Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Keeping Up

My Handsome Beekeeper

If there is one person who is keeping up with it all, and I mean everything, right now, it’s my husband. It’s one man to 260 beehives, raising queens, seeking terrain and chasing the flower blooms, with honey deliveries on top of that, then taking care of his wife getting her prescriptions at the pharmacy, being there for every sage femme (mid-wife)/birthing group/doctor appointments/sonograms, dealing with insurance stuff, getting groceries, helping set-up the baby nursery and the heavy loaded garden work, being chauffer for his wife until she can get her license, and somehow he still manages to do the dishes and give her foot rubs with tired hands. How did I get so lucky?

I don’t know how he juggles it all, though he’s always been an amazing circus artist. I remember back in the day when he tried to impressed me by juggling the faucille tool, a sickle hand blade, which we use to harvest lavender and other wild plants. That was then. Husband, father, beekeeper, businessman, this is now. 

Apiary up the road from our house. 

Queen Cells

Some hives in our backyard.

And now, this spring, and soon the summer to come, will be an extremely eventful, exciting and busy time for us. I am mostly excited, though a little nervous, naturally; our baby girl is expected to arrive July 6th, during peak season, around the time Jorris will have to move the bees onto the Lavender. And, with the pandemic, clinic regulations are that he is not to leave the building, otherwise he won’t be able to re-enter and be with us. I am hoping the bees will be well for a few days, and he won’t have to go. 

It’s lovely to follow and watch him work, the way he surveys each hive, in the flow of doing and observing, keeping track of each colony, its health and the honey flow. He’s always a few steps ahead in his mind, planning out the next spots to move them, driving around to each apiary, waking up in the middle of the night when the high winds blow bee hive roofs off! At the same time he is queen rearing, raising his own queens, which takes a very dedicated schedule commitment, and precise calendar to follow for success. 

Our Busy Bees

Sometimes when I tag along, I bring a chair, find a shady spot under a tree, read a little, then help with the smoker and observe frames for eggs or brood along with him. It gives us a chance to be together during the drives, to talk bees, for me to learn more. It also keeps me in touch with our work as a couple and reminds me of our commitment to this profession and to Mother Nature. After all, each bee is our responsibility to care for and their equal hard work this time of year we are utmost grateful for. Their liquid gold results in our bread and butter.  It’s humbling to watch them waggle and care for each other on the frames, marvelling at the fact of all the many flowers they must have had to visit to gather those cute little colorful pollen balls on their back legs. When tasting honey straight from the frames, I am reminded of the magic, which I discovered when I first arrived into this world of bee keeping nearly 5 years ago. 

Breakfast in Bed: pumpkin pancakes, fresh-squeezed o.j., coffee.

I was hoping to take my handsome man out to a date night for his birthday today, but no restaurants are open yet for such an occasion. So, I opted for breakfast in bed, and while it wasn’t a pumpkin pie (his favorite), it was pumpkin pancakes, with half a pumpkin left from last fall I was able to salvage. I put on some coffee, made some fresh squeezed orange juice, a little kiwi and pear fruit salad, and picked some fresh wild flowers. 

Just waking up as I entered our bedroom with the birthday tray, he sat up, sleepy-eyed, surprised and happy. We shared the pancakes and coffee, savoring a peaceful morning together. He opened my present which was a book by a bee researcher and professor he admires. Bodhi came home, meowing through the window. Baby kicked in my belly as I bit into the soft buttery pancakes, probably in delight of her first taste of pumpkin pancakes, while wishing her Papa a happy birthday, too. 

Cheers to mon amour, papa to my baby, keeper of my heart and of the bees, my always wild and forever brave mountain man, Happy 34th Birthday!! I love you! 

*photos by me. 

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Saturdays are for Stealing

Bearded Iris beauties in front of the abandoned building.

I had to be quick. There was no telling who could drive by and see me. The thrill and reward were worth the risk. Some could call it stealing, but I like to look at it as a type of volunteer gardening service. These irises had been calling me to take them home since I first laid eyes on them. 

It was during one of my walks or one of our drives that they caught my eye. Prettily being themselves, they stand in front of the old abandoned building up the road by our house, not needing any admiration by anyone of their unique beauty, but being their beautiful selves anyway, all day, everyday. If only we could all be more like that, I think humanity might be in a better place. 

There are many beautiful flowers in bloom now. Spring is finally here. These flowers however, stand out to me the most. Perhaps it’s the unique combination of their colors, yellow and maroon, which allure me. Somehow, this combination of colors reminds me of a fashion runway. Maybe my brother could design a dress inspired by these colors and the delicate texture yet slight poofiness of the petals! I could wear that dress for his wedding next year. There are many irises around, mostly purple, but none I have seen like these. 

Bearded Iris Califlora Blatant Reblooming

Iris rhizome 

My friend Marie agrees. She sweetly came to visit me this week with her 3 kiddos, despite having car troubles. She borrowed her neighbor's car just to get here! That is a real friend. We had lunch and went for a walk with the kids. When we passed the irises, she too marvelled at their beauty. She even suggested I could take them, since no one lived in the abandoned building. She even gave me the idea of harvesting some of the rhizomes to take and plant in my own garden at home. And I did that today! It was exciting because I had to explore a bit the ground and had actually thought I would have to come back with a garden fork to dig them out, but they came out so easily! I took a few. Even though no one lives there, I still want to be respectful to nature and in general never take all of anything, and always I ask permission of the flower or what I am harvesting and give gratitude before I leave. 

For the person who does own the building, I’m actually helping keep their irises healthy because you don’t want the rhizomes to overgrow upon each other and crowd each other. So, I made space for future beautiful and healthy blooms. I help the mystery owner, while gaining some rhizomes for my own garden, as well as pretty flowers to decorate our home. A win win if you ask me. 

Baby bump & basket of irises and elderflowers.

Who needs to go to a farmers market when you can take a walk, getting exercise, while finding some treasures to beautify your home? I miss going to farmers’ markets of course! But, with life as it is at this moment, I am so grateful to at least still grab my basket and go out to gather something. The bonus is it’s free!

Also in bloom are beautiful elderflowers. Around the same area of the irises is a giant elder tree. The blooms of elder trees are always notoriously difficult to reach. They grow in places surrounded by nettles, other thorny plants or water, and according to Jorris, are usually hard to harvest without a ladder. I was able to harvest a handful of umbels. They smell so sweet and delicate! 

Tiny little sweet smelling elderflowers. 

Elderflowers are hard to reach. 

Happy elderflower harvest. 

The irises smell amazing too, sort of peachy. See how I really love these flowers! It’s not always the case that a flower is both beautiful and smells good. The elderflowers are also beautiful, tiny little white flowers in an umbel shape. I love elderflower sodas/champagnes which are naturally fermented and which I have tasted from a local artisanal producer. I can’t have alcohol at the moment, so with this harvest I plan to make an elderflower cordial, which is alcohol free. Or maybe a syrup?! Baby can enjoy a taste too from the amniotic fluid! It’s so gratifying to engage with nature and create things that nourish our bodies and spirits from her offerings. 

Elderflower cordial in the making.

I bowed to the elder trees which I encountered, asking permission to harvest and then once more at the end in thanks. Reaching as high as I could, gently pulling branches towards me and harvesting the fluffy white clouds of sweetness. I lost track of time and place, just going for the next branch and searching for the next possible umbels to gather, while watching my footing to avoid a tumble. I saw another tree so crossed the field of tall grasses nearly reaching my chest, the soft seed heads tickling my skin as they brushed against my arms. To walk on the earth and through the grass was so grounding, rather than my usual pavement walks up the road lately. 

Tall grassy walks towards the elderflowers.

Can’t wait for the elderberries to arrive. I will have to look into when that will be. There is so much to investigate and learn. I love it. I’ve heard one can make a syrup from them which helps with colds. I want to make things from nature for my family that will keep us healthy during the cold months when colds and sickness can arise. Always present, while looking ahead, right? But for now, I am so looking forward to summer and in the moment enjoying spring's offerings. 

In stunning admiration of the flowers which I have crossed paths with today who share their uplifting energy with me, I wish you a beautiful Saturday stealing flowers of your own, or whatever you maybe up to...

See the fuzzy yellow beard? 

*photos by me. 

Sunday, May 10, 2020

This Mother's Day

Spring offers new life and blooms in bright colors. 

It is said that becoming a Mother is a transformation, a birth and a death. It is the beginning of a new journey, a new way of life, a new self. I suppose like everything in life, there must be balance, so if there is birth there must be death. I woke up this morning feeling my old life fade like a polaroid picture in reverse, into an unreachable whiteness. Is this a reflection of my old self fading as well? 

I’ve been away from here for a while, not on purpose. Life has just been demanding my full attention, but I am here now, and it feels wonderful to be back with grand news to share. I am 32 weeks pregnant! In about two months we will be welcoming our baby girl into this world.  

