Saving Mount Greylock

DSC02872When I despair about news of the environment, I think of visiting Mount Greylock, in western Massachusetts, and seeing pictures of its transformation from industrial wasteland to green paradise, all the more amazing because this was launched by a group of businessmen:

“Mount Greylock is the highest natural point in Massachusetts at 3,489 feet (1,063 m). Its peak is located in the northwest corner of the state in the western part of the town of Adams (near its border with Williamstown) in Berkshire County. Although geologically part of the Taconic Mountains, Mount Greylock is commonly associated with the abutting Berkshire Hills to the east. The mountain is known for its expansive views encompassing five states and the only taigaboreal forest in the state….

By the late 19th century, clearcutting logging practices had stripped much of the mountain for local industries that produced wood products, paper and charcoal. Along with this came devastating forest fires and landslides. Following a fire on the summit,[29] a group of local businessmen concerned about the mountain incorporated the Greylock Park Association (GPA) on July 20, 1885,[30][31] and purchased 400 acres (1.6 km2) on the summit. The GPA also undertook long-needed repairs to the Notch Road so that carriages could access the top. Aside from shares to fund its operation, the GPA charged a 25-cent toll for the carriage road and a 10-cent fee to ascend the iron observation tower (built 1889).[23] These fees are equivalent to $9.53 in present-day dollars.[32] …..

Additional support came from the Massachusetts Forestry Association’s initiative to advocate for the establishment of a state park system, and to make the case point, fight inappropriate development of the state’s highest peak, Mount Greylock. The principal argument for making the mountain a public reservation was to protect the Hoosic and Housatonic River watersheds from erosion due to recent trends of deforestation (particularly noted on the Adams side). Another concern was to preserve it for the public rather than private and exclusive enjoyment. On June 20, 1898 Mount Greylock State Reservation was created, with the stipulation that the state add to the original land (to ultimately total 10,000 acres (40 km2)). With this acquisition the first public land in Massachusetts for the purpose of forest preservation was created, later to become the state park system….”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Greylock

Worth the pilgrimage, all the more because the location has now been immortalized in the writings of J.K. Rowling as the site of a North American wizardry school…

To be continued xxxxx Aliss

Pool of Thought

IMG_1125This oasis was unexpectedly entrusted to my sole care this week. Ice cold turquoise water, partially shaded morning and evening, full sun at midday.

My job: cover it at night, scoop out unfortunate bees, dragonflies, the occasional frog, ants, spiders, debris…and swim between T-storms.

First time ever to have a pool all to myself. 

No need to do laps…just play in the water, any stroke or combination of moves that feels good, watching clouds and flowers mirror in ripples across the surface along with endless random mental reflections.

This is when answers to lingering questions bubble up from my deep…how to dance within certain tricky social circumstances, a better way to phrase that sentence in my writing, a thank you note to send, wishes, intuitions about future stages of my life… Unscheduled, unstructured moments are when I receive what I can only describe as signals. As if my being needed an opening in the my chatter with the world to synthesize and report back, the way information sometimes comes in dreams…

To be continued

xxxxxx Aliss

Strut Your Stripes

DSC04420Even before Les Bleus won the World Cup soccer championship, sailor stripes were a thing here, but now they’re The Thing. This summer, if you want to feel French in every sense of the word, go with stripes. Sleek mini shift versions are taking the streets, blue and white  Place Saint Sulpice (above) or red and white waiting for the Bateau Mouche Square du Vert Galant:DSC04424 (1)

Long and short sleeved tees make a fresh statement on everyone— young or mature, female or male, slim or less so:DSC04400 (1)DSC04402 (1)DSC04426 (1)

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They’re available everywhere, but if you want the real deal, made in France with Fair Trade cotton by a company founded in the epicenter of the marinière, that sponsors music festivals and the beautiful replica of Lafayette’s ship, l’Hermione… go with Armor Lux.

