Tuesday, August 28, 2012


august is the month for counting sunflowers.  my garden is up to 5 now, if you include the one i cut off and gave to a friend (not to be confused with what van gogh did with his ear).  and not just any friend, but the one i went to france with!  my great-grandmother nettie who i'm named after and who lived to be 103 grew tournesols too (literally french for "turn to the sun") and hers were over 10 feet tall.  i've been practicing growing these for years now and if i ever live to be as wise and lovely as she was (relatives say they never heard a negative word come out of her mouth) or if i can grow flowers like she did, i will mark life a success. imagine my surprise at coming upon my first full french field of them near arles.  i screamed, actually.  while driving.  and scared my lovely aforementioned traveling partner quite alot.  it's just that beauty can make me scream...and cry.  we agreed that next time i would preface such utterances with "beauty alert!" which is just what i plan to do.  here's to turning your face toward the sun...

Monday, August 27, 2012

french sketch a day

this doorway was quite ordinary and off by itself out of major tourist areas...maybe that's what was so charming about it and why i was compelled to sketch it.  (chamonix, france 7.18.12)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

play. play. play.

with less than a day before having to report back for teacher in-service, i did the only responsible thing i could think of:  i learned to boogie board.  it was on my bucket list to do something surf-like (surfing lessons that i will probably still try at least once) but this was instant fun!  it went something like this, "do you think the *wetsuits in the closet will fit us?"  "there's one way to find out" "well, hey, if they fit we go and if they don't we won't, right?"  they fit.  and i've found myself yet another water sport extraordinaire.  i'm actually hoarse from screaming and laughing with giddy delight over and over, "catch this one...i got it!  let's do it again, woo hoo!"  i can see how surfers can lose hours and hours in the waves.  in one word?  immersion.   *see also pacific ocean, west, brr...but with a suit and a friend, you have way too much fun to notice anything remotely cold.  here's a shout-out to all you premature back-to-school ads:  summer's not over yet, surf's up!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

mirroring: setting your inner table

one of the things i love about france, or hospitality in general, is beautiful table settings.  the linens, candles, white lights, maybe wildflowers in canning jars; in general creating an environment where people can relax, be themselves, laugh and tell stories.  the setting matters to me.  we just put on a wedding, for example, that was beautiful in this way.  the community came together and when everyone did their job, from flowers and cakes to music and lights, the result was nothing short of stunning.  imagine polishing each glass just so, allowing it to reflect your face with no smudges and let the dappled green and yellow sunshine through.  do you have a friend like that?  one who is honest, yes, about your frailties but who also looks past them to see and believe the best about you at all times no matter what?  richard rohr in his book "falling upward" writes, "you can usually only do this well (second half of life tasks) if you have one true mirror yourself, at least one loving, honest friend to ground you, which might even be the utterly accepting gaze of the Friend.  by all means you must find at least one true mirror that reveals your inner, deepest, and yes, divine image.  this is why intimate moments are often mirroring moments of beautiful mutual receptivity, and why such intimacy heals us so deeply...we really do find ourselves through one another's eyes, and only when that has been done truthfully can we mirror others with freedom, truth and compassion."  if you are fortunate to be so welcomed, you grow into a host that can say, "come to the table, you who are not alone."


i'm not out of words, exactly. just trying to find the right ones.  my subtitle here would be "assimilation:  coming home without becoming the first three letters".  it takes a lot of energy for a "totally-dreamy-everything-you-hoped-it-would-be-and-more-bliss-art-and-beauty" trip to become a part of who you are.  oh, sure your body gets adjusted to the new time zone and you awkwardly fold in with the life as usual that has continued while you were away.  (this gives me new empathy for people who've lived abroad for any length of time because my trip was only two weeks!)  i'm slower at processing than most people and there is a legitimate let-down which made me feel funky and not always in a good way...i think the anticipation has something to do with it too, having looked forward to this dream for 22 years and subsequently planning it for five months.  i tried to describe it this way:  i might have put my luggage away and neatly fold laundry on the outside, but on the inside my suitcase was a mess with things spread all over, concepts looking for a home, memories wanting a connection.  people said give yourself about two weeks.  and sure enough, i bounced at almost exactly two weeks.  many factors and friend's unconditional love in the meantime, but point being i bounced thankfully with several days before having to take up school and work responsibilities again.  finally when i was able to even know what i needed much less articulate it, filling up was easy.  i just needed to believe it really happened.  and two powerful feelings surfaced simultaneously like oil and water:  1) a deep contentment at having realized a dream 2) new moxie to take on the world.  (how exactly to be relaxed-happy while restless-supercharged, i don't know.)  so i got outside to put in some simple physical labor time.  good stupid honest hard work--ah, nothing like it for us philosophical types. martha stewart i'm not...she would never pick three gallons of blackberries before hanging her linens to dry with berry stained hands, i'm sure.  her calendar probably says "morning pilates, afternoon tea with dan and lanae, train pole beans, buy prize winning dog for photo shoot, chill squash blossoms for dinner party."  mine said, endeavoring to my life's constant goal of turning something otherwise messy into something sweet:  "make jam.  lots of it."  but i digress...i am planning a fall party, however,--on the *frenchy side this time--which should keep me out of trouble while i forego novels in favor of soothing poetry and find the rest of the words i'm looking for...*multigenerational, overabundance of cheese, and goes late into the night. what is one of your dreams?  have you realized it yet and if so, how did it feel when you did?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

