Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Dance me to the end of Love

Hello...I have the tiniest smile curving up my lips as I type. Call it a baby Mona Lisa.

Because I finally figured something out. It is so basic that it is of the hit yourself over the head with a frying pan until stars google out of your eyes kind of simple.

You see, for weeks now I have been wanting to reach out but as I would whine to my friends, "Oh, the words aren't coming. I don't know what to do. I can't find the words. " 

Well, if that isn't the biggest load of ego on a train track of malarkey that I have ever heard, I don't know what is. Of course I have the words.

I have exactly the words that I need. 

They are:

I miss you.

I love you.

Are you ok? 


Let's get back to that last question in a moment. For, some of you (I am not being insincere when I say "bless you") have come wondering. To check in or to ask about my how and where. I will most happily fill in the blanks a bit because if I would like to know about you, I am - hopefully - rightly assuming that you would like the same from me.

I don't often talk about the day to day basics of my life here on the blog. Not only do I like to keep a certain degree of privacy, but I was also simply ashamed to admit the details. I am, finally, just plain tired of comparing my present life to my past. I have worked hard to get where I am now. There is nothing to be ashamed in that, nothing.

I have two jobs, sometimes three. The bread and butter full-timer entails being a receptionist/concierge at a luxury hotel in Avignon. The property is, under mandate, closed until at least mid-May and we will see if I have that job to go back to when the time comes. The amazing news is that I am getting paid 84% of my salary until then - Vive la France! Additionally, this is my second year of teaching English at the University of Avignon. Can you believe that I am a professor? That too has been suspended but I will apparently now finish up the rest of my school year via Zoom, even if I am highly dubious of my ability to understand how to do so. And lastly, if you would be so kind as to look to the right, you will see that I give walks in Arles. We will leave that one alone as a dangling participle for now. ;) 

All of this means that I am in lock-down, alone, in my apartment in Avignon. I was quite ill a few weeks back but no one was willing to test me (this despite my explaining that I was in daily, close contact with tourists from China, Japan, Korea et al.) so despite my having EVERY single symptom, I don't know if I had COVID-19 or not. Gratefully, I am better now. 

Emotionally, it has been a web of a more complex weave...or of an on-rolling wave if you prefer. For the first two weeks I couldn't label that listless, numb feeling for exactly what it is - depression. Shock. Fear that is both excruciatingly specific or nameless, blind. The sleepless nights were/are not my old insomnia rearing its head, but due to anxiety. Now that I have accepted that to be true, I am actively using the tools that I know work. Yoga. Meditation. There are some days when I reach out to every person who might listen to say, "I need help. Are you there?" Or I turn the attention outwards, such as taking food to Cyril, a sweet homeless friend who is sleeping in a tent on a nearby overpass. His situation is so far worse than mine. The phrase "one day at a time" has become my mantra, whether exhaled gently or clutched invisibly between fists topped with tears.

Perhaps I am wrong, but it feels as though we are being stripped down to our essence...from the micro (our internal, personal existence) to the macro (our world, society). On my good days, I see an incredible amount of possibility in this. After the virus has run its course, after the deepest grieving, we can, perhaps, choose to begin again. I know that I am hardly alone in saying so and yet I wonder if it might take more courage than we realise to not run to our former anaesthetised comforts and ecologically expensive ease. Or. Maybe there will be no choice. No turning back. 

What I do know, and I know it completely, is that what remains once everything else has been stripped away is Love. I see it in how we are strengthening as a community, the new old ways of connecting. Amidst all of this pain and suffering, there are a million silent, unknown stories occurring that are filled, propelled by just that. The clapping for our health-care workers, the couples swaying on their balconies, the police serenades, artists supporting each other...the examples are all across our bruised map. So let's see them for where we are. Take me there. Dance me to the end of Love.

In a beautiful exchange with Brooklyn-based artist Camile O'Briant, she wrote, "How the world is/was set up did not take care of everyone and we can no longer do this. There will be some bumps ahead, but remember your own power to create and be a source of grace and good in the world." She concluded by encouraging me, herself, us all: "Let's be a light in this world." We can. 


Apparently, I had more words than I thought. But to return:

I miss you.

I love you.

How are you?

Tell me please.

It actually isn't a rhetorical question at all. 


The title of this post arrived on a sleepless night and I scribbled it on a post-it. It was only later that I realised that it was that of a wonderful Leonard Cohen song. My Mom mentioned this version today and I love it (although not as much as I love her) so here we go. This one is for you, Mom. 

Dream. And be well. 

With Love from Provence,


We keep going...

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Twenty past midnight and 45 minutes late

I didn't want to see it. That things between us were slipping down; that we were beginning to argue more frequently, although neither of us are fighters.

When it was simple, it was blissful. But when it wasn't, it was something like ugly, the French use the word "glauque." And little by little, the worst of those moments somehow seemed to loom large, like a big balloon figure in a parade, over the million moments of quiet happiness. Contentment came into question.

He had said some rather fantastical things in the beginning, ones to turn a girls head. I remember a so casually stated, "I would be happy to spend the rest of my days with you," that it was almost like he was he sipping his words inward with his breath, just as he was trying to dare them out.

