Un mois sabbatique. Some talk of a sabbatical year, but one month may just be enough to recharge these batteries after 11 years of online journaling.
In November, I'll follow a gentle rule: no emails, no blogging. Thanks for helping me stick to it.... If you have sent me a note in 2011 or 2012 and not received a reply, I am so sorry. I wanted to respond, but I slipped behind. Please don't take it personally. I'd feel even worse than I already do!
Before putting this blog and my inbox on hiatus for the next month, one more story for you. I hope it will fill you with hope and inspiration and, especially, tendresse et amour.
If you are looking for the word of the day, I have put it in the following story, somewhere (hint, it's in theme with October 31st...).
"See you" in December!
We'll get back to the regular blog format in December. Thank you for reading!
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
The Photographer and the Body Piercer
Last night my mind chattered from the day's unexpected and meaningful encounters. I had met two strangers in the town of Bandol, and by the time we parted I carried in my hand a precious, if invisible, puzzle piece. Mindful of its value--and still unsure as to where to place it--I held it tightly lest it fall into a street grate (alas, it wouldn't be the first time!). Meantime, a familiar quote galloped across my soul, dropping a clue as to what this puzzle piece represented: boldness.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it...
Those words were tattooed on my brain like the Lord's Prayer. They must have significance. But who had said them--Ralph Waldo Emerson? Claude Bristol? Mom? And how did boldness relate to yesterday's meeting?
An internet search brought the first answer and led to an even more profound text, words which would give insight into yesterday's chance meeting, which I will soon share. First, via Wikipedia, here are the powerful thoughts of William Hutchison Murray, Scottish mountaineer and writer:
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!
Now back to yesterday's pivotal encounter in the town of Bandol, and to where boldness and, especially, "countless ideas and splendid plans--and Providence" fit in.
Cynthia was one of the "strangers" I met yesterday. We first chatted online and were struck by our connections to Mexico and France. Cynthia lives very near my mom (who is in Puerto Vallarta), and she has a home very near me, in Bandol.
Over lunch we discovered more affinities, including a love of photography. After coming to France 20 years ago, and with no plans on leaving, Cynthia's circumstances suddenly changed. But instead of returning to the States, she found a creative way to stay in France--by offering photography tours.
As we talked about the creative activity that had allowed her to remain in France, I was struck by Cynthia's pluck--her courage and boldness to follow her intuition and to trust things would work out!
Though Cynthia no longer gives photography tours of France, she clearly enjoys helping others advance with their cameras. After lunch, Cynthia was helping me snap some pictures when I looked up, dying to ask her a question.
"Which do you prefer to photograph: architecture or people?"
"People!" Cynthia did not hesitate.
"Me too! Me too!" I said, my voice wagging its tail, like my dog Smokey when his heart is full.
"I want to photograph people!" I said, "but I am afraid of being chased away." I told Cynthia about an encounter, earlier, in which I asked the pumpkin stand lady if I could photograph her bright orange courges. The woman's face contorted into a ghoulish non!--scaring me away from my goal.
"How did you respond to the woman's negative reaction?" Cynthia wanted to know.
"Well, I told the lady that I was American... and that seeing une citrouille, or pumpkin, made my heart swell with nostalgia. The women then grumbled, 'Go ahead, just don't photograph me!'"
Cynthia said I had handled the situation very well, and, buoyed by her encouragement I seized the next opportunity....
We had be walking toward the church when my eyes locked on a colorful figure sitting in front of the tattoo shop, just beside the historic cathedral.
"Cynthia! That is who I want to photograph!" I pointed my head over to the girl in purple tights, tattoos up and down her arms. I loved the way she was sitting--carefree, yet lost in concentration.
But just as Cynthia was helping me to discreetly adjust my camera, the purple-legged subject moved. Her feet came down off the table as she shifted to greet a friend who was passing by. Oh no, the moment was lost! Or was it?....
Before my mind could reason or object, I found myself marching toward the young woman! Enough was enough. I could not go on sneaking photos--and giving up, I determined, was no longer an option.
(Boldness has genius....)
"Sorry to bother you," I said, "but I would really love to take your picture." Next, I told the young woman what a chicken I was to photograph strangers, but how I no longer wanted that to keep me from a creative impulse!
(Boldness has genius, power and magic in it...)
As I babbled on, unbridling my heart, the young woman in head to toes tattoos with piercings across her face, and earlobes weighed down with spacers--looked up at me with gentle eyes. "Bien sûr. Yes of course you can take my photo."
My babbling stopped... replaced by a moral inkling:
"Do you mind if I publish your photo?" It was a delicate question. I might have been even more direct: I wish to share your creative and inspiring-to-me character with the world, without exploiting you. You okay with that?
Without batting an eye, the young woman assured me it was pas un souci! How refreshing to know that not everyone has as many hang-ups or fearful imaginings as I. I just needed to relax--and snap the photo!
"I'm Kristi and this is Cynthia," I said, in between snapping pictures. "What is your name?"
"Ah, Janis Joplin!"
My subject smiled a confirmation, when I noticed her great and punctured heart....
"It's a bleeding heart," Janis said, as Cynthia and I huddled in close, to study the heart tattoo across Janis's chest. We chatted several moments about everything from tattoos to driving lessons to permaculture--in one of the richest conversations I have ever had in the space of 5 minutes.
Meantime, the lumière from the sky above streamed down through the church's eves, to the tattoo shop below. I watched the light fall across these former strangers, how grounded and strong they were, with hearts as warm as the sun's rays.
As I said goodbye to these artists, while holding that precious invisible puzzle piece in my hand, my breath caught. Something had fallen from me, and landed in the street grate!
I saw then what the puzzle piece truly represented: the limitations I set against myself. I no longer have to let my dreams pass me by. I can stop, say hello, and ask the magic question: May I?
To leave a comment, click here. Thank you very much for reading and I will be back in December with more words and stories. Feel free to leave a message here (my email inbox is closed, until I can catch up).
Through December, the ebook version of Blossoming in Provence is just over $4.
Perfect for the Francophiles in your life: a gift book with brains and heart. I Know (Je sais), a bilingual edition of Ito Naga’s best-selling Je sais, translated by the author and poet Lynne Knight, is now available from Sixteen Rivers Press. Order here.
Janis, if you are reading, many thanks for helping me to put to rest one more limitation. I will think of you each time I ask the golden question, May I? Puis-je?
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Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi