Surprise inhabitants

Author: fraise

Posted in Gardening, Journal at 21:08

Peat winch, Lofoten, Norway

Just over two years ago, not long after breaking my wrist, I moved into a new place in a Parisian suburb that has a lovely garden. My first January in it, a few bluebells sprouted. A year later, half a dozen bluebells grew in the same spot – I reminded myself I had better think to dig up the bulbs and divide them, but I didn’t until this January.

While it only looked like about a dozen sprouts above ground, this was what I ended up with. I potted several, planted others in a decorative row, still others in a sunny corner patch, and the remainder went into their original spot in front of my kitchen doors.

The wee leafy plant is a young spider plant (also known as “airplane plant” in the States). It’s a trippy (non-toxic) one for cats, and as soon as it’s large enough will become a swatting toy for the furballs.

Paris gets colder and grayer than Nice in winter, but I’ve enjoyed it ever since coming up here. It reminds me of home; cold, damp winters and my favorite, fog. There’s nothing quite like fog over the Seine, crossing swans here and there, listening to geese honk along it, and saying “hello” to the crows who hop around searching for bugs in foliage.

Tags for this entry: , ,

Greetings 2018

Author: fraise

Posted in Biographical, Journal at 12:59

Peat winch, Lofoten, Norway

“Truth can appear as disaster in a land of things unspoken.”
Joy Harjo, “The Naming”, in The Woman Who Fell From The Sky

2017 was the year in which I was finally able to weave in loose ends. This is a meme I’ve done for seven years: at the end of 2009, the end of 2010, the end of 2011, the very start of 2013 for 2012, the end of 2013, and remembering the year 2014. In 2015 I had broken my arm at the end of the year, followed by a wild 2016; a lot of the effects of those two years can be seen in 2017.

1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?
Visited Norway. The photo here is of a peat winch in the fog up there. I also started a new job, travelled to London for work, and rented my place in Nice.

In 2016 I ran races for the first time since high school – 5K and 10K, and I did a second 10K early in 2017.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Staring in 2013, my resolution has been to “act from a place of inner peace.” It’s proven to be an excellent resolution, including in times when peace is hard to come by. When you’ve become attuned to your own peace, it’s easier to see toxic situations for what they are and take appropriate steps.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
A few friends, yes. Adorable babies!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes, a dear childhood friend and her children, quite tragically. Also my sweet Susu the soot sprite.

5. What countries did you visit?
France, Belgium, Norway, England (just London though)

6. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?
New furniture! Everything else is great, which is nice to be able to say.

7. What dates from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Starting the new job and visiting Norway. My new job has been a collection of enriching experiences, and Norway was indescribably wonderful.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
A lot of career achievements. I won’t talk about them online other than to say I’m happy.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Taking on more than I could chew at times.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
None in 2016 or 2017, apart from a flu in December that treated me kindly all told.
In October of 2015 I broke my right arm (I’m right-handed) while roller skating. It healed well and I recovered most of my mobility, though it still aches from time to time.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Plane and train tickets

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Friends’; the kind people I’ve worked with.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
This is one I’ve said for years now: xenophobia and racism. Given the context in the US, it’s sobering to read what I wrote in 2013 and 2014: “‘there’s always some here and there, but for whatever reason, [2013] seemed quite pronounced.’ Well, 2014 unfortunately added to that.” We’re all human and different in our own ways. We need to remember that.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Travel and home improvement – finally got work done on my place in Nice, which helped find renters.

15. What did you get really, really excited about?
Meeting people in Norway – it was lovely.

16. What song will always remind you of 2017?

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Very much happier.
b) thinner or thicker? Same!
c) richer or poorer? Richer, for which I’m grateful.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
It was a very fulfilling year – I met wonderful people, knit, ran, enjoyed the cats, gardened, cooked… The only thing I still haven’t done and want to do is get back to sewing.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Knitting with the cats. Highly recommended.

21. Did you fall in love in 2017?

22. What was your favorite TV program?
I finally got a Netflix subscription and enjoyed “The Crown”, “Alias Grace” and “Black Mirror”.

23. What was the best book you read?
“The Famished Road” by Ben Okri

24. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Frame drumming

25. What did you want and get?
New job, renters for my place in Nice, happy cats.

26. What did you want and not get?
It would feel strange to ask for more, and that’s how I looked at things throughout the year. 2017 was abundant on a personal level.

27. What was your favorite film of this year?
Absolutely 100% without a doubt “Wonder Woman“. One of my favorite movies ever.

28. What did you do on your birthday?

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
2017 was very satisfying as is.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?
Understated but colorful.

