Tag Archives: France

What the future will bring

I learned to sew in Home Economics class when I was eleven years old, and I continued to sew for the next 40 years—until I got a job that required travel more than half of the year. When I was at home, I had too much catching up to do to sit and sew.

For me, sewing requires dedicated time and a certain state of mind. I need to be able to focus on what I am making. Sewing gives me the most pleasure when I can spend an hour or two (or more) at my sewing machine.

God-trust-future

Knitting has taken up some of the space I would have devoted to sewing; gardening has taken up some as well. They are both creative outlets for me, but they are not sewing.

Sewing was spiritual for me. I thought it was almost miraculous that I could take a rectangular piece of fabric and in as little as a half hour, turn that piece of fabric into a skirt. The idea of something being transformed into something else spoke to me of God’s creating from nothing and of God’s being able to reshape us (I love the image of God as a potter, creating something from a lump of clay).

I have other hobbies I can do while doing something else (I can knit while watching television, for example, or read a book while I am in a waiting room) but sewing requires its own space and time without distractions.

By the time my friend Jim got brain cancer, I hadn’t done any serious sewing for about ten years. We had not talked about my sewing, so I was surprised when, a few days before he died, he said, “I hope you sew again.” It seemed to come out of left field, but when I reflect on it now, I can see what he saw—my life was fuller when I sewed. I was more myself with that creative outlet.

But since he died ten years ago, I still have not started sewing again.

Then one day in France three months ago, I had the thought, “I want to sew.” A few days later, I was in a baby shop looking at hand-sewn bibs, and again I thought, “I want to sew.”

Ironically, that morning at prayer, two Scriptures had spoken to me:

Isaiah 43:16-17: Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see I am doing something new, and

Philippians 3:14: Just one thing, forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead….

God-trust-future

Sewing is from my past; could it also be in my future?

Is it time for me to return to this hobby of old, even to see if it is still something that brings me joy?

Do you have a hobby from your youth that still calls to you? That still engages your imagination and fosters a sense of creativity?

Art outside museums

Throughout my travels in France, I visited several art museums, and I also noticed art in some unexpected places. The main street in Barbizon, for example, featured mosaic reproductions of works by artists who lived and woked in Barbizon in the 19th century.

Barbizon-Art-France
Barbizon-Art-France

Barbizon-Art-France

Honfleur sits along the northern end of the Seine River and this outdoor wall art is representative of the nautical feel of the town.

Honfleur-travel-France

In Angers, this artistic garden in what had been the moat around the castle drew my attention.

Angers-France-travel

This mural in Lyon covered an entire building.

Lyon-France-travel

I was in Lyon during Holy Week and came upon these Stations of the Cross. The juxtaposition of this modern interpretation of the Passion of Jesus on the ancient pillars was striking.

Lyon-France-travel
Lyon-France-travel

Lyon-France-travel

In a holy place

When I walked into the Notre Dame Cathedral at Bayeux, France, two things happened.

First, I had a felt sense of the prayers that had been offered there over the years (the Cathedral was built in the 11th century), as if I was part of the communion of saints—I was joining my prayers to all the people who had prayed in this space over the centuries. Their prayers hung in the air, filling the vast space; I could almost hear their shouts of gratitude and cries of anguish. I walked into that communion of saints, and I prayed in gratitude for the opportunity to be there, to be part of this community of faith.

I was reminded of the tapestries in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and imagined a parade of people from the past, heads bowed in prayer.

travel-God-mystical vision
One of the Communion of Saints tapestries in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, California
travel-God-mystical vision
Tapestries line the interior of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

(The Cathedral at Bayeux also has a tapestry, which depicts the adventures of William the Conqueror in 1066 and is now housed in a museum near the Cathedral.)

The second thing that happened when I walked into the Cathedral was a memory of a mystical vision I had almost forty years ago.

In the vision, I was in an old church like this one (I had been in Spain a few years earlier and had visited several churches like the one in Bayeux—stone walls, floors and pillars and no permanent pews or fabric to soften the church interior).

travel-God-mystical vision
Interior of Notre Dame Cathedral, Bayeux, France

When I had the vision, though, I was praying in the convent chapel at my parish in Pennsylvania.