The anticipation of motherhood stirs many thoughts that bubble inside me, like a healthy fermentation of some sort. In the beginning of my pregnancy I had experienced many vivid dreams, mostly strange and alluring, some were scary, others were seemingly commonplace. My midwife and friends said it’s a way of purification, a purging of some sort to prepare the mind and self for baby. I have heard other women experience this as well. I am fascinated by the innate wisdom of our bodies to take on this process. 

I am equally fascinated, if not more, by the physical changes of my body taking place. I am growing a human! My body is taking care of me and my baby every moment, with every breath I take. It’s astonishing to read the facts, to observe for myself as I look in the mirror, everything my body has done and is doing for baby and I. 

To start, it created a new organ, the placenta, which nourishes baby. Then my uterus began expanding and has continued.  My breasts have also grown and the nipples continue to darken while veins surround my chest like a network of mycelium, preparing for milk. I have more blood in my body which has to work a little more to pump, and with my belly, walking up hill is a little more tricky at 7 months, but I just take my time and waddle, step by step, knowing it’s good for baby and I. 

Baby bump 7 months and baby plants for the garden.

Being pregnant has been my greatest invitation to be present. My mind wanders through many channels daily, weekly, monthly. Learning to sit with these feelings through their many fluctuations has been most challenging. I suppose change is innately challenging. In one day I can experience so many emotions. The weather also affects my mood quite a bit. It’s been crazy weather this spring. I don’t know what to make of it and neither does Jorris, really. Some days are bright and sunny, clear and crisp with promises of beach days ahead and freedom after this confinement period is over due to the Corona Virus. Other days, like yesterday, are gloomy, stormy, wet and violently windy. The mercurial weather mirrors my mind.

Confinement has been most difficult for me, physically and mentally. This has been a real test of my mental and spiritual vulnerability and power. Since October, well before the virus, I hadn’t been able to drive any longer because my CA driver’s license is no longer valid in France. So I had to begin studying for the French driver’s test, which is notoriously tricky and seemed impossible to overcome. After months of grueling study and self-confinement, with the help of Magali and Laurent from Café Langue Échange and of course mon amour, I succeeded the test in February! 

The next hurdle was the actual driving part, which one driving school said I needed 20 hours of driving practice which would cost a few thousand euros, not to mention time. Here I am feeling very frustrated having driven since I was 15 and now being told I have to take practice lessons! But then, of course, we are in France and things work differently here. So we found another school who said I don’t need 20 hours, just a few, and then I can take the test. 

I managed to do one driving practice and then bam, the Corona Virus took over the world and France and we were on lockdown so the driving school shut down and suddenly my other driving practice days and exam day were on pause. I was so close, yet so far away. I felt back at square one again, depending on Jorris for groceries and the neighbors for help when Jorris became busy with the start of the bee season. It all works out, but I miss that freedom of getting into my saxo and just going somewhere. This lack of transportation kept me from seeing friends on a regular basis for months, and then when the whole world went on confinement, the days of isolation became law and compounded my already existing feelings of imprisonment. 

It’s a weird space to be in. It’s the beginning of so much change to come, a period of incubation. In a few months baby will be here and hopefully tomorrow life will open up again in France as the confinement will begin to dissipate. I can’t wait to be back on a date night with Jorris or even just going to a coffee shop. These establishments have also been closed since March, though I have heard some are open for take away. Hopefully soon I can resume my path to take my driving exam and finally get my freedom back. I envision driving my baby and I to the sea for a swim. 

Sourdough Bread #38

But, there is a silver lining. Perhaps the Universe intended for me to stay put, build my home here, to get bored and restless enough to teach myself new skills like making sourdough bread and sauerkraut and yogurt. I want to write more about these adventures in the world of fermentation and my other new baby, Penny, my sourdough starter, which has helped me make up to today 38 loaves of bread, not to mention the many pizzas and other tasty treasures like sourdough cinnamon rolls!! We all love Penny, especially Jorris, and our neighbors. A part from baking bread weekly, I’ve also started a vegetable garden and manure pile butternut squash garden, as well as a strawberry bed for our little girl to harvest her first strawberries next year. These skills will ultimately prepare and have already allowed me to take better care of my family (Jorris eats my bread like his main food group and I think baby enjoys it, too). I feel our baby kick mostly when I am eating, so I suspect she will be a gourmande (foodie in French) like her parents, naturally!

Fresh salads and a spinach from our garden.

Manure pile butternut squash garden; squashes are heavy feeders.

I keep reminding myself to be patient, to just breathe. This past Friday, May 8th, marked my Grandma Ma leaving us one year ago. The week before that, on May 1st, marked Grandma Lee’s passing also one year ago. I can’t believe it’s been one year since both my dear Grandma’s left us. I miss them deeply, as I do the rest of my family since their passing also marks one year since I have been home, the longest time I’ve ever been away from CA. 