31. What kept you sane?
Knitting, music, friends and the cats.

32. What political issue stirred you the most?
Equality and tolerance.

33. Who did you miss?
Faraway friends

34. Who was the best new person you met?
They’re all unique and neat people.

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017:
Listening is powerful.

36. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
“Tout mais pas l’indifférence” – Jean-Jacques Goldman

Tags for this entry: ,


Author: fraise

Posted in Cats, Meta at 19:51

In 2017 I’ve thought a lot about this site, in spite of rarely posting. It’s been good to have an extended break, even if unplanned. Our personal lives and the world at large have seen a lot, and the internet has become a key part of that. The recent vote on net neutrality in the US served as something of a crystallization for my thoughts throughout the year – I realized how much I miss the web of yore. The web where anyone can buy a domain name, write up some basic HTML and have an international presence. The web where your friends list is your blog list. Where you can write as many or as few characters as you like.

In real life, my dear sweet Susu passed away this June. I had let her into the garden for her morning outing, and she had gone to her favorite perch above the quiet sidewalk to watch people. Unbeknownst to me (neighbor kids told me a week later), some “mean kids” purposefully scared her into the street as a car sped past. It struck her and she ran off to hide and pass away from her injuries. She wasn’t hidden far away, but ever true to her shy self, she was so well-hidden that only two other neighbors saw her. Neither of them called anyone (you can call the police, and going to a vet to read a cat’s ID chip is free), so it wasn’t until I had put up posters the next day, and another day had passed, that they told me. While they didn’t know each other, both felt badly and only phoned after their conscience got the better of them. By then Susu had disappeared. The two neighbors assured me she had indeed passed away; someone quietly told me they thought her body had been put into one of the nearby dumpsters. I still called her morning, evening and night and did circular searches just in case, but indeed she never came back. The hardest was watching Kanoko search for her every day. He would carefully do a round too, sniffing Susu’s favorite garden spots, meowing hopefully, and then he would return to my side expectantly, dropping his head sorrowfully when he realized she still hadn’t returned.

A few months later, Kanoko was very lonely indeed; he’s always had a feline friend. I adopted a sweet little fostered tortie named Tara, whose foster name I kept since Tara is the goddess of many colors. She and Kanoko got along straight away and it’s lovely to see them both happy.

I closed my Flickr account, thus breaking the links to several years’ worth of photos here… apologies for that. Yahoo was sold to Verizon, and thus Flickr was as well. I decided to archive all my Flickr photos while I could, and close my account there. I still put photos on 500px, and will likely store any photos for my blog, right here on my own server. It used to be expensive to purchase enough space for that, but nowadays it’s more affordable.

I plan to update again with my traditional New Year post, and get back to blogging more regularly.

Tags for this entry: ,

Another new start

Author: fraise

Posted in Journal at 17:34

*dusts off website*
Hello, readers. Once again, it’s been a while. Not long after my last post, I quit my former job, where I’d been for eleven years – thirteen if you count the freelance work I did for them before they hired me. It was a long and enriching experience, one that introduced me to my current line of work and Paris. I went from being a translator specializing in IT, to a functional systems and software tester, to analyst and eventually manager. My new job started just over a month ago, and has given me more opportunities, as well as a project in Paris proper. If you follow my Instagram feed, you’ll have noticed pictures of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, more often called by its shorthand “BnF” here. I am indeed lucky enough to be a few hundred meters from it.

The cats are still doing well. Kanoko turns nine in a month, which has caused me something of a midlife crisis on his behalf. My kitten now has mild arthritis! The veterinarian recommended a change of diet, which in Kanoko’s case means of store-bought wet food “treats”. Every evening I divvy up a package of wet food as a treat for the cats – it’s the only food they get that has grains in it, so I suspect going for better food will make a difference. Meanwhile, Susu will turn six this August. She’s still as bouncy and chatty as ever.

Tags for this entry: , ,

La ballade des gens qui sont nés quelque part

Author: fraise

Posted in Journal at 22:58

In a twist that would likely inspire him to write another song were he still alive, Georges Brassens is considered one of the icons of modern French culture for his poetry and music. One of his pieces in particular applies quite well to the current climate. Any English translation is difficult as the plays on words are numerous; bear with me in my attempt.

