Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day 26: Pi Poem

I just learned about the fascinating writer Daniel Tammet ( link to his blog, optimnem) from an entry in Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac for today. Daniel has high-functioning autistic savant syndrome. His memoir, "Born On A Blue Day," was a best seller in 2006. His new book, 'Embracing the Wide Sky', just came out in 2009. The German edition is entitled 'Wolkenspringer' (Cloud Jumper -- How cool is that!).

He also holds the European record for reciting pi from memory to 22,514 digits in five hours and nine minutes. He captured the record at a sponsored charity challenge held in aid of the National Society for Epilepsy (NSE) on “Pi Day”, 14 March 2004. He wrote the poem "Pi", in English and French, in honor of Pi Day that year.

Daniel says that in his mind each number has its own form, color and feeling.

Daniel's drawings (above) show some of the number shapes he sees.

I love the way Daniel Tammet uses his unique perception of numbers in the following Pi poem.


Three, One, Four, One, Five, and On
The numbers recount their endless tale.
Three - Barefoot green, a silent voice.
White as hunger, One is twice
Bright like babies’ eyes.
Four is timid, envious of E.
Five, Punctuation or a pregnant sigh
Precedes proud Nine, colour of falling night.
Two, an unfastened knot,
A wayward wind, the hollow of Six resounding.
Nearby, Eight, a cloud of fireflies above a lake
Over which I skim Sevens
Remembering that Zero is nothing but a circle.


Trois, Un, Quatre, Un, Cinq, et ainsi de suite
Les chiffres racontent leur histoire sans limite.
Trois – vert, les pieds nus, une voix silencieuse.
Blanc comme la faim, Un est vif
Comme les yeux d’un bébé.
Quatre est timide, envieux du E.
Cinq, ponctuation ou soupir lourd
Précède le Neuf fier, couleur d’une nuit tombante.
Deux, un nœud défait, vent rebelle,
Comme le creux du Six qui résonne.
Tout près, Huit, nuage de lucioles au dessus d’un lac
Sur lequel je fais des ricochets avec les Septs
En me souvenant que Zéro n’est rien qu’un cercle.

Words by Nancy Norton,for her blog n2notesfromabroad. Copyright 2009-2010.

Day 25: Promenade de la Journée

Today, because the light was clear and sharp, I bundled up and went up the hill to the Lac St Ferreol, about 5 km from our village of Soreze. All sorts of people were out -- families with children, couples with dogs, young girls, fishermen, older folks...enjoying the sunny, crisp day. I walked half way around the lake.

Take the walk with me...

As seen in the pictures, I stopped midway at the cafe near the Musée du Canal du Midi. The restaurant building is cantilevered out over the path that leads to the garrigole -- a giant nozzle, fed by the water rushing downhill to the canal, which shoots water high in the air. It is a beautiful spot to sit for a moment over a chocolat chaud avec chantilly.

Bon reve,

Words and pictures by Nancy Norton for her blog n2notesfromabroad. Copyright 2009-2010.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day 24: Promenade Nocturne

When I was writing to you last night, I went around the corner to get the name of the bakery. The light and shadows wavered in the wind, beckoning to me and sending me back home for my camera.

Bonne nuit doux rêves,

Friday, January 29, 2010

Day 23: Les Plaisirs du Pain

Yesterday I went around the corner and across the road to the to the other bakery in town, simply called the Boulangerie Patisserie. The friendly folks who ran the old mainstay bakery on the Place Dom de Vic for years and years got into financial troubles around the same time the banks did in the US and then Europe, though I don't think there was a close connection, and slunk out of town during the night a year ago this past Fall.

A few months later, the Boulangerie Patisserie became the 'staff of life' bakery here in town. (It is a droit de vie to have fresh bread each day!) They are on the main road and I see working men in their vans and people from outlying hamlets stopping on their way by, in addition to the local, walk-in business. They also supply the fresh bread and croissants that the Utile grocery store, across the main road from them, sells.

I usually buy a half loaf of bread at the market on Saturdays. (I love that it is quite normal to buy "une demi" or half loaf here, so that the bread is not wasted.) My favorite bread vendor at the market, and there are ~10 different ones, is "Bio" (organic) and uses levain natur (natural leavening or sourdough). I like their pain noix (whole wheat walnut) or sesame, pronounced "sess-sam", (whole wheat sesame).

That half loaf lasts me until mid week. Then I go to the Boulangerie Patisserie and get a small loaf of pain cereale (seeded whole wheat). Yesterday, the little lady who works the counter, after our exchange of the ritual "Bonjour, madame!" said "Cereale." before I did. "Oui, merci." I replied, pleased. I've become a regular =o).

She chose a loaf of cereale from the shelf and then paused. Mais peut-être un de ces (But, perhaps one of these), she said, pointing to another group of cereale loaves, bien cuit (well baked, meaning crusty, a nice crust). Oui, merci bien, I affirmed.

It was a little thing, but neighborly (amical). I felt cared for and part of the village in a small but kind way. I took my bread home and enjoyed it for breakfast and dinner with the wonderful beurre aux cristaux de Sel de Mer de Noirmoutier (butter with crystals of sea salt, the whole cube pictured above for the benefit of my friend LC).

