So we've been feeling a little pressure.
Self-imposed deadlines, but still, they should be honored. We had a Paris Play due today, but we'd also had an apartment full of flu.
But more importantly, we've been thinking about what to write and how to put it, and that takes time, too.
The world looks too often only at the final results, and ignores the fact that the incubation process, the rumination stage of creativity, is probably the longest and deepest stage. As artists, we do go into the creative trance, and we love to talk about "the flow" when we're in it, but that romanticizes those later stages, to the detriment of the rumination.
So, to regain perspective, and to test our post-flu stamina, we popped into the Metro and popped out at the 50th Annual Salon International de l'Agriculture, the Paris Agriculture Fair, specifically to visit some of our favorite animals, the ruminants--cows, sheep, goats--cud-chewers all.
We also found probably a hundred-and-fifty-thousand Parisians (the four-day fair drew six-hundred-and-fifty-thousand people last year), wall-to-wall with their children and their strollers, since it was Sunday, and the last day of the fair, and because the French are still quite deeply connected to agriculture. Have we mentioned they are foodies? And where does food come from? Voila!
More than 1.1 million people work in agriculture in France, about six percent of the population. France is second only to the U.S as the world's largest agricultural exporter, and is the Eurozone's breadbasket, its top cereals producer.
There were various livestock pavilions, with lots of pigs, and even dogs and cats in abundance (the latter were non-food items). Horses were segregated in their own pavilion, which probably happens all the time, but it made us think of the recent Eurozone scandal involving the lack of horseflesh segregation, an embarrassing glitch in the system. Not that people don't want to eat horse meat here, they just want it labeled. (And, no small favor, the French don't stupidly append the suffix "-gate" to every scandal here, so we haven't had to sit through news reports about Horsemeat-gate.)
There were vast halls full of wine, the 365 different varieties of cheese that DeGaulle famously noted, sausages enough to string to la lune and back, Breton dancers, Basque horsemen, Provence donkeys--and everybody was eating something, since samples were abundant.
And the ruminants? In stalls or paddocks, standing around or lying down, calmly tolerating the massive number of humans uniformly ignoring the massive number of "please don't touch the animals" signs, they had their usual message for us: Hey, chill out. Remember that rumination precedes the fever-heat of productivity. All in good time. All in good time.
As we headed back to the Metro, reminded again of the order of things, we came across the usual demonstration. At the Auto Show, it was Greenpeace; today, it was the good folks from L124, an animal rights organization dedicated to the welfare of farm animals here in France. The name comes from rural law 124, which states (in our rough translation): "Every animal is a sentient being and must be placed by the owner in a manner consistent with the biological requirements of the species."
We don't do the "eat-me-or-don't-eat-me" debate with animals, since we know they return the favor with pleasure when given the chance, but we respect our friends of all stripes who respect animals, and we welcome their nuanced debate. We're just glad that our ruminant advisers were in town, and we were allowed their counsel.
And as a grace note, our Berkeley food critic friend John Harris told us about a fine documentary by the director Judith Lit featuring the family farmers of the Périgord region of southwest France, a rural community faced with the economic and cultural changes that have come in the world's shift to agribusiness. John saw it, and raved, at the last Mill Valley Film Festival.