The Ballad of People Who Were Born Somewhere

C’est vrai qu’ils sont plaisants, tous ces petits villages
Tous ces bourgs, ces hameaux, ces lieux-dits, ces cités
Avec leurs châteaux-forts, leurs églises, leurs plages
Ils n’ont qu’un seul point faible et c’est d’être habités

    How pleasant they all are, these little villages
    All these towns, hamlets, boroughs and estates
    With their castles, churches, and beaches
    They only have one weakness: people live in them

Et c’est d’être habités par des gens qui regardent
Le reste avec mépris du haut de leurs remparts

    People who look down from atop their walls
    With contempt for others

La race des chauvins, des porteurs de cocardes
Les imbéciles heureux qui sont nés quelque part
Les imbéciles heureux qui sont nés quelque part

    A race of partisans and flag-wearers
    These happy cretins who were born somewhere
    These happy cretins who were born somewhere

Maudits soient ces enfants de leur mère patrie
Empalés une fois pour toutes sur leur clocher
Qui vous montrent leurs tours, leurs musées, leur mairie
Vous font voir du pays natal jusqu’à loucher

    Shame on these children of their homeland
    Finally impaled on their bell tower
    Who show you their skyscrapers, museums, town halls
    Who have you look at their birthplace until you’re cross-eyed

Qu’ils sortent de Paris ou de Rome ou de Sète
Ou du diable Vauvert ou bien de Zanzibar

    Whether they come from Paris or Rome or Sète [NdT: Brassens’ birthplace]
    Or from the middle of nowhere or from Zanzibar

Ou même de Montcuq il s’en flattent mazette
Les imbéciles heureux qui sont nés quelque part
Les imbéciles heureux qui sont nés quelque part

    Or even out of Montcuq they don’t give a damn [NdT: Montcuq sounds like “mon cul” which means “my ass”]
    These happy cretins who were born somewhere
    These happy cretins who were born somewhere

Le sable dans lequel douillettes leurs autruches
Enfouissent la tête on trouve pas plus fin
Quant à l’air qu’ils emploient pour gonfler leurs baudruches
Leurs bulles de savon c’est du souffle divin

    The enveloping sand in which their ostriches
    Put their heads could not be finer
    As for the air they use to fill their windbags
    The bubbles they blow are of divine breath

Et petit à petit les voilà qui se montent
Le cou jusqu’à penser que le crottin fait par

    And bit by bit their noses rise higher
    Until they believe that even the dung

Leurs chevaux même en bois rend jaloux tout le monde
Les imbéciles heureux qui sont nés quelque part
Les imbéciles heureux qui sont nés quelque part

    Of their horses, even wooden, is a thing to be envied
    These happy cretins who were born somewhere
    These happy cretins who were born somewhere

C’est pas un lieu commun celui de leur naissance
Ils plaignent de tout coeur les petits malchanceux
Les petits maladroits qui n’eurent pas la présence
La présence d’esprit de voir le jour chez eux

    Where they were born is no ordinary place
    They feel so badly for the unlucky
    Those incompetent folk who didn’t have the presence
    The presence of mind to see the light at their home

Quand sonne le tocsin sur leur bonheur précaire
Contre les étrangers tous plus ou moins barbares

    When the bell tolls for their precarious happiness
    Against foreigners all more or less uncivilized

Ils sortent de leur trou pour mourir à la guerre
Les imbéciles heureux qui sont nés quelque part
Les imbéciles heureux qui sont nés quelque part

    They come out of their hole to die in wars
    These happy cretins who were born somewhere
    These happy cretins who were born somewhere

Mon Dieu qu’il ferait bon sur la terre des hommes
Si on n’y rencontrait cette race incongrue
Cette race importune et qui partout foisonne
La race des gens du terroir des gens du cru

    My God it would be a fine earth for humankind
    If this odd race were never encountered
    This wearisome race that proliferates everywhere
    The race of local folk, of true patriots

Que la vie serait belle en toutes circonstances
Si vous n’aviez tiré du néant tous ces jobards

    How wonderful life would be all around
    If You had not created these fools from the nothingness

Preuve peut-être bien de votre inexistence
Les imbéciles heureux qui sont nés quelque part
Les imbéciles heureux qui sont nés quelque part

    Perhaps it’s proof of Your inexistence
    These happy cretins who were born somewhere
    These happy cretins who were born somewhere

Tags for this entry: , ,

Paris – La Défense

Author: fraise

Posted in Paris at 21:33

La Défense

We’re having a gorgeous late summer here in Paris. Hot days and cool nights – along with clear blue skies the sort you rarely see! Today it was easy to spot the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel from where I ate my lunch of arepa platana con queso y papelón from the Venezuelan food truck Aji Dulce that often stops by the business district.

Every day on my lunch break, I take a walk from our offices to the other end of La Défense, the Grande Arche. From the Arche you have a view of all the skyscrapers. Every day they look a bit different depending on the weather, their glass and steel transforming under the light.

La Défense

La Grande Arche is currently being renovated, with its own custom scaffolding for the works. In the background you can see my very first Parisian offices in the sail-shaped T1 skyscraper.

