Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On the nature of nougat

Because I can't live in Montélimar, the WORLD'S nougat capital, and not write at least one post about nougat.

I've always liked nougat so that part is working out well. The only real disadvantage to living the world's nougat capital is that you get used to nougat. And by that I mean you get used to having it around. And by having it around I mean eating it every day. I can honestly say that I have had at least one piece of nougat every day since I moved here. You'd think I'd get sick of it. But no. And now it's a little difficult to imagine an entire day without eating at least one little piece.

But as I've gotten used to the nougat and used to eating the nougat regularly, I've also gotten really particular about it. Whereas before I might have been a nougat slut, I've now become a nougat snob. I'd rather not have nougat than have bad, or even mediocre nougat.

I haven't completely worked out all the criteria, despite endless quality audits, but I'm working on it. Quantity and variety of nuts, texture, honey to sugar ratio - this is as far as I've gotten. I will no longer eat the ones given with coffee at a restaurant near work - chalky and bland. The best pastry and chocolate shop in town, Escobar, makes delicious chocolate covered nougat - of which 2 varieties are excellent - the chocolate and cacao one and then the praline one. The chocolate and powdered sugar one is very disappointing and will never cross my lips again. The ones from DuLac, another lovely pastry and chocolate shop on the main market square, is interesting. Really. It's stickier than most, wetter almost, and the texture of the nuts is influenced by its surroundings.

I'll stop here, you've probably heard more than you ever wanted to about nougat.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

So are you in or are you out?

New city? Well, we live here so that's an in. New job? Well, I'm still doing it and I like it so that's another. The new life? That's a bit more complicated. Time is different in this new life. We're getting acquainted, this new life and I. I like it here, I like where I am, but the parts that are missing, the space between those parts and me seems infinite.

Anyone know what kind of bridge I'll need to cross infinity?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Darkness returns

Colorless darkness, familiar now. The shade - both deeper and darker - of sand after a wave has washed over it. It's still sand, just darker.

So we agree then, the essence hasn't changed?

This will not be the first time you've lived in the dark, you keep reminding yourself of that. And maybe this time you will actually live there.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

It would appear

That I fell in. No, seriously, that would be a fair assumption. And in some ways, I did. A free fall into a new life, or at least that's what it has felt like at times.

I will feel at home soon.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Another river city

That's actually another windy city. That is surrounded by the widest, bluest sky I've ever seen. We've been here for a few weeks now.

What have I learned so far? The space between two places is filled with so much, really. And Montélimar has reminded me often enough that nothing is ever permanent here, the wind makes sure of that.

A few boxes remain, the mezzanine is still a mess and my habit of being barefoot whenever I'm at home means my feet have been dirty every day since we got here because the dust and boxes are more efficient than I am.

Last week was easier than the week before that and I'm hopeful I'll feel the same way next weekend. I would just like to know the names of the hills I see every day, and the mountains beyond them.

Friday, September 10, 2010


The new job is fantastic, the new region is spectacular, the new apartment is coming along, and the new city is welcoming.

Time to get everything done and boxes that aren't unpacked yet are my biggest challenges these days. Along with the fact that I still don't have internet access at home and won't for another two weeks.

However, the boys and I have found the best place for ice cream in the city and that's really all that matters, right?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What I've got

An apartment in Montélimar that I rented from pictures.

A house full of boxes of varying degrees of emptiness and fullness.

A lot of stuff.

Many, many toys.

Four more days to pack it all up - just this weekend and next weekend.

Genuine concern that I won't be able to do it all it four days.

I've been giving away as much as I can - drive by my house this weekend and you'll see stuff on the sidewalk all the time. Whatever I put out there disappears within minutes, occasionally with a softly spoken "thanks" on the other side of the gate.

Monday, August 09, 2010

In the end

You could've predicted this, you might have predicted this. You could say should but should is just so irritating.

Instead, you wait patiently for the fallout. How could there not be any? The risks you take, the tales you tell, they all lead you to exactly this spot.

A beautiful umbrella, that's really all you've got. You hold on to it and hope this is another one of those times when a storm is only a drop of water.

In the morning, some morning, this will only be a painted memory.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

When will you get good at this?

Or we could call it this: some things cannot be helped.

You can be well-informed, years of documentation gathered and archived and filed away for future reference (yeah, right). You can know, without a doubt, exactly what you are doing, what it will do to you, and what it will cost you, damages both familiar and shocking.

It would be helpful, perhaps, if you could identify that part of yourself that makes you so willing to put yourself in harm's way.

