Saturday, July 7, 2018

Saturday Seven . . . Delivering Happiness and Books and Film . . .

Feeling a bit scattered right now. A few too many ambitions and projects and commitments, and I haven't quite figured how to get my head above it all long enough to achieve some coherence.
But

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)

5.
 I spotted this charming delivery system outside a Paris door this past May -- Livreur de Bonheur -- Yes, please, what number do I dial to have my Happiness delivered? Could I get a double order?
A bit of research reveals that the service provides healthy and delicious meals, delivered to your Paris address.  . .

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.

19 comments:

  1. We occasionally schedule an outing but often I just go to listen to Monsieur play music. This week, we took dog and takeout food to Spanish Banks. We fall into the dinner with Netflix trap. Right now, we're watching season 2 of an Israeli production, Fauda. It's got a definite bias of course but probably is an accurate portrayal of the enmities that pass from generation to generation. I've been cleaning my book/technology/art cupboard and have been re-reading some Paris books. I'll try to find Paris by the Book. There's another book, I think it's called The Little Paris Bookshop that someone recommended to me. I've got quite a pile right now and my cataract surgery is next Friday so I'm not sure how that will affect my reading. I thought that it was very gracious of Mello to respond to our positive comments.

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    1. A Spanish Banks picnic sounds ideal! Bet your pup liked it as well.
      The Little Paris Bookshop was sweet, some nice twists on the Paris Romance genre, especially since it led away from the city and involved some mystery. I think you'd enjoy Paris by the Book -- a light read as well, but well-written and thoughtful and with some wandering off the touristy haunts of Paris (goes up the hill to Belleville, Menilmontant, for example).

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    2. OH, and good luck with your cataract surgery -- I remember my Mom recovering quickly from hers and enjoying corrective-lens-free vision for the first time in her (then) 70=some years. . . .

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  2. I know what you mean when you talk about potentially positive habits turning into another item on an already too long to-do-list. But five minutes is very little time. I must say that I find my new habit of starting the day with 8-10 minutes of Qi Gong quite helpful.
    Next week I am off to the lakeside, so I am piling up books to take along. Mostly Sociology (Arlie Russell Hochschild) and History (the travels of a 19th century US diplomat in Central America). Still doubting whether to indulge myself and get "London in Fragments", recommended by nohatnogloves.

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    1. It's true -- five minutes isn't an onerous commitment, and I think it will be worthwhile (although I've already missed my 7 a.m. promise this morning -- oops!)
      Have a wonderful time at the lake -- I'm voting for the London indulgence, although the other reading sounds worthwhile and engaging.

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  3. Paris By the Book sounds delightful, definitely one to add to my list! I haven't thought about The Red Balloon for ages but I loved that film, as I did the Madeline books.
    We don't often schedule outings; they just happen, but what I struggle with is trying to bring that holiday vibe back into our daily lives, especially when we travel to Europe. There's something about the European lifestyle that we would love to be able to incorporate into life here but don't seem to be able to.
    Frances in Sidney

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    1. I'm confident you'll enjoy it. I showed one of my Lit. classes The Red Balloon a few years ago and then ended up showing it to my granddaughter. It stands up marvellously well. . .
      Yes, maybe that's partly what I'm trying to do is bring the travel vibe back. I think we're slightly closer to the European lifestyle since our move to the city, but there are some pretty elusive important elements. . . I imagine you'll be thinking about those, observing carefully, again on your upcoming trip.

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  4. I know what you mean about the Friday fatigue and the dinner in front of Netflix...my husband works long hours and he is tired at night and especially at the end of the week so we have put our date nights "on hold." I am looking forward to our 2 weeks at the cottage where he can rest up and recharge.
    We have been going to bed much earlier and I usually read while he falls fast asleep...
    I am adding that Paris book to my list thank you...
    Being able to keep that holiday spirit alive is difficult but I do applaud you for making the effort...I hope when my husband retires that we can do that too.

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    1. Yes! When I was still working, I had very little social energy left when I got home, and I was so glad that my husband -- once he'd retired -- was happy to make dinner and watch a show together, not much chat necessary.
      Surprisingly, in retirement (although he's always got some consulting or board work), we're both busy enough that we find ourselves falling into a similar pattern. It takes being away together (as you are at the cottage) to more fully connect again. You're so lucky to have that getaway so close at hand.

