Time To Go For My Walk

January 20, 2013 § 1 Comment

About two and a half years ago I decided to go for a walk. On a beautiful late-summer morning I walked for about three miles, a loop that went from my house through various neighborhoods in my town and along a golf course and playing fields. I was alone and it was early morning, so peaceful and quiet. I loved it so much that I decided to do the same walk the next day, again two days later and eventually up to 6 days a week, rain, shine or freezing cold. Always the same loop, rarely the same hour of the day but most often alone.

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It has not been boring even once. I think, look, hear, breathe. I give myself  time to do these basic activities, which I would forget to do when caught up in the fast flow of a normal busy life.

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Along that same path, I have noticed the change of season, not with my calendar or the school schedule, but with the birds’ and insects’ behavior, the plants and wildlife of the pond by the road, and of course the same flowers, bushes and trees I see day after day.

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I have often lost sense of time, deep in my thoughts, either surprised to be back at my house so soon or to have felt out of touch for so long.

I have processed major events and minor annoyances. I have cried without control about my father dying, I have subdued my worries, detangled or loosened complicated knots in the fabric of my family’s dynamics, and breathed through impatience and frustration.

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I have paused and smiled at a beautiful sky, shivered with joy under a brief dowpour in July, wondered about a bird’s call, felt drunk with deep breaths of crystalline arctic air and marveled over the beauty of an old elm, leafless against a white sky.IMG_1040

I have dreamed about traveling, starting a new life after my youngest child leaves the house, or what it will be like to be a grandmother one day. I have fantasized about my kids’ exploits, future successes, amazing feats, even my daughters’ wedding dresses — because I could do so in private with boundless imagination and unlimited possibilities.

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I have daydreamed.

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I have discovered that, for a moment, I can step out of a life where my senses get so overstimulated they become numb, where  my soul is fed only by shallow sensations, into one that fulfills my needs for meaning, wonder, truth, creativity and grace.

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At first I thought it was a luxury to have time for a walk. Then I discovered it’s a necessity to make time for this walk.

A Cake For The Kings

January 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

In case you had missed my post  published last year on January 6th about the “Galette des Rois”  I am re-posting it today in relation to my brother in law Ralph Gardner Jr ‘s wonderful  article for his column in The Wall Street Journal which was published this morning under the title: ‘A Treat Fit for a King’

Growing up in France, one of my favorite celebrations was on or around January 6th. “Tirer les Rois” or “drawing the kings” is a festival when families, friends, colleagues and anybody who wants to put a paper crown on their king or queen’s head share a cake called Galette Des Rois.

The Drawing of the Kings game goes back to a tradition observed during the Roman Saturnalia celebration symbolizing the return of increasing daylight and of the sun itself. A drawing of either a black or white bean from a special cake would mean one would be King for the Day. The cake itself  is a symbol of the sun.

Christians have made it a holiday to celebrate Epiphany and The Adoration of the Magi since around the tenth century.

The cake tradition has remained throughout these times, surviving banishments as pagan rituals, until today, where in France, it is very much alive.

If you happen to be in Paris around January the 6th you might have to go through much trouble if you do not want to appear in public with a paper crown on your head.

Often it can be an awkward and comical situation, in which you are expected to choose your king or queen among the revelers sharing the delicious galette with you. That is IF you are lucky enough to draw the slice of cake in which a “fève” or bean has been inserted by the baker, and find that fève at the risk of breaking your teeth (I am not aware of anyone suing bakers for this yet). I wonder if someone has ever willingly swallowed it and thus saved face at the price of anonymously causing quite a commotion among the befuddled, angry guests deprived of a fève in their galette.

The odds in successfully skipping this regal affair  would definitely be against you given that such events take place all around France, on average five times a day and for 8 days at least.

Believe me, it can get old after a while. Just think for a minute of doing this among colleagues at the office or with the co-tenants in your building…

I’ve heard that the only sure way to avoid such a “silly chore” is to be invited to stay for the entire time at the Elysée Palace, where the crowning of the galette king is banned, as it is considered anathema to the Republic.

As a child I loved everything about it. The shining crown. The sweet warm cake.  And the “Fève” of course, a talisman of childhood.

I so vividly remember the beautiful tiny painted porcelain figurines: a swaddled baby, an adoring king, a toy or a Fleur de Lys.

