Calme ta joie

It is an odd feeling to walk outdoors at the moment. Strangely calm, with no planes and few cars. Yet while human activity seems to have ground to a resounding halt, life goes on.

All around us, nature is blissfully oblivious to the human drama unfolding on its doorstep. Springing, bursting, burgeoning forth in joyful profusion, it doesn’t care about coronavirus.

“Calme ta joie,” I tell the tree, heavy with blossoms a-buzzing. Don’t you know people are dying?

In the field by the road two crows squabble over carrion. Atop the highest tree branch sits a kite, one of the magnificent birds of prey that populate our region, calmly surveying the proceedings. They are a reminder that death is so much a part of life. Survival, each day, depends on it.

I go outside and walk now more than ever, within the restricted perimeter of my authorized one-kilometre radius. As if to say, here I am, alive and well. Good morning world. Fuck you, coronavirus.

Unable to plan beyond the boundaries of personal space and essential commodities, we are no longer sure what day it is. But I am aware, perhaps more than ever, of the season.

The unstoppable chorus of birdsong is a joyful reminder that spring is here, in full swing, morning and night. It was always there in the background, behind the roar of our day-to- day rush. But now we wake to its twittering soundtrack and go to sleep with its last, mournful notes echoing in our dreams.

‘Calme ta joie’ is an expression I first heard when the kids were small. It is often said to children, and the French in general: calm down, stay cool, chill out. Perhaps we envy our more staid British neighbours their ‘keep calm and carry on’ mentality.

Yet It seems oddly appropriate for this strange period of human captivity. You cannot stop the force of nature, of life itself, for long. You can calm it down for a little while but ultimately nature will out.

And for that, I am profoundly joyful.

I leave you with this track, discovered via the googling of the title of this post. The artist, previously unknown to me, is called Clémentine.

Are you feeling joy in the calm?


  1. margaret21 · April 9, 2020

    I am actually, and for the same kind of reasons as you. Unlike you, our daily exercise doesn’t have to be restricted to just a kilometre – anywhere we can reach on foot/bike from the house is fine. So I’m exploring the countryside of our very local patch as never before and really appreciating it – yesterday, the first cowslip! Simple joys, but joys none the less.

    • MELewis · April 9, 2020

      Simple joys are the very best ones! I think that is our silver lining, and heaven knows we all need one, from this whole confinement. Lucky you to be able to roam far and wide. Enjoy!

  2. francetaste · April 9, 2020

    I’m very lucky to be able to go walk where I don’t see anybody (though the other day there was a crush of humanity–two couples (separately) and a family who had driven to our lost corner in a BMW SUV. My walks are about an hour, for about 5kms and just barely go beyond the 1km circle from my home, as shown on Mappy. No choice–the footpath goes around a stand of oak trees, certainly for truffles, because they’re encircled with an electrified enclosure and signs that there’s videosurveillance.
    I had the same thought as you as I stepped over some busy ants, thinking how they don’t worry about viruses. But insects do get sick. Just look at the decline of bees (diseases, on top of pesticides and habitat loss). Even trees–the incurable fungus attacking France’s iconic plane trees.

    • MELewis · April 9, 2020

      Sounds lovely! I haven’t been able to figure out a circuit that takes me comfortably within my radius and avoids most other people. The cops are getting very clever about checking all the back roads through fields. Gah! And it makes me so mad that we have to have such silly restrictions just because the average French person can’t comply with basic principles. I heard on the news that joggers in Paris all went out as soon as the curfew lifted at 7pm and crammed the sidewalks! 🙄

      • francetaste · April 9, 2020

        Look at Mappy. You can put in your address and it will calculate a 1km radius.

  3. phildange · April 9, 2020

    I can’t believe how the nature, the weather, the sky are lovely right now . Aren’t we all reading the same book ? Next century we’ll have to teach those plants and animals to behave like decent suicidal humans .

