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Has life become craaaaazy intense for you, too, lately?
Too much to do, not enough time. What to do? Finish one thing at a time.
I head to a favorite café to do some editing. Spirits are high on the streets of Paris tonight. Today was the first warm day of the year. Sky bright blue. First white blossoms on the tree behind l'église Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet, always the first we see to bloom in spring. It seems to have come earlier this year.
On Boulevard Saint-Jacques, nine Spanish girls in short skirts, short shorts with tights, are arranged in a horseshoe shape, bending over, laughing and singing the Macarena. Haven’t seen that dance done since the late ‘90s, in Venice. I can’t pass Blvd. St.-Jacques without thinking of my sister Jane who lived on this street the year she studied at the Sorbonne.


A rare night when I have a whole section of the café to myself; everyone seems to be out celebrating Spring. It’s quiet. Easy to focus. Just me and the resident mouse, who scuttles out to say hello, then retreats to the darkness of the baseboards. I think of Apollo, one of whose names was Mouse.
Fuel: a fantastic cup of hot chocolate, dark, no sugar.
Three solid hours of work before a couple come in and sit right next to me (why!?), with at least 20 other tables vacant around us. They’re slightly drunk, jabbering away in French. I’m baffled by people’s odd sense of space.
But what am I complaining about? So many gifts lately! Two were recycled items, both radically elegant. A delicate, hollow, redwood bowl shaped by a friend of my brother and his wife, a piece out of the bar of a mid-century steakhouse that my brother’s green building company is reshaping into an adaptive reuse, mixed-use community center in Phoenix.


The other, a beautiful deep blue hard-bound edition of Balzac’s Eugénie Grandet in French, from a friend’s parents’ library in Seattle.
Shall we put Marley le Chat’s ashes in the redwood bowl? The opening is small enough that we could balance a marble on top to close it. It looks so handsome on our mantelpiece, now an altar for our beloveds who have died in the three years since we arrived here--Kimo Campbell, Jane Eliot, Uncle Bruce, Marley, Jane Kitchell. They are always with us; still here, still loved.
I begin the Balzac novel. Why is it so much more pleasurable to read this fine leather-bound volume? Is it because once upon a time books were better made? Is it because it’s a gift, and so embodies love?
Gifts, opportunities, responsibilities seem to be multiplying lately, a flood of things that must be attended to immediately.
I cannot possibly address them all in a timely fashion. Feeling full of inspiration and drive, but also exhausted.

Nothing that a week on a Greek beach couldn't cure. 

Can I possibly do all that is challenging and inviting me now?
Somehow I will. I must!






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Reader Comments (12)

Our peach trees were first to blossom this year but only moments before the citrus trees. It is so curious to see young blossoms that soon become fruit on a tree with last season's grapefruit, Meyer lemons, limes and tangelos still ripe and ready for picking.

I love the idea of Marley resting in the comfort of old growth redwood crafted into a round globe of a bowl. I also like that the artist that turned the bowl on his lathe did not finish it with a sealer so that anyone that handles it will leave their prints and darken the wood with the oils of their hands. This bowl will be the sum of all those who have caressed it and of Marley's energy joining the fibers of the rich, red wood.

I just completed a four-day journey by truck and trailer to Greensfield, Iowa to haul back to Arizona, Black Walnut Trees for future furniture. I traveled with a dear friend and cowboy farmer, John Augustine, and my brother-in-law, Fred Edwards, across the flatlands of America where the people work themselves to a frayed and weathered state with pride and a firm, friendly handshake. The Iowa Hills are where so much of our corn and soybeans are grown and where the conservative view of life is perfected. What a trip and an eye opener for someone as open to all views of life as I am. Now the wood is in Arizona and the fun begins.

The Oasis Apartments are leasing up and The Newton will be completed in May so this year will offer celebration and security. We will share the opening so you feel you are here as you always are in spirit. We love the two of you and love our trips to Paris. Thank you two for all your creative vision.

