Life Within, And Building Anew
For hvert et tab ingen erstatning findes
Hvad udad tabes, det skal indad vindes
(For every loss there is no compensation
What is lost externally must be won internally)
H.P. Holst, Denmark, Koebenhavn 1872
Another week, and autumn draws on.
It’s misty in the mornings here now, with pillows of white clouds that blanket the valley before sunrise and disperse slowly to the sky as the light spreads. We always walk Polly right after breakfast so we can absorb all that moodiness, basking in the beauty that is nature at rest. It’s good for the soul, and that’s something that’s been weighing strongly on my mind all week.
We are living in complex times that are not likely to ease up anytime soon. We’re on the cusp of winter and flu season, with holidays around the corner, COVID cases rising all over, and Europe starting to implement new restrictions again. Over the next few months, as folks move their lives indoors again, all that is likely to get worse. Then there’s the up-coming election in the US (not likely to go smoothly IMO), Brexit in the UK (another rough ride), and just general uncertainty all around. In some areas it’s déjà vu from March, in others it’s a whole new mess of concerns.
I think about all these things as we walk our little back-country roads in the morning, wondering how it will all work out, how we will manage the winter, when or if things will ever get back to “normal”. But then a few days ago, as I was basking in the goodness of that morning walk I had a completely different and rather radical switch in thoughts….
What if happiness is simply accepting things as they are?
It was a new thought for me, even though it’s a theme as old as time. Finding peace in “the now” is the very thing every Buddhist monk, every eremite, every soul-seeker has always preached. And when things are going well, it’s effortless. When we were traveling and able to immerse ourselves with family, friends and nature whenever we felt like it, I was at peace. But when things got more difficult, when we became isolated from friends and restricted in movement and environment (basically the story of 2020), I lost that feeling.
And yet, it all lies within….
It’s a simple thought, a naïve one perhaps, but also very powerful especially in these times. We must all re-build from within now, accepting the situation as it is is, letting go of what was before so we can find new “norms” and new ways forward. This does not mean that we give up our hope and dreams for the future, but simply that we must let go of our nostalgia of the past so that we can move forward. It’s the fifth stage of grief, acceptance before change. I guess I’m just feeling it now.
This is life now, make of the most of it.
Ah yes, these misty morning walks have me going deep, as I seem to be doing more and more often these days (I do apologize, my dear readers!). But such is life. So this week that’s what I’ve got to share; our daily lives in our little SW French hamlet, with just the three of us and Polly, chugging along with the practicalities of our ever-changing environment, and trying to make the most of it. Building happiness from within, or re-building….at least that’s the general idea.
COVID & Curfews
On a practical side, the biggest upheaval in France this week has been the announcement of curfews to try and curb our ever-increasing COVID-19 infections.
As of yesterday, in 9 major cities (Paris & surrounding areas, Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Aix-Marseille, Saint-Etienne, Rouen, Montpellier and Toulouse) no-one will be allowed outside from 9pm to 6am without special exception. The curfew will continue for the next 4 weeks, affecting around 19 million people and countless businesses (especially restaurants and bars). Those who don’t comply will be fined. As you can imagine, people are not happy….
In French it’s called couvre-feu, which literally translates to “cover fire”. Rather apt I guess, as it kinda feels like we’re trying to stamp out the flames of a virus that’s gone out of control. Unfortunately, much like an out-of-control fire, I’m not clear it’s going to do all that much to change the numbers. I guess the government however, felt they had to do something.
Cases, infection rates and hospitalizations have continued to rise steadily since the summer vacays, slowly but surely. All of this was expected, and IMO wouldn’t really be that concerning, as long as death rates remain low and folks continue to recover. A steady state of people in, people out kinda thing. But one critical stat has changed in the last month. ICU beds are steadily filling up with almost 30% now taken up by COVID-19 patients, a jump since the beginning of September. With winter around the corner, and flu season on its way, that’s what’s causing this latest inquiétude (worry) and freaking everyone out. And rightly so.
So will a curfew in the big cities change things?
Admittedly I’m not convinced. The idea is based on a study from Institut Pasteur that showed R0 (infection reproduction) values in French Guiana decreasing based on curfew. That and the fact that the virus is circulating most strongly in the younger population (which is true), where late night shenanigans and relaxed controls are thought to be a strong factor in transmission.
I hope they’re right of course, because no-one wants to see full ICU beds or a hard lockdown again, but I just don’t know.
Of course in our area nothing has really changed. We’re far enough outside of Toulouse not to be involved. Not that we were exactly gallivanting around at night in big crowds anyway, but I guess (technically) we still can? So apart from a general mask mandate, and near-zero socializing or bises on the cheek (I really do miss those kisses), we’re just going about our business as usual. Onwards and forwards…
Chasse & Chocolates
The only other big change in our area is that we are in the very midst of the Chasse (or hunting season).
The Chasse actually started around mid-September, and will last until end of Feb or so next year, and it’s a big event in the countryside with over 1.2 million French dedicated to the sport (France has the largest numbers of licensed hunters in Europe, in fact). But it’s also mired in quite a bit of controversy. The hunting population is steadily getting older, and every year some poor fool or another manages to target a human instead of a beast (last season, 11 people died), leading to massive & passionate debates amongst the populous.
C’est un sujet sensible (it’s a sensitive topic)….
As guests in this country, we are naturally neutral on the issue and simply give the hunting dogs a wide berth while wearing high-visibility clothing. So Polly now sports a blindingly yellow 4LegsFriends reflective vest every time we go out walking. Of course her gilet jaune carries a whole different kind of political statement in France (one I didn’t think about until after I bought the vest, duh), but it works nonetheless. Moral of the story….if you plan to stroll in the countryside in France during the Chasse, make sure both you and your paws are wearing something highly visible.
Rather more up our alley, and definitely up for passionate discussion, are the up-coming chocolate sales.
As you know we enjoyed the foire au vins recently, the yearly countrywide wine sales where you can buy ridiculous amounts of wine for ridiculous prices. Rather ingeniously (or at least I think so) the French often follow this by a foire au chocolat where copious volumes of chocolate goodies go on sale everywhere. It all launches more or less in tandem with the Salon du Chocolat in Paris typically around the last week of October (not happening this year, but on my bucket list obviously), and will often stretch into November. I’m not sure exactly when our local supermarket will get the decadent goodies going, but it’s soon and I’ll be sure to let you know.
So in other words, we will shortly have wine AND chocolate in abundance. All part of the master plan to strategically enhance our protective fat layers for winter. Not bad, eh?
And So We Go On
Our plans these days are small ones. Walks and little outings in our area, saying hello to the neighbors when we pass, cuddling cats on the street, and enjoying the mountain views that we are so lucky to see everyday. It’s not a traveling life anymore, but it’s also not a bad life. Despite all the craziness in the world, we can build from here and perhaps find a whole new kind of calm. I could dig that.
How are you this week, my friends? Are you feeling the season change? Uncertainty, yet new things ahead? DO share your thoughts for the week. I always love to hear them.SPONSORED LINK:
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