Spring arrives in Paris

On Thursday evening, Macron’s government announced on French TV, that there will be a slow lifting of all our restrictions. The 7pm curfew will probably not change for awhile, but the distance that we are allowed to travel will. We’ve been under a “no more than 10km” boundary unless there is a very good reason and one has to carry written proof of that.

Jardin du Ranelagh

The government also said that the lifting of restrictions will depend on where one lives and how rampant the virus is. Possibly in mid-May, we will have restaurants and bars open again but serving outside. Possibly sports events will return. We’ve been told that Roland Garros will definitely take place.

Walking in the Petite Ceinture near my home

The problem as I see it is: Spring is coming to Paris quickly. Now that we’ve changed our clocks, it doesn’t get dark until 9/9:30pm. Yet we have a 7pm curfew. For those who live in the countryside, it’s not as big a problem. They can eat outside, enjoy their outside gardens, and probably visit their neighbours. As a friend of mine said “They aren’t going to send a cop out here where there are ten houses to make sure we are all on our own property.” She is right.

Yesterday I went out walking and only had a light jacket on. It felt exhilarating. This past week, the NYTimes had an article in their Well Section about ‘languishing.’ It’s not a word I use much. The article written by Adam Grant, began “At first, I didn’t recognize the symptoms that we all had in common. Friends mentioned that they were having trouble concentrating. Colleagues reported that even with vaccines on the horizon, they weren’t excited about 2021. A family member was staying up late to watch “National Treasure again even though she knows the movie by heart. And instead of bouncing out of bed at 6 a.m., I was lying there until 7, playing Words with Friends.

It wasn’t burnout — we still had energy. It wasn’t depression — we didn’t feel hopeless. We just felt somewhat joyless and aimless. It turns out there’s a name for that: languishing.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/19/well/mind/covid-mental-health-languishing.html

Lilac tree in bloom in Jardin du Ranelagh

I’ve been calling it the Blahs. The most exciting thing I do is walk outside for an hour. That is not to say that I don’t love the other things I do. I love to write and write every day. I love to connect with friends and am on Zoom at least once a day. But nothing has touched the feeling of waking up in the morning and hearing the birds, not having to bundle up because it’s cold, and walking outside where the world seems brighter, full of color, warmer, and friendlier. I’m not naive enough to think this is over. I’m with those who are guessing we’ll have a respite in warmer weather and, in the Fall, things will probably get worse. If not earlier. As I write, there is real terror in India as the virus skyrockets. The EU has announced that Americans can visit all countries in Europe this summer. Can they guarantee that no form of the Indian virus will arrive with the tourists? I’m hoping governments are planning on the fact that we will all need booster shots and they will be providing enough vaccines once again.

Store on Av. Mozart selling chairs for enjoying Spring weather on the terrace

With my exhilaration came recurring thoughts of visiting California where I lived before moving to Paris. I still own a home in Oakland. I miss my home. I built it after I lost my home in the 1991 Oakland FireStorm back when devastating fires didn’t happen three or four times a year. I tell anyone who asks that if I could have that home in France, I’d be in heaven. Thoughts of getting on a plane and flying eleven hours to San Francisco–I’m tired already. What does it mean? There are so many things to find out. How do I get back into France, what do I need? What will I do with Bijou? Take her with me or have her stay with a friend or have a friend stay here? I stop daydreaming at about that point. It all seems too complicated. If it weren’t for my friend Barbara, I would probably still be trying to figure out how to get vaccinated.

Bijou enjoying Spring and new buds on my terrace in the 16th

So I think I’ll spend a week or two just enjoying Springtime in Paris! Do my best to not worry about the things I can’t control. The Dalai Lama once said; “If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.” And maybe, some of you will have some suggestions for me. They say many heads think better than one (well, that’s not quite what they say but, hey, whatever works).

