davI know I am repeating myself but for me this is a milestone for the reasons I have already mentioned more than once ( and will not delve into again here. Already I see that tomorrow is going to be a busy day and also a day where I will probably eat more than normal as our custom is to take a cake to share at coffee and later I have been invited to go out to lunch with my dear friends Annie and Richard. So after coffee this morning I decided to go for a longer walk than usual. I set off on the daily path but then veered to the left and up towards what is known as the “Allée Vert” which means ‘green path’. It is a lovely walkway formed using the old railroad tracks through a wooded part of town and it promises greenery, good smooth walking surface and shade. cofSalomé seemed delighted when we didn’t turn towards home after strolling through the public gardens in front of the Thermes.

I knew how long the Allee Vert was and wondered if my left ankle was going to hold out. Once started it would be just as long to backtrack as to go forward. I decided to take the chance and give myself the gift of taking a really long stroll. I was certainly not sorry and the ankle did hold out perfectly although the walk turned out being a little over 4 kms, more than double what I usually walk in a morning. The day had morning clouds which kept the temperature cool and the shade of the trees filtered what little sun managed to seep through. I found myself going along at a brisk pace and feeling extraordinarily good about it. I usually cut my walk short past the bridge where there is a staircase that goes up to the road above which allows me to go home, but today I was determined to walk to the end, something I had only done once before about 8 years ago. Therefore, after the bridge, the sdrscenery was as good as new and I slowed my pace to take in everything and couldn’t resist capturing the new sights with my phone.

Saying this reminds me of how I reacted when cell phones first began to include cameras. “What in the world would you want a camera in your phone for!” was my sarcastic comment. But I have lived and learned and now adore the fact that I can capture everything my eyes delight in to include in my blogs or just to decorate my computer screen. Today it was the fantastic Béarnaise houses that caught my fancy. Thank goodness for phone cameras!oznor

One of the first things that made me fall in love with this town was the rooves, the out-of-the-ordinary Béarnaise rooves, ending not in the straight slope of usual tiled rooves, but in a slight upward curve similar to a young lass’s skirt. There is something so coquettish about a Béarnaise roof that I never tire of seeing them or photographing them. The town is full of –what I call- rooves ‘nesting’ together, but here on my walk, it was the houses that attracted me and not only their rooves.

sdrIt was then that the idea of writing this blog piece came to me, not so much as a form of remembering that tomorrow is my birthday, but rather as a way to publish the pictures that so captured my fancy while walking.

Now that I know the delights of walking and taking pictures, I am sure that my daily exercise will increase (and Salomé’s too). So I will save you having to read more words and just share my pictures from this morning.oznor





Oh yes, there was a black pig too.














                                                                           “Death doesn’t break the connection to someone you love; the believer’s mind does.”

– Katie


My downstairs neighbor’s son died a while ago. I immediately went just to hug her and see if I could do anything. Then I took her a couple of sweets from the bakery, Viennese pastry, and a container of vegetable soup I had made. Sorrow wants for sugar and something warm and comforting like soup.

I did not know her son, had never met him. At that time I had lived here for 6 years and  I had seen her daughter every year, but never her son. My neighbor doesn’t go away very much either, so I don’t think she visited often. I don’t know if they spoke by phone. Another neighbor who is also her friend told me that she didn’t speak to her other son at all, or perhaps that he doesn’t speak to her: they had a falling out.

After taking her soup for two days, I gave it a rest. Then, a few days later, on coming back from my walk with Salomé, I decided to stop by and see how she was doing. She looked worse than a week before, when the news was fresh. I could see the suffering was weighing her down. Gently I suggested it might be good to start doing something, begin getting back to her routine. “After all,” I said, “it isn’t as if you saw him every day.”

She shook her head: “It is not even his death,” she said, “but the fact that it could have been avoided if they had done what they should have done; it was negligence; that is what keeps running over and over through my head.”

I couldn’t say what jumped to the tip of my tongue (“Is that true? They could have done it differently, is that true?”), but instead I mumbled some platitude like ‘Maybe he would have suffered more if he hadn’t died,’ that she fortunately ignored. But I could see how her mind had reached out, instinctively, for anger as a defense against the pain of loss, and how it was precisely that anger that, ironically, kept her going back over and over again to what she considered his ‘unnecessary’ death. Her mind killed him over and over again, as it contemplated the possibility that he might not have died if he had received the adequate treatment. It was a catch 22.

