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)
“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.”
“Well, you are making someone else happy.”
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.
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)
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)
“… 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
“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.
Illustration by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, from Le Petit Prince (1943)
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 317
September 28th, 2021
Louise and I “message” each other every morning, but she’s still having to be a patient friend, because I haven’t been up to the task of posting the thoughts–hers and those of others–that are destined for Aubade.
Here are a few words by Victor Hugo that gave Louise pause as she was reading last Saturday:
“Et puis il y a ceux que l’on croise, que l’on connaît à peine, qui vous disent un mot, une phrase, vous accordent une minute, une demi-heure et changent le cours de votre vie.”
In rough translation:
And then there are people whose path crosses our own, that we barely know, who offer a word, a phrase, a minute of their time, a half-hour, and change the course of our life.
Louise explained to me:
Dans mes nombreuses pérégrinations, il y a des gens qui restent présents en moi alors que je les ai peu connus… des souvenirs de moments d’une grande intensité… des gens qu’on aurait voulu garder dans notre vie et qui l’auraient enrichie… mais dans les voyages longs ou brefs, ils ont été simplement de passage! (LC)
Louise was always a traveller, drawn to other countries and people by her immense curiosity and wandering heart. This quote resonates with her, she explains, because, from among her many long and meandering journeys, there are people who are still very much alive inside her, though she knew them very briefly…memories of intense moments…people she would have wished to have remain present in her life–which would have been so much the richer for it–but who were, during her extended or brief travels, just passing through.
I chose a very different sort of life than Louise, and so, as I sit here looking through the lens of Hugo’s words, what I recognize is not so much the memories of encounters made while “away” (though I did manage to leave North America a few times), but of connections made that could almost be described as microscopic: unexpected conversations with a stranger in a coffee shop that ended with mutual regret; quiet exchanges with an adult student of French–sometimes registered in my class, sometimes not–whose presence opened up the world to me. I think their impact was cumulative. I no longer see life at all the same way. People sitting alongside me for a scan, dressed in the hospital gown that reduces us all to anonymous patients, and who shared things that were sorrowful and beautiful and true, and whose faces are permanently etched in me…
All of this brought to mind a quote that I favour:
“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibres connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibres, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”
September 22nd, 2021
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 316
Louise sent me this quote with almost no introduction. She simply wrote (in French): Here! I found this today.
Curious about its source, I did a short search and found that Manzinapkinegego’anaabe/Bombgiizhik is the Ojibwe name of Isaac Murdoch, who has taken on the role of collector and curator of Anishinaabemowin traditional knowledge, often shared through stories.
This quote is exceptionally beautiful. I don’t know when it was first heard or read, but it’s all-encompassing, and needs no more introduction.
“In our language, love is one of the most common words that we use. It’s in everything. Because we have to love where we come from, this Earth, and everything in it.”
September 21st, 2021
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 316
I’ve had Louise’s most recent choice of quote since yesterday, but I’m glad I held off, as events of an astronomical and political nature conspired to create a much larger canvas against which to present her chosen words and the images I’ve been gathering.
Louise quotes someone whose name is completely new to me. I marvel at the strength of her francophone roots– so much deeper than mine, which have always had to reach to connect with my anglophone identity as well.
Louise’s message started like this:
Tiens pour commencer la journée, une pensée de Julos Beaucarne, un troubadour des temps modernes que j’ai été voir à quelques occasions il y a longtemps! De beaux souvenirs de ses balades.
Il est parti pour un autre monde ces derniers jours…. je vais réécouter pour bien me rappeler. Déjà à l’époque, il était très environnement, protection du territoire. (LC)
Julos Beaucarne died only a few days ago, and I suppose that’s what brought him to Louise’s attention. I’ve learned that he was a poet, performer and precocious environmentalist.
Louise chose a single phrase to pay hommage to him. But when I began to translate it, I realized that I had quite a challenge before me. I’m not sure I’ve captured his meaning. I hope I have.
“Nous ne sommes que prétexte dans le paysage au passage de la vie et de l’ailleurs”
“Set against life’s journey and beyond, we are a mere pretence in the landscape.”
Is it serendipity that I read these words upon returning from standing outside last night, marvelling at the Harvest Moon? Nature offers us these moments of exhilaration so effortlessly. My son Simon and I stood under the dark sky entranced.
Back inside the house and sitting in front of my laptop, I came to see that Beaucarne’s words were poetic, certainly, but also a reminder of our…insignificance? An admonition to change our perspective; a reminder that we are all a temporary blip on the cosmic radar, and it would be best if we were able to live by the maxim to Do No Harm while we are here…
A short quote that overflows with meaning.
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
Et ma tête roule en ses rêves.
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
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?
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 314
September 14th, 2021
Louise sent me this excerpt from another of Paul Éluard’s poems, and I think she chose the loveliest part, because it’s more focused. It speaks of romantic love, clearly, but I also see in this stanza, especially in its last two lines, a fuller, more enveloping meaning:
“And if I don’t know all that I’ve been through
It’s because your eyes haven’t always seen me.“
And so, my mind wandered off into reflections about what it means “to be seen”–especially through the eyes of someone you love and who LOVES YOU.
And then, there is the obverse of this: to be seen by someone who doesn’t know how to love, or at least, how to love YOU. A limited vision.
There are those who experience the constancy of being SEEN by their romantic partner–and are transformed by it in incalculable ways. They’re very lucky, I think.
Others find it in familial relationships, which likely means that it happens earlier on in life–and this is a priceless gift, I think, because it’s so formative.
And I’ve also come to know that deep friendship offers this same experience. During the past few years of my life, especially, friendship has proven to be a well of intimate understanding and love…
Merci Louise, d’avoir choisi cette citation multidimensionnelle.
La courbe de tes yeux
La courbe de tes yeux fait le tour de mon coeur
Un rond de danse et de douceur,
Auréole du temps, berceau nocturne et sûr,
Et je ne sais plus tout ce que j’ai vécu
C’est que tes yeux ne m’ont pas toujours vu.
[For the complete poem: https://www.bacdefrancais.net/courbe.php%5D
Translated into English:
The Curve of your Eyes
The curve of your eyes goes around my heart,
A round of dance and sweetness,
Halo of time, safe and nocturnal cradle,
And if I don’t know all that I’ve been through
It’s because your eyes haven’t always seen me.
[Complete translation: https://allpoetry.com/La-Courbe-De-Tes-Yeux%5D
COLLABORATION/OFFERING no. 313
September 7th, 2021
This morning, Louise chose a poem that brings light into her life.
Pour toi ce matin. une poésie qui donne de la lumière dans ma vie! (LC)
“La nuit n’est jamais complète
Il y a toujours puisque je le dis
Puisque je l’affirme
Au bout du chagrin une fenêtre ouverte
Une fenêtre éclairée
Il y a toujours un rêve qui veille
Désir à combler la faim à satisfaire
Un coeur généreux
Une main tendue, une main ouverte
Des yeux attentifs
Une vie, la vie à partager.”
I know that Louise is very fond of the poetry of Paul Éluard, and I know that reading and the discovery of new writers and new works that fill her up or challenge her is a source of joy in her life. This poem by Éluard can certainly be prescribed as an antidote to pessimism, discouragement, and hopelessness. Or even just the blues, which can settle over us inexplicably.
He writes: The night never ends–because I say so, because I claim it. At the end of sorrow, an open window, a lighted window. There is always a dream keeping watch; a desire to fulfill, a hunger to satisfy; a generous heart, an open hand; watchful eyes. A life–life to share.
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).
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.”
“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
“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)
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:
“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