While I wish they were here to meet our baby girl, I feel great peace nonetheless knowing that somehow a part of them will be with her, is already with her. All of their wisdom and love wraps her warmly in my womb. 

I was supposed to be back in CA earlier this month, like many of us, for my brother and Steven’s wedding, but due to the virus they postponed it until next year. It’ll still be great because baby will be with us to witness two beautiful people join lives in matrimony. We can all celebrate in happier times than now, at least that is how I choose to see it. Plus, maybe it’s better that I stay here on my mountain away from the dense city. Maybe here is just where I am meant to be, even with the moments of suffering and feelings of restlessness and entrapment. Mediation and yoga have been my saviors. 

Strawberry Dreams of the future give me hope.

Fresh air and crisp rainy mornings in our backyard.

In spite of the uncertainty and current events, life is good. Our baby is healthy, as are we and our bees, and I am so grateful for the outpour of love from my family. Thanks to technology, we’ve been able to be in touch and they have made me feel loved and missed. I learned from my Mom (to me the word Mom, or synonym of it, should always be capitalized ;) that she and my cousins Kat and Connie were planning a surprise baby shower for me! Just the thought of it is so sweet and made my heart so happy. 

I think I miss my Mom most during this time, especially today on Mother’s Day. We talk almost every day though, so I still feel close to her. It’s incredible to realize that I can also celebrate today and that I too, next too all the Mothers before me, among me and ahead of me, am honored to be a part of the beautiful circle of Motherhood. Happy Mother’s Day to all the beautiful Mamas out there in the world, especially to my Mumsy!!

My Mom, my best friend, my rock, my heart.

*Photos by me, Jorris and my brother. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Waking up in Italy

Back in September, I took myself on a trip to San Remo, Italy. It was a most memorable solo-voyage, one I hadn't taken in what felt like a long time. I drove across the Italian border in my little manuel Citroën Saxo (a.k.a the little old car that could). I still remember the gorgeous view along the French Mediterranean coast as the soft sea breeze brushed against my cheeks and the late September sun warmed my skin. 

Today marks the 7th-year anniversary of my blog Garden Gallivanter. Seven years ago today I wrote my first post. No matter where I am year after year, I am always drawn to reflect on this day, to write to you. Luckily, (knock on wood) I've been able to write and have had access to internet to post every birthday year so far. Usually, I reflect on the year and on how I and this blog have grown. I hope to achieve the same thing, except, this year, to change things up a bit, I want to tell you about my trip to San Remo because it encompasses who I have evolved to be this year. Here is what I wrote from my hotel room:

September 18th, 2019
San Remo, Italy

I used to be scared to be wrong or to make a fool of myself, but now, being nearly 31 (OMG Really?!), I embrace my inner-fool. If we are afraid to be wrong or to make mistakes, we miss out on opportunities to learn and grow. I think it comes back to that concept of vulnerability. 

Brené Brown wrote in her book Daring Greatly,"Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path."

Art along my stroll in the old city. 

This concept has been revolutionary in my life. I think part of it was forced upon me to be honest, forced in a good way, a little push perhaps is the better way to put it. Being an ex-pat, I’ve had to learn, and still learn, how to live in a foreign country. It’s not feeling as foreign anymore, but I still remember the days of google translating from French to English “I would like to send this letter to the United States, please.” Everyday tasks such as going to the post office was a little extra, extra scary, extra vulnerable.

Thankfully that learning curve has passed in France, but I continue to gain these little moments of “extra” just across the border in Italy. I am in San Remo, on the Italian Riviera, known as the Lingurian coast. It’s absolutely beautiful. I just drove across, past Monaco, past Menton, and somewhere after one of those toll booths I had crossed over to Italie.

My darling little hotel room. 

Gorgeous sea view from my hotel room. 

It’s been a few years since I’ve been in Italy. Living on the French/Italian border isn’t so bad. I feel like we are blessed with the best of both worlds. I decided to treat myself to a little work/play experience. I’ve been itching to travel, and this was plausible and I could do it independently. I wanted a new landscape to write and found just the perfect little hotel room to do just that. 

Just the view is inspiring enough and helps me get into character to finish our family memoir. It allows me to feel and sense the childhood home in Vietnam with ocean view as my Auntie Barbara tells me about and remembers so fondly. Jorris always reminds me that the Mediterranean is a sea and not an ocean, but it’s the same kind of atmosphere.

Coffee and computer in bed, sea view, a writer's kind of morning. 

