COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 257
Sunday, July 4th, 2021
Louise’s offering comes at a moment when her life is beginning to open up again–with COVID restrictions easing away–and also, as she figures out how to exist peacefully with the daily reminders of the death of her beloved dog Pouchkine, her companion of 15 years–how to turn loss into capsules of love and remembrance.
She chose this quote from Jean Giono, in which he argues that happiness is found in enchantment, not the search for truth; that what matters is not so much to know what life and death are, but to live and die well.
“Savoir la vérité n’a jamais servi à grand-chose. Il faudra bien qu’on s’en aperçoive un beau jour. Le bonheur est dans l’enchantement et non dans la vérité. Il ne s’agit pas de savoir ce qu’est la vie, ce qu’est la mort, il s’agit de bien vivre et de bien mourir, et c’est loin d’être l’affaire de la vérité.”
Jean Giono- Les trois arbres de Pazem
Vivre effectivement, profiter de chaque instant afin de ne pas regretter le temps passé et de bien assumer le présent! Une tâche qui semble simple mais dans les faits, qui se révèle plus complexe….. souvent on se laisse déranger par des futilités qui gâchent l’instant!
Je veux m’attarder à donner de la joie et de rendre sous une autre forme celle que m’a procurée ma vie partagée avec mes deux chiens….
Avoir plus de temps pour les autres est dans ce que je veux mettre de l’avant. J’ai été pas mal à côté de l’action depuis plusieurs mois…. C’est certain que la pandémie n’a pas aidé mais cela tenait plus à mon souci de Pou….
Ma chère amie, que la vie soit bonne pour toi aujourd’hui…. profite bien de l’instant. bises très tendres! (LC)
ART: “Quiet Dawn”, Diana Constance (1934-2011)
“In Sound of the Sea”, Terence Philip Flanagan (1929-2011)
COLLABORATION/OFFERING NO. 256
Monday, June 28th, 2021
My friend Louise Cloutier is going through a difficult passage. It’s that unique pain we know as grief. After fifteen years of companionship and joy and sometimes worry, Louise’s Wheaten terrier, Pouchkine (spelled the French way), has died.
She has known this was coming for months now–and that’s the hardest part, isn’t it? The anticipation of grief, or perhaps the slow trickle of grief that every moment carries within it when a loved one is growing old, sick and frail. When the inevitable can no longer be ignored.
Louise has lived with such feelings for a while…
It never got easier.
Pouchkine’s memory, his spirit, his presence in the house is still everywhere. His loss is too fresh, too sharp, too recent. It’s the price all true dog lovers are willing to pay for the privilege of a dog’,s love.
La nostalgie de Pouchkine… ah que ce serait bien qu’il revienne….. que je suis rêveuse. Hier il ventait et je voyais son museau humer le vent! Il adorait!
Les images surgissent parfois si vite sans prévenir et elles me causent des instants de grande tristesse.Avec le temps, tout s’adoucira mais sachant combien Berthold est resté omniprésent en moi, je crois bien que mon beau Pou s’ajoutera dans ma zone de vulnérabilité et d’amour infini! (LC)
And then she found this perfect passage to quote:
“Je voudrais que tu sois là
Que tu frappes à la porte
Et tu me dirais c’est moi
Devine ce que je t’apporte
Et tu m’apporterais toi....”
-Boris Vian Berceuse pour les ours qui ne sont pas là….
I wish you were here
Knocking on my door
You would say It’s me
Guess what I’ve brought you
And you would bring me you...”
Photos: Pouchkine with Louise’s cat
Pouchkine, near the end of his days
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 254
Thursday, June 3rd, 2021
“Nous passons tous, sans cesse, par des seuils initiatiques. Chaque accident, chaque incident, chaque joie et chaque souffrance est une initiation. Et la lecture d’un beau livre, la vue d’un grand paysage peuvent l’être aussi.“
My rough translation:
We are all, constantly crossing thresholds. Every accident, every incident, all joy and suffering is an initiation. And reading a good book, taking in a magnificent landscape can be this too.
Friday, May 28th, 2021
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 252
Louise Cloutier is so articulate; her thoughts and comments pour into my Messenger, filling it with her tremendous vital energy, verve and fire. Life in the Pandemic Year, of course, has been at times crushing, but with someone as spirited as she is, and avid a reader, there was always somewhere to look for the moments–those sparks that warm us months and years later. Especially those that were shared.
J’ai été émue par ce propos. Je n’ai pas gardé les dernières strophes, pas assez positives. Pas dans l’esprit de ce que je voulais partager avec toi….Tous ces instants qui nous habitent, de ces partages de moments si précieux, de périodes de notre vie et qui nous animent des mois, des années plus tard. J’ai parlé hier avec mon amie […] que je connais depuis le début de la vingtaine. Nous avons parlé justement d’instants, de moments partagés qui nous ont fait du bien. Le plaisir de l’amitié qui se poursuit à travers toute une vie! (LC)
To capture a moment as you would a flower placed between the pages of a book…
“[…] Saisir l’instant tel une fleur
Qu’on insère entre deux feuillets
Et rien n’existe avant après
Dans la suite infinie des heures.
