Saturday, January 16, 2021

Contentment

My husband and I were sitting on our patio after curfew. A fire warmed us and threw light on on the mural that Marco had painted. Soft music played. I nearly drowned in contentment.

I am often aware of how many people are driven to find contentment, with the operative word driven: working harder and/or always searching, searching searching.

I'm reminded of a winter a couple of decades ago in Gstadd. The Swiss Alps in winter are beautiful. It is not necessary to be in the playground of rich and famous to enjoy their amazing sights, but that can be fun too even if we are neither rich or famous. 

We had decided to take a sleigh ride after dinner. Although our cheeks tingled with the cold, we were toasty under the furs.

I have the tendency to talk to taxi drivers. Sleigh drivers are no exception. We spoke French with a bit of German thrown in. He didn't speak English. I asked him how he felt about his work. 

"It's my life," he said in a tone that embraced total happiness. I love my horses. I love meeting people from all over. I love the time with my family. I have everything in life I could possibly want."

 Years later my husband and I were at Stirling Castle in Scotland. I was thrilled to stand on the spot where Mary Queen of Scots had been crowned as an infant. The church itself was gone but a stone marked the altar where the ceremony had taken place.

Our guide, a man probably in his late 20s, wore a blue tartan that matched his Elizabeth Taylor-beautiful eyes. He was able to engage everyone in the tour despite ages from grade school to pushing old age. We were from several countries. He seemed to know about every stone in the castle, every event and he was a true performer.

After, I said to him, how much we enjoyed the tour. "I can't imagine doing anything else or being anywhere else he said. I wake every morning thrilled just to he here," he told us.

Those two men found contentment in just being. They had little desire to be rich, to rule the world or even a village. They loved what they did and what they had.

I'm tempted the next time I'm in Scotland to go back to the castle to see if the young man is still there. I hope so and I hope he is. 

Then again I will follow his and the sleigh driver's example of being content with all that I have.




Friday, January 15, 2021

Bad apples 3 Sayings

 

How many times has the phrase "A few bad apples" been uttered?

It is has been used to discuss all sorts of nefarious things from shootings, crooked politicians or anything else.

There's another saying: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”― Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

For the last four years we've lived with evil as lie after lie has come from the mouth of the U.S. president. That is not to say that other government officials have been paragons of virtue as they've echoed the untruths. Maybe they too were bad apples.

"Repeat a lie often enough, and it becomes the truth." Joseph Goebbels.

We saw the people who in their heart of hearts believed the lies. 

It's a bad combination: the manipulators of the truth, evil men and women, and those that believe.

 

 

 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Impeachment and peace

 


 

Not so much a new year's resolution but a vow I made is being difficult to keep to.

I wanted to bring more peace and tranquility into my life. 

With my immediate environments it is easy .

When I'm in my French village, the beauty of the mountains, the sea, the ease of walking to everything, of seeing friends on almost every excursion, finding a sense of peace if not joy is easy.

In our Geneva home with our five minute walk to the lake and the view of the Jura and Alps, it is also simple to find a way to replenish my heart and soul.

I try and keep my life simple yet filled with good food, my adorable dog and loving husband. Just looking at them eases my mind.

Over the years, I've been political, fighting for women's rights, expat rights and other injustices. I've kidded I should be renamed Donna Quixote. Now I let the next generation take over.

So what's the problem?

The world intrudes. If many people are generous and loving, there are others out there that are not. Some are outright evil wrecking other people's lives.

So many people were not exposed to the ethics pounded into me by my grandmother. Kindness and sharing were not in their instruction manuals on how to live life.

Try as I might, I cannot cut myself off from what is happening in my birth country. Seeing the lies, the suffering, the rage, I try to pull myself away. For a while we had an off grid day that fell by the way when we needed to be on line for a work reason or something was happening in the news that made not knowing worse than knowing.

When I saw the unsuccessful coup and successful insurrection in Washington, DC, any hopes of tranquility disappeared as we watched. The impeachment didn't help as I listened to the politicians mouth garbage.

I think I understand why after being lied to for years, manipulated by some media of the Russ Limbaugh ilk, the people are upset. I also understand how the people believe and want to act to right a wrong that does not exist. I also believe there are people who just want to cause trouble and mayhem.

I am angry at the manipulators, the arrogant, the dangerous, the greedy, the liars. Anger does not sit well with peace.

