Sunday, July 28, 2019

As They Do in Paris . . .

I'm hanging a "Fermeture Annuelle" sign in the window, although this Closing has not been annual (until now, at least). . . in 12 years of blogging, I've taken the occasional week, irregularly. . .

But I'm feeling the need for a Reset, and I think a month might be what I need, although I'm not sure I can hold out for that long. If you Follow by Email (top post in the right margin) you'll know when I'm back, and we can pick up our conversation as if there had never been a break, as good friends do.

I will probably post occasionally on Instagram, although I'm going to try to stay offline more than usual.

Hope to see you in September, à la rentrée. . . 

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Sidewalks of Bordeaux (A Social Introvert Looks Back)

Much as I enjoy our conversations, I've been bumping molecules with people in my more immediate vicinities this past week.  Five separate visits with six different friends (one couple accounts for the math) plus a day with a granddaughter and a session with my trainer. All wonderful, so much refilling of the endorphin bucket, but also, for a (however social) introvert, energy-consuming.
I remember, in my 30s and 40s especially, how much I could get done in a day and in a week, how much I did get done. Four kids transported to lessons and playdates and games all over town, their meals and laundry somehow prepared, and then I'd be back home teaching my piano students, and after that was done I'd even occasionally go out to meet someone for coffee at 8:30 or 9:00. I taught twenty hours a week, and "on the side" I finished my BA, one year taking three, then four courses a semester.  I remember my godmother telling me once how she admired my activity and accomplishments, but that those years were the peak. Not telling me as a lament or even as a warning, just an observation, an offering of a fact I might find useful. I think I was slightly bemused, possibly politely dismissive. Not sure how relevant I saw it at the time.

Now, though. Now, I know its truth. The energy of those early mid-life years has clearly dissipated, and I have to remember that even the activities I love to engage in take a toll. . . .
I could write more on this topic -- perhaps will, someday -- but you know this is all a preamble to hurrying my way out of this post, don't you?
Because the most important bundle of molecules in my life has suggested we go cycling 'round the park this morning, before the sun gets too warm, and I have a hair appointment at 10 -- that's a tight little window to operate in for a 22K circuit, so I'm off in a minute.
The photos were all taken in "our" neighbourhood in Bordeaux just last month -- stars of these sidewalk plantings are generally hollyhocks, jasmine, and the occasional climbing or shrub rose; the window boxes generally spill red, coral, or pink geraniums, sometimes impatiens. . .
My hollyhock opened its first bloom yesterday (I took a photo -- will share later), and the geraniums and jasmine we planted when we got back home are blooming as well. Another of the ways I try to integrate There and Here.

The cycling, too, works to remind me that what we do and see travelling can be paralleled at home as well -- we have our own attractive cycle routes right in our back yard.
And I'm off -- hope you enjoy the photos. If, like me, you find yourself enervated by an abundance of social activity -- or perhaps just by summer's heat -- pop over to Sue's blog for a restful post about the pleasures of Lolling.

Comments welcome, as always.
xo,
f

Friday, July 19, 2019

Friendship Week, A Little Travel, A Little OOTD

After three months with almost no Girlfriend Face-to-Face time (very g for my friend Lesley in Bordeaux), I got what I've been missing this week. Lots of it! A visit with a good friend here on our terrace Monday afternoon, and then I headed to the island for a last-minute-scheduled visit with a couple of friends there. Still ahead, coffee on the weekend with a friend and ex-colleague (from the island) who's going to be in Vancouver.

To be honest, I'd still like more buddies here in the city, but meanwhile I'm pleased that island friendships have proved sustainable, resilient, and nurturing. Email and Instagram and texting and IM-ing play a big role there, but I'm managing three or four annual visits with several friends, not bad at this surprisingly busy stage of our lives.
So Tuesday morning, I packed very lightly for an overnight visit -- taking a minimalist approach to these jaunts means I'm more likely to schedule them regularly and do my part to keep the relationships current and easy and fun for all. I didn't bother with a change of clothes (clean undies though, yes!!), brought blusher, mascara, deodorant, and moisturiser only. So I wasn't hampered for bus, skytrain, ferry (free to Seniors from Monday to Thursday -- yay!) and walking (I averaged 12K steps each day, about 9 kilometres). Tucked some knitting and sketching and reading material and I was off.