Saisir l’instant. S’y réfugier.
Et s’en repaître. En rêver.
À cette épave s’accrocher.
Le mettre à l’éternel présent.
Saisir l’instant. Construire un monde.
Se répéter que lui seul compte.
Et que le reste est complément.
S’en nourrir inlassablement.”
-Extrait de Saisir l’instant-
-Esther Granek. Je cours après mon ombre 1981
Friday, May 21st, 2021
My absence from this blog has been long (since at least May 17th!), and it sure isn’t because of delays in Louise’s suggested quotes. Again, it’s a matter of my health and aptness at sitting in front of a computer screen…
In fact, we aim for daily posts–daily moments of inspiration–which me managed effortlessly when we were living those first intense months of the Pandemic.
Perhaps my troubles and Louise’s patient waiting–which has allowed her to focus on her health, her gardens and her beloved Pouchkine, the Wheaten terrier, who has also aged along with this long period of confinement–will have provided a semi-pause that also gave you, readers, a small breather? I hope you do smile when you see Aubade appear.
Last week, Louise dropped three short quotes into Messenger by the same person, Serge Bouchard, who is perhaps unknown to most readers, though he is a Governor General’s Prize winning writer. Trained as an anthropologist, the latter part of his career has been very much devoted to his work as an essayist who regularly read his work on Radio-Canada’s airwaves.
His following was devoted and appreciative. He died very recently, just a short time after the death of his partner, Marie-Christine Lévesque, in July, 2020. She had been the love of his life for more than 20 years. She died of brain cancer. Though his own health had been failing for a while, it’s hard not to think that the loss of Marie broke his spirit. When we no longer feel able to project ourselves into a future that isn’t filled with the anguish and the emptiness of grief…well, I think he died of a broken heart.
In case there were any doubt, his latest essay collection, published in early 2021, is Un café avec Marie
But Louise, who has read this author for years, went rooting for older essays from previous collections of Bouchard’s writing, and has plucked from them a couple of bouquets of words. Enjoy!
“Sachez que la caresse est une laisse, une corde, une chaîne plus solide que la plus solide des chaînes.“
Serge Bouchard, –Quinze lieux communs- Le chien et le Loup (1993)
My rough translation: “Know that the caress, the pat, is a tether, a line, a chain more solid that the most solid of chains.”
Serge Bouchard, –Quinze lieux communs- Le chien et le Loup (1993)
“Les plages sont des cloîtres naturels. Le vent peut faire le vide dans notre tête, le bruit des vagues occupe notre esprit tandis que l’air nous donne un avant goût de l’infini.“
-Serge Bouchard, L’homme descend de l’ourse
Rough translation: “Beaches are natural cloisters. The wind can clear our minds, the crashing of waves occupies our spirit, while the air gives us a taste of infinity.”
1.Anita Klein, “Patting the Dog”, 2013
2. “Untitled“, John Miller (1931-2002), Royal Cornwall Hospital
3, Serge Bouchard with Marie
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 294
May 6th, 2021
It’s only now, this morning, that I had a chance to read this offering from Louise, which I received, in fact, two days ago.
It was still there in Messenger (of course), it didn’t disappear and the words didn’t change, but it seems shocking that nothing DID happen because as I read this beautiful, this sublime excerpt from the writing of Marguerite Yourcenar, it seemed to me that Louise’s choice is so perfectly apt, so precise in the message it was meant to deliver, that it was almost shockingly so. It made me gasp and cry immediately (the tears were brief).
These past few months has been hard–the hardest in a very long while—and I’m a bit lost in pain and fear; not yet ready to reconfigure my view of my life, and life in general…not ready to bring death an important distance closer…But things are changing, always, and death will approach when its moment has come, and writing, like the masterpiece just below will, will have been an emissary and channel of all that is most extraordinary and precious in this world, encompassing the voyage of the soul through a lifetime.
“Vous ne saurez jamais que votre âme voyage
Comme au fond de mon coeur un doux coeur adopté
Et que rien, ni le temps, d’autres amours,
N’empêcheront jamais que vous ayez été.
Que la beauté du monde a pris votre visage,
Vit de votre douceur, luit de votre clarté
Et que le lac pensif au fond du paysage
Me redit seulement votre sérénité.
Vous ne saurez jamais que j’emporte votre âme
Comme une lampe d’or qui m’éclaire en marchant;
Qu’un peu de votre voix a passé dans mon chant.
Doux flambeau, vos rayons, doux brasier, votre flamme.
M’instruisent des sentiers que vous avez suivis.
Et vous vivez un peu puisque je vous survis.”
Marguerite Yourcenar- Les Charités d’Alcippe (2015)
My rough translation:
“You will never know that your soul travels
Like a passenger heart, deep within mine
And that nothing, neither time, neither other loves,
Will have prevented your existence,
That the beauty of the world took up your face
Lives from your gentleness, glows from your clarity
And that the pensive lake beneath your face
Tells me again of your serenity.
You will never know that I take with me your soul
Like a gold lamp that lights my way as I walk,
That a little of your voice is now in my singing.
Gentle beacon, your rays, gentle fire, your flame.
Show me the paths you’ve trodden.
And you live a little, still, because I live.
And to this, Louise added:
La place qu’un être aimé prend en nous! C’est vrai qu’il s’intègre et que sa vie se poursuit en nous au jour le jour. Toutes ces pensées qui émergent et qui un jour on a déjà partagé avec quelqu’un et qui resurgit au cours de notre vie!C’est vrai que nous sommes faits de nos rencontres et qu’elles nous aident à survivre dans les instants moins optimistes!
À chaque printemps, lorsque mon regard croise des tulipes particulièrement splendides, je pense à Peter qui était amoureux de ces fleurs. Je lui offrais des bulbes de formes particulières et le printemps suivant, il me faisait parvenir des photos pour me permettre d’admirer ses nouvelles acquisitions!
Et je regarde toujours les tulipes en pensant à lui! Le mystère de l’amitié! Bonne et belle journée! (LC)
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 281
It was supposed to snow today in Montreal, and this morning, there was a brief sprinkling, but not the 10 cm forecast.
If this pattern holds, it will be for the best.
This winter was, in fact, a rather lovely season, which didn’t overstay its welcome. And I’m grateful for that.
Still, we are entering a third wave of COVID-19…and I think that Louise’s choice of quote–which is a warning not to assume that winter is over until the April moon has finished its cycle–not only fits the weather, but is also a reminder that the coronavirus has at least another cycle to go.
It’s not an easy time, but Montrealers can be heartened by the knowledge that the warmth of spring will make it possible to be together and laugh loudly and often, outside, in the fresh air, on sundecks–2m apart–and every other outdoor venue that is safe.
Perhaps we can take a minute to look up at the April moon as well.
“Ne crois point que l’hiver soit passé sans retour, quand la lune d’avril n’a pas fini son tour.”
-Dicton cévenol-les proverbes et dictons météorologiques (1816)
COLLABORATION/OFFERING NO. 278
MARCH 27th, 2021
Louise’s quote of the day is one that was stored in her memory. His name is Jim Harrison. He was a talented and prolific writer of poetry, novellas, novels and essays. I wish I could say that I’m familiar with his work but the truth is, I only knew of Legends of the Fall, his novella that was produced as a movie…Which means, I suppose, that I don’t really know this writer at all.
In her comment, Louise describes him as someone who lived at 200 mph, which would have made him a kindred spirit. She certainly has a similar vitality. She wrote:
Aujourd’hui, je me suis rappelé d’un auteur qui vivait 200 milles à l’heure et qui m’avait séduit par son propos dans un interview… un amateur de Bandol, vin que je rêve de boire et que je n’ai toujours pas bu! Lorsque je le ferai, j’aurai une pensée pour lui. (LC)
“Barring love, I’ll take my life in large doses alone– rivers, forests, fish, grouse, mountain. Dogs.”
-Jim Harrison, Wolf, A False Memoir (1971
She added a second quote which she said was for me:
“Being a writer requires an intoxication with language.”
She added: C’est bien dit et tellement percutant! (LC)
which means: It’s so powerful!
Well, I think she’s correct. And I think she shares this intoxication…Thankfully, it can’t harm either of us.
Camille Javal, “The Heart Has a Language of its own”
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 277
Marche 26th, 2021
My friend Louise is a book lover, and a voracious reader. I’ve mentioned this before, but you may have missed that post. There’s a lovely independent bookstore a ten minute walk from her house that she has begun visiting regularly (it specializes in English language books, but the owner will obtain for you any French book your heart desires.
When you order a book from a small store that hasn’t yet been crushed by Amazon and the giant chains, I think you get an extra sense of satisfaction. I know Louise does–its part of her mission.The store in question is CLIO,. It has the lovely advantage of being just down the hill from the wonderful Pointe-Claire Library. Rather than see themselves as competitors, the two have decided to help each other, with the library ordering many of its books from Clio.
During her last visit, though she was searching for something completely different, Louise fell upon this book,
Je te reviens après une petite période et comme je me sentais un peu fatiguée je te partage ma pensée de la journée tirée d’un livre acheté hier chez Clio! LC)
“Everyone loves a puppy, but there is something infinitely touching about the grey muzzle, milky eyes and wobbly legs ont the old dog that really tugs at the heartstrings. There is also the shared life, the years spent getting to know one another and understanding each other’s little ways.”
-Sally Muir, Old Dogs (2021)
I like to think that this passage is on honour of Pouchkine, Louise’s 16 year-old Wheaten.
Along wit this quoted she added:
cest tellement vrai que la petite boule de poils qu’on se met à aimer lors de son arrivée dans notre vie est d’une beauté incommensurable! Mais ce vieux chien qui a passé des années avec nous, qui nous a soutenu dans les moments difficiles, qui a partagé nos joies…. ces moments où leur maladie a fait qu’on a eu une peur terrible de les perdre font que l’attachement devient si profond et c’est ce qui rend la pensée de le perdre si horrible. Il n’y a pas de compagnon plus fidèle et qui nous apprécie tant lorsqu’on rentre à la maison. (LC)
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 272
March 12th, 2021
The pandemic year blanketed our lives, until at times, we’ve felt suffocated by it. The initial reaction to its frightening presence was a proliferation of “don’t worry” messages that appeared everywhere, many government sponsored but of course very quickly, they were repurposed by companies selling something–like masks.
That”s how “TOUT VA BIEN ALLER” (translated: all will be well/everything’s going to be alright), coupled with the image of a rainbow, came to appear on big and small billboards everywhere, and in the windows of homes and schools in Montreal, eventually making its way to a bunch of well-made fabric masks that I ordered online, all carrying a small white tag sewn vertically onto the side of each, with the maker’s brand: BIEN ALLER.
Of course, over time, as the situation worsened, this same message plastered everywhere has lost its punch, and you can’t be blamed for looking at it and and thinking: “Yeah…yeah…yeah…”, maybe with an eye roll thrown in.
But the idea is a good one.
Words resonate. They travel. They’re accessible. You can carry them with you, and you can speak them. Even just to yourself. This is the reason for Aubade’s existence. To make an offering, each day, to others, in the form of a written prayer-like message, which gives the reader an intention, around which, perhaps, to frame a day of living.
Did you know that in medicine, the word intention means: “The healing process of a wound”?
I marvel at the fact that Louise and I came intuitively to the notion of the healing effects of our daily intentions. I hope there have been days when you, too, walked away from this blog page and felt inspired in even the gentlest way…
During the past few days, Louise sent me three quotes. Here they are, in order. The fourth quote is in fact a haiku, written by my friend Gail. She sent it to me on a day she had no reason to believe was different than any other. But it was. Somehow, her words matched up with a yearning in me–they softened the edges of the pain I experience as someone in cancer treatment–the physical, but also the soul pain.
LA PREMIÈRE CITATION:
“J’impose à l’homme de devenir autre et plus étendu et plus clair et plus généreux et plus fervent, enfin uni à lui-même dans ses aspirations.”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry- Citadelle (1948)
LA DEUXIÈME CITATION:
“Pour moi, biologiste et écrivain, c’est la même chose.”
-Mia Couto- Le Point, 19 mars 2020
LA TROISIÈME CITATION:
This is actually a song lyric, a 19th century hymn. The words are those of Horatio Spafford, a man I had never heard of and had it not been for Louise, would probably never have…
“When peace like a river, attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
-Horatio Spafford (written in 1873)
LA QUATRIÈME CITATION::
Where is the darkness?
You are the Light of the World
by Gail Richardson
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 267
February 27th, 2021
This morning, Louise continues to scroll through the writing of women born a generation (or two) before her, who sought emancipation from a “macho” society.
Toutes ces femmes d’une génération avant la mienne qui m’ont tellement marquée par leurs propos et leurs désirs d’émancipation dans une société machiste… (LC)
And so, she chose this quote from Françoise Giroud, a brilliant writer who died at the age of 85 and never stopped being active; never stopped learning. In the passage chosen from Arthur ou le bonheur de vivre, Giroud recounts how, when she was 72, her grandson taught her to use a computer–having convinced her that she was perfectly capable. Which she was.
I imagine that her newfound skill prolonged her writing life…A gift indeed.
Louise introduced her in this way:
Alors je continue sur mon propos. Elle a été active jusqu’à la fin à plus de 85 ans et c’est une chute qui a mis fin à sa vie… une belle façon dans un sens! Elle était d’une grande beauté mais n’abusait pas de ses charmes! Et pour parler de sa jeunesse d’esprit et de son désir de rester pleinement en vie! (LC)
“Ainsi à 72 ans, me suis mise à l’ordinateur. Longtemps j’ai pensé que j’en serais incapable. Que c’était bien de la prétention de croire que j’aurais cette faculté d’adaptation. C’est un de mes petits-fils qui m’a convaincue du contraire: “Je te connais, ma-t-il dit, tu te débrouilleras très bien.” Il m’a donné l’adresse où acheter l’animal. Et puis s’est produit le miracle: en trois leçons d’une heure et demie, j’ai appris à maîtriser la merveilleuse machine. Outre les services que celle-ci me rend, l’épisode a agi sur moi comme une injection de jeunesse. Donc dans ma tête, je n’étais pas rouillée, je pouvais encore.“
-Françoise Giroud- Arthur ou le bonheur de vivre (1997)
“Ballade pour la joie de vivre, 2000”, Yoêl Benharrouche
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 256
Le 5 février, 2021
Louise sent me this message: “Et pour aujourd’hui un propos potentiellement un peu éculé mais je l’ai entendu chanter par Henri Salvador (LC):
“Le plus beau jour est celui d’aujourd’hui.”
-dans la chanson “Mademoiselle” chantée par Henri Salvador
Et c’est bien vrai, profiter de l’instant présent, le seul que l’on possède vraiment….Bonne journée dans ce soleil ardent et cette température particulièrement douce…. bisous! (LC)
In translation: The most beautiful day is this day: today.
She sent me this yesterday, and yesterday when I awoke, the thickest, fluffiest snowflakes were falling from the sky, blanketing in silence…everything. This beautiful gift of weather lasted an hour or two at the most, leaving behind lots of snow to shovel, but also having put a new face, a new feeling into the landscape.
Not long after, Cindy (who now lives with me and my son) and I went for a lovely long walk, seeing with different eyes the way the swerving streets and giant pines we’d passed through and under the day before seemed deeper, darker and yet more sheltering than they had the day before, in bright sunlight. And so quiet…
Photo taken yesterday morning while sitting and looking out into the street.
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 249
January 27th, 2021
What lovelier way to celebrate memories and joy in these dark winter days of the pandemic, than by evoking the smile of a loved one.
This is what Louise did yesterday, while she reminisced about her mother, a beautiful woman with a striking smile.
[…] Aujourd’hui, c’est l’anniversaire de ma mère, Florence! Quel beau prénom et quelle belle femme elle fût! Elle avait une beauté très particulière dont nous n’avons pas hérité malheureusement! Elle a dû attirer bien des regards. Ce qui était très marquant était son sourire et toute sa vie il est demeuré remarquable. Même lorsqu’elle est devenue un peu perdue, elle savait répondre aux compliments par un magnifique sourire! Alors ma pensée est vraiment imprégnée d’elle aujourd’hui. Elle me manque tant! (LC)
She then offered, as the day’s quote, the following, from the work of Jean-Marie Le Clézio.
In this excerpt, Le Clézio describes a smile as emanating from one’s deepest recesses–perhaps the land of sleep–rising, travelling through the body slowly, like a shiver of pleasure to the edge of one’s lips.
“J’aime le sourire sur le visage des enfants, des femmes. Il n’y a pas d’expression plus belle. Il n’y a rien de plus vrai sur le visage humain, rien de plus doux, de plus harmonieux dans la personne humaine. Le sourire vient du plus profond de l’être, du monde du sommeil peut-être, et monte, traverse le corps lentement à la manière d’un frisson de plaisir, jusqu’à l’orée de la bouche.”
-Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio- L’inconnu sur la terre (1978)
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 239
January 8th, 2021
I’ve been playing hooky again; not showing up with a daily offering. I’m sorry about that. But the reasons for my absenteeism are health-related, and so, I must take time off every now and again until everything is sorted and I’m able to work at the computer longer.
Louise sent me today’s quote yesterday. Of the things she and I have in common, a passion for reading, for books, for literature is top of the list, I think. On this day, Louise–who didn’t grow up in a large urban area–returned to the period in her life when she was introduced to Y/A (young adult) fiction. She writes:
Alors aujourd’hui […], je vais probablement te surprendre et je me suis surprise moi-même par ce retour dans ma mémoire de cette auteure. Et j’ai découvert que cette auteure a été active jusque dans les années 80. Incroyable. Il s’agit de Berthe Bernage. J’avais accès à aucune littérature jeunesse. Ce sont mes tantes professeures dans les “Réserves indiennes dans le nord” qui m’ont apporté quelques livres de littérature jeunesse. Et cette auteure était celle pour laquelle j’ai reçu ces cadeaux. Je les ai lus et relus plusieurs fois! (LC)
I think that readers tend to find their way to books–even the young ones–but there must be the opportunity. In this case, it was Louise’s aunts, who were teachers, who made sure to deliver books into her hands on a regular basis. The circumstances–a supply insufficient to her appetite–were such that Louise read them over and over…
I had never heard of Berthe Bernage, but this excerpt from her Y/A novel is about the origin of ideas, inspiration, inventiveness. See what you think!
” Les idées neuves , vraiment neuves, ne sortent pas des livres, ni des discours. Elles germent sans qu’on sache où l’on a pris la graine. Et on porte en soi la sève.”
-Berthe Bernage-Brigitte choisit l’espérance (1962)
Louise added: Je n’avais plus pensé à cette auteure depuis des lustres! Maintenant la littérature jeunesse est extrêmement développée et les jeunes aujourd’hui ont accès à la littérature très tôt dans leur vie! (LC)
PHOTO: the trees in my yard this morning
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 232
Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020
Yesterday, because I was unavailable, Louise did all of the work, sending me this lovely passage and even providing Wendy Andrew’s beautiful image. Merci Louise.
I only got to reading it this morning, which is beautiful and very peaceful with a fresh powdering of snow dusting the world beyond my window, on a windless late December day.
Everything about Cooper’s passage rings especially true right now. There is a deep happiness waiting for us beneath the weariness and our shared anxiety. A promise…And so many reasons to give thanks in spite of the turmoil and suffering caused by COVID19 and our own failings as a society.
I’m heading out later this morning to have eye surgery done. One more thing to worry about. One more reason to feel afraid and anxious. And yet, I’ve already received word from friends–messages of encouragement and LOVE. My sons have been extraordinary; other family members and dear friends so lovely. There is so much goodness all around us. This year and every year.
THE SHORTEST DAY
by Susan Cooper
So the shortest day came, and the year died
,And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us—Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
ARTL Wendy Andrew https://www.paintingdreams.co.uk/products/yule-card
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 220
December 6th, 2020
I’m a day late once again!
Yesterday, Louise set me up with a short quote that was a bit of a puzzle. Louise’s beloved dogs featured in it once again, but its source surprised me–she was quoting Virginia Woolf–and because I’m meant to find the image to “illuminate” it, I tried to find the quote in its original English, so that more of you visitors to our early morning posts might appreciate it…and to be sure to catch the author’s nuances. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find it in Woolf’s mother tongue. The more I read it, the more I appreciate its wryness.
“Il est naturel qu’un chien toujours couché la tête sur un lexique grec en vienne à détester aboyer ou mordre qu’il finisse par préférer le silence du chat à l’exubérance de ses congénères et la sympathie humaine à toute autre.”
– Virginia Woolf
[Here’s a rough translation: It’s natural for a dog, whose head is always resting on a Greek glossary, to come to abhor barking or biting and instead, to prefer the silence of cats to the exuberance of his fellow dogs, and human sympathy above all other.]
What do you draw from this unexpected portrait? Don’t be shy, leave a comment.
Art: “POODLE”, Edwin Henry Landseer (1802-1873), Boston Guildhall
Everything started with the fact that I collect quotes. It goes way back to my teens, but how this curating of other people’s words took hold in me is fuzzy, and what does it matter? I’m 62 years old and still do it. It will happen when I’m reading, and come across a string of words and sentences that jump off the page and straight to a place inside me that is mostly about emotion, but something else too. Words written by someone else that feel as though they were already there inside me, waiting. Language that resonates. Sometimes, it’s a sequence of words that I could never have come up with in a million years of trying; a permutation so rich and so absolutely bullseye that I marvel at their perfection and think: Wow! Imagine being able to write that! At times, my body will take in their impact like they were the arrow, and I, the target. At times, they will make me gasp. At others, tears will well up. Sometimes, they’ll just bring me to a full stop, a stillness in which the most I can do is hold my hands to my chest and say Oh! Imagine being able to write that!
I have heard people speak and rushed to jot down their exact wording. If I’m lucky, and I heard them on television or the radio, I can retrace the podcast or YouTube footage that captured their words. There are books filled with such astonishing prose that I commit that dread act of vandalism–I mark passages that I want to keep–but always with a pencil (never ink! Good grief!).
There are humans who, above the rest of us, were born to be quoted. Winston Churchill sure had a knack for quotable pronouncements, but I’m thinking of people like James Baldwin, who spoke as though writing—and sometimes wrote as though preaching—and always takes us to a place we would never have reached. I’ve come across no one else who spoke so acutely and unpredictably. He has startled me over and over, with simple statements like:
“The role of the artist is exactly the same as the role of the lover. If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.”
Those among us who love and collect quotes have our favourite sources, but I’m chuffed to think that as long as there are books out there, even if the whole world goes mute, I will have places to search for mind-and-soul-feeding eloquence.
Early on, when I was still receiving quotes every morning, dropped into my Inbox (from Goodreads), I’d choose the very best and post them on Facebook. That source, that daily prod dried up eventually, but my need to find sources of inspiration—models of concise and deep thinking—was as strong as ever, and so I continued my search for the kind of encapsulated writing that is like gold for someone like me.
The process was made easy by the host of sites that do the compiling and curating of quotes. French or English, both are my native languages and either is fine, except that I quickly discovered that online English language sources outnumber the French ones by a huge proportion. So the scales definitely tipped toward quotes in English (including translations from other languages). Quotes from curation sites are doorways to discovering writers, thinkers, creators, doers—and push us to keep excavating.
But even though they were backlit on computer and smart phone screens, there was an element missing—a cue that would stimulate other and new ways of interpreting the words. In her inspiring blog, Brainpickings, Maria Popova has elevated the interplay of words and images to a masterful degree, and her vision has not been lost on me. I naturally began posting language coupled with images, with the sole intent of inspiring anyone open to examining them. Some people are first seduced by the words; others by the image. The feedback started to come. A great many friends (and friends of friends, as Facebook’s algorithms did their work) took the time to comment, almost always struck by the words, the image chosen, or the effect of both. It made me happy, and so, inevitably, I continued.
But something has changed since March 2020. It began earlier, in 2018, following the diagnosis of metastatic cancer that redrew my life. Forced into a 2-week cycle of treatment, it didn’t take long to realize that how I lived had to change drastically. Where I used to move around constantly, from workplace to workplace for my job teaching French as a Second Language to adults, I would now have to adapt to a jobless, smaller, more circumscribed and isolating life—using the week between chemotherapy treatments to recover, refashioning my daily existence.
I owe an unpayable debt to social media, specifically Facebook—that much maligned invader—for making it possible to come close to erasing the barriers that would have kept me trapped in a world shrunken to the borders of the house and this small town I live in (no other online presence, other than blogging, allows me to do almost anything I want in terms of content format). Facebook worked best by making it so easy for others to find me (I’m thinking here especially about the many of my former students with whom I’ve stayed connected), and provided me with a shared, multigenerational meeting place.
It’s during this period that I found the friend who is the heart of Aubade, and who provided the impetus to its existence. Before we met on Facebook, I only knew Louise Cloutier because she had been a friend of my son Simon while he was working towards his PhD in Ecology at Université de Montréal (from 2008-2011), where Louise worked as a taxonomist.
I began to notice her name tagged on content, or comments she made on Simon’s Facebook page. Over time, we began exchanging messages directly. Then came March 2020 and the full force of COVID-19. It feels strange to write this but…do you remember those first few months? (think how much has changed since then; think how punch drunk we’ve all become) .That first month of lockdown, all over the internet people were beginning to play—thinking it was the best way to fill the long days of confinement. I remember in particular the LIST 10 THINGS…trend, that had so many of us posting our top 10 favourite movies, TOP 10 favourite albums, album covers; our TOP 10 baby photos, books, book covers…Those games went on and on.
They DID get us talking online, and pestering each other with participation requests, and in a few cases, they allowed us to connect more deeply with people. By the time “list fatigue” had set in for good, for me at least, Louise Cloutier and I had become frequent correspondents, and I think that it’s just about then that she remarked the knack she thought I had for matching words and images—something I’d been told a few times before, but that resonated this time. She said that she would miss these lists and the collective online creativity.
So, I proposed a new project to Louise: every day, for as long as were willing to keep at it, she would provide me with a quote, and I would find the image to enhance it. Because Louise is francophone (but also speaks and reads English and some German, I think), I knew this would mean that she would likely be digging up quotes from the hundreds, if not thousands of books in her home, or working very hard to find inspiring French content online. I also took it as a lovely gesture of trust, of letting go enough to allow me to modulate her personal interpretation of the words spoken or written by another that she admired. Whatever unease I felt about making a daily commitment—even something as burden-free as finding an image to match someone’s selection of words—wasn’t enough to dampen the feeling that this was a feisty act of “cloistered-pandemic” resistance.
We began on April 10th and are still going strong. Our process is simple. Louise and I connect every morning—usually before 7:30—on Messenger. She’s almost always the one who’s up first. Of the things that come up in our exchanges is always the quote she has selected. For example, this morning’s (October 20th 2020) just happens to be from Meryl Streep, and is in English. But it’s far more often something Louise has dug up from a book.
Posted first on my Facebook page, it’s headline is:
COLLABORATION / OFFERING NO.173
(Note: il s’agit ici d’une collaboration quotidienne, si possible, entre Louise Cloutier et moi.
Elle fournit la citation, je fournis le support visuel). Pour toi, Louise Cloutier xoxoxo
Yes, since we first decided to have fun with this, we have published an image-enhanced quote over 170 times–as I write this introduction.
But there is so much more to this story than this ritual. Our daily “Collaboration/Offering” is also the story of a burgeoning friendship. It’s about what’s happening in each of our lives—or those parts that we are open to sharing—and also, quite simply, about our moods, our soul- states as we awaken to each new day.
This explains the name we chose for this blog, Aubade. The Poetry Foundation offers the following as a definition of the word : “A love poem or song welcoming or lamenting the arrival of the dawn. The form originated in medieval France.” It is exactly the same in French. And it was Louise’s suggestion (I had never heard it before). And so, Aubade is filled with our words of welcome, but also of lament. In this pandemic year especially, both have their place.
I’ve also decided, with Louise’s editorial approval, to occasionally include excerpts from those early morning exchanges we have, in French, before we settle on the day’s quote and set off into our lives, lived about 30 km apart.
Aubade is a bilingual blog–which gives it an originality I think–but not systematically translated, which means that most readers, whether English-speaking or French-speaking, with a modicum of familiarity with the second of the two languages, should be able to enjoy every entry. The advantage of posting bilingually is of course that it opens the possibilities for Louise, especially, and broadens the pool we draw from. It also represents who we are.
I’ve chosen not to post our “Offerings” of these past 7 months in chronological order, but instead randomly, though the date they appeared on Facebook is always noted, and you will be able to find them all listed by month in the CATEGORIES column–if you’re curious to see whether the tone of our posts changed as the full force of COVID-19 began bearing down on us.
This blog is an act of curation, certainly, but also of preservation. It’s one example, among many online, of how human beings responded to confinement, isolation and deprivations we had never anticipated, and how many of us responded through art and by reaching out to each other.
Just about a week ago, Louise wrote to me one morning:
“L’exercice que nous faisons active les souvenirs dans toutes les directions: lectures, films, amours, amitiés, moments de partage, instants intenses.” (LC)
Perhaps it will have this effect on you?
Welcome to Aubade. Come visit us every day.
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 259
Friday, July 16th, 2021
Between us–though virtual contact is daily–Louise Cloutier and I have not been able to keep up to the original commitment we made to post every day, as we were almost effortlessly able to do on social media during the first, intense months of COVID lockdown.
A big part of that rests on my shoulders: it is the weight of my faltering health. But Louise, too, has suffered the effects of the grief of recently losing her beloved dog, Pouchkine, her companion of 15 years–and the loss is still cutting.
But I also think that Louise, perhaps more than I (because I have other problems that eat up so much of my daily life and awareness), is also dragging behind her the tailings of the past 18 months. Despite our two vaccinations, we have not just walked away from COVID 19–have not left it behind. It colours every part of the lives we lead now. We have been changed by it. I feel this in Louise. A mild despondency.
Joie de vivre is Louise’s oxygen, and the nature of it has been altered in ways that she is still figuring out.
Perhaps we all live with that inner call of Now What?
I know I do, despite everything. Questions such as:
How much has my life changed?
Do I want to revert to all my old patterns?
Is that even possible?
occupy my thoughts, and I think they occupy Louise’s as well. Is this a sea change?
It’s too early for us to know how profoundly we have been transformed by the pandemic, but not too soon to know in our bones that life is quite different than what we “knew”. That we are all, in the face of such a world-changing disaster, as unsteady on our feet as toddlers.
I think that in part, Louise choice of quote was her willful response to this unease. It is just like her: bright, beautiful, radiant.
IF I CAN STOP ONE HEART FROM BREAKING
By: Emily Dickinson
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 258
July 10th, 2021
Louise, like so many of us, is making the most of Montreal’s “Green” COVID status (meaning of course a green light to be with twice vaccinated friends and family and otherwise wearing a mask in public). She has sought out moments to share meals with people she hasn’t seen for far too long, and to feel that specific energy that flows when caring humans get together.
This morning, it’s the words of Hubert Reeves that inspire her:
“Comme disait Aragon : « de temps en temps, la terre tremble ». Oui, la vie humaine est difficile. Nous sommes dans une humanité souffrante, avec beaucoup de malheurs. Mais je pense que s’il y a un seul sens à donner à la vie, à sa vie… C’est de l’embellir ! De l’embellir dans l’espace et le temps qui nous sont donnés. D’user de nos facultés et de nos talents pour agir positivement sur le monde qui en a bien besoin. ”
As Aragon said: “Occasionally, the earth trembles.”. Yes, human life is difficult. Humanity suffers, and there is much misfortune and misery. But I think that there is a single meaning to give to life, to each person’s life…And it’s to beautify it! To make it more resplendent in the time and space that are allotted to us. To use our abilities and our talents to act positively on a world that desperately needs them.”
1. Image for representational purposes only. Picture courtesy: Pinterest
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 255
Monday, June 7th, 2021
Louise’s choice this morning is about the sea, the sand, the tides…the movements of planets and the Moon, of caressing fronds of seaweed… and desire.
I have friends who live on an island in the Saint-Lawrence River that I’m sure offers all of these sights, sounds and feelings…I love imagining them there.
Je rêve de bord de mer à l’instant où les gens n’y sont pas, tôt le matin ou tardivement lorsqu’ils sont à prendre l’apéro ou boustifailler…. la solitude en ces moments est sacrée et si rare! (LC)
She dreams of those moments when the beach is empty of humans, when this liminal space feels most sacred.
Démons et merveilles
Vents et marées
Au loin déjà la mer s’est retirée
Comme une algue doucement caressée par le vent
Dans le sable du lit tu remues en rêvant
Démons et merveilles
Vents et marées
Au loin déjà là mer s’est retirée
Mais dans tes yeux entrouverts
Deux petites vagues sont restées
Démons et merveilles
Vents et marées
Deux petites vagues pour me noyer
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 253
June 1st, 2021
Today’s quote is uncomplicated!
J’en ai une très simple et qui nous permet de se réjouir de la vie dans son expression la plus primaire mais oh combien formidable! (LC)
It’s from Camus, though she can’t find the source. Who cares?
“Quand tu te lèves le matin, pense aux précieux privilèges que tu as d’être vivant, de respirer, de penser, de sentir, de toucher et d’aimer.”
My translation: When you get up in the morning, consider the precious privileges of being alive that are yours: to breathe, to think, to feel, to touch, to love.”
I do. I do.
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 295
May 11th, 2021
“Ce n’est pas la vérité qui est sacrée, mais la quête de sa propre vérité.”
-Irvin Yalom –Le Jardin d’Épicure (2008)
Roughly translated: “It isn’t truth that is sacred, but the quest for one’s own truth.”
To which Louise added:
Encore un autre auteur à découvrir! ce n’est pas pour demain que je m’ennuierai ! LC
Another discovered writer for Louise; more hours spent blissfully reading and drawing inspiration.
Louise found this quote in French, and I’ve had an impossible time trying to find Le Jardin d’Épicure‘s original form. I don’t think Yalom wrote in French, but he wrote works of both fiction and non fiction, and I’m not even sure which of these is the category Le Jardin d’Épicure fits into.
The thing about short, decontextualized quotes (lifted right off the page–separated from the words that brought the nuances and meaning the writer was driving at), is that they can mean almost anything to anyone. I wonder if its meaning to Louise, or me, would change from week to week? For someone who loves to write, it’s a wonderful question.
1. “The Spirit of Love and Truth”, Joseph Edwards (1814-1882), National Museum of Wales, National Museum of Cardiff
2. “Truth Comes from the Observation of Nature”, Donna Duncan, Shetland Contemporary Art Collection
3. “This Side of the Truth (Parenthood), Alfred Janes (1911-1999), Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru/The National Library of Wales)