Friday, May 27, 2016

the epilogue

Several people have suggested that I produce for Snowdrop (if not for myself) a photo book about her adventures in Paris. Oh, do I agree that this is a worthwhile project! When we play and she adapts to being home again, I can see that without words to describe her experiences, she is a child of the today. What matters is what is now. Wouldn't a book of her trip remind her of what mattered then?

Still living in a different time zone, I wake up at 4:30 and begin the project of crafting a book for the little one. With interruption for coop opening at dawn and for a few weeding hours. And of course, for bloom spotting.

Today, let me spotlight the most difficult flower to photograph -- the white iris. It's blooming profusely along the driveway and it is so beautiful that it leaves me speechless.

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And here's the wild indigo -- typically the flower pods are blue, but I have a few yellow varieties that are stunning in this transition period of late spring.

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And of course there is breakfast. On the porch.

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\Now back to the book project.

I have created photo books using and I have come back to this site for the current book project. I am impressed how much easier it is to work on this now! I forge ahead, the world be damned.

But not for terribly long because in the late morning I am again with Snowdrop. (Ah, she clutches her lego rocket from Paris...)

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We both have changed since the time before travel: the trip was a significant event and she seems months older than when I last played with her in her own home.

She is at once more serious and more playful.

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I feel she is still tired from her great adventure and so I guide her toward quieter play...

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But in the end, she shows quite a bit of spirit. Ask her to dance and she'll bob up and down with a vengeance!

Toward the end of the day, her mom and I take her for a longer walk around the lesser lake. I feel very tentative about this: will she protest that the walk does not end with a pastry? A bread store? A park?

My worries are preempted by a cloud burst. No, I have no umbrella. Snowdrop gets wet, we get wet. It's as if we needed that -- to rinse off the last bit of post travel displacement before we plunge into a Madison summer.

In the evening, I finish the book for Snowdrop. Sixty five pages of photos and text. Too long! -- you'll say. Maybe. Though in many ways, not long enough.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

the calm

In the predawn hours, when your post-travel internal clock makes you think it's time to abandon sleep, I lay in bed thinking endless thoughts about the past ten days.

This is not normal for me. After travel, I put myself in the calm of the farmette again quickly: the day of arrival actually and I focus on what's ahead. But for many many reasons, this Paris trip was perhaps the most intense of all trips I've taken. There were dozens of components to it and as someone mentioned in the comments -- there was the unusual (in a good way) aspect of multi-generational travel. There was, in other words, a lot to reflect on.

It's no secret that I love being with my family. And that I learn a lot about just being human by watching my daughters grow in their own families. Thinking about all this kept me up this morning. And of course, there was the ever fascinating aspect of traveling with Snowdrop to mull over. [Someone mentioned in the comments that they were glad the trip back was easy. I may have given the wrong impression there: none of it was exactly easy. Snowdrop is capable of being as loud as any toddler you've seen in some stages of discombobulation. Her parents had equipped themselves with all known to them resources to help her stay calm and she did, beautifully, in trying circumstances, except for the handful of minutes when she didn't. Too, in Paris itself, Snowdrop was sick for two evenings in a row -- not day times, just evenings -- and we thought one more should lead us to a Parisian doctor. Luckily, the third evening she was fine. And finally, you just never know how much is too much for a young child. Several times I wondered if I had planned something that was unreasonably demanding on her. And still, we all felt that this was an incredibly fine and fun trip for the little girl. That she grew in it -- that she thrived and prospered was a given. I, of course, thrived right there along with her. And not one of us doubts that Snowdrop simply loved Paris!]

When the sun finally cast its first rays onto the fields and dew laden grasses to the east of us (at 5:24 a.m.) and I stepped out to open the coop, I began to feel the calm of the farmette again.

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The beauty of the Parisian trip will never be eclipsed, but it can be tucked a little to the side, so that I can take in the loveliness of what I have here right now, which includes a lot of buds bursting with late spring blooms.

Iris and peony -- they're the leaders.

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Everything is so incredibly lush that even Ed is somewhat taken aback -- it's as if each plant grew and multiplied overnight.

This is a view I rarely photograph: path looking out from the farmhouse, to the sheep shed and barn. The shade garden (to the right) is so dense! When did that happen??

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The annuals -- let me give a grateful nod to them:

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It's unseasonably warm this week --we're to have a high of 86F (that's 30C) today. In May! A storm passes through in the morning and the air is damp. Still, we eat a very modest breakfast on the porch (I have to buy groceries, we are down to nearly empty cupboards!)...

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... and just as the sun begins to reemerge from behind clouds, we set out to plant our tomatoes. They're very strong this season! We don't know why -- the seed type? the right amount of light? the warm days spent outside? We put in 54 this morning.

(Scotch rushes over -- what are you doing without me???)

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Planting. Lots of planting, Scotch.

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Scotch: Oh, well, that's boring. Let me go eat your coreopsis buds while I wait for you to be done.