It’s amazing how changing our physical space a little can create new space in our minds and spirit. It feels so good here, having time to myself, out of the daily routines and tasks. It’s so refreshing. I took myself out to dinner last night at the sweetest little tavern that was kind of in a shady area but so quaint with delicious homemade Italian foods and drinks. Did I think of Jorris, of course. I thought how much he would have loved everything. Nonetheless, it wasn’t a sad or longing kind of thinking of him. I had a wonderful evening out and could just people watch as I enjoyed every bite and sip of my meal in peace.

While strolling and shopping through the Mercato di San Remo, my senses were dazzled. The food portion of the market was gorgeous. Vibrant colors of red and yellow peppers, sun dried tomatoes, peperoncino and bruschetta spices, the colorful pastas, the fresh fish and octopus, and of course the huge rough and rustic blocks of Parmigiano Reggiano. I chose the one aged 36 mesi (months)! This one is the best, strong, rich. Just hearing a different language spoken and seeing different styles of clothing and people, just across the border, can be so enriching and recharging. I love being somewhere new and submerging myself in the unfamiliar.

Summer on a plate. Best sun-dried tomatoes I've ever tasted.

Goodies from the market, spices, pasta, polenta, Parmigianno.

To top it off I found some cute jewelry rom India and Nepal at this stand and also a cute little linen romper. The market also takes place outside with different vendors selling purses, dresses, jewelry and more. It’s a sunburst, bright yellow, so fun and spontaneous. I wore my new jumper and necklace out to dinner last night. But the most special outfit I put together was with my Grandma Ma's silk blouse. I had been waiting for the right occasion to wear the delicate and beautiful blouse. Wearing it in Italy seemed perfect. I felt like I brought Grandma with me on a night out in San Remo. 

Artful dessert at Taverna al 29

Travelling has always kept me on my toes and that’s one thing about it that I have always loved and grow to love more and more. For example, I had made a mistake at the car garage parking and didn’t know that you had to pay before exiting, so at the exit, I kept putting in my credit card, which kept getting rejected. There were a few cars behind me, so I began getting nervous to make people wait. I pushed the intercom help button and in English said I need help and the voice yelled some nonsensical words back to me in Italian and hung up! So what do I do now I thought?

I stepped out of my car and asked the man behind me in half Italian/half brain keeps going back between the two. It’s been many years since my study abroad days in Firenze where I knew basic Italian, but some words have come back.

“Scusa,”(Italian for excuse me) I said to the man, standing at this window.. “c’est marche pas” (French for it’s not working). Luckily, he was French and said, “Il faut payer avant en haute,” (you have to pay in advance up there). His wife was in the passenger seat and quite annoyed that my little saxo and ignorance was blocking their way out. She said in French something like you can back up in that space there and not block us; there are cars trying to get out. The old me would have felt sad or been offended, or upset, at her tone of voice. But I came from such a place of compassion and right away thought to myself she’s just probably hungry, tired of the market, or they have lunch reservations somewhere. I didn’t react to her comment. I didn’t take it personally, and while it was an awkward situation and I felt nervous for 2 cars waiting for me, I just backed up, found a new parking spot, and found the little machine to pay which was upstairs and then returned downstairs to my car and then I was able to exit.

Wearing Grandma Ma's blouse for a night out. 

Soft, silky and I felt all of her good energy.

Overall, Italians are welcoming and it’s been lovely, though I’ve been yelled at by passing vespas and other cars. I don’t know if it’s because I’m driving too slow or if I’m breaking some sort of traffic rule...or both. I did accidentally drive the wrong way in a parking lot and an oncoming car shook her index finger at me. But it’s all good and while it doesn’t feel good to be yelled at in a language you don’t understand, I’m forgiving and understanding to myself that I am new around this neighborhood and need to drive slowly and look for streets, etc. I am also learning to drive with European traffic signs...and a stick shift; so in the bigger picture, even though it may look like I’m “failing” on the roads here, I’m succeeding so much in life! Growing up I did not drive a manuel, but I’ve learned! And we don’t have roundabouts really in the states like here, so learning how to drive through those has been quite a feat for me.

“There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.”
                                                        - Brené Brown

I feel so liberated and grateful to be in this space of no fear. I’m not afraid to fail anymore. In fact, I embrace it wholeheartedly. This is huge for me because upon reflecting, as a kid I was terrified of being wrong or failing. I’m not really sure why because my parents were never hard on me or got mad at me for making mistakes. I suppose it was an inner fear. I was always afraid to be wrong in class and only raised my hand, (if that!) when I knew the answer was for sure right.

