ESCAPE

Friday, November 19th, 2021

These are anxious times and Louise, who has made or had to accept major changes in her life–especially this past year–has been actively seeking out ways to help her manage the sense of malaise, and of vulnerability, that has cast a pall over her wellbeing. She writes:

Bon matin ma chère amie!

et voici pour te laisser dans le monde du rêve! Avec les périodes d’hypnoses que j’écoute, je suis de plus en plus contente de m’évader vers un monde plus doux, plus léger et moins anxiogène que celui du temps présent lorsqu’on écoute les nouvelles! Je ne fais plus que les effleurer un peu pour avoir une idée de ce qui se passe dans l’univers. J’aime mieux me référer à Jane Goodall et Hope afin de développer des racines de calme et de sérénité! (LC)

Translation:

Here’s something that will keep you in the land of dreams! With the hynosis sessions I’ve been listening to, I’m happier and happier to escape to a gentler and more lighthearted world–one that’s less likely to cause me anxiety than the present that we hear about in the news! To have a sense of what’s happening in the universe, I’m just barely skimming the surface of current events. Frankly, I’d rather dip into Jane Goodall’s Book of Hope, which helps me stay rooted in calm and serenity.! (LC)

But what Louise chose as her offering to Aubade is a passage from Yeats:

LA CITATION:

“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”

― William Butler Yeats, The Land of Heart’s Desire

So many things come to mind.

We, all of us on almost every continent, have been steeped in great gulps of “reality”–such as COVID 19, world politics, and climate change events that send shivers down our spines–to the point that it’s becoming harder to escape the apprehension and sense of foreboding that flow from this daily bombardment of information.

Improvising just a bit with Yates, we might love to shout:

“Faeries, come take me out of this disturbing world [!]”

I live not only in the same world as everyone else, but I must also deal with the added realness of advanced cancer, which forces me to live inside a very specific and narrow space a lot of the time, but also teaches me how deep and limitless are the places I can travel to, without ever leaving home.

And so, at day’s end, I can slide under the comforter, prop myself up with an arrangement of pillows, and open any of the books that are always nearby, and disappear, if only for an hour or two, into other worlds, other feelings, other stories…

Sometimes, I’ll choose instead to watch mystery series (usually British) on my laptop, and sometimes, I’ll call my mum or a friend. When my eyes have tired and the shadow of pain intrudes, I can turn to the window, in daylight or darkness, and listen to the world or watch day turn to night. Finally, I can close my eyes and follow a brisk stream of images, released by a part of my mind with which I barely feel acquainted. I can summon feelings of love, of sadness, of gratitude, of anguish or acceptance.

In her message, Louise added:

Tu m’as donné un superbe cadeau, celui de prendre goût à la poésie en anglais que je ne connaissais pas! Merci pour tous les moments de joie que me procure la poésie! bisous. (LC)

Translation:

You’ve given me a fabulous gift, by providing me with a taste for English language poetry, about which I knew nothing! Thank you for the moments of joy that this poetry offers me!

I found this today, while preparing this post. I owe so much to the writers, the wordsmiths of this world.

Inside the word “emergency” is “emerge”; from an emergency new things come forth.

The old certainties are crumbling fast, but danger and possibility are sisters.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark

Art:
1. “Waiting for Something, 1-30”, Susan Adams (b.1966)

2. “A Poet’s Ciphers”, Ceri Giraldus Richards (1903-1971)

MAKING SOMEONE ELSE HAPPY

COLLABORATION NO. 319

Saturday, October 23rd, 2021

It took an extra few days, but here we are, Louise and I, with a quote worthy of rumination.

This offering of Louise’s combines several of her most constant preoccupations. She introduced it this way:

Alors j’ai trouvé la phrase de Jane Goodall que je voulais te faire partager afin de l’utiliser dans Aubade! (LC)

LA CITATION:

It is good to have at least one walk a day” said Jane, after a few steps. “Though I don’t like to go for a walk without a dog.”

“Why is that?”

“A dog gives a walk a purpose.”

“How?”

“Well, you are making someone else happy.”

Jane Goodall, The Book of Hope, Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams, 2021

It’s a passage drawn from The Book of Hope, which is a collection of long and probing essays and conversations from the minds of Jane Goodall and Douglas Adams. (see link).

While its main focus is, unsurprisingly, the climate crisis and the loss of biodiversity–even in a pandemic–it also meanders to the smaller elements of life which nourish hope and. perhaps, galvanize.

Louise, who is still struggling to overcome the blues that weigh her down since the loss of her beloved companion of fifteen years, Pouchekin, her Wheaten terrier (and the unwelcome arrival of the COVID pandemic) has been searching for reading material and music to help elevate her mood…and her spirit.

It has come as an affecting surprise to me that someone as radiant, as active and as dynamic as Louise (who is such an independent spirit, a force of nature) should suffer so terribly from the effects of prolonged isolation and grief.

And so, with her daily routines and adventures out in the world already curtailed and even crushed by COVID, there has been little to pull her away from the incalculable absences of Pouchkine, sewn into even the smallest moments of every day.

It’s especially poignant, then, that Louise chose a quote that turns our perspective around. Perhaps her grief will only subside when she has found another companion, a friend to make happy.

ART:

  1. “Julian Walking a Dog”, by Mary Fedden (1915-2012)
  2. “Matchstick Man and his Dog”, by Tom Elliott (b.1965) and Apprentices from the WEC Group
  3. “Christine Sumner (d. 1992)”, by Bohuslav Barlow (b.1947)

TO KNOW, TO GENTLE

COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 318

October 18th, 2021

The Little Prince, by Antoine de St-Exupéry (Le Petit Prince in the original French), is a book that has brought far more to Louise’s life than the pleasure of reading it that first time. She might say that she considers it a font of inspiration; a literary work with the force of a great spiritual source. I know that she returns to it again and again, drawing from its originality and richness.

This was how she presented her choice of quote to me:

Bon matin ma chère! Ce propos qui est apparu sur mon FB ce matin m’émeut à chaque fois que je le lis…. apprivoiser l’autre prend du temps, de la patience et aussi des silences…. je t’aime mon amie! (LC)

My translation:

Good morning my dear! This subject that appeared on my FB this morning moves me every time I read it…apprivoiser [my choice not to translate] another takes time, patience and also silences…I love you my friend!” (LC)

LA CITATION:

“… Le renard se tut et regarda longtemps le petit prince:

-S’il te plaît… apprivoise-moi ! dit-il.

