The Legend of Fleurette and the Origin of the Word “Flirt”

 

The town of Nérac is full of history. It is the birthplace of Henri III of Navarre who later became Henry IV, king of France. His reign was marked by years of fighting between Protestants and Catholics. In an attempt to bring about a reconciliation and, eventually, to cement his claim to the throne, Henry switched allegiance six times between the two factions . It took him nine long years to bring about peace. Nevertheless, he was eventually assassinated by a religious fanatic. Some things never change.

historians remember Henry IV as “The Good King.” He is fondly remembered for his concern for the common people, and for his many affairs. Indeed, he supposedly had, over time, 76 official mistresses. His life was the inspiration of Shakespeare’s play, “Love’s Labour Lost,” the term “Le Vert Galant”—The Vigorous Suitor—and the legend of Fleurette.

Fleurette was the young daughter of the  palace gardener at Nérac. The future king, supposedly, seduced and abandoned her. The legend continues by saying that poor Fleurette killed herself when she realized that Henry no longer shared her passion. Fleurette’s name, however, survives in the French expression “conter Fleurette”; that in English became “flirt.”  She is thought to be Henry’s first mistress. As for their ages at the time of their affair, reports vary widely. He is said to have been as young as twelve or as old as nineteen. The truth is probably somewhere in between.  Fleurette was either fourteen or sixteen. The stories also vary as to the length of their relationship. Some stories claim it was a one-time encounter. In others, it continued for months.  According to legend, after returning from a trip in which he tasted the delights of many other women, Henry made an assignation to meet Fleurette at the fountain where they first fell in love. Instead of the living Fleurette, he found her body.  She could not bear to live without his love. It is also reported that she was the only mistress who remained true to Henry .

On the beautiful walkway on right bank of the river Baïse, in the park called “La Garenne” one can admire a beautiful statue of Fleurette. It is the work of sculptor Daniel Campagne. In 1896, the statue was placed inside one of the park’s grottoes.  My friends and I discovered the statue on a recent walk. We were captivated by the story and amazed at Fleurette’s very perky breasts. Could the real Fleurette have been so blessed? Would Henry really have left someone so perfectly endowed?

Spoiler alert: Historians report that the real Fleurette lived another sixteen years after the affair ended. I’m sorry to say I was disappointed to hear that. So much for romance.

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Planes, Trains, Taxis and Cars…Nérac at last!

 

Day 3, Yesterday Morning I took the 6:45 AM hotel shuttle to Charles de Gaulle airport. After depositing me at the airport, my driver pointed to the elevator on the loading platform and pantomimed down and up. (It is a fallacy that most French people speak English.) CDG often requires lots of ups and downs to get to one’s destination. I’d been at the airport enough times to grasp the general idea and—hallelujah!—I not only had no problem getting to the right location, I was through security and at my gate by 7:30. One step closer to Nérac and Studio Faire.

Travel Tip: Don’t take a lot of luggage for a three week stay. I probably was toting 30 kilograms. In the USA, that’s 66.139 pounds. Granted, I had to take all my art supplies, but I didn’t have to pack half my summer wardrobe. In the process of getting my heavy backpack on and off, I ended up with bruises on both arms and a blood blister.  Altogether, I was wearing a purse, a backpack and a computer bag while hauling a large suitcase on wheels. More about those wheels later…

Step 2, Easyjet: While waiting to board, I struck up a friendly conversation with a woman who turned out to be from California. However, we each made the assumption that the other was from France. The results were comical as we tried to converse in fractured French. We had a good laugh when we realized we were both from the States. The flight itself was even funnier. It was like watching flight attendants on speed. After welcoming us on-board and doing the cursory safety demonstration, they paid little attention to the passengers. We were told we had a choice of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate and either a croissant, muffin or breakfast-roll. Shortly after, one stewardess ran down the aisle with the breakfast cart. She asked me something in French which I assume was, “Do you want anything.” I responded, “no,” as she whizzed by. Within a few minutes she returned the cart to the front. Not one passenger got a croissant and coffee, or anything else for that matter. Later, the same stewardess raced by with a duty-free perfume cart. There were no takers and that cart was also quickly returned. The flight attendants from the back of the plane made frequent forays to the front to hold what looked like a social gathering. There was a lot of chatter and much laughter. Though all the chatter, the steward and one of the stewardesses maintained a fairly steady interaction with a wall of lockers. They opened and shut doors and occasionally took notes. At one point, the steward frantically rifled through boxes in one of the lockers. After much searching, he triumphantly withdrew one apple and one orange which he took into the cockpit. It was his third foray into the cockpit. Each time he entered, a stewardess took a wide legged stance in front of the door with arms folded.  Eventually, the steward returned to the cabin with just the apple. I asked myself, “Is the captain really going to peel and eat and orange while he’s flying the plane?” A stewardess from the back of the plane then joined the party while extracting two giant plastic bags from an overhead bin—one orange bag, one green. She took a great deal of time placing the green bag inside the orange one. Those bags really were enormous. I couldn’t take my eyes of her machinations. Finally satisfied, she marched down the aisle aiming the empty bags at the passengers with an indication that they were to fill it with their trash. I guess she was collecting phantom coffee cups and croissant crumbs.  The bag remained empty. We got nothing, we gave nothing.

Taxi to Toulouse Train Station: Getting from the airport to the train station was easy. I grabbed a cab and, after a short ride—le gare. Continue reading

Farewell Santa Rosa! Hello France!

Maybe there are some of you out there that find international travel easy. I am not one of them. Just preparing for the trip was exhausting: order an international phone package, put home security measures in place, notify the neighbors, organize art supplies in my checked baggage, decide what clothes to take (three weeks requires a lot of thought if not clothes), water all the plants, make arrangements for their care in my absence, and clean out the refrigerator. Because, really, who wants to come home to moldy food? I even changed the sheets the day I left. Imagine coming home, exhausted, and finding clean sheets, a clean frig and living plants.

I bought a lot of last-minute items from Amazon and felt guilty about not supporting local stores, but I was really pressed for time. That’s everyone’s excuse, right? Among other things, I was able to research what I needed, found the most highly rated non-Deet insect repellent, bought a 2000-watt international travel adapter (an Amazon pick), and got refills on make-up. The pluses and minuses of using Amazon and their impact on our economy is a blog unto itself. For Amazon or against it, it’s SO convenient. So why do I still feel like apologizing?

Packing was a challenge. I took Norwegian Airline from Oakland to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. Tomorrow I will be flying on EasyJet from CDG to Toulouse. The two airlines have different baggage rules. Norwegian only allowed me 20 kilos on a checked bag which is approximately 44 pounds, plus a 10 kg carry-on. Easyjet allows a 30 kg  checked bag but is notoriously strict with carry-ons. Last year they counted my backpack and purse as two items and I almost didn’t get on the flight. This year Easyjet says they are allowing me a carry-on bag and a personal item such as a laptop. I will have to stick my small purse into one of the them, and I still don’t trust the info, although I did make a 2 AM international call to Easyjet to verify. So, maybe they are telling me the truth. Hoping to avoid any problems with Easyjet I originally packed everything, including my art materials into one bag.  However, there was already a problem, I couldn’t lift the bag. That was likely to be a big issue in transit. It I had to lift it onto the train in Toulouse for the last leg of my trip, I couldn’t. Problem number two–I was 3kg over the allowed Norwegian weight. I would have had to pay an additional $90 in overage costs. The fact that I wasn’t using the allotted 10 kg for a carry-on didn’t matter. Those 10kg didn’t transfer over to the checked bag. So, I took stuff out of the big bag and added it to a backpack. Now I had a large suitcase on rollers, a small purse, my laptop (which I need for my work project at my artist residency), and a backpack. It was a lot to drag around, especially at CDG while looking for the hotel shuttle which I never found. The directions were so convoluted, and it was such a long walk, I finally splurged on a cab. I have bruises and a blood blister on one arm from trying to organize everything properly on my body. Tune in tomorrow to see how everything transpires with Easyjet.

Now for the good stuff. My friend, Mark, drove me to Oakland Airport. Big thanks to Mark! Once I got there, Check-in wasn’t difficult, and I had TSA clearance–score! I sailed past the huge security line, kept my shoes on, and didn’t have to show liquids in a plastic bag, or take out my laptop and Kindle. Continue reading

What Happened to Neighbors?

I recently viewed a TV commercial purporting to bring neighbors together by providing a smores block party—”getting to know you” over gooey concoctions of melted chocolate and marshmallows smashed between graham crackers. Fun, right? The sobering part of the commercial was the statement that only 31% of people actually know their neighbors. Wondering if that number was factual, I asked Google. The answer is, “Yes.” Different studies have come up with slightly different percentages, but all agree—we’re not loving our neighbors. In many cases, we don’t even know their names.

