Friday, June 17, 2016

Word of the Day:Insouciance

Fresh flowers are part of chic

I am a "word nerd". This morning, when I awoke, I was pondering the concept of "chic". I have
been following Fiona Ferris's Thirty Chic Days for ten days and my early morning contemplation, over my bowl of fresh strawberries and my cup of café au lait, led me to the word "insouciance" literally "the quality of being without worries."

Learning and practising a language is always chic. Some of my Sorbonne classes were held at Reid Hall where Jacqueline
Bouvier and Susan Sontag also studied.

Chic women do not worry. Their clothes are appropriately chosen and suitably maintained.  Their small closets are organized. No worries! Their home, whatever size it may be is clean and a vase of fresh flowers sits on top of the dining table. A fresh salad, daily walk and bit of time for contemplation... A life characterized by insouciance!

If I owned these shoes (from a shop in Place des Vosges) I would fly about the streets.

That's an oversimplification but....if we have conquered worry, our being is freed up for so many
other activities. We can smile and be gracious just because.. Worriers are always thinking about themselves and the possibility of disaster. Most of us will experience loss, disappointment and sadness in our lives.  Our bodies and our minds will alter. Most certainly, we will die and those we love will leave us.  But most of us will survive a missed bus or even a missed plane, an awkward moment, or a small financial setback. At my age, I know these things to be true.

There is so much around us to enjoy:even nature in Paris.

Okay, back to my original thought. Why is it easier for me to be insouciant when I am away from home? It's not just France but I'm equally worry-free in Mexico. First, I usually live in a smaller apartment and have someone who cleans once a week. Several apartments that I have rented have been supplied with books and music that I have enjoyed. In Oaxaca, I volunteer at a library so I have a source of free books. I don't drive when I am away from home.  I am by nature a flâneuse so walking to do my errands is not a hardship. Seafood, chicken and vegetables are my favourite foods so I eat them. I skype Maman each day and Darling Daughter e-mails when she needs to communicate.  Monsieur and I e-mail but we both benefit from alone and autonomous time.

fresh seafood in Paris

Why oh why is worry part of my life at home? No situation in my life can be improved by worry.
Worry impedes action and is decidedly  unchic. Worry causes stress which causes ill-health. From
a religious perspective, worry implies a lack of faith. In conclusion, for my next 20 days of chic, I will try to let go of worry, anxiety, apprehension, second favour of true Gallic insouciance.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Clothing and Travel Planning

For the last three years, I have been "curating" my wardrobe. Since I no longer work, I no longer
require "work clothes". I'm just about ready to cull my last structured "blazer" jacket as I have not worn it for at least 2 years. On the other hand, I have a softer two-piece skirt and jacket that I wear to church and on which I often receive compliments. I don't think that I'm a "structured" gal.

I used to work out with a personal trainer three times a week. I'm not a "gym" gal either so I bought colourful gym outfits to make me feel better. I stopped the trainer for reasons of economy. I live next door to a community centre. I could easily go over and use the weight machines. I don't! No need for fitness clothes other than one pair of yoga pants and a loose top. I walk but that involves street clothes, appropriate shoes and outerwear.
I seem to be wearing more of this

than this.
I do enjoy dressing up but I am married to Monsieur who likes to wear black t-shirts and athletic pants. I haven't been on a cruise for two years and I no longer have season tickets to the opera. How many evening outfits do I need?

Even my travel style has changed in the last few years. At the end of August, I will be flying to Dublin. I will be touring Ireland on Bus Eireann which is not a tour but an intercity bus system.
That means that I will be handling my own bags. Then, I will fly from Belfast to Shetland to visit family. Last time that I flew the regional carrier, Flybe, I paid no surcharge from Paris to Lerwick.
Merci, Air France. But, the Lerwick to London portion was handled by Loganair who charged me almost 100 pounds. My trip will end in London where I hope to attend the theatre a couple of times.

I have been working to develop a grey/navy wardrobe with turquoise as my accent colour. If you read
The Vivienne Files, 12 Months, 12 Outfits, my wardrobe is a lot like Janice's fourth one, Cheval Surprise Remix.  I don't own that Hermès scarf but I do have a couple of turquoise scarves from Diwali in Paris. My touring outfit will probably be comprised of grey jeans or navy pants, a t-shirt and a cardigan. My sources tell me that Ireland's weather can be variable (rainy) so I'm not sure what 
sort of coat that I might need. I have a pair of grey New Balance shoes which will probably work well
for exploring The Cliffs of Moher or walking on Da Knab in Shetland

Do you watch Shetland? I probably need my sturdy walking shoes.