Je veux bien, répondit le petit prince, mais je n’ai pas beaucoup de temps. J’ai des amis à découvrir et beaucoup de choses à connaître.

On ne connaît que les choses que l’on apprivoise, dit le renard. Les hommes n’ont plus le temps de rien connaître. Ils achètent des choses toutes faites chez les marchands. Mais comme il n’existe point de marchands d’amis, les hommes n’ont plus d’amis. Si tu veux un ami, apprivoise-moi !

Que faut-il faire? dit le petit prince.

Il faut être très patient, répondit le renard. Tu t’assoiras d’abord un peu loin de moi, comme ça, dans l’herbe. Je te regarderai du coin de l’œil et tu ne diras rien. Le langage est source de malentendus. Mais, chaque jour, tu pourras t’asseoir un peu plus près…”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince

Goodreads translation:

“Please–tame me!’ he said.

‘I want to, very much,’ the little prince replied. ‘But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.’

‘One only understands the things that one tames,’ said the fox. ‘Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me.’

‘What must I do, to tame you?’ asked the little prince.

‘You must be very patient,’ replied the fox. ‘First you will sit down at a little distance from me-like that-in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day…”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

What jumped out at me the moment I read Louise’s offering was the word apprivoiser, which has always fascinated me because it illustrates the obstacles inherent in translating. You see, there IS a word in French that means “to tame”, and it’s dompter. A lion tamer is thus un dompteur de lion.

I remember the discussions I had with my FSL students surrounding “apprivoiser”. Its meaning is so much more nuanced than simply to tame, which is evident, I think, in The Little Prince. In contrast with dompter, which is a unilateral action–one party imposing their reality or their will upon that of another–apprivoiser and to be apprivoisé is a reciprocal experience. It’s mutual.

And that’s what makes it such a lovely verb. It requires patience. A willingness to give and take, and to bide one’s time.

A person can be apprivoisé, but so can a situation or a reality. In English, you wouldn’t say: I’m taming this new job experience, but in French, you would say: J’apprivoise doucement mon nouveau poste, mes nouvelles responsabilités. Apprivoiser can also mean, in part, to gentle a living thing, or to acclimate to something or someone new. To become more familiar with something, or someone, in increments.

Such a meaningful verb.

ART:

Illustration by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, from Le Petit Prince (1943)



FLEETING MOMENTS

COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 315

September 20th, 2021

Louise sent me a poem a few days ago and confessed that, when she reached its end, she discovered that it was once again the work of Paul Éluard.

His is a voice that, were she an anglophone, she might say “just gets to to her“. And that’s what our collaboration is all about.

Here is the poem, taken from the collection “L’Amour la poésie”:

ELLE SE PENCHE SUR MOI– Paul Éluard

Elle se penche sur moi
Le cœur ignorant
Pour voir si je l’aime
Elle a confiance elle oublie
Sous les nuages de ses paupières
Sa tête s’endort dans mes mains
Où sommes-nous
Ensemble inséparables
Vivants vivants
Vivant vivante
Et ma tête roule en ses rêves.


Rough translation:

SHE LEANS OVER ME- Paul Éluard

She leans over me

Her heart unknowing

To see if I love her

She is confident she forgets

Under the clouds of her eyelids

Her head falls asleep in my hands

Where are we

Together inseparable

Alive alive [both of us]

Alive [me] alive [her]

And my mind rolls through her dreams.

* * *

I enjoy the simplicity of this poem. The absent punctuation. The intimacy.

Many of Éluard’s creations are like this one.

I don’t live in this space anymore, and I realize that I may only have inhabited such emotions for very brief, infrequent moments in my former life (that is: pre-cancer, pre-separation). That wonderful “oneness”, that feeling of being seen that we so recently touched upon. Or maybe it’s simply that they have faded, scrubbed pale by what came after…

But I think that Louise’s life may have been rich with such experiences, and that in some way, returning to Éluard brings these feelings and memories back.

The instant described here is so lovely…

Are such tiny snapshots retrievable in our memories? Or does time leave us with a mingling of many of such fleeting moments?

ART:

  1. By Mark English (1933-2019)
  2. By Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

INVISIBLE TO THE EYE

COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 312

September 6th, 2021

These are quotes that Louise sent me 8 days ago. She had just come back from a solitary walk, and many of the neighbours she encountered asked after Pouchkine,, not yet knowing that he had died weeks before…She was warmed by this evidence that Pouchkine had made so many friends during his lifetime.

Louise described her literary choices as short, but intense. She referred to the poetess as “your friend Emily Dickinson” (did I introduce Louise to her work? I can’t remember).

LES CITATIONS

Louise’s first choice is an excerpt from an Emily Dickinson poem:

J’habite la demeure du possible. Elle a plus de portes et de fenêtres que la demeure de la raison.”

-Emily Dickinson

In the original English:

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –
[…]”

Her second choice comes from the writings of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince, which Louise considers to be : [L’] “Une de mes bibles”.

On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” Saint -Exupéry, Le Petit Prince

In English:

It is only with the heart that one sees rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Louise ended her message to me in this way:

Tu me diras que c’est un peu facile mais cette parole si elle était appliquée dans chacune de nos vies, la vie serait plus heureuse et plus facile…..(LC)

ART:

  1. “Realms of Possibility”, Claire Cooper Walsh (b. 1967)
  2. “Hearts and Minds”, Matilda Tumim (b. 1963)

FRIEND

COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 311

August 24th, 2021

Louise’s committed patronage of her local book shop has yielded so much treasure. Last week, it was The Friend, by Sigrid Nunez.

I don’t know if buying this book was a result of a fruitful exchange with the shop’s owner or manager, or whether it was pure serendipity, though I suspect it was the former. It was a hit. The Friend is Nunez’s second to last novel. She has written eight.

It seems to me that the transformative nature of experience is very dependent on the context in which it’s lived; in this case, timing was everything for Louise and this wonderful book. At a moment when her heart was still aching with grief, The Friend was placed in her hand. And so, she was able to extract so much more from it. It brought her both sadness and consolation–and the perspective that’s only possible with the passage of time.