The "pleasures of bread" as it says on the paper in which she wrapped it. Quite satisfying, all in all.


PS: The white freesias are giving off the scent
of white pepper now that they are open.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day 22: Dans le grenier

I've been taking myself away to le grenier (the attic) to get some writing done

and it seems to be having the desired effect.

Is it the feeling of being closeted away from the world?

the light? the table in one corner of the big open space?
the tea and cookies I take up there with me?

Dunno. "If it works..." as they say.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 21: Bonne Fêtes

I'm the sort of person who sometimes leaves the fairy light/eucalyptus Christmas decorations on the mantle piece until the end of January, just because I like the way they look at night. A kindred spirit seems to live in this house in the village. I was glad to catch their whimsical decorations while they are still up -- a cheery sight on an overcast day.

I was walking over to the little bakery I call the "Fanny Bakery", since Fanny, a 14 year-old girl, is usually minding the store. I was hoping to get a pavlova (the holy grail of meringues) for tonight's dessert.

The lights were on but the bakery was closed. Oh, well, just had to make baked apples for dessert instead. Made a couple extra to share with D and M over tea tomorrow afternoon.

Glad to get out for a quick turn around the village anyway. A cold wind blew in and burnished the light making the details on buildings I hadn't noticed before stand out,

highlighting the distant hills seen from Rue St Martin,

accenting another angle of the allée de platanes in front of the brasserie.

Bonne Fêtes = Good Celebration. Today I am celebrating the small things that make me smile.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 20: Les Fleurs

Last week's flowers have moved to the back room, still too pretty to toss out.

And this week's bouquet has taken center stage sur la table.

Bien! Maintenant, monte au grenier pour écrire.

Bisous à vous tous,

Monday, January 25, 2010

Day 19: Café Ambiance

Midday in the Cafe′ Au Rosier d'Autan on Saturday quickly got busy. It was windy outside and that brought people inside for an early lunch. Thought you might enjoy hearing the bustle and the mix of languages so I've loaded a little clip below. It's rough, as I don't have any editing facility on my computer. Yet. I'm thinking that might be a "nice to have" addition soon.

Les Hommes Gentil (my name for the gay couple who own this cafe′) were running more quickly than usual for a Saturday morning, taking care of the rush of customers.

But some of us were just content to relax and enjoy the ambiance.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Day 17: Vegies from Outer Space

What are we lookin at here? Answers tomorrow.

Nachty nacht!

Good Day!
On the left above we have Romanesco broccoli or Roman Cauliflower, an edible flower of the species Brassica oleracea and a variant form of cauliflower. This weird and wonderful vegetable was first documented in Italy (as broccolo romanesco) in the sixteenth century.

It is also sometimes called coral broccoli, I guess because those florets look like they will continue growing outward like a piece of a coral reef. It was just so beautiful I had to bring it home just so I could look at it in the privacy of my own home. Love that acid green color. Love the patterns that the florets form. It's like a cauliflower with a strong character. I don't know why they settled on calling it broccoli. It's a cauliflower.

In the wikipedia entry, where I got the details about this veggie, they also say its "shape could be described as fractal; each bud is composed of a series of smaller buds, all arranged in yet another logarithmic spiral." Fractal. Love that. Your word for the day.

In French it is call chou-fleur romaine, literal translation cabbage flower roman. In French you can still hear them use the old-fashioned phrase "mon petit chou", literally "my little cabbage", meaning +/- my sweet young thing. Language is a funny wonderful thing.

The strange vegetable on the right above is an oven roasted beet, bought already roasted at the marche′. Trust the French, read- made roasted beet! !

Which I added to warmed chevre for this lovely dinner salad. Yumm!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Day 16 of the Picture Dialogues

The sun came blazing into the bedroom this morning,

and this patch of blue caught my eye
as I was doing my floor exercises.

Got to hie me to the garrett and get my writing done so I can talk a walk over to Durfort.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day 15 of the Picture Dialogues

Tulips Three Ways


I brush tall rose tulips with mine
tumble into bruise blue eyes

thin petal skin reminiscent of your
newly shaved chin under my two lips.

Arms full of hot pink, cerise, deep purple
tulips spill color into the canal.

I stand near the edge.
Two lips so close.
You, fearful of falling,
too afraid to approach.


Maintenant, revenons à l'écriture.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Day 14 of the Picture Dialogues

It is an inside day here, as I hear it is in northern California, in spades. I was sitting by the fire this morning doing my morning pages in my new/next journal and enjoying it so much I had to share it with you.

I actually got it as a gift last year around this time from G, a member of our writing group back in CA, known as The Scrambled Eggs.

Dear, talented, insightful, loyal, hard working writers All, those Scrambled Eggs!

Love this little black and white journal, not only because, as you can see in the picture, it goes with the decor in the room =o). It also has a wonderful texture to the paper and little quotes about the writing life, handwritten in by G in her fine, old fashioned pen-womanship, just here and there, so that they come up and surprise me. Plus that heart warming dedication in the front.

The journaling book I just finished/filled up was also a present from another writer in our group, ChB.

