It’s crazy. We’re halfway through September, nearly to the official start of fall, and I still can stand only the thinnest sheet I own, no blanket, and the fan on during the night. It was 23 Celsius (73.4 Fahrenheit) here in Carcassonne when I got up this morning. That’s not unusual in August, but now? Our Septembers have an average low temp of 14.2 C (57.6 F) and an average high of 24 C (75.2 F)–perfection. But lately? It’s been in the 30s, which actually is higher than the average high temperature in summer. It’s worse to the west of us–Toulouse is setting records.

Obviously, it’s far worse much farther west. On many levels. But we won’t talk about that.

Such a lovely path

I’m trying to reduce my carbon footprint. To reduce my consumption in general. Eliminate waste. Not buy stuff. Use up what I have. Make things last. Downsize. I don’t buy the claims that individual choices don’t make a difference. The sum of many individuals–of billions of us–absolutely adds up. It’s how we got into this mess.

A bridge from 1320.

One of the side-effects of Covid-19 is that I’ve lost my taste for things–not literally my taste but that hunger for novelty, for change. That hankering for something shiny and new that will boost the spirit. It’s like long ago, when I was pregnant, and the smell of foods that I ordinarily loved suddenly made me nauseous. I’m nauseous these days from consumerism.

The Aude river. Knee-deep these days.
Waves carved into rocks by the river.

I don’t think that if this attitude spreads it will be the end of the economy. It might be the end of a certain style of the economy. One where aisles of stores are full of plastic baubles for “decorating” or for throwing away after use. One where low price is paramount over quality. Where perfectly good stuff is jettisoned in favor of something “fresh” and “modern.” I avoid these aisles when I go to the store for some necessity like toilet paper that isn’t sold at the market. I’m afraid I’ll puke if I see another faux-antique sign that says “kitchen” to hang in one’s kitchen, in case people are confused about what that room might be used for.

Taken from my hanging bars.

When I pass la Cité of Carcassonne, whose walls date back 2000 years, it’s clear that the old doesn’t necessarily have to be thrown out in favor of the new, especially when well-constructed. Even though the walls stay, they need fixing up, and what’s within the walls needs modernizing, changing. Nobody there lives like in the 13th century. Being careful about consumption doesn’t require going backward, unless you plan to get up in arms about faux-antique “kitchen” signs. Even then, if that’s what brings you joy, fine, but if it’s just to keep up with influencers on Instagram, then maybe it’s time to think about where your life is going. Especially since with Covid-19, nobody is coming over any more. I know it’s a business model that’s important to many people’s livelihoods, but I just can’t bear to be told any more that I “need” certain things for my home, my wardrobe, my life, especially when all these things are the exact opposite of “need.”

It puts you in your place.

I heard a podcast recently about “Why Nobody Feels Rich.” In a study, people were asked what would make them happy, and they immediately listed things like a new car. But as they were given time to sit with the question and think, they started listing things like “more time with my family.” That’s something that would enhance the quality of life without creating emissions. It’s so hard to get, too, as if it’s a sign of weakness or lack of character.

Why is the water so murky (but I love the reflections) and a little farther downstream it’s perfectly clear?

What would enhance my life? Having an arm that straightens and that I can raise above my head. Not available in any store nor online. But I’m working on it. The jogging path pictured has some stations with exercise “equipment”–various bars, an incline board for sit-ups, etc. My physical therapist told me to climb–“go rock climbing!”–so I get up on the high bars and then hang there, trying to stretch my arm back into normalcy. I am sure the people passing wonder what on earth I am up to, because I’m panting (from pain), but not seeming to be doing anything strenuous.

Crystal clear here.

What about you? Are you just “over” some things because of our coronavirus-ruled lives? Are you worried about climate change? How far would you go to save the planet? I am curious to hear from you, outside my little Covid bubble.