dear sky

dear sky

this note is to explain after my death, if there is anyone left, what i was trying to do. 
toward the last i was protecting my friends by my careful indifference.  oh, i greeted them, and acted as usual, but i didn't let on what i felt--that terrible tide of knowing that came to me.  you, sky, are so far that i felt sorry for you, and i began to know that all of us are lost--everyone just as lonely.  it is all the way through the universe to reach anyone.  and i began to leave, so i could stand it.  now it is cold where i live--rain.  few come near, nobody comes.  and everything keeps to a separate way.  when the winds go over they all talk of one storm that they plan someday.  even if anyone thought of me now, and of those other times, no one would care, this far.  but i send this note, dear sky.  i love you, sky.  your friend, a cloud

by william stafford

good room

good room

in this best room, only a kitchen, touch cloth--in towels--touch metal stove, wood cupboards.
look down the breadboard:  scars time never needs to overcome.
the easy refrigerator door closes like this:  "forgive".  inside, a light goes to sleep comfortably,
friend of lettuce, admired by the eggs; and the meditative motor suggests winter, then pauses all night.
room that gives life, alone with independent spices content just to be in their jars:  while we live may your way be ours.  may we never forget your order, the various world brought by recipes to anyone's taste--
the work of many made into one home.

by william stafford

Sunday, August 5, 2012


while in france i also learned...speed limits are suggestions, round-abouts are the rule and not the exception, there are too many cheeses to even remotely begin to sample each one in only two weeks, in foreign language it's just as important to listen to the response as it is to form your questions, textbook language is very different from trying to use it to ride public transportation (ou dois je descend!?), people aren't rushed and spend time in multiple generation dinner conversation, gouter is an important term to know because it signifies an afternoon snack usually involving chocolate, you can fit a four-door sedan into a parking spot at a hotel in aix, there really are nude bathers in the mediterranean, fois gras is a liver-fat-pate-like substance that is a very popular staple food along with gizzards, coffee is for drinking from a teeny tiny espresso cup standing at a counter, the place i bought my likewise teeny tiny silver spoons was a former house of artist paul cezanne, housing and streets and cars and portion sizes are small and it is a good thing, people still smoke alot and that's not necessarily a good thing, that it's an "interesting" experience visiting a worship community where over a thousand people speaking forty-some languages are camping, in some areas of the country people drink from bowls, they like english music and it's not uncommon to hear "hotel california" wafting from an otherwise picturesque bistro, where to find the original site of sylvia beach's book shop shakespeare & co., european hotels don't believe in washcloths, the markets are lush and lovely like i imagine produce to be in heaven, there is more history in one city block than in our whole state (oh that, it's just another castle), how to navigate their toll road system and that it is preceded and followed by said roundabouts...and finally, i learned that kids are still fun and that if you pretend to fall down when they shoot you with a pistol de l'eau (water gun) they think it's universally tres amusant and only confirms that "j'ai trent-huit ans, mais dans mon coeur, j'ai seulement douze ans..." i'll leave that for you to translate.

lettres de mon moulin

i took a photo of this moulin rouge (red windmill not to be confused with the moulin rouge nightclub) near glanum, the site where french novelist alphonse daudet wrote his letters.  since it's nearly impossible and even unfair to you dear readers for me to post all 250 of my vacation photos or try to describe each wonderfully adventurous day in france, i shall start where my blog begins:  words.  "aha!" my mind snapped to attention, "a new author..." in all my years of french and literature studies, i'd never heard of daudet.  sure enough, his works were (in french) on library shelves in st. remy.  so when i got home i looked at my local library for english versions.  going up to the reference desk clerk, i pretended to be playing jeopardy, "hello, yes, i'd like obscure french literature for $500 please" and he was very helpful, pointing out everything from archives to out of print books and interlibrary loans to world literature digests.  what did i learn?  daudet was born in 1840 (Nimes) and died in 1897 (Paris).  during that time he wrote not only novels, but also short stories, plays, poems and stories for children.  his literature is considered within the category of "naturalism" and also contains controversial politial satire.  "tartarin de tarascon" is on its way to me in the form of book on cd.  stay tuned for more letters from my word-loving windmill...