Monday, May 25, 2015

Nesting (Nidification)

Add to Google Reader or HomepageWe have been back in the US for about 18 hours now. We have spent most of that time “nesting” – taking clothing items out of our storage bins and putting them back in the dressers and closets where they will remain until the next round of house-sitters arrives.

We have done this enough times that it is a fairly routine activity. “Nesting” is a whole lot less stressful that getting the apartment ready for renters. It is an activity that we can perform at our leisure. Except for the occasional item that I NEED RIGHT NOW, most of it can take place over the days and weeks ahead. Leaving the apartment and France is stressful because: a) we are leaving France and I drag my feet on getting things packed and put away and b) a renter arrived the same day we left, so we had a specific window of time to get everything ready for renters.

Our house and lawn (British “garden”) are in great shape. Our house-sitters took wonderful and meticulous care of our house while we were away. They even prepared (tilled) the vegetable plot and planted garlic last winter!

After noticing and admiring the house/garden/vegetable plot, the next thing I noted was how much earlier darkness arrives in Lansing when compared with our village in Provence. When one follows the latitude lines, Vaison la Romaine, FR is on a par with Traverse City, MI, 200 miles north of Lansing. The further north one goes, the longer the summer daylight hours become. This morning when we woke at 6:00 (after an early night of jet-lagged sleep), the sun had not yet risen. Provence can support tropical plants and long growing seasons thanks to the Gulf Stream and the trade winds that bring warm air to southern Europe (until climate change shuts down the Gulf Stream and Provence becomes cold like Traverse City in the winter…)

There is a real comfort from being back in our neighborhood. One of my French friends wanted to know why we continue to split our time between Vaison la Romaine and Lansing. The easy and honest answer is friends. We have wonderful friends – many of whom are also our neighbors. Hearing the description of the circle of wonderful friends and family, my French friend had to admit that he admired the American style of open front yards and porches where one can easily encounter neighbors. (The French usually construct high – 8-10 ft. – walls around their properties.)

Now that we have put away enough things to feel comfortable, it is time to go to see/talk with neighbors and friends.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Add to Google Reader or HomepageThis morning, as I was about to enter the bakery to get my daily baguette, a young boy ran past me and into the shop. He asked for a baguette, handed the clerk a 5 euro bill, took his change and darted out of the bakery. The clerk looked at me and shook her head. “Il est entrĂ© sans dire ‘bonjour’, il a pris sa baguette et il est parti et il n’a dit  ni ‘merci’, ni ‘au revoir’.  Les enfants ces jours-ci!» (“He came in without saying ‘hello,’ he took his baguette and left but did not say ‘thank you’ or ‘good-bye’. Kids these days!”)

I suppose that worrying about kids and their lack of manners is universal – and the older I get, the more I worry.

The incident made me think of a list that I saw recently at The list was: 11 ways to humiliate yourself in France. Number one on the list was: “Fail to say ‘bonjour’”. (To see the list of 11 no-no’s to avoid in France, go to: )

I have gotten better about being sure to say ‘bonjour’ no matter whether it is at a shop, a box store or a social gathering but I am far from perfect. For instance, the other day, when my American friend Ray was with me, I could not find something in the grocery store, so I stopped a clerk and asked where I would find X? He stopped and said ‘Bonjour’ and after I replied with my own ‘bonjour’ he took me to the aisle where X was located. – and yes, I was embarrassed. I am most often guilty of failing to say ‘bonjour’ to everyone at a social gathering. If there is a roomful of people, I will often say ‘bonjour’ only to the host or those close by…

A little civility goes a long way. It takes almost no time at all and shows a level of respect that we have lost or have forgotten.

And if you think I have bad French manners, think about the kids these days!