Highlights from Mid-France

new crop coming up in the morning fog
Rolling hillside, just before here the seedline of, I think, soybean, went parallel up the hill towards the sun as it was still golden and yet came thru the dew on the leaves as they were silver. My eyes welled up, it was so stunning.

dew off the car hood
Can any image represent early morning fog and dew? Here on the car looking out at the valley, we could walk into a John Constable painting. The painting had looked idealized but over and over the sort of hill and water images repeat. He recorded ubiquitous beauty.

black olive?
Can you tell me if I’m right or wrong about this being a black olive?

what kind of berry?
Luckily plants don’t need names to be beautiful.

what kind of berry?
Is this mistletoe?

And these balls in the trees are common, as if the trees are growing their own pet topiaries. I thought at first they were nests, but the webwork is too open. Perhaps mistletoe?

rearview beauty
Some areas of turned earth are red-brown, some more grey-clay but so much is flowering, moss or trees.

apples on the wall
Russet apples left on a stone wall in front of the ivy turning red.

Angles sur-L'Anglin
Should you ever be in Angles sur-L’Anglin, your book-radar will probably pick up on this shop with sections like Palaeolithic history, or French literature. There are antique used postcards and shop-made leather goods, like purses and books.

[More pics from Loire Valley]

Things I found enchanting:
We share a culture of sunning.

Children’s storybooks make sense. Peter Cottontail does actually have a huge fluffy white tail as I saw him scamper between hedge and shed. And frogs look like they did in stories.

morning light
Curtains instead of doors, thick stone walls, a house aligned so morning sun catches the bedroom and evening sun catches the kitchen and cross-ventilation can go in either direction. Simple solutions like laundry on the line, not using a dryer. Fresh fruit as far away as a tree. Village within a simple cycle reach.

Sitting inside a monastery and the sense of sound, space and place that was in there.

Being at home, able to outdoors and in a private space at the same time.

A down comforter.

The density of patisseries, bookstores and florists. Not just in Montmatre – where even people who live in Paris go on vacation – but even a village has at least one of each.

Shops randomly opening and closing according to shopkeeper wanting to go visit someone, or leave the shop next door to look after the 2, or if you want to buy by Visa, you’re taken next door and the next shop over will run it thru for the other. This is less arbitrary than being ball-and-chained to a shop for random hours. Why should hours be on the hour?
Pruilly(?) library hours

A Topp Twins documentary. How did I miss knowing about these extraordinary people?

What else is great?

A bathtub so long and deep that you can bathe entirely instead of body parts getting cold and taking turns dunking out of the chill.

Non-gendered toilets more of the time. And toilets where there is a common sinks area. There’s really no need to divide by male and female.

Being able to walk into a garage and smell the grease and oil and see men in coveralls doing real things.

Walking and spending time together moving outdoors with no homeless people for days on end. And no helicopters flying low. And under a wide sky with sun.

The leaves starting to fall and cover the pebbled walkway so when I forget my shoes I can still have my feet cushioned from the sharp bits.

A last day most extraordinary. While ancestors took weeks to travel the ocean, in 24 hours, not including walking around a cottage garden’s hedgerow, walking around the pond, stopping for breakfast and lunch in a village and a castle, and walking in airport terminals, we use motors at a hundred or hundreds of miles an hour.

3484 miles (3606 km) by air
220 miles (350km) by car
124 miles (199 km) by bus
That’s 3828 miles, (4155km) in all.

Quote: “Information can tell us everything. It has all the answers. But they are answers to questions we have not asked, and which doubtless don’t even arise.” ~ Jean Baudrillard

A Country Escape

Now here’s a change of scene and speed.

lily pad
A la (or few) had petered out of the oohlala and lalaland of Paris. After streets – where walls, doors, windows, sidewalks, trucks and perhaps tourists who loiter too slowly with maps get spray-paint tags on them – a pond.

Not to say that Paris was largely unpleasant. It’s density of delights was amazing. One could be there full time year round and be dazzled indefinitely by the amount of information and amusement and history and and and.

Beethoven and Chopin
In Paris tomorrow Sept 26, Hugues Chabert on Piano does a repeat performance of Beethoven and Chopin that we saw. I’ve surmised that for me, music is that which is performed live. Recordings are secondary for when you can’t make or have access to real music. Likewise with food. Canned and processed food was for long cold winters, famines, not to be a staple and fresh food a treat. There’s something wrong with having a preference for preserved.

