at my life, I realize this city has been calling me forever.  And yet I never quite grasped what is now so startlingly clear.

When did I fall in love with the idea of Paris? Was it playing the music of Debussy, Ravel, and Satie, reading Stein and Toklas, Anderson, and Nin. Was it the magic of Cocteau, Picasso, Ionesco, and Duchamp. Or the philosophy of Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Gurdjieff. All of these and something else too. Some ineffable substance of soul. Way more mysterious I think than deja vue or past life impression. And it is a wonder and joy to rest in its embrace…

 

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21. May 2018. Paris.

We’re staying at an Air BnB in the 11th. Which was way off my radar in the planning stages of this trip. The word on the street was to stay in the Marais. Which is fabulous for sure. And I’ve loved every moment we spent there. But it’s quite nice in the 11th. Way more chill than the more interior parts of Paris. And I find I quite like it here. Always nice to get back to the relative calm of these streets…

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22. May. 2018. Paris.

I know people want to see photos. Alas, I’ve been very slow to shift into doing mode. Just can’t go for the phone when I’m walking around in a state of wonder. Fortunately we have Coby, my amazing daughter, who is the great documentarian of this journey. So it’s all there on Facebook.

Here’s a handful of Paris photos I do have…

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C’est moi sur le Pont Neuf (je crois)…

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Caron and Coby having a moment of joy at the Bastille Marche. I got separated from them and ended up at the honey man who tried to fix me up with his friend who was evidently a famous local actor who worked on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Midnight in Paris. Alas, never occurred to me to get a photo of the three of us ;(  For that matter, I didn’t even get his name. Between my French and his English, it was a lot of smiles and laughter with not too much comprehension on either side… As I keep saying, etre seulement; pas assez de faire!! C’est domage….

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One of the many things that strikes me about Paris is the myriad monuments of and to the Sacred Feminine. Such a relief from the ubiquitous male war monuments we’re so used to in the USA…

Most tourists in Paris go to the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. We did not. We did however go on an expedition in search of the sublime sandalwood perfume we kept smelling on the streets. Here’s Coby  hot on the trail at a parfumerie in the Marais…

We did go to to the Renoir Museum which is on la rive Gauche and has a sublime garden. Here’s Coby and Caron and the roses. Ooh la la. Speaking of flowers, France and flowers… OMG. The French really do know a few things about living the most beautiful life.