Or maybe not. Maybe resolution will come another way. Maybe harm will be a friend one day. Maybe you'll be able to remember the silent battles you lost to harm with the gentleness of acceptance, honor the casualties instead of mourning them, recognizing them as parts of yourself you were meant to leave behind.

Until then, however, harm has no other name.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Where I`m headed

Or we could also call this how to box up a life.

Montélimar is where I′m headed. I don`t know much about it other than what Google and Wikipedia have told me. It′s not a palindrome city though, and I′ll be very interested to discover just what kind of city it is. It feels sort of strange to say city for a place with a population of 40,000, but town doesn′t work either. It′s in a part of the country that I have never visited before.

I have an apartment there for the boys and me, an apartment, like the region, that I′ve only seen in pictures.

So, how do you box up a life?

You take stock, you sort, you only take what you treasure, everything that is no longer useful you give away or throw away. You leave the breakables to the professionals, as well as the driving. You cross the country, leaving landscape you know, and look for yourself on the map.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The other post about feet

Putting your foot in your mouth, it would seem, is not an expression that is directly translatable into French. As with most expressions, there is usually something similar or at least something that means more or less the same. And I know this.

But sometimes I forget or get lazy or start speaking too quickly or whatever.

The French equivalent of putting your foot in your mouth is mettre les pieds dans le plat. To put your feet in the dish, although originally plat referred to low still waters and not food.

So at a dinner party recently, when I mentioned that I had a habit of putting my foot in my mouth, the guy sitting next to me looked at me with the oddest expression on his face. Clearly trying to gauge how flexible I would have to be in order to have such a habit or how clean I would have to keep my feet in order to have such a habit. He looked a little disappointed when he realized that I only put my feet in dishes and/or low still waters.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Begin again

Alright then, I will.

This will be a month of beginnings and endings, more than I can count.

I will change jobs, I will move to a different region. I will say goodbye to the end of the life I have had in Laval for the past eleven years.

I will learn the second language of the south, heat. That should be interesting, given how I feel about heat. I will live in another small city, discover it and explore it in my usual way - one cafe, wine bar, restaurant, bakery at a time.

I will hold my breath when I arrive, waiting to see how I will be welcomed there.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A couple of posts about feet

Je ne sais pas sur quel pied danser...I don't know which foot to dance on.

Which actually means to not know how to react or which side to take, which decision to make with regards to someone or something.

I like it in French - it sounds just a little bit whimsical. And of course it calls up an image. French is good for that, colorful expressions that easily lend themselves to images. There's actually an adjective that means just that - imagé - colorful but not in the full-of-color way. You know what I mean.

Anyway, back to dancing on one foot. Or the other. I've been doing it lately. And while I love to dance, I'd like to stop.

Monday, July 05, 2010

And on the same day

I got a letter in the mail from the Ministry of the Interior. That's generally a bad sign, or at least it has been for me.

I live here legally of course. And I have provided France with two adorable little French (and American) citizens, so I don't usually worry about getting kicked out of the country or things like that. But you never know.

I opened the envelope with a certain amount of fear. And was considerably relieved when I saw that it was about the speeding ticket I got last October. As the car was still in the ex's name, it had taken them - with our help - this long to update the information about who was driving the car. Mind you, they cashed the 90€ check I wrote to them to pay for the fine months ago. Anyway, the letter was to inform me that it had been "revealed to them" (duh, the ex and I sent them a letter telling them I had been driving) that I had, in fact been driving the car and would lose a point from my driver's license. Which is fine, I now have 11 out of 12 remaining. And if I behave myself, I'll get that one back in a year. If I don't, it'll take me three years to get it back.

So as I read the letter, I thought, oh man, I've got to be really careful all the way until next July? Pain in the ... and then, the French administration amazed me. They started the year countdown from the time of they were told I was the driver. Not the day they sent me the letter. Which is shockingly efficient and fair. Two words I don't always associate with government agencies or ministries. I need to work on that.

When you see a '98 Punto driving carefully down the street from now until April 2011, you'll know it's me.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Drive on

I spent the day with the French administration.

