Thursday, June 23, 2005

June madness

With each passing day I don’t write on my blog, I have the impression that when I do post an entry, it will have to be more momentous than if I had posted it a day earlier. By the end of a week, it seems nothing less than the next definitive (Franco-)American novel will do, or at the very least, something to outshine A Year in Provence and its sequels. This is a slippery slope, as it means that each day, I will be less likely to actually do something about the blank blog page. Music is like this, too, I find. If you don’t practice for a few days, you know that it’s going to be harder when you do, so you unconsciously put it off for another day. Before you know it, weeks have gone by and you haven’t played, sung, etc.

So I have decided to meet the problem head on and get back to that unstable equilibrium that is the artist’s lot (if I may use that term to describe myself). Just, please – don’t expect anything momentous.

Last weekend was an action-packed weekend in an action-packed month, and I need to explain why to my non-French readers. In France, the year ends in June, especially if you have children or take part in any extra-professional activities. All the end-of-year school performances, parties, ceremonies, etc. take place in June. If you belong to a community group or activity (la vie associative, as it’s called here), the chances are the season ends in June. I suppose the phenomenon exists in the US (and other countries) too, but it seems more acute here. People virtually get together to say goodbye, before scattering like a treefull of starlings after a loud bang! If you were to spend a summer in France without ever going to the seashore, you’d think France hibernates, which would be a semantic contradiction, but I digress. (If you do go to the shore during this hypothetical summer, you will see more bare breasts than most American men see in a lifetime, but again, I digress.)

Friday was the fête de l’école, the end-of-year festival at B.’s and D.’s school. The theme was dance though the centuries, and I got to see B do a lovely waltz with one of the girls in his class. B’s parents were far more charmed by this than B was.

The highlight of the weekend was a concert on Saturday evening given by our rabbi and two female opera singers who are members of the congregation. They sang songs in Yiddish, Ladino and Hebrew, accompanied either by a piano or a guitar, and it was glorious. Now you would think that an event like this would draw hundreds (dare I say thousands?) of people. It didn’t; there were around 130 people in the audience. Once you know the type of congregation and the state of Judaism in general in France, it is no longer surprising. The congregation is libérale, a flavor halfway between American conservative and reform Judaism. There are a few libérale synagogues in France, about one in every major city, plus two or three in Paris. The other 95% of French synagogues are squarely in what would be called the “orthodox” category in America. The 95% don’t officially recognize the 5%, and so they refused to do any advertising for the concert. Even the Jewish radio station in Lyon refused to air an announcement about it. We also added a little self-flagellation: the concert started before the end of Shabbat on Saturday evening, not a good way to make friends with a religious, observant community. Future concerts, I am told – stay tuned! more to come! – will not conflict with the Sabbath.

On Sunday, B., D. and I did a 2-hour horse ride at La Ferme de la Dame Blanche, a riding club near the foothills of the Monts du Lyonnais, outside Lyon. This was their last Sunday ride of the season, and it conflicted with the fête du poney club at the club where D. has been taking lessons. But the Sunday ride at La Dame Blanche was his first opportunity to ride outside an arena without someone holding his pony. Both he and his Dad were very proud. The four 8-11 year-old girls on the ride, however (why does every riding club has a bevy of 8-11 year-old girls?), were disappointed we didn’t gallop. The scenery was stunning, the temperature was in the nineties (°F), and I would have worn my cowboy hat to protect me from the sun, but they (the ride leader and B. and D.) insisted I wear a helmet.

Yesterday was the fête de la musique. Throughout France on June 21, the longest day of the year, amateur and professional musicians give free concerts in the street and in concert halls. So did my singing group, but that’s a topic for another post ….

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