Card models

Château de Belcayre on the Vézère River, by Ed Alcock for The New York Times, copyright 2008 The New York Times, all rights reservedThis pic of Chateau de Belcayre on the France’s Vezere River is the first in a slideshow from a travel article about canoeing in the lovely Dordogne Valley region of France by Christopher Shaw*, in today’s (click on the pic to see it full-sized).

When I saw it, I suddenly recalled when my son and I used to assemble card models of Loire Valley chateaux in some of our scanty spare time.  We did Chamont, Chambord and Chenonceau.  My son was four or five when this started.   It’s kind of amazing that we did it.  Chenonceau was hard!

Each chateau took months of patience to construct.  From a free-time point of view, summers are great for working on models, so in early summer, we would.  But NYC’s mid and late summers have a notorious humidity which softens everything, including paper.   Turrets no bigger than a pencil’s diameter, tiny conical roofs, and minuscule chimneys wilt and curl, either too much, or too little.  So in the mid-summers, the card model work would stop, not to be resumed until October or later.

As we assembled the paper models (it had to be done without glue — glue was cheating!), we got a sense of how hard it was to live in a chateau.  There weren’t  many chimneys on this one… it would be cold in the winter.  All the chateaux had crazy steep roofs covered with irregular slates.  Maybe… wasn’t that why castles fall down sooner or later — the roofs are too hard to repair?  Where were the bathrooms?  Or did they have outhouses, or piss in the halls, as the French nobles did at Versailles?

We had a beautiful book: Chateaux of the Loire by Thorston Droste and Axel M. Mosler.  Its stunning photos made sure we never forgot how puny our efforts were — a beautiful ego-busting experience that indirectly taught us to persevere, that taught us to go back to working on our card model chateaux when autumns came around again.

Those were years of poverty for us.  Travel to France wasn’t even a dream.  The big flat books of die-cut chateau parts were gifts from my mother, who did not do the family thing and help us in our dire situation.  Instead she passed a magic wand in front of her own eyes, to forget  our poverty was due to a chain of events she’d started a decade earlier.

I’ve been deliberately forgetting difficult times, for peace of mind’s sake.  But it seems I’ve also forgotten some lovely times, like working with my son on paper models while a wind howled outside the insecure windows of our fifth-floor NYC apartment, the dogs slept on the floor, and a vast loaf of homemade wholewheat cinnamon bread baked in an ancient, unsafe oven which we also used for heating.  “Lovely times?” I hear you say.  OK, yes, memories like these are pictures of hard times.  But more, they’re symbols of togetherness.  And they were gifts from my mother, just as the paper chateaux were.

Many things I’ve been blessed with never would have come to me, if my mom hadn’t made mistakes.  I’m grateful to her — so much, so much.  Her mistakes have turned out to have profound meanings, and taught necessary lessons.  They were how she gave me her love.

See, love is not perfection and goodness.  It’s the transmission of something essential from one person to another.  It may be a very difficult process that seems hateful as it’s being played out.  It’s only when time blows away the sands that we see the shape of the land underneath and understand where we’ve been, and maybe something about where we’re going.

Now is a humid mid-summer moment in parts of my life.  When things get cooler and more manageable, I’l go back to things that have been put to the side for now.  In coming years, maybe I’ll forget altogether the efforts I’ve made, still make, and will be making, in these difficult parts of life.  Then maybe one day, in even more distant years, I’ll remember them again — all the bits, whether bad, good, tough, easy, ugly, lovely — all the pieces of life.

Love is.  Ishq hai.  That’s my motto, my Loire Valley beauty, that stops me from ever giving up on life.

This post represents a few hours of self-discovery process exercised in real time, with no forethought.  It was an inadvertant process that justifies time spent, creativity, writing. blogging, the web — and friends like you all.

* Christopher Shaw is a canoeist and author.  He writes for the NY Times , and has published several books, including “Sacred Monkey River: A Canoe Trip with the Gods“, which is about his canoe travels in Mexico and Guatemala.u


23 thoughts on “Card models

  1. me2watson says:

    My first wife and I went on a canoe trip one time.
    Neither one of us had ever been a canoe before,
    so we learned our lessons the hard way. The water
    only moves along at 5 mph, and that was a good.

    First thing you know, we were going backwards.
    It was really quite hilarious. Thank god, no one saw us.
    This is a link to where we went:

  2. heath says:

    I’ve never canoed. There’s kayaking and canoeing on the Hudson, and there’s a good launch spot on the shore of Inwood Hill Park, about a mile from here, but it’s going to take some time for my knees to get back in the kind of shape they’d need to be for that. I love the idea of being so low down on the water. Like a duck’s perspective.

    love, h

    • me2watson says:

      I liked the idea of safety and seclusion at the time.
      We didn’t see another soul for two days. That was great!
      And not only were we low down on the water, but we were
      also really close to the bottom. It was only 3 foot deep.