Here’s the quote she chose from The Friend:

LA CITATION:

Rien n’a changé. C’est toujours aussi simple. Il me manque. il me manque chaque jour. Il me manque tellement.

Mais que deviendrais-je si ce sentiment disparaissait? Je ne voudrais pas que cela se produise.

C’est ce que j’ai dit au psy` qu’il ne me manque plus ne me rendrait pas heureuse, pas du tout.

On ne bouscule pas l’amour comme dit la chanson (You cant hurry love). On ne bouscule pas la peine non plus.”

Sigrid Nunez- L’ami

In the original English of the novel:

Nothing has changed. It’s still very simple. I miss him. I miss him every day. I miss him very much.
But how would it be if that feeling was gone?
I would not want that to happen.
I told the shrink: it would not make me happy at all not to miss him anymore. You can’t hurry love, as the song goes. You can’t hurry grief either.”

― Sigrid Nunez, The Friend

ART:

  1. “GRIEF”, Gene Gould
  2. The Friend, book cover
  3. “Grief”, Matthijs Maris (1839-1917)

THE POETRY OF THE STREET

COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 310

August 20th, 2021

Louise has deepened her dive into reading these days….she messaged me last evening telling me about a novel she had found at Clio (her local bookstore which she patronizes like a champ). It’s The Friend, by Sigrid Nunez, which I read when it first came out (after reading an intriguing review in the New York Times). It’s a story about grief, and friendship: between humans and between a woman and a great dane. And, I would also say, it’s one of those wonderful books about the city and its life.

But it was yesterday that she sent me this quote, which I didn’t get to in time, and am presenting today:

LA CITATION:

Il faut que j’évoque aussi ces moments fugitifs de bouffées de poésie heureuse qui nous saisissent quasiment de rien, parce qu’on marche, et que le corps nous dit sa joie de fonctionner comme une bonne machine. La poésie s’intensifie quand la marche a lieu sous le soleil d’hiver ou une belle pluie de printemps. J’ai eu un instant de joie poétique à voir dans la rue, à un arrêt d’autobus, le visage éclairé par un merveilleux sourire d’une jeune fille en train de lire une lettre. J’ai souvent trouvé la poésie dans la rue, dans un marché, un restaurant, et surtout en contemplant dans le métro des visages féminins, jeunes, mûrs ou âgés, au mystère insondable.

Edgar MorinLeçons d’un siècle de vie, 2021

A quick search revealed to me that Morin, who is a centenarian, is a man of tremendous stature. And yet, from this book, published in Morin’s hundred and first year of life, Louise chose a passage that is not unlike what she shared in her most recent choice of Serge Bouchard’s writing, One Moment.

In this passage, time is presented in life’s fugitive, poetic moments, described above by Morin as those moments that appear almost out of nothing, when we’re strolling, and our body is exulting in its simple ability to work like a well-oiled machine. The poetry is heightened when one is walking under a sunny winter sky or a lovely spring rain. Morin continues: “I had such a moment of poetic bliss upon seeing in the street, at a bus stop, the face of a young girl illuminated by a marvellous smile as she read a letter.” (my translation)

He adds: “I have often found poetry in the street, at a market, a restaurant and especially when contemplating, while riding the metro, the faces of women, young, mature or old, and their unfathomable mystery. “

  • Louise commented: Cet homme a 100 ans mais garde une telle jeunesse d’esprit et de coeur! Une telle joie de vivre qui m’éblouit. Je suis à lire ce livre et je le lis avec pondération afin d’étirer mon plaisir! (LC)

Photography:

  1. Edgar Morin (Wikipedia)
  2. From the blog: https://ahippyinparis.wordpress.com/
  3. (Shuttercock)

PILING DREAMS UP

COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 308

Sunday, August 15th, 2021

There are all kinds of reasons why Louise might have picked up Emily Carr’s whimsical book, “Flirt, Punk and Loo”. Because, as she explains below, she is a dog lover–especially scruffy, goofy dogs (in this case, Bobtails). Because she is an admirer of Carr’s work, which she was able to see in person at Montreal’s Musée des Beaux Arts. And because she delights in Carr’s writing as much as in her artwork.

I think, too, that in many ways, Louise and Emily might be considered kindred spirits: strong, independent women happy in their own company and when immersed in the smells, sights and sounds of the natural world.

Louise concluded her message to me saying that she thought Carr’s words were soothing and calming on a Sunday morning.

Ce livret que j’ai acheté lors de l’exposition de Carr au MBA, je le lis et relis régulièrement. Autant le propos que les dessins me plaisent et me stimulent. J’aurais aimé connaître cette femme amoureuse des Bobtails, parmi mes chiens favoris. J’aime les chiens au look ébouriffé et un peu fou!

Je trouvais ce propos doux et apaisant pour une matinée dominicale. ” (LC)

LA CITATION:

“The Garden

The garden was just ordinary-common flowers, everyday shrubs, apple-trees. Like a turbulent river the Bobtails raced among gay flowers and comfortable shrubs on their way from sleeping-pen to play-field, a surge of grey movement weaving beautiful patterns among poppy, rose, delphinium, whose flowers showed more brilliantly colourful for the grey intertwistings of shaggy-coated dogs among them.

In the centre of the lawn grew a cherry-tree better at blossom than at fruiting. To look into the heart of the cherry-tree when it was blossoming was a marvel almost greater than one could bear. Millions and millions of white tiny white bells trembling, swaying, too full of white holiness to ring. Beneath the cherry-tree the Bobbies danced-bounding, rebounding on solid earth, or lying flat in magnificent relaxation.

East, west, north the garden was bounded by empty lots; its southern limit was the straight square shadow of my apartment house.

The depth and narrowness of my lot made the height above it seem higher, a height in which you could pile dreams up, up until the clouds hid them.”

Emily Carr, Flirt, Punk and Loo. Written and Illustrated by Emily Carr

ART:

  1. Carr with her pets in the garden of her home on Simcoe Street in Victoria, 1918
  2. Cherry blossoms
  3. Emily Carr, Above the Trees, c. 1939, oil on paper

ISLANDS

COLLABORATION/OFFERING 306

August 9th, 2021

Today, Louise’s chosen quote subverted my expectations with its exploration of the meaning of islands.