First there was the whole car title thing. The car's been in my ex's name since we got it and I never bothered to get it switched over to mine after the divorce. But after a speeding ticket (oops) led to all sorts of administrative hassles, it became necessary. I had to provide all sorts of pieces of paper proving all sorts of things that they already know, given that it's the same building where I got my resident's card and my driver's license. But assuming any kind of interdepartmental communication would be silly of me. So I proved where I live and I proved that I have the right to live there and I proved that I'm divorced and I proved that the car was declared mine in the divorce. I also had to prove the car had passed inspection in the past six months. It had been eight months and inspections are actually valid for two years but I had to have it inspected again because the car was changing owners. Hoops! I love jumping through hoops. You might be thinking that all of this sounds like a lot of work for a '98 Fiat Punto. You would be right. So, a few hours and 141.50€ later (112 - inspection, 2.50 - title, 27 - license plates), I officially own the car I've been driving since 2003.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

That place

I went to see my acupuncturist this week. She did the stuff that acupuncturists do, felt all the pulses on each wrist, looked at my tongue, asked 20 questions. She sighed and let her hands fall to her side. She suggested I try to avoid weeks like last week. Or at least letting myself get into such a state after a week like last week. And she's right, of course. It's not what happens, it's the story we tell ourselves about what happens.

The ear tack wouldn't even help this time. Drastic measures.

There are really only two acupuncture points that I HATE having needled. Given how many there are, that's nothing. The first is Kidney1, which is in the middle of the sole of your foot. Hurts like hell. Seriously. And I never say that about acupuncture. I love acupuncture. The other, I discovered this week, is Governing Vessel 26. Which is about one third of the way towards your nose up from your lip, in the middle of that little groove. Which probably has an official name. It's an amazing point and stimulating it clears the senses and promotes resuscitation. Which I definitely needed.

It's also a beautiful point. With lovely acupuncture names. It's the first of thirteen Ghost Points. I have no idea what that means but I like the way it sounds. This point is also known as Ghost Palace or Water Channel. See what I mean? There's also a sweet story about that groove in French. It's said to be an angel's fingerprint, left when s/he gently presses a fingertip to a newborn's lips, to remind the baby not to reveal to the world the mysteries of the universe, which it is born knowing and learns to forget.

Lovely names and stories aside, given the pain that needle inflicted, I have vowed to no longer visit the state that led me to it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

And now

Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Seriously. No, really, I swear.

I'll start with a story. Those of you who know me on facebook may have heard the beginning.

So. I was on my way out the door for a meeting. Boy2 asked if he could call me while I was out. I told him he could, if it was an emergency. He asked, "Is a bad mood an emergency?"

I said no, of course. Otherwise I would've gotten three calls during my meeting. At least. Not that he's given to bad moods, he isn't, not generally. But bad moods were in the air yesterday.

In the end, we found a solution. I asked him to hand his bad mood over to me. I told him I would keep it in my purse while I was away. He looked horrified. "I don't want it back - you should just get rid of it." He stood on the terrace and watched me toss it in a storm drain next to the garage as I left. We both agreed it would eventually make it to the river and be carried away forever.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

On being a woman

In France.

Honestly, in some respects, it's easier here. Less...nonsense. Really, I have no other word for it. And more good sense.

And any place that considers wearing nice lingerie a sign of self-respect and not just about pleasing the man who's going to see it is my kind of place.

I don't ever hear anyone talking about age-appropriateness. You either look nice or you don't. I've seen 60 year old women here in short skirts that look elegant and attractive. Their age is not a factor in what they choose to wear, although the shapeliness of their legs most definitely is.

And while I would not say that women have achieved equality here, far from it when it comes to pay, I would say that they have had to make fewer compromises on their way. Equal doesn't mean same here, it just means equal.

Decent maternity leave, parental leave if you want it, Wednesdays off to be with your kids - not everyone can manage the last two, but every woman gets the first. And ten postpartum physical therapy sessions, paid for by social security.

I like being a woman here.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Un stylo plume

A feather pen, which, obviously, is no longer really a feather pen, but a fountain pen. I have always loved fountain pens. I got my first one when I was in high school, maybe 13 or 14. It was a big and black and fairly messy but I loved it. I practiced calligraphy and discovered I was no good at it or that it required far too much practice so I just used it as a regular pen.

Then for my 21st birthday, I was given a beautiful fountain pen. A Montblanc. It absolutely lived up to its reputation, it was lightweight and a pleasure to write with. I carried it in my bag for years and used it on a daily basis until it was stolen. It was replaced by a Waterman, not quite as nice, but still nice.

When I moved to France, I got a couple more. And then I had some clients who worked for Waterman. They invited me to visit the factory, which I did and they very kindly offered me a high-end fountain pen at the end of the visit.