I've found a gem of a family-run motel in my old city, very affordable, clean, charming.

Far from 5-star luxury, but I love the simple thoughtfulness, the self-contained economy of this small space -- and you long-time readers will know how important that tea kettle is for me. . .


The Buccaneer Inn might be a bit too far from the centre for most without a car, but I like the two-kilometre walk along the seawall. . .

It was windy when I walked it Wednesday morning, and even clipped up, my hair refused to behave and my earrings bounced wildly. . . . (I see that Blogger won't co-operate to play this short clip, but I've posted it on Instagram if you're interested in seeing wild fennel dance in the wind -- unfortunately, even IG can't deliver that delicious scent)

But all was calm as I hurried in the opposite direction later to catch the 12:25 ferry home -- I'm always hurrying as I walk back to the ferry; inevitably either I or my friend thinks of one more topic we haven't yet covered and the 15-minute margin I give myself gets eaten up with last-minute urgent conversation.
Still, I can't resist stopping to photograph the wildflowers or the texture of a weathered board or the feathery green of equisetum . . .

Today is my sourdough-making day, and it's also a day with our Ten. I just saw this on Laura Calder's Instagram feed, and I'm thinking it might just be the perfect recipe to make with a Double-Digits Kid. Only need some strawberries and whipped cream to make this a Wow! dessert. . .

In other news, I'm trying (again?!) to sort direction for this blog, and perhaps I'll chat about that with you next week. Meanwhile, are you finishing the week today or beginning the weekend? It's a conceptual thing, right? It's TGIF still a big thing for you? Was it ever? Do you make a transition this afternoon/evening or not really observe much difference?
Or we could chat about friendships and transitions and moving. . . Or making meringues. . . Or anything that strikes you as related to this post, widely defined. Comments open now.
xo,
f

Monday, July 15, 2019

Bordeaux Sketches -- Grocery to Table. . .

 We're off paddling this morning, but I have just enough time to share a couple of pages from my Bordeaux sketchbook. . .

Top left, the sheep's yoghurt I loved (the shapely little glass decorated with a sweet ovine face didn't hurt)
Top right, the little garden at the inside courtyard of our flat was designed to be very low maintenance as the owner is often away, but it was graced by a covering of wild strawberries (small and pulpy, not the sweet ones I'd hoped for, to be honest) towards which a cascade of jasmine fell down the wall from the other side. . .

Below, left: Most evenings, Paul/Pater would serve strawberries after dinner (very often this dinner) -- mixed with just a bit of sugar and topped with a small dollop (hmm, can dollops be small?) of crème fraîche. Sometimes we'd buy the strawberries at the market, but often Paul would pick them up at the Casino (grocery store chain, not a place of gambling ;-) at the corner -- and then they would be cradled in these charming little paper baskets. . . He'd pick up the crème fraîche and the sheep yoghurt at the corner as well -- and have a choice of several brands.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss some of that. But there's much to revel in here as well, and some of it, this morning, involves a life jacket and a paddle and a slightly glitchy rudder. . . .

Anything you're revelling in down your way? Or remembering wistfully?
Comments open below -- Go! ;-) and Happy Monday!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Maybe I'm Comin' Around . . .

With apologies to Steve Earle. . .

and with many thanks to you for your empathy. . .

Thought it might reassure you to know that I sketched a page in my journal yesterday. It did me, as I've been low on any impulse to do anything, never mind anything creative.

The inspiration comes from Shari Blaukopf's latest post -- next time I try this, I will know to sketch the "frame" in pencil first, so that I can erase it in the spots where I let the leaves and flowers escape its edges. The paper in this journal isn't well suited to anything more than the lightest wash of watercolour, and I've kept the colours muted deliberately. (hmmm, was that a reflection of my mood? I think I just wanted the restfulness)

Besides offering thanks and reassurance, may I recommend two very different shows on Netflix?
We watched Ben's Back, featuring Julia Roberts and Peter Hedges, turning in truly bravura performances in a film that deals credibly with a pressing reality: the current horror of opioid addiction, particularly as a development from doctor-prescribed painkillers after serious injury). Knowing this might be heavy to watch, we followed up with The Glitter Room, a performance by (originally Canadian, now living in London, UK) stand-up comic Katherine Ryan. So funny, so topical, so trenchant!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Not (Quite) Drowning, Thank You for Waving Back. . .