I find Marc Séguin’s thoughts on the subject–nestled in a book published in 2019–startling in their insight.

In this excerpt, he writes of how globalization reshapes our lives and borders, making cities and countries disappear. But rare places remain; unique places with invisible ramparts persist. We call them islands, and as the world becomes more and more populated, they’ll become essential to us; they will be the treasures that hold fast in an overpopulated world. Islands are fragile, and yet they provide us with a sense of peace and help reconcile us with a civilization that seems hellbent on connecting itself with everything and everyone…islands are never virtual.They exist, we name them and have always told their stories. Upon their ground, we have erected kingdoms, prisons and Edens.

Islands are precise places with discernable contours. You cannot lose yourself there. And yet…

What is their fascination?

Their moral distance is no doubt part of the mystery…on every island there is a ghost, a spirit of calm, and a sense of having left part of one’s self behind, while embodying another. An invisible distance between self and self.

LA CITATION:

Alors qu’on se mondialise et que les frontières entre les villes et les pays disparaissent, des lieux rares et uniques, aux remparts invisibles, persistent. Les îles sont et seront des richesses de plus en plus nécessaires, parce que détachées d’un monde trop habité. Elles sont fragiles et on y a un sentiment qui, curieusement apaise et réconcilie avec une civilisation qui cherche désespérément à se relier à tout et à tous avec une urgence difficile à comprendre. …. les îles ne sont jamais virtuelles. Elles existent, on les nomme et on les raconte depuis toujours. On y a érigé des royaumes, des prisons et des édens.

Ce sont des lieux précis dont on peut retracer les contours. Impossible de s’y perdre. Et pourtant….

Pourquoi fascinent-elles?

Leur éloignement moral est certainement responsable d’une partie du mystère. ….. Il y a sur toutes les îles un fantôme de quiétude, et un sentiment de laisser une partie de soi derrière et d’en incarner une autre. Une distance invisible, entre soi et soi.

Marc Séguin, “Préface de Le Saint-Laurent D’Île en Île. Rencontres”.

ART:

  1. Featured image above: “J’ai rêvé d’une île”, Michel Saillour (b. 1931)
  2. “Ardvreck Castle in Sutherland, Scotland”, George Blackie Sticks (1843-1938)
  3. “Drake Island”, Sue Wills (b. 1962)
  4. “Lundy Castle” Devon Charles Thomas Burt (1823-1902)
  5. “The Island of Zante”, William White Warren (1832-1915), Victorian and Albert Museum, London.

JOURNEY

COLLABORATION/OFFERING 305

Thursday, August 5th, 2021

This morning, Louise’s choice of quote has a very carpe diem feel to it. It’s about being open to life. About embracing your destiny. Higelin summons us to allow ourselves to be guided by instinct, to follow new paths where, he writes, everything becomes important. To feel as a child again. To be ever curious, always learning–stating that everything has meaning when one travels this way through life.

LA CITATION:

« Les choses arrivent à qui est disponible pour les vivre, les entendre ou les voir. C’est formidable d’être à la disposition de son destin. Sinon, que se passe-t-il ? Rien.Se laisser guider par son instinct, suivre des chemins inconnus où tout devient important. Avoir le sentiment d’être de nouveau un enfant. Être curieux du monde et apprendre sans cesse. Tout a du sens quand on est comme cela, en voyage dans sa vie. »-

– Jacques Higelin

ART:

  1. “A Ship in the Moonlight”, John Everett (1876-1949). National Maritime Museum
  2. “Journey”, Angela J. Conifer (b.1958)

GATHERING THE LOST SOULS

COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 304

August 2nd, 2021

The gaps between posts at Aubade grow longer and more frequent. Maybe it fits this scraggly new stage of COVID, which feels like it has ended, sort of, but not ended (will it ever end, or will it keep transforming itself into a new menace?).

Louise sent this passage to me on July 25th, with the short note that she was very moved by it, and that she was thinking of me…And though I am not a lost soul–I am, in fact, held and supported by many, many loved ones–I have been travelling a harsher path, of late, and am trying to learn to live life to the fullest despite my health being broken.

And so I gratefully accept this poem which is one of loving acceptance and healing.

Merci Louise.

LA CITATION:

I shall gather up all the lost souls

That wander this earth

All the ones that are alone

All the ones that are broken

All the ones that never really fitted in

I shall gather them all up

And together we shall find our home.

Poem written by Athey Thompson

Taken from A Little Book Of Poetry Tales of the old forest faeries

ART: “Lost Souls”, Photo, Jay Satriani

OF TRUTH AND ENCHANTMENT

COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 301

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.

LA CITATION:

“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

Louise comments:

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)

and you would bring you

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.

Louise wrote:

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:

LA CITATION:

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….

Rough translation:

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

THRESHOLDS

COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 299

Thursday, June 3rd, 2021

LA CITATION:

“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.

-Marguerite Yourcenar.

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.

ART:

  1. “Landscape of the Threshold”, Cecil Collins (1908-1989), Tate
  2. Photo by Domenico Mastromatteo, 2021

CAPTURE THE MOMENT

Friday, May 28th, 2021

COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 297

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.

She wrote:

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…

LA CITATION:

“[…] 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.

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.

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

A TASTE OF INFINITY

COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 296

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.”

ART:

1.Anita Klein, “Patting the Dog”, 2013

2.Untitled“, John Miller (1931-2002), Royal Cornwall Hospital

3, Serge Bouchard with Marie


THE SOUL TRAVELS

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.

LA CITATION

“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)

ART:

  1. Photo by Patricia Bench
  2. . Art by Marck Fink

THE APRIL MOON

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.

LA CITATION:

“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)

“April Super-Moon over Washington”, Chris Whiton

INTOXICATION

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)

LA CITATION:

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:

DEUXIÈME CITATION:

Being a writer requires an intoxication with language.”

-JIm Harrison

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.

ART:

Camille Javal, “The Heart Has a Language of its own”

OLD DOGS

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,

She wrote:

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)

LA CITATION:

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)



INTENTION

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::

Gail’s Haiku:

Where is the darkness?