Favorite outfit with Grandma Ma's blouse. 

It feels wonderful to be shed of that skin of failure. I’m still scared of things of course! But, now I can laugh at my foolishness and relish in it even when cars drive past me and yell at me, or if my Italian is incomprehensible. Now I can just make reservations over the phone in Italian, without having it be perfect, and just trust that I still remember some Italian (with the help of google translate). If for nothing else, I do it because it challenges me; and it’s fun to speak Italian.

I used to be an all-or-nothing girl. The best and all of it or none of it. I’m much more flexible these days and just live by what feels good and right, with all the imperfections. Being a gardener and living in the countryside, I’ve grown to learn that even if a veggie or fruit looks imperfect (based on commercial standards), it is still a beautifully tasting veggie or fruit. In nature, rocks and trees, mountains, streams, are imperfectly perfect just the way they are. So, as an embodiment of Mother Earth, I too can be imperfectly perfect just the way I am. 

Dinner: Clam linguini pasta paired with a glass of white wine al fresco. 

I've grown to really enjoy time with myself. Strolling on the cobblestone streets of Liguria after a scrumptious clam pasta dinner with a nocciola gelato in hand could easily become a new tradition for me. I will cherish these memories and this me-trip for years to come. Knowing that Jorris is always there for me, but that I am always there for me too, has been revolutionary new-found knowledge. I feel like this new independence, self-knowing, prepares me for something great to come. The relationship we have with ourselves might be the most important before any other relationship in our lives. This year I've learned to nurture and listen to my inner-myself, to speak up for my soul. Cheers to Garden Gallivanter and another year of writing. Thank you for being here, for reading and sharing in my life. The honor is mine. 31, here I come! 

Old City, San Remo, Italy

*photos by me. 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The World Can Wait

Not Instagrammed: Desert hiking trail near Azusa, CA. May 2019 

Let’s slow it down. Take a breath. That email can wait. So can that text, and instagram message, and whatsapp message and messenger message and telegram message. It can all wait. The world can wait.

This has been my mantra for the past 4 months. Around the time that both my grandmas passed away, I came up with this mantra for myself. The world can wait until after I have had my cup of coffee in the morning. The world can wait until after I mediate before I answer the those emails. Just because technology moves fast, doesn’t mean that we have to. We have the power to slow it down. The choice is ours.

Around the same time, perhaps a few months before that, I decided to stop posting on instagram. My last post was on March 26th, 2019. I really enjoyed posting and sharing stories, but I found myself, almost everywhere I went, thinking “wow this would such a nice shot and oh this would be the coolest caption.” I began to realize that I kept ruining that moment for myself. I kept going into the future about what a nice instagram post this would be instead of just living in the moment. I realized that the cycle of taking the perfect picture and posting it and then seeing how many likes and views I got was like a tic, everywhere I went. I wanted to just experiment and see what would happen if I just stopped?

The human brain is incredible. The plasticity of our brains allows us to learn new things everyday. This means we can make lasting change in our lives, build new neurological connections and pathways. We have the power to do this everyday. So, I just told myself I would stop posting pictures for a while and just live in the moment.

Not Instagrammed: Hiking with family in Azusa, CA. May 2019

At first, I caught myself thinking, while sitting by a stream on a hike for example, oh this would be such a nice shot of this little flower here. I would, by muscle memory, go for my phone, usually in my back pocket. Only then would I stop myself and put my phone back, reminding myself of my experiment. This would happen for a while. I don’t remember how long exactly.

Eventually, I would no longer think about instagram or facebook or posting photos. I no longer reached for my phone during those moments of beauty I found myself upon. I was living in the moment, really just being in the moment of whatever I was doing and where ever I was. Perhaps my brain made new connections and so I stopped reaching for my phone. And, when I realized this, which was a gradual process, I felt so liberated. I don’t really know liberated from what exactly, but perhaps just from the desire or need to share where I am and what I am doing.

Don’t take this the wrong way, I still look at instagram and this is the main way I keep in touch with my cousins and brother, perhaps even get the news. And I find so much inspiration from it, especially in the realm of yoga and food. It’s a wonderful tool. But like all tools, I think it depends on how you use it. I still find myself some days checking it so many times, too many times. It is so addictive. So, for me, like life in general, it is all about balance.

Not Instagrammed: Interesting Swamp Scene on hike. Azusa, CA May 2019

And, since we are talking about building new good habits and establishing routines, I have begun a new morning and bedtime routine about 2 months ago. It’s not really new, since I had done it before, though I would fall out of the routine and jump back in, so it wasn’t as consistent, but it has been pretty consistent the last 2 months, and I have felt such an improvement in my days and in my nights.