I can cocoon in either of my two homes. I can cuddle with my husband, walk my dog, enjoy the scenery. It should be enough but it is so hard to not look beyond.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Reducing waste

 


"The lockdowns have pushed Donnalane Nelson over the edge. Always a bit OCD, she is now consolidating the paper, plastic and metal recycles into the smallest possible bundles... Including TP rolls!" That's what my husband posted on Facebook.

My side:

I try and be eco-friendly. We try not to buy plastic. For example, the pretty pink circle is shampoo. That saves many plastic bottles. We buy laundry powder not liquid, etc. My deodorant comes in glass bottles.

Rick does most of the shopping and will sometimes buy food in plastic containers. Most often I would go without if I couldn't find paper or glass containers. I admit I can feel guilt free when I eat hummus in plastic containers, and tell myself I should make my own. I will yet. I will. I will.

Going plastic free is next to impossible, but reducing use is possible.

The mairie (town hall) gave everyone a green plastic (???) bag with instructions on how to consume and thus throw away less. Our village collects recyclables three times a week and garbage on the other three days. Like in the Bible, on the seventh day they rest. They also asked residents to reduce the volume.

Thus I was being a good citizen and reducing my volume. 

And he is right, I'm a bit OCD.


 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Parisian ugly tourists



Not many tourists these days are in Paris. Between travel bans from different French regions and countries, closures of restaurants and the virus, tourism is limited to buying groceries in a different neighborhood or going from home to work if one is not working from home. 

My first time as a Paris tourist was with my housemates when I lived in Boston. Bill was giving a paper at a conference and neither Susie, my other housemate and or I wanted to be left behind. It was in the 1970s.

At Notre Dame, decades before the devastating fire, I watched a Japanese tour guide lead a group of her countrymen through the church holding a fan high. An English guide held an umbrella followed by about 10 Brits judging by the accent.

I sat near the altar soaking in the atmosphere, thinking about the craftsman who had laid the stones, mounted the beams and cut the stained glass. I imagined the hundreds of thousands of weddings, baptisms and funerals besides the regular masses that had been held. Then a hidden organist started to play. His music soared to the rooftop. 

Leaving the church we saw souvenir stands. We'd come to the conclusion that souvenir stands were built long before the monuments. We made up conversations the souvenir stand builders might have had in the Middle Ages. "If we surround that field, then the cathedral can go there, and all the tourists will have to pass us by."

"Is that the real McCoy?" A voice in a Texas accent and so loud that we were sure it hadn't carried to the other side of the Seine. The woman held a tacky six-inch copy of the tower in her hand. She hadn't done the polite thing by saying "Bonjour," or "Je ne parle pas français," or "Parlez-vous anglais?" Instead it was an onslaught of English which usually guaranteed that the person being spoken too would not admit to speaking the language even if he'd had an advanced degree in it and was a professional translator.

Perhaps, she was auditioning for the Ugly American Tourist Gold Medal (UATGM). She certainly followed the guidelines that many American tourists use by speaking louder than people around them.

A competitor for another UATGM was when I was taking a TGV from Geneva where I then lived to Paris to meet a friend for lunch. It is possible, thanks to these wonderful trains, to catch an early morning train, have a great lunch, take a late afternoon train home and sleep in my own bed at night.

The car was filled with an American tourist group.

 I was sitting next to and chatting with a French gentlemen.

One American woman was furious. Their tour group had promised first class and they were in second class. Yes, first class has a bit more room, but second class is more than comfortable. Sometimes there are less people in first class, but considering the size of the group, most seats would have been taken in either class.

"As soon as I get to Paris, I'm going to give them a piece of my mind." Her voice echoed throughout the car. She was standing and flapping her hands.

I wasn't sure she had much mind to spare. 

She said they only had two days in Paris and I couldn't imagine wasting time tracking down the tour company when she could have been seeing sites in the city that she had traveled thousands of miles and probably spent thousands of dollars to see.

"First class is so much better. The view is so much better." She was almost screaming.

My seat mate was shaking his head. He obviously understood English. 

Jokingly, I said to him in French, "Maybe next time I'll go first class to see how different the view is."

I suspect tourist dollars, euros, pounds, kroners will be missed by Parisian businesses during this awful epidemic. I doubt having to put up with the rude tourists will not. 