Over the years I've bought a few more - they kind of float in and out of my life, lost or stolen or just misplaced for a year or two and then found on a raining Monday in June. A Rotring, some Italian brand, several Waterman, two Pilots. I still miss my Montblanc though.

Anyway. I learned from Boy1 (when he was in 3rd grade!) that you're never supposed to let anyone use your fountain pen. They started doing certain homework and in-class assignments with fountain pens that year and they were told that the nib adapts to the user's positioning and pressure and becomes personalized. If you let someone else use your fountain pen it will never write the same. (I have to say that this gave me consider comfort when I think of my stolen Montblanc in the hand of another.)

Of course I believed him, Boy1 can be quite serious, especially about things he has been told at school. But I wasn't quite sure how widespread this knowledge was. Until recently. I was in a meeting, the person sitting next to me needed to borrow a pen. I opened my bag and took out the only two pens I had - both fountain pens. She laughed and said, "Lovely but useless to me Nicole. Don't you have anything I can't ruin?"

I'm quite certain this says something very interesting about the place I live.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I learned today

Which is a good thing to be able to say about any day, I should think.

A new word. Retors. As in "Il est retors." Which is an unfortunate thing to have to say about anyone. But which, on occasion, is true. Whether it needs to be said or not is an entirely different subject.

The dictionary says crafty but it's a bit more pejorative than that. Maybe dipping a toe into shrewd or malicious. In any case, sly and probably underhanded.

Really, nothing you'd want to be around. But at least we know what it's called.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

From the rooster to the donkey

Passer du coq à l'âne. I love this expression, probably because I do it from time to time.

It's when you're talking about one subject and then you jump to a completely unrelated subject with no transition at all.

To be truthful, there is always a link for me, it just may not be apparent to everyone. And I am usually able to loop it back around so that, in the end, it all makes sense. I have a few friends who have similar conversation styles so they trust my sense of direction. Those who don't usually smile and watch me draw swirls.

Conversations are spirals and swirls, as opposed to straight lines, aren't they?

Friday, May 21, 2010

The things I don't know

Cannot be counted. Some of them probably can't even be imagined.

No longer waiting to live, I'm trying to live while waiting. Don't ask me what I'm waiting for, I have no idea. If I did, it would be anticipation, not waiting. Right?

Monday, May 10, 2010

My France

I suppose there are stages to living in a foreign country. An early stage where you compare many things and judge a few of those. A stage after that where you notice and resist. Another where you notice and accept. And another where you don't notice any more.

I suppose that's why I haven't written about France in a while, I don't really notice so much any more. Which may be because my energy has been focused on those same stages but within my own life. Or it may be because I'm in circumstances unlike any I knew at home. And so now I have nothing to compare it to. France is the only place I've been divorced, or a single mother or quite so completely alone. And the only place where I didn't know what would happen next.

So here I am, in a France that's new for me. In a life that's new for me. The newness of my life, mercifully, has come gradually, one change at a time. And while I have longed for faster and/or more, time has been treating me with a kindness I have not.

This France, my France. There is affection in that possessive - how could I feel otherwise for a place that has been so patient and gracious a witness? There is a tolerance, deep and quiet, in this land. I feel it everyday when I walk by the river. But there is also a pledge in that possessive. I will walk barefoot on the land that has been so gentle with me and I will ask it to remember the path my footsteps took.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Map this

Map the lines you've crossed, all of them, they will be the scale. Every map needs a point of reference.

Map what you've lost, it matters, the way a neighboring country matters - best to have good relations, but that's enough. Peace between borders.

Map what you know, it's precious little, but precious still. It is the ever changing landscape. Time and season always take care of what you cannot.

Map what you've learned, a mountain range. Hard to get to but majestic views worth the risk.

Map what it cost you to learn, the valley nearby, carved by glaciers of hard truths.

Map the grace that melted glaciers into a river of acceptance whose beginning and end cannot be mapped.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

A battle of wills

Lights on or lights off? As you will.

On a quest for answers, hows and whys, a mortar and pestle are your only tools. Grinding river stones down to nothing, searching for traces of water, the only thing that could have made them so smooth. Well, that and time. There must be some in there, mustn't there?

In the land of answers, you knew you would find blood. How could you not, given your questions? But you make friends with swords and find a home in the shadows, nothing sinister there. Honey where you were expecting blood.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Walk on

Though you would not have thought of yourself as respectful of those kinds of traditions, you did what was expected. Like the family heirloom, this tradition has been your responsibility, to carry and then to pass on, a war whose origins no one remembers. You fulfilled it mindlessly in the beginning, quietly, it is simply what must be done. It's a painful tradition though, you grew to resent it. Passing it on became inconceivable, intolerable. You decided it would end with you. Through blood and tears and ultimate sacrifice, it did. Not won, just over. You did not do it alone, or without help.