Title's a reference to Stevie Smith's poem, "Not Waving but Drowning", in case you don't know it. . . .

 Late posting this week -- I tripped over something that sent me into a puddle of tears and not wanting to do anything much more than lie on the bed hugging a pillow. Not sure what went into the triggering mix (fatigue, someone's cancer, a throwaway remark that hurt, a hip/knee combo that's interfering with fitness routine, another throwaway remark, fatigue -- again, yes, those sleep-disturbed nights!,an overly critical assessment of some creative attempt or other, being too far from my women friends), but it took me down for a couple of days.
I trusted my instincts yesterday morning, and followed the first energy-driven impulse I'd had in many, many hours . . . to snap a photo and post on IG. Paul/Pater had got me to move out to the terrace. I'd been not so much resistant as dead weight, but he'd persisted, and there was sun and light breeze and so much green and a variety of sounds and considerable bird movement (our fountain is a big hit!). . . and I posted this. . .
 I get that many will see this as a questionable move. I'm not going to make a litany of the possible questions, nor try to parse them.

Instead, I will only say that it felt a less vulnerable way of reaching out (left me more in control, somehow, and whether illusion or not, I felt less revealed in my neediness) than calling friends or family.  I realize there are gradations of sadness and depression and then despair, and that at a certain point more immediate, physical connection would be appropriate, but I had a watchful, concerned husband at hand, and the flickering of that impulse, some emotional energy finally, signalled a possible route out of the deep well.
 Perhaps the act of will that made the IG post was the first hint of a biochemical wave already washing me back to shore. But I know it helped to have so many thoughtful commenters swimming alongside. Thank you. (And I do, I do realize I've switched metaphors, and I'm sorry, but in the experience, there are simply images that stick, and they don't always follow the rules)
 I don't like posting about my moods much more than I like experiencing them. But I'm no good at ignoring elephants, nor can I change gears too quickly. So that's where we're at this Wednesday. Changing gears slowly . . .

Had a whole other nattering-on paragraph here, which I've just deleted.

Let me tell you instead that I took these photographs while out for a walk on the weekend -- and then I wasn't sure why, wasn't sure who I wanted to show them to, wasn't sure the Instagram accounts of the world don't already offer enough photographs of beauty. If I'd been more organized, I might have already deleted them.

 But somehow this morning, they struck me as a tangible reminder of something my husband tells me, of  something that Kristin commented on this post, that the flip side of the sensitivity that can lower our moods so drastically is often what "brings us to the edge of artistry, to the edge of compassion, down a path of extreme self-awareness." 


This morning,  these photos remind me that I might be someone who gets felled, occasionally, by a biochemical quirk, but I'm also someone who can scarcely walk down the block without seeing something moving or beautiful that I want to share. Tradeoffs, right?

 We have a Six and a Four coming to hang out today while their Mom fits in some birthday celebrations. So I'd better get ready. . .

But first, let me tell you that the theme here, in these photos of magnolias and roses, is that stage after blooming. I mean, don't get me wrong; I love the blossoms. But aren't those rose hips stunning? And the shapes and colours and textures of the blossoms as they age and decay? (You know Bobbie Burgers' amazing paintings? -- magnificently oversized, brilliant, sensual meditations on the latter stages of a bloom.) And the creamy, waxen sculpture of a magnolia bloom is undeniably wonderful -- but so is the tanned-leather of the flower as it ages and dries out while preparing for the amazing surprise of its transformation into that shaving-brush of a seedhead. . .
 And with that, I thank you for reading, and I thank you, in anticipation of your comments, for your compassion and your thoughtfulness and your patience and your company.
And I hope that anyone who might be dragged under today will find somewhere in this post a hand reaching to pull you out, or at least to keep your head above the water until you find your strength again.

xo,
f

Friday, July 5, 2019

How To Visit an Art Gallery . . . .And Make Connections. . . Early Steps. . .

