Sunday, April 11, 2021
Thursday, March 11, 2021
She was walking towards me like a soldier. So upright with two greatly wrapped packages of flowers clasped within her right arm tightly, an orange Hermès scarf (the signature colour of the maison) hung in loose folds, perfectly aligned to shroud her cashmere kissed neck.
"Bonjour," I began with a friendly head tilt...Already she was surprised, ready to stride by this unknown person but she glanced at my Sonia Rykiel bag, a totem from another time and so allowed my gaze as such to settle while I continued in my most carefully articulated French, "Excuse me, but where did you buy those flowers?"
You see, I was in need of such flowers because I was in need of Spring. Hungry for it actually and nothing that I had in my current pharmacy - no music, no spices added to eggs, no charming flirtation would do.
She again eyed the clues of my outwardly presentation to see what what would do as an introductory phrase. "Well. There is a man who sells these. I think that he as already left his usual spot. On the Place des Corps Saints..."
"Oh, the kind man with the cart?" I exhaled with a bit of a relief. She looked again at my handbag once more.
"Yes." Pause. "But he must be gone from there by now. If you are lucky you might find him in front of the Rue de la République. Perhaps in front of Sephora."
I found that latter bit of information a bit dubious or worse, an insult. Something of a worm on a line to an American fish in warm water. But, after a quick merci, I followed the bait to the store (with a gaggle of sparkly face masked adolescents waiting in front due to COVID) but he was not there. Without success and yet curiosity lifted, I continued on towards his usual address. I am not often wrong with my instinctual GPS.
And yet, no. But yet, yes? For out of the corner of my eye (quite literally), I spied a swirl of colour, floral through and through in a side street two steps beyond.
Think of his cart as if it were a very large dining room table, one punctuated with iron vases holding nothing but the most glorious flowers. He is a known figure in Avignon. As he does not have the expense of renting a shop, he can offer so much beauty at a lesser price, all while reeling it around, charming the passerby.
Surprisingly, his cart was pushed up entirely against the entry of a Creole takeaway shop. Reggae was pulsing beyond the counter. He was chatting busily with two other customers, both female, already clutching bouquets. Each were sipping out of tiny plastic cups.
I took a turn around the cart, sizing up the options that were available in equation with my desire. I am a white flower woman usually as they bring me much needed peace but on this day his light pink roses gave me the bisous that I needed them to.
"Can you forgive me for interrupting your coffee break long enough so that I might buy this bouquet?" I offered. I know very well in France, even after all these years, that I might well be met with a very hard refusal. A "non."
"You could but as I am not drinking coffee that would be complicated." He offered this calmly but his two other clients began to giggle.
"It is Ti-punch. Do you you know it?" he asked. Indeed I did, having tasted it in Cayenne in the French Amazon. It brings quite a hit, that spiced rhum. And true, sometimes we need this particular heat now, in some form or the other. A swift kick of feeling to remember and not to forget.
While I declined his offer, I held within me that gesture of kindness as I headed home, roses tucked down-facing under my arm. So big as to be superfluous and slightly preposterous. "These are Liza Minelli roses," I thought. "End of a long show hardness...yet still here." Then I hummed a bit from "Cabaret." It might have been, "Maybe this time."
The paper rustled, the thorns pricked. There was a barely perceptible waft of the petaled perfume.
Once in the door, I cut the package open and it felt like I was doing the same to my heart. These flowers like warriors, coaxing me forward. Not yet towards hope but just on to the next day when that might seem a little less of an insult to the current state of affairs. A stern statement of pink propaganda propped in an antique vase.
Each morning upon waking I glance over to their shadowy forms in the half dark to see if their heavy heads have fallen. Not yet, not yet, not yet. And so I pull myself up from under the covers to make my coffee. To start the day and so doing, begin again.
You can hear an audio recording of the above post: here.
This seems such an incredibly odd moment as we accept that we have been through an entire year of COVID and that we are the very lucky ones to have survived. For many of us, we are only really beginning to understand the heft of that now. Plus all that we have lost - or no - otherwise.
There are no simple words that can make anything right again save our intentions which may drive us.
Please, I ask of me and of us all...may we find our way to believe. In such small moments, we strengthen an undeniable truth that there is still good to be found. May we try.
Soon to come, gently, maybe or not...we can ask what we might have gained.