  3. Dara says:

    Dear Heath,

    Days of poverty are often also referred to as ‘bad times’. Most often they literally are in many ways. Yet always, specially when one looks back on them in later life, one finds so much that meant so much and the bonds of affection and caring that they created. Sometimes, one could even think of them as the good times. Brings me back to my favouroite lines from Abba – there’s something good in everything. The difficult times were even better in many respects.


  4. Kate... says:

    the haunting quality of the ‘past’ dear Dara,
    has a pull that is inescapable

    ice creaming melting

    what lingers for me has always been

  5. Dara says:

    Dear Kate, beautifully said as always.

    The past is a constant part of us. Im sure you have often sat back alone under the stars and thought about the past and childhood. And then got into bed feeling light and refreshed and happy with yourself. Its a great feeling isn’t it? I love those moments.

    Love Dara

  6. skkott says:

    Not only is France a hugely popular tourist destination in Europe, the French travel a lot like no other nation. The English might come a close second. Lucky are the French socialists!

  7. Kate... says:

    I do!
    love you,
    ~ Kate

  8. Kate... says:

    I can’t sleep tonight,
    and I have gone ‘walking in my dreams”
    to my favorite place,
    to an enchanting park, pristine lake, pine and rocky trails, see forever stars, and long summer nights in a cabin in the woods ….
    there is that familiar pull

  9. heath says:

    dear Kate

    such lyrical images…

    love, h

  10. mieke says:

    Hi Kate and every other One here 🙂

    Nothing will ever be able to replace the wonderful
    conversations we had on the Open Thread of IntentBlog.

    post 280:
    The loving memory is still there and will never go away 🙂

    Today I was even able to comment on this open thread again!

    Well this memory and lots more from IB are engraved on the
    Innernet 🙂

    Love and gratitude from the bottom of my heart,


  11. ed says:

    Nice trip down memory lane, Meike, and a good chuckle.

    Love and gratitude to you too. You worked hard with Harb and North to demonstrate the spirit of cooperation and Oneness.
    God bless the Heartphone,


  12. Kate... says:

    Dear Mieke and Ed,
    I did just comment on the Intentblog OT, that Mieke linked.
    It is amazing. It took my comment :-))

    I think of the moving, inspiring, fun and sometimes, oh – candid and raw conversations – at IB
    lure me back – to the memory lane of sharing,
    but I find the nostaglia – not of the aching kind,
    but …
    I have a missing feeling
    (but not imcomplete)

    Do you feel this way too?
    ~ Kate

  13. mieke says:

    Hi Kate, Ed and Bonnie,

    I would never have thought that it would be really possible to be able to build such a good relationship and warm feelings as we did on IB.

    I felt the same warmth as I did so many years ago in that group of women. My husband could hardly understand this.

    Sometimes I sat in front of my laptop laughing loud, sometimes I cried.

    I do miss it because it again was such a once in a lifetime experience.
    Such experiences are unique and they can make you whole.

    I do not think IB can be revived again. But the fact that it is still there and that you are even able to comment again is very tempting.

    Yet I am busy on a slow journey saying goodbye to the Internet and move on. Reflection and nostalgia are two wonderful guides in my labrinth at the moment.

    IB will always be the best experience on the Internet I have ever had.

    Big hugs and all the best to you all.

    In gratitude and with much love,


    • me2watson says:

      Hello again, Mieke!

      Yes, I had to join you in looking back. Reminiscing
      means we’ve already said our goodbyes. But that is
      to a particular time and place, and we cannot go back.

      I will miss never-ever seeing you again,
      but I can’t see that happening, either. Luvz!

      Hi Kate, Bonnie and Ed, too!

      Open threads are generally out of fashion these days.
      I haven’t found another one like it, and I’ve been
      getting out there to browse when I can. Wonderful,
      intelligent, creative artists and writers are out
      there. I did run across a ‘group’ of Mormon women. Ha!
      Most folks have their own sites, and ‘group’ via links.

      I have found out another thing, too. Popularity is a
      very demanding and time-consuming endeavor. I really
      don’t understand how they manage to have several blogs,
      Facebook, Twitter, and yada-yada-yada all at once.

      The world can be made to seem smaller. I’ve talked to
      a college English Lit. teacher in Singapore. I have
      a lady friend who lives in Argentina. I mean, something
      similar to the way IB was spread out. That part I like.