First, let me tell you that I posted my half-year reading list over on my Reading Blog, if you're looking for new titles . .

Last post here, I mentioned some on-site sketching with a Ten as my sketching companion, and promised to tell you more. I was referring to a visit with my granddaughter to the VancouverArt Gallery on the weekend to check out their exhibition Alberto Giacometti: A Line Through Time and, as usual, we had a splendid time.

What makes these visits work, I think, is that I let whichever grandchild I'm there with -- and I've taken them at Six and even at Three -- set the pace and the direction of the tour.  It helps that we have an annual membership (it's a very good deal, as is generally true with most public art galleries), so that I don't worry about "getting our money's worth" out of the visit, and the kids always know we will leave at their discretion. They always last at least fifteen minutes, and they always engage with genuine interest with at least one piece of art, generally more. It helps to make sure we have pencil and paper, and we choose at least one artwork to sketch (here's a Six doing just that at the Guo Pei exhibit last fall.

And, of course, it's good to relax expectations about what a child might want to do at an exhibition. Our Ten thought we should begin by turning left from the entrance, while the curator had obviously intended a right turn. But I'm going to be back later to do things the "right way," so I let go of my resistance and followed her. . . .

And when we went through the grand old building's lobby, and I could see her itching to climb the dramatic stairs, I figured, "Why not?" After all, by then, she'd already surprised me by insisting on visiting the exhibitions on all three floors (Moving Still: Performative Photography in India is wonderful, fascinating, and makes accessible so many questions about what art and photography might be) , not just the Giacometti and pals in the ground-floor main exhibition . . .
And she'd made some perceptive observations -- we both read that Giacometti kept women stationary in his sculptures, granting mobility only to the males. But Ten spotted a statue of Woman Walking, and pointed it out -- and then observed that "the woman" had only been allowed the smallest of steps, and that she was headless, to boot!

So she'd earned some stair-running. . . .
 And thanks to her engagement with the architecture via stair-climbing, I paid more attention to the oculus in the roof -- a connection between the Neoclassical/Beaux Arts architecture (Francis Rattenbury designed this former court house which opened to the public in 1911 and was adapted to its current use by Arthur Erickson in early 1980s) and the Pantheon, which I so love, in Rome. So many other differences between the two make that comparison a stretch, I know, and this oculus puts glass between interior and sky, but still. . . .


 I love making connections like that, and perhaps this kid will make her own someday -- "hey, that staircase reminds me of the one in the old Vancouver Art Gallery that I visited with my Nana" . . .

Another connection for me at the Alberto Giacometti exhibition was spotting this piece -- Table Sculpture (Growth), 1949 by Eduardo Paolozzi (one of the contemporaries whose work is included in this show to give context for Giacometti's art).
 I recognized Paolozzi's name from a colossal piece I saw in Edinburgh's Modern Art Museum (Modern Two) last fall. Below, his sculpture Vulcan which towers above the cafe in which its feet are planted


 reaching all the way to the ceiling panels, also by Paolozzi.



And his Master of the Universe outside the Edinburgh Modern Two. . .
And is it cheating if I sweeten a visit to the Art Gallery with lunch at Nordstrom's Bistro Verde? Perhaps, but I think a tradition of gallery-and-lunch is worth cultivating -- and this girl likes a challenge. This is not the first time we've tried the Chocolate Paradise dessert. Not the first time we haven't been able to finish it either, but she considers it a worthwhile challenge (as with drawing Citroën 2CVs, "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.")


I began this post thinking it would be a Five on Friday, but I'm thinking there's quite enough here already, no? I have a few What I Wore/OOTD photos I was going to share, but I'll save them for now.  But I will recommend right now -- why wait?! -- the Netflix series Tales of the City. The Armistead Maupin books the series is extrapolated from have been on a vague TBR list I've carried around forever, but somehow I've never got to them. Have you read any? Have you watched the series? Personally, I was sold at Laura Linney and then Olympia Dukakis, and then there's the wonderful Ellen Page and Zosia Mamet and a host of other actors both well-known and breaking out. Some sensitive portrayals of LGBTQ folk with an encouraging diversity and nuance.

Okay, I'm done. Ready for your feedback now . . . Wishing you a Good Weekend!
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