Chat Nomade

I’m busy getting ready for the first Chat Nomade, a pop-up cafe filled with cat art and objects. Nicole Barrière, Jude Brazendale, Marie-Josèphe Boyé and I are planning it for the first weekend of October, at Tom’s and my place. In November, it’ll be at someone else’s place.

At this point we’re working on the poster and making or collecting cat things.

Cordais friends, mark your calendars now and join us Saturday or Sunday afternoon between 2 and 5 the first weekend of the month for the Chat Nomade.

Je suis occupé à me préparer pour le premier Chat Nomade, un café éphémère rempli d’art et d’objets félins. Nicole Barrière, Jude Brazendale, et Josèpha Boyé et moi le prévoyons pour le premier week-end d’octobre, chez Tom et chez moi. En novembre, ce sera chez quelqu’un d’autre.

À ce stade, nous travaillons sur l’affiche et fabriquons ou collectons des objets “chat”.

Amis Cordais, à vos agendas dès maintenant et rejoignez-nous samedi ou dimanche après-midi entre 14h et 17h le premier week-end du mois pour Chat Nomade.

A useful practice in times of change

In the middle of this very very hot, very very dry summer, when we would stay inside our wonderfully cool little house all day every day, Ella, our lively little cat, was eight months old, and Mocha, our sensitive and often reactive dog, was ten years old.

One day the shit hit the fan.

Mocha was on her bed, sleeping lightly. Ella came flying into the room, skittered across the wood floor, attacked the dog’s tail with one flying paw, claws fully extended, turned, and zoomed out of the room. But Mocha was ready. Suddenly the dog had the cat cornered under the coat rack, and her jaws were closing around Ella’s ribs.

I shrieked, shouting at Mocha in my fiercest voice, pushing her away from the cat, and sending her to her bed. There was no need really; Mocha knew where to go, and as usual, she seemed genuinely remorseful.

But the incident was over the top for me. All afternoon, I stormed around, imagining the quiet home in the country I’d find for Mocha, designing in my mind the sign I’d hang at the vet’s and the Facebook post I’d write. I was done with her, this difficult, traumatized animal who’d shown up in our lives just when we arrived in our idyllic new setting four years ago. Despite some good progress, she still terrorized tourists, lurched and bared her teeth at moving wheels of all sorts, and snarled at children who approached her uninvited.

I’d had enough. Which picture would I choose for the ad?

Meanwhile, Ella was fine, relaxing on her chair next to Mocha’s bed, stretching, washing herself.

As these things go – more and more frequently it seems – when I sat down and opened my computer, there was an offer to watch a short series of videos on working with sensitive animals. Needless to say, I watched them.

For a little over a month now, I’ve been practicing a new form of meditation that I learned from the series, which is about James French’s Trust Technique. After 40 years of practicing more or less the same technique I’d learned from Ganesh Baba, I feel like I’m being offered a promotion. The open-eyed, focused Buddhist-style practice French uses takes the inner skills I’ve honed all these years and redirects them outward, slowly refining my awareness of my own state of mind and Mocha’s. I’m only on the second lesson of the paid series, and my relationship with her has changed.

I haven’t replaced my Ganesh-Baba-style kriya yoga practice with the new practice – I do both; they enhance each other – and I look forward to both my private practice and my twenty minutes of meditation with Mocha with renewed enthusiasm.

Based on Reiki, the trick to meditating and eventually cooperating with animals is to master moving into a deeply peaceful state of presence easily, a stillness without thought, that they find comforting. Now, using my attention increasingly skillfully and progressing at Mocha’s pace, I’m learning to communicate that peace to her. She likes it very much, and so does Ella, who regularly volunteers to join in our experiments.

Today, as I drifted back into ordinary consciousness after a particularly satisfying session with both dog and cat, it occurred to me that the skills I’m gaining may be very useful in these increasingly chaotic times. I’m practicing being undisturbed by passing cars, by Tom passing through the room, being unruffled by feelings of failure or frustration, detached from thoughts of the future and the past. I sit on the floor next with Mocha and Ella, breathing softly, fully present.

And all around me, there is peace.