Monday, March 1, 2021
A few evenings ago, it was raining softly, the pavement sleek and glistening. My foot slid across a steel manhole cover. I lost my balance and slapped to the ground, hard. A tiny woman, bound in black, dropped her groceries and came to me at a run. I stared at her, incomprehensibly. "You must get up now," she stammered. "Let me help you up." She offered her hands. They seemed detached from her body but willing. I gave my head one long shake, gasped a breath and took her fingers in mine.
She offered to walk me to where I was going but thankfully the shock was fading, my wits were returning, albeit surreptitiously. I declined, thanking this stranger profusely for the kindness of connection. Of one human being looking out for the other. And then she was gone, disappeared into the veil of rain.
Again a breath, stronger this time, one that allowed me to take stock. My right knee was burning but my jeans weren't ripped, my right wrist was throbbing and there was a cut on my left palm...but that was it. No real damage. It was just a fall, finally. I fished for a tissue in my pocket and patted at the blood.
My favourite security guard at the grocery store greeted me with his usual elbow bump and reassuring smile. I don't know his name, nor he mine but over this past year we have grown to having a quick check-in upon seeing each other. In the worst of the first lockdown, to ward off fear, we would build up each other's confidence by saying, "We are still alive!" And yes we are, still. What grace, what gratitude lies within that now. Sometimes he will wink when he says it. Somehow there is an understanding between us. We both sense that we are, for different reasons, lucky.
Coffee, wine and cheese...the French necessities. I could not leave without them and began to limp slightly as I made my way home. It was not until the next morning, pausing on the steps up to my mezzanine, that a deep twinge made me rethink what it is to have health and how incredibly challenging it must be to live with physical pain on a regular basis.
"Thank you, my body."
It was a sort of prayer. Thank you for all that you have seen me through. When I have fallen to the floor from heartbreak, my heart/our heart did not stop to beat. I got up again. So while we may be delicate and capable of bruises, how too we can sing, readily with the sweet sap of spring. Arriving.
Friday, January 22, 2021
Friday, January 15, 2021
The gates were open, then brutally, closed.
My burnished heart had sung to you; longing despite the heavy weight of memory.
There was a willingness to risk even while uncertain that nothing can last beyond what is inherently broken.
I tried. Freedom, I tried to not say "Good" nor "Evil." To have empathy, to live compassion.
"Don't point the finger. Do not lay the blame."
But my eyes cannot take back the violence that I have witnessed, one incited under a vile guise. I replay the tapes incessantly.
Beating, laughing, beating.
This is also who we are. But not who we have to be.
How many tears I cry in the shadow of the gallows.
My soul is blackened gold.
Bitter yet bright shards remain.
You may find a spoken version of this post here.
And please do see below.
Sunday, January 3, 2021
I stepped onto the bridge. The sky was grey, the air cold but humid. My hair was sticking to my scalp under my wool bonnet. I folded into myself, boney arms dangling and walked out midway to gaze.
This New Year's Eve, I was longing for a view.
How it felt to breathe in openness after having been so constricted. These months which passed without passage. But the summit of the Mount Ventoux in the distance was shrouded in fog or perhaps falling snow. So I inhaled and let my eyes go soft with lack of focus. It was definitely not the first time I had found myself here. A kind of cure. Or a cure of kindness, much needed.
This past year, 2020, was my year of Solitude. The Great Battle of Isolation, one could say.
How do I dare to make a comment of it when so many have lost so much more than I?
And yet, there were times, in all honesty, when I felt that the pillars of the necessity of my existence had crumbled. I stayed for community, for my beautiful family foremost and the tiny gleams of searching that let me believe deeply that I was not done yet.
Everything is relative. We choose to forget, or to remember, all the time.
What is astonishing is the part of our hearts - my heart - that signals the beauty of life no matter what. How it keeps our blood pulsing on. If we are so lucky as to be able to pay attention to its call.
So that particular afternoon, I lifted my gaze and focused.
And there, just beyond, floating underneath the last arches of the broken Pont d'Avignon, I saw two white sparks. My eyesight, which had always been impeccable until this year, made me question but yes, there they were. Two white swans. A pair for life.
There are never, ever, swans upon this stretch of the Rhône.
And this, finally, was the recognition of what I had been listening to since the Solstice. Initial whispers to be heard of a shift and yet of something, finally, moving as strongly as the current of the river rushing below. Light like hope amidst all uncertainty. All inhumanity. Such a contrast against the shadows love brings.
Will those swans, with their exaggerated elegance but also biting, occasional mindless meanness...will they get us through?
I took them as a beacon, quelconque...perhaps, you shall too.
If you would like to hear my recording of this post, you may find it: here.