You are the Light of the World

Unborn, Undying

by Gail Richardson

ART:

  1. “Aspiration”, Aaron Douglas, 1936, oil on canvas, 152.4 x 152.4 cm (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)
  2. “Lonely Soul”, Annette
  3. “The Light of the World”, Kiki Smith

JOIE DE VIVRE

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.

She writes:

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)

LA CITATION:

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)

Art:
“Ballade pour la joie de vivre, 2000”, Yoêl Benharrouche

THIS MOMENT

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):

LA CITATION:

“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.

A SMILE

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.

LA CITATION:

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)

ART:

  1. The Traveller–Valery Koroshilov (b.1961)
  2. Whistler, Roguish Smile, Evening–Mortimer L. Menpes (1855-1938)
  3. Beatrix Potter in Old Age–Delmar Harmood Banner (1896-1983)

THE ORIGIN OF IDEAS

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!

LA CITATION

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)

ART:

  1. A Dark Horse, a leap of Faith, by Miriam Sweeney
  2. Book cover

THE SHORTEST DAY

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.

LA CITATION:

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.

Welcome Yule!

ARTL Wendy Andrew https://www.paintingdreams.co.uk/products/yule-card

CANINE WISDOM

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.

LA CITATION:

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

unknown artist; Poodle; Boston Borough Council; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/poodle-80622

WELCOME TO AUBADE: SEARCHING FOR TREASURE DURING A PANDEMIC

Jamieson, T.; Late Autumn Sunrise, Scalloway; Scalloway Museum, the Shetland Bus Friendship Society and Scalloway History Group; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/late-autumn-sunrise-scalloway-167036

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.

Baynes, Keith; Still Life with Books, a Lamp and Jug of Flowers; Charleston; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/still-life-with-books-a-lamp-and-jug-of-flowers-73738

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.

Marsal, Edouard Antoine; Still Life with Books, a Bottle and a Bundle of Cigars; The Bowes Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/still-life-with-books-a-bottle-and-a-bundle-of-cigars-44426

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.


Corbet, Matthew Ridley; Sunrise; Plymouth City Council: Museum and Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/sunrise-147581

TREE BRANCH SWAYS SLOWLY

January 28th, 2022

IT’S BEEN A WHILE! Here is what Louise sent me yesterday:

LA CITATION/OFFERING

En ce début de matinée, l’herbe haute embuée de givre tend sur le paysage une écume glacée, immobile; au sommet de la colline, une lumière irréelle perce le sous-bois.

La maison des belettes, Nathalie Fougeras.

My translation:

As morning breaks, the high, frosted grass covers the landscape with its spume, motionless; at the crown of the hill, a surreal light pierces the undergrowth.

La maison des belettes, Nathalie Fougeras.

Louise followed her choice of quote with the following:

Ce livre m’a été offert par mon amie dont la petite de 4 ans a été reconnue autiste. Et ce livre est écrit et illustré par une autiste. C’est beau, beau, touchant et il parle de la nature, de la vraie nature, pas celle contrôlée par les hommes!

Elle parle d’un vieux thuya qui n’a jamais été taillé et de voir toute la majesté du port de cet arbre très vieux alors que nous les humains, nous les taillons pour qu’ils soient carrés et uniformes. Quel gâchis! Voilà!

My translation:

This book was given to me by a friend whose little four year-old daughter was just diagnosed with autism. And the author and illustrator of this book is also autistic. It’s a beautiful, beautiful book that speaks of nature, real nature, not nature controlled by humans!

It’s about an old thuja that was never trimmed, and it’s about seeing all of the majesty of this very old tree, while we humans prune them into uniform geometrical shapes. What a mess! Voilà!



In this hearfelt message to me, Louise sets up this beautiful parallel about the way we treat life—both plant and human–coercing each to fit into a very circumscribed view of what each should be, and diminishing both in doing so.

I’ve always hated gardens in which the imprint of humans is seen everywhere: the classic French garden, for example, considered a pinnacle of gardening art, has always made me feel sad, and even a bit disgusted.

And I think that we are much the same in our treatment of each other.

Tree branch sways slowly

    As a child sings a sweet song

    Gracefully it goes.

Haiku source: http://woto.com/examples-of-haiku-about-nature

IMAGES (from left to right):

  1. Novel cover
  2. Classic French garden
  3. Garden gone wild
  4. Sculpted thujas
  5. Wild thujas

WONDERMENT

Friday, January 14th, 2022

LA CITATION/OFFERING:

In the preface of a graphic novel given to her by a friend, Louise found the following quote:

“”Un songe d’âge d’or, un mirage d’innocence champêtre, artiste ou poétique, m’a prise dès l’enfance et m’a suivie dans l’âge mûr.” – George Sand

My translation:

A golden age dream, a mirage of rustic innocence, artistic or poetic, took hold of me in childhood and carried me through to maturity.” – George Sand

Written almost two centuries ago, Sand’s words got Louise thinking about this capacity for wonderment that is so present in us through childhood, and how, though it fades over time, we should do everything we can to rekindle it, and be capable of dreaming.

In her words:

Garder la capacité d’émerveillement de l’enfant en nous et si un peu affadie par les années, tout faire pour la raviver et savoir rêver! (LC)

We’ll soon be entering the third year of life in a pandemic…
What effect have all of the upheavals, the restrictions and the anguish of parents and most adults had on children?

I think that only time can deliver some of the answers to this question., but it seems inevitable that some measure of insouciance, of being carefree and untroubled by the concerns of the adult world (is that the same as the “real” world?) has been taken away from those who have not yet reached adulthood.

We’ll have to work hard to restore our children’s and our own capacity to marvel at the wonders of life on this extraordinary planet.

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

― W.B. Yeats

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”

― Rachel Carson

ART:

  1. CHILD’S WONDERMENT, C.V.Morlais Weight (1908-1997)
  2. ABSTRACT WONDER, Emma Catherine Debs

WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND

Monday, December 27th, 2021

Though it arrives a few days later, what with all of the commotion of the Holidays, here is Louise’s most recent offering:

CITATION/OFFERING:

From The Princess [Sweet and low, sweet and low]

Alfred Lord Tennyson – 1809-1892

Sweet and low, sweet and low,
   Wind of the western sea,
Low, low, breathe and blow,
   Wind of the western sea!
Over the rolling waters go,
Come from the dying moon, and blow,
   Blow him again to me;
While my little one, while my pretty one, sleeps.

Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
   Father will come to thee soon;
Rest, rest, on mother’s breast,
   Father will come to thee soon;
Father will come to his babe in the nest,
Silver sails all out of the west
   Under the silver moon:
Sleep, my little one, sleep, my pretty one, sleep.

It’s a lovely poem that I had never read or heard, and her choice surprised me. She wrote:

Ce poème m’a rappelé mon père qui travaillait de longues heures et qui le soir venu, lorsqu’il rentrait à la maison, venait me voir dans mon lit et me chantait “C’est la poulette grise…..”. Ma mère m’a racontée cette portion d’histoire de ces moments tendres que mon père se permettait sans que j’en sois consciente. Je suis certaine, que j’en ai gardé des traces. J’ai toujours senti que mon père m’aimait même si cela ne se traduisait pas par des mots, mais plus par des instants partagés à cueillir des petits fruits, à déneiger la cour ensemble, à aller en camion avec lui passer de longues journées à l’attendre. Je me sentais bien et sécure à ses côtés. J’ai aimé et j’aime encore profondément mon père pour tout ce qu’il était et qu’il a fait pour que j’aie une vie meilleure que la sienne. (LC)

My translation:

This poem reminded me of my father whose work days were long and who, at day’s end, when he returned home, came to my bedside and sang “C’est la poulette grise…“. It’s my mother who told me this part of the story of those tender moments that my father created as I lay sleeping. I feel sure that I still carry traces of them. I always felt my father’s love for me, even if it wasn’t expressed in words, but mostly in such shared moments as picking berries together, or clearing the yard of snow together, or spending long days travelling alongside him in his truck, and waiting for him. I felt safe next to him. I loved him and still love him dearly for everything he was and everything he did to give me a better life than what he had known. (LC)

* * * *

After reading this, I messaged Louise, asking her how old she was when her father died. She wrote back that she was in her forties, and that her father died on her birthday. She added: “Il ne voulait pas que je l’oublie.” [He didn’t want me to forget him!]. Finally, she wrote: “Il est présent dans ma vie chaque jour.” [ ! feel his presence in my life every day.]

And this got me thinking about love, and death, and what we leave behind. I’m certainly moving ever closer to that moment, and as the seasons change, so do my fears and feelings. Of late, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about when we pass through death’s doorway and if I’m honest with myself–in an understandable bit of wishful thinking–I imagine that door staying just slightly ajar, so that I will continue to look back at those I have loved. And left.

And ah! I have to remind myself that the door will shut tight, and I will see nothing and know nothing. I will have simply ceased to be. And this harsh thought of something severed, of my love extinguished, hurts.

Today, Louise’s words remind me of the gentleness and the love that continue to live and flow on the other side of the door. Her memories of her father are vivid and specific and will exist as long as she does…

So there it is: this bridge between life and death, love and separation, need not last forever…It seems to me that if the memory of those I have loved and lost lives on, vividly, and then less and less so, for as long as my children, and perhaps also my grandchildren, live, then my love will have run its course. And what will remain will be the slightest of seeds that may, if the conditions are right, sprout into unknowable, unpredictable, and brand new expressions of love.

ART: The Silver Moon, Karen Kansala

COURAGE IS THE MEASURE OF…

Friday, December, 17th 2021

Here is Louise’s most recent offering. It’s from David Whyte’s collection of reflections, Consolations. As luck would have it, I own this book. I bought a copy almost three years ago, not long after my journey with illness officially began. Whyte is a poet who, in this book, shares his meditations on the meaning of a great many nouns…all words that bounce around in our written and spoken language, but which he unpacks in a deeply thoughtful and poetic way. Louise found this quote in a French translation

CITATION/OFFERING:

Le courage est la mesure de notre participation sincère avec la vie, avec les autres, (….) avec un avenir. Être courageux n’implique pas nécessairement d’aller quelque part ou de faire quelque chose, au-delà de prendre conscience de ces sentiments profonds qui nous habitent et d’affronter les vulnérabilités sans qui en résultent.” –David Whyte

In the original English:

Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work; a future. To be courageous is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences.
-David Whyte, Consolations

He continues:
To be courageous is to seat our feelings deeply in the body and in the world: to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about: with a person, a future, a possibility in society, or with an unknown that begs us on and always has begged us on..”
-David Whyte

Each time I read from Consolations, I’m struck by its richness. Reading each entry is effortless, and yet, each contains so much more than meets the eye…I’m very grateful for writing like this…For this sharing of slow and deeply considered interpretations.

To her choice of quote, Louise adds:

Oui, parfois j’aimerais bien avoir moins de sentiments car vivre avec au quotidien n’est pas toujours simple. Propos qui réconforte et qui permet de se sentir moins seule dans ce monde pas toujours dans l’harmonie! (LC)

My translation:
Yes, there are times when I would like to feel less, because daily life isn’t always simple. Words that comfort and make it possible to feel less alone in this often dissonant world. (LC)

* * *

When I read Whyte’s words, I felt them resonate inside me, describing, in their own way, what’s required in order to live with a sense of wholeness, of connection and of truth.

As I write this, we Montrealers have just been advised that because COVID infection rates (especially of the more recent variants) have tripled, it will no longer be possible to gather in large groups for the Holidays.

We must adapt to the unpredictable, and for this, a great measure of courage is required.

A TREMBLING OF THE HEART

Monday, December 6th, 2021

A few days ago, Louise sent me the following quote, saying only that she had been moved by it. The words are those of the Dalai Lama. Naturally, Louise sent them to me in the language in which she read them, which is French. I haven’t been able to find the Dalai Lama’s original words, which were likely in English, but here is Louise’s offering, and my translation.

LA CITATION/OFFERING:

La compassion c’est le tremblement du coeur face à la souffrance, ainsi que le désir d’aider à apaiser et à soulager cette souffrance.” Dalaï-Lama

My translation:
Compassion is a trembling of the heart in the presence of suffering, as well as a yearning to comfort and alleviate that suffering.

It’s the poetry of the Dalai Lama’s message that makes it so easy to grasp, don’t you think?