But here, the miracle of plants just making food. Why should that be remarkable to access fruit and nut trees, berries and vegetable gardens? As Pearl Buck pointed out The Good Earth isn’t steadily so. Droughts take down regions on a regular irregular cycle every generation or few. Cooperative exchange among our species can allow everyone to be fed, even those without green thumbs.

Somehow I had picked up the notion that the Revolution had flattened France into an entirely secular society in thought. A lot of churches disappeared to be sure, even ones of the 11th century remade into building material in the 1960s, but still a lot still in use. Curiously, it’s the same size candle that in Paris is 3 Euros but here is 1 Euro. How can prayers fluctuate with the general market? Hair cuts in Paris varied between 38 Euros and 110 and in the village we stopped in for a stretch, 9 Euros. And 18 Euros for a colour.

That village doesn’t do Monday mornings. Everything, even the post office closes from 12:30 pm on A Saturday until mid-afternoon on Monday. Now that’s the way to run a life.

old clay roofs
The rooftops are clay with some sway and pitch. 11th century was really big around these parts. A village we went thru peaked in the 12th century but has shambled along since.

On our last trip to France we took the train from Paris to, I believe, Barcelona. We had a sleeper car with 2 other couples. One were celebrating their 40th or 50th anniversary. We were around our 10th anniversary and the other couple were on their honeymoon. The other couples were French, one from the coast. They told us that if we’ve only been to Paris, we haven’t yet arrived in France because Paris is not France, it’s just a big city and its own country. This trip we’re seeing more of the rest.

The gift of travel is to come to see that defaults you resign yourself to are not universal. Appliances here by default consider and disclose how much noise they make and are designed quiet. Dishwashers and vacuum and fridges are all much quieter. For sale ads for houses by default disclose the R-value. It is something worthwhile to consider. What a wonderful starting point for civilization.

It seems it matters to me sound and light and vibration. Visual form and ergonomics are also a thing that matter. Why should anyone have to hear the sound of pipes whistling, someone’s vacuum and dishwasher and beeps of washing machine? In aggregate we impose noise on each other even before the clatter of feet and shouts and cars and horns. It’s all the low grade batterings. The unnecessary and purposeless clatter of muzak competing, even projected into the sidewalks from posts to create ambiance and chase away the wrong people who might loiter when it could be quiet. Shops don’t need a rattling away radio that no one listens to. It’s disrespect for the music and the speaking to have it go without attention. It mistrains us to screen out instead of tune in.

Likewise, why should the default be to blare light when its not used? As interesting as it was to have a room with enough streetlights coming in that I could read a headline in the night, and to have a sort of endless day, or at least unending evening, it seems criminally selfish to waste light while depriving others of the pleasure of dark, that people could live their entire lives and never see more than a few stars.

Glad Game: Nature: A morning with the frog pond, the clamped bonds of dragonflies flying, the rustle and bonks as walnuts and pears release from the trees. Cheese and berries in the yard. Quiet conversations. Sitting with books as a plan B but plan A is the small warbling like a water pipe in the trees and fly bys of yellow butterflies and the heat of the sun and cloudless sky. A green woodpecker in the tree. Warm enough to go barefoot in the grass. Small mushrooms popping up and a row of those raspberries pictured.

Going into a cafe to see if they serve food. Mangling my French. He said, Sandwich? 2 ham and cheese or cheese and ham. We asked for only cheese and he agreed. I’m not sure if they serve food in the bar, at least not at that hour. Someone in the other room seemed to question him and he shrugged, We have the bread. But that was thru speculation and muffled hearing so perhaps I imagined everything but the taste of brie and baguette.

Loved the several spottings of lizards on stone walls. I love lizards and after sitting still reading a house lizard making an appearance. I shall name him Iggy. A concert of 250 voices in the afternoon. How inspiring such cooperation and literal harmony is.

One of the 6 choirs that did a finale all together. The finale included Blowin’ in the Wind in French and Oh, Freedom was common among the choirs too. Especially lovely when sections of the choirs came in and out of deep voices and high and a one lead voice. Gorgeous.

A dusk of sitting outside as the bats swoop in. An meal of exploring the market foods and eating it outdoors together.

An evening with twinkling above and below. Some kind of firefly in the grass and above it looks like what NASA sends images of. The milky way and more stars than I knew were there. And 3 shooting stars for wishes or just their own direct pleasure.