I didn't, couldn't, make a big top tent of a thing about it then. Now, I wish I would have more...to have tested what he had said with a prodding fork of contentious vulnerability to see if it was true. Or to see if it had been..only true in that particular moment. For I know that happens sometimes. How human we are, stumbling through. We blurt out. Some of what he said was not always so solid as to induce certainty. I have done the same.

Despite the brevity of our relationship, at eight months, not even the longevity of a birth, I was given some of the sweetest experiences with a man that I have ever encountered, and could not even have imagined possible.

When he swept me off to Rome...I do know that those were some of the happiest days of my life. Just filled with so many "oh's"...of turning a corner after midnight and discovering the Pantheon (while he whistled "La Vie en Rose"), or swooning over buttered sage ravioli at his local spot Urbana 47 or singing Adele in our bed despite the fact that I don't sing anymore, but I did for him. He orchestrated and offered it all, selflessly. And oh how we laughed, bells ringing, throughout.

Every day, every day, we laughed.

But what do you do when you are both a bit damaged by time to the point where establishing a real and mutual trust somehow does not slide into the easy quotidian? When the canyon of your languages and cultures yawns wide, despite the best intentions?

In our case, we truly tried to make it happen. He did so through gestures; frequently buying me simple but pitch-perfect gifts. Dresses that he had picked out on his own, guessing at the size. Tickets to plays and concerts, each delightful. He would arrive in Avignon with his suitcase full of such surprises along with his loving pup, Noumea at his side - an incredible balm after missing my dogs so much. Just as if it was nothing, this giving that I had never known.

I was forceful with my gratitude, I think, even though it was completely genuine. It was so new to me, such effusive generosity, that I wanted to be sure that it was practically burned into him. At times my "thank you's" or "I'm sorry's" when something didn't quite come up to snuff, annoyed him. I understand why. And yet I am calm in the warmth of the love that I offered, as well. Arms wrapped around. Love in a steadfast gaze, the corner of my lips upturned, yet biting down my delight.

Recently, I had began to ask the "Where are we going questions?" to see if we were capable of making something lasting. This despite a clear stance that I was no longer willing to abandon all to move to Paris unless it was for a strong plan. I had already done that once and so am weary. And also, yes, I am dearly attached to this Provence. How I have fought to stay here. He seemed to understand and had never made much of a fuss about the commute although his responses were vague, I see that now.

Verbally, he expressed himself less and less expansively - it would throw me every time that he would end our phone conversations with a laconic "Ciao" as if he were speaking to a colleague and not his girl. And yet, declarations of love were made. Late in; seven months in. That is how long it took him for a clear, unapologetic, "Je t'aime."

And throughout this time, nothing truly terrible happened, despite some rather dramatic disputes with hurt inflicted on both sides. There was no cheating on the other, no viciousness. We did our best to see each other every week and Christophe was great about largely paying for my train tickets as I could not. We enjoyed each other, from table to bed and the beeping camionette that he rented so that I could show him pieces of my Provence, including, finally, Arles.

So how do you explain it?

I dig for sustainable answers.

We drank quite a bit when we were together. There was something of the "Oh, hooray!" of celebration in the beginning when we were reunited, that fierce recognition, and then trying, or subtly forcing, to prolong that feeling later with occasionally problematic results. Prosecco as lighter fluid.

At one particular twenty past midnight, the Cinderella of our story vanished without a pumpkin coach. Stripped to the who of we are with nary a glass slipper in the alley left to make a fairytale.

But this is not everything.

There are so many deeply profound misunderstandings in our loves. It is not only roses that bloom. And for it all, well, finally...we can only do our best to hold them with forgiveness. There is no rancour. Only those haunting tsk-tsk whispers of regret. He still is the same exceptional man, this Christophe, who I kissed in return, deeply, on our first date at Le Train Bleu I found him to be so funny, intelligent, creative, handsome, interesting to the point of being a bit mysterious. All of this, even though he had been 45 minutes late.

Maybe we were 45 minutes late. Perpetually.

I will just leave you with something that my Mom said a while back (who, along with my Sister met him this past Spring and instantly appreciated him): "Heather, he can be the most wonderful man in the world...but that doesn't mean that he is the right man for you."

How I have cried. I can't think that he imagines how much. Or that he would occupy himself to do so. Maybe he has cried too, although I have a hard time imagining it, as well. Perhaps he is relieved? Just that...the not really knowing is proof of our not having stayed aligned. We were often unreadable to each other beyond the no uncertain terms of happiness. And certainly of that fuzzy word "fun," incorporated.

The older that I get, the more that I understand how incredibly important it is to have just that, empathy in all situations, communication. To imagine Cinderella (or any other icon you choose that applies) outside, alone, at twenty past midnight, stripped again of her parure, but also of her bright, bright hopes...deciding where from here she can possibly go again.

I will offer myself a hand up from the pavement, this sadness, and one to Christophe too, in Paris. If he needs it.

We lived a tiny lifetime together. Even if we were not on time for each other, it is still not too late to be on time for ourselves.

