Guest House


My first autumn wood fire of the year at Le Pavillon des Canaux:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
“The Guest House,” a teaching story by Jalal al-Din Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks.
© By owner. Provided at no charge for educational purposes.

Giverny October


Why would anyone go to Giverny at the end of October just before it closes for winter?  Because I made a list of places to search for the Soul of France (see Sept. 28 post). Number 1: the Orangerie Museum with Monet’s Waterlilies, Number 2: Giverny, 2+ hours from where I live in northeast Paris: Metro, Train, bus, walk. Not sure what I would find at this time of year. Partly cloudy, a few rays of sunshine, rain forecast. Pleasant surprise, train and bus not crowded,  people fairly relaxed, most actually speaking French. Arrive in the parking lot, get off the bus and walk through the village, streets almost empty. Just in case, experience has taught me to arrive between 11:30 and 12, have a bite at Les Nymphéas and then slip inside the gardens when everyone is elsewhere for lunch. This time, instead of the lovely salmon salad, I let the waiter talk me into the plat du jour, designed for descendants of 9th century Viking invaders (rôti de porc à la sauce normande, vegetable flan, mashed potatoes, apples) :dsc03009

Of course it was too much food, and all those calories felt like a roaring furnace in my belly afterwards, but that turned out to be just fine as I sat beside the lily pond in the muted fall light, totally immersed in chilly beauty:image

Then the sun came out. Yes, the Soul of France is here, incarnated for a few decades in Claude Monet, now living on as his gardens and house:dsc03012

A corner of his studio, reproductions of his private art collection:


Dining room:




View from front steps:dsc03015

When I was leaving 4 hours later, the bus driver called me “mademoiselle” and I laughed because that morning as I was buying my train ticket at Saint Lazare station, a young clerk asked me if I had a discount (did he mean “Senior” ?!) I didn’t take it personally because I was a sleepy mess, but does Giverny have rejuvenating powers in addition to opening our senses and spirit? To find out, I recommend visiting in October :-)))

PS Having the place almost all to myself, I saw things I never saw before, such as a sign pointing to Monet’s grave at the Sainte Radegonde (!) church located on the other side of the village. Too bad, have to go back in the Spring!

xxxxx Aliss


I, Witness

Pageant of tragedy and beauty, a morning in Paris… How to hold these images and emotions in my heart and mind simultaneously?

Police checking ID’s at edge of refugee camp on the corner of my street, under the Metro station:dsc02988

Sun rising behind the Eiffel Tower, on my way to renovated Musée de l’Homme for first anniversary ceremony:dsc02989

Tour of plant life recovered from the Amazon and transformed by Frans Krajcberg, 96, Holocaust survivor, Red Army hero, defender of Brazilian rainforest and native people:dsc03000dsc02990dsc02999

Message from Sarayaku tribe, sending their humming bird boat to Europe, as an emissary for the environment:

Papou Chief, Mundiya Kepanga, entrusting his ceremonial headdress to the Musée de l’Homme, as a living symbol of his forest home, saying goodbye to it, and asking it to use its magical powers to inspire visitors to protect the earth:dsc02991

Photographer Anne de Vandière, Tribes of the World, total immersion experience:dsc02992(Pictured: Chundu Sagmu, Balami Bhuddist nun, Nepal)

To be continued…. xxxxx Aliss

Saved by Beauty

Sculpture Garden, Louvredsc02959

I’m more and more aware that beauty, natural or human-crafted, is as vital as the air we breathe, the water we drink, our very sustenance. In harsh times, just the thought or the memory of beauty can save your life, rest your spirit, refresh your imagination, give you new perspectives, hope and inspiration.

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
― Mary Oliver



Road Trip to Sologne (update Oct 5)


Sologne, a 2000-sq mile region about two hours south of Paris, doesn’t make headlines, and yet…  Driving around between ancient churches, always on the lookout for quirky lore, we followed signs to La Maison des Étangs (House of Ponds), centuries-old half-timbered and wattle houses, restored with love by a local association, now home to exhibits about area history. For starters, imagine 3000 ponds, covering 24,000 acres, a network created by Benedictine monks in the 12th century to raise pike and perch for their meatless diets, by diverting streams to fill natural hollows in the clayey terrain, constructing wooden sluice gates between them for periodic drainage to harvest fish and clear away water weeds. Soon a prosperous local economy and ecosystem developed, providing food and work for the inhabitants, based on traditional crafts and agriculture: hemp crops for cloth, rope and nets, cattle grazing, cheese-making, carpentry, thatching, basket weaving, ceramics…


From the wars of religion to the Revolution, the monks were killed off and their property confiscated or abandoned. Without maintenance, weeds choked the ponds, suffocating the fish, sole predators feeding on mosquito larvae. Over two centuries, malaria decimated the population until Jesuit monks brought quinquina bark from South America to cure the deadly fevers. By the mid-19th century, malaria disappeared, life returned to the villages and ponds and rich industrialists began buying up tracts of land to create vast hunting estates that make up the landscape to this day.

Fascinating to see how the great wheel turns…Tourism and forestry are thriving. You might cross paths with 1000-lb stags and families of wild boar.

Nice hotel and restaurant, Le logis du parc:

Horseback riding, Wild West show:

Pastry shop with handmade chocolates:


None of this is on Wikipedia, in English or French!

The map is not the territory… xxxxxx Aliss