Notre Dame de Paris. The three images of the Cathedral are photographs of postcards in my Parisian diaries.
The white dome of the Sacré-Cœur, floating like some fairy tale castle against the blackness was my very first glimpse of Paris. It was a school trip, we were no more than children… and I fell in love with the city there and then. My eyes filled with tears, my heart with memories and emotions that should not have been mine, I felt that I had come home.
We stayed at the Lycée Henri-IV, just behind the Pantheon. Sneaking out, illicitly, before breakfast, very early next morning, I found myself wandering down the Rue Mouffetard. A tramp was curled around his wine bottle in a doorway. Market stalls were being set up. Everything smelled of coffee and new bread… and I determined that one day, when I was old enough, I would…
Don’t we all wish to be loved and accepted for who we are in our entirety? Yet we hide the good, even from ourselves, behind a socially acceptable modesty while brandishing our flaws and frailties as if they alone define who we are. They do not. We define who we are. As much by how we choose to see ourselves as by anything else. If we see ourselves whole, perhaps others may too. They cannot until we do, as we project outward only a fragment of who we are. The saying ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ comes to mind. Maybe if we love our whole selves we can love others wholly too.
We are told that the very physical fabric of everything we know, including our own bodies, is made of the matter from which the stars were formed. Our physical forms exist because somewhere, aeons ago, a star died. If that is so, why should we not simply shine?
I realize the answer is really simple. We don’t shine because we need to work. We have to have a resume. We need to be “people-people.” No one wants to hire someone who shines. They want to hire people who fit in, people who won’t jolt the company “culture.”
I never figured out what company culture was, actually. Most of the places who exalted their company culture have long since gone bankrupt. Usually what company culture really meant is “we don’t want to work any harder than we absolutely have to.” These are places where mentioning deadlines were enough to get you out the door.
They hired many more people than they needed to do the work because the people they hired couldn’t really do the work. More to the point, they didn’t do the work. They intentionally worked so slowly I found it hard to believe anyone could write that slowly. They thought THREE PAGES A DAY of technical material was plenty. I used to write between 20 and 50 and on a really good day, I could write half the book. Sure I’d have to go back and edit, add graphics, double check information, and test the document against the product.
But I got the work done. I got the basic draft put together quickly which left me time for serious rewrites and corrections once I’d Beta-tested the product.
I worked at Intel for a year. It was a good job. Good pay. Also, not far from home and I didn’t have to drive into Boston. I had to work a 10 hour day every day, but I only had about 45 minutes of work to do. I was so bored I thought it would kill me. Ten hours of sitting in front of a computer — with NOTHING to do.
Shine? I could barely keep my eyes open.
And then, I got sick, stopped working, and got old. I don’t have a resume anymore. I’m not working for anyone who pays me, so I don’t have to lie to anyone, fake anything, pretend anything I don’t feel. With all the physical problems I have, I can’t begin to tell you how deeply I enjoy being me all the time. I’m not sure how the rest of the world feels about it, but I’m happy.
Shining is best done by the rich and the retired. Shining is not an option for most of us who have to show up to work and smile.
It had been warm for most of December and the bulk of January. Warm enough to find myself picking ticks off my dogs. In January when I normally don’t have to worry about ticks and fleas and other noxious bugs in the weeds.
I sprayed them all down with tick poison and ordered collars for all of them. Apparently part of our “new climate” is having to protect the pets from ticks all year round.
There are not supposed to be any bugs — any kind of bugs — in the grass in January. By now, we should have a hard freeze that will last at least a month or longer. Instead, we’ve had a few cold days, then overnight, a warm wind will blow from the south and suddenly, it’s sweater weather.
From the south?
What happened to the cold north wind, referred to by the weathercasters as “the Montreal Express” because it brought bitter winds and snow from our northern neighbor? Canada has been having weather as peculiar as ours. If anyone wants to know about climate change, he or she has but to look out the window.
We are in it.
It’s happening now.
A fellow blogger in Germany has not needed a winter coat until the last couple of days and spring shows up in Switzerland in February.
I don’t know what is going on around here. The birds have stopped migrating. The bears are not hibernating. The ocean is warm inviting sharks and whales to come much closer to shore than they normally do.
We got two days of bitterly cold weather, snow, sleet, and freezing rain on Sunday and Monday. One cold (but not as cold) day on Tuesday and today, it’s 50 degrees (10 Celsius) and it rained away the ice and snow. But not to worry. The temperature is supposed to drop low tonight a freeze and liquid left on the ground.
Our house is damp and parts of it are rotting from too much rain. We’ve had more rain this spring and winter than ever recorded and it’s not over yet.
Is it climate change? Can you think of anything else it could be?
“The time has come,” the doglet said,
“to talk of many things;
Of tennis balls and squeaky ducks,
and sneaky bees with stings;
of why the sparrows fly so fast
and if that cat has wings.”
“Just wait a bit,” the writer said,
“I’m busy with these things.”
“But writer,“ said the small dog then,
“The sun will shortly set,
the pheasants will be playing out,
and rabbits too, I bet.
I really should be practising,
I haven’t caught one yet.”
“Hmm. Never mind, it’s raining
and you don’t like getting wet.”
“Ok then,” sighed the little dog,
“We could consider, please,
the therapeutic benefits
of sharing Cheddar cheese.
Or why that spider’s sitting there,
Or why do you have knees…”
“You scratch a lot,” the writer said,
“You sure it isn’t fleas?”
The clouds were turning dusky pink,
Upon the fading blue.
The writer sighed, put down the pen
another task was through.
“Come on, small dog, go get the leash,
your walk is overdue.”
The small dog answered sheepishly,
“Tough luck, I ate your shoe.”
With apologies to Lewis Carroll…. But none at all to her. She should come out more.