In the vision, I saw myself lying prostrate on the floor of a medieval cathedral. I could feel how hard the stone was against my body and how cold it felt against my arms. Then, the floor began to shift and rise up, becoming a hand that was lifting me up, and I knew it was the hand of God. God said to me, “I will hold you.”

It was soon after that vision that I moved to a l’Arche community, and I thought of that vision many times during my time in l’Arche and how God held me.

Today is the feast of St. Norbert, an 11th century French priest who was known for his deep faith. The writing in the Liturgy of the Hours, says, “He spent many hours in contemplation of the divine mysteries and fearlessly spread the spiritual insights which were the fruit of his meditation.”

I wondered about the spiritual insights of my meditation, and then I remembered my vision. God will hold me.

God did hold me during my time in l’Arche, and I came away from that experience with a deep awareness of God’s care for me. Living in l’Arche was the most challenging thing I had ever done and also the most fruitful—I learned so much about myself.

The vision was a gift, a promise from God that I would be held. Almost forty years later, the vision still consoles me.

Whimsical France

My back yard garden is dotted with bits of whimsy–yard art and wind chimes tucked in among the flowers–so imagine my joy at discovering bits of whimsy during my travels around France. Here is a sampling.

travel-France-whimsy
It is not uncommon to see animals on roof tops–here are two cats in Honfleur.
travel-France-whimsy
Blue snail in Bayeux

travel-France-whimsy
A person beneath an umbrella in a fountain in Bayeux.

travel-France-whimsy
Giant-sized gardening tools in LeMans

travel-France-whimsy
Blue gorilla in the Beau Arts Gardens in Angers

travel-France-whimsy
Church gate in Albi

Extra touches

This was the first time I traveled with Overseas Advendure Travel (O.A.T.) and hopefully not my last. O.A.T. specializes in small groups and solo-travelers; we were eight people for our main tour (three more had planned to come but covid changed their plans), and I did not have to pay a “solo-supplement” to have my own room. Some other pluses were that we stayed in each location for several nights, giving me time to get to know a place a bit and also setting a comfortable travel pace. We did day trips and also participated in a number of activities that added interest to the trip.

In Barbizon, I took a sculpture class with Melanie Quentin.

O.A.T.-travel-mindfulness
My artistic talents are somewhat limited; but it was great fun working with clay. I have a new appreciation for sculptors.

Bayeux is known for lace-making. We visited the Museum of Fine Arts and then I took a lace-making class with Cécile Roquier at the Lace Conservatory.

O.A.T.-travel-mindfulness
Hand-made lace using bobbins. It took me a little bit of practice to learn the process of criss-crossing the bobbins to make a pattern.
O.A.T.-travel-mindfulness
The project I worked on. The process is slow (perhaps because I was new); I added maybe six rows to this piece.
O.A.T.-travel-mindfulness
Madame Roquier made these lace hearts and is selling them to raise money to support Ukrainian refugees.

From Carcassone (where we stayed inside the walled city), we ventured out to Chateau Auzias. We walked through the vineyard and learned about the pruning process. Then we toured the Cave, where the wine is made, and then we had the opportunity to mix our own red blend.

O.A.T.-travel-mindfulness
Anastasia getting ready for our wine blending class.

At Maison Fleuret in Paris, we took a macaron-making class . Let me just say that making macarons is as much science as baking, and I have a new appreciation for all that goes into making them.

O.A.T.-travel-mindfulness
The finished product!

Touring with O.A.T. was fun and educational. I am still on a “travel high” even though I have been home more than a month.

Life is changed in an instant

On Wednesday, April 6, my tour group traveled from Angers to Sarlat, France, with a stop at Oradour-sur-Glane. As I walked the deserted streets of this devastated village, I was taken back to September 11, 2001.

I was in New York City that day, having stayed overnight for work. I walked out of the apartment building on the east side a little before 9:00 a.m., planning to walk to Chinatown. I remember looking up at the sky and thinking, “what a beautiful day for a walk.” I didn’t know a plane had already crashed into the World Trade Center; I learned that one minute later when I walked across the street and into the office.

Life changed in those few minutes.

