Back in Quiet August Paris

DSC04556Trying this to ease jetlag… Flat on my back in the grass, soles and palms facing down. The Buttes Chaumont park is calm but not empty: couples laughing on blankets, old people chatting on benches, moms feeding babies, dads and grandmas walking toddlers, someone playing the flute, classical music piping from a puppet theater hidden in the bushes, outdoor cafés shaded with bright parasols, a film shoot, people taking pictures at the waterfall…

How ironic to spend more time outdoors here in the city than on vacation in the back country of upstate New York…But then, the weather is less extreme here… bees, butterflies, birds…You can walk right out your front door and find green spaces to keep walking for hours, no need to drive somewhere for a hike…

To be continued xxxxx Aliss

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

Happy Birthday Buttes Chaumont Park

Paris 19th…Now:DSC03606and then, before landscaping, Eiffel’s bridge, and the cliff-top temple:DSC03607My favorite park is celebrating a big birthday–150 years… I thought I knew it by heart, but new signs commemorating remarkable trees and the park’s transformation are full of cool factoids:DSC03611Did you know this tree is called “horse chestnut” because in ancient times its fruit was used as fodder? That this former quarry was a horse cemetery in the 19th century? That draft horses from Vincennes are still used here for logging? DSC03610.JPGPlanted in 1870, this sycamore is 25m tall. Tiny picnickers and miniature bench give an idea of scale…Another specimen:DSC03609Planted in 1865, this one is 20m tall. Symbiotic parasites thicken its bark while its survival strategy creates an “elephant foot” shape at the base. In Greek mythology  plane trees symbolized regeneration and it’s dark heavy wood was used to build the Trojan horse…It’s so huge I couldn’t fit it into one shot. People left of the trunk (center) add perspective.DSC03608And on the other side of the park:DSC03613An association called Kaloumba had set up awnings, tables, chairs and traditional games from all over the world, for all ages. One item from their beautiful collection:DSC03612

Kaloumba specializes in keeping these alive as cultural, social, educational and therapeutic tools, organizing workshops to make your own games from recycled materials, to then keep or sell for worthy causes. Check out their website: http://kaloumba.com

Happy Birthday Buttes Chaumont 🙂 xxxxx Aliss

Fontainebleau Solstice

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Horizon, Tour Denecourt, Fontainebleau, December 2016

This may be too long for minds used to soundbites, but if you have the patience, it’s worth your time and concentration:

“Over there, on the horizon, the sun has just touched with light the outermost fringe of the eastern sky. Once again, beneath this moving sheet of fire, the living surface of the earth wakes and trembles, and once again begins its fearful travail…

…Grant me the remembrance and the mystic presence of all those whom the light is now awakening to the new day.

One by one, Lord, I see and I love all those whom you have given me to sustain and charm my life. One by one also I number all those who make up that other beloved family which has gradually surrounded me, its unity fashioned out of the most disparate elements, with affinities of the heart, of scientific research and of thought. And again one by one… I call before me the whole vast anonymous army of living humanity; those who surround me and support me though I do not know them; those who come, and those who go; above all, those who in office, laboratory and factory, through their vision of truth or despite their error, truly believe in the progress of earthly reality and who today will take up again their impassioned pursuit of the light.

This restless multitude, confused or orderly, the immensity of which terrifies us; this ocean of humanity whose slow, monotonous wave-flows trouble the hearts even of those whose faith is most firm: it is to this deep that I thus desire all the fibres of my being should respond. All the things in the world to which this day will bring increase; all those that will diminish; all those too that will die: all of them, Lord, I try to gather into my arms, so as to hold them out to you in offering…

Receive, O Lord, this all-embracing host which your whole creation, moved by your magnetism, offers you at this dawn of a new day.

This bread, our toil, is of itself, I know, but an immense fragmentation; this wine, our pain, is no more, I know, than a draught that dissolves. Yet in the very depths of this formless mass you have implanted — and this I am sure of, for I sense it — a desire, irresistible, hallowing, which makes us cry out, believer and unbeliever alike:

‘Lord, make us one.’ “

–Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Mass on the World

Thank you Marion Woodman for your beautiful reading in “Rolling Away the Stone”

xxxxx Aliss

 

Forest Bathing (2) (US style)

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Time with the trees, from the Catskills to the Taconic Range….