Now they are also made of plastic, representing movie stars, cartoon characters, company logos or even, I bet, all kinds of jokes, bawdy allusions or political satires.

I have been keeping the Drawing Of The King tradition alive here at home ever since my children were born.

I make the galette from a traditional northern France recipe and, over the years, have collected paper crowns and Fèves looted during my winter trips to Paris.

My children are now adults or over 16, but the feast has not yet become old or lame. My kids still like the galette. And so does my husband.

I suspect however that for my kids, choosing a queen or a king has become a tad corny. Until, as parents themselves, they remember their childhood…

A “Girl Restaurant” in Paris

April 3, 2012 § 2 Comments

The Quartier des Abbesses, at the foot of the Hill of Montmartre, feels like a old French village. With its cobblestone streets winding up and down, its cottage houses, ateliers, small rickety whitewashed buildings and colorful vintage storefronts, it evokes the old Paris of Eugène Atget or Robert Doisneau.

Recently settled by young and trendy Parisians who brought along myriad small designer stores, cafes, galleries, vintage shops and tiny bookstores, the Quartier des Abbesses has retained its family neighborhood aspect by keeping its long established produce, cheese, bread shops and Sunday markets.

A rare instance of the best of both worlds for a capital city, I thought.

This is where Véronique and I, starving and exhausted from our lenghtly explorations, found what we called a “Girl Restaurant”:  a place for a quick and inexpensive lunch of homemade soups, salads and desserts.

At 62 rue d’Orsel in the Eighteenth Arrondissement, MILK (Mum In Her Little Kitchen) is a tiny, quirky, bright and colorful place, decorated with a wonderful collection of vintage kitchen items straight from my childhood and serving delicious “mom’s kitchen” food.

Our new secret lunch place in Paris…

A Cake For The Kings

January 6, 2012 § 2 Comments

Growing up in France, one of my favorite celebrations was on or around January 6th. “Tirer les Rois” or “drawing the kings” is a festival when families, friends, colleagues and anybody who wants to put a paper crown on their king or queen’s head share a cake called Galette Des Rois.

The Drawing of the Kings game goes back to a tradition observed during the Roman Saturnalia celebration symbolizing the return of increasing daylight and of the sun itself. A drawing of either a black or white bean from a special cake would mean one would be King for the Day. The cake itself  is a symbol of the sun.

Christians have made it a holiday to celebrate Epiphany and The Adoration of the Magi since around the tenth century.

The cake tradition has remained throughout these times, surviving banishments as pagan rituals, until today, where in France, it is very much alive.

If you happen to be in Paris around January the 6th you might have to go through much trouble if you do not want to appear in public with a paper crown on your head.

Often it can be an awkward and comical situation, in which you are expected to choose your king or queen among the revelers sharing the delicious galette with you. That is IF you are lucky enough to draw the slice of cake in which a “fève” or bean has been inserted by the baker, and find that fève at the risk of breaking your teeth (I am not aware of anyone suing bakers for this yet). I wonder if someone has ever willingly swallowed it and thus saved face at the price of anonymously causing quite a commotion among the befuddled, angry guests deprived of a fève in their galette.

The odds in successfully skipping this regal affair  would definitely be against you given that such events take place all around France, on average five times a day and for 8 days at least.

Believe me, it can get old after a while. Just think for a minute of doing this among colleagues at the office or with the co-tenants in your building…

I’ve heard that the only sure way to avoid such a “silly chore” is to be invited to stay for the entire time at the Elysée Palace, where the crowning of the galette king is banned, as it is considered anathema to the Republic.

As a child I loved everything about it. The shining crown. The sweet warm cake.  And the “Fève” of course, a talisman of childhood.

I so vividly remember the beautiful tiny painted porcelain figurines: a swaddled baby, an adoring king, a toy or a Fleur de Lys.

Now they are also made of plastic, representing movie stars, cartoon characters, company logos or even, I bet, all kinds of jokes, bawdy allusions or political satires.

I have been keeping the Drawing Of The King tradition alive here at home ever since my children were born.

I make the galette from a traditional northern France recipe and, over the years, have collected paper crowns and Fèves looted during my winter trips to Paris.

My children are now adults or over 16, but the feast has not yet become old or lame. My kids still like the galette. And so does my husband.