Quote: “The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.” ~ Richard Moss

Overheard in Paris, Bears, Baguettes, Locks and Gawks

It’s a rainy night here. Rain’s pinging on the roof. Presumably the pigeons are roosting under cover. It’s mid-afternoon Ottawa time, during John Lavery’s CD launch in Gatineau.

quiet evening
It’s a rosy evening.

Who could resist a blue rose, even knowing it is dye in the water?

In subways and streets, it’s as common to see under the arm as a baguette. Business people or commoners, adult or child, everyday there are kids trundling bouquets of flowers nearly their size. There are pairs of young boys walking home alone carrying a singe rose or small bundle of blossoms. There’s something endearing about people embracing flowers so literally. There are flower beds in backdoor gardens everywhere.

Partly I’d like to think that is a love for beauty, for nature. Partly it’s also probably that Paris’ nickname could be le pissoir. Sewer smells are pretty common – and dog or humans urinating randomly, or at necessity of intervals of options for the homeless – and slightly more common than florists.

Our plans didn’t go all the intended direction. But new plans rose.

yiddish breads
We got these.

challas in the window
A family business for 150 years, La Boutique Jaune de Sacha Finkelsztajn, fell across our path just as the synogogue let out. There were long lineups out each restaurant door in the neighbourhood.

Ron in the park with a baguette
We met Ron by happenstance of our wandering. We had lunch together in the park. Ron thinks he’s a Rhino. He has a special attachment to them, much as Dali did.

He’s was adopted from L’Ours du Marais where there’s thousands of bears from part of an inch long to a couple feet, of all moods and types and prices.

L'Ours de Marais
I’d set them all free from behind glass if I could get them all homes.

While in the Metro a young woman and her beau seemed to be showing her parents her town. They spoke Manderin and I could catch some of it. The father was a senior and found his wife a place to sit while they waited. They seemed tired and disoriented. When the subway train came, it was packed. When we all crammed in as well, the father perked up and remarked cheerfully, this is just like Zhengzhou.

the bridge of locks
Pont des Artes where there are thousands of locks clicked to the chain link sides to commemorate a person’s visit, an anniversary, a couple’s declaration of intent to marry in the future or to love forever. Some are using permanent marker, some scratched into the metal, some formally engraved.

A group of Spanish youth sat on the bridge in a circle with guitars singing So Long Marianne. Other knots of conversational groups were here and there over the arc near sunset.

the photo that got away
This is the photo that got away.

It looks like it’s there, doesn’t it? But I saw another photo coming. I had to change lenses and didn’t get in time the shot as an old man with canes was approaching from the back of the scene. I expected he would either look a the statue or look away, but either way it would be a nice contrast of young and old male with a statue of female between. (he looked) but I was too slow.

This was taken in the Petit Palais, which contrary to what the American on cell phone was telling his daughter – that it was built hundreds and hundreds of years ago and lived in by many kings and queens – it was built for the world exhibition in 1900.

At the building, for the last day tomorrow is a show on Charlotte Perriand – what an incredibly impressive person. She worked with Corbusier in the 30s and moved onto Japan, and various nations and projects as a professional free spirited designer into her 90s.

thanking everyone
It’s almost a week ago already that we saw Cécile Besnard, Soprano, in that phenomenal dress with Orchestre Les Violons de France.

After the concert a pre-teen who kept skipping circles around the adult conversation then begun tugging and whining for money for a prayer candle. She got her 2 euros and got a long tapered one which she didn’t light. She took it out into the night with her swashing it about like sword and babbling a spell and pointing it like Harry Potter. It was a strange mix of sacrilege and innocent cute. The mom was looking too tired to protest anything else that night.

The concert was held in Eglise de la Madeleine, the church that nearly never was a few times. It got foundations razed at least 3 times as redesigns or changing times wrestled over the site. It was considered for a tribute to Napoleon, or a train station.

It must be hard to live in such layered recorded history. Everyone’s timelines on top of someone’s so that you can’t build without impinging on something and yet it keeps building, erasing, building.


Over the next 6 to 8 weeks, I have a lot on the go. (Maybe I can sleep in the second half of November) I expect to be challenging myself to remember not to fret it. It’s all small stuff. Adapting and taking breaks and non-equivocal walk-aways when I need a break will be the order of the day more than normal.

Perhaps I’m mad to try to do 5 poetry readings in 2 weeks. But if I didn’t enjoy it, why bother. I think I’m going to have to re-embrace the guiding principles of healthy hedonism.

You can vote up my poetry blog here or explore others from that link.