More cats on stools – Plus de chats sur les tabourets

Minoushka à Cordes

I continue to find painting cats on stools a most satisfying activity. Discovering a new old stool at Emmaüs, a brocante, vide maison, or eBay or Leboncoin is always magical. Repairing, sanding, and painting it gives me enormous pleasure.

Je continue à trouver que peindre des chats sur des tabourets est une activité des plus satisfaisantes. Découvrir un nouveau tabouret ancien chez Emmaüs, une brocante, vide maison, ou eBay ou Leboncoin est toujours magique. Le réparer, le poncer et le peindre me procure un énorme plaisir.

Mostly, I work from photos or, in the case of Minoushka à Cordes and my current project, Henri IV à Cordes, a painting. I’m using one of Cordes by Yves Breyer that I have on a postcard. Brayer’s work is perfect for using a a model because he gets so much character into simple strokes.

La plupart du temps, je travaille à partir de photos ou, dans le cas de Minoushka à Cordes et de mon projet actuel, Henri IV à Cordes, une peinture. J’utilise une des Cordes d’Yves Breyer que j’ai sur une carte postale. Le travail de Brayer est parfait pour utiliser un modèle car il donne tellement de caractère à des traits simples.

For Minoushka I didn’t have the exact photo I needed to work from so I combined a few. Here’s her face in a picture that Jon Davison, one of her humans, took:

Pour Minoushka, je n’avais pas la photo exacte dont j’avais besoin pour travailler, alors j’en ai combiné quelques-unes. Voici son visage sur une photo prise par Jon Davison, l’un de ses humains :

And here she is on her stool:

Et la voici sur son tabouret :

I’m just beginning the one of Henri IV, our extraordinary half-Siamese cat who met his match tragically last fall. He was two years old and King of all he could see; his nemesis was a car on our street, which he had recently claimed. My heart broke at losing him so young – I’m not sure I’ll be able to part with the stool when I finish it.

Je commence tout juste celle d’Henri IV, notre extraordinaire chat demi-siamois qui a tragiquement rencontré son match l’automne dernier. Il avait deux ans et était le roi de tout ce qu’il pouvait voir ; son ennemi juré était une voiture dans notre rue, qu’il avait récemment revendiquée. Mon cœur s’est brisé de le perdre si jeune – je ne suis pas sûr de pouvoir me séparer du tabouret quand je l’aurai fini.

Here’s Henri IV on his throne:

Voici Henri IV sur son trône :

I’m using this out-of-focus picture of him for the painting.

J’utilise cette image floue de lui pour la peinture.

I changed the tail a little to make it echo the shape of our street on the picture of Cordes.

J’ai un peu modifié la queue pour qu’elle fasse écho à la forme de notre rue sur la photo de Cordes. It’ll go on the in-process stool above.

Voici le croquis que j’ai fait cet après-midi. Il ira sur le tabouret en cours ci-dessus.Il ira sur le tabouret en cours ci-dessus.

It occurs to me now that this series, Cats on Stools, is in part one of the gifts of Henri’s death. The other is that my heart has settled back into my chest after being in my mouth for the months when Henri was claiming more and more territory in the village. He’d taken to walking around it with me and Mocha in the weeks before his boldness caught up with him. He was fearless.

Il me vient à l’esprit maintenant que cette série, Cats on Stools, est en partie l’un des cadeaux de la mort d’Henri. L’autre est que mon cœur s’est réinstallé dans ma poitrine après avoir été dans ma bouche pendant des mois où Henri revendiquait de plus en plus de territoire dans le village. Il avait pris l’habitude de s’y promener avec moi et Mocha dans les semaines avant que son audace ne le rattrape. Il était sans peur.

RIP Henri IV de Cordes.

Cats on Stools

I’ve recently begun a series of painted footstools featuring cats. This is the first one.
After choosing which stool I want to paint – I have a few on hand, some new, some old – I practice drawing the images I’ll put on it, and I start a search for the right quotation or poem for the bottom.

Then I paint the stool using acrylics. If I’m working on a stool for someone, I try to choose the right colors. Once the color is dry I begin on the design, usually on paper first and then on the stool.

Usually I add folk art designs at the end.

The second one in the series is in spring colors.

And now I’m beginning the sketches for the third one.

I haven’t had this much fun in a while!

An afternoon walk

Please join me and Mocha on our walk around the village this afternoon.