That same evening, when I came home I read the above quote from Byron Katie. How true: our loved ones only die once, and then we kill them over and over again in our minds. If we believe that death separates them from us, we will push them away when their memory comes, remembering the only thing we keep of them: their death. We won’t let them ever live again, shutting ourselves down to their visits and to the love we could still keep feeling for them until the day we join them. As we believe that their death is painful, when the thought of them comes, instead of feeling the love we always felt when we thought of them, we feel the pain of their supposed separation, and we push them away.

So far the deaths I have lived through have been the normal ones we all face: grandparents, parents; never a child or grandchild. When my husband of 30 years died, we had already been separated for 20. When I received the message from my daughter with the news I was at a retreat in California. I read the words, simple words: My father died today, it said, and a strange thing began to happen. A weird and horrifying howl emerged from deep inside, from somewhere below my stomach, down in the abdomen and came out of my mouth. My eyes weren’t crying, there was no pain in my heart, no conscious sorrow, but it was as if an animal were trying to escape from within emitting the most horrid sounds. My two roommates come over immediately, but I gestured to them that I was all right, not to worry, and continued to produce the inhuman wails that had nothing to do with me and that were like nothing I had ever experienced before.

After about ten minutes, the animal inside me quieted down and I began to breathe normally again. I thanked my roommates for their patience and understanding, and simply said that what had come out didn’t seem to have much to do with me. The following day I was very quiet, filled with love as if the presence of the father of my children were there with me. I didn’t feel sad; I felt no need to cry. I was grateful for what we had shared and grateful that he had been released from the cancer that was claiming his body. He was closer to me in that moment than in any previous moment since our divorce. What the animal inside was and why it had to bring out all those strange sounds, even today I have no idea.

I don’t often get visits from my ex-husband or my grandmother or even my father, but my mother, who died in 2007, is with me constantly and I love her so much and am so grateful for her company.

At the time when my neighbor lost her son, I remember wishing there were something more I could do, and finding nothing else I simply continued to take her sweets and soup until she began to heal in her own way.


IztaA recent on-line issue of TIME decries the death of shopping malls due to on-line buying (I don’t even buy printed issues of TIME anymore and rather settle for what they print on-line). I read the article and smiled. Memories…

I was in Mexico when the first Mall was built (according to the article, in 1956 Southdale Center in Edina, Minn.) and we were still far from buying into the consumer madness that Malls represent. We went to the park instead. That was where we saw people, picnicked, bought junk and played, interacted, breathed fresh air (Mexico City air was izta contaminatedstill fresh then, with a population close to 6 million; today at 25 million+ there is a pea-soup-like cloud of smog lying over the city and Chapultepec park, where we used to go, shows up to the passengers on landing airplanes as a small green smudge in the midst of a sprawling concrete megalopolis), rode bicycles, ate popsicles. It was a place where grandmothers and the first blue-jeaned crew-cutters crossed paths; where concerts and clowns entertained visitors of all ages and balloon vendors hawked their colorful bouquets. Cotton candy and tacos, tamales and soft drinks were offered from push-carts. Families pushed baby carriages, walked dogs, lounged on the grassy slopes or visited Chapultepec Castle to once more hear the story of the five young militias who, wrapped in the national flag, hurled themselves to their deaths from its tower rather than be captured by the invading “gringos” (as Americans are disparagingly called).

The first Mall that opened in Mexico City was built by Carlos Slim (just Google him) in Nezahualcoyotl (you can Google that too, but it probably won’t help you pronounce it) on a spot supposedly reserved for a street market that had been displaced by some other construction project. I do not know the year, but I am sure I never went there. Nezahualcoyotl is an area of Mexico City known for its high crime rate and drug trafficking so it was not the place where a little blond, blue-eyed gringuita would go.

The first Mall I actually went to was Plaza Satélite built in the municipality of Naucalpan de Juárez, north of Mexico City which was inaugurated exactly on my daughter’s fourth 010ciudad_plaza_satelite_una semana después de la inauguraciónbirthday according to Wikipedia. That was on the 13th of October, 1971 (the black and white picture to the right was taken one week after the inauguration). I don’t clearly remember my visits to the Mall; I am not a shopper much to my daughter’s dismay and therefore I always used to avoid large supermarkets and malls as much as possible. Restaurants, movies and Xmas shopping, however, would have taken me there and I do remember several outings on Sundays to do the Mall and then eat and take in a movie. Doing the Mall entailed walking, window-shopping and usually munching or slurping something and I remember thinking to myself, while I observed the passerplaza satelites-by, that this was the new gathering place for families on weekends. Malls had substituted parks. Families, composed of two or sometimes three generations, strolled down the long passageways in front of the lit and decorated store windows; grandmothers rested on the benches provided for grandmothers to rest on; children ran from one store window to the next hoping to eventually break down their parent’s resistance. Restaurants and cafés were filled to the hilt and in the afternoon the lines for buying movie tickets would have reached around the block if they had been on the street.