During the morning, the first thing I do is have my coffee. I take the time to grind beans so it’s fresh and boil the water with a fast boiler. I use the pour over method, which I have been for years and absolutely love. Coffee for me, is a non-negotiable. It wakes me up and makes me happy. I sip my coffee on the sofa, enjoy the view of green mountains, and that is it. I try not to think of anything or think about my day yet, I just focus on sipping my coffee, smelling it and waking up, slowly. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, Bodhi will hop onto my lap and cuddle with me for a bit.

When I was working at the farm, I would take the first few sips like this, and then, for the sake of time, I would hop onto my yoga mat and do a few morning poses, cow and cat, a few lunges, forward folds, some sun salutations, and in between poses, I would continue sipping my coffee. I would feel so energized getting my body moving and the energy flowing in a positive way first thing in the morning after hours of sleep. Then I would hop over to the computer room where I have a chair by the window. I have to sit here to get internet reception on my phone so that I can hear my headspace app for meditation. At first, I was annoyed at this, the fact that I couldn’t just meditate on my yoga mat, but then I found the chair quite comfortable for meditation and the view beautiful as well,  so it all worked out. I do 10 mins usually, but sometimes, if I’m pressed for time, I’ll do 5 mins. This part of my morning is so important. I feel like meditation sets the tone for my day, one of clarity and positivity. It also gives me a moment to practice gratitude and that also makes me feel so good and gives such perspective on life.

After that, I do all my bathroom business and get dressed then I’m out the door. The main point that has helped a lot has been that I do not look at my phone or other electronics for the first few hours of my morning. I used to sip my coffee while I scrolled through emails on my phone/ looked at instagram, and though it took me a while, I began to notice that this really exhausted me. I suppose it was just information overload. And, frankly, mostly information I did not need.  It’s also perhaps a luxury of my job. The lettuces and leeks wouldn’t be emailing me, I just knew I had to get down to them ;)

Not Instagrammed: Beautiful CA Buckwheat on trail. Azusa, CA May 2019

After a month, I began noticing the difference. I felt so much more energy in the morning and had such clarity and focus throughout the day. My mind felt less cluttered with stories that didn’t serve me. Some mornings, like Saturday mornings, I’ll sip my coffee, do some yoga and look at instagram because it’s fun and I do enjoy it. Or, I'll sip my coffee and scroll through before yoga and meditation. But, that's more like a treat.

For my evening routine, I also eliminate all electronics at least 1 hour before bed, 2 hours is better though. I don’t look at my phone or the computer. Sometimes, if we watch a movie or show, then I make an exception, but this is rare so it’s ok. The other night I happened to look at my phone because I had gotten a text which usually doesn’t happen, but it did and then I got sucked into some instagram perhaps or something on the phone and had to pull myself out of it. I noticed that night I did not fall asleep as well. I try to be in bed by 9 or 9:30pm though, this week I've been closer to 9pm which has been great. Most of the time I am successful since my body naturally gets tired around then. I like to read a few words from whatever books I’m reading next to my corner of the bed and then fall asleep.

Together, these routines of starting and ending the day have improved my functioning and feeling during the day. I feel like I’m functioning more optimally by keeping to these electronic boundaries for myself.

Not Instagrammed: Sage Blossoms. Azusa, CA May 2019

The world can wait. It really can. I think we keep trying to keep up with the pace of the world, and it’s just not humanely possible and we get swept away by all this stuff we don’t need, dampening and dulling our own personal creative spirits and thoughts, while perhaps even straining our adrenal glands.

I have learned in these past few months not to be pressured by responding to emails and texts and all that messaging stuff right away. Back then, when snail mail or telegrams were the only way to communicate, information took time to get to you and you had time to reflect and write something meaningful back. I love that we have email and that it keeps us so connected and makes life so efficient in many ways, but it also hinders our abilities to take time and reflect, since it's so easy to just respond right away. 

Time. Time is ours and time is precious. Don’t let these superficial pressures of responding right away get the most of your time. Look up, look outside, gaze at the stars or sunset once in a while rather than your phone. Take time to be with your people, to smell the flowers, sages, and buckwheats, together. See how you feel afterwards.

People can wait and if they can’t, they can learn. They will live if you don’t answer them right away. Try it! I promise it’ll be ok if you don’t respond right away. So, for September (and beyond) let's slow down and savor life.

*photos by me. 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Sweet September

Purple Garlic from Provence is our favorite and gives me Fall feels.

