Painting by Pierre Bonnard

Occasionally the river floods these places. “Floods” is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding; it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be. All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was. Writers are like that: remembering where we were, that valley we ran through, what the banks were like, the light that was there and the route back to our original place. It is emotional memory — what the nerves and the skin remember as well as how it appeared. And a rush of imagination is our “flooding.”

–Toni Morrison

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If we consider the overly simplified current argument between opening up to save the economy, or continuing to distance in order to save lives, wisdom stories can help reveal how what we really need is not a false courage or lies that obscure what the true dangers are. What we need is more wisdom about how to do both things, keeping ourselves healthy and safe, while also finding wise and honest ways to return to the work and activity of society. Unfortunately, the most common way to deal with a persistent dilemma tends to be to dissociate from the issue by turning away or turning to the outer world of daily activity.

Many methods for opening intelligently and possibly wisely have already appeared in various places around the world. On a deeper level, the real issue involves whether we can, on a personal as well as on a collective level, become wiser and more creative about what to do when we find ourselves faced with such great crises.”

….

Creation is the only outcome of trouble or conflict that can truly satisfy the soul.

- Michael Meade

We were entering into a very creative period. Buying a 250 year-old neglected French house meant we would never stop working on it. We developed trusted relationships with an electrician and a plumber. They both did very good work. The plumber began to refer to our house as a chateau. We were advised by French friends that he was a “simple” man who didn’t know what was a chateau and what wasn’t. Our house was big but it didn’t qualify.

Fine with us, we were there for a refuge for our little family and for creativity. We never stopped learning about life in that part of France. Food and wine and the arts of the table took their place next to reading, painting and working in the garden. The right people showed up just in time to help us, as if obeying orders from the universe.

Bruno Daros knocked on the door one day, saying he was available to build anything out of wood we needed. He was a professional woodworker who had a shop up the road above the town. Bruno’s parents had immigrated to the east of France from Italy after the war so he spoke both French and Italian.

He turned out to be very helpful to us when we made a run to Venice to work out our French visas. We had to be out of France and we didn’t want to return to the U.S.. He got us across the border with a truckload of furniture for our three year stay and helped us deliver it in a boat to the right place. My Italian at that time was nonexistent.

Bruno was a lanky fellow with big hands and one of those important noses you often see in France and Italy. He was very good with his hands but he wanted to work in something else. He wanted to help people more directly, he said. Eventually he divorced his wife and left the village to work for a charity. He was gone for five years. When he came back he was taken back by the changes in so little time.

That village of less than 200 people was becoming a destination. It had been almost moribund for a long time. Tourists visited it for its natural beauty but accommodation was basic. The hotel had closed down, but after working on our house for ten years we finally opened our B&B, proving that a luxury establishment could make it there.

In ten years of wrestling with that business we met some wonderful people, some of whom became friends, but we were too introverted to enjoy the business itself. The couple who bought it from us are French and they’re extroverts. The house deserves no less.

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