Spring on the Champs de Mars
The epitome of Paris

A bientôt,

Sara

The Art of Entertainment

Thank you to all of you who replied to my blog of last week. Basically I was told that the view my writing group was inadvertently giving me was not accurate. In fact, some of you are scared–the mask rule has been relaxed, no social distancing. My sister, who has the ability that my father had–to take in the larger picture and make a fairly accurate assessment–wrote: “Michigan is about the scariest place in the country right now; your last blog really, really romanticises what’s going on in the U.S.  You’re making the mistake of generalizing from a few anecdotal stories from your friends–basic social science error!!!!!  The result doesn’t read authentically or match people’s experiences here.Which isn’t to say that you’re not being authentic; it’s just you need to be more careful with your comparisons.” This is one of the reasons I love her. I can absolutely depend that she will tell me the truth. So, this week, I am not going to talk about the Pandemic or vaccines. Rather I want to talk about the way each one of us has found to self-entertain during these non-ending times.

MAKE EVERY MILE COUNT! You’re no longer just going for a run, a walk, a ride, or a swim, you’re working towards conquering a S.M.A.R.T fitness goal. VIEW ALL THE CHALLENGES

I enjoy entertaining myself and I’m easily pleased. I just have to watch Bijou run around in circles chasing her tail, falling all over herself, and I am in gales of laughter. I have discovered something else that I find so much fun. There is an App called The Conqueror. It is run by My Virtual Mission. I don’t know how I discovered it but it happened during the first week of January. I picked a real walk somewhere in the world and signed up to have my Fitbit talk to the app and record all the miles I walk. I was sent postcards by e-mail telling me where I was, describing the village and giving me some history. For every 20% of the walk I finished, a tree was planted. The website says, “We will donate toward the planting of a tree for every 20% of the challenge you complete. There’s no extra work or cost for you — just make sure you keep exercising! By the end of the challenge, you will have planted 5 trees. Imagine what we can achieve as a community! So far we have planted more than 450,000 trees since August 2020.”

My medal for walking 90 miles of Hadrians Wall. Now when the Pandemic is truly finished, I need to go do it for real!

I picked Hadrian’s Wall for my first walk-90 miles. I was also to pick an amount of time that I would do the walk in and I put 8 weeks. I had no idea how motivated I would be. As it turned out, I finished the walk in less than five weeks! About a week later, a gorgeous medal arrived in the mail. No photo on the website showed how really handsome and substantial the medal is! For my next walk, I picked The Ring of Kerry, a walk of 124.5 miles in Ireland. Again I received postcards, had trees planted, finished in five weeks, and now my medal is on its way. Last week I picked St. Francis Way which, like the others, is a real walk of 312.4 miles from Florence to Rome. This is more than twice as long as the Ring of Kerry. I am hoping to do this in 12 weeks.

What I see on my phone each morning when I’m checking if Fitbit added my miles!!!

I have always been competitive and not always in a good way. I learned awhile ago that competing against one’s self is a good thing. Every morning, I check what my FitBit told the Conqueror app. I wouldn’t dream of not walking every day (well, I do take a day off once in awhile for various reasons) and, according to the app, I have walked 250.9 miles since I first signed up on January 8th. Here I am, in my apartment in Paris which is in a third lockdown, and I have walked Hadrian’s Wall, the Ring of Kerry, and am 11% thru the St. Francis Way! So if any of you are, like me, staying inside most of the time but walking every day, you may enjoy this great app that tells you you are doing great things, walking long distances, and sending you medals to prove it!!!

We all find different ways to entertain ourselves during hard times. At the beginning of the Pandemic, I was too cautious to go outside. I discovered Walk with Lesley Sansome, and watched her on my computer following along with all her in-house “friends”. But I’ve never been a big fan of going to the gym. And, as soon as I screwed my courage up and started walking outside, Lesley Sansome went the way of a lot of my amusements. I love walking outside. I love walking. I’ve never thought of walking as exercise. I don’t like exercise therefore walking can’t be exercise (one of those philosophers that I studied in college would agree that my logic is correct!)

