Paris/COVID: What now my love?

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Take out survival strategies at local restaurants

Recently, this meme popped up on my FB feed:

“At this point I’m about 97.5% feral and won’t be able to be integrated back into society.”

Yep! Covidophobia or Covidophilia?

Many people I talk to are either refusing to deconfine or dreading the prospect. I admit, I have to force myself to go out even on a beautiful day and I hyperventilate when swarms start forming or people get too close, probably not a great idea right now even with a mask…

I’ve never been a crowd person. Arriving in Paris from US suburbs, with limited big city smarts, I avoided large groups from the get-go, especially on public transportation. Until the day a respectable-looking businessman wagged his limp member at me through his open trench coat when I was sitting at the deserted end of a Metro car, where no one else could see what he was doing. This was horrifying in itself but even worse because his organ resembled a bald, dead turkey neck and I was too young and scared to know what to do. Ever after I chose to surround myself with other humans whenever possible, betting on safety in numbers. I bit the bullet going to work at rush hour, squished between shoulder bags and backpacks. I baked in 2-hour lines 5 deep at Disneyland Paris without complaining  just to see the thrill on my kids’ faces once we got on the ride. Tried out the huge stadiums for concerts, but prefer more intimate venues. Jostled and prodded through countless grocery store check-out single files, I developed ingenious personal space strategies. You see, France is not traditionally a place with the same queuing etiquette as the US, not to mention hygiene (with excesses on both sides I grant you). So for me, social distancing is literally a breath of fresh air. Thank you COVID. Thus far I don’t miss mass transit, but I do miss air travel. How else will I return to the States to see my loved ones there? No way I’m getting on a boat.

Other things I don’t miss: the factory atmosphere of industrialized education, with kids in quadrants of 20-30 (and more), formatted by age, herded along as if on conveyor belts with productivity  quotas and evaluations administered by too few overwhelmed adults, and little one-to-one attention. As long as we’re starting over, how about getting rid of factory farms?

Things I’m glad to “get back” to: recycling and composting, street cleaning. Things I can’t wait to experience again: cafés and restaurants, museums, open parks and swimming facilities (but what will they be like?). For info, the Mayor of Paris is installing the fresh water swimming area on our canal (will it be mobbed?)

Will I miss the cheek-brushing French air smooch it took me so long to get used to? Will it come back?

Confinement has been a crucible for relationships, making them or breaking them.  Are some of us turning into plants?

Maybe not such a bad thing? Whatever the case may be, this video is gorgeous:

Can we learn symbiosis?

Forward into uncertainty!

xxxxxx Aliss

 

Paris Lockdown: Today I sponsored a goat

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Day 18 (I think?)

In my last post I mentioned that a neighbor was hospitalized with COVID-19, on a ventilator and recovering. He passed away suddenly on Friday and all of us in the building are grieving. To respect the family’s privacy I won’t give details, but he wasn’t elderly, was the breadwinner and pillar of his family, devoted father, always smiling.

Of course we must stay positive and focused, on our gratitude for every day blessings and on dreams for the future.

So today, I sponsored a goat. Her name is Larmes de Joie (Tears of Joy) and she lives in La Drome Provençale, a department (state) of southern France halfway between Lyon and the Riviera. It’s in the valley of the Rhone river, foothills of the Alps. (Geography buffs please chime in?)

We’ve been supporting our local essential shop owners and workers as best we can, but feel helpless in the face of hardships endured by farmers and fishermen in France and everywhere, losing their markets, their helpers and workers… so many tragedies.

When I saw a post by Larmes de Joie’s owner on Facebook and all the pictures of her and her herd sisters on their website, it was love at first sight. Sponsorship is not cheap, but you get 2k (5 lbs!) of cheeses delivered to your door, some fresh to eat right away and some that can keep for a long time. Raw milk goat cheese is so essential to France’s lifestyle, culture and endangered microbiome that I decided to go for it. The goat farmer, Claudia, has given me permission to share her website:

https://les-fromages-de-chevre.mywizi.com

Her story is very inspiring:

https://les-fromages-de-chevre.mywizi.com/notre-histoire.html

More coming, translated in English…

xxxxx Aliss

 

Paris Lockdown: Grief and Grace

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This bouquet is still beautiful more than two weeks after I bought it at Fioretti 18 avenue Secretan, Paris 19, specialist in fresh, sustainable local flowers. I hope the shop survives confinement.