Growing up in 1950’s small town America, I knew the name of everyone in my neighborhood, and everyone knew me. My family wasn’t great friends with every person on our street, but we all got along. In the summertime, adults sat on front porches and chatted with each other while we kids ran across unfenced lawns collecting fireflies in glass bottles, releasing  them at the bedtime call. We roamed free and stayed out of trouble because everyone was watching.

Poor us—we had no cell phones or computers on which to play. TV was new and there weren’t a lot of viewing choices. In fact, TV didn’t appear in many homes until the mid-fifties.  Neighbors, who had one, often shared. A TV magically appeared in my home on my eighth birthday.  Until then, every Saturday night my parents put me in my PJs, and we trekked up the street to a friend’s house to watch Uncle Milty’s Texaco Hour. Big hit!

Today, people claim they are “too busy” to get to know their neighbors. I’m guilty of that. I do know the names of the neighbors on either side of me. We’re not great friends but we wave, “Hi!” in passing. Ron, my neighbor to the right, keeps an eye on my place when I’m away.  I know one neighbor across the street by name, Margaret. She was kind enough to come to my door and greet me when I moved into the neighborhood. Last summer she gave me some seedlings to plant in my garden. I’m going to invite her over soon. I’ve been saving that since I moved here three years ago. Continue reading

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times…

Charles Dickens opened A Tale of Two Cities with these immortal lines. He was right then and it’s still true.

Terrible things are happening in the world today. Wonderful things are happening in the world today. Right now, someone is dying;  someone is being born. Someone is suffering.; someone is celebrating. Someone is making love; someone is sowing hate. This is the nature of reality on the physical plane.

The carnage that took place in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday overwhelmed our senses. We may feel deeply the death of a puppy and go numb at a catastrophe of such magnitude.  It seems too large and too horrific to be real, but it was real. The aftermath for those involved is still very real. In situations like these, I think of Mr. Rogers who always remembered his mother’s advice in times of trouble, “Look for the helpers.” They are always present.

We can demonize all Muslims for the act of a radical few, or we can focus on the fact that Sri Lanka’s Muslims called for a day of fasting and opened their mosques to Christians for prayer. Likewise, when a terrorist attacked a mosque in New Zealand, the neighboring Mormon Church opened a chapel so that displaced Muslims had a place to pray five times a day.

Why do those positive stories tend to get buried in the news? Probably because fear sells papers and keeps folks glued to their favorite news channel—their favorite flavor, the one that allows them to hear exactly what they want to hear.

I believe there is a higher truth, a higher reality—a reality on the spiritual plane where there is no “us’ and “them.” Not everyone believes as do. What a dull world it would be if they did. Some may find my view to be spiritual balderdash, but from a scientific viewpoint there is also no “us” and “them.”  Study the DNA of a Jew and a Palestinian in the laboratory, you cannot determine which is which. Black blood can save a white life, and vice versa. This is a small planet and we, the people, are all human. Imagine what we could accomplish on this small blue planet if laid down our prejudices, set aside labels, and worked together.

We react to everything that happens, but we can choose our reactions. Every situation is a teaching experience. The more something, or someone, pushes my buttons, the greater my opportunity to learn from it. Right now, my greatest teacher is President Trump. He pushes all my buttons, makes me look at all my beliefs. If I really believe “we’re all one,” why can’t I even bear to look at him? Well, I’m a work in progress. In the meantime, I can allow safe passage in my mind  to friends who do support him. I don’t have to agree with them in order to love them.

This year’s theme at the Center for Spiritual Living, Santa Rosa, is Spirituality in Action. “Diversity” is April’s focus. Sunday talks are available on-line. I invite you to listen to the message from Sunday, April 28th by Dr. Edward Viljoen. Then, ask yourself, “Where am I judgmental? What labels do I stick on people that reduces their humanity to a stereotype?

In his book, True Inclusion, Creating Communities of Radical Embrace, Brandon Robertson has this to say:

“This is the only hope for humanity. Unless we are willing to do the hard, painful work of sanctifying and reforming ourselves through extending grace, welcome, and unconditional love to our friends, our neighbors, and even our enemies, we can never be conformed and transformed into the people and the communities that we are called to be. And as long as the Church (community, government, individual…) continues to function in a way that excludes, demonizes and marginalizes any community, we are…perpetuating the ‘dark forces’ that are at the heart of all our world’s problems…”

 

Welcome, Spring!