Along the footpath between le Barri and le Bouysset.
C D B ?
The new owners have cleaned up the area behind a house along the path.
This is part of a ruin that now has a sign on it saying it will soon be renovated.
A lovely old garden gate in le Bouysset
I know this valerian is an invasive plant but it’s so beautiful!
Poppies root anywhere. The walls in Cordes have lots of these arches built into them.

Now I’ve come round the west end of the village. This is the guardian of a garage, I think.

Abandoned gardens like this one aren’t uncommon.

Heading down the north side now.

I’m walking on footpaths mostly.

It’s high rose season now.

Almost home now. The cat disappeared when he sensed Mocha coming.

And look! Henri IV is in his place waiting for us again.

From the window: August 2018 – May 2021

Our house in Cordes has two windows, one up and one down. Well, that’s not exactly true. There’s also the front door, which has a panel of obscure glass, (just learned that kind of mottled glass is called “obscure”), two bathroom windows, also obscure glass, and a skylight, obscured mostly by dirt since cleaning requires climbing on the roof.

The point is, there are only two windows where you can see out.

For obvious reasons, I started taking pictures out of them the day we moved in. Sometimes I take more than one, sometimes I miss a few days or even weeks because we’re traveling, or it’s dark when I get up, or it’s raining and the view is less inviting.

I don’t keep every picture I take, either. (I probably should have done that, but it’s too late now.)

Most of the time I face directly south, looking out of the windows.

Cordes is shaped like a fish, and we are on its belly, letting us see both the sunrise and the sunset. Sometimes I lean out to catch the sun.

I like the fog that rises from the creek, l’Aurausse.

It’s green in the winter here, but we get hard frosts and once in a while a dusting of snow.

Occasionally it rains enough for the valley to flood.

The trees change color and lose their leaves in the fall.

Rainbows aren’t uncommon.

And the clouds are spectacular!

In the late spring hot air balloons start to come over Cordes.

Our cats appreciate the window sills as much as I do.

Sometimes you get incredible clouds and fog at the same time.

I took screenshots of all these pictures to post them here, so you can’t click on them individually to enlarge them. Too bad.

Maybe I’ll put them all upon Flickr so they’re more accessible.

Or maybe I won’t.

In any case, I’ll keep taking more of them.

Because the extraordinary beauty right out the window never stops amazing me.

Flowers we saw on our evening walk

Mocha and I usually take a walk after dinner. This is a small sample of what I saw.

Mocha, of course, only paid attention to the smells and the other dogs.

The weather has been so bizarre that I thought the roses were already done. Fortunately, I was wrong.

Same goes for the irises. The red valerian (Jupiter’s Beard) is doing very well this year. It doesn’t care if the weather is bizarre or not.

This time of year the vines start taking over. I’m not sure what this one is, but it’s everywhere.

When we came home, Henri IV was waiting.

More reasons to love Cordes-sur-Ciel

This morning we welcomed a new member to our French conversation class, Samaher Alqadi, whose documentary, “As I Want” is beginning the film festival circuit now. Here’s the trailer:

And here’s a short interview with Samaher:

Then, the end of our conversation, another participant shared this recently released music video, filmed in Cordes:

Recent photos and some thoughts about Facebook

A few weeks ago my Facebook account was hacked. It wasn’t the ordinary kind of hack where someone (or something) sends lewd pictures to your friends via Messenger. Instead someone used my account to post something so egregious that Facebook immediately shut down my account for violation of terms of service. I was told my account was restricted for thirty days and a Facebook bot wrote to me to acknowledge that I’d been hacked, but a few days later, a picture I posted on Instagram showed up on Facebook, and I found I was able to post.

This is the image I posted on Instagram.

I thought the issue had been resolved until a couple days ago when I received an email from Facebook telling me that my $250 limit on paying for ads automatically had been reached. It turned out that my Mama Ganache ad account was attached my private Facebook account and that when we turned over the Mama Ganache page to the new owners, the ad account remained in my name.

Now someone had ordered $2000 worth of ads. If I hadn’t had a limit on automatic payments, the whole amount would have been withdrawn. I immediately wrote to Facebook, deleted the fake admin on my ad account, changed my passwords on my account, my PayPal account and my bank account, reduced the limit on automatic payments to $2 (the lowest I could), and removed all viable payment methods from my Facebook account. I wanted to close the ad account entirely, but the restrictions on my account didn’t allow me to do that.

