Debra Bellon’s ongoing poetry blog, No Haikus, is a treat. Excellent way to re-fill your own well. Here is a recent gem:
Another long mile. You breathe;
the air is full of dust, the moon
All the words that once seemed important
are now gone, like the bitter
You yearn for the faraway light
of the nameless star
flickering in the dark sky,
and devastatingly vast
Thanks for permission to re-post at Studio Mothers, Debra. More, more, more!
Our friend Debra Bellon, a writer and filmmaker who lives in Toulouse, has a two-year-old son and a brand-new baby girl. Debra has been creatively percolating during the past couple of years, as many of us do while we’re otherwise occupied caring for little ones. To that end, Debra just launched a new blog site for her poetry: No Haikus. Debra says, “I’m going to see if I can write a poem a day, with each poem using a word from the last, if that makes any sense.” She has asked for support and encouragement from the Studio Mothers community — so please visit Debra’s blog from time to time. You know how having an audience helps to keep us honest and committed!
Félicitations, Debra! We much look forward to seeing more of your work.
French packages never have helpful instructions on them, like “open here.” I might be reading too much into this, but I just spent several minutes trying to decide where a package of frozen string beans should be opened in order to be able to close it afterwards, and I found myself reminiscing about the good old days, when I lived in the U.S. and I could count on my packaged food having a nice little dotted line and a picture of scissors. I don’t know whether the French people think it’s obvious, or whether they think that deciding where to cut open your bag of string beans is a question of free will. Me, well, sometimes I just want to be told what to do.
Sometimes I wonder how much creative energy goes into simply surviving life in a foreign country. I always thought I would live in a foreign country, and France is not exactly exotic. After all, we share the same cultural heritage, at least to some extent. Yet I am constantly surprised by little things I didn’t know — anyone who has lived in a foreign language knows the strange experience of learning a new word and wondering how it was you survived that long without knowing it. I had lived in France for over a year before I knew the word for “kitchen sink.” It had just never come up.
I realized recently that I have been in denial about the challenges of life in France for a long time — I read dozens of other people’s memoirs about life in France somewhat dismissively. I thought people were too obsessive about little things, like the French fixation on preserving their language or their bureaucratic ways. But hey, I’ve discovered surprising things in France too (for one thing, I’d never seen frozen string beans before). And adapting to surprises requires a lot of creativity. It’s a lot like raising a child, really — it’s an endless process, and you can never be an expert at it. You just have to keep learning, keep adapting, and keep wondering if you’re doing the right thing. And sometimes I can’t help but wonder just how much of my creative energy is being used up figuring out things like how to open packages, whether I need to weigh my vegetables before I get to the checkout line, or what waiting lists I need to be on for daycare.
The beauty of it, of course, is that in the end it doesn’t matter where you cut open the package. However you do it, you’ll still get the string beans, and maybe that’s all that matters.
I knew I was in trouble when my mobile phone was disconnected because I spent too long talking to the internet company’s helpline. I remember hearing that the technology behind the World Wide Web was created in France, but people seem able to go without it here — it’s like they see it like premium cable. They don’t mind having it, but they can do without. I found it was pretty difficult to go to internet cafés with a 14-month-old who refuses to sit still (they even have a brand-new family-oriented café with wifi here, but my son seemed to think the kitchen was much more intriguing than the play area. So let’s just say I was pretty desperate to get my internet connection (and phone, since it’s via internet) working again. Three weeks and a lot of plaintive phone calls later, I feel like I’ve just come back from a trip to 1990.
Anyway, the phone got connected the week before Thanksgiving, which kept me from having to go to the butcher in person every day to see how he was progressing on getting me a turkey. He assured me that everything was going to work out — my parents are visiting from San Francisco, and I had invited two other families over, so I was pretty set on getting my bird. He told me he would be closed the Monday before Thanksgiving so I should call him on Tuesday to “confirm.” Of course, when I called him on Tuesday, he told me everything was just fine for Friday….he didn’t seem to understand the concept of the Thursday holiday. So it seems the original turkey I had ordered got a pardon until Christmas!
I called the big grocery stores in the area and no one could get me a turkey until December. On a whim I went to the local market, where I got my very own Thanksgiving mini-miracle — a poultry seller who knew about Thanksgiving and could even find a turkey to kill by Thursday! It cost me 48 euros and it was the skinniest turkey my mother had ever seen, but it sure did taste good. We even had cranberries!
Anyway, it was our first Thanksgiving in France and it made me realize that while I’m still frustrated by a lot of things here — students who plagiarize their essays from wikipedia, crazy drivers, pharmacies that are closed on Monday, everything else that is closed on Sunday — it is starting to feel like home. One of the things that always strikes me is that it really will be home for my son. French will probably be his best language, he won’t think everything here is unusually small, and Thanksgiving will be a strange holiday that only his family celebrates. I live in a foreign country, but he doesn’t — he just has a foreign mother. I shouldn’t think this is too strange, since my mother is also an immigrant. But part of me, as an American, still goes around thinking that I can’t possibly be the foreign one — maybe it’s even because my mother is not a native-born American and always told me I was lucky I was. Anyway, just things I’ve been thinking about in general and in my writing this past month — origins, roots and, well, turkey.
Hello everyone! I am an American mother living in Toulouse, France. I am a sometimes filmmaker, writer, teacher and translator. At the moment I am teaching English at an Art and Design school and trying to get back into the swing of writing regularly.
Since the birth of my son I have felt both liberated and confined, as I suppose many mothers do. Time has taken on an entirely different character for me — days are divided not into hours but into segments: awake time, nap time, eating time, playtime. While I have less time for myself in a practical sense, I find that I also have more time to think, and I have a lot of new ideas that I just need to find the time to get down.
I’ve also realized, living in a foreign country and a foreign language, that I need a community of other creative people to keep me going. There is always more vacuuming to do, more laundry to wash — I’m hoping that this community will help me set aside the time to write!