Since I mentioned I was tested for COVID-19 last Friday, I thought I should let you know my results came in this morning and were negative. Woohoo! Also, I’m beginning to feel much better than I did last week, so will not trouble the doctor with my now minor symptoms.
Here’s a little beauty and serenity to help soothe your possibly frazzled nerves:
And one more:
All photos from previous years’ posts, since I’m still housebound, but hope you enjoy them anyway.
Yes, home is where the heart is . . . and where the rest of me is for the foreseeable future. These days many of us are practicing social distancing or actually marooned in our homes as I am, since I’m not 100% healthy. It really does NOT seem to be COVID-19, but the doctor made me get tested on Friday to prove it was safe for me to come in to have my sore throat checked. Of course, results are currently taking four to six days, so I’ll either be really sick or nearly well by then, but I understand the need for caution. I seem to be on the mend today, so I’m hoping I won’t even need to go in after all. While I’m on (self-imposed) house arrest, I decided to stay connected to all of you in other ways. Here’s what I’ve been up to since my last post just after Christmas.
I took a short trip with Chelsea and Beckett to Washington D.C. the 11th to the 15th of February. I was busy working remotely and being the traveling nanny while Chelsea had work responsibilities, so I didn’t take a lot of photos. Definitely had a great time with this cutie.
I finally made it to The Phillips Collection to see one of Renoir’s most famous paintings, Le déjeuner des canotiers, or as you may know it, Luncheon of the Boating Party. It was Beckett’s first visit to an art museum. He slept through the whole thing. Probably for the best. I walked the few blocks from the hotel with Beckett in the stroller, but then had some trouble finding it:
Yes, as you can see, there’s a giant sign with “Phillips” on it in all caps and the obvious front entrance, but in the midst of pushing the stroller with one hand, holding an umbrella with my neck and checking the map on my phone, I read only the little white sign you see that mentions some additional part of the museum, so turned left down this alley. I walked literally BETWEEN the two buildings of the museum, but managed to end up on the next block asking directions. Unbelievable. (Thought everyone could use a good laugh about now. You’re welcome.)
Chelsea kindly took me along with her in the evenings to catch up with as many of her DC friends as possible in four short days. Here she is with friends Travis and Rob.
Traveling with a baby is an almost comical amount of work (and gear–I’d forgotten), so I’m glad I was able to go along and help. We managed to score an empty middle seat on the flight back (yes, row 43 or 4003 or whatever–the last one– but still). Fortunately, he’s a pretty happy little guy most of the time and limited his pterodactyl imitation during the flight to just a few funny squawks.
Before and after the DC trip, I was super busy with homework for two poetry classes and weekly French lessons, all of which involved a great deal of searching for inspiration, then writing and rewriting. Those pretty much drained my weekly creativity supply, but now my first two poetry classes are over and the third has been canceled, along with the rest of the semester’s OSHER classes (for the safety of everyone), so I’ve got a bit more time. My French lessons are via Skype every Thursday with my teacher and friend, Natacha, so those continue. Writing a page in French every week takes me almost as long as writing a poem, sometimes longer, but I love it and I continue to learn.
So here I am in my solitude, but this weekend I’ve talked on the phone with numerous family and friends–now that my throat hurts less and my voice is coming back–so my cup runneth over. I sincerely hope you are all staying healthy. In this worrisome, almost surreal time, I pray for all of us peace, comfort, compassion and grace, regardless of our physical health.
I hope you are keeping your distance but staying connected to your dear ones. Let me know how you’re coping. I’d love to hear from you!
On this final day of 2019, I am adjusting to the sudden solitude and so very grateful for my dear ones. We all gathered here once again for another festive family Christmas celebration, still missing David like crazy, but glad to be together.
Chelsea and Brian and baby Beckett live nearby, so I see them throughout the year, but except for a few Chelsea and Beckett overnights, they didn’t stay here during the holidays like the others. Still, they were here Christmas Day.
Here’s Beckett wondering why a stuffed animal is singing to him and flapping its ears . . .
Brittany brought her boyfriend Andy, who kindly postponed his family Christmas to join ours. He was a great sport in this house full of women. He played games, worked jigsaw puzzles, helped Felicity learn to fly her mini-drone, and cooked and cleaned as much as any of us. Andy’s a fun guy so it was tough to get him to quit hamming it up so I could get a normal photo, but he makes Brittany smile, and I love that!
They hit the road early Sunday morning to drive down to Albuquerque to celebrate Andy’s delayed family Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Fortunately they forgot about ten things, so I’ll get to see them again soon.
Courtney was queen of travel this year, even more than Brittany and Andy. She flew out here on the 22nd and back home Christmas night, just to turn around and drive back with Bailey and Felicity on the 26th. It was a lot, but we weren’t about to leave her alone on Christmas or deprive any of us the comfort of togetherness on the 27th, so she did what she had to do. I made them pose for a photo before I’d let them go Monday afternoon.