You could see where the temple had been. The ground was slightly raised forming what appeared to be a circle. If you looked carefully, you could see the tip of a pillar poking out of the ground. Not full evidence of what lay beneath the ground, but certainly some strong hints.
Every time I pass that place along that old road, I wondered what lay beneath the soil.
Then, one summer, a group descended on the area and began to very carefully dig. They found the pillars of a church, but when they dug further, they discovered the pillars of the church stood on the pillars of a Roman temple. Not merely pillars, but statues and a mosaic floor that was nearly perfect.
There was more.
The deeper they dug, the more they found. The Roman temple rested on pillars of something so ancient, no one was quite sure what it was and below that, what appeared to be tombs, possibly neolithic.
The ground was clearly regarded as sacred to every people who had lived here. Now, of course, it was an archaeological park with a small fee required to enter the area.
It was seeing history reveal itself in layers, and as each layer was lifted, it was taken to a museum. When finally, the reached bedrock, they brought back a couple of pillars and a covering so that this special, sacred space, could be remembered.
What memories were part of the ground, the air, the stones? Why this spot? Many guesses, but no answers. The ones who knew were long-buried.
Often, through the endless winter, Maggie had been sure her garden would never bloom again. As the frozen ground showed no signs of softening in spring sunshine and clumps of dirty brown snow lay on the earth, she would look at the garden and think: “This year, it can’t bloom. Too cold for too long. Too much ice and snow. And I have not been able to work with it, either.”
The overgrown disorder of the last year’s growth was still thatched across the garden. It had rained so much last year they’d been unable to clear it, so it had stayed there, mulching its way through the winter as they mulched with it.
Despite this and her nearly terminal certainty of imminent doom and total destruction, the garden would suddenly return. Everything bloomed at once. Roses and rhododendrons and daylilies and even the daffodils and columbine.
Flowers suddenly bloomed. In some of the worst years when winter had lain on the ground through most of May, those awful, bitter winters? In those years, the garden would bloom all at once with a frantic and wild passion as if it making up for the lost weeks of normal growth, for the dead months when they had been unable to set a single bud.
One day, she would come downstairs and out the gate and gasp at the amazing colors, how the roses had covered the buses like blankets. That the holly was almost a full story tall and even the miniature lilac bushes and thrown a flower or two.
It gave her hope in a world where the sun rarely shined and she prayed only that the well would not be polluted from something poured into the ground, seeping slowly into that fragile layer of underground water.
Their source of life was down there. In her case more than 450 feet down there, one of the deepest wells in the area. Their water had always been clear and ice-cold after it rose from the underlying rocks.
Was this barrenness a forerunner to one more garden? One more summer when the heat didn’t burn the earth to cinders?
She could only watch and wait. Each year was different. One year, it never stopped raining and after a while, the ground felt like a giant sponge, soft and gooey. Then there would be years of drought, leaving all of them wondering if the underground miracle of water would survive.
It was the very early days of the first week in May. In normal years — sometimes called “the old days” — she’d have already seen her early flowers. The garden would have moved on from crocus to daffodil and would now be full of Columbine and the green shoots of daylilies. The old lilac outback would be about to bloom.
But maybe, one more year, the earth would catch its breath and everything would grow again. Maybe the rivers would fill up and somehow, as if they too were seeds waiting to be born, fish would be there and snapping turtle. The geese and the swans and the herons would fish and flocks of ducks would magically float down with the current.
All she could do was wait and never give up hope. the Earth would come back. After all, it always had.
When we first moved to Uxbridge, the woman who sold us our house drove us around and the first thing she brought us to see was the Uxbridge Way-Stone. Erected and etched in the early 1600s, it was part of the marking made along Native trails, many of which later became New England’s roads. Milestones are our way-stones and they were common — still are, if you know where to find them — on the quiet paths.
Mostly, they point the way and distance to Boston. Some are no longer readable. Not as old as this way-stone, but old enough to have had their etchings wash away, then disappear into the stone.
We don’t have the length of history chronicling the centuries of North America that you will find in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, but this doesn’t mean no one was here. This wasn’t an empty land waiting for “energetic” Europeans to show up and make it whatever it is today.
Lacking official written “history,” it simply means no one wrote books and saved them and whatever cities existed, they were not built from stone.
There’s a strong possibility that far earlier than the officially earliest known “cities” — Jericho circa 10,000 years, give or take a few millennia — there were other cities. Maybe Atlantis? Probably built from wood or mud or from disposable materials that were movable.
Not built from an enduring substance, Jericho managed to survive, although it was built from mud. There was just enough stone included to form and shape to the ancient structures.
Jericho exists. It’s not big, but it is a city. Okay, maybe more of a large village. It’s also the only place in the area you can get blood oranges before the rest of the crop comes in. The first time I ate a blood orange I wasn’t sure it was an orange. Orange on the outside, it was blood-red on most of the insides. Otherwise, they taste just like other oranges.
Why does Jericho continue to exist? Because it is built on an oasis. In the very dry region that is the Middle East, if you are up on the mile-high hill of Jerusalem, you can see Jericho. It’s the green patch in the desert. Jericho lives on because it has water. I suspect in this country, tribes moved with the weather in the dry areas of the country but built more solidly where there was water.
I wonder what the history of America would be if Native Americans had written it rather than their European conquerors? I’m sure the story would be more interesting, rich with symbols and location which were well-known then, but have since vanished.
Just a thought. Native Americans lived for many thousands of years on this continent. The water remained clean. They left behind a world as beautiful as the one into which they were born. No piles of rubble, no ruins. They lived well and gently with the land. Not necessarily in peace, but without destroying their mother.
Europeans arrived and five-hundred years later, there’s considerable likelihood that we have effectively destroyed the earth.
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