Confinement No. 2

Well, we’re in it again…another lockdown (“Confinement”). It’s less rigid, in that children go to school and people can go to work if they can’t telecommute, but still—the same old “one hour, one kilometre, and don’t go out without out your ‘Attestation'” rule—applies to the rest of us.

I am scraping the bottom of the barrel of my resources, as you can see above. Trying to eek a morsel of joy from mundane chores (lots of cleaning going on) and much-reduced experiences (I continue to work alone on improving my flute playing, and Spanish).

I have already broken the dictate by sneaking out, with my friends Anne & Jean-Charles, to the Camargue for a last fling. The government hinted that they would be lenient that last weekend of the Toussaint holiday, as all needed to scurry back to their designated confinement shelters. It felt great to be out at that huge nature reserve. Luckily not everyone was as naughty as we, and the place was really empty. Of course the bird sanctuary centre was closed, but we saw many birds peacefully living their lives—pink flamingos, storks, coots, herons, egrets and other ones I don’t recognize yet.

I have developed an interest in identifying birds, mainly thanks to my great nephew Adrien’s passion for this hobby. He (age 12) tells me about the birds he sees around his home in Cambridge, MA, and is much better at recognizing their songs. I put up a bird feeder on my balcony and did my best to seal off that part of the balcony parapet from my two interested tabbies, but I haven’t seen any avian friends visiting yet. Maybe they’ve seen Pumpkin & Macauley before, or maybe there’s just too much good stuff out in nature in this harvest time. We’ll see when winter comes.

The autumn of this strange 2020 has been the most beautiful I’ve experienced since I came to France almost eight years ago. Perhaps because of our satisfactory amount of rainfall, the colours in the vineyards and trees are as vivid as what I remember from the East Coast.

In September I signed up to tutor an adolescent in English. She is a charming and fresh-faced girl with a great deal of motivation. I am trying to encourage her to speak (something the French schools don’t do), and to give up her obsession with not making mistakes (something the French education system, alas, instills in them right from kindergarten). We have been working on the Preterit.

I finally overcame my shyness enough to approach a woman I have seen walking her black Lab since I moved to this street. Her name is Colette, and while I have always greeted the neighbors I recognize, because she is blind, I hesitated to call out something like, “Hey, hi! I see you all the time because I live on this street too!”. I asked her about her dog, who has been showing clear, and heart-breaking, signs of degeneration. She told me her name is “Bloom” and also shared the information that she was going to have to put her down this week. Such unbearable grief, especially for such an important companion. She was too sad to think about replacing Bloom, saying she no longer has the need for a seeing eye dog. I hope she changes her mind eventually, as I know how comforting animal companions are for those who live alone.

I finally bought an ipad, so I could easily follow along some exercise videos. I can’t say I enjoy this very much. My life seems so full of “shoulds” and so lacking in spontaneous moments of real joy.

I have been working on two series of linocuts— one depicting birds few are fond of, and the other of the darlings of the avian community. Since my portrait class has been canceled for the duration, I have turned to this graphic art.

Of course, this past week turned all of us Americans into election-coverage addicts, clicking onto the media of choice every five minutes. When the election was called for Biden, I celebrated, my friendly neighbor coming over to hand me a glass of champagne—despite the fact that the election and its results continued to dominate, even over the rising Covid count.

I was able to escape Aix (legitimately) on an errand of “critical importance”—after all, olives are food!—for a day in the beautiful Luberon, about 45 minutes north of town to pick olives from my friend Julie’s land with her and her daughter. 2020 is a bumper year for everyone growing olives around here. We only picked from three trees and got 65 kilos! She and other friends continued the harvest later and netted another 85 kilos.

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