Oh, Sweet September, how I've longed for you since August. And now you are finally here, with your chilly and bedazzling starry night skies. I welcome you with full embrace. My heart is happy for a new season and new routine. Last night, Jorris and I slept with our bedroom window closed because it was a little chilly, and I got the thicker wool blanket out, folded at our feet, just in case. Bodhi snuggled by my head; I think to keep warm since the wool blanket, which he had been sleeping on, had slipped to the floor.

The sound of his purring and feel of his soft fur against my ear lulled me back to sleep. I had gotten up to go to the bathroom and upon my return to bed noticed out the window a beautiful night sky, pitched black and sparkled with stars. It had been the first time I had seen the stars in what felt like so long ago. They were literally sparkling! I couldn't believe my eyes, in fact, I kept blinking and refocusing to make sure I was seeing reality. Half asleep, I forced myself to stand just a second longer and marvelled at the beauty above me. I hopped back into bed, spooning mon amour as he slept soundlessly.

This past week had been my first week of no longer working on the farm. I had finished my last day the Friday before. My contract had ended and while I was offered a new one, I felt in my heart and spirit and physical being that it was time for a change, so I kindly declined. We had a team meeting and there I let my voice be heard. We were all sharing our thoughts and feelings. I found the right moment for me to speak, and in French, spoke all that was in my mind and heart. I shared my gratitude as well as my frustrations. I cried, and while embarrassing, it felt so good to be seen and heard. I allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to speak my truth.

Farming Sistas @ Chez Isnardi's field. 

I think it was the first time in my life that I had ever done that, to speak truly from my heart in front of people whom I'm not so close to. Normally, I would just brush things off and "let them go," but I think I have stepped into a new phase of my life where I just want to be authentic and true about who I am openly, even if it makes others uncomfortable or even if they won't understand. While I have always strived to be authentic and true, it was never really important to me to show that to others, but now, I feel it is important. It is as equally important to make ourselves seen and heard for who we are rather than stay small, as much of society wants us to be. Before, it was enough for me just to know for myself how I felt or what I believed, but I think others can learn something as well and we can evolve as a collective.

These concepts of being vulnerable and being seen and not staying small I have learned from Brené Brown, shame and vulnerability researcher and author. She has written so many books on these topics, and I have found her ted talks and books inspirational. I wasn't intending on using these concepts, perhaps they were just in my subconscious and found a moment to be revealed. It was a learning opportunity for us all. I wish we had had more meetings like this. I spoke up for my friend and colleague Indira as well and since working with her I have grown to respect and love this remarkable soul.

Colorful Grape Tomatoes.

All in all, I am so grateful for the opportunity to have worked on the farm. Despite the challenges that we all faced as a team this season, we have grown some pretty beautiful vegetables and fed lots of people, so I am proud of what we have accomplished. I have learned so much about growing food and about life. I am especially grateful to have met Indira, my new soul sister. I believe we were meant to cross paths and learn from one another.

Now that the season is shifting too, I feel so ready for a new routine and this past week has been a great start. Jorris and I went to deliver some honey at Le Country Store and Jean de La Tomate, two adorable stores in Nice where we now sell our honey at. We also pitched some honey sales to a few organic food stores, went to the bank and post office, did grocery shopping, and then made a movie date out of it since we were in the city. We went to Cagnes Sur Mer to watch "Once Upon of Time in Hollywood," the new Tarantino film. It was excellent, funny and entertaining. We enjoyed every moment with popcorn. Did you know that in France they don't put butter in their popcorn?! It's so ironic because everywhere else they put butter except for movie popcorn. My father would not approve. Luckily, the popcorn was fresh and movie was great, so I can't complain.

Made this carrot cake last week for our friends. Can't wait for more baking!

Autumn for me means more time for tea.

It is amazing how changing up your routine can change how you feel and open up your mind in so many ways. As humans who lived by nature, we lived by the seasons and so naturally, we were not always doing the same things. For example when the weather changes and veggies can no longer grow in snow, we turn to other kinds of work, like baking carrot cake. It feels great to live more closely to this natural pattern of seasonality. My body is happy too, for a break from the same farming movements. I've been doing much more yoga and just focusing on opening up the tight parts of my body, mostly my shoulders at the moment.

This was from last Fall 2018 <333 Photo: Jorris

So, here's to September, Autumn, crispy orange and yellow leaves, wool socks, cozy sweaters, more cups of rooibos tea and knitting that scarf for my favorite guy, hopefully with Bodhi snuggled on my lap. And here's to a great season of organic farming in the southern French Alps. A deep thank you to my colleagues and Mother Earth for all their life lessons this growing season.

*photos by me, unless otherwise noted.