Day 14 (I think)

The virus has struck closer to home. A neighbor across our courtyard is hospitalized and on a ventilator. From what we’ve heard, he’s recovering, but this means the virus is in our building. More seriously,  a new family friend has just lost his dad. I’m sad for our friend, even more so because I had planned to visit his dad at his retirement home and didn’t get there in time because of COVID-19 confinement. He was an elderly Russian gentleman I was looking forward to meeting for two reasons. First, I have a soft spot for elderly Russian emigrés because talking to them is how I learned their difficult, beautiful language. Second, my own mom is in a retirement home across the ocean and I wish more people could visit her. I’m always looking for ways to focus on the bright side, but this death crystalizes my grief about COVID-19 and other things from the past few months, too many to list. Everyone has their own. A meme from @_happyasamother on Instagram  :

Itsokaytogrieve

And thank you to Renée Vizzard Worthington, our friend who is Program Officer at the Meridian International Center, for sharing “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief,”  an article by Scott Berinato, colleague of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross:

“…we’re feeling a number of different griefs. We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way and we realize things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”

Perhaps acknowledging our sadness as it arises can open a path to grace? In my understanding, grace is akin to a miracle, something unexpectedly wonderful that defies normal logic.

In psychological terms, this can come as a shift in our relationships and health when we release mistaken beliefs about ourselves and unconscious projections on others we hold responsible for our problems. Grace can come in conversations with open-minded listeners, cathartic art, travel, retreats, rituals, vision quests, mantras, prayer, poetry and other experiences that change our perspective.

In the Judéo-Christian tradition, grace is the child of compassion and forgiveness, freeing us from Karma, the maze of outcomes determined by past events.

Here are two meditations to help make the leap from grief to grace.

The first is a gem from Sylvia Boorstein, self-described Jewish Buddhist, therapist and grandmother. It’s short but very sweet:

http://onbeing.org/blog/sylvia-boorstein-a-lovingkindness-meditation/

The second, a Service of Light and Breath, comes from Rev. Michelle Wahila, a young pastor here in Paris, whose inclusive wedding ministry, Ruffled by Grace, and body-positivity workshops have been put-on hold by the COVID-19 restrictions. It offers a way to hold grief and hope through deep breathing and Judeo-Christian ritual.

http://ruffledbygrace.com/a-service-of-light-breath/?fbclid=IwAR3_34wJ4noBJ_ZXQZ2FJIMZVsbuUF6DeYHzZ1C7Z3bV2gOLtIbERKX7I4s

Last but not least, a view of grief from the Islamic world, the poetry of Sufi mystic Rumi:

Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round
in another form. The child weaned from mother’s milk
now drinks wine and honey mixed.

God’s joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box,
from cell to cell. As rainwater, down into flower bed.
As roses, up from ground.
Now it looks like a plate of rice and fish,
now a cliff covered with vines,
now a horse being saddled.
It hides within these,
till one day it cracks them open.

Part of the self leaves the body when we sleep
and changes shape. You might say, “Last night
I was a cypress tree, a small bed of tulips,
a field of grapevines.” Then the phantasm goes away.
You’re back in the room.
I don’t want to make any one fearful.
Hear what’s behind what I say.

Tatatumtum tatum tatadum.
There’s the light gold of wheat in the sun
and the gold of bread made from that wheat.
I have neither. I’m only talking about them,

as a town in the desert looks up
at stars on a clear night.

Translated by Coleman Barks

xxxxx Aliss

Paris Lockdown: Resilience

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My world has become both smaller and larger, close ups magnify: butterfly on wild strawberry and magnolia leaves in my courtyard

Day 6 (I think):

Fear keeps rearing its ugly head. Worst case scenarios like “What if I never see my loved ones across the Atlantic again?”

Making a list of end-of-the-world situations our first-world grandparents, parents and we have come through over the past century: WWI, “Spanish” flu, Great Depression, WWII, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Korean and Viet Nam wars, May 1968, Cuban Missile Crisis, Oil Crisis, Chernobyl, 9-11 Gulf Wars and Recession, Financial Crisis of 2008,…Pandemic?

Am I leaving anything out?

Fortunately French artist Catherine Jonville relayed this on her feed: *

(my translation)

From French radio station France Inter published on March 16 2020 at 6:57pm

“Boris Cyrulnik: After the coronavirus, there will be deep changes, that’s the way things work. 