-J, L and L

Monday, March 10, 2014 at 4:26 | Unregistered CommenterJAK

So many fine gifts in our lives -- thank you again for bringing spring in Paris to me through your words and details of your day. I can practically feel the air, taste the chocolate, smell the flower Richard captured. I miss you and hope to catch up with you soon -- so grateful for this gift, Paris Play -- and your friendship. xo Jennifer

Monday, March 10, 2014 at 4:59 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Genest

Dear Jonny,

What a rich description of your garden and your journey across America!

We are glad to hear that you approve of our use of this redwood bowl as a cradle for Marley. We needed to know from you whether redwood and bone can live together in harmony, since you know wood better than anyone we know.

Did you know that our great-grandfather Abbott (Grammy Kitchell's father) grew and exported black walnut in Illinois? (That is what I remember, but must do some sleuthing to be certain.) We want to hear more about this trip you and Fred and John took across America.

Congratulations on your community-minded green building projects coming to fruition. It's a model for the future.

We love you and Leatrice and Lisanne, and are happy we can swap tales between our two continents.

Big hugs,

Kaaren & Richard

Monday, March 10, 2014 at 17:03 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban


So great to hear from you. I've been thinking about you and wondering when the baby will arrive. And imagining you writing away as you did after Clara was born. So impressive, that.

I feel the same, grateful for our friendship that endures in spite of spatial distance. All the best things we share are the same here, and there, flowers and chocolate and writing and art and friendship, love and spring.

Much love,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Monday, March 10, 2014 at 17:13 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

I know how important it is to read an author's work in the original language. I love reading Borges in Spanish—Argentinean Spanish. There are words that bear generations of cultural weight that no translation, no matter how good, can possibly equal. And in the hands of an artist such as Borges, words that would otherwise "taste" like cardboard, sparkle like a bite of keylime pie. I know you will savor Balzac!

Monday, March 10, 2014 at 17:55 | Unregistered CommenterStuart Balcomb

Each moment, a gift. To savor and soak it in gives it the honor that gratitude deserves. Life is indeed the supreme gift.

Breathing it in now and imagining that Greek island's sublime beach. Ahhh, I'm there in dreams….and in Paris. :-)

Here too, in my humble Venice abode, is also a landing pad for gratitude amongst "too much to do" that surrounds me. Thank heavens, I always have choice and it is (after all) solo mio who sculpts this life of mine.

Love to you all ways,

Monday, March 10, 2014 at 19:11 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne Warfield


You are so right about reading books in the original language. I've been wading through Proust in French, easier when you've read it in translation first. But this will be my first reading of Eugenie Grandet, more of a surprise this way.

A bite of key lime pie? I must sample that.

Love to you,

Richard and Kaaren

Monday, March 10, 2014 at 20:55 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Dear Joanne,

How did you know that Greek beach was on an island?

It does always come down to gratitude, doesn't it. Even the hard parts: gifts.

I can picture you exactly in your beautiful Venice home, can see you sculpting in the kitchen, making images in the studio, creating a tropical garden outside. Lush life, lucky you.

Whole bunch of love,

Kaaren & Richard

Monday, March 10, 2014 at 21:03 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Wonderful post! So excited to be planning a three-week trip to Paris!!
Should be wonderful timing even if we get wet or cold spells. We have
too much sunshine and early warmth here in the desert!

Will write more but we are just as busy and a bit frenetic too but it
is all great!


Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 0:09 | Unregistered CommenterSuki Edwards

As I enter a new life of freedom, I still find it difficult to slow down, to ignore "things to do" because those things are so specific, and so necessary it seems...what do I do against the cacophony? I remind myself to do something I love. I find brief moments of solace in nature, in my new home, at the beach in its orchestra of applause of waves, in the open vowels of the sky and its many birds, the exhale of clouds...this is my religion, my way in and out. This is the language of being alive.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 2:50 | Unregistered CommenterElena Karina Byrne


Too much sunshine? Ha! Try winter in Paris, and you couldn't imagine using that phrase.

So glad we'll see you and Fred at the end of March.

Much love,

Kaaren and Richard

Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 20:39 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Dear Elena,

How beautifully said! Freedom becomes you. Your religion is ours, too.

Much love,

Kaaren and Richard

Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 20:44 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

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