I suspect however that for my kids, choosing a queen or a king has become a tad corny. Until, as parents themselves, they remember their childhood…

A Beautiful Way To Start 2012

January 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

For me the last 2 weeks of the year are often times brimming with sensory moments of all kinds. From listening to choirs, tasting delicacies, watching fireworks, displays and decorations, holding hands, sharing smiles and opening gifts.

I felt particularly fortunate this time. So I would like to share some of these gifts with you.

I liked this clip Snow Globe Los Angeles. Because it echoed my longing for quiet, illuminated and warm feelings.The beautiful voices heard on the The St Olaf  Christmas Festival filled my heart with spirituality and joy.

The delicate and whimsical designs of frost on my window added magic and wonder,  decorating my house with some of nature’s awesome ornaments.

This beautiful calendar made by my beloved and talented sister in law Lillebi Habans and who paints these most exquisite and beautiful images. What a sweet gift!

There were lots more of these perfect moments and many cannot be simply transmitted thought my posting. But all of them gave me inspiration and creative energy to start this New Year 2012 beautifully.

My hope is to express them in my posts in the next 12 months and share with you.

Beauty At Every Age

September 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Ever since I can remember the wild carrot flower has fascinated me.

When I was very little I would pick, or more likely uproot, for their stem is very hard to break with small hands, just two or three by the side of the road and holding the unruly and wiry stems would bring this quirky bouquet to my favorite person. The emphatic reception adults reserve for children’s gifts would always fail to hide, among the compliments, a hint of disregard for this nothing flower. I could not understand why but never asked.

Growing on the neglected side of gardens and fields, among thistle and nettle, in the tousled grass,  with delicate and modest grace, never one like the other and always uniquely beautiful, the shy  plants would stop me in my tracks and I would stare at their infinite variations.

I did not know the meaning of  “weed” then. Wild carrot was a name for a useless vegetable and much too mean for such a damsel blossom. I thought the flower had been forgotten as such.

Much later, after having lived in a city for many years and then moved to rural New England, I found it again. It was like running into an old friend. One that never called but had always been there.

 

How delighted was I to find that it finally had a proper name , Queen Ann”s Lace. Indeed modest and delicate but perfectly noble and regal too. I wanted to plant it in my garden, along with foxgloves, peonies, poppies, delphiniums and lilies. But no garden store would sell such a seed: I was “an invasive species”. I was disappointed and angry. It seemed once again that its beauty was ignored.

Every summer I follow the life of my beautiful flower and every summer, as I am getting older, it reminds me that there can be beauty at every age, with little artifice and infinite variations.

 

 

As long as there are roads, trails, highways and paths to let it grow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Candle

July 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

My most cherished childhood memory.

At 4:oo am french time on july 21 1969.

Our parents woke us up without warning.

To see the first humans walking on the moon.

Live.

Never before

Had I been awakened in the middle of the night for

No children reason.

The slow transmission

Grainy images

The coolest language

In radio voices.

The light of black and white TV

In the moonless night.

My parents’ faces

And their eyes,

no one saying a word,

made it a magical

indelible moment.

Only  a few days later

Lying in a hay field

high up

In the Alps

I looked at the moon.

The Americans were walking there?

Five, Four, Three, Two, One, ..., And Lift Off

An exhilarating feeling of looking at a human

Destination, far, far,

Straight from my eyes to there.

Not in my imagination.

Real.

Ever since that day I was fascinated by the Space Program, watching launches religiously, my heart beating fast, my eyes tearing.  So beautiful, going straight up, away from the world, with awesome fire, smoke, roar and speed. Astronauts where my gods, powerful and beautiful riders, and NASA, a word that made me dream.

Many years forward I went to Cape Canaveral and saw Atlantis launch with my husband and 10 years old son. It was again so real, taking my breath away, just beautiful, beautiful.

On Friday July 8th, I watched the “last launch” on my television.

The last candle on my childhood birthday cake.

Cy Twombly

July 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Cy Twombly died yesterday in Rome.
He was one of my favorite contemporary painters. His work was pure poetry for me.

His father “Cy” was nicknamed after CY Young as he pitched for the White Socks.

He liked the work of Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665)

I wonder what the work of the artist who will like Cy Twombly in 400 years will look like.

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