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: Inner Fire then Fun

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Some are enjoying this (Photo by Lewis Primo)

Day 8 (I think):

France just announced 8 more weeks of confinement. When this is all over, it’ll be interesting to compare notes. Was it harder to be shut in with a 16-year-old as I am or with a two year old as are some of my family members?  For teens, isolation feels like punishment, add in peer pressure to dismiss and defy the restrictions and you get a perfect recipe for risk-taking and conflict with parents. A bad mix, for them and for us, adding to everyone’s frustration, uncertainty, and fear.

How to remove fear (fun info follows)

Trying the following recommendations from a Russian friend, Svetlana Nikandrova, psychologist, yoga master and bio-energy healing specialist. The only person in medical history to have had a pacemaker removed and live to tell the tale, she wrote two books about her journey back to health and helping others. (links below)

From Svetlana’s Energy Notes
“Highly relevant. Prevention techniques for those who do not want to get sick.
To remove all fears: in the present, future and even in the past.
   Tool: conscious sensory breathing
– Set the mood for fire breathing (you can breathe with a candle).
Heartbeat rhythm. 4 inhale, 4 pause, 4 exhale, 4 pause.
-Warm up the heart, liver, spleen. Listen to the pulsation of these three organs and synchronize them. Saturate the whole triangle with fiery energy.
– Circulate heat from the heart in a small circle around the circulatory system first in the  head, neck, shoulders, chest, arms. Then, in a large circle from the heart to the stomach, buttocks, hips, and feet.
– Then  circulate the energy in a fiery figure eight, alternating the upper and lower circles.
-Continue to warm the entire circulatory system: heart, blood vessels, large, small, veins, capillaries.
-Observe how blood warms the entire body.
-Complete a few cycles until you feel a pleasant calm in the heart, or see a glow in and around the body.
-Continue to track the pulsation in a 4-4-4-4 rhythm.
-And then, listen to your renewed heart. Let it bloom with love, tenderness and gratitude.
Thank the universe.”
*****
Svetlana’s books Heart Breathing: Healing the Heart and Heart and Fateare currently available in Russian only:
English speakers can follow her on Facebook and Instagram, just hit the translation button.

Now, ready for fun?

Escape from confinement with Velvet & Toads, the gorgeous, delicious YouTube channel by my friend Letitia Ferris Toussaint, about wild edibles, gardening, shopping, sights and all things fabulous and French. Relax and fantasize:
Or pick up healing tips like her latest, “Two ingredient natural recipes for cough and sore throat”
We’ll get by with a little help from our (multi-talented) friends.
xxxxxx 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:

IMG_1086 (Courtesy of Draeger calendars)

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

 

 

When in existential doubt, look at pastry

pastry

It was a toxic afternoon: a lunch date gone terribly wrong, a miscommunication with a friend, a big tech glitch, all this after a hectic end of spring, beginning of summer, heat waves coming and going, bad news, end of world atmosphere…

Didn’t even have the heart to photograph street scenes, no eye-popping beauty jumped out and grabbed me.  Came across this recent pic on my phone and got an immediate physical lift. Never even tasted these works of art, merely immortalized their colors and shapes as I passed the shop window. Now fantasizing about shrinking like my namesake and strolling around inside this display like an edible city, breathing in the flavors, taking an occasional mind-boggling bite.

Haven’t solved any of the world’s problems yet, but approach the subject with a fresh attitude.

Can something so ephemeral save us?

“Hope is always accompanied by the imagination, the will to see what our physical environment seems to deem impossible. Only the creative mind can make use of hope. Only a creative people can wield it.” Poet Jericho Brown, interviewed in the Kenyon Review:

https://www.kenyonreview.org/conversation/jericho-brown/

https://onbeing.org/programs/jericho-brown-small-truths-and-other-surprises/

And for another way to feel good, plant some trees, please:

https://www.americanforests.org

Rainforest Action Network to protect an acre of the Amazonian rainforest.

Rainforest Trust to help buy land in the rainforest. Since 1988, the organization has saved over 23 million acres.

Reduce your paper and wood consumption. Double-check with Rainforest Alliance that what you’re buying is considered rainforest-safe. You can also purchase rainforest-safe products from the alliance’s site.

Tree planting in France:

http://www.yves-rocher-fondation.org/plantons-pour-la-planete/?fbclid=IwAR1MVdct9Aoq-uHUEhEEz_aZCNM01YpE2SRYuqmio9WEzROdIUpjVmKJSSE

http://afac-agroforesteries.fr/le-programme-plantons-avec-la-fondation-yves-rocher/?fbclid=IwAR1kkthW6soYWFbUZVeRcEhV1bgKry45lsz-rc-LHWJyvkxQrJpu7sIgMQg

http://ecotree.fr/en/

I may not have solved any of the world’s major problems yet, but approach the subject with a fresh attitude.

xxxxxxx Aliss