In an earlier post on February 22, from the Fontainebleau Forest south of Paris, I

“Recalled running across a new term: ‘forest bathing,’ translated from Japanese and Korean, meaning to spend relaxing time in the woods. (French version: sylvothérapie)

Highly recommended reading, how trees secrete natural antibiotics, essential oils, and other substances that heal infections, comparison of number of germs found in cities (lots) and in forests (none), beneficial effect on stress symptoms such as blood pressure…etc.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/forest_bathing

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvothérapie

Disturbing to think that seeing the information presented scientifically is more persuasive than just being there. Are we so removed from our senses that we can only take them seriously when they are expressed in statistics? Why not trust what we feel when we’re there?”

Above picture taken at the top of Mount Greylock in western Massachusetts, on the Appalachian and Mohawk trails, overlooking 4 states. Very moving and uplifting because the mountain that inspired Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Melville  was once completely devastated by logging and charcoaling. Only a stand of old growth red spruce were spared due to their inaccessible location. In 1885 a group of local businessmen bought up 400 acres to create a conservancy and eventually turned it over to the State. Since then the preserve has grown to more than 12,500 acres and the forest has healed itself.

For an enlightening look at how trees communicate and support each other through living underground networks, “The Wood Wide Web,” featuring Merlin Sheldrake:

http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/the-secrets-of-the-wood-wide-web

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Learning from the trees…. To be continued xxxxx Aliss

 

Stillness

DSC02479Fontainebleau Forest, winter. Stillness…..

Winter weekend about an hour south east of Paris, staying in Malesherbes, a little town nearby, at a hotel called “L’écu de France.” The word écu has linguistic cred because it originally meant a long shield or support for a heraldic coat of arms, then designated a medieval gold coin, and more recently was almost used as the official title for European currency. Thank heavens “Euro” won out because l’écu is a homonym for les culs (the asses) in French. (So we were staying at “the asses of France” = Gallic in-joke….)

Anyway, great place, modern accommodations, good food (more about that later) with outbuildings, foundations and ground floor dating back to the 17th century, timbered ceilings, a huge fireplace in the breakfast area, and a stately staircase up to the rooms. Ours was so silent, it was like an isolation pod: no humming refrigerator, no sloshing-gurgling washing machine, no fingers pounding on keyboards, no voices seeping through the bathroom wall, no doors slamming on the landing, no sirens from the street, no motors vibrating the buildings, no neighbor child practicing the saxophone…. People always remark on how calm our place is, but  I realized the sound effects are frequent, if muffled, and how strange and velvety smooth real quiet can be.

Couldn’t wait to walk in the forest… 35 million years ago it was under the ocean and over time, compressed sand formed huge boulders that cover almost 10,000 acres of the total  60,000. They huddle together like trolls turned to stone in The Hobbit. Off season is perfect, very few hikers and climbers, only the occasional trail biker. Calm, alive, natural matrix, network of living creatures, communicating in subtle ways underground and through the air. Peace.

Recalled running across a new term: “forest bathing,” translated from Japanese and Korean, meaning to spend relaxing time in the woods. (French version: “sylvothérapie“)

Highly recommended reading, how trees secrete natural antibiotics, essential oils, and other substances that heal infections, comparison of number of germs found in cities (lots) and in forests (none), beneficial effect on stress symptoms such as blood pressure…etc

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/forest_bathing

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvothérapie

Disturbing to think that seeing the information presented scientifically is more persuasive than just being there. Are we so removed from our senses that we can only take them seriously when they are expressed in statistics? Why not trust what we feel when we’re there?

Now the food:

Assortment of terrines made on site by the chef (pork, pheasant, rabbit)

Selle d’agneau au jus (roasted lamb saddle in mouth-watering sauce)

Fontainebleau maison (fromage blanc, mixed with whipped cream)

Pithiviers pastry (almond cake, very good with the Fontainebleau cream)

Fresh baguette bread from local bakery

Wine: Saumur Champigny (red), Saint Cyr en Bourg (Touraine), Domaine Saint-Just vinyard, Cabernet Franc grapes

Lovely service, price reasonable… Generous breakfast, full lunch menu…

Vive la France

xxxxx Aliss