    • MELewis · April 9, 2020

      Yes, I don’t know if they are more beautiful than usual or if we are simply more attuned to their loveliness. I suppose we can try and give the birds and the bees smart phones and tablets, that may just do the trick! 😏

  4. Suzanne et Pierre · April 9, 2020

    Actually, I am very joyful of the normality of spring arrival. It is the only normal event around us these days and it feels good. I have always marvel at nature coming back after a long winter but this year it is even more important to notice all of the crocuses and other flowers coming out of the ground as well as the buds on trees. I see it differently than you and say to nature – keep going as strong as you can as I need your colours and your normality. We are allowed to walk as far as we want as long as we stay 2 meters from other people so we have been roaming the streets of Montreal every day and watching spring slowly arriving… Stay well. (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · April 9, 2020

      So true! It is that reassuring normality that makes me appreciate it all the more. And of course, I was only joking with calming nature’s enthusiasm — I wouldn’t have it any other way. 😅 Glad to hear you are free to move around in Montreal and that spring is also in the air. Hope you and Pierre also stay well!

  5. coteetcampagne · April 9, 2020

    I certainly feel hyper-aware, to the sounds and sights of spring

  6. coteetcampagne · April 9, 2020

    Sorry, pressed wrong button!
    Everything seems to be in Cinemascope, because we are all doing so much less and the distractions of life have disappeared

    • MELewis · April 11, 2020

      Yes, it does feels like that. Sort of surreal actually! Hope you’re staying well in your campagne.

      • coteetcampagne · April 11, 2020

        We are good. And fortunate that we are happy in our own company, I guess that’s why we have lasted 26 years .
        My biggest concern is that I won’t want to socialise in groups at all once this is over!
        I have slight hermit tendencies as it is

  7. Osyth · April 9, 2020

    The earth has the moment to be heard. I hope that the many are listening. I hope that when we humans have this assailant under control that we remember that we heard her, that we take forwards her simple but powerful messages, that we finally accept that we are tiny and fragile. In the meantime the solace that the unbroken cadence of natural life is invaluable. A beautiful piece and I loved the song …. what a delightful bonus

    • MELewis · April 11, 2020

      Ah, solace…it is that. And oddly, while we really have little to complain about, it feels so necessary right now. I hope we do come out of this with some humility about our place on this earth. Glad you enjoyed the song! Sadly, the album is unfindable…

      • Osyth · April 12, 2020

        My daughter lives next door to an elderly lady and commented that everyday she launches a litany of complaints about whatever is bugging her that day from politicians (understood) to marmalade not tasting quite the same in this crisis (not understood) and ends with a sigh and ‘mustn’t grumble though’ …. I think perhaps that complaining becomes a necessary outlet for the latent anxiety people are feeling.

  8. Joanne Sisco · April 9, 2020

    Beautifully written, Mel. You captured the vagueness of this ‘pause’ we are all experiencing, making us suddenly so aware of the outside world. “It was always there in the background, behind the roar of our day-to- day rush.”

    This morning Trudeau finally confirmed what we’ve all suspected, but didn’t want to believe was true – we’re in this for a long time 😕

    • MELewis · April 11, 2020

      Thank you so much, Joanne! 🙏🏻
      It does seem that Justin is doing well internationally with his handling of this crisis (although I know many who will not agree!). I fear we are all in it for a while yet…Macron will give us our next news on the confinement extension on Monday. I am hoping we’ll be able to get moving again by end of April. If not, I may have to sneak across to Switzerland where they are less draconian in their approach!

  9. Yeah, Another Blogger · April 10, 2020

    Hi there. No, I’m not feeling any joy. The virus situation is unnerving to me.

    I know what you mean, though — there’s a lot less noise and congestion outside these days. Take care.

    Neil Scheinin

    • MELewis · April 11, 2020

      Sorry, Neil, that you are feeling overwhelmed by all the news. I also have moments of panic, especially when returning from a supply run and imagining that the virus is crawling all over me. Or when I feel too boxed in by my house and life by these restrictions. Yet in between times, I find these saving moments of real peace and communion with nature. Wishing you health and peace of mind!

  10. acflory · April 18, 2020

    Not sure I’d call it joy. This is more like those interminable years at school when you knew there’d be holidays, eventually, but they always felt a lifetime away. So head down, find little joys and keep trudging. -hugs-

  11. nessafrance · April 20, 2020

    I am catching up, having been strangely busy during lockdown, but with not a lot to show for it. While I am no fan of being confined like this, it does make you notice and appreciate the things we normally take for granted. When we take our daily walk down our lane (which takes us to the 1 km limit), there is always something new to remark on. By the way, I had never heard the expression “calme ta joie”. That’s one to add to my thesaurus.

    • MELewis · April 21, 2020

      Glad to have been the source of a new expression! I don’t think it’s all that common outside of colloquial use though. I agree that the silver lining of confinement is the little things. Those birds!

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