 With all gratitude,

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Sacré Train Bleu

"Look up," he said. I did and found myself staring at the glass and iron beams of the Gare de Lyon's emblematic roof. "No, too much!" I swivelled back to eye level. "Ok...to the left," I exaggerated my movement, robot-style. "No...back to the right..." Stop. Zoom. "And again, up!" Ah, there Christophe was! Standing on the balcony in front of the entrance to Le Train Bleu. Waving, waving his arm in hello.

I should have known that was were he would be.

It is a special place. Perhaps for many, I would imagine, but for the moment, while I write, I am claiming it as "ours."

You see, we met at Le Train Bleu for our first date. His choice, nonchalantly offered, in order to put the voice to the face after phone calls that had lasted from midnight until morning. I took the train from Avignon. Nothing less than a Monument Historique would doCall it a Parisian version of fore-shadowing something truly special? Save that he was...45 minutes late. It had taken all of my will - plus not one but two glasses of champagne - to believe in him enough to stay, alone, trying to look relaxed, as though I belonged there, until the traffic cleared and he arrived. When he finally did, pushing the table aside to slip next to me on the banquette in order to give me not a peck but a real kiss...well, that. Was that.

We have gone a few times since and I am used to kicking my luggage through the wooden revolving door. It's then that I truly know that I am back in Paris to be with my man. I am no longer intimidated by the chignon-tight hostesses who have perfected the "and you would be?" stare down the tip of their delicately pointed noses. But ah, it was Lucie that day at the welcome desk and she is lovely. She smiles. Or she did, until she frowned.

Apparently, there was no room at the inn. All the tables were full. Her side-kick, the redheaded bellhop (with chin-strap hat to boot) asked us to be patient, that soon a table would be available for "such regulars" as ourselves. I don't remember if Chris and I shot each other a side glance or not. Probably. I could tell that he was more on the side of leaving, we had been bantering with these two long enough...so to buy a bit more time I showed Lucie my favourite photo from our previous visits - that of an elegantly poised Nouméa (Christophe's tip-top trained pup) sitting in the midst of the empty dining room in-between services. Lucie's smile returned and she excused herself quietly.

She came back with a discreet wave. "I have negotiated a table for you in the Algerian room. It had been rented out for a private event." She seemed quietly proud to show us to our spot of two grey leather club chairs tucked in a corner underneath a potted olive tree. The meeting of Provence and the North. "Do you know what you would like?" We did. One glass of Brut for monsieur and Rosé for Madame. "I know it is cliché for the woman to have the pink champagne," I offered, half-apologising. "I would have done the same," Lucie responded while whisking away the "reserved" sign from our table. She disappeared after a simple shrug.

Have you ever seen light that is so golden that it is somehow silver? It cuts through to diamond each surface that it touches. That was our light, embracing the room. The coupes arrived, we clinked with our usual toast. We had the shadows of olive branches tattooed across our foreheads like victory wreaths. We couldn't stop laughing, delighted to rediscover each other, finally, alone.

Something that I learned as a travel writer is that when accidental magic happens, you listen to the lesson it is whispering to you, you take it seriously. And so I proposed that we stay for a second glass. When the Maître d'Hôtel arrived, Christophe agreed, but on one condition.

"The glasses were not completely clean. I would prefer that they are." He pointed to the hard water spots on the base of each glass. He is Parisian, after all. And the Maître d'Hôtel agreed. It was inexcusable, certainly at this (best left unmentioned) price per coupe. And yet all of this was expressed with lightness, even when young Rémy was brought over to the table. "This is the young man responsible for this!" After being held in something like a wrestling lug of the neck, jokingly, Rémy bent over to examine the glasses in all earnestness and apologised. Several minutes of discussion followed as the pair started to clear the room of the furniture. It was a special evening as the room was being prepared for a new set that would be installed tomorrow. "Out with the old, in with new." Our second glasses arrived and on we sipped.

The banter between the four of us continued as they diligently emptied the space. Rémy is from Marseille, which immediately invited such teasing as "Oh, you are too lazy for Paris," which I slightly defended, living as I do in the South. At some point, Christophe demanded that I let my hair down as he wanted to take some photos and then minutes later I got up mid-discussion, without thinking, to help the struggling pair roll up a large Asian carpet from the parquet floors. Into the middle I stepped, my hair hanging over my eyes and we tightened our grips with each advancing step until it too was ready to be taken away. We joked as they lifted it over their backs and swerved between the customers in the hallways.

There is something about Paris when you somehow arrive inside the real of it...there is no explaining the non-mysterious mystery of how it seems to slide beyond time.

The olives eaten, Christophe positioned my suitcase à part and then sat on it to take a few more photos. He always does just what he likes, no matter where we are. Afterwards, as we gathered our belongings into the hallway to pay, Monsieur le Maître d'Hôtel arrived, rushing, with a bottle of each champagne raised in his hands. "No, you can not take the photos with empty glasses!" Chris seemed ready to protest. I readily settled back into our chairs. We savoured the "top off" and more photographs were dutifully taken. We had the entire room to ourselves.