What a gift the whole group is in my life, day in, month and year out, Sigh.

Love you All!!
x0x0 N2

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day 13 of the Picture Dialogues

Missed the breakfast photo op. I had to keep it short in order to make my massage appointment with Nese Pelt at Centre Melisse. I know, I know. It's a rough life, but somebody had to volunteer for this duty.

So we had to change up and feature a dinner photo =o) Or, rather, three.

Quiche lorraine, before and after.

Well, not after I'd eaten a slice. It's great that you can get BIO (meaning organic) ready-made pate feuillete'e, fine et croustillante (puff pastry, delicate and crispy) and naturally raised and cured bacon at the new health food store in Revel, just 5 km, or a little over 3 miles, from Soreze.

The milk arrives in this bag purchased from the Utile grocery store around the corner from me. It originates on a farm in Dourgne, a little town about 8 km, ~5 miles, in the opposite direction from Soreze, than Revel, that is. The eggs came from the market on Saturday, from a little lady who also sells live chickens, 2.20€ (~$3.30) for a dozen extra large eggs.

That and some steamed broccoli made a savory dinner.

Bonne nuit!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Day12 of the Picture Dialogues

I know, it's another breakfast shot... As I was putting breakfast together this morning and thinking about what picture to send you, I got all excited about the yogurt. You see it there, between the pear chunks and the whole grain cereal. And also in the Marzac, La Fromagerie Artisanale (basically, the artisan cheesery), container to the left of the bowl. Yaourt au lait entier de Vache, yogurt made from whole cows milk. This is the yaourt natur, unflavored.

Two local guys, Marc and Zachariah, decided in 2008 to combine names and their talents to produce a range of more than 20 character cheese from raw goat and cow's milk, to craft dairy products in the "old farm style". The dairy's milk is harvested each day from several local farms which have been chosen because they adhere to rigorous specifications in terms of the grazing and feeding of their herds.

You can buy goat and cow's milk from them as well as yogurt. I love their thimble-sized goat cheeses, called thoms. Their heart-shaped fresh goat cheese is also a favorite and only 2€ (about $3 these days, if you are not livin in Euro).

While eating breakfast, I was reading in my writer's style book, "The Norton Anthology", a story by James Baldwin, "Sonny's Blues".

Musings on Writing
The story turns into one of redemption when the older brother, at Sonny’s asking, finally goes to see him play at a club down in Greenwich Village:

“Sonny moved, deep within, exactly like someone in torment. I had never before thought of how awful the relationship must be between the musician and his instrument. He has to fill it, this instrument, with the breath of life, his own. He has to make it do what he wants it to do. And a piano is just a piano. It’s mad out of so much wood and wires and little hammers and big ones, and ivory. While there’s only so much you can do with it, the only way to find this out is to try; to try and make it do everything.”
(and a little later)
“Freedom lurked around us and I understood, at last, that he could help us to be free if we would listen, that he would never be free until we did… He had made it his: that long line, of which we knew only Mama and Daddy. And he was giving it back as everything must be given back, so that, passing through death, it can live forever. I saw my mother’s face again, and felt, for the first time, how the stones of the road she had walked on must have bruised her feet. I saw the moonlit road where my father’s brother died. And it brought something else back to me, and carried me past it, I saw my little girl again and felt Isabel’s tears again, and I felt my own tears begin to rise. And I was yet aware that this was only a moment, that the world waited outside, as hungry as a tiger, and that trouble stretched above us, longer than the sky.”
These passages spoke to me of writing. Of how we, as writers, struggle to make the tuneless instrument of the computer keyboard play music of our composition; the parallel truth about our own instrument: “only so much you can do with it, the only way to find this out is to try; to try and make it do everything.”
And in reading the latter passage, it occurred to me that one of the reasons that writers write is in the hope that others will listen, and that, in a way, we will (sic) “never be free until they do”. That those who must write have had an insight into “the long line” of which Baldwin speaks and that, in putting words on paper and working to shape them to capture the attention and imagination of others, we are trying to reproduce this clear glimpse of what life is that we have seen, to give “it back as everything must be given back, so that, passing through death, it can live forever.”
And on that note, back to struggling to get this keyboard to play something recognizable as melody.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Day 11 of the Picture Dialogues

The writer has a leisurely brunch with Michele et Le Monde

then goes outside to see the village bathed in snow melt.

Hey! There is someone tromping around where I planted wild flowers in the field last spring...

...and he's not too sure about me either.

Needed to stretch my legs, so I took the long loop out Route de Puylaurens.

Hope you had a peaceful weekend too!


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Day 10 of the Picture Dialogues

Saturday, jour de marché

Every type of olive and the traditional French take on gateaux de rois, which comes with a crown for the lucky person who finds the ceramic toy in their piece of cake.

Writer's breakfast at the market with a pain de raisin and grand cafe creme at the cafe Au Rosier d'Autan on the square in Revel.

My friend D seems to always get the prize in the cake. He showed me a small wooden box he has with a whole collection of little ceramic saints, bears, fairies and such that he has gotten over the years. But that is OK with M and I. Boys will be boys.

Bon Weekend!
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