Quote: “It’s easier to find a new audience than to write a new speech.” ~ Dan Kennedy at QB

11 Sep 2011, 1:33pm
Architecture Glad Game

Continuity with History, Baroque and Roman

Timothée Marcel
Violoncelliste, Timothée Marcel, from the National Conservatory of Music of Paris performing Les Suites 1 – 3 – 4 of Bach. It is part of the St. Ephrem concerts series amp concerts. The Syrian church, as it stands in this 3rd rebuilt building, went up around the time that Bach composed. Hearing it in stone and candelight seemed particularly fitting.

The Pantheon
The Pantheon from part of the far-flung empire pops up not far from what is now the club strip with bar-lures as most doors trying to call people in to dance or drink or eat. by 9 at night it is crammed, a flood stream of people.

Bookstores are everywhere. Each one has a dozen or dozens of people. A hum of constant activity at the cash register. One store just for science books. Another for history books. Another for antiques. Artisan books everywhere; cookbook chapbooks. Even the publisher catalogues are better produced and more lush than most published books in Canada. By a cash register, no key chains or candy for impulse buys but a Marcel Proust. What a lovely literate country.

even the statues are reading
Even the statues are reading.

Below the stone wall a nook with space for a bench and a couple. He sits, ankle crossed at knee and the magazine is open to a magazine article: 7 signs of Jealousy. Her arm is around his shoulder, her head on his other shoulder and the breeze lifts her waist length blonde hair so it wraps around his head.

where lions were caged
Where lions were caged and waiting for gladiator fights, now only folding chairs.

A pigeon above.

Below, a changing swirl of people. Strollers, a frisbee game crisscrossing the four games of boules and the 5 or 6 active soccer games coming thru that.

A father has a girl out on a two-wheel bike as she learns to balance and her little brother behind on a wooden push trike.

A kid has a remote control hovercraft. Kids chase each other through the stone stands. People read and sun, bill and coo. Kids have commandeered one of the water taps and are refilling their water bottles and using them as improv water guns. Where theatre troops staged, a team use for goal posts.

the kick
A kick.

Les arènes de Lutèce, built around 280, was filled in, built over, lost, found, considered for demolition, saved by a citizen’s movement, spearheaded in part by Victor Hugo, and made a public park almost a century ago.

A burst of color on the slope.

Glad I did that everyday act of heroism of getting out of bed, getting out of the humid misting rainbow-sparkling shower and getting outside.

I overdid it with this 12 hour jaunts about. It was wonderful, full Glad I have no where to go today because I was out of commission entirely for 13 hours after that and a, slowly getting into the day 6 hours into the day.

Glad for gentle tinkle of piano music coming from nearby.

Glad for a bookstore find of a 1976 chapbook of poetry printed on black with white ink.

Glad/Sad/Content to have finished Owen Sheer’s 2005 book. One of the best writers I’ve ever encountered. That is what a skilled communicator can do in the realm of poetry and story.

Too many small good beauties to enumerate or describe but here’s one more: drawers that slide themselves closed silently.

Glad for ample everywhere fresh food market and to avoid grocery stores (chains are inferior worldwide). Glad to have gadded about, found wonderful things, including pistachio pop and the world’s best mango. Glad to have a fridge of food to cook something new, ideas and a pressure cooker on hand.

Glad to be warm and with a roof and chance of sleep tonight.

Quote: “A man who lives, not by what he loves but what he hates, is a sick man.” ~ Archibald Macleish

5 Sep 2011, 11:31am


park temple
The shrine-style pagoda-like thing on the tip of the hill. From up there you can see thousands of people on blankets and knolls and slopes and hear the calls and cries of thousands of children at play. From down here, the 200 and 300 year old trees and the running of the boys and girls.

a fountain
A fountain was a refuge from heat for people and pigeons while the sun shone.

rain coming into station
Wait a minute and the weather changes again. A downpour inside the above-ground station.

More of my views of Paris and Brian’s views of Paris.
I have theories on noise. The outside noise and inside noise need to equalize somehow. If noise inside the head is loud, then outside has to be very loud to drown it out, or very quiet to not overwhelm the amount already rolling. If inside the head is quiet, one can have room to absorb clatter from outside.

Noise is a kind of energy. Ideas are a kind of noise and a kind of energy. The body accumulate a kind of lactic acid from thinking or perceiving. It can be dispersed by movement faster than by stillness in time. But if the environment is loud, is that processing impaired?

Quote: “Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend’s forehead.” ~ Chinese proverb

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