Their Paris store 16, rue Vavin 75006 Paris (Phone 01 44 07 00 77) is slashing prices right now and until August 7th:DSC04421DSC04423DSC04422

Check out their website for prices on every possible item imaginable for the whole family and the home. You’ll also find info on the history of the brand and its commitment to sustainability.

http://www.armorlux.com/en/

For the backstory, pictures and folklore (originally worn by Breton “onion johnnies” peddling garlic and onions across the channel in England, it became part of the official French Navy uniform and then sexy androgyne high fashion thanks to Coco Chanel, Brigitte Bardot and Jean-Paul Gauthier, to name a few…) see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marinière

http://www.stylefrancais.com/2017/05/lhistoire-de-la-mariniere-chapitre-1/

Or if you’re not ready to take the plunge, Have a drink at a sidewalk café and people watch and count stripes 🙂

Happy Parisian Summer!

xxxxxx Aliss

How to be your own Valentine (and outsmart winter blues)

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So, as planned,  I made Christmas last until the end of January. Then decorations were put away, tree recycled,  pictures sorted, cards sent, presents played with, playlists turned off, virus waned, work and life went on along with the darkest winter in three decades, heavy, gray, damp. Jealous of NY weather, I grumbled, “This is it, I’m done, have to move to a place where I can see snow”.. and presto-change-o, Lumos Maxima! This week we had the biggest Paris snowfall in 30+ years, 10 inches in 24 hours… Suddenly lightness and brightness instead of gloom.DSC04122.JPG

Later in the week, the sun was even shining on the snowy roofs and city gardens.

Of course it wasn’t all fun. People were slipping on icy pavements, or stuck in cars and transportation. (Not to mention the homeless and refugees living on the streets.) Thirteen beautiful trees keeled over in our Buttes Chaumont park up the hill.

In any case, a big life lesson. Everything can change in a few hours…

But, we’re not “out of the woods” yet. Spring doesn’t arrive for another 7 weeks and knowing this part of the world, we could definitely enter a depressing weather tunnel again. So here are some strategies to outsmart the end of winter:

  • Be your own Valentine! Create an atmosphere of “anything can happen” expectancy. Make a list of things you love to receive and enjoy–hugs, flowers, pretty chocolates, massages, pedicures, compliments, cards and postcards, dinner invitations, high tea invitations, party invitations, concert/theater/museum tickets, hearing a favorite song, “I love you” texts in your inbox, trip to the pool, a walk in a beautiful landscape, vacation plans, flattering pix of yourself, happy pix of you with people you love, smiles, fun movies… Whatever your heart desires. Write each one on a piece of paper, fold up and put in a jar or box by your computer, labeled “Open Me.” Then open one a day until Valentine’s Day (and beyond) and give these things to yourself within 24 hours, or at least schedule it. (I guarantee you won’t remember the entire list and you’ll get a spontaneous lift.)
  • Even better! Turn the energy around. Be everyone’s Valentine! Give yourself all of the above and invite a special person or people to join you. Giving is receiving, right?  You’ll get a love boomerang!
  • Music! How to create a magic holiday updraft? Back in the 60’s, French otolaryngologist Alfred Tomatis discovered that Mozart violin concertos stimulate the cerebral cortex, creativity, optimism, and calm efficiency. Researchers theorize that it’s about inducing beta waves in the brain. Who knows. Try it and see. Another good bet: the complete works of the Beatles in chronological order, Irish bands Kila and Solas, Bretons Alan Stivell and Dan Ar Braz will get your blood moving (let me know if you suddenly start repainting and remodeling your apartment single-handedly). You can experiment with light transe-inducing gamelan, dance to “Happy” by Pharrel and “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk, float to Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloé, or maybe your taste runs to Macklemore, whatever, have fun, see what works!!
  • Have a crepe party! La Chandeleur was earlier in the week and Mardi Gras falls on February 13th, two occasions to make dinner pancakes! Organic hard apple and pear ciders are prominently displayed on grocery store shelves, buck wheat crepes grilled in big skillets with your choice of cheese, mushrooms, ham, egg yolk, sautéd onions or shallots, sour cream… plus green salad on the side, is very festive, you’ll see.*
  • Take advantage of these weeks to make other winter recipes that are easy to burn off in cold weather. Some new faves: Reblochon fondue in roasted potimaron pumpkins, wild mushroom fricassee (thank you Sylvia Sabes) 🙂 Leftovers from both of these can be turned into soups and fabulous mini mushroom croissants… Pumpkin fonduDSC04062
  • Details coming… (Thank you Z Worthington for the fondue picture)

