Thursday, May 3, 2012

Happy Mugeut Day!

Muguet Day!

So, I ran around saying "Happy Muguet Day!" to everyone I saw on May 1st and posted "Happy Muguet Day!" all over my various social media portals on our little May Day 2012. It probably drove my husband nuts to hear all about people's reactions when we got home from work and class Tuesday, but he indulged my ramblings as usual :)

Most people just raised an eyebrow and laughed or ignored my greeting completely this day, my mother-in-law was probably the only one to inquire about the meaning. Her response? "Happy Muguet Day to you! Wait, what's Muguet Day?"

This day is kind of a big deal in France. A national holiday--the workers' holiday--to be exact. In fact, celebrating the cause of workers (what we now celebrate as Labor Day) on May first is a custom that originated in the United States in the 1800's when the labor unions were at the peak of the fervor and righteous battles against abusive labor conditions. The celebration had a distinctly left-wing--even communist--flavor, and perhaps that's why in the US the date was quietly moved to early September and the name of the holiday changed to Labor Day. The buying for oneself or one's loved ones or friends a pot or bouquet of lily of the valley (muguet de bois) is a beautiful and simple celebration of this day. Lily of the valley is referred to as a "porte-bonheur"--literally, "bringer of happiness" or what we would call a good luck charm.

A few days before May Day, you begin to see vendors popping up on every corner selling lily of the valley. Although at all other times of the year, selling any kind of flowers or anything else on the street requires paying for a permit, merry May Day is exempted from this tax, and anyone can sell the blossoms anywhere without being tithed by the city. Commuters are everywhere clutching their lily of the valley, to be offered to girl- or boyfriend, husband or wife, dinner host, boss, you name it. Even the Metro is perfumed.

I was reminded of this little holiday on the night of April 30th, quietly. It was an innocent scent of nostalgia that wrought havoc in my memory bank all day on Tuesday. An uncovering of a childhood toy or game during spring cleaning, a passing of a photo on a wall (or in my case, a pin-board) and snap you are transported to a silver-rimmed, rosy-colored version of a distant memory. That's what happened.


Now you must understand, Tuesdays are a little rough for this gal. I get to work by 6:45am and work until 3:00pm-ish, drive home and change, take my dog outside, run for the bus, and hopefully arrive at my stress reduction through movement class before 4:00, then stay until 6:00ish and take the bus or walk home. Weekly doozy-day. That being said, this little flower ushered me through this Tuesday-the last Tuesday I had to run this gauntlet before my college graduation next week. Oh my gah! Next week. It's hard to conceive.

Now, along with my lovely visions of little sweetly-scented vines of white bells, I was possessed by an overwhelming urge to FIND said little flowers this day. My problem? FINDING said little flowers in Texas on May Day. By the time I arrived home, all of the florists-short of large grocery depots were closed, but my determination was unwavering. On to a local grocer I charged, with visions of white dancing flowers in my head. OH reality--you get me every time.

No muguet. I was in need of some organic half-and-half anyway, for making soups this week, so I sadly trudged to the dairy aisle, grabbed a quart of the stuff, and mosied back to the flowers. I couldn't go home empty-handed, not after all of that, so I settled on lily-of-the-world, which smell divine as well and would fit nicely in a new vase a friend had gleaned from an estate sale on our last girly-date.

Upon arrival home, I cut the stems, filled the vase and gave them food. Why was I feeling like someone had just kicked my dog or stolen my favorite yoga pants or one of my plants just died? 

I was homesick for France. It always happens like that. I will be floating through life, happiness abounds while I'm surrounded by beautiful and wonderful people, I have MaryJanesFarm to read, tea in my cup, fruit on my table, honey and milk flowing and then umph. Brick wall. It happened while I was there too, if you read my other blog, you should know this.

How to contend? How to cope with something so isolating? I know next to no one who has had the experience of spending a significant amount of time living in another culture with whom I can discuss this feeling. Now I understand. This is the true raison d'être for this blog. 

My initial reasoning for this blog was purely going to be based on food, hence most of the inspiration for the title. However, now, I understand its true purpose-helping me to contain my sanity while I fight the urge to board every flight between here and Paris in hopes of "making it work" there.

With that realization made and accepted, I MUST update you on my petit jardin de poche, okay, so not a pocket garden, but that's what it feels like. My balcony container garden is steadily growing (hehe, pun) and I couldn't be happier about it. 

I had this notion that in order to have some sort of proper garden, I needed to have land, rented or owned. However, in a very recent, HUGE decision, the hubby, new roomie, and I will be leasing yet another apartment. I like apartments. They're compact, all of the space is used and therefore, just small enough to be homey and comfortable, there's usually a gym, pool, and short walk to a store, however, remaining in a college town, after college is over, leaves us with minimally quiet options. Our initial plan was to rent a house together, but most are severly dilapidated and maintenance issues would be our responsibility.

We found a complex on a golf course! Which will provide some much-needed quiet, minimal student interaction (it's mostly young families and professionals), and stunning green spaces through which to walk and view from our new balcony!! I'm a little excited. 

That being decided, I had to contend with the fact that since we weren't moving into a rent house, I would still not have access to moist, soft earth in which to grow things. I spent a few days sad about this, but then had an epiphany while lying in bed trying to sleep. I don't have to wait!

In France, most people live in apartments-without balconies-and they STILL grow things. Those charming little window boxes hovering above cobblestone streets, spilling the aroma of fresh herbs and spring flowers onto the entranced passer-byes? Hello? Screams France!...and since our balcony will be WAY bigger than a window box can fit, I thought, why limit when I can have a garden or green oasis?...Challenge accepted.

In short, I am slowly building an outdoor mini-paradise, un paradis de poche I think I'll call I'll hang a cute sign that says point is that if you want to do something, do it. If you want to learn something, learn it. Next time you think of something cute to do or make, ask yourself why not? Why not now? Trust me, this is a lot coming form an habitual, neurotic planner.

 Letting go and doing something you enjoy, or figuring out how to scale it down to fit your time and budget can be intimidating, but it can also be the fun part! I'm slowly learning this with help from my sainted husband, ma belle-mère (I love the French expression for mother-in-law, it's so sweet and TOTALLY describes mine :), and various bloggers who have come before me, leaving their vast and experienced knowledge for others to unearth, and who seem to be much more brazen than I.

 À plus tard!