On June 10, 1944, life in Oradour-sur-Glane changed for the village’s residents. I could imagine the residents waking up that morning thinking it was like any other morning, and then some 200 Nazi’s surrounded their village and massacred the residents and destroyed the buildings. Only one woman survived.

The village has been left as it was that day, a memorial to the massacre.

Travel-Oradour-faith
Memorial plaque in the village.

Travel-Oradour-faith
Travel-Oradour-faith

Later that day, I heard about atrocities in Ukraine and thought of the people there who had woken up one day in February not knowing their lives would never be the same.

The stop in Oradour-sur-Glane was sobering, and for the next few days, my mind was preoccupied with the evil in the world—past and present.

Other times when life changed in an instant kept popping up—the day Jim was diagnosed with brain cancer, the day I was raped, the day Gerry was diagnosed with leukemia, the day I learned my husband had been unfaithful, the day my cousin was raped…a parade of life-altering events.

I allowed myself to feel the sadness for the people of Oradour-sur-Glane and the people of Ukraine—and for myself. In the middle of this wonderful, month-long trip to Europe, I held deep gratitude for this opportunity to see and learn.

I recognized the parallels in France’s life-altering events and my own, and I came to a deeper understanding of the need to honor my past, no matter how painful it might have been.

France is still coming to terms with their role in World War II. Likewise, I am coming to terms with my own history. I want to reveal the secrets I have held and move past the shame I have carried.

Walking the deserted streets of Oradour-sur-Glane reminded me to look at my past realistically and to acknowledge what happened to me. I remembered three questions from a grief retreat I attended: What was lost? What remains? What is possible?

French doors

I often notice doors when I travel, the color or size or ornamentation. Here are some I noticed while traveling around France on my Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.) tour.

Travel-France-doors
This door in Barbizon caught my eye because it was set back into the building and because of the carvings.
Neighbors in LeMans
Travel-France-doors
LeMans door with elaborate carving.
Travel-France-doors
A wide, squat door in Angers

In Lyon, sometimes the door caught my eye, but more often it was the decorative work above the door that entranced me.

Red doors on churches often catch my eye. The one on the left is in Paris and the one on the right is in Bayeux.

Purple is my favorite color, so the doors to this church in Sarlat won my heart.

Travel-France-doors

Fantastic French food

I took my first food picture at breakfast on day one in France, and then another at lunch and another at dinner. “At this rate,” I thought, “I will be photographing every meal I eat,” so I started being more selective. I want to share just a few to give you an idea of the abundance of great meals.

Barbizon is an artsy village with galleries and museums. We had a scupting class–my first time working with clay–and visited the Besharat Museum and Gallery which houses an eclectic collection of art and is also a boutique hotel. Lunch at Le Royal was this exceptional tuna nicoise salad, bread (of course) and beer.

travel-France-food
Tuna nicoise salad, bread and beer at The Royal in Barbizon.
travel-France-food

I had my first mussels in Fontainebleu and my last in Paris (with a few more along the way). These were at Les Cascades in Honfleur (and perhaps my favorite). Here, I learned the trick of using the shell instead of a fork.

travel-France-food
Mussels in Honfleur
travel-France-food
Les Cascades, Honfleur–serving my favorite mussels in France.

I usually like chocolate for dessert, but I had many excellent desserts in France that did not include chocolate.

travel-France-food
Apple tart
travel-France-food
The pastry selection at a outdoor stand.

Castles, castles everywhere

Before visiting France, I probably would have said I had little or no interest in castles, but I would have been wrong. I found the castles of France fascinating. Some were mere ruins while others had been well maintained.

travel-France-castle
The Chateau d’Angers, built between the 13th and 16th centuries.
travel-France-castle
On top of the wall
travel-France-castle
The garden inside the castle walls
travel-France-castle
Chateau Villandry, built in 1536.
travel-France-castle
The Meditation Pool at Villandry
travel-France-castle
The gardens at Villandry
travel-France-castle
Part of the moat and the only castle we visited that still has water in the moat.
travel-France-castle
Chateau de Commarque was built in the 12th century and is still in the Commarque family. It is currently being restored.
travel-France-castle
Inside the grounds of the Chateau Commarque
Beneath the Chateau are caves with carvings that date to the Magdalenian Period (15,000 B.C.).