Rémy popped back in. He and I chatted about his experiences overseas. I shared about now being an occasional professor of English and what a key speaking English is in the hospitality industry. That the whole world was open to him, not only that which is depicted in the famous murals of Le Train Bleu. As we finally readied to leave and Christophe paid (thank you, darling), Rémy offered to give me printed brochures in English and in French of the restaurant's history. "Oh! I can give one of my classes about the restaurant! That would be absolutely perfect!" I exclaimed (and ps. I will).

Rémy looked at me, paused and then asked, "Can you wait for a moment, please?" "Yes, of course," I replied, smiling, albeit a bit puzzled. We hadn't seen the time pass, Christophe and I. We rarely do. It was now nearing 9pm and the main dining room was full. We were back at the host stand, but Lucie was gone. I looked at the tables of so many well-meaning tourists, deep in their expectations, without a Parisian in sight. How different it all felt. I don't mean that disparagingly either. Different is just that, different. Paris is just that, Paris. We shifted weight from foot to foot, in our day clothes, as other champagne corks popped.

Some ten minutes passed and then Rémy's head suddenly surfaced at the far end of the room. He seemed to search for us questioningly, as if not sure that we would have waited. He looked slightly relieved that we were still there. I watched as he dodged and weaved through the waiters and clients to arrive towards us. He looked at me straight in the eye and put into my hands an elongated black box. "These will be clean," he said with a grin and then repeated it to make sure that I understood. "Ceux-si seront propres."

I can't remember now if I put my hand to his cheek, or kissed it, or both. My eyes were shining with joy. It is a moment that I hope to never forget. We said our goodbyes. Out Chris and I went, through the doors, to find ourselves on the balcony where our evening had begun. "What is it? He had said something about a book, is that what he gave you?" my lovely man asked. I said nothing. "We'll see at home," I offered.

And so we did, as we opened a (slightly less fancy bottle of Prosecco) to make a toast in our new, beautifully engraved glasses. "To us, à nous, to le sacré Train Bleu."

Le Train Bleu
Gare de Lyon
Paris 75012

Friday, June 21, 2019


I smiled at her right before she stole my phone. 

Her, the pick-pocket. Dyed blond and young. "She would be prettier," I had thought, "without such pronounced eyebrows." A la mode, those heavily-drawn features that have nothing to do with Liz Taylor, Ava Gardner. My heroines of glamour.

I had just posted on Instagram with a photo that I thought quite smart. In the subway, a poster that had originally been an ad for Chanel - oh, that iconic bottle - but with many layers of other advertisements scratched and torn above or below it. Nothing is simple in our modern times. How tired I felt, but I had seen something interesting and that always does me good. And besides, I was in the City of Light. With a twinge of worry I thought of Christophe, whom I was going to meet. This is our dance, l'Express Avignon-Paris, le Paris-Avignon. He lives here, I live there. I dug into my bag and grabbed for the lipstick that I had thrown in at the last minute, a little too pink. But I dabbed it on in my blurry reflection of the métro window with a steady hand but clucking inwardly at the shadows drooping beneath my eyes ("Will he see them?" I wondered. He did, it's clear, but gentleman that he is said nothing.) As I rubbed my lips together with a pop, I felt someone slide into the seat next to me. Me, puffy and overheated in too much clothing (Hello, beginning of menopause), my roll-on awkward between my knees, my tote lop-sided on top of it, I took up too much space. 

I smiled at this young gamine apologetically and shifted to make room as tourists do, trying to make myself smaller. It is then that I am sure, or just after, that her hand reached into my sagging coat pocket. And from there she stole my phone, leaving at the next stop. I had thought it odd that with a slight lift of her chin and nothing more her gaggle of friends had followed, silently. Some thirty seconds later, perhaps a minute at most, instinct kicked in and I reached for what was no longer there. 

It's funny that dance that we do when we lose something. We keep searching the same space as if the object will magically reappear or look to places that it could not possibly be, "just in case." But I knew. So I dragged myself and belongings off the train at the next stop, sweating profusely, to ask at the ticket booth what I should do. "You could go to the commissariat, but..." she smiled wanly and shrugged. "Ca arrive tellement, tellement souvent...tous les temps." And she is right, I had heard the announcement in several languages repeatedly over the speakers, "Attention, there might be pick-pockets onboard." 

The photos. With a wave of nausea, I realised that all of the photos of Christophe and I together, of Rome, of his recent surprise of an overnight stay in the Vaucluse...but mainly of us, laughing...were on the phone that I had foolishly not backed up onto the computer. Gone. I count on my photos to boost my memory problems and look at them when I am having trouble to soothe me. As I approached his apartment, the weight of that loss grew, as did the simple fact that the phone had been a gift of his part, given lightly despite the financial value, which had made the gesture all the more touching to me. 