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We return to the tomatoes after I grocery shop, planting another 36 in the afternoon.

(And oh, the weeding that I do! Oh oh oh!)

I take a break in the late afternoon. For a moment, as I sip my espresso in the new cup from the rue Monsieur le Prince, Paris overwhelms me again.

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And again I push it aside. Ed and I ride his motorcycle to the local farmer's market and though I remember the numerous motorcycles Snowdrop would point to in Paris (prompting always the response -- yes, just like the one grandpa Ed rides back home), I also remember how brilliant it is to ride behind Ed on a warm evening, where the pleasure is not in the destination but in the act of getting there.

One last glance at the garden: these images where several blooms are grouped together to form an unusually beautiful whole is really why I garden. Here's one for you:

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I left in cool spring weather and I came back to summer. And that's not such a bad thing!

P.S. A million thanks to all who wrote in comments or elsewhere while I was in Paris. It's grand to read your words when I am away (and of course when I return).

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

to travel

Travel... it's such a complicated topic, no? Some love it, some can leave it, some like to get there, some hate the getting there. But I don't really know anyone who loves the getting there with a very young child. If you find yourself traveling with a toddler, you  do the best you can during the rough moments and hope for the best.

We all knew today would be that day of travel. For Snowdrop, everything suddenly is very different. She has been with her Parisian routines for ten days. Perhaps she believed that this was her new life now. And she grew to love it all -- the foods, the family, the parks. But this morning, it all changes: suitcases, packed quickly. Toys, books hidden from view. And still, Snowdrop has her family. Her smile, her wave are firmly in place.

Breakfast: my younger daughter joins me for the walk to Les Gourmandises d'Eiffel to get our breakfast breads.

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We share this waking of Paris (only food shops and cafes are open now). But we don't pause. Just croissants and various breads. It will be a quick morning meal.

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But a nice one! I eat it with my daughters...

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... well, someone else, who has already had her share of baguette...

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... horns in on the girl fun.

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The skies are blue, the spirits good, by 9:30, we're out of the apartment. Good bye, Eiffel Tower! How many times the little one has pointed to it with an appreciative grin!

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At the airport, there are the waits, of course. I get speedy lines with my frequent flyer stuff, but there is a snafu about the seating (the booked seats have disappeared) and so we have an interminable wait as the agents sort all this out. (In the end it's to our benefit because Air France felt enough apologetic about it all, that they gave Snowdrop her own seat -- she normally would have to be on a lap or lie in a bassinet. You remember the bassinet? She didn't really fit in it on the way over.)

And even now, Snowdrop retains her good mood.

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Run with mama!

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There are sweet moments with aunt and uncle...

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It all is more or less smooth, but she is a little one and sometime just before boarding, she becomes overwhelmed. Never mind: plenty of hands to help, and a nice long nap immediately upon take off puts her in a better frame again. I take my turn playing with her. With me, she decides to climb up on the chair and scoot down again. Over and over and over again. Her mama reads to her, feeds her, shows her videos, her daddy snuggles her on take off and landing. She does well despite the really late hour for her now.

In Detroit finally. Snowdrop realizes on the walk to the passport control that she still has all of us around her.

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We get through it all -- the lines, the suitcase processing -- and then we just barely make our flight to Madison (we have to run for it!). And yes, in Detroit we have to part with those who are not traveling to Madison. Minneapolis is their final destination and so here (at the TSA line actually), we say our sweet good byes.

(In flight to Madison, disheveled but still awake.)

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By our Paris clock, it is 1 a.m. when we land in Madison.

Ed is at the airport to take us home.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

your Paris

Everyone has their Paris. Even if you are here just once, passing through, perhaps with a group, or alone, you'll always have a personal relationship to the city. Paris oozes with character. The streets, the architecture, the cafe life. The culture, the food scene. The divisions between neighborhoods, so that the fifth arrondissement doesn't feel anything like the fourth and the first has more in common with the eighth than with the second. The sights, the brisk paced inhabitants, the sort of easy but really not that easy metro system. The history! Oh, the history!

All this -- it begs for a reaction and people who visit react. They love it, they feel horrified by the speed of traffic, impressed by the food, or not impressed at all because it really isn't like you would imagine it to be. Oh, the range of reactions to this city!

And if you love it, or even just like it, there are sensual reactions that you have here that belong to only you.

Paris is to me one thing. It is to others something else. We may overlap, but no Paris is the same to any two people.

When I first suggested that my daughters, their husbands and my granddaughter make the trip here with me, I knew this and I pushed for all of them to spend time in the city in smaller configurations (rather than all of us barrelling through it together all the time). Oh, they laughed! We want to do things together! I smiled indulgently.

Today -- our very last day here -- is a classic example of how the city pulls you in different directions and you must give in, you must! Or else you will be disappointed.

