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?

La joie de vivre

le-fabuleux-destin-d-amelie-poulainA funny thing has happened in France since the Paris attacks.

The French are rediscovering their joie de vivre. Not just because joy is what makes life worth living but as a defining principle. Finding joy in the little things is what makes us who we are. Sitting at a table of an outdoor café, that most quintessentially French thing to do, has become an act of defiance.

It’s a reawakening of sorts. An awareness of what is important, the values we share and the fragile nature of life itself. It is made all the more poignant by the fear that is in people’s hearts. France is in the throes of collective post-traumatic stress syndrome.

At the same time, there is a sense of resilience. That somehow, in adversity, we will be stronger. Perhaps it won’t last. But I get the feeling that a page has been turned and that, as much as people are afraid and that their ‘insouciance’ has been lost or at least compromised, there is on another level a renewed appreciation of the things we share.

We are seeing it in the brave letters from people who have lost loved ones or been touched in some way by the terror. It is a refusal to give in, to change, to let go of one iota of what makes us who we are. We owe it to all those whose lives were tragically cut short on that fateful Friday night in November.

It has occurred to me that lately I have neglected to put enough joie into my vivre. This is going to change. I know the things that bring me joy. Singing. Jumping. Snow. Creating. Moments of peace and solitude. From now on, those things will take a higher place on my list. While I’m at it, I might just tear that list into pieces and toss it on the fire.

Amélie stole our hearts with her naïve sense of joy and wonder in the world. May we all feel it, today and every day that is given to us.

What brings you joy?