Admittedly, I arrived on his doorstep with over-the-top drama. (Hello, beginning of menopause, part deux) "I have some bad news." I watched his smile of welcome melt and the corners of his mouth turn down. I ignored Noumea, his bijoux of a dog, who was jumping excitedly around me, tail wagging ferociously. "Your phone was stolen, I was pick-pocketed. I am so sorry." "No, your phone was stolen," he replied calmly. "Ok, well, sit down and we'll call who we need to call to get things sorted out."
It's interesting with Chris. When he is upset with me, which isn't too often, thankfully, he will rarely say anything right away and never with anger. So when, nearly an hour later, he quietly exhaled, "I thought that something terrible had happened...that someone had died," I knew that I had gone too far, had created an All About Me, out of guilt, or self-derision. I apologised to have scared him so. A loss about loss. 

And then began a loop de loop of paper trails and phone company pleading. Such moments are rarely simple in France, especially if you wish to keep the same phone number that you have had for years. I trotted to here and there, being told no or maybe, and was once caught in the rain, heavy ink drops on my coat, head huddled while passing couples pressed together under an awning, as if in a movie about Paris. But it was Paris. It is.

All of these efforts were tiring, so we decided to have an early apéro. The rain said goodbye; the sun came out. We found a table at Café Chéri where the bijoux dog could find space at our feet. Chris and I. Right there, the surrounding crowds forgotten. Nothing between us. Not the siren call of a texto or an Instagram count to check for likes. I couldn't have anyway, for that girl, that deceptive blond, had stolen my phone. I felt giddy all of the sudden. And truly, think about it...how often does one feel giddy these days? Internally, I was exclamatory. "The light on the trees, was it ever that bright? My goodness, look how everyone is walking with faces down, affixed to their portables. How do they not run into each other? Would they notice if they did?" The birds were chirping something that sounded suspiciously like, "Free, free, free." I looked at Christophe. He was telling me a story. I held his gaze and let a certain weight - not necessarily linked to any other - burn off with the last drift of the day gone by. Good for good, and surprisingly, happily, done.

And as today is La Fête de la Musique tonight in France...a bit of something sweet and nostalgic that seems right to me for this post.

Happy Solstice...
Happy Summer (or Winter!)...
I am, as always, so very grateful that you are still here reading even as time goes by.

With Love from Provence,
And joy in my heart,

Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Eternal City

"I have a proposal for you..."


"What would you think about...for your vacation time...of...going with me to...Rome?"


It was out of my mouth as soon as I heard the word.

Rome. The Eternal City.

My response, was, what they would say in French, une évidence. Of course, I would go to Rome with Christophe. If I had travelled the world, - lucky me - and yet had never been, the reason was quite simple. I had been waiting to go with him.

He has come into my life like something like a fire-bomb, one that burns in the very best way. The first night that we spoke on the phone, it was until 2am. The second? 5:30. Rooster-crowing time. And so the connection began.

He lives in Paris. I live in Provence. And yet we somehow see each other nearly once a week. Or try our best to do so. I am broke from the train tickets and yet grateful. That was the word I used this morning, in speaking to the owner of my studio flat. She is one of my guardian angels. "Grateful to the Universe?" she asked. "Yes. Exactly," I replied.

And so to Rome.

He doesn't travel like I do, preferring to get up when I usually go to bed in order to take the first flight out. And so I felt a little blurred around the edges as I stepped out of the Termini Train station. Walking head held high because this is Rome after all, and realising with the turning of gazes that the weight that I have put back on (yes, its true, all of it) is actually a good thing in Italy if not in stick straight France. Mamma mia.

And somehow that bubble of non-reality never quite popped. Arrival on the morning of the 22nd, departure on the evening of the 26th. Four quick nights, and no, I won't tell you about those nights. Those are mine. Those are ours.

But the evenings? They were my favorite. It had been my hunch, somehow, but how could I have known? Maybe I have been to la bella Roma before after all, another lifetime ago. To walk and walk those cobblestone streets. To turn a corner and find the Pantheon looming above me, Jack and the Beanstalk-like as tears of surprise rose like the columns lit in a pale golden light. We leaned on each other when we got tired. We kissed and never got gelato.

He planned it all, having lived there last year and only very recently haven given up trying to start a business, too complicated, too frustrating. So he knew what he enjoyed and suspected where I would feel the same. It is amazing how right he was.

The Eternal City.

One could say that Love, with the big L, is the true Eternal City and Rome is an expression of that. Love in all its deep complexities, Rome in love with itself. Christophe and I were in the midst of all that, bouncing around in taxis through numerous piazzas, politely ignoring the well-intentioned texts declaring what we "must" do, knowing that each Rome is personal. In my photo dispatches my beautiful Mother and Sister exhaled, "you look blissfully happy," just as my friend Gérard responded, "you have a glass of wine in your hand in every single one." Both were right.

My joy, my love and my gratitude to Christophe. And to Rome.
For there is only one first time for everything, and this first felt both newer and older than the monuments, full of nothing but beauty and absolutely all that is good.

Grazie, grazie mille.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Beyond words

It is hard coming back to this space. And I never thought that would be the case. But sometimes it is important for us to give each other the benefit of the doubt.

When I open up Lost in Arles, I am in direct contact with my past. And while the vast majority of what I have tried to express over the past eight years is in the realm of beauty or happiness, I have also been through so much as of late. I understand; yes, as we all have, each in our own way, I am so aware of it - and yet what I choose to share is a specific prism of my experience. There is the question of respect for others, which is seriously a tightrope tendu, and what is appropriate for me as well.