Statuette: Oscar ® Statuette © AMPAS ®

It also occurred to me about three weeks ago that every single one of the Oscar nominations, in almost every category, is available to stream. I’ve always tried to see as many of the nominated films as possible so that when the Oscars rolled around, I could make intelligent guesses. I also consider myself a huge film buff and the nominations from all the different festivals give me a great list of films I should have seen but didn’t know about. This year it was never clear to me what was streamed and what was only available in a theatre.Not to mention that I hadn’t heard of most of the streaming services..I mentioned a couple weeks that I’d seen Nomadland on Hulu. I discovered that Hulu will give anyone a free 30 day trial. So far I’ve seen, along with Nomadland, The Trial of the Chicago Seven, Mank, Promising Young Woman (had to rent on Amazon), and last night, I rented The Father (the fee is more than a movie would cost if theatres were open). Of the nominated films for best foreign film, I’ve seen Deux, from France and, from Denmark, Another Round (the director, Thomas Vinterburg is also up for best director). I have seen all the films in which an actress is nominated for best actress. I didn’t make it through the US vs Billie Holiday. Andra Day is terrific, her voice sounds very much like Ms. Holiday’s, but the film itself just isn’t compelling–to me. Maybe next week, I will give you my opinion on who will will and who should win but today I just want you to know they are all available. They are all good and it’s worth spending your time being entertained by an industry whose job it is to entertain you.

I finally watched Soul. I discovered that something I belong to also gives me Disney plus. Soul is nominated for best animation. I usually associate animated films with children or youth. Pixar has been coming out with terrific films-as much for adults as children. This one, starring the voices of Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey , is very much for adults. I’d watch it again if I didn’t have a date with The Sound of Metal.

This is all to say that there are many fun things to do still in Lockdown. Many of us are genuinely fatigued by the last fourteen months but we are being advised everywhere to not let our caution down. It would be so easy to say ‘F__ it, I’m finished. I’m going back to the way it was.’ As I was writing, a notification popped up on my phone: over 3,000,000 million deaths around the world. I intend to not be one of those statistics.

A bientôt,

Sara

Musings on month thirteen of Covid-19 and the Pandemic

I belong to a writing group of women. Most of the group reside in the United States. Four of us live in different parts of Europe. For the past year, people have often written intimately and eloquently about dealing with issues of Covid-19, Lockdown, their fears and their responses to the situation in each of our countries. I read my peers’ thoughts about Covid being politicised in the US with sympathy and empathy. From everything I read, we had it much better here in France.

Now the tables have completely turned. Here in Paris, we are in our third week of a six week third lockdown. Even schools have been closed. Non-essential stores are shut – although the definition of essential has broadened to include bookstores and hair salons. The US members of my writing group are sharing their hopes and fears as they move more into feeling some kind of end to this scary time in our lives. One talked about being so excited about a trip to see a daughter, others have written about eating in restaurants. People are going to baseball games. When one member shared that she was going to have a manicure later in the day, I felt like she and I were living in two different universes.

I have been fortunate in that I’ve been able to travel within France but it was not to visit or to vacation. It was to go somewhere that I felt safer from the virus. Since January, the cases here in Paris have been skyrocketing. Yesterday, hospitals were at 150.5% capacity. There were 153 new ICU cases just in Île de France. I was very fortunate to have gotten my first vaccination mid-March. I will get my second one this Monday. France is finally getting its act together and the vaccination program is charging full force ahead. As of today, over 10 million people have been vaccinated. That is 1/8th of the country. I suspect that in six months, we will all be needing a booster shot. Over a week ago, all of France joined Paris in the third lockdown. The curfew is still at 7pm-6am with hefty fines if one is out and cannot produce a valid attestation for why one isn’t at home. During the day, we can exercise, go grocery shopping, or go to the Library without an attestation.

When I read my friends’ writings, I get this sense of the world opening up for them, hope of a new way of life emerging, a sense of the worst being behind them. Whereas, I feel much more negative, that masks and social distancing, and fear of the virus and its variants will be with us for a long time to come. If I want to go out, I think very carefully about how important is it? I have friends who feel much freer to leave home and come into Paris and visit with friends so many don’t feel the way I do. But I think most of us do know we are in a very different place than the United States.

I read the New York Times and the Guardian every morning. CDC experts in both countries are warning people not to get too lackadaisical about all the safety measures that have been in place for thirteen months. The Travel section in the Times today reported that more people in the US were doing domestic travel but that cases of the virus were on the upswing also. And I noticed, that for me, it is easier to stay prudent when the weather is grey, cold, and rainy as it is today. Thursday, when the sun was out and it was warm, anyone traveling through Paris would not have believed we were in Confinement.

This is not leading to any conclusion. Everyone seems to have differing opinions of what is happening, where we are in the life of this particular pandemic. I would love to know how others are feeling about whatever is happening in their country and whether you are contrasting it to any other country.

Stay connected, stay safe and, for goodness sake, stay healthy!

A bientôt,

Sara