I have found over the years, even with French and a Swiss passport, I'm still taken for an American. I have found politeness and a smile is almost a 100% guarantee for politeness back. It has worked all over Europe and in Syria (prewar) One cannot learn a language to spend just a few days in country, but the words for please, thank you, I'm so sorry I don't speak your language builds a lot of bridges, preferably in a soft tone.



 



 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Happy list


We are lucky that during the lockdownS (about 4 months so far in separate lockdowns) there are still many things that make me anything from content to happy. Some of our lockdowns have been stricter than others. They've been in both France and Switzerland.

1. The 35 church bells at 7:05 each morning. I have no idea why that number nor why 7:05. (F)

2. The sound of the tea kettle. My husband brings me a cuppa and a biscuit and the first sip is wonderful. Come to think of it, so are the rest. (F, CH)

3. Reading in bed before getting up, often exchanging good sentences, words, stories, etc. with my husband. (F, CH)

4. The morning hot shower. (F, CH)

5. Getting out of the shower and reaching for the preheated towel from the towel warmer. (F)

6. Sunrise at the beach when we're in Argeles.

7. Watching Sherlock do zoomies. (F, CH)

8. Watching Sherlock rush to the ruin of the château when we're in Switzerland. (CH)

9. The lake with its many moods in Geneva. (CH)

10. Walking down the street and running into friends. (F)

11. Everything in its place. (F, CH)

12. Chocolate (F, CH)

13. A cuddle (F, CH)

14. Nailing something I'm writing. (F, CH)

15. Having enough to read. (F, CH)

16. A good movie or show on Netflix with popcorn or ice cream. (F, CH)

17. Working wifi (F, CH)


18. The word a day in this gift from my husband. (F, CH)

19. Bread baked fresh from the bakery. (F, CH)

20. Getting into a prewarmed bed at night. (F, CH)


Saturday, January 09, 2021

Two flash fictions

Today's flash fiction writing started with us discussing the situation in the U.S. I'm an ex-American, my writing mate spent 20+ years. Although both of us feel somewhat like internationals rather than totally tied to the color of our passports our hearts are a mishmash of the cultures and values of more than one country. We laugh when things are funny, celebrate when they are wonderful and cry when there's tragedy. 

We were weighed down by events making it harder to write. Still after the two exercises we felt better, although were not as pleased with our work.

The prompt for our flash fiction is the first line of each story and in italics.


Someone did better than her.
Always.

Not someone. Her. Anne. The bitch.

Anne had been Sally's enemy since kindergarten when Anne's drawing was featured at a PTA meeting over Sally's. 

Throughout school, no matter how many As Sally got, Anne received one more. Anne was the soloist in the kids' church choir, although Sally admitted Anne had the better voice.

It was a draw on who was prettier. It depended if a person preferred Anne's red hair, to Sally's black that set off her Irish blue Elizabeth Taylor eyes.

They went to separate universities: Anne to Harvard, Sally to UMass Boston.

Their mothers bragged about their daughters being on the dean's list when they happened to bump into each other at the supermarket.

Sally wanted to be a lawyer. She passed the bar the first time. She married another lawyer, had a son and daughter. Overall it was a happy family. She was content with her life and almost never thought tof Anne.

At the last minute Sally decided to go to her high school reunion rather than blow it off. When she didn't see Anne she was half relieved. She thought Anne probably had become a leading doctor with books and prizes.

Another friend mentioned Anne. "She dropped out of med school. I've heard she's living in Alabama and is on her third marriage. Works at Walmart."

Sally smiled. She'd done better than her.

"Sorry to intrude," she said. She wasn't sorry at all. 

She'd been waiting outside the door to intrude at the worse possible moment as her sisters were in the middle of planning a trip which would exclude her.

"No problem," Irene said. Her expression said otherwise.

"I was about to get tea anyway. Want some?" Beth gathered the travel brochures as she talked, slipping them into her backpack.

Mary had never understood why her two older sisters never included her in anything. Why they kept everything a secret. Even when they had become pregnant, Mary found out from neighbors. She'd knitted beautiful sweaters and booties for the babies. They were never used. She had always been afraid to probe the reasons.

Something snapped. "I've had it. Why do you hate me?"

Irene and Beth exchanged looks. "Should we tell her?" Beth asked.

"Dad should have told her years ago?" Irene said. "Before he died."

"Tell me what?"

Beth drew a deep breath. "You aren't our full sister. Dad had a mistress and he brought you, that woman's baby, home and presented you to mummy. Mummy was so upset she killed herself."