 
The neuropsychiatrist was interviewed by Ali Rebeihi in the program Grand bien vous fasse, devoted to the epidemic. He explained how our society can survive this crisis and become resilient.

 

 
“We have to adapt to an invisible agressor. Humanity only evolves through crisis. After this crisis, the family and the couple will once again become havens of peace.
 

Crises are part of the human condition. There have been ice ages where we had to adapt by hunting more. And during the periods of global warming we had to farm more. We have already faced many epidemics which have triggered cultural revolutions, great adaptations.

 

 

Right now with quarantine and confinement we must focus on inner exploration. 

 

Along with reading, cooking will become more important whereas before we snacked on industrial food. We’ll listen more to the radio and music. We’ll adapt by retreating into ourselves, we’ll rediscover the values of our grandparents.

 

For those who worry about their jobs, their family, their children, I say we must worry about taking protective measures. If we follow them, uncertainty will decrease. If we adapt to confinement, there will be fewer reasons to worry.
 

When the epidemic is over, we will see that we have dusted off old values which will serve to develop a new way of living together. 

 
Every time there’s a natural catastrophe, there’s a cultural shift. After the trauma, we have to discover new rules, new ways of living together.
 
In the Middle Ages, people hadn’t understood that they had to quarantine. Infected people spread the bacillus everywhere. And in Europe, two years after the plague of 1348, half the population had disappeared. When the epidemic was over, social values had changed completely. People discovered the art of homemaking. Before that art was essentially religious. Suddenly there were stilllife paintings of game and fruit, carpets under the tables. 
 
Above all, the production relationships had completely changed. Before the epidemic, most people were considered as serfs and sold with the land. Afterwards, so many had died that the survivors who agreed to work were no longer serfs. They had to be paid for their work. Production relationships and the hierarchy of values had been completely transformed.”
Boris Cyrulnik is an psychiatrist, behavioural scientist and author, best known in France for developing the concept of resilience in psychology. He knows his subject from the inside, having survived as a Jewish child during the Nazi Occupation of France, as his parents perished in concentration camps.
For more about his life and works see:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boris_Cyrulnik
*For more about Catherine and her art, see:
https://www.catherinejonville.fr/?fbclid=IwAR0fGjI2Dbxz7MCFV_QanKQAwXsgB1balPggfSIMWlhOanfsAiuG8KgKoYs 

Focusing on gratitude, connecting, going outside, moving my body, cultivating beauty, and releasing expectations of “normal” (see previous post)

Wishing you  resilience!

xxxxx Aliss

 

Life Inside Paris Lockdown

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My world now, my Paris courtyard

Day 4: After the initial shutdown shocks, then euphoric determination to make the best of confinement for the common good…Ups and downs. Reality started setting in yesterday. Huge drop in energy, didn’t even leave the building for food. Did cross the courtyard, did water and deadhead plants in the sun, did get some writing and cooking done, did FaceTime with US loved ones and exchange on Internet, but all in slomo. Relief at news that we could go out for exercise with our signed form was replaced by damper of learning we have to stay within a certain perimeter and can be fined if it looks like we’re “just walking.”

Plan to go out to pharmacy and food stores later. This now qualifies as a “big walk.”

Thank you Kim Powell (photographer, activist, and head of Community Outreach for the American Cathedral in Paris) for this just now:

https://www.goodmorningamerica.com/wellness/video/quarantine-questions-healthy-daily-care-69675625?fbclid=IwAR23bV3j9i3tiZ1l7riov1iBDu4_LYD4H8cEXniOBpL2vNoasgLqrxC6k-Q

6 quarantine questions to ask ourselves every day:

  1. What am I grateful for today?
  2. Who am I checking in on or connecting with today?
  3. What expectation of “normal” am I letting go of today?
  4. How am I getting outside today?
  5. How am I moving my body today?
  6. What beauty am I creating, cultivating or inviting in today?

Some of my answers…

Grateful for and connecting with–family:

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Letting go of all expectations of “normal”–time:

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How I’m getting outside today and moving my body–on my street (and with some indoor stretches):

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What beauty I’m cultivating today:

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To be continued, with some uplifting stuff from here and there…

Follow on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/aliss.terrell/

xxxxxx Aliss

How to make sunshine

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My Mama Ruth’s recipe for quiche lorraine to brighten up gray, chaotic Paris! (She just told me her mother, Roxie, brought this back from France!)