A problem, I find, is choosing clothing that can be adapted to city. I will be taking a pair of grey trousers or my grey skirt to wear with my cashmere cardigan. I hope that by changing coat and shoes, that I can look more chic than "outdoorsy".

However, two things that I have learned from my travel experiences: chic women can look after their own bags and blisters are never chic.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Stories:Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese

street art in downtown Vancouver

I have always loved a "good story".  As a  bookworm, as a literature major and as a teacher-librarian who spent her days choosing and reading books to children, I have found great joy in reading and sharing my reactions with others. Book clubs offer opportunities to experience books that are often outside our comfort zone and to learn more about ourselves and our world.

Richard Wagamese, is a Canadian Ojibway author who has written both fiction and nonfiction. Ragged Company is his fourth novel. It is the story of four homeless people who find shelter in a movie theatre during a cold spell.  The characters become entranced by the movie stories and develop a relationship with a retired journalist, a storyteller who has lost his stories.

During the first few chapters, we know very little about our characters. They are "rounders", survivors of the street with "street names",  united by their friendship and by their suspicion and contempt of "square johns".

An unexpected event brings the characters into the "square john" world.  Bit by bit, they are forced to reveal their identities to each other and to the reader. Only by telling their stories and by "going home",  can the circle of life be complete and the pain be healed.

Wagamese weaves the native spiritual beliefs of Amelia "One For The Dead", an Ojibway woman who has lost everyone that she has ever loved and who is visited by "the shadow ones", and the stories of the movies that the characters come to enjoy into a rich tale of love and redemption.

In my neighbourhood, we have two men who sit outside the shops. I keep spare change in a small purse and I do stop when I do my errands. As with the characters in the novel, I do not know their names or their stories. I am a "square john". Ragged Company provided me with a "view from the concrete".

We will be discussing this book at my United Readers book club which is a church-based group.
There are members of this group who have made the effort to learn more about our First Nations
people and their struggles. Others make sandwiches to take down to the Skid Row area of Vancouver.

There are those who question the value of reading fiction. Yes, there really are! It seems to me that it is through stories that we learn to develop the empathy and compassion to grow in the "real world".

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Life-long Learning

learning to see in an urban setting

When I started blogging, I tried to commit to writing on a regular basis. One of my goals was to write  regularly and to be read by others. I have always written poetry, journals, essays....and I enjoy the process. In every writing class that I have ever enrolled in, the instructor has stressed the importance of spending time at the craft.

Who lives here?

What I am finding increasingly difficult is to write about fresh, new topics. Novelty is not always part of my day-to-day life. Last week was very busy for Monsieur and me. We attended a week-long session of lectures at the university. Ageless Pursuits, 4 week-long sessions in June, is developed for older adult learners with eclectic interests. The format, each day, is 2 one-hour lectures with a half hour break. The students seem to range from 60-something to 80-something.

Monsieur and I chose to study Urban Wildlife and Plants and Ideas of God. How eclectic is that!
The course formats were very different but the professors were both excellent. As a former educator,
I prefer an interactive method of teaching to a traditional lecture method. I was inspired to create my own homework to research indigenous plants that could be added to my garden patch in our complex.
The University has moved away from traditional plantings and most of the spaces have been planted with drought-resistant native plants.

Look carefully!

Since I started to go to church, I have been interested in theology:why people choose to believe and how personal beliefs differ. Our course dealt with the Greeks, the Abrahamic religions, Buddhism and the attempts by some scientist/philosophers to prove or disprove the concept of God. Quite a lot to cover in 5 hours!

The university has changed so much since I first attended in the 1970's. Students seem to have a lot more money as there are restaurants and coffee shops everywhere! Lattes have replaced the 17-cent
Food Service coffee. Smartphones and earbuds seem to have become a part of the student anatomy!
Despite these differences, I expect that somewhere on the campus, there must be a latter day me, enthused to be in such a place of learning.

Sometimes people ask me and sometimes I ask myself: why would older adults who no longer work want to study rather than to amuse themselves with some other entertainment. I have no answer to that question but I find that discussion, study and lecture is as important to me now as it was to my
18 year-old self.