*Got these dates mixed up at first but now they’re correct 🙂

To be continued xxxxx Aliss

 

Doing Dior?

DSC03904From the Dior Show at Musée des Arts Décoratifs: One alcove in the floor-to-ceiling cathedral of mousselines or toiles (second wing of the exhibit) one of my favorite rooms… These are preliminary muslin versions of couture designs to test life-size patterns before cutting more expensive fabrics. Almost more beautiful than the final garment…

The good news… “Sublime” doesn’t begin to describe this show, staged with loving reverence for detail: 300 haute couture creations, from the house’s establishment in 1947 to the present, iconic photographs by Richard Avedon and others, every accessory imaginable (hats, jewelry, bags, shoes, perfume bottles), illustrations and sketches, plus a selection of paintings, furniture and art objects…DSC03905 (Salvador Dali, Buste rétrospectif d’une femme et La Chaise atmosphérique, 1933)

A tribute to high style, tradition, craftsmanship, marketing savvy, and sheer French genius.

For a quick glimpse:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrGgxM9QiXI

and

http://www.dior.com/couture/fr_fr/la-maison-dior/expositions/christian-dior-couturier-du-reve

In a palette arranged by color, I fell for these miniatures in B&W DSC03906DSC03907

and this classic shape in pale blue:DSC03908

The bad news: You may not see very much of the show. Even with a “fast pass” ticket bought via internet, you will stand in line outside for at least 30 minutes, again at the cloak room if you have a backpack or large bag, then you will try to climb the stairs against a stream of fleeing attendees (you’ll understand why in a minute) only to shuffle two or three-abreast through a series of dark under-ventilated chambers linked by bottleneck passageways, straining to see the displays over heads and between shoulders. At the end of this ordeal you come to a narrow stairway down to a lower level of less crowded larger rooms, where you can catch your breath.DSC03909 Exiting this wing and crossing the lobby, you access another stairway leading up to a reading room on the left and another series of crowded rooms linked by bottle necks on your right, finally opening into the muslin cathedral mentioned above, and then a vast space called the “Dior Ballroom” where you can move around and admire exquisite gowns, historic portraits, and red carpet film footage of celebrities and royalty in Dior.DSC03903

I’m sure it cost a fortune to mount this event, so its success is great for Les arts décos and for Paris. It’s unfortunate, however, that the museum staff in charge of ticketing and crowd control have so little respect for their audience. There are actual mathematical formulas to calculate flow in small spaces and set up schedules:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pipe_network_analysis

Why isn’t this taken into consideration? Trip advisor comments describe people fainting, disabled visitors who can’t navigate the passageways, long-distance travelers  giving up at the entrance and leaving.

TIP: Judging by the graph on the museum FB page, the best time to plan a visit is 11am on weekends. http://www.facebook.com/lesartsdecoratifs/

Potential idea: other sites like the Parc Asterix post notices at the entrance when the crowds are overwhelming: “Complet” (SRO), so you can still enter, but in full knowledge of what to expect.

http://www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr/francais/musees/musee-des-arts-decoratifs/actualites/expositions-en-cours/christian-dior-couturier-du-reve/

Courage! xxxxx Aliss