I waved goodbye and the house was suddenly VERY quiet. I remember David and I would always say to each other, “Well, back to you and me again,” and we’d have a glass of wine and talk about all the fun of the past few days. He’s been gone now two years, and I still don’t know what to do with myself in those moments.
Two years. Time is such a weird thing. It flashes by at the speed of light when we’d rather it stop and drags when we want it to hurry up. David is beyond time now, and here I am knowing only that two years have gone by and grief is not done with me yet.
But there will be other family times. I wrote a poem in November called “Magic Words” that I think sums it up. The poem starts with a long litany of the chores and chaos that are part of hosting a crowd over the holidays. You probably know what that’s like, so we’ll skip to the last stanza:
. . . I will say thank you again, once the house is empty and quiet
and the extra shoes and coats,
the kids, the crafts, the snacks,
the phones, the tablets, the chargers,
the dogs, their leashes and dishes, their crates and treats,
have all been packed up and taken away.
I will call all three and say thank youso very much for coming,
for being my dear ones, my family,
for crashing into my silent aloneness
with your exuberant, irrepressible, gloriously loud life.
from “Magic Words” by Sunny Bridge – November 2019
Wishing you a 2020 with lots of warm, wonderful times with your dear ones!
France and my friends there are never far from my thoughts. I’m terrible at writing to them –Je suis vraiment désolée Pascale et Jacky ! I need to remember they probably don’t care if I make mistakes. I have resumed my French lessons with Natacha via Skype once a week–J’adore !
**Pascale, Jacky, on peut se parler de temps en temps sur Skype, peut-être?
The other day during my lesson, since Thanksgiving is upon us, I was trying to explain a recipe, the broccoli casserole we have at nearly every holiday meal, and a few minutes in, we were both laughing so hard we could barely speak. I lacked the vocabulary and Natacha lacked the experience with a recipe that involves broccoli and a bit of minced onion, baked in a casserole dish with Campbell’s Cream of Celery soup, mayonnaise, sharp cheddar cheese, topped with Pepperidge Farm Stuffing. She could not imagine the result would even be edible, let alone a long-time family favorite. It had mayonnaise but was hot? It had soup but wasn’t soup? Soup out of a can for a favorite recipe? It had stuffing that wasn’t stuffing, but wasn’t exactly croutons either? All we could do was laugh. My French has definite limits. Still, so much fun.
In October, I drove down to the Monet exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, hence the photos of my visit to Giverny this past July. I’m afraid I don’t have a great shot of the famous arched green footbridge. The day I was there, it was always groaning under mobs of people, not at all looking serene like in the paintings. Oh well, the waterlilies were in bloom and the gardens were stunning. Don’t even know what this flower is, but isn’t it gorgeous? No wonder Monet couldn’t stop painting!
For the past few months I’ve been taking a few poetry classes. Here’s my poem about living in France:
La Vie en France
I’m a different person in France, in La Rochelle.
It takes a few days to acclimate, to slow down, to breathe,
to allow myself to see, rather than photograph,
to be, more than do.
Of course, these days I know
not to make eye contact in the street,
to never let my hands drop below the table during a meal,
to count thumb first, palm in, to bag my own groceries.
I know to greet my friends pressing cheek to cheek,
right, then left, with a warm smile and a firm grip of hands—
or upper arms, if one is very moved—
rarely a hug,
but I have to remember, when I’m out and about,
to save smiles for a moment shared,
instead of launching them abroad like a blast
from a confetti cannon on the unsuspecting crowd.
I have to resist touching the produce,
displayed like art at the marché,
I have to remember to know exactly when I will eat it and with what
and to trust the expertise of the vendeur.
It takes a few days to stop bellowing wide Anglo-Saxon vowels
and instead to shape my mouth like a kiss
to greet clerks and servers and bus drivers with a soft bonjour,
to whisper the faint V of voilà that is almost not there at all,
to feel the grounding of the slight gargle of the Rs in au revoir, merci,
to hear and think and feel and dream in French. But once I do—
I stand taller. I walk further. I stride with purpose like a local,
though no one thinks I’m a local—I’m too blond—
maybe English, possibly German, but I am in some ways Rochelaise.
En France I taste my food. I notice it. I sip my wine.
I take my meals in courses, even alone at home.
I do not read as I eat. I do not hurry.
There are no snacks—maybe an espresso and
a morsel of chocolate at exactly four o’clock.
Dinner’s at eight, as is breakfast, lunch by one,
mealtimes and customs regular as the tide,
which soothes me somehow, like the shush of sea on sand,
the drift of clouds over the wide blue ocean that calls to me—
Reviens—Come back— from both shores.
(Written in loving memory of David, who made it possible.)
Wishing you wonderful times with family and friends and delicious food to eat, even if you can’t quite explain the appeal of your favorites!
Another questionable adventure was to join Pascale, Jacky, and friends for a grilled-eel BBQ out in a field east of La Rochelle. Pascale said she was hesitant to ask me, since it was a bit la France profonde, which basically means in the middle of the countryside where tourists rarely venture, with regular, village people who might have an accent or way of speaking that I would have trouble understanding. I was undaunted. Well, maybe a bit daunted about the eels. I didn’t take photos, since that felt like it would have been rude and intrusive during their annual multi-village gathering, but I had a great time. The hardest part was pronouncing the name of the village!
