1. I did download a meditation app this morning and breathed for five minutes while a very pleasant, steady voice instructed me on breathing and convinced me that this could be a good habit (if it doesn't simply become one more commitment on a long list!).
2. I'm reading Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass. The subtitle is Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, and the book offers brilliant narratives of plant life based on all the science you could hope for from a Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology at SUNY. Fascinating stuff about the ways that pecan trees manage to synchronize their irregular fruiting, about the marriage of algae and fungi that is lichen, about the surprising discovery that some plants -- sweetgrass is her prime example -- do better for being harvested. . . But it's the book's rich spirituality that keeps me turning pages, the "indigenous wisdom" she draws from to lament what's been lost, yes, but also to point to harmonious ways of being in the world, ways that humans can (and do!) play a positive ecological role. Ways that helping Nature (and admitting that we're part of it) helps us. . . .
3. So much of what I've been reading in her essays over the last week resonated even more forcefully yesterday as my husband and I watched Leave No Trace, a beautiful, moving, and powerful film directed by Debra Granik (who last brought us A Winter's Bone). Superb acting by a new sure-to-be-star Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie and Ben Foster, but the implicit commentary about home and homelessness in America is given a rich emotional weight, arouses (in me, at least) such a nostalgia, an atavistic longing for a "natural" home in the world. . . The forests of the Pacific Northwest might read differently to me, as they did to Paul last evening, because we have spent some time in them, although we haven't camped for decades. But the contrast between the world that humanity, our indigenous selves, was once born into, and what we've made of it. . . That's me, though. The film's nowhere near as heavy or preachy as those last sentences might suggest, and I highly recommend you see it -- and the lush gravity of the forest scenes really deserve a big screen and good sound system.
4. That big screen and good sound system were part of my plan for Paul and me to bring some of the couple time we enjoyed in Europe back here to Vancouver. It's all too easy to slip into some comfortable habits at home, content with our parallel pursuits during the day and then in the evening enjoying dinner in front of some Netflix. . . To counteract that tendency, I've started us off alternating responsibility for least one "date" outing a week, with the flexible requirement that the date be planned and put on the calendar at least three days' ahead of time. And since I've found, in the past, that an intention to see a movie on Friday night can sometimes dissolve in the face of Friday afternoon fatigue, I actually bought the tickets for Leave No Trace online four days earlier. We'll see how the follow-through goes on this one -- how much do you plan for your shared social life, whether with life/love partner or good friends? Do you prefer to leave dates or get-togethers or outings to chance? Do you want/need them less often as you/we become "more mature"? (#kiddingnotkidding)
I can't do that, but
6. I think you'll find some Bonheur in reading Liam Callanan's Paris by the Book. Love, romance, Paris, a mysterious disappearance, Paris, a 40-something mother re-building her life by managing a(n English language) bookshop in Paris, a 30-something gallant courting said mother, two adolescent daughters who quickly acquire texting/SMS skills in a second language, numerous well-drawn and quirky characters, and um, did I mention Paris?! The book is satisfyingly but not ponderously rife with literary and filmic allusions -- fans of Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline books and of Pascal Lamorisse's brilliant film The Red Balloon will be pleased. Let me know if you read this one.
7. Happiness was also delivered to my post featuring cartoons by a number of international cartoonists reflecting on the importance of books for World Book Day. I discovered these cartoons while walking through a park in Lyon this past May, thought they were brilliant, and took photos of them, hanging on the line strung 'round the park, so that I could share them here. I was happy enough that many of you expressed your enjoyment of them in the comments at that post. I was even happier -- rather thrilled, in fact -- that the French cartoonist Bernard Bouton (also the organizer of that Lyon event) has added his comment to that thread. He's very gracious in thanking me for the exposure and he notes that "it's very important for the cartoonists to receive comments about their work." As well, he was good enough to let the Brazilian cartoonist Silvano Mello know how many of us had enjoyed Mello's clever and evocative cartoon, and Mello has left a number of comments throughout the thread, responding to every one who chose his work as a favourite. Silvano's comments echo what Bernard said, both of them indicating that our feedback on their work matters. I find that hugely gratifying, to think that I can encourage an artist. . .
If you haven't browsed these cartoons yet, go have a peek. And it's not too late to leave a comment or choose a favourite or two.