There have been times when I did not know where I would sleep for the next two weeks, two days. In France, they call the homeless "sans domiciles fixes" - without a home address - and while I was never on the street, that was certainly my case. A wanderer can sound romantic, save when it is enforced and not chosen. Out I went, looking for answers, held quite safe, even at the last moment, truly and mercifully by my anges gardiennes, especially the human ones who took me in, here on the ground.

We don't know the story. Even when we think that we do.

It can be that way communicating with the people that I meet. You could think, perhaps, that after 17 years of living overseas, my French would be just about perfect, but you would be wrong. The locals are often surprised when they learn that I have been here for so long for my accent is still so strong and my written French still so poor. It puts me in a certain category. I never had the money to take the appropriate classes at La Sorbonne in Paris nor the time, either, as I was off and traveling the world....memories which seem like whispers, like strips of silk wind born to me now. Did that really happen? Did I really travel to Africa with the insouciance as if I were headed to the supermarket? Even all that is the beginning of this blog...did that really happen? Did I have Ben and my ex and I were so in love? I think so.

But how could I have known?

And yet, the proof, knowing is not everything.

Our brain keeps thumping, thumping along, churning out thoughts and doing its job, building structures or containers within which we are to organize our life.

It's funny because I have met some truly interesting men along the way over the past year who were willing to meet me on a soul level...there have been many moments that were fiercely sensual and others that were equally isolating. At times, all we can do is some sort of gestural, whimsical pantomime of approximations when a conversation comes to an impasse because we can't exchange verbally in our home language in the manner we both deserve. Someone is always dumbing down and that can be...disappointing. My friend Gérard kind of assumes that I am somewhat of an artist (he is an established one) but he is guessing on a hunch, for these words here hold absolutely no meaning for him, nor do my published articles. It is endlessly frustrating as I have always had une idée that the breadcrumbs left on the blog in a text or photos are something deeply telling when it was, at best, capable of moving you. Or me. Or us both.

Something beyond words.

And yet they can't grasp what, hopefully, you have previously. They can't know. This is often what it is like, finally, to be an expat. Certainly one who is not held within the comforting embrace of a couple. So much of me falls to the floor non-received, les pages imprimées mais pas vu, so that everyday I grieve a little. Just a little. There is a peace to be made with not only all of the shared understanding that is lost but also all of the subtleties of who we are, here.

The eyes can only communicate so much.

Music is better.

And yet there is a new door opening. One where I am now teaching English and at university level at that (this on top of my other full-time job). Admittedly, I have no idea of what I am doing. Every class feels as though I am jumping out of a plane, still doing the test tug on my parachute as I fall.

What can I still communicate?

They are young, you know. Most of them are looking towards me for some bite of the positive apple, if not only education. But can I still do it? Pass the words, light them up and watch the fireworks with no uncertain joy?

Again, as always, I feel my way as I go. Lately, I tell myself before getting out of bed, "Just do the best you can."

And here? Some part of me doesn't want to give this up. A blog, outdated in idea, yes, but I have you, our community, still. And I am fiercely proud of who you are...not to mention deeply moved by the emails that I have been receiving.

"Are you ok?" they ask. Well, yes, I suppose that I am but my life these days is little beyond work. Dating is challenging not only for the above-mentioned reason but also as a matter of sheer logistics. My one dear friend, Tina, has moved to live by the sea. Even my ex told me over a lunch, "You knew it would take time to rebuild a life in France." He was right.

But there is perspective always to be gleaned. My Sister, so filled with pride after my first classes asked, "Could you possibly have imagined if someone had told you a year ago that you would be teaching at a university? You wouldn't have believed them." And she too is right; I was on the floor then. Maybe I am up on one knee now. Looking upwards, even if I still do not feel secure enough to dream.

It doesn't necessarily change much, these configurations of letters and images that might be printed on a page...certainly in the midst of such daily tragedies on a global scale. But horizons are exactly that, open-ended...so, where do I go from here?

I am not sure if I am going to keep this blog going, which is very hard indeed to admit. Heart-breaking, actually. Something you will understand if you know me well. I never would have thought. Never, ever, ever would have thought.

There is still that little part of me that is calling like the sea, song to the siren, to move beyond this moment, this doubt, in order to discover what lies ahead. That which is cast out upon the water will roll back again with the tide, eventually.

I have waded through endless amounts of fear.

If I find you in the waves, so be it. 

Let the past wash upon the rocks, for hopefully, it will not break us, or me.

 I have used this song before on the blog, but it applies and differently now to how I loved it before. 
"I am actually good..."

 ...and still here.

With gratitude no matter where this goes,
You have held me with Love,
I know that to be true,

Be well,

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A lighter fire

How do we do it? When we try to love again, to let them know what matters to us without constantly second guessing how we go forward from here?

It's not his fault. He has to pick up his daughter from a month long summer vacation at just what happens to be my birthday. Or thereabouts. And yet, in my family, The Birthday is sancrosanct. So what do I do?