Most of Pascale and Jacky’s regular crew of friends were there–one couple, Jean-Marie and Jocelyne, had grown up in neighboring villages that were participating in the BBQ, which is how we were invited in the first place. It was row after row of picnic tables under a big tent. Benches were planks on iron supports, not always ideally positioned. At one point a man got up from one end of his bench, which threatened to unseat the elderly woman just behind me. Fortunately I was able to grab the bench before she toppled. It was all over in less than a minute, but Pascale and friends teased me that I’d be the next headline of the local newpaper, “Une Américaine a sauvé Madame” (roughly, American Woman Saves Madame).
Of course it was a huge, traditional French multi-course meal. First the guys disappeared over to the bar tent for pastis or some other scary-strong apéro. Then as they drifted back the actual apéritif course was served (little crunchy nibbles with champagne, I think — it all blends together a bit). Then halves of the small round melons like cantaloupe, filled with Pineau des Charentes as a first course (a revelation–WHY do we not eat it this way in the states?). Then the grilled eels, which are scarier to look at than to eat. They just taste like fish, since that’s basically what they are. More wine. And bread, of course. Then cheese, more bread, salad. Then dessert and a bit more wine! (By the way, penalties in France for drunk driving are VERY severe. There is always someone who drastically limits their wine or does not drink at all.)
We capped the day with a detour to play a bit of pétanque.
We had three couples, plus me, obviously extraneous, but they insisted I play anyway. I redeemed myself with my last throw, a completely random lucky shot that hit the little cochonnet and launched it away from the boules the men had so skillfully thrown and over among the boules the women had thrown, resulting in a win for the women. “Jamais encore !” Antoine vowed. (“Never again!”)
So plenty of smiles and laughter, the best kind of day.
I’ll save my other reluctant (but excellent) adventure in France for another post. Even writing about these happy memories has cheered me up, and of course snuggles with baby Beckett, time with friends, and making plans for future events help too.
I’m having a hard time lately–really sad and missing David like crazy–but I did promise more about France, so maybe this will redirect my thoughts for a while. It’s all day-to-day and learn-as-you-go, this grief thing. The 29th of August was the three-year anniversary of the day we learned David’s diagnosis was terminal. Certainly all the anniversaries have their own sting, but that’s one of the worst. And unfortunately, you can’t count on the sorrow magically shutting off when the calendar changes to the next day.
So . . . (deep breath) . . . in an effort to focus on the positive, I’ll tell you about a couple of adventures in France I was not at first sure I would enjoy.
I shouldn’t have doubted. Pascale ALWAYS plans excellent adventures, but when she suggested driving down to Royan to see a 1950’s concrete cathedral, I was skeptical. Fortunately I know better than to turn down anything proposed by Pascale and Jacky, so the morning of June 9th, we were on the road again.
The church is an impressive feat of engineering, so huge I never really got a decent photo, but here’s the best I’ve got. It’s a moving story of building something great after senseless tragedy. On January 5th, 1945, Allied forces launched a heavy bombardment, believing it was a final stronghold of the Germans. Sources differ on the exact numbers, but all agree the bombing raids killed many more civilians than German soldiers and 95% of the town was destroyed, basically for nothing.
But Royan rose again. It’s very different from La Rochelle and most of the other French cities I’ve seen, so well worth the trip. I loved the wide flat beaches that made me think of long walks with David on Folly Beach . . .
Then we headed down the road to charming little Talmont-sur-Gironde, one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France, where there are beautiful little details like this . . . .
Their church is pretty much the opposite of 1950’s concrete, ancient and barely hanging on to the edge of the cliff. The access to take the cool scary photo from below is now so dangerous we weren’t allowed down there.
Definitely a lovely, interesting day, but the best part was simply spending time with my friends, who with unflagging generosity, share the beauty of la belle France every time I see them.
So glad I said, “Oui, merci !” Even writing about it is making me smile. Thanks again, Pascale and Jacky!
Beckett David Johnson arrived at 12:56 a.m. this morning about thirty seconds before Chelsea was to be rushed in for an emergency C-section. He emerged on the last-chance push with the help of forceps, so well done Chelsea, coach/dad Brian, the entire medical team and of course Beckett for finally agreeing to move out of the cozy womb.
He’s 8 lbs. 2 oz. and 19.5 inches long, so we’re not sure what he was waiting for, but he’s here at last. The last few hours were tough on both Chelsea and Beckett (so, of course, worried husband/dad Brian, too), and all Beckett wants to do today is sleep. We all know that feeling, but please pray that he will begin to wake up enough to nurse, which is necessary for many reasons, but at the moment to keep his blood sugar up to healthy levels.
Just wanted to share this good news!
*I promise to pass along any well-wishes you leave in the comments.