After death, flowers. Offerings to those who came before you, those whose collective dedication to tradition brought you to this place. A field of poppies, gifts for the dead, spread out behind you, infinite red and green. Healing green and grounding red, everything you will ever need to let go without forgetting where you came from. Those poppies wave behind you, offering blessings and whispered goodbyes - your freedom is also theirs.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

There are times

I live in a palindrome city. And while I've joked about that before, I'm going to be serious now.

I'm not sure how I feel about it, or even if I should feel about it. But I do.

There's something about it. Visually, it's pretty, all symmetrical and balanced. To hear it pronounced, it's the same - well, symmetrical at least.

But I'm quite sure its linguistic infinite nature has an effect on the place it represents.

I remember the first time I came to Laval. A sunny Saturday in the month of December. I spent a few hours in the city center, bought something at the Saturday market in front of the cathedral, had lunch and then coffee. I remember thinking I could live here. And so I have, for 11 years. 11 - also symmetrical and balanced, when it's written like that.

I believe I'm ready for someplace new.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What we don't know

There was no real reason for it to happen that night.

But something about going to the grocery store up the street, where we went at least once a day for beer or brownies made him mad. You pushed, he pushed back. He got ugly then, his face a mirror of tragedies unfaced. You knew that though, going into it, what he hadn't faced, it was inscribed into his skin. Probably picked him because of it. And you did pick him, regardless of how he told the tale. That first kiss in the elevator? All yours. His tragedies made him easier to manage, and even weakened you could make him spin if you had to.

After the ugliness you left, went to a friend's house to sleep. You woke up early, calm, before dawn.

You walked back to the apartment, armed with hot coffee and a night spent in a girlfriend's bed. You quietly gathered your things together, the important things. The rest you left for later.

You did not kiss his sleeping lips before you left.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


I was a marble statue on a stone bench when he walked out, his pack of cigarettes already in his hand as he opened the door. He sat down next to me, our thighs touching, remembering. We smoked and he told me himself what I had heard around the department.

He told me gently, with regret. I laughed at him, also gently. I knew where his wife was from and I knew what the South could do to its women. His situation, all bittersweet poetry and wilting flowers for him, was actually all pragmatics and strategies, southern style. As familiar to me as the smell of pine trees on the way to the beach on vacation.

He told me he loved me then. He didn't, but I knew what he meant. And I knew what he wanted from me, even if he didn't. I accepted the part with a farewell kiss, still more bittersweetness for him and just a kiss for me.

I played my part well though. It was my parting gift, to make up for my gently mocking laughter. Electric glances and accidental touches and suggestive sighs to help him add sweet tragedy to his bitter comedy.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Past in present

When the young girl thought of the grandmother, she remembered the grit of the raspberry seeds in her mouth. Fresh raspberries she picked herself, not even as tall as the bushes she conversed with, asking and thanking for each berry, a bowl in her hand, her bare feet gently bathed in dew. She chose each one carefully as it was offered, picking off the tiny insects and imperfections she saw. She brought her bowl inside, full, and held it out to be covered in fresh cream.

The food was always better at the grandmother's house, how could it not be? Food was not prepared there, it was managed, just as the family was, without its consent or cooperation, giving in only to the cemented lack of choice.

The young girl watched this woman's hands make everything. Shape pie crust into girlish swirls and flutes, this harsh specimen of a grandmother. The grandmother was generous only with food, gray memories of summer weeks filled with her steady disapproval mercifully colored by bubbling fruit pies too perfect to have been made from bitterness and scorn alone.

The grandmother preferred boys, had little time for girls, or even anything feminine. The dark red lipstick she wore when she went into town, 5 blocks away, was the only concession she made to femininity. But it played out as mockery more than anything else, her broken teeth and cruel smile outlined with the blood she drew when she spoke.

And yet the young girl returned, was even anxious to go there. To sit on the cracked steps in front of that big house filled with hidden passages and round windows and a black basement that coiled around its own darkness and waited.

The grandmother died there, in that waiting basement, among her canned vegetables and the clutter of a life she never went through.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Seen And Unseen

I sat in that office everyday. It must have been something else before, a shop or something. I never asked, but why else would there have been a window like that? Floor to ceiling, wall to wall. It was like working in a fish tank.