Compassion expressed as something that isn’t rooted in thought, in reason, but which emerges from that place inside us where feeling– LOVE–is born: the metaphorical “heart”.

I have watched documentaries and read about how humans are hardwired to be empathetic and compassionate. Com/passion quite literally means “I feel your pain”–“I suffer with you”.

It casts such a different light on suffering, that human experience we try so hard to escape or to flee.

ART:
1. “Urban (The Lovely People)”, Arron Bird, Wharfside Walk, Birmingham, West Midlands

2. Avalokiteśvara, Bodhisattva of Compassion Seated on a Lotus Petal, Unknown artist.

3. “The Hands”, Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975), Bristol Museum and Art Gallery


SING YOUR HEART OUT

Thursday, November 25th, 2021

From Louise, a few days ago:

Bonjour! pour alimenter Aubade, voici un propos de Mary Oliver qui m’a plu!

Chanter, un rêve pour moi qui n’ai pas de voix mais je me permets en privé! Je recommence à chanter et danser…. signe que la vie reprend ses droits peu à peu! De la lumière au bout du tunnel! et voici!

J’écoute justement de la musique et je chantonne! bises ma douce amie! (LC)

My translation:
Good morning! Here’s some food for Aubade: something from Mary Oliver that I enjoyed!
It’s about singing, which I can only dream of because I have no voice, though I allow myself to sing in private! I’ve started to sing and dance again…a sign that I’m bouncing back a little! There is light at the end of the tunnell! Truly!

I’m listening to music and singing along! Kisses my sweet friend! (LC)

LA CITATION:

I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing especially when singing is not necesseraly prescribed. -Mary Oliver

My translation:

Je crois en la bonté, la bienveillance. Et aussi à l’espièglerie! Et aussi à l’acte de chanter, surtout quand on chante de façon imprévue.

Once again, Louise’s quote resonates not only with how she feels in a given moment, but also with her deeper disposition to life. Louise is feisty. And outgoing. And, as you’ve surely noticed as this blog has grown, how passionate she is, how very alive. I think she also relates to Mary Oliver’s gentle, transgressive wit.

I suppose people like Louise are made to carve their way to the life they want and to fight for it. I think they recognize all of the moments in which it’s possible to go straight to the marrow of life. I also know that this entails prodigious energy, and requires being able to put this tremendous appetite for life–passion, travel, voracious curiosity, fierce independence and fierce love–before all else.

These are the traits that draw me to Louise. They’re familiar to me–I see a milder version of them in my slightly older sister (16 months separate us, she would insist on this)–and awe inspiring.

In life, as in song, there are people who are happy to be soloists, who yearn to be so and seek that exhilaration, and others who will never choose to step beyond the bounds of the chorus, of the choir. I think Louise is the former. I know that I’m the latter.

In adolescence, my older sister and I sang in a church choir–both of us sopranos–with a bunch of lovely people who were much older than us, and who became our friends. Many times during those years, I heard singing referred to as “making a joyful noise”, and this seems just right. I would never have stepped out of the group to sing a solo, but my sister did so easily and brilliantly.

We are who we are: products of our gene pool and our birth order, certainly; and what life throws at us, and how we meet those challenges, and what we learn from them…And what else? I suppose it takes a lifetime to figure it out.

ART:

1. “Jack’s Trip Ashore” (panel 7 of 9), Unknown artist

2. “Sunday Night Was Singing Night”. James Bentley (1921-2004)

3. Maria Callas, “Casta Diva”, Vicenzo Bellini

THE ESSENCE OF FRIENDSHIP

Friday, November 12th, 2021

On Wednesday evening, Louise sent me a message that kept me in suspense till the next day:

Allo! je viens de trouver un propos sur l’amitié et l’amour qui m’a séduite! je t’en fais part demain! (LC)

Translation: “Hello! I just found a comment about friendship and love that charmed me! I’ll send it to you tomorrow!” (LC)

And then, true to her word, she sent me the following:

LA CITATION:
Pour toi mon amie, ce matin! (LC)

Je crois d’ailleurs de l’amitié comme de l’amour dont elle participe, demande presque autant d’art qu’une figure de danse réussie. Il y faut beaucoup d’élan et beaucoup de retenue, beaucoup d’échanges de paroles et beaucoup de silences Et surtout beaucoup de respect.”

Marguerite Yourcenar

My translation:

“In fact, I think that friendship, like love of which it is a part, requires almost as much artistry as an accomplished dance movement. There is so much impulse and so much restraint, and there are many spirited exchanges and many silences. And especially, considerable respect.”

Louise’s comment:

Elle décrit si bien l’essence de l’amitié dans des mots d’une beauté sublime. Je pense que dans ma vie, la venue de notre amitié m’apporte tellement autant les jours de paroles que ceux de silence. Dans ce dernier cas, je me dis que tu es absorbée par ta propre vie et que tu reviendras lorsque tu seras à nouveau disponible. Et je ne m’empêche jamais de t’écrire pour autant. Je me sens accueillie par toi! Merci pour cette amitié si précieuse! je t’aime mon amie! (LC)

My translation:

“She describes the essence of friendship in such sublime language. I think that in my own life, the advent of our friendship has given me so much, whether it’s been a day when we messaged each other or a silent day. When there’s silence, I say to myself that you’re wrapped up in your own life and that you’ll return to Messenger when you can. And that never stops me from writing to you. I always feel welcome to do so. Thank you for your precious friendship! I love you, my friend!” (LC)

The first thing I want to point out to you is the exclamation marks in Louise’s writing that punctuate her messages. I’ve always felt that they are an unconscious expression of her tremendous vital energy and her passionate nature. She is a very “true” person.

And then, there is the fact–which really is quite astonishing–that Louise and I have only met in person three times, I think. The first time was when she came to have lunch here, in the new house I share with my son Simon and our friend. The second and third time (I’m not sure which preceded which) was when she came for tea and scones, and finally, when we met in a small café in Pointe-Claire Village, a place we both love.

And that’s it–so that almost everything we know about each other, and the trust and affection that has grown between us, have expanded and deepened almost exclusively online. Through written conversations.