I will celebrate in my own way. And yet this feels important. Just as does the pause in which he seems hesitant to introduce me to his friends, his family. I've noticed.

Listen, I am actually not asking for advice although it touches me that you want to take care of me. But perhaps we can remember together that we have to find our own way. Shaky waltzes and all. Trusting as we turn into the air.

It is hard to accept that perhaps, within that dance, I perceive that I am resolutely at a "lesser" place than I was a year ago, singing positive even while still so unsure. The notes ring false to my tuned ears. And I wrote about this last year too, and probably the year before. I am physically sick of this recurring doubt ebbing against resilience. But this is it, how we live, how we move. So called "mistakes" pump through us like our very blood, as do our everyday victories. Because where I will return to is all that I truly want, which is to be creative again. My breath, my love, my light. May it shine through me like a lighter fire than all that still burns (darkly), past present, and yet not, with my wild heart, irrevocable.

How do we do it? How do I encorporate someone within this sizzled wire dream? Can I let this lighter fire be fuel for all that I no longer need, to see where I can possibly go? On my own but with another something hopeful, somewhat in tow?

I don't know. But I am asking, throwing a cigarette that I don't smoke (and I don't) to the fire, to see where it will blow.


I loved what I wrote above. I usually write very quickly but that was so important to me, short as it is, that I worked on it for days.

One of the things that I understand now is that I did second guess, and constantly. I would ask questions like, "Do I deserve your love?" over and over for, as different as we are (and I pointedly made that clear too), I have never, ever, been treated so well by anyone.

We broke up two days ago.

Such a good man.

I wish all Peace, all Joy to him. I wish the same for me too.

Happy Birthday to me (rebirth day?), soon, 49.
Thank you dearly for all of the support of my beautiful family and community.
I love you so much,


Friday, July 27, 2018


I was the one who suggested that we go swimming. Because it was just too hot. Even for Provence.

Hastily, I had balled up a swimsuit to throw into my overnight bag, just in case, some sort of instinct pushing hope to the forefront. Wouldn't it be lovely if. And yet once my proposal had been accepted and readily by the man that I am seeing with a casual "allez" (in that long drawl he has sometimes), I realized that it was time to actually put on that suit and assume it. It had been a year since I had tried. A year ago, when one of my ange-gardiens (you know who you are) would assure me out of my near homelessness as if it were nothing on her beautiful estate.

Hard times do not always make one lean. Despite my still healthy eating, I have put on weight. Or back on to be more precise. Is this normal for the course at a hiccup away from 49? Is it hormones (I just had a blood test done so will at least have a response for this possibility)? Such a hard subject for me, where my desirabilaty (or lack of) was...the reason cited for a very important turning point in my life.

In the heat of his bedroom, I stretched and pulled the nylon of my suit, suddenly also aware that my legs weren't shaved. My belly balloned so that my breasts were less covered. All of me wanted to shut down, to cancel, but he called me, "On y va, my sweet?" and so with a gasp or a sigh, I am not sure which, I quickly buttoned a white shirt and shorts, shuffled on the espadrilles and bundled into his camionette.

He is a good driver and I need that reassurance after the accident that was the beginning of the end of my last relationship; one that has left me jitterish as a passenger. But with the windows down, and some sort of beautiful music playing, usually un air africain, I feel safe. As we went, I forgot my hesitations, only reminded by the trickle of sweat running down my spine trapped by nylon. And then, carving through the base of the rockiest part of the Alpilles, we arrived.

I won't tell you the address. In true provençal style, it is not indicated on the road, this lake, fresh with water from the spring, and yet there it is. Don't idealize it please, for even in its small form, it is already annecdoted with a "snacking", a tiny fake beach and even a Zepyr line for waterskiers. He sensed that me, so private, tensed.

"On peut aller plus loin, d'accords? Trouver un petit coins tranquille. Ça te va?" Yes please for a place beyond. In my fatigue these days from my work I am not always as tolernant of crowds and crave peace even in public.

We found it. It really was not obvious. A barely there trail leading down to the water at the farthest reach of the lake as the rest of the alcoves had already been taken under such a fiery hour. But somehow, he spied that tiny scrap of land that was shaded (needed for me). The ground is shale and under my espadrilles the rocks slid too easily. I held on to the tiniest branches to guide my way; they snapped under my clutch. He hacked away others to make room, always a gentleman.

Where we perched, I cracked open a beer so cold, me who never drinks it save for under such circumstances when only that particular bubbly will do. Holding onto the tree umbrella-ing above our heads, I tipped my toes into the water.

Warm. And so off with the clothes, although not the self-awareness.

The rocks on the edge, leading in, were slightly painful to touch with my now city feet. "Dive in! All at once!" he encouraged from the sidelines. I did my version of the Américaine and tip-toed out beyond the depths of my reach.

Until I inhaled deeply, and plunged into the black blue cold.

I am not a good swimmer. Me, a double Leo lion, swims with her head above water. And so I did. Save that finally, I was too tired. So I flipped over on my back. My body, this again belly, buoyed me up. To the last rays of the sun, to the looks that the man that I was with was giving me so gernerously from the shore. I gave in.