I’m quite eclectic when it comes to spiritual matters. Saturday night I celebrated Passover with  Jewish friends and family. Yesterday, I put on my Sunday best and celebrated Easter. Remember when Easter required a new outfit complete with hat and gloves? Guess I’m showing my age, but I miss that. Today the sun is shining and I’m all about spring.

For me, there is a spiritual quality to spring. (“spit.it.u.al  – adj. –  relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul.”) Winter storms are now a memory, and the sunny weather is definitely lifting my spirit. Trees are decked in spring green, flowers are blooming, and the earth is calling gardeners to start planting. Maybe this is the time to plant seeds, figuratively as well as physically.

Many of us make New Year’s resolutions, but spring is a time of transition and renewal. It seems like an ideal time to start anew and set some goals.  What dream is asking to be revisited? What have you always wanted to do, but never thought you had the time or talent? I’m looking al all the ways I waste time and wonder, “Do I spend so much time on mindless/mundane things because I’m afraid I won’t be able to accomplish my bigger goals? Whatever the reason, I affirm that, starting now, I will give free rein to my creative side. I will make time to paint and write. I will make producing my book a reality, and not just a dream. I will learn all the skills I need to do it.

I believe every affirmation is a seed planted in Divine Mind. The seeds are planted. Now I need to be a good caretaker. One of the most challenging parts of tending my mental garden is ripping out those seeds of doubt. My inner critic has a lot to say. When she mouths off, my new mantra is, “That’s not the truth about me.”

Today’s sunny spring day made me think of a poem by Mary Oliver. Sadly, she passed away recently, but her poems live on. Here is an excerpt from her poem, Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.

Hello, you who make the morning

and spread it over the fields…

Watch how I start the day

in happiness, in kindness.

 

 

Portrait Party… A Sketchy Event

Ready, set, draw! Portrait parties are a fun way to hone your figure drawing skills in a relaxed atmosphere surrounded by some really interesting people.

Last week I attended my third portrait party. The first time it was facilitated by artist Susan Cornelis in the home of one of her students. She has since taken the idea to the Sebastopol Center for the Arts where it’s been fully embraced—first in January and again this March. Judging by both the attendance and the enthusiasm, I’m sure there will be more to come.

Here’s how a portrait party works. Circles of folding chairs are set up throughout the room. Every circle seats five or six people. Each person takes turns posing for the others in his or her group, starting with one-minute poses and gradually increasing the time to ten minutes. One person in each group is the designed timer. A minute flies by for both the sketchers and the posers. Ten minutes still seems like a very short time when you’re sketching, but it can seem like an eternity when you are the one being sketched. Every time a buzzer goes off, one hears shouts of, “Oh, no!” and “It can’t be (fill in the blank) minutes!” Posers sometimes emit a sign of relief.  My group actually limited itself to eight-minute poses, rather than ten. I now have a healthy respect for models who hold hour long poses in life drawing classes. I should add, in case I didn’t make myself clear, everyone at a portrait party is fully clothed. In fact, wearing distinctive attire is encouraged.

Some artists at the event were beginners, some were professional artists, but most fell somewhere in between. While people are encouraged share what they draw, it’s not mandatory. One person in my group enjoyed taking photos of her fellow artists’ drawings but was always careful to ask for permission before doing so.

There are no tables or easels at a portrait party, so a drawing board placed over one’s lap is helpful—unless you are working really small. At my last portrait party, I limited myself to pencil sketches. This time I was more ambitious. Most of my drawings were done with a black brush pen.  However, toward the end, I experimented a bit with watercolors.

A description of the art materials I used at the event might be helpful for anyone considering attending a portrait party, joining an urban sketching group, or who—like me—enjoys doing art when they travel. To create my travel kit, I purchased an assortment of Windsor & Newton watercolors in tubes, an empty watercolor tin and an assortment of half pans that fit inside. Filling the empty half pans with my own paint allows me to customize my color selections. However, travel kits can be purchased fully loaded. After adding an Aquash water brush, a travel brush, and a small spay-bottle, I’m set to paint. I also always have a small assortment of waterproof ink drawing pens on hard.  (See photo below.) Continue reading