I remember shaking my head and feeling quite judgmental about the new Sunday entertainment, but I don’t remember ever going again to a park. Of course, by that time we had a house with a large garden and lived in a neighborhoodplaza satelite 3 where it was safe for the children to play kick-the-can on the street, so we didn’t need to go to a park to get away from the concrete of the city.

If my memory serves me, the kids loved going to the mall as did both my husbands who were shoppers, and I was grateful to be freed from Sunday lunch whplaza satelite 2en the maids had the day off so I have seen the inside of more than one Mall in my lifetime. Today, when I go to my daughter’s house in Mexico I often visit the Mall up on the hill called “The Cusp” or “La Cúspide” either for a meal or to pick up some item in one of the humongous super markets available there. It is more open-air giving the impression of a small city with streets and even includes a miniature golf course, and one has the feeling that they wanted to capture some of the charm of the parks they have substituted. I now find it convenient to be able to buy anything I need from light bulbs to a manicure to a meal and a movie, from toys to toe-nail clippers, or some pork chops for dinner, or an outfit for a wedding, cash from the bank, a computer, a pet, an umbrella or suntan lotion; to fix my portable phone, buy or rent a van, acquire or sell a house, choose a bed or just a nail file, all in one place without moving my car. It’s good exercise too and opens from 9a.m. Cuspidetill midnight. If we are to judge by the zillions of comments and who makes them, youth flocks there and completely enjoys it. So, though it might be true that Malls in the U.S.A. are dying, from what I can see they are still thriving in Mexico since that time long ago when they displaced the parks as a center for family entertainment.

So, what about malls in Europe or, to be more precise, in my little French town of Salies? Well, we have our Thursday markets where aOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAlmost everything can be bought. The Thursday market has the advantage that it is ephimeral and disappears completely by 1pm leaving the town unscathed except for a few remains which the cleaning truck promptly sweeps up. And, if I ever get nostalgic for a mall, I just hop in my car and drive to San Sebastián across the now non-existent border, to Garbera: a US style mall with most anything one’s heart could desire. It doesn’t seem to be dying either. I do notice, however, how much more I am buying over internet… so, perhaps the eve705-4_-centro-comercial-garberantual demise of malls is more than just an American phenomenon. We will see.


WIN_20170722_130919 (2)                    I slept and dreamt that Life was happiness; I awoke and learned that Life was   service; I served and discovered that service to Life was happiness.

                                    (I have no idea who said this or even if this is the exact way it was said, but it is the expression of what I know  to be true for me today.)    


This year I am turning 75. Sometimes I find it hard to believe and others it is just a number with no meaning whatsoever. When my grandmother turned 75 and I went to wish her a happy birthday, she said: “I’m 75 years old and I don’t know what I have done with my life!” I have commented on this before but want to once again thank my grandmother for this warning. I know now mine has been a life consciously lived –although not always consciously liked- and will continue to be so as long as consciousness remains.

Recently, a dear and ‘old’ (both in duration of friendship and personal age) friend sent me a brief text (anonymous) with the title “What’s it like to be old?” Everything contained in it was absolutely true for me, even though some of the examples did not pertain to my experience. I decided to plagiarize the writing and turn it into my own. So I began and found the following outpouring of my heart blending with the outpouring of that unknown heart to whom I am deeply grateful for the gift of words (theirs and mine).20131116_105036

So, what is it like to be old? The text in front of me posed the question, and I was forced to answer much like the original author. I don’t think of myself as old, there is in me a something that doesn’t age, a something or a place that is as curious, as open and as excited about life now as when I was three years old and just beginning to become conscious. However, as I contemplated the question, I felt grateful and excited about being able to answer it along with my unknown collaborator.

Old age, we decided, is a gift.

I could joyfully say –along with the text on my computer screen- that I was, perhaps for the first time in my life, the person I had always wanted to be. For once (say I) I live the daily miracle of waking up with myself, delighted to meet me once more and curious about the day that lays ahead. Of course, I don’t bound out of bed and race towards the day as I once used to, but rather close my eyes around the 10 or 20 extra minutes I allow myself under the blankets, savoring each second of added warmth and relaxation.

