LA DOLCE FAR NIENTE – “The Sweetness of Doing Nothing”

Provence used to be Italian.  Many foods, customs, and sayings remain from that time – which ended by plebiscite in the 1860’s.  One of the dearest, and most challenging to this Type A American, phrases is the Italian concept of “La dolce far niente”, — the sweetness of doing nothing.

I didn’t know how un-Provencal, how un-Italian, how un-far-niente I was until my first Thanksgiving in Cannes.  I decided to do something very un-American on that day, –since I couldn’t find any cranberries anywhere.    I went strolling all along La Croisette. 

 

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Aerial View, La Croisette Boulevard, Cannes, Provence, France

 

If you care about the Cannes Film Festival [developed to magnetize tourists during the rainy month of May], you’ll have read about all sorts of stars out upon La Croisette, — dressed and not-so-dressed, singly and together, by day and by night.   And some, –like Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward–, being robbed of their passports the year I was there .  I used to picture the border-crossing guards as one headed into real Italy at La Bordighera,  — laid-back uniformed men studying Paul’s and Joanne’s passports, passing those clever thieves right on through with languid waves of the hand.

 

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Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward Image from Internet

 

That Thanksgiving Day, moving right along, Mediterranean to my left, towering palm trees casting flickering shade, the Pailais (Palace) of the film festival dead ahead, I heard a most unpleasant sound.  I stopped and looked around.  The sound stopped.  I set out again.  So did the sound.  It was my rapid American feet on the broad wave-splashed sidewalk.

Nobody else walks fast.  They have a verb I was never taught at St. Mary of the Woods College — “se flaner”.  It means “to stroll.”    We didn’t stroll in Detroit, let alone when I moved to Manhattan.  But that’s another story.

 

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Not Strolling, but a good American clip — and definitely not on La Croisette

 

Today, in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, I am doing nothing.  None of the tasks of the season, not even the tasks of the bill-basket.  And certainly not the tasks of the marketplace.

 

french-marketplace

French Marketplace Scene — See, Even Here, They Emphasize Sitting, Relaxing, Doing NOTHING!

 

I am languishing with a superb history of FDR as Politician Par Excellence — H. W. Brands’  stirring Traitor to His Class.  Chapter-by-chapter, I am tugging us through World War II and learning more than ever before about strategies and justifications, –in Franklin, in Winston, in the brilliant George Marshall, in Harriman, and even in De Gaulle and Stalin.  This is not anything I need to know, but I cannot get enough of it.  Sheer luxury.

 

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Traitor to His Class, H. W. Brands

 

In between, –in my ever-present journal–, I am taking notes on the politics of yesteryear and the same field, if you can call it that, now.  In 1942, FDR insisted upon raising all taxes, –especially upon the wealthy, especially those who were being enriched by the war–, “so that the sacrifices demanded by the war would be shared equitably.”  Imagine..  But that’s another story.

 

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Frank Capra’s Iconic D-Day Image – June 6, 1944, Normandy, France — A Day That Will Life in … HONOR

 

On my Retreat Day, I am neither making nor taking phone calls.  I am not initiating e-mails — although a few prove irresistible.  I certainly am not going near Facebook.

I make two delightful meals, and eat them at a table rich in items Provencal, because I never get enough France, but you already know that.

At 3 p.m., I walk outside on my tiny patio with bare feet.  I sit on a white ice-cream chair, tug slacks up over my knees, shove turtleneck sleeves halfway up my arms, and face the sun.  I do all the sitting yoga and p.t. exercises that normally take up morning hours, there on that chair, in that hot sun.

 

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Ice Cream Chair, Tiny Patio, in another season                                                                       Cups in Plants Courtesy of Sociopathic Upstairs Neighbors…  But that’s another story…

The grass is silken and of an aggressive green suitable for Easter.

There isn’t a sound – not a car; not a voice; not a jet; not a team shouting on Lawrenceville playing fields so far away except auditorially; not the mew of a cat or a catbird; not the caw of imperious crows.

A small miracle is that I can sit here, gently exercising, while ‘my’ goldfinches nourish themselves daintily at the thistle seed.  Not even they are murmuring.  But these small, seasonally muted birds are usually so skittish.  If I move fast, inside my study, behind my monitor, they, outside on their thistle socks, all explode away into the sheltering ash tree. Not today. We are all outdoors here together.

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Goldfinches on Thistle Sock (Breeding Plumage)

What’s wrong with this picture?

It’s not Easter.

It’s Christmas Day.

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For Unto Us A Son Is Given

Ice caps and ice sheets are melting, and nobody in power gives a damn.

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MELTING – 21st Century Reality

I spend many hours, when I’m not saving New Jersey at D&R Greenway Land Trust, signing urgent protests about the plight of the Planet.  Not today.

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21st-Century Reality – Does No One Care but Bill McKibben?

 

Today I am remembering La Croisette, before I’d ever even heard of Catastrophic Climate Change, and it was supposed to be warm on Thanksgiving, on Christmas.

 

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Along the Boulevard

 

Today, Christmas 2016, I learn that I possess resources for this level of solitude.  Worth knowing…  One of the major lessons of my own Year in Provence.

 

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Flaneurs Along La Croisette in Earlier Times

 

Tonight, in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, on December 25, 2016, I am sunburnt — proof that I have practiced “la dolce far niente” this day.

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Lawrenceville Fire Company, Perennial Gift to the Community

As NJWILDBEAUTY readers know, I have recently moved to Lawrenceville, to a peaceful community called Society Hill, tucked up and away from the tiny town, and named for the Society of Friends.  As in Quakers, who filled this region and served it well, back even before our Revolution.

On voting days, I can walk to our polls, in the Lawrenceville Fire Company’s building .  Station 23 it is, and 23 is the number of my house.  Good omen.  203 was my number at Canal Pointe, and 2003 all my high school years on Northwood Boulevard in Royal Oak Michigan.

It’s always festive when I vote in my new place, because it takes place among these true friends, those who protect our community by day and by night, who polish up their phenomenal trucks and other vehicles, and stand them, gleaming, outside as we arrive to cast our ballots.

I wasn’t even well on the most recent voting day.  I thought I might not even be able to utilize that phenomenal rite, for which our Founding Fathers, often deliberating here and near here, pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

Feeble as I felt, mid-morning I asked myself, for some reason, “well who are you, what defines you?”

One answer turned out to be that I write a blog about New Jersey and nature.  So I did that, that morning.

And what else am I, who else am I?

An American who votes.

So I went down to The Lawrenceville Fire Company and chose, among others, Bonnie Watson Coleman, whose splendid brother, Jay, is our vice president at D&R Greenway Land Trust, saving nature in New Jersey.

Who else am I?

A photographer.

So while I was down at the fire station, I took pictures.  Below is the Fire Company’s own picture.  I urge you to think of them now, at Christmastime.  Think how they leap into the fray, whenever flames appear — and how they advise us about such things as fire extinguishers and generously watering the Christmas tree. Think and get out your checkbook, and write them a thank you check.

Meanwhile, I think their vehicles look like Christmas.  Enjoy!

Lawrenceville Antique Fire EngineLawrenceville Fire Company
Mercer County Station 23
Address: 64 Phillips Ave, 08648
Phone: (609) 896-0972
“Protecting the North Since 1915”

Welcoming Doorway, Lawrenceville Fire Company

Welcoming Doorway, Lawrenceville Fire Company

A safe and honorable place to bring tattered flags

A safe and honorable place to bring tattered flags

We've come a long way with firefighting equipment

We’ve come a long way with firefighting equipment

Water rescue equipment

Water rescue equipment

Insignia of Honor

Insignia of Honor

Brush 23

Brush 23

The latest and the greatest...

The latest and the greatest…

How It Used To Be

How It Used To Be

Honorable Uniform, Ever at the Ready

Honorable Uniform, Ever at the Ready

Lawrencevillie Station 23

Lawrencevillie Station 23

Pride and Joy of the Crew

Pride and Joy of the Crew

Ready for Anything

Ready for Anything

RESCUE

RESCUE

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade

Badge of Heroism

Badge of Heroism  re 9/11

The Power and The Glory

The Power and The Glory

God is in the Details

God is in the Details

This Simple Plaque Tells Their Story

Lawrenceville Fire Department 010

The first time I voted here, the department was called to a fire.  Here we all were, voting away, and there came the men, calmly hurrying, dashing into those uniforms we came to revere over and over during 9/11, climbing on to the polished trucks that had been all out on the sidewalk for us to admire.  Silently, surely, they whooshed away.

I asked, “Do you do this every time we vote?”

Smiles all around.

That day and this healing day, of capturing their luminous equipment, I felt so very proud to be American.