My desk didn't face the window, it was next to it. I watched people walk by occasionally, but mostly I just did my job. Papers, computer, phone. I had replaced someone very competent and thought I had much to prove. I suspect I may have been hired for reasons other than my cv. I was an odd mix of young and old at that time and often spoke of foreign cities I had visited. My smile was genuine but my eyes were not.

I looked up from my desk one day to see that a photographer had set up a tripod on the sidewalk across the street from my window. He was older than me but young still and had that artist look - hungry, but for art, not food.

Since when was I art? I looked down at myself, sitting in my chair. Little black sweater and pearls, straight out of the 50s, minus the hope.

We had a conversation of gestures during which he told me he wanted to take a picture of me in that fish tank, but working, not looking at him. I tried to do that. I went back to my tasks and he started his. But he gave up quickly. Because even though I wasn't looking at him anymore, I wasn't the same woman.

He packed up his stuff and left without taking any pictures or saying goodbye. I could not go back to never having seen.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The watch stops

That happens, right?

You are a bit like a watch yourself, very reliable. Until, apparently, you're not anymore - or at least that's the way it is with the watch.

One more time, one last time, you'll try to tell time differently.

And what about the watch? Nothing. It was a reminder of what you left before you left.

It cannot be fixed. Not this time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The morning after

The time has come, as it always does, to clean out the yard. Despite fatigue and cold, you clear it out. Leaves and bark and broken pieces of terra cotta and pine cones and who even knows what else. You make an impressive list of all that you find, all that you left for nature to deal with. Apparently nature needs more time than just one winter. Or maybe you didn't really leave things so that she could.

So you actually do the work that you do not like to do. Clearing the way. All things natural in a small pile under an ancient maple. All things unnatural disposed of. You relinquish a mess, a mess that you didn't even see as it piled up.

You do not awaken to an empty yard as you thought you would. It has become, overnight, a field of grace. A place where flowers you cannot name will grow.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Oh the places you'll go

Dessert now.

Cream, liquid and hot. Poured over dark broken pieces of chocolate. The cream is for texture and aspect, I do not want gloss. I want something to dive into, not see myself in. Wait, stir, taste, long for more. Don't we always? Sweet, when clear headed, begs for spice.

Cinnamon to show me how to recognize beauty in confusion, nutmeg to illustrate how sweetness must be layered, black pepper to teach me to always expect the unexpected, cloves to remind me to find balance - that more is not always better.

And salt, fleur-de-sel, flower of the salt. Salt that was hand-raked by someone who knows more about salt than I know about anything.

I peel an orange. Blood, by chance. Organic and pure. Its red not the color of blood but of a perfect Bourgogne, tales to tell in that shade that dances between lands.

Peeled and sliced, full of sweetly sour juice, covered with warm, spiced liquid chocolate. A dessert made to show me where I can go.

Friday, March 12, 2010

And so it begins

It began with onions, thinly sliced. Garlic too, three cloves. Pancetta, olive oil. Salt and then pepper. Chicken thighs, skin intact. A long pour from a bottle of Quincy, Loire bred. Things simmered. Too pale, too something, a few peeled tomatoes were needed. More salt, more pepper, herbs and spices.

We've all heard of a maître saucier, a master of sauces, we've eaten his work, noticed, even, how he is too dependent on his skill. This leads him to ignore the basics on occasion. In mastery there is control, domination. His sauces make you forget what you're eating.

In the steam of my kitchen, I knew I did not want to master. I had had no recipe that night, only random ingredients and cold weather that made me want the comfort and warmth of a deep sauce.

I would not control, I would not dominate. Being a master is not for me. A mistress, however, that I could be.

Is she controlled, is she controlling? One can never really say. With a mistress, you never know who holds the power or if she even cares.

Rebirth that night, as every magical meal is.

But this one in particular. I had made many, countless even, sauces before. But this was different. I found myself.

A mistress of sauces.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The color of your chains

Gold is the one you pretend not to see, you ignore it most days, it's only the light you read by. Artificial but necessary for the tasks you've given yourself, so you think. You could live without it. Could actually live without it, but you pretend not to see that either.

Silver is the one you have named, although you call it something else. It is, in fact, a dog's leash. Long enough to let you think you can go anywhere. And you do, almost. But you're still on a leash. You forget that most days. Dog days.

Orange is the one you cannot live without. The orange of desire and promise and sour and sweet. Its links are an elaborate pattern of time and dream weaving in and out of purest hopes and darkest fears. You accept its presence but not its reasons.