I think the true seed of our friendship was planted during the rise of COVID-19 and our first experiences of quarantine. I had long made it a kind of daily exercise to post quotes on my Facebook page and illuminate them with images–usually paintings I found in archives such as ARTUK. It was a daily discipline that grounded me. It was always the words that came first, for me. But one day, in response to the many comments Louise had left on my home page, I proposed a project to her–one that might help see us through the confinement of COVID (which we never expected to be such a life-altering experience). I would reverse my pattern and from then on, every day, SHE would find the quote, and I would find an image to illuminate it.

And that’s what we did for about a year and a half.

And then it occurred to me that this would all disappear into Facebook Memories, and that something insightful and hopeful, which grew out of the bleakness of a pandemic, would be lost.

And thus Aubade was born. First, as a means of curating all of those collaborative posts, but more importantly, as a testament to the friendship that brought it into being.

A frienship made of spirited exchanges and also, silences.

ART:

  1. “Frienship””, William Herbert Allen, (1863-1943), ARTUK. (no.1)

2. “Friendship”, William Herbert Allen (186301943), ARTUK, no 2





OF THE SOUL…

COLLABORATION NO. 320

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021

Last night, Louise sent me this in a Message:

Je viens de trouver un propos pour toi, amoureuse des mots et du sens qu’ils ont! (LC)

Translation: I’ve just found a subject for you, who are a lover of words and their meanings.

I’m always happy when Louise puts me in touch with a thinker, writer, poet…that I’ve never heard of, and it’s the case with François Cheng, who is all of the above. A quick visit with Wikipedia tells me that in fact, he is much more:

François Cheng is a Chinese-born French academician, writer, poet and calligrapher. He is the author of essays, novels, collections of poetry and books on art written in the French language, and the translator of some of the great French poets into Chinese. (source: Wikipedia)

And so I find myself in the company of an immense literary talent, but one whose work I haven’t read.

His book titles are telltale. here are just a few (my translations are approximate):

De l’Arbre et du Rocher (Of the Tree and the Rock), D’Où jaillit le chant (The Wellspring of Song), Quand reviennent les âmes errantes (When Wandering Souls Return), Oeil ouvert et coeur battant (Open Eye and Beating Heart), De l’âme (Of the Soul)…

Unbelievably, none of Cheng’s work has been translated into English, though he has translated some of it into Chinese.

But Louise has kept things simple.

CITATION/OFFERING:

Without further ado, here it is:

“Et si écrire, c’était simplement ne plus taire cette âme en soi?” -François Cheng

Translation:

And if writing were simply silencing one’s soul no longer ?

Louise adds:

C’est vrai que pour écrire, écrire véritablement, pas des fadaises, il faut être proche de son âme afin de partager ce qu’on met sur papier. Tu vois, j’ai une vieille âme, je parle d’écrire sur papier!

Effectivement pour moi, l’important j’aime l’écrire avec une plume ou un crayon, cela me semble plus réel!

Mais l’avantage de notre moyen de communication via Messenger permet de partager presque dans l’instantané! Il faut reconnaître cet avantage!

J’espère que cette petite phrase de François Cheng, t’inspirera pour Aubade! (LC)

My translation:
It’s true that to write, to truly write, not just nonsense, you have to be close to your soul–in order to share what you put down on paper. You see, I have an old soul, I speak of writing on paper!

Really, for me, writing with a pen or pencil is important, it feels more real!

But the advantage of our communications via Messenger make it possible for us to share almost instantly! It’s quite an advantage!
I hope this little phrase by François Cheng will inspire you for Aubade!

,

And so here I am with a quotation that I find lovely, and telling.

And if writing were simply silencing one’s soul no longer?

Cheng’s words suggest that writing is the manifestation of our soul’s desire to express itself, despite our efforts to quiet it.

This, of course, gets me thinking about “the soul”. Do you believe in its existence? Have you found the words to describe the ways in which your soul manifests itself inside you?

I’ve heard the expression He/She is a big-souled person, and known immediately what that meant, without for one moment having a firm notion of the soul’s locus–the “place” it occupies inside me.

No matter our beliefs or our spirituality (I’m quite sure that Louise and I would find that we are quite different in this regard), we do–many of us, that is–recognize the experience, the presence of our soul.

I believe it to be the deep, quiet space inside me. It’s the place of truth, where love resonates and grows, and from where love’s imposters are barred entry. It’s where I can bring my sadness, my frailty, my smallness, my sense of being flawed and unworthy of love, and be restored and moved to open up again and simply love.

And so, turning back to Louise’s offering:
And if writing were simply silencing one’s soul no longer?

Then it might explain why I have felt so compelled to write–these past several years especially–and why my regular conversations with Louise, here at Aubade, came to exist.

ART:

“Stars 10 (Edition 4/7)”, Ellie Davies (b. 1976)
“Passage”, by German installation artist Cornelia Konrads (2007)

Photo by Alicia Giguère, 2021



SOMEWHERE, A FIELD

October 29th, 2021

In response to my request for a fresh quote (we have slowed down; life has complicated things), Louise sent me the passage below, which she introduced this way:

Je ne peux te dire pourquoi mais cette pensée m’a profondément troublée ce matin! à toi de voir! (LC)

Translation: I can’t explain why, but this thought disturbed me deeply, this morning. Maybe you can figure it out.

LA CITATION:

Au -delà du bien et du mal, il y a un champ. C’est là que je te retrouverai.”

-Rumi

In English (the more complete quote):

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.

The more complete English quote has a lushness that inspires. Louise left me no clue as to what she thinks or feels about Rumi’s words, but then, it isn’t possible to limit its meaning, is it?
So it just becomes a matter of asking yourself: What can I take from this?

At this point in my life, i will happily let go of mindsets that are judgemental, that divide us. And yes, I do believe that there is a language that connects us all, that is beyond words.

It’s strange: I watched the film Arrival a few nights ago with my closest friend. I’ve seen it once in the cinema and have now watched it twice at home. It will always be my favourite movie. For many reasons–not the least of which is the fact that I was a language teacher in Adult education before I had to retire–Denis Villeneuve’s film strikes me as profoundly philosophical and true.

What is most beautiful, in the end, is that which transcends every barrier between us.

ART:

  1. “Love Embracing”, by Rikki Drotar
  2. Photo taken by Michelle Payette-Daoust