Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Paris in Love

I read a short story once about a lonely pioneer wife whose husband went to greet a wagon he heard traveling in the distance of their homestead. The couple had been living alone in the wilderness for years with the exception of a small camp of workmen on their property. The pioneer wife had not seen another woman for a very long time. After the woman’s husband alerted her that there was a female on board the wagon, she immediately took down from the cupboard the one remaining unbroken china tea cup she had from her own hard journey west. She could not wait to sit before the fire and have a chat with another woman about all manner of things dear to the feminine heart. And of course, the new friend would drink from the unblemished tea cup and keep it as a remembrance of the visit. I tell you this story because I just read a book that left me feeling that I just had a long chat with a new woman friend, a kindred spirit passing through.

“Paris in Love”, by Shakespearean professor and romance novelist, Eloisa James, is a wonderful little gem of a book. Using short vignettes or Facebook-like posts, it tells the story of Eloisa’s family’s sojourn to Paris for a year. There are a few longer “posts” and a recipe or two as well.

The book is easy to read as it meanders through the year of living Parisian, describing all the lovely little things one imagines about actually living and setting up residence in the City of Light. I also love it when authors try to crack the famous Why are French Women so Attractive Code and Eloisa James gives us some interesting insights. The post about her Italian husband’s gift to her of a French bra with a sewn in locket made my heart sing with joy. Parisian women love lingerie!

But I also enjoyed the stories about her children’s adaptation to Parisian schools, their visits to museums and the French shops, and their kindly acquaintance with a nearby homeless man. The stories are like little pearls, smoothly gliding down a silken thread until sadly, the last one passes through. I simply did not want the book to end!

I enjoyed visiting with Eloisa James and I almost want to send her my own tea cup in gratitude for the satisfying visit. My gift would be the solitary unbroken one, from one woman to another.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

On the Nightstand

My nightstand is covered with good books because I want choices for my just-before-bed reading. Sometimes that time is a mere few minutes and I want the last things that fill my head to be uplifting, hopeful, or at least helpful to me. Often I will reach for passages in an old favorite such as Madame Bovary. Sometimes I choose meditations from Simple Abundance. Whatever I select, it has to be as warm and comforting as the good night wishes from an old friend who is visiting from afar.
One can tell something from a person's nightstand and if I happen to be in the vicinity of someone's, I will peek to see if I have missed a good book and also to see the words of wisdom others require to be lulled to sleep. My sister's nightstand is covered with faithful companions in the form of small meditation books, highlighted from years of use. A friend's is a repository of Civil War diaries, which are his passion. The books are piled high, about fourteen total, all previously read and absorbed. He slips one from the tower every night for those last words of comfort and joy.
I always try to catch the books actors in films are taking to bed with them. You would be surprised how often this scene occurs in movies and I am certain the books that are selected are no accident. Sarah Jessica Parker went to bed in the last Sex and the City movie with Nancy Mitford's "Love in a Cold Climate", a romantic and charming story perfect for her Carrie Bradshaw.
My nightstand holds children's books, a book of poetry, and a book of prayers. But more often than not, I will choose an old friendly novel. One that delivers the good night promise lately is "Lantern Hill" by Lucy Maud Montgomery. "...that she was Jane again and no longer a lost wind...was it her laugh or a chime of bells"? Or this, "Watch the stars whenever you are worried, Jane...they will steady you, comfort you, balance you". What we choose to read before sleep is a grown up lullaby really, and one we can sing to ourselves.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Life Wins

Don't hate me but I don't like spring. I am an autumn girl - I love the tension of blue sky and falling leaves, sunshine coupled with crisp air. Truth be told, something terrible happened to me on a May 1st, twenty or so years ago, and I've haven't quite forgiven spring yet. It was an innocent day that started happily and ended horribly. The memories have lingered each spring since. I've tried to erradicate them with the help of two dear friends who went out of their way to bring light and beneficence into the season for me. It worked a bit and I was grateful. But nothing helped like a sermon I heard a minister give last year. Her words were simple and I believed them. She said, "Spring means Life Wins".
Since that May 1st, I always thought of spring as a death...the golden sunshine was a reminder of how innocent I was the morning of that date, how hopeful, how blissfully unaware of what was to come, how I was cruely blindsided. The minister's words, stayed with me last year, however, and I tried somehow to see the earth's changes in a different way. Perhaps the golden sunlight would envelope me like a prayer shawl, lovingly stitched by a dear friend. Perhaps I could imagine the flowers as friends too, an audience looking up at me and applauding as I make my way through April, May, and then to the relief of June, when my mood naturally lifts on summer's doorstep.
I began listening to uplifting show tunes, I bought colorful cotton pajamas to wear to bed, I reached out to my friends who tried to help me so lovingly. But mostly I meditated on the minister's words that Life Wins, that the earth's changes mean that humanity is always moving toward the light, and that no matter what horrific thing happens, the spirit tries to balance on the side of happiness and joy, sometimes without really trying.
Evenso, May 1st will always be a secret anniversary of the heart. But now the negative memories are only in my peripheral vision. Spring means Life Wins, and so will I, one spring at a time. Will you help too?