For some moments, yawning divine, I felt held by the water. And for the first in many months, I thought of absolutely nothing. He swam out, not to find me but to roam. He went far, into the last rays of the day. But he turned back. And with determined strokes, his head rose and fell across the water until he reached me, found, floating.


Thank you for being here,
Please be really kind to yourself.
With love and gratitude,

Saturday, July 7, 2018


We all feel the need to be attached to something, to keep us from floating, boundless as if on the surface of the moon.

But to what? And to whom?

The man that I am seeing has a daughter who is turning ten. I took them out for lunch yesterday to celebrate and tried to breathe through the periods of silence. I understand when she clings to his arm and looks at me, only slightly defiantly but nonetheless with a claim, "mine." I gave her a bracelet of carnelian stones falling long on her tiny wrist. I wonder if she will wear it or if it will be discarded, forgotten. What could it - or I - possibly mean to her? Having no experience with children, absolutely none, ever, I am nervous on these occasions. I simply try to breathe and be present, knowing at the very least to talk to her on the level she wishes, which is quite a serious one. Only rarely do I receive her smile.

Will this coupling last long enough that I will gain her trust? I am still working on gaining my own, also with a claim, "mine." For me. I find the terrain underneath my feet wet, then dry and smoothe, then burning deep under this particular heat.

At ten, who did I belong to? The wind, the trees, certainly, but also to the letters that were my pearls linked in a row as books opened worlds that I could not have possibly dreamt. We had moved to a very big Victorian house but rather than roam its rooms, 23 in number, I would hide in my oak-lined closet to read for hours on end. There, I felt centered and knew I was where I belonged. Hidden amidst the lives of others, I learned.

Again in these past days, I am finding refuge in novels as if looking for clues. How to be, what to believe in, both in the grand scheme and the minutiae. I don't think that I quite realized how very long it would take to build something anew that I could attach myself to. And there is still, two years in, no solid structure in my life that reassures. That is a very long time to hold one's breath and hope for the best. For now, the only link I really trust enough to put my weight into is the oldest one within me, love.

Mais malgré tout, j'ai toujours des questions. I think it is normal, considering the present logistics and the recent past. Who truly loves me? Who do I truly love? What makes me sing? Where do I go to live my dreams? This is my daily life. Every single morning I awake with questions in my head, thoughts racing, sometimes regrets, usually fatigue but also with quieter songs of comfort and pride.

Oh, how I do feel that I am holding on to the balloon of "me" to be tethered to the ground. This girl, this redhead girl with blue eyes, still, in essence, at ten. Attached is where my heart goes. To remind me, beating, that I am not only this eternal loop of asking. These letters, forming words are the ribbon. How I wonder at the possibility to just...let them go, to let it all fly...free.


PS. This was my 700th post.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

A spring song, a quiet song

There has been a lot of rain this spring. It has been an unusual time and the storms have often been violent. I rarely see them coming. The man that I am dating makes things grow and I have learned through him to watch the clouds form and shift, into something beautiful or something dangerous. A hail storm arriving at the end of a previously sunny day can wipe out an entire years crop in twenty minutes. Just as too much humidity can tempt a certain insect to prosper overnight, leaving a field of strawberries that cannot be sold in its wake.

And yet life remains in bloom. The pears are on the trees, budding forward, filling form, bulbous.

Sometimes I pray to scatter the clouds. And sometimes I watch in wonder and let them be.

It is deeply humbling. This knowledge that there is always shadows, always light. It keeps repeating like the echo of approaching thunder, like the whisper of love in the crook of my neck.

And yet we don't always wish to acknowledge that both exist, permanently...en permanence, un à côté de l'autre...that there is no dividing line, no simple answer. Save for when sometimes, divinely, there is. We all have our own moments of precious gifts, shining. A breath, a reprieve.

After my last post, or maybe the one before it, I received an Anonymous comment that I accidentally deleted but that has stayed with me. It was something along the lines of: "I was so happy to read what seemed like good news from you, until I realized that it wasn't...again." That disappointment. But I don't want to hide my struggles, whether real or imagined (typed with a wry smile) because this is also the conversation that we need to be having. Openly, honestly.

I am not seeing what I want to read after the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. There is much about what they accomplished but the act itself is often a link to a small article that is strict to the facts. Quotes from police examiners. Suicide by hanging...It makes my heart drop and tears rise just to type those three words. For I have great empathy that their struggles reached that point of no return, having known what is mercifully (and I use that word specifically) chronic low-grade depression most of my adult life but also periods that were dangerous, and life-threatening.

We have to move away from the shame in our society about depression and mental illness. We are seeing that now. Losses...out in the fields or within our hearts...are a wakeup call. Let's listen. It is only through acknowledging openly the darkness when it arises, if it arises, that we can continue to grow. To hear a spring song, perhaps sung quietly, but in the tune of our own true voice.




 It is my Sister who encouraged me to write this post after a discussion late last night. Thank you, Robin. I love you so much.
For anyone who is directly or indirectly touched by depression or mental illness, please reach out. We are here for you.
Because we are all in this together.

With much Love and Gratitude,