These are the tender things.
Sweet Scents & Sweeter Thoughts
You’re walking down the main street of your town, talking in the sights, sounds, and smells. You’re admiring the way sunlight gleams off the second floor windows, the chiming of the clock tower at the end of the road, and the way the crisp winter air creeps into your nostrils bringing with it thoughts of sharp pine needles and soft fleece blankets. Suddenly, you recognize something else in the breeze; something that you’d know anywhere. It is warm, sweet, and makes you think of childhood and safety. It stirs up memories of birthdays and various holidays, of family and loved ones, of brussels sprouts you had to to be coaxed to eat in order to reach sweet salvation.
That, my friend, is the smell of chocolate.
It approaches you shyly at first, much like meeting a new friend for the first time – a timid handshake, a quiet introduction. Not long after, however, the scent intensifies. The polite handshake becomes a bone-permeating hug, and it’s like the chocolate is invigorating your senses, inviting you to follow.
You try and find the source: is it a chocolatier? is it the patisserie? is it an open window?
You walk a little while longer, and then it hits you.
It’s the whole town.
(You later find out there’s a chocolate factory in town, and your joy has no end.)
*spoiler alert for Fantastic Beasts*
I came across this article on my Facebook feed, and it really resonated with me. Go ahead, take some time to read it (preferably with a small piece of chocolate!), and then continue on with my blog piece. I’ll wait.
The reason I chose to include this in my “tender things” post is because it talks about how important it is for everyone to leave room for tenderness, and also how important it is for this to be represented in the media. A Hufflepuff hero is sensitive, inclusive, loyal, kind, and compassionate – which are all qualities typically seen as “not masculine” and almost the opposite of the heroes we are used to seeing in the limelight.
I saw Fantastic Beasts in the cinema (actually it was called Les Animaux Fantastiques here) and fell in love with Newt Scamander’s character (called Norbert Dragonneau in the french version). He brings a gentleness to the big screen and the wizarding world that was very much needed.
I love reading this article because it changes how we’ve been conditioned to see heroes. I hope that myself and everyone reading this aspires to be the Hufflepuff heroes the world needs.
In the Middle of the Middle World
I am fortunate enough to not only be surrounded by loving friends and encouraging mentors, but also people who happen to be both these things at the same time. One such person is Ashlyn, my former internship coordinator.
After moving with her husband to Hungary this year, Ashlyn started keeping a blog – and I can honestly say that the internet is a much better place for it. She writes about her culinary, travel, and life adventures with deep heart and pure sass, as well as light dusting of Parks and Rec gifs.
(If that alone isn’t enough to entice you, check out her post on her favourite things here. These posts have inspired me to do my own version of ‘Things I love’ – what you’re currently reading!)
Be Where You Are
One of my referent professors at the lycée (french highschool) lent me a book on the flora of the Jura mountain region. The natural history/biology nerd in me was so excited, you have no idea. In it contains images, information, and geographic distributions of the plants you can find in this region.
The different relations floristiques are:
Lacs, rivières – lakes, rivers
Marais, tourbières – marshes, peat bogs
Forêts – forests
Mégaphorbiaies – temperate transition zone between forest and wetland
Haies – hedge
Prairies, pelouses montagnardes – meadows, mountain grasses
Pelouses sommitales – summit grasses
Rochers, éboulis – boulders, scree
Bords de route, terrain vagues – roadsides, vacant lots (disturbance areas)
(Also: I will be sharing what I learn with you as I read and go out in the field)
And, as if all this wasn’t good enough, one of the contributors to the book works at the lycée. You better believe I’m going to ask for an introduction.
I was really excited to get my hands on this book because some of the flora in this area look vaguely familiar, but not enough for me to pinpoint exactly how to classify them. I’m not a great botanist, but I do have an interest in the subject and would love to be able to read the landscape with less difficulty – much like I can back in Charleston.
I believe it’s a part of my french education and part of what it means to be exactly where I am.
Wine and Turpentine
I’ve been listening to “Turpentine”by Brandi Carlile. She wrote it about her relationship with her brother and how it’s changed over the years.
