Winter Solstice 2021

Looking up at a crystal chandelier and the light it casts on the ceiling.

Winter festivities
There’s a luscious full moon outside my window as I write this post, and the winter solstice is just two days away. In the northern hemisphere, this is the darkest day of the year, an occurrence that led to early rituals which continue to this day, many of them incorporated in more recent celebrations such as Hanukkah and Christmas.

Perhaps it’s human nature, or maybe it’s our western culture, but we tend to shy away from darkness, both the physical darkness of night, and the emotional darkness of some of our feelings. We avoid the darkness with busy-ness, never more so than at this time of year. We shop, we wrap, we cook, we decorate, and we party at a dizzying pace.

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Historic photos of Carnaval

English version. La version française suit.

This year is a little different
Thanks to the pandemic, there are no events with crowds of people who are singing, dancing, drinking, kissing each other, and generally having a wonderful time together, and that includes Carnaval. It seems like the perfect opportunity for me to offer a brief look at the last century of celebrating Carnaval in Bize.

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I can’t breathe

I’m having trouble breathing today. Words are zipping around inside my head, screaming to get out, while emotions batter against my heart.

What are the depths of hatred and fear that compel a policeman to forget (ignore?) his sworn duty to protect, instead suffocating a man to death while being filmed, while people are begging him to stop, while the man is saying he cannot breathe?

I can’t breathe.

Do you know what it feels like to have nothing left to lose? Absolutely nothing left? I don’t know what this is like. Throughout my life I’ve had the good fortune to have what I needed, even in lean times. There was never a sense of hopelessness, of having not one single thing left to lose.

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This ain’t no April Fool’s Day joke

Jimmy Fallon
Late-night TV host Jimmy Fallon asked people to share their experiences with cabin fever, and here are a few responses.

 

As the saying goes, March came in like a lion, and it left like a … lion. Lots of wind, cooler temperatures, a little rain. In between, we had some lovely lamb-like days that had colorful spring wildflowers popping out all over, giving all of us a cheerful sense of hope and life and renewal.

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Coronapéro: partying during quarantine

Apéro
A group of my friends got together via Zoom for a virtual cocktail party, to see each others’ faces and hear our voices, to share our stories, and to spend a few minutes feeling a little less isolated.

 

Last night several friends and I used Zoom to gather for apéritifs—called apéro here in France. We’ve only been on lockdown for less than a week, and we already feel isolated, especially those of us who live alone. The Zoom party turned out to be a fine way to connect with our friends, hear each others’ stories, ask questions, and drink a toast to each other. < Clink! >

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Thoughts from an epidemic

Fontfroide Heart Door

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.

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