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  5. How exciting that those comments were forthcoming from the festival organizer and the artist. See what an "influencer" you are. Gad I hate that word... but not the sentiment. We push buttons and send our words out into the ether and who knows what effect they may have.
    I will put Paris By the Book on my list for the library, for the fall. I've so many books ahead of me now, and I seem to be delaying reading those I'm excited about until I have time to give them my full attention. Probably when we are in our little village in Quebec in August. Lots of downtime and little internet coverage. Funny how being retired doesn't always translate to lots of time to do what we want.
    WRT date nights. Stu and I always schedule our time with others (me with girlfriends, him with golfing buddies) but not our time together. Mostly that's so we can space out the time we spend apart. And we're getting quite averse to restaurant evenings in the past couple of years. We actually relish dinner at home and time in front of the TV or a DVD. It's the Tour du France for the next couple of weeks. Is that a bad thing do you think?

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    1. Wasn't that cool?! I'm not keen on the "influencer" word either, but I do like being able to let people know about good stuff and especially to spread the word about creative and artistic doings. (see? I did that without resorting to that other word whose overuse I deplore -- "curation")
      I'm the same way with the book overload -- once again, a bounty of books I'd put on hold at the library have become available and my nightstand is submerged.
      NO! I don't think it's a bad thing at all. Just that for us the easy entertainment at the end of the day has become the default, and there are so many other options, especially on these long summer evenings. And I'm with you on the restaurant evenings -- if we're going to eat out, we tend to do lunches these days. Ah, I might just be a Senior. . . ;-)

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  6. Saw a book review recently which I thought might appeal to you - city walking & musing , especially in Paris . It’s called Flaneuse by Lauren Elkin . Every night is date night in this house ..... husband rolls eyes
    Wendy in York

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    1. You know me so well! In fact, I've read Flâneuse and found it so interesting -- even follow Lauren Elkin on IG now ;-)
      Ha! that quip sounds like something that might get a groan in our house as well ;-)

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  7. Very interesting. I have been trying to get myself to do my Pilates lessons (it's summer and vacation, so I'm on my own....but I know the courses by heart and just need to DO them), and I don't even manage to breathe and suck in my stomach. It takes too much time...six breaths.
    Yet I will peel away 30-60 minutes to run most days. Why is that?
    I would happily sign up for livraison de bonheur, although today, it wasn't necessary--we had plenty--with a bunch of teens in the pool, happiness was overflowing. A reunion of friends from years ago. Even at such tender ages as teens, they have pasts already.
    If you want a good book in French, I must recommend "Le Coeur N'as Pas de Ride" (The Heart Has No Wrinkles) by Marina Rozenman. It is a collection of true stories about people who found love late in life. I have no trouble speaking in French, since I do live in France, but I find reading French to be a chore. This book was smooth sailing--I read it in a single sitting, at least in part because I couldn't put it down. It was the cliché, too, of "I laughed, I cried." I really did. A wonderful, wonderful book.

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    1. This is how I've been as well -- I can get myself out the door for a run or down to the gym to go through my program, but somehow yoga at home (and I'd be the same way with Pilates, I think -- I did Reformer classes twice a week for ten years in a studio, but not sure I could ever have done the mat exercises on my own at home). . . I'm going to try to stick with the meditation, though -- I mean, five minutes?! I can do that, right?
      I love the image of those teens in the pool -- I miss the days when mine were that age and the house was so often full. . .
      Thanks for the book recommendation -- I see it's available as an e-book.

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  8. This all seems quite linked to me. Like a true journey.

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    1. I find that more and more often -- do you as well? The random begins to have its own coherence. . .

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  9. Wow,so nice of Bouton and Mello to acknowledge your post!!
    I have to read this book of Paris
    Yes for the organized and planned going-out and dates!
    There is more joy in looking forward something nice,a prolonged anticipation of joy!
    Bonheur delivered :-)
    Dottoressa

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    1. Wasn't that good of them both?
      I find that the organized "date" works well for me because I often feel bad if P proposes something and I'm reluctant to jump on it with so little notice. I like his idea but don't always want to abandon my own plans for the day.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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