Archive for June, 2021

Midsummer Night’s Dream…

Summer evening, photo by Janet Hulstrand

It is just past summer solstice, and France is creeping out from under the restrictions imposed due to the pandemic. Last week Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that people are no longer required to wear masks outdoors. (This included, significantly, children playing in the school playgrounds; one can only imagine the happiness of the little ones at this news.)

Also, the evening curfew has been lifted completely. This came just in time for the annual Fêtes de la Musique, a nocturnal festival that occurs all over France on the summer solstice, and is followed by the celebration of the Festival of St. Jean, on June 24.

Here in Essoyes, people are joyfully celebrating the ability to be together again. The restaurants and cafes have reopened. A couple of weeks ago there was a village-wide vide maison (empty the house) what we would call a garage or yard sale, and other special activities, including a hike followed by a community picnic.

Reopening means reopening cultural events also. There will be organ concerts in the church at Essoyes over the next few weeks, bringing musicians from as near as Dijon, and as far away as Scotland and Finland.

Three Concerts in l’Eglise d’Essoyes during July.

Among the benefits of country living are being able to get your second Astra Zeneca dose from your friendly local pharmacists, which I did last week. At this point about 50 percent of the French population has received a first dose of the vaccine, and 30 percent have received their second: it’s not enough, but it’s a good start. Hopefully the numbers will continue to grow as rapidly as possible. Last week the vaccine was opened up to children 12 and older as well.

The abundance of the land begins to express itself in early summer. Here are a few proofs of that.

These images are of the barley, wheat, and wild strawberries that grow right in or next to my yard. Up in the hills surrounding the village, the vignerons have been especially busy over the last 10 days: this is the part of the summer where the vines must be trellised, which requires extra hands in the vines. The enjambeurs have been heading into the vineyards early in the morning–sometimes at dawn. Of course, this being France, they come back down for a nice, long lunch. Then it’s back into the vineyards again to work until early evening.

I am lucky to have a neighbor whose hens are prolific enough that she is able to share their eggs with others. Fresher, more delicious eggs I have never tasted!

Finally, from spring to fall there are many lovely varieties of wildflowers here that spring up of their own volition, brightening landscapes and cityscapes alike with their colorful variations. Here are a few of the current stars of the show.

Wishing you a safe, pleasant summer wherever you are. Bonne continuation, et prenez soin de vous!

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the U.S. and France. She is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You, and is currently working on her next book, A Long Way from Iowa: A Literary Memoir.

June 29, 2021 at 6:38 pm Leave a comment

Book Review: Stone Soup for a Sustainable World: Life-Changing Stories of Young Heroes

There is a traditional folktale about a hungry traveler who goes from house to house in an impoverished village, looking for something to eat. No one can offer him anything, because none of them have enough food to feed themselves. The clever, and very enterprising, traveler persists: “Don’t you have anything you could give me?” he asks at each house. “A carrot? A part of an onion?” He explains that he has a magic stone that will form the basis of a fine, nourishing soup. All he needs is a few ingredients to add to the pot.

Eventually, using the meager contributions he gathers from each of the villagers, he does succeed in creating a fine, nourishing soup, and he is able to feed not only himself, but the villagers as well. It turns out that the “magic” stone was not really needed: the only “magic” that was needed was the villagers putting together their resources, whatever they could manage to spare, in order to come up with enough for everyone to eat.

That, and their belief in the power of collaborative action in the face of human need.

This is the folktale on which the 1998 book, Stone Soup for the World: Life-Changing Stories of Everyday Heroes was based. That book featured 100 stories of “everyday heroes” from around the world who, through their individual contributions, were making the world a better place.

This week a follow-up book is being released. Stone Soup for a Sustainable World: Life-Changing Stories of Young Heroes has a similar format to the previous book, with two slight differences: this time the heroes being featured are all young people. And the focus of their efforts is on dealing with the climate emergency the people of this planet–that is, all of us–are facing.

Their stories are inspiring, not only because of the enthusiasm and optimism these young heroes possess, but also because of the astonishing creativity and energy they have brought to their efforts, and the successful innovations and projects they have already introduced into our world–which is in desperate need of just this kind of energy and just these kinds of projects. Their efforts offer promising solutions to a wide variety of the global problems we are facing, from deforestation to plastic waste in the oceans, from threatened biodiversity to endangered species.

A 13-year old boy in the United Arab Emirates has created an award-winning prototype for a robot that can clean up plastic waste in the ocean. A young entrepreneur in Barcelona has created a successful business making fashionable eyewear out of plastic waste retrieved from the ocean. A young woman in Mumbai started out by turning a public scrapyard in her neighborhood into an urban garden, and has gone on to become a researcher/educator about the importance of protecting native plants. These are just three of the encouraging, inspiring, and ultimately very hopeful stories included in these pages. There are 97 more!

Young climate activists in countries around the world, including the U.S., are also featured, and their energy and commitment to solving the massive problems they’ve been handed by older generations is matched only by their refusal to waste any time being angry about it, and just simply get down to work. That, in a way, is one of the most impressive things about them in the view of this baby-boomer, who feels pretty bad that we haven’t done a better job of caring for our earth, and that we’ve handed it to them in such sorry shape.

But there’s no time to dwell on that: the youth today are here. And they’re smart, and committed, and determined to turn things around. All they need from us is for us to stop wasting time, and help them–before it really is too late.

Marianne Larned is the powerful “force of nature” behind this collection of inspiring stories. After publishing Stone Soup for the World in 1998 she created the Stone Soup Leadership Institute, which has been nurturing youth leaders from around the world, and providing educators and others who work with youth with a variety of excellent educational materials, and youth leadership summits in order to provide both educators and youth with the tools, inspiration, and support they need to indeed make our world a better place.

If I haven’t convinced you that you should really buy this book, and read it, and tell all your friends to do so also, maybe you’ll listen to some of these young heroes tell you why you should. It’s two minutes well worth your time: trust me on this, and watch them here. I dare you not to be inspired!

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the U.S. and France. She is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You, and is currently working on her next book, a literary memoir entitled “A Long Way from Iowa.”

June 14, 2021 at 9:43 pm Leave a comment


Twitter Updates

Categories

Recent Posts

Want to follow this blog? Just enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,652 other followers