Yes, old age is a gift. Oh, not precisely my body (I cry out in unison with the invisible author, my new friend)! Agreed! Not the wrinkles (and Life is so kind to take away the sharpness my eyesight as it increases the wrinkles), the fat around my middle, the bags AUTUMN 002under my eyes, the pains in the joints that come and, sometimes, go. Often I feel the shock of seeing that stranger in the mirror that looks so much like… my grandmother! Then I smile, a secret smile, and feel gratitude for a long life lived a duo.

I would never trade in my wonderful life, the profound love for my family, the marvelous friends, all the new adventures and the deep satisfaction of my actual work, for less wrinkles or a more sculpted figure. As I have aged, I’ve become so much kinder to myself, so much less critical. I’ve turned into my best friend, a wonderful companion.

I no longer scold myself for eating my big plate of Häggen Das occasionally, or the third cookie I slyly snap up on the way through the kitchen. I have no problem spending the extra money that comfort sometimes requires; I deserve that consideration, that simple joy. I can splurge on myself and not worry or splurge on my loved ones (which is the same as splurging on myself) with abandon.20160520_143050

In my life, I have seen too many people arrive at the birthdays I have now celebrated, complaining endlessly about their old age, angrily wanting back the youth they no longer have to do the things they hadn’t thought of until too late, and completely oblivious to the gift of freedom that comes with the years.

After all, who cares if I decide to spend a Sunday afternoon playing computer games, or if I go to the movies more to eat popcorn than to watch the film, or if I take a cozy nap curled up on the sofa under a warm, woolen blanket? And whose business is it if I find myself dancing wildly to a hit song from the 50’s or 60’s, or collapsing into a loving heap of nostalgic tears over a remembered boyfriend or lover? I no longer fear taking all the courses I want even though the youths that fill the classroom might ask what good it will do someone my age; they too will become old someday.

“Yes” (I whisper to my anonymous author) sometimes I forget things, but then some things are better forgotten. Over the years I have found that the tragic stories about my childhood and youth are no more than that: stories. And, in the long run, I remember that which is important to me today. I find my mind much more flexible than before, willing to let go of useless beliefs, willing to not be right, anxious even to step out of the role of the-mind-that-knows. My mind today seems perfectly happy to live with me in the present, to be clear about the options that open up before us and to direct me wisely and kindly towards the best path. Today, this mind that once was a torture chamber of mistaken beliefs, is a faithful friend, my favorite toy and beloved instrument, my constant and loving companion. It takes me where I want to go without my ever leaving the chair where I sit.

I’ll agree –if you insist- that life has sometimes seemed hard, that there have been unwanted frustrations, the loss of loved ones, painful separations, trials and tribulations that at moments seemed insurmountable. But the trials and the frustrations are what have provided strength, understanding and compassion. A life without trials is sterile and empty and will never experience the deep joy that the miracle of living bestows on us.

From the deepest corner of my soul, I am grateful for having lived enough years to begin to see the laughter and tears of youth etched into the expanding grooves on my face. Time, far from taking away, has rather given me the opportunity to live many lives in one, to experience the true abundance of each day (not the abundance of “stuff”), to reach the precise place inside myself where unlimited and unconditional love is born. Today I understand that what others think of me is beside the point; I have earned the right to be wrong, to make mistakes or look absurd in the eyes of others without punishing myself, for I have arrived at the knowledge that nothing is ever a mistake… not ever.

20130622_225437So the next time someone asks me (or I run across the question) what it feels like to be old, I’ll be able to honestly say: I love it. Age has freed me. I love the person I have become, the one that was born of me thanks to the years that life has provided. I know I won’t live forever (heaven forbid!), but as long as I am here I am not going to waste a minute complaining about things I have not had, moments I have not lived, persons I have not been, goals I have not achieved; neither will I spend and instant worrying about what awaits me in the future. I will live in the fullness of the unwavering present, seeing how I might best serve this life, this person, this instance in front of me, for serving today gives me the extreme joy I once searched for in others, in things, in sex. I’ll eat popcorn and ice cream, I’ll sleep that extra hour in the morning with the furry warmth of my little schnauzer clinging to my back, I’ll take the longed for journey as it occurs to me, and every morning I’ll contemplate the day ahead through the eyes of innocence that life has returned to me. Above all, I will love with all my heart until this heart stops beating. I know now, this is what I am here for, and my heart fills with gratitude.

When someone near me exclaims: “Oh God! I am about to turn 30 or 40 or 50 or 60!” I will be able to tell them honestly that it only gets better, that each decade surpasses the previous one in ways unsuspected. I know this. I’ve been there, at 30, 40, 50 and 60 believing that it couldn’t get better. And it has! Life has proved me wrong each time around. It not only could get better, it did!