I’m writing today as I often write, sitting at home with a cup of tea. Outside, the birds are singing and a neighborhood cat whispers across my terrace. Flowers are blooming. It’s early spring in France, and everything appears to be normal.
But it’s not normal. I’m not allowed to leave my house without a piece of paper, called an “attestation de déplacement dérogatoire,” essentially a travel waiver, attesting on my honor that I am only traveling for one of the five allowed reasons: to go to the pharmacy, to go to the grocery store for essentials, to go to work, to exercise, or to help those in need. If you don’t have the paper when you’re stopped, the fine is 135 euros. It’s a government-mandated attempt to flatten the curve—a phrase that now has a heavier new meaning.
So what do you do when you’re housebound? How do you maintain health and sanity? How do you take good care of yourself (and I don’t mean hand sanitizer)?
Don’t get me wrong: I do not resent this for a moment. It is absolutely the right thing to do. I wish it were different. I wish I could go to the concerts and other events that I had tickets for; I wish I could have lunch with my friends; and I wish everyone else could do those things too. I know that this is the right thing to do, yet it breaks my heart.
Fun and games
So what do I do? Well, for one thing, I try to find the humor wherever it may be hiding. Humor is humanity, humor is connection, and above all, humor is an excellent stress-reliever. It’s about choosing to laugh instead of choosing to fret.
The cartoon below came from my friend Sophie, a travel agent in Nice. I’ve had it for several days now, and it still makes me laugh. She also sent the video below that; it came from Italy, and is captioned “Resta a casa!” (stay home—and by extension, stay safe.)
By now, you’ve probably seen some of the videos circulating online from Italy, where people who have been housebound for longer than I have are turning to singing as a way to bond with their neighbors. There are videos of people singing and playing music from windows and doorways, standing on apartment balconies, joining their hearts together in music. It’s as fine an expression of solidarity and community spirit as I can think of.
When I moved to France, I began signing my email messages with either “bisous” (kisses) or “bises de Bize” (kisses from Bize, the town where I live). Kisses are a part of daily life in France, and eliminating them is bizarre and awkward for all of us. I’ve started signing my emails with “e-bisous” (electronic kisses) because those are the only ones available to us now. Trying to keep it light.
This and that
There’s an abundance of information out there about self-care, and I’m not going to add to it, except to say this: eat well, limit your refined sugar, go ahead and enjoy a nice glass of wine, put on some music, and sing and dance to your heart’s content! It’s a great way to release stress and to find the fun in all this craziness.
Last week I went to the garden store to pick up some things for my spring garden, which is almost entirely in pots. I don’t consider myself a gardener, but I do like to get dirt under my fingernails. Gardening is a great stress-reliever, and can be a form of meditation. And in the midst of harrowing reports of seemingly out-of-control disease and death, gardening is a wonderful way to bring life. So I pruned some flowering plants, revived the soil in places, and planted some seeds, both vegetables and flowers.
From my friends at Flying Edna
You’ve seen me quote Brian Andreas in the past, and I do adore his work. Last year he and his partner Fia formed a new business called Flying Edna where they sell their very creative and insightful and gently humorous art. They also send out a daily email, and here’s an excerpt of one recent message:
With everything going on this past week, it’d make perfect sense if we all decided to hide in the basement with beverages & snacks & not come up until December. We considered it for longer than we like to admit. In the end, we went in another direction. We decided we’d listen more closely for the light in all of this. Here’s what we did:
— Took time to see the miracles that surround us every day, especially when we’ve forgotten that they often look exactly like people we already know. (We don’t know why this one surprises us every time, but it does. The people we run into when we do this are extravagantly beautiful in the way they care for everything they touch. It makes us want to be better. Every. Single. Time.)
I think it’s a dandy reminder to look for the miracles, especially when we feel like we’re trudging through the rubble.
Wild asparagus and wildflowers
A few days before the clampdown, Maryse and Claude took me to the nearby pech (hill) to forage for wild asparagus. It was one of the deliciously warm, blue-sky days we’ve enjoyed in between bouts of high wind, low grey sky and occasional rain. Maryse has been doing this since she was a child, and she’s really, really good at it. So her bag was bumping heavily against her leg while I was proudly clutching my 10 or 12 spears. I lucked out, though, because at the end of our walk, she handed me Claude’s bag and told me that she had plenty for both of them. One of the dinners I made with it was lemon pasta with salmon, topped with gently-heated, slender asparagus spears. Yum.
The wildflowers are beginning to be quite abundant, with a splendid variety putting on a show for us that day. Here are a few, to brighten your day.