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

You, Darkness

adventFlame on a December morning:

You, Darkness

Rainer Maria Rilke, Translated from the German by Robert Bly

You darkness, that I come from,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes
a circle of light for everyone,
and then no one outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything:
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them! —
powers and people —

and it is possible a great energy
is moving near me.

I have faith in nights.

 

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

Soulgasm

Baltic

Finding myself

Above the Baltic

Between Saint Petersburg and Paris

Where is the sky

Where is the sea

Imagined arms in first position

A ballet beginner

Embracing a ball of light:

I’m not a nationality

I’m not a passport

I’m not a language

A country

A political party

A religion

An addresss

A family member

A marital status

A gender

A weight

A height

A skin color

A diploma

A job title

A news cycle…

Maybe a visitor

A soul in a body

A person

Spaciousness

©Aliss Valerie Terrell 2019

 

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving from Paris

A favorite shot of Pavillon des Canaux, Paris 19…dsc03044

There is much to be thankful for:

“Gratitude to Mother Earth, sailing through night and day–
and to her soil: rich, rare and sweet
in our minds so be it.
 
Gratitude to Plants, the sun-facing light-changing leaf
and fine root hairs: standing still through wind 
and rain; their dance is in the flowing spiral grain
in our minds so be it.
 
Gratitude to Air, bearing the soaring Swift and the silent
Owl at dawn. Breath of our song
clear spirit breeze
in our minds so be it.
 
Gratitude to Wild Beings, our brothers, teaching secrets,
freedoms and ways; who share with us their milk;
self- complete, brave, and aware
in our minds so be it.
 
Gratitude to Water: clouds, lakes, rivers, glaciers;
holding or releasing; streaming through all
all bodies salty seas
in our minds so be it.
 
Gratitude to the Sun: blinding pulsing light through 
trunks of trees, through mists, warming caves where
bears and snakes sleep–he who wakes us–
in our minds so be it.
 
Gratitude to the Great Sky
who holds billions of stars–and goes yet beyond that–
beyond all powers, and thoughts
and yet is within us–
Grandfather Space
The Mind is his Wife.
 
so be it.”
 
(after a Mohawk prayer)
– by Gary Snyder

Happiness Recipes (updated 14/3/18)

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Winter is still with us, how can we love it? Let me count the ways… Number one: new discoveries and passions like Madame, my favorite woman street artist, whose interactive mural collages I discovered on a recent cold evening at Art 42, a Parisian programming school and street art gallery in the 17th. In honor of International Women’s Day, I posted the one above, shown by the stairs in Art 42’s courtyard: “By calculating everything, we made our lives indecipherable equations…”

From Madame’s website Bio: “…I work with and rework vintage documents and photographs from the last century up to the 50’s and 60’s, to create new, more contemporary images. 

These original visuals are always articulated in the following characteristic way: an image and a punch line that dialog, but don’t illustrate one another. 

Once these small format collages are finished, they are scanned and then printed in very large formats and affixed in the street, to offer passersby a door to another more playful, offbeat reality.  

It’s about offering viewers an image that can be interpreted in many ways, an open door to elsewhere.” 

Photo of photo displayed in the basement of Art 42, “Building paper castles, we don’t cause the storm, we defy it.”

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And a detail from wall sculpture upstairs, “Day and night always end up in embrace” DSC04084DSC04083

Below: “To be sure I’d never find myself, I sowed my heart like a tiny bread crumb” has frames that swing open like windows:

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She keeps her own identity and image secret, posing beside “I sometimes embrace the past to stay standing”DSC04082.JPG

To see and find out more, see her website and Instagram:

http://www.madamemoustache.fr/

http://www.instagram.com/madamemoustachestreetart/

All the pieces above and examples of her earlier work can be seen at

Art42 Urban Art Collection and Coding Institute
96 Boulevard de Bessières
75017, M° Porte de Clichy
01 77 12 54 55
The name refers to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (42 being the ultimate answer to Life and the Universe)
The gallery/coding school concept is the brainchild of Nicolas Laugero-Laserre (collector, director of ICART art institute, former director of Espace Cardin) and Xavier Niel (CEO of Free, married to Delphine Arnault of LVMH) and it doesn’t disappoint: 150 works by 50 artists cover the walls of 3 floors, a courtyard, and the cafeteria, including Banksy, JR, Invader, Shepard Fairey, Philippe Baudeloque, Romain Froquet, Monkey Bird, Swoon, Bault, Evol, Jef, and Aerosol… Admission is free, Tuesday evenings 7-9 pm and the first Sunday of the month 3-6 pm, with tours in French, English, and Spanish. Reservation is required.
Highly recommended! xxxxx Aliss

Last rays of summer

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Sunset on the Hudson near Kingston, NY, August 2017

Suitcase unpacked but emotions and thoughts from summer travels still in unmarked boxes, waiting to be sorted and put away. Seasons turning, another year counting down, ready or not:

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.

Doors forever open…

DSC03639 (1)Happiness

A state you dare not enter

with hopes of staying

quicksand in the marshes, and all

 

the roads leading to a castle

that doesn’t exist.

But there it is, as promised,

 

with its perfect bridge above

the crocodiles,

and its doors forever open.

— Stephen Dunn

 

Sanity Savers 19: Hope

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I’ve been having a hard time taking pictures… Paris is gray and cold, there’s a national psychodrama going on due to the presidential elections, the atmosphere is very heavy.

I look for openings in the clouds. No matter who is elected on Sunday, we will have to keep hope alive, as we are doing in the US, by every means possible.

Some lightness from Emily Dickinson:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.”
And what if we are extra kind to everyone we meet every day? Can that open the clouds, even a little bit?

To be continued 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