Invisible with Endless Ideas

Last Monday I meant to load this blog post when I could not find my website.  I was directed to Go Daddy and was instructed to call Host Gator since they host my domain. It’s taken this long for the content on my website to migrate. Obviously it wasn’t a priority for them.  And we’re not even in Mercury retrograde yet. Which reminds me; never let the calendar or anything else for that matter control your decisions into accepting a mishap as your fate! Anyway I’m pleased that everything is up and running.

A week ago on Friday I was at an event chatting with a man from Madagascar, when he switched to French I was somewhat stumped. And then on Saturday, over lunch when chatting about weather conditions I again turned to France and a few words spilled out.

When I was growing up and it came time to learn a third language, in my mind, I wasn’t going to stay in familiar surroundings and wherever life was taking me I was sure it would have something to do with Paris.

I gave myself my own private lessons in Berlin, through watching Canal+ on television and mimicking radio programs and going as often as I did to Paris, I said a few phrases which was enough to get by.

Many people would be terrified to live in a country where they can’t communicate but this never bothered me. I loved the intrigue at the time and still do, that wherever I traveled, I relied on non-verbal communication to read people as I do. Without adequate language skills you are forced out of your comfort zone and open yourself up to new experiences by putting yourself in unfamiliar situations to test your character on how to survive each day and make it the best it can be.

When I would arrive at my rental apartment in Paris, there was a stack of books on the fireplace mantel, faded from the sunlight streaming in the window on those gloriously quiet afternoons and dusty from the years. Sitting there, just the size of my palm, was an old french language handbook from the late 1960’s. I sat in the sunlight one October afternoon practicing the unchanged phrases of French culture and wondering as I felt the texture of the old thin paper between my fingers, what wary travelers had held this book in their hands and fumbled through the phrases as I had that day. I imagined them filled with hope that each line of expression would unlock another door in my journey through this land. Where did this book, stuffed into a back pocket, take them and who will possess it after me? What is it that brings us all here, to France, weaving an invisible thread between us?

I have for most of my life been a social person.  Some have called me a social butterfly. Living in a place with no one to talk to was a release of an invisible social responsibility I had given myself. I could do it in Europe. At first, there were no parties to go to, no friends to call upon to meet for a cup of coffee. And I savored the quietness. But here lies my contradiction; I also need and crave alone time.

With socializing off my agenda, there was an opening of a fair amount of time for myself to focus on other things- to do yoga, learn tennis, ride my bike to explore, contemplate about what I was reading, writing, painting and photography. It was in a sense a freedom from obligation and made me feel invisible. When you are invisible you are free from the definition you have created for yourself, or has been created for you, and can become a truer form of what you are destined to be.

As the days turned into a week, people began to recognize my face around the city. I kept a pretty set routine. I would go to the patisserie first thing each day for my baguette. Then to the café for my cafe créme. I bought cheese at the market from the same man and my eggs from an adorable older couple. Then this marvelous thing started to happen. They each started trying to teach me words. Always with an expression of amusement they said it slowly to me, and I would repeat it back to them.  My cheese monger taught me plus and minus, my vegetable grocer taught me the names of the herbs, the woman at the fromagerie taught me Bon Dimanche (Good Sunday), which is used around town starting Saturday afternoons.  Connecting with others through their kindness and patience of sharing has been one of the most generous gifts I’ve received.

I had the freedom from myself and the beauty of kindness in others wanting to help me learn in this shared life in the walk that we take together.

Have you had language travel experiences that you recall years later? Tell me about them.

On a Dig

Cleo

Recently conversing with a 95 year-old former school teacher, she shared that Benjamin Franklin was one of the greatest diplomats that ever lived and that he along with George Washington shared their tips on codes of conduct for young men.

It sent my mind on a curiosity spin so on my next visit to the Library, I looked some things up.

The history of etiquette reads like an elaborate scroll with historical figures from Confucius to Louis XIV out to civilize ignorant youths. Although the term officially popped into the English language in the 1700s, etiquette came from an Ancient Egyptian text from the 25th century B.C., “The Instruction of Ptahhotep.”  It was one of the first books ever written.

The Instruction of Ptahhotep was intended to pass on the wisdom of Ptahhotep’s ancestors to his son. In fact, educating young men is the primary focus of most of the referenced texts about etiquette.

So you ask what about the ladies. I assume that being the “fairer sex,” etiquette guidelines for women were not drawn. Instead, they were handed down orally from matriarchal figures directly.

When we think of American etiquette today we think of our most recent and celebrated etiquette bandleaders, Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt.

Emily Post began documenting etiquette in 1922 with the publication of Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home. By that time she was 50, and an established writer with expansive newspaper and magazine articles, humorous travel essays and five novels under her belt.