La Défense

Tags for this entry: , ,


Author: fraise

Posted in Journal, Photography at 20:42

Parakeet friend

The neighboring flock of parakeets do love a good pear tree. I went to visit them with a proper camera, my Nikon D40, which I’ve had for ten years. I used my Imado f2.8 135mm telephoto lens, which is 30+ years old, thus originally made for film cameras. With the D40 it’s fully manual, which is a bit tricky when photographing birds at twilight, but the reward is gorgeous color. There’s an album for my pics of the colorful birds now.

This character was delighted to have her picture taken.

"Heehee, you're taking my picture!"

Tags for this entry: , ,

Of parakeets

Author: fraise

Posted in Journal, La France, Nice at 21:31

Many apologies for the silence. As a few readers know, I keep meaning to update, and then life happens. The most recent was of course 14 July in Nice. It was heartbreaking; affected me very deeply. I’m only just now starting to feel normal. I’d had TGV tickets to take care of my apartment there that same weekend, for which I was grateful. Being able to walk the Promenade and talk with other people in the city was a balm.

After returning to my Paris suburb, I started taking more evening walks. During one of them, a parakeet greeted me. My first reaction, due to the parakeet being so friendly, and it being the holidays, was that the poor thing must have been abandoned. A few friends mentioned, however, that parakeets in cities are somewhat common. So I decided to look more carefully on my next walk. It turned out I didn’t need to look very far, because Madam Parakeet found me on her own and introduced me to her partner.

Earlier this week their flock fweeped (parakeet for “chirped”) up a storm in a tree, and one did a lovely swoop over my head. This evening they were a bit more secretive, but I did get a beautiful shot of one flying from her perch.

Parakeet in flight

Tags for this entry: , ,

Settling in

Author: fraise

Posted in Journal, Paris at 17:12

Mystery bulbs have flowered!

My broken wrist is finally nearing normal these six months later, and the cats are very happily installed in our new home and garden. Work has been very busy, but this week I realized how much I miss writing. I don’t do much of it any more, apart from necessarily-short email missives, which are honestly a bit painful when you love the written word. Their brevity is important, fewer words mean fewer opportunities for misunderstandings, but that too calls up an absence.

Misunderstandings are part of what make us human. To misunderstand, or one could say, to understand differently, to interpret, is human. Of course it’s important to have shared understanding, yet it is also in the empty spaces of differing comprehensions that we learn about ourselves; learn about each other. To span these spaces we build conversational bridges, or urge ourselves to look up a definition, a reference. Or the opportunity goes by unnoticed, in the cases of incomprehensions so profound that one is convinced of one’s correctness.

My garden is growing happily in the dappled Parisian sun and regular spring rains. Shown above are surprise bulbs – as I moved in at mid-autumn, I had little idea what was hidden beneath the dirt. These bulbs started sprouting in January, so I originally thought they might be daffodils or hyacinths. Instead they look to be bluebells. I have also planted some English lavender and seeded quite a bit of annual and perennial flowers. All of them are sprouting, we’ll see how it looks in another month or two.

Tags for this entry: , , ,

All is well

Author: fraise

Posted in Journal, La France, Paris at 20:21

Flags at half mast, La Defense

Life has been very brisk these past few months. Work, then a broken wrist, a change of home, and of course, the tragic attacks in Paris just over a week ago.

I’m finally firmly at home in my new city. A bigger apartment with a garden, in a quiet area – it’s immensely refreshing. The cats are noticeably happier than in the studio, and love looking out our French doors into the garden. While moving with a broken wrist wasn’t easy, I have been grateful for the medical leave it entailed, since it’s also allowed me to take the time to find my bearings more thoroughly.

Physical therapy for the wrist started a couple of weeks ago; I’m finally able to start lifting small things and type for more than ten minutes without exhausting pain. It happened while roller skating, as part of tryouts for a roller derby team here. After two hours of exercises and skating, my thighs started telling me, “welp, it’s Friday evening and I’m tired!” I tried one last jump, but as I turned to make it, sure enough, my pivot leg’s thigh gave out. I fell, and did what you’re not supposed to do – put out my right hand. I felt my wrist break beneath my wrist guard. Both forearm bones were broken crosswise and had fractures along their length as well, but thankfully none of the smaller wrist bones were injured. The surgeon put in three temporary pins, and six weeks later they were pulled out and reeducation could begin.

Paris has been very quiet since Friday the 13th. We are still living, and hoping that tolerance and joie de vivre will prove stronger than fear. I’ve most enjoyed seeing how very many people are truly applying it to their lives, too. It’s an amazing experience; one that I hope continues in peace.

Tags for this entry: