As some of you know, in May 2019 the Man of the House and I packed five insanely large suitcases and moved from our home in Portland, Oregon, to Collioure, a village in the deep south of France. On habite ici maintenant! We live here now.

:: News from the rue ::
We never imagined our first year as French residents would include a pandemic. I’ve revived this newsletter to give you a glimpse of life in France during these unprecedented times, and also to offer some trucs of beauty that bring me pleasure and a measure of distraction. (Un truc is used throughout France to mean whatchamacallit, thingamabob, stuff. It’s the word the French grab when they can’t think of the word they want. It also means trick.)

As I write this, it’s our 17th day of self-isolation. We’re “en confinement” until April 15 “au moins” (at least), and are required to carry an attestation every time we leave the house, stating our business. That we fill it out, date it, and sign it ourselves is absurd, unless you think of it as a sort of food journal for the self-isolated. Having to print a long document and fill it in prevents you from simply bounding out into the street for no reason, something the French, as a nation of flâneurs and flâneuses, are genetically programmed to do.

Like most of the locked down world, we can only leave our homes for essential trips, preferably once a day, done alone. Physical exercise is considered essential, but must be performed no more than one kilometer from home. Our local gendarmerie is less strict about walking the dog. France is a nation of dog lovers (also non-dog poop picker uppers, but they’re getting better about it.) Being out and about with a dog on the end of a leash amounts to a free pass. When I’m walking Desmond, our 90-pound Great Pyrenees-Lab mix, the gendarmes wave or give him a pat on the head. Only an idiot would ask what I’m doing on the street, and if there’s one thing I’m learning about the French, they don’t like to be viewed as idiots.

Several friends and neighbors, having glimpsed the bureaucratic freedom conferred upon me by walking Desmond want in on it. Yesterday, one of the first spring-like spring days — blue sky warm breeze bird song — he had three walking dates. Another American in the village suggested I might rent Desmond out by the hour, as if he were a stand-up paddle board or kayak. I wouldn’t think of it. I’ve given up my own walks with him, so he can better serve the village.

:: Un truc I’m reading ::
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, by Gertrude Stein. Illustrations by Maira Kalman. Gertrude Stein’s memoir of life in Paris among the young, impoverished painters and artists who would one day become icons of modernism was originally published in 1933, and enjoys a permanent place on the “best of” lists of 20th century memoirs. This illustrated edition is big and beautiful, accompanied by Maira Kalman’s whimsical, poignant illustrations. The paper is heavy and smells good.

:: Un truc that brings me joy for inexplicable reasons ::
My beach glass collection. Port d’Avall is our local swimming beach. It was said to have been Picasso’s favorite place to swim as well. Before we were confined, I would spend an hour there on nice days, searching for specimens. Favorite: a perfectly egg-shaped piece of white glass. It could easily be mistaken for a jelly bean.

:: Un truc from a Come to Your Senses retreat alum ::
Twice a year I hold writing retreats in Collioure. Come to Your Senses is geared for writers of all levels who wish to learn how to engage their senses more fully and improve their writing. In May 2019, Lonna (“Elle”) Hopkins Coleman, also experienced a surge in her interest in painting. Because that’s what this place will do to you.

About her work, Elle says: “The beautiful colors of Collioure made a lasting impact on my visual memory. The paintings of Matisse and other artists who came to Collioure conveyed the beauty via their style, and I am capturing the beauty as I saw it. My art strives to convey my passion for vivid colors. Brighter than reality, perhaps, but that is what lives in my memory and gives me joy.”

This painting is called: Les Collines de Collioure, The Hills of Collioure. You can find more of Elle’s work on Instagram @ellecolemanphotoart.

::Mon petit promo::

If you’d like to pre-order my new book, Yeah, No. Not Happening: How I Found Happiness Swearing Off Self-Improvement and Saying F*ck It all — and How You Can Too, click on the world’s sexiest sloth.

For readers in Europe, click here.

Merci bien for reading!
A+ (A plus, from à plus tard, see you later).

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • What a fun first post for me to read, now that we’re new best friends. I love sea glass too but–sigh–not much of it around here in landlocked St. Remy de Provence! Look forward to reading more of your adventures…

    • Karen Karbo says:

      Ah, but Provence. What we have in blue water and delicious anchois, you have in endless fields of lavender and that provencal pottery I apparently can’t get enough of! Our paths will cross as soon as the coast is clear. Be well!

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