You've grown accustomed to the weight and the sound of your chains.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

This too shall pass

So, you've been working with this architect. Nice, professional, competent, works for a huge firm. You hired him yourself, although you don't really remember the interview, you were so busy at that point. You must have been pretty vehement about what you wanted, or at least what you didn't want. You didn't pay much attention to the demolition crew, they moved in one by one and quietly.

Now you're in that uncomfortable phase, there is dust everywhere. Nothing looks like it did before. In fact, it doesn't look like much at all. You try to clean around it, which you hope will make it bearable but it doesn't.You try to imagine something beyond the mess that you're living in and you can't.

An artist's vision is required for situations like this. You are not an artist. You are just someone who was whimsical enough to hire an architect and give him free license to make something beautiful out of something that wasn't.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Give until it hurts

Donnant - donnant. Giving - giving. Used in situations where we would use give and take. Or tit for tat.

I have to say that I find it very interesting that the French express that concept in such a generous and optimistic way. And I only say that because they usually admit to being a glass-half-empty kind of culture. Sometimes I wonder if there wasn't a corner that led to the turn that led to the place they are now, a turn that required the loss of optimism. A revolution or something along those lines. Anyone who knows more about French history than me (that would be most people) - please feel free to name that corner.

And I wouldn't say that it's a selfish culture either. The S word is tossed around quite a bit - solidarity - but more as an accompaniment to hand gestures and grand theories than anything else. The fact is that solidarity is legally required here every day from nearly everyone, so spontaneous gestures of generosity are no longer commonplace. Which is not, of course, to say that French people aren't generous. Oh why oh why do I write posts that require qualifications and reassurances?

Anyway, giving and giving. I don't know. It just sounds a bit off. Is it very American of me to want it to be giving and getting?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Animal kingdom

There is a snake. Waiting in the basement, or maybe just lying there. Around the countless corners, oddly shaped rooms, paths that lead nowhere. Dark with eyes, coiled around itself. For company - a persistent odor, neither pleasant nor disagreeable, just everywhere. Dampness and darkness and time weigh heavy in this air.

You do not know how long it has been there. You do not even know why it came in the first place. You have gotten used to seeing it there, or maybe used to ignoring it.

What do you do when you realize the snake is in you?

You lean in, foolish and fearless, and try to hear what's behind the hiss.

Monday, February 15, 2010

1000 Strings

The most beautiful, complicated musical instrument that ever was. A string instument, of course. Imagined, designed and faconed by the greatest of masters. Unimaginable music, the kind that takes your breath away. And it did. Vibrations, of endless varieties, on a thousand strings. To be plucked, bowed, or struck, depending on the day.

You watch, at first in horror but now with calm curiosity, as one by one those strings break or are snipped, depending on the day.

What will remain when all those strings are gone? An echo or a memory, depending on the day.

Reminders can be gifts, depending on the day.

Friday, February 12, 2010

On the nature of damage

Layers, webs, nets - all tight and densely woven - surround a seed. Peel away, untangle, unravel - do what you must to get to it. Take a close look, unhurried and objective. You will not find a truth, you will find a belief. A belief that took seed next to a truth.

Problem is, the truth was a raindrop. It glistened and fell and made something dry, wet. That is all.

The belief was a storm - an epic storm. It downed lines and flooded basements and ripped tiles off roofs.

Do you know what you did? You took shelter - lifetimes of shelter - from a storm that was only one raindrop.

It is still there, you can see it, still just a raindrop. Wipe it with your finger, bring it to your mouth. It will taste clean as you swallow the storm whole.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Graffiti on your walls

Lines, grooves, edges, curves. Messages, signs, symbols, signatures.

You can never know if what you're seeing, what you're reading, is what was intended. You can never know if it is irreverent art or spiteful desecration. You are unsettled either way.

Vandal or artist, depending on the day. Either way, you are uncomfortable knowing they were here. This is not a public space. Access is difficult, challenging even.

What did they see as they left their mark? That, you try not to imagine.

More disturbing still, what did they take away?

You must accept what they left behind, bleach will not work, nothing will. These walls, your walls, they live and breathe. Marks made, lines drawn, they are a part of you now.

Monday, February 01, 2010

As within, so without

There is a map on you. A road map of shining silver outlining everything but the edges. No one really knows where it ends, this map. Or even where it begins. It was made without boundaries or borders. If that was intentional, you can't imagine why.