      Hello, Heath. I’m thinking of you, too. It’s okay.
      I’m glad you didn’t have any expectations to start with.
      I still appreciate the invite here, don’t get me wrong.
      I wouldn’t be where I am now without the whole of
      all ya’awl’s help, love and support. Just so ya know.

      Luvz and hugz to all! Uncle Tree

      Still here.

  14. mieke says:

    Hi Keith,

    It is good to read how much you already have achieved!

    Your poems are a great read.

    Uncle tree: am planning to make this tree labyrinth at the end of this month in nature 🙂

    It will become more or less a tribute to my husband, children and grandchildren.

    Heath, thank you so much for what you are doing. Am so happy for you that you have found in your life what you were looking for.

    Again, thanks to all of you wonderful people that have made those past almost four years such a wonderful and marvellous experience 🙂

  15. Dara says:

    Oh dear I’m late as always. Take my advice, stay away from flu. Its a royal pain.

    Dearest Mieke Ive missed out a bit, coming here after an age and am glad we met and got to know you. I also know we will keep meeting.

    Love, good luck and good wishes.


  16. mieke says:

    Yes Dara, our connections are timeless.

    They are all alive in the Innernet, the heart.

    I’ve tried to express it in my latest poem:

    All the best to you, praying you will never get the flu,
    anymore 🙂

    You won’t is my experience if you are able to always feel those loving arms of the universe around you, the inner core that is also around you as a protective shield.

    I cannot explain it more clearly, hope you catch a glimps of this truth.

  17. heath says:

    Dear Dara

    When I remember hard times and no-so-hard times, it seems to me that people are usually at their best in the hard times. I wonder why we don’t celebrate challenges to our comfort, instead of looking at them as something to escape from.

    Dear All

    About being able to comment on IB, the Intent administrator put what’s called a redirect on the main page of Intentblog, so it sends you over to Intent, but he/she didn’t put a redirect on any of the archived Intentblog posts and threads. Intent administrator never turned off accepting comments on IB overall, just turned off letting recent comments appear on the main page. The conclusion most people made was that all commenting had been turned off.

    Dear Keith

    You, Harb and Ed, and maybe Derek, put your big toes in the water here, realized your personal direction was to be on your own, and moved forward from there. That’s part of what Grafetti is about, from my point of view. The only reason I stayed involved with FoIB, and now with Grafetti, was strong sense of the writing voices of the core members, and those who were invited. During the IB years, all the Grafetti voices changed from personal to authorial, in the end producing excellent, inspiring, informative and playful writing. Yet almost none of us were writing publicly, except as commenters on IB. Grafetti is meant to be a place where each of us can continue to build comfort as public writers, in a safe place, at our own paces, and find the forms we like best, how much we do or don’t like being part of a group, and so on. Each of us has reacted to the Grafetti opportunity in different ways. Yet all of us, even those who decided not to join as authors, or who have joined but have been inactive, have found some value here. If nothing else, Grafetti is an ongoing vote of confidence for each of us, as we continue to evolve as writers.

    Dear Keith and Mieke

    It makes me uncomfortable when I’m singled out as being a kind of mother hen of Grafetti, as that’s not my role in fact. I bring two things to Graf that set me apart from others: more months of blogging experience, and some technical knowledge. Other than that, my situation relative to Graf’s existence is like that of the rest of the Graf founders (Bonnie, Dara and Ed), and as a writer, just like the rest of you.

    love, h

    • me2watson says:

      Dear Heath,

      I think you are right on the money there.
      It was good to hear your thoughts on the whole.
      Thank you for the technical advice, too. I learned
      more than a thing or two in several key areas.
      A valuable experience, I agree. Sorry about the
      mother hen thang. Wishing you the best! Luvz, Keith

  18. heath says:

    Dear Tiger

    I don’t know if you still visit us. I hope you’ll share some thoughts with us when you’re in the mood. You know I’ve always been a fan of your writing.

    love, h

    Dear Kate and Mieke

    I’ve always thought your comments were blog posts. None of your comments on Graf has dissuaded me that my opinion is mistaken.

    I hope you visit our sister blogs, Open Graf and Grafediting, from time to time. Open Graf is like one big ongoing Open Thread. It’s here: — though only one outsider has commented there, we get several visits on most days from non-Graf readers, including a visit from someone working at the New York Times. Grafediting is where we’ve been putting recent poetry. It’s here: — we share thoughts about writing there, too.

    love, h

  19. derek says:

    Hey Mieke, am I too late to say hello?
    I didn’t think so.
    Much love and peace to you through the heartphone.


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