The song starts off with guitar strings and sharply softened notes. Carlile’s voice makes me think of sawdust, pine straw, and dusty attics full of forgotten treasures. The lyrics are achingly nostalgic and familiar, and definitely remind me of Dylan. But you must know that it isn’t a sad smile I wear – just a quiet one.
So go ahead and give it a listen.
Church Bells and Chimney Pots
I woke up on Sunday morning in a cozy bed tucked beside a heater under a cold window. Sunlight danced through the curtains and I could hear the sound of church bells coming from down the road. They weren’t loud or abrasive, but clear and resonating.
It must’ve been about 10 am when I opened the curtains. On Saturday my view of Dijon’s skyline was obscured by grey clouds and eventually nightfall, but on Sunday – oh sweet Sunday! – it was bright and sunny. I saw rows and of chimney pots at eye level, and was blown away by how charming the rooftops were. And to think, all of this was set to a soundtrack of church bells.
Lunch for One
I finally took myself out for a nice sit-down meal, and let me tell you – it was worth the wait. At the suggestion of my airBnB host, I traipsed down to a restaurant in the neighbourhood.
I ordered a tartiflette and a glass of wine, and eagerly waited my déjeuner.
My server brought out my wine and some lightly salted pretzels, along with a bottle of fresh water. I munched on the pretzels, sipped the wine, and admired how the winter winds playfully tugged at the bare branches in the square. Just as I was beginning to amuse myself with thoughts of what Dijon looked like under a thick carpet of snow, my lunch arrived. Oh boy, I thought to myself as I looked at my steaming tartiflette and the basket of bread my server set down beside my knife and fork.
One forkful of tartiflette, and I was so far gone.
Imagine a creamy golden cheesy dish layered upon softened, translucent onions, smoked bacon, and delicately cubed potatoes. Served with cold charcuterie and a crisp green salad, the juxtaposition of temperatures and textures was almost more than I could handle. That, when coupled with the delectable garlic-and-herb-crusted house bread, was definitely enough for me to see la vie en rose.
Moutarde de Bourgogne
My senses are still tingling from my visit to not one, but two mustard stores. I think it’s funny that the thing that cleansed my palate and my sinuses also cleansed my head.
I sampled the Moutarde de Bourgogne at the Edmond Fallot store, and my nostrils, throat and mouth are still reeling from the burst of sharp pungency that came with the pinkie-tip sized drop I had. It felt like a surge tide rising onto my tongue, reaching all the way up to the roof of my mouth in mere seconds. The moment of clarity that came after the welcome affront to my senses was both humbling and exalting, and it definitely gave me a newfound appreciation for mustard and my senses.
One and Two
It’s no big secret that I love soft things and interesting textures. Sometimes I will be attracted to the texture of a thing before its colour. My soul feels safest wrapped in rayon, swathed in suede, and comforted in cotton.
One thing that I’ve been keeping close to me lately has been my brother’s hoodie. It is, as to be expected, way too big for me. When at my side, the sleeves and hems almost reach to my knees. The inside is a deliciously soft, bright red, polyester cotton blend. It is warm (in every possible way) and a great comfort for these winter nights. Wearing this red reminder feels a lot like I can find home wherever I am.
It feels like being hugged by Dylan.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I’ve changed – not only since moving to France, but also since losing Dylan. It’s been really hard to write about anything at all, and I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever find the courage to share my written thoughts with the same ease I used to.
It’s not like I don’t have material – since October 5th, I’ve been to 6 cities, been hiking thrice, seen the Swiss Alps, seen one of my favourite artists in concert, been horseback riding, seen my first french movie in a cinema, and even visited a Christmas market. It’s just that suddenly my words seem to disappear from my head long before they get a chance to make it to my hands.
While sitting in a bar in Dijon, I suddenly got hit with a wave of inspiration. All of the words that had been bottled up for two months came pouring out. I had forgotten my journal, so the only thing I had to write on was a small flyer. By the end of my beer, the entire back page of the flyer was covered with my script.
It was the combination of this and waking up on Sunday morning to chimney pots and church bells that inspired me to write this. I hope it was worthy.
So this is me now, living for two
Once for me, twice for you