No one has ever read this map, most people haven't even seen it. Which makes you wonder how useful a map it really is. There is no key, no scale, not a single point of reference. Distance cannot be measured, neither can altitudes. You try to believe it could help someone get somewhere, or at least help someone figure out where here is. You're doubtful though.

Dreaming out loud, you picture it as a tattoo. You imagine someone dipping a finger in an alchemist's silver and swirling shining liquid metal on you, the silent canvas.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Time and time again

There is a place, a no man's land. Neither desert nor deserted, it is simply uninhabited. It is neither foreign nor familiar, no matter how long you stay or how long you stay away when you leave. It is an oasis, a lure, an illusion - depending on the day. It is a full moon - but behind moving clouds.

It is the part of you that belongs to someone else. Given or taken, you do not recall. Does it matter? Does it make a difference?

You want to name this place, draw it on the map, give it a governance. But you can't. Some days you can't even believe it still exists. With reason - some days it doesn't. But that doesn't last.

As much as you would like never and forever to exist here, they do not. You are forced to make do. And yet, you cannot.

Monday, January 25, 2010

At arm's length

It was an ordinary day, or at least it acted like one. But it ended unlike any other. You can still feel the heat, black and infinite, of your act.

Despite what you thought, your hands were never tied. But how could you remember that? So long ago, you made the smallest gesture, the gesture of a child. Arms behind your back to hide something from the world, a big secret for a small child - fingers crossed, hidden behind you. Both hands.

One for the lies you knew you would have to tell. And one for the hope, the wish, the silent plea, that what was would no longer be.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Travel far and wide

It is the voyage of truth. The truth that begins as a secret.

Held first by the highest of priestesses, it could only have been trusted with her. Not only did she keep the secret, guard the truth, but she didn't even tell you she knew of its existence.

Split apart, fact from fiction, its next stop was into the hands of Justice, lifetimes later, when the time was right. The past on one side of the scale, the future in the other.

Its final stop, twenty, using Roman numerals, Judgment. Neither fact nor fiction here, an X for both, the truth is found in the middle. No interpretation. Only release and the grace that follows.

Friday, January 15, 2010

It's about time

Unwilling to draw certain conclusions, unable to face certain consequences, you seek out a second opinion. Logical.

Months later, years later, you've got a full collection of second opinions. They are your coin collection, your butterfly box. Shimmering objects whose value is estimated by time and circumstance and rarity. But in the end, despite all those different worths, different species, different colors and shapes and sizes, they are all still coins, just butterflies. In the end, their only value is the truth they held for you.

So what do you next? Every angle of entry has taken you to the same place, every formula has given you the same answer. What do you do when you cannot accept the place, cannot tolerate the answer? There's no choice really. Not when you realize you cannot, will not, spend another day collecting.

You do it. You draw the blasphemous conclusion. You face the heinous circumstances. Bled dry and gutted, you realize you are still whole. The butterflies fly out of the box while the coins melt and pool at your feet.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On loan

It is your favorite place to go. It is a magical land where your choices have no consequences and your responsibility remains suspended, mid-air.

You started coming here when you started telling stories. Good stories, woven expertly in the richest fabric. Tapestries, large enough to be hung on the rough stone walls inside a castle. Colors, dyes, organic nuances to paint the illustrations of life and death and love and betrayal seen through your shaded eyes. Flowers and berries and woods and plants, transformed into pure color essence, silent and knowing witnesses to the weave and to the boundaries of blood shed and tears wept.

Nothing here is really yours, not even your experiences. The stories you tell are only that, stories. Meant to entertain and enthrall and then lull to sleep. Do not believe them, no matter how beautiful they are.

It is a land of borrowed time.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


You have been welcomed home. There's a wreath on the door, crystals that shine even when it's cloudy. There's a fire inside, you can see the smoke coming out of the chimney. A light is on. You do not know who is home or what they are doing - maybe reading - but you do know you'll go inside.

You don't knock, why would you? This is your home now.

The first thing they say to you when you walk through the door?

Lay down your troubles.

And you do. You lay them down, suitcases of suffering you leave at the doorway. They disappear as you walk towards the kitchen.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

On the nature of moments

You have felt the pace of your life, measured in days and weeks and months and years. Saw it in your mind. You've often asked friends that question, how do you visualize time? It has revealed aspects of their nature, beauty in how they see it, whether their system be organized and linear or intuitive and spiral.

But now you have moved on to moments. Or back. Wherever you are now. The moments feel outside of the pace. Or very deep inside. Wherever they are now.

Lemon slices of time on the rim of your glass.