Even after her death, the Emily Post advisement legacy continues on, with her long line of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren that impart what she spent the latter part of her life teaching.

In 1952, after five years of research, Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette was published, introducing us to a new modern voice of etiquette. Born in New York City, educated in Switzerland, and an active writer from the age of 16, Vanderbilt was the perfect combination of culture, class, and sass for mid-century America.

She brought modern adaptations and interpretations of her book, beginning with: The Ceremonies of Life. Or better known in modern times as The Events You Can’t Wear White To.  I guess I’ll have to dig into it to find if she made a reference to no white after Labor Day.

Summer Love

One of the best things about summer is all the music you hear being played outdoors. Last week I dined at one of my favorite restaurants, Bistro 45, in Pasadena, a French-American bistro, where I had the second best meal of my life; the first being at Joel Robuchon’s in Las Vegas. With that in mind, rather than write about music or food I thought I’d appeal to your visual senses and share my summer favorites. Here are my pics for summer 2016:

TV:
All on PBS.
DOE
Dancing on the Edge:
How many times have I claimed that my favorite era is the 1930’s. And this mini-series has it all. A black jazz band becomes entangled in the aristocratic world of 1930s London as they seek fame and fortune.

Endeavour:
The series has concluded for the season but I had to include it because it’s top notch. Set in the 1960s, the show follows Endeavour Morse in his early years as a police constable. Working alongside his senior partner DI Fred Thursday, Morse engages in a number of investigations around Oxford. The intricate mysteries are wonderfully woven and intelligent.

Inspector Lewis:
Inspector Robert Lewis and Sergeant James Hathaway solve the tough cases that the inhabitants of Oxford throw at them.

BOOKS:
Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline. A captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask.
OT

Autobiography of a Yogi by Parmahansa Yogananda. Having read this thirty years ago, today it strikes me differently. It’s rich and loaded with imagery. A beautifully written account of an exceptional life and a profound introduction to the ancient science of Yoga and its time-honored tradition of meditation. The author clearly explains the subtle but definite laws behind both the ordinary events of everyday life and the extraordinary events commonly termed miracles

FILM:
Love & Friendship, directed by Whit Stillman, is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novella, Lady Susan. Lady Susan Vernon takes up temporary residence at her in-laws’ estate and, while there, is determined to be a matchmaker for her daughter Frederica — and herself too, naturally. This movie is sharp, outrageously comical and as a period piece goes, a feast for the eyes.
LF
YOUTUBE CHANNELS:
ILoveParis. Parisian Chic for over 40. Fabulous over 40. This is an extraordinary channel on how women walking the streets of Paris exude confidence and clean simple style.

WhatsItliketv. This intrigues me. Expats are interviewed and chat about living in a new country, a new city and how they chose their new domicile while they share their cultural observations.

Kathryn Morgan. A former soloist with the New York City Ballet. She applies a level of graceful precision to dancing and doles out real talk including sharing her struggle with an under-active thyroid that we don’t usually see or hear from ballerinas.

Five Hearts beat as One

Some time back when in Ocala, Florida I told my brother-in-law that it had been years since I had been on a horse and how I enjoyed riding. Ironically at the time I was living in Las Vegas, home of the wild west and the cowboy. Since we lived in the isolated northwest, I’d see horses when driving, but riding there was out of the question. Sometimes I’d get out of the car and watch them from a distance, marveling at their trots. But there weren’t any stables and I didn’t know any horse owners with the exception of one student. However I didn’t feel comfortable verbalizing my burning desire.

As a teen I’d go with my friends to stables in Rosemead and we’d ride for an hour or two. I was fascinated by horses; powerful yet simultaneously gentle. There faster, bigger and stronger than we are, yet temperate enough to be a child’s friend. And they’re beautiful to look at. Best of all, I sensed that they understood what was going on with me; a silent communication that caused me to feel accepted and understood. I don’t know why I have this allure with horses, it’s a spiritual connection and when I’m on one, I feel I can do anything because they are magnificent animals, velvety and smooth and ever so gentle.

Ocala is a city where horses are bred, so my with brother-in-laws wide circle of friends and acquaintances, he arranged for me to ride. Making that event happen on my behalf was the best gift he ever gave me. It would be the last time I saw him since he passed on months later. But the memory of his generosity lives on.

Today I was reading how hippo-therapy ( from the Greek, “with the help of a horse,” ) includes equine assisted therapy, for the mentally and physically disabled, and veteran’s programs. Simply put, animals are an important and comforting presence for humans.

And I also found out that horses have five hearts, in a manner of speaking. The idea of four additional hearts refers to the action of a horses bare hooves expanding to accommodate blood when each hoof hits the ground and then contracts so that the blood is pushed back up their long legs as they move. It’s one of the many unusual anatomical phenomena of a horse that makes them so unique.

Shipwreck

The Tempest
The Tempest

We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep.”

William Shakespeare, The Tempest

I was twelve years old when I introduced myself to Shakespeare and read The Tempest. I recall there were moments when I could not grasp the language but I stuck with it. Why am I bringing that up? Because just as my twelve year old self had a stick with it attitude, today marks the seventh birthday of my Blog. So here we are 400 posts later. Hip, hip, hooray! I should add that I have Mars in Capricorn so not only do I have enormous strength in the pursuit of my goals, but I revere the classics.

Last week as part of Brit Week http://www.britweek.org/los-angeles-events/ I saw a modern film production of Hamlet, starring Maxine Peake. It was part of the 400th anniversary of the playwrights death honoring him and his work. Now I can understand and appreciate Shakespeare as I couldn’t  back then.

Sometimes it feels like blogging has become a relic and that other avenues of communication are much more accessible. Maybe it’s the fact that attention spans are getting shorter and shorter; we only have time to catch up on someone’s life with an easy, “Like” aka Lazy button. Long captions? Forget it. And I’m not only referring to those under 30. Adults over 50 who were weaned on real books, don’t take the time. Blogs brought the written word into the digital age and now, they are dying a slow death.

So, what happened to blogging? Snapchat and instagram have become king and queen of the kingdom.

When I started my blog, it felt like a small community. It seemed as if everyone knew each other and was rooting for each other. They were link ups, and comments. Everyone read blogs over their morning coffee, wanting to be inspired. Now, it’s a race to create your own brand a unique identity on mobile platforms. With millions of people constantly getting thrown information, it’s a race to stay relevant.

I have come to look at my blog as a resume addendum of sorts. Truth be told, I may have missed the boat. My blog was loaded with original content and like my inquisitive mind covered a variety of topics. If I had built a real and tangible brand, I should have done it years ago and struck while the iron was hot. For now, I question my own future of blogging. Not because I don’t love it— trust me, if I didn’t love it, I couldn’t do it. Nor would I have been able to teach it. But moreso, I ask myself, what’s in store for this platform? Will it continue to fade and die a slow death like a Shakespeare character?

The internet is a peculiar place—that never forgets, so what we put out into cyberspace may come back to haunt later.


But all worlds eventually come to an end. Even, especially ours.

So what’s your vote? Is blogging over? Or are you like me, a writer, who creates art for art sake and is hopeful to the end?

Beltane

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With May Day coming upon us, throughout Europe there are celebrations that include dancing and bonfires symbolizing Beltane, the half-way point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. It also symbolizes the Goddess of flowers and is common to call on the Goddess to invoke love, the night before. And finally, on a personal note, it coincides with my mother’s birthday who has always been in my eyes, the prettiest flower in a garden.

So with the beauty of spring, I thought I’d share three love stories.

Isolde of Ireland was the daughter of the King of Ireland. She was betrothed to King Mark of Cornwall but fell in love with Tristan, the nephew of the king. She continued her affair with Tristan after her marriage with King Mark. Soon the king came to know of the affair. His love for his wife made him forgive her but he banned his nephew from Cornwall. Tristan went to Brittany and met Iseult of Brittany. They got married but he couldn’t forget his true love. This made him ill. He wrote a letter to Isolde in hopes that she would be able to cure him. If she agreed to come, the returning ship’s sails would be white, or the sails would be black if she did not intend to come. Iseult couldn’t bear separation from her husband and lied to Tristan on seeing the white sails. He died of grief before Isolde could reach him. Isolde died soon after of a broken heart.

The last Pharaoh of Egypt, Cleopatra and the dashing Roman general, Mark Antony is a moving love story. The affair took place in 31 BC. It was latter dramatized by William Shakespeare and is still staged all over the world. These two powerful people fell in love at first sight. Mark Antony left his wife, Octavia, for the mesmerizing Cleopatra and married her. Octavia’s brother Octavian brought the army of Rome to destroy them. It is said that while fighting a battle against Romans, Antony got false news of Cleopatra’s death. Shattered, he fell on his sword. Cleopatra when learned about the death of Antony, killed herself using the poison of an asp. They died but their love for each other lived on.

Frank E. Butler, shot and missed for the 25th time, and as a result, lost the match and a bet against Annie Oakley, who not only won the competition but also his heart. He began courting Oakley, and they married. Butler abandoned his career to manage hers. They both joined the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Annie died in 1926 and her heartbroken husband refusing to eat, died 18 days later.