The rains are gone, but it is a cool morning. The younger couple is stirring just as I leave to pick up croissants -- at what has become our favorite neighborhood bakery Les Gormandises d'Eiffel (because nearly everyone who comes here thinks they have found the best or at least most favorite bakery). It's the one I return to again and again.

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I'm out just as the neighborhood children are being dropped off at school. I love watching this brisk paced walk -- fathers, mothers, grandmas, walking with kids, perhaps eagerly dropping off kids, so that the adults can continue with their day. [The school day is very long in France by our standards; the kids wont be back home again until toward evening. On the upside, homework is uncommon, so once you're home, you're home.]

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I return to the apartment with a bag full of croissants and breads.The younger couple is in a hurry to be off so that they can sample some places suggested by one person or another.  It's what people do -- they tell you about their own Paris and they want you to try it because maybe it will be your favorite as well. Okay, but I know, I know that in fact their Paris will never overlap with anyone's because, well, everyone has their Paris.

I eat breakfast as I always do, with Snowdrop...

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And after she bathes and dresses, she discovers there's more baguette and so she has a second round.

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(A selfie in the speckled mirror)

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And of course, the minute she is done, she wants to know -- are we going out now??? (She paces from room to room and she cannot be left to her own devices too much because the house isn't really child-proofed.)

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This time the answer is yes, we're going out right away!

We take the metro to the Marais...

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-- the old aristocratic and more recently (as in since the 19th century) the Jewish neighborhood on the Right Bank. The Place des Vosges is so pretty that only on the shorter trips to Paris do I not bother with it. Snowdrop must get to love it too (see -- I'm guilty of the same imposition of my Paris on the little one!).

(Snowdrop runs to her aunt and uncle when she sees them at our meetup point.)

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And she does love this lovely little park!

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Especially the fountains...

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... which, unfortunately, are lower than the ones in the large parks and so she spends a nice few minutes getting herself wet.

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Snowdrop, I don't have a change of sweaters for you! Let's go by grandpa Ed's motto: the fastest way to dry a wet sleeve on asweater is to wear it.

(Two photos that properly belong to a family album: mom with daughters...

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... and the younger couple...)

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My daughter then leads us to a absolutely wonderful falafel place (L'As du Fallafel).

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It's very informal, very crowded, very delicious. The waiter doesn't quite believe that Snowdrop will polish off a plate of falafel, but he's wrong. She really is a terrific eater!

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And then we break up again. I'm going to guide the little girl through her last grand walk in Paris and the kids -- well, you can't even imagine how much they have packed into their plan for the rest of the day. We'll meet up again for dinner.

And so my Paris becomes Snowdrop's Paris now - because she doesn't have a choice! But I try to think of it as her walk. And indeed, even when twice I pause at shops -- once to buy a (cheap) Parisian laminated place mat for her and another time to buy two little Eiffel Tower espresso mugs from a shop I've admired for years -- the sales people focus on her:  elle est formidable, says the gruff looking man at the tabac with the place mat. She is a little princess shopping on the rue Monsieur le Prince! -- says the woman in the little bric a brac shop.  To both, Snowdrop gives a demure smile and a polite wave of her little hand.

And I want to try one more time with the ice cream cone. (Remember? She had little interest in it on one of her first days here.) On the Ile St Louis (the place to get a good ice cream cone), I get a scoop of caramel au beurre salé (thinking if she doesn't want it, I'll finish it off with relish).

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She no longer rejects it, though the licking part still puzzles her. (Yes, it becomes mostly mine.)

And then we cross the river again...

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... and return go to the Luxembourg Gardens -- because "my Paris" will always have the Gardens and here, after all, is where she began to develop a sense of her own Paris.

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Here is where I saw that first big grin. Here's where she took her joyous run. Where she picked a tiny English daisy in the children's grassy corner and where she carried fistfuls of sand back to me so that I could share in her pleasure.

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We're coming to a close of our Paris explorations, even though I know she would like to continue walking, freely, on streets and park avenues, around fountains and tall chestnuts -- open those big apartment house doors for me, grandma! -- I tell her it's time to rest and get strong for tomorrow's long journey home.

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But in the end, towards evening, I relent. Okay, Snowdrop -- you and I are going out for one more walk. No stroller, just walk -- to the grassy fields before the Eiffel Tower that you know so well now.

And this is at once beautiful and difficult: for her, because she wants the freedom to romp and I can't always let go of her little hand and for me, because I do have to put those boundaries on her occasionally and of course because it really is our final walk.

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(A French boy tries hard to engage her in conversation. She, of course, cannot respond. This only makes him persevere...)

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(Here she is, ready to disrupt a game of boules before I whisk her away.)

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(Snowdrop always delights in pointing to the Tower wherever she may be, the minute she spots its beautiful contours.)

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And now we really must return to the apartment. I get Snowdrop ready for bed. (Violet comes to stay with the little one.)

My last photo is from dinner at  Pottoka -- a restaurant that I tried and picked months ago for our final night here.

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Tomorrow we travel home.