The crust

There are lots of great ready-made versions in French stores, haven’t found really good ones in the US (recommendations welcome). If you have time, make your own.

1⅓  cups + I Tbsp flour (about 250g)

Pinch of sea salt

I stick (125g) butter (best you can find, raw if possible)

1 Tbsp cream cheese (1 square Kiri à la crème)

Butter or oil to grease the baking dish

Stir flour and salt, cut butter and cream cheese into small pieces and blend with fork until mixture becomes crumbly. Work into a smooth ball. Set aside for 30 min to one hour (slight fermentation process will make it tastier and more digestible). Roll out and line a deep pie dish (I prefer glass).

Filling

8 thin slices of cooked ham, more if desired (can also use fried smoked bacon)

8 ounces Swiss cheese (medium slab gruyère or emmenthal, raw milk if possible) more if desired, cut into thin slices

½ cup (120 ml) milk or sour cream

4 eggs

½ Tsp salt

Dash of fresh nutmeg

Cover the bottom of the pastry crust in baking dish with slices of ham, follow with cheese, then alternate layers. Blend remaining ingredients with a fork, pour over ham and cheese. Bake at 375°F (190°C) for at least 40 minutes, if necessary add time until filling bubbles and browns, “sets”.

Delicious hot or room temperature, with green vegetable or salad and vinaigrette on the side. Pair with your favorite dry wine.

Ha ha! Who cares about the weather, demonstrations and stalled transportation!

xxxxx Aliss

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to make Christmas last forever (or at least until the end of January…)

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This is a post from a previous Christmas, just as relevant now 🙂 ” This year’s darkness hasn’t been due to the weather but many other things… “As a native of more southerly latitudes, I had to learn to ignore Parisian weather to survive. If I had known before I moved here that my birthplace near Washington, DC, is comparable to Madrid and Rome in terms of sunlight, whereas Paris is comparable to Montreal, that lack of sunshine depresses the immune system and dampens the spirits… I may not have come. Then one day I was ranting about the gray skies to a French friend who said, “Il y a d’autres soleils à Paris” (There are other suns in Paris) and that was a turning point. I learned to love rain even when it falls every day for months as it has this winter, one of the darkest in 30 years.

Living in Paris has made me think that Christmas and Hanukkah lights are Northern Hemisphere responses to winter sun deprivation, and this year they are more vital than ever. So here are my strategies to make Christmas last forever, or at least until the end of January and the gradual approach of Spring…

  • Virtual fireplace on flat screen TV (DVD’s available and now streaming on Netflix!)
  • Epiphany galettes (King cakes) still on sale in the bakeries (collect prizes, wear crowns!)
  • New Year’s cards can be sent until at least the end of the month (and received!)
  • New Year’s resolutions boost energy and project us into the future, especially if updated and tracked
  • Skype faraway friends and family to open presents they sent by mail
  • Sort pictures, print some to send with New Year’s greetings
  • Play with presents: make a list of who gave you what and what you will do with each one in the new year, include thank you’s in New Year’s cards
  • Keep a log of good times over the holidays, in your appointment calendar, and relive them by journaling: funny things people said, conversations, realisations, issues to clear up?
  • Food memories: recipes new and heirloom, to share in New Year’s messages
  • Food continued: bake cookies and send to older and younger loved ones
  • Keep the tree and decorations up even as the tree folds inward like a shriveled umbrella and begins to look like a biological equivalent of Miss Havisham’s wedding cake (in Great Expectations)
  • Make un-decorating part of the holiday, set aside lots of time, enjoy treasured ornaments, as mementos and promises of future holiday celebrations
  • Keep the music playing: all the oldies you didn’t listen to when it was really Christmas, laugh at Bob Dylan and Elvis holiday albums, discover Yuletide gems by Lynerd Skynerd, Louis Armstrong and the never-obsolete Frank Sinatra. If that’s too much, fall back on instrumental “Winter Solstice” and “Celtic Christmas” collections from Windham Hill and others…
  • Recycle your tree in any of Paris’s parks until January 28th (and beyond), knowing it will become fragrant mulch for gorgeous spring landscaping…
  • Hibernate without guilt, perhaps with the help of a carefully selected winter virus, just severe enough to keep you on the couch in front of the “fire” with herb teas and soups,  but not requiring antibiotics or ER trips…
  • Continue your creative and professional work when the fog clears
  • Start thinking about Valentine’s day…”

Merry Christmas!

To be continued, love xxxxx Aliss