The next morning I saw that the $250 had been refunded to my bank account through PayPal, and I closed my Facebook account.

I’ll miss Facebook. There are lots of people I kept in touch with there that I won’t be in contact with now. And even though I can’t deny its dark shadow, the connections I’ve made on social media, many on Facebook, have enriched my life. Cartoons on Facebook made me laugh, I mourned friends’ losses and cheered their successes. I used the local buy, sell, trade site, and I connected with neighbors. Facebook offered me a window into the lives of dear friends and relatives I rarely see, and resources for news I wouldn’t have come across otherwise.

My mentor, Alice O. Howell, loved social media. Though Facebook gained prominence late in her life, she embraced it. The Internet was part of the Age of Aquarius, she used to explain, because Aquarius is an air sign depicted by the symbol of waves. She was thrilled to see electronic communication blossom.

I may open a new Facebook page in time. But for now, I’ll be posting here more often, though – if the ex-president’s blog is anything to go by – a blog will never have the same impact or response of a Facebook post.

All the same, here’s a window into my life over the past couple weeks:

Last week we had guests. Mocha enjoyed Oona’s company very much as long as Oona didn’t try to eat her food or want her to play too much. Mocha is nine now, and Oona is only two.
We were so happy to have young friends from Paris here too.
Dear friends from Vendée cleaned up and moved into the vacation house they bought here. We’re so excited to share this beautiful place with them.
A view of Albi from the Château de Castelnau-de-Lévis.
The tower at the same chateau.
We were sad to say good-bye to our friends (well, maybe Henri IV wasn’t so sad) but we know we’ll see them again soon.

Spiral dream: Redemption

Ever since I was a very young child, I’ve had dreams that center on a conical spiral in one manifestation or another. William Butler Yeats called it a gyre.

The earliest ones I remember are nightmares. I’m with my mother on a path up a hill, mountain, or a pyramid, and the ground falls out from under me. She cannot save me.

Later I’m on my own on the path, always spiraling upward, never easy. But sometimes when the path collapses or the land slides, I can save myself.

When I was in my late 20’s and Ganesh Baba was part of my daily life, I reached the top of the mountain for the first time. In that dream, the path near the top is so steep and narrow that I can pull myself directly up by using it as a foothold. Still the mountain is steeper and steeper. When I’m sure I can’t go on and that I’m about to slide down that precipitous cliff, I see that my mother is at the top. She reaches down for my hand like Michelangelo’s God in the Sistine Chapel and pulls me up.

I imagined, at that time of my life, that the series would end – but I was wrong. The dreams continue to this day. Sometimes I reach the top, sometimes I am in the middle or at the bottom. Sometimes the mountain is wooded, sometimes I’m climbing a tower, sometimes I’m in the desert. Sometimes the conical spiral takes the form of a Christmas tree or a seashell.

When I began my studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute, I dreamed that I was slogging through a stream at the bottom of the mountain carrying my suitcases. I couldn’t even get to the first level until Tom came by above me, took the suitcases and pulled me up to the first level.

Last night this dream came to me:

In a post-apocalyptic urban setting I am tutoring two little girls, one about eight or nine years old and the other about six. The older one is not receptive to what I am trying do with her, so I take the younger one with me when I go for a walk.

We discover a nearly intact church and go inside. The enormous space is empty. Light enters in shafts through broken windows set high on the walls. There is nothing in the nave. We turn toward the back of the church to leave and I see that a wrought iron spiral staircase, maybe four meters high, has been pushed into the middle of the floor.

From our left, a line of green and gold robed figures files into the room. The first of them climbs up the stairs and stops at the top, the next stops a few steps down, the next a step or two lower, until the stairs are full. The rest of the group stands in a neat line below.

The man at the top begins to sing Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.” One by one the others join in until they are all singing in glorious harmony.

The child and I are moved to tears.

Wanting to share the experience with the older child, the little one and I leave the church and walk back the way we came. We pass a ragged man in a wheelchair made out of a wooden cart and we tell him about the song. The child sings.

I wake hearing it.