50 thoughts on “Endless Summer

  1. Year ago I developed a “frozen shoulder” which took a while to regain motion in the joint and is still not fully free. Recently while packing for a cross country move, I lifted too many heavy boxes and had a small tear in the same shoulder. What has helped me is light exercises from “Classical Stretch” (Miranda Esmonde-White). While you will not be able to do the exercises in the same form as she does, if you gently keep it up, you should see some improvement and less pain. I hope you progress. God Bless

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Another self-help book that’s very useful is Pete Egoscue’s “Pain Free”. He addresses a lot of such muscle issues, and the “e-cercises” he uses mostly consist of lying on the floor for varying periods of time, with various appendages elevated. They are very low-impact and do work, but healing unhappy muscles takes time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Francetaste,
    Thank you, as always, for the beautiful and calming snapshots.
    And your wisdom! Yes, I do believe we’ve all been suckered down that “ you need this….” path for one reason or another. Impress your friends, bring special ambience to your family’s gatherings? Whatever. I am in the throes of a move and OMG!!!! I thought I was conservative in my belongings. Apparently, not so. I am culling as I go, but the enormity of “ stuff” is quite overwhelming. Now, in fairness, my lifestyle has changed dramatically over the last few years. Used to entertain regularly for medium sized groups of friends. Now, nothing….hence the surplus of serving dishes and mountains of glassware. Do it ditch it?
    I have given carpets, clothes, household goods to friends and charities but still seem to have more than enough to live with, so…yes. No more purchases when I move to my new ( smaller) dwelling. Maybe a plant or two! Quite possibly even more culling on the horizon.

    It is SO NOT stuff that will make you happy. A glass of wine, some snacks and a good long chat with a trusted friend will fill your heart and soul with warmth and love that a new “ anything” never could.
    Wishing you all the best for your recovery…be patient and diligent in your exercises. Slow and sure will win in the end. It will happen…I’ve done it ( twice!!😉) Slowly stronger Is the goal.
    To your continued good health 🥂🍾
    Susan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You said it well–we were suckered. We took the bait that this or that would make our lives better, but stuff never does. And being banned from stores for two months really brought that out–all this stuff doesn’t matter!

      Like

  3. Sorry to hear your arm is still a problem. We’ve just been declared red, and it is a total downer. I’m actively job hunting, and I’ve no doubt that will be a total downer fairly soon too. I can’t afford to claim RSA because it will scupper my chances of citizenship. But I do have a ‘new’ (4 year old) car picked up a couple of days ago to replace the crappy old car I was driving, which was not going to pass its next CT and needed a new clutch by the end of the year. And I’ve just been swimming in the river with a friend. So no money and no prospect of money, but plenty of opportunities to live a good life (must remember that in the dark days to come…) Must also hassle the firewood supplier to hurry up and deliver…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wishing you the best of luck, Susan. Whatever job you find, I am sure you will be insanely overqualified for. Money goals? To have enough not to worry. Enough to get the car fixed. Enough to invite friends to dinner at a restaurant. Enough to pay all the bills. No need to live large–certainly there are millionaires who don’t have “enough.” But you know what I mean.

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  4. Really nice blog post, Catherine. I’m very interested in saving the planet, and there are some easy things to do to cut down on plastic use: Quit bottled water, quit body wash (bar soap is fine– and there is even bar shampoo). Use powdered laundry detergent from a box. I’m trying to use refillables when possible, such as powders that turn into glass cleaner when water is added to the reusable bottle. I’m also trying to buy seltzers in a can, because cans are more easily recycled than plastics. And, as always, I’m all about second-hand clothes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I absolutely detest liquid soap. I remember when in the early/mid-’90s one of our colleagues told us all about how fluffy net scrubbers and liquid body soap were the future of bath/shower products.
      Planet Money just had an episode about how plastics recycling was a big scam by the petroleum industry, to make it more appealing. In fact, it’s very hard to recycle plastic because it degrades. I suspect our “recycled” plastics are burned in waste-to-energy, which is at least two uses, but it would sure be better not to go that way at all.
      https://www.npr.org/2020/09/11/897692090/how-big-oil-misled-the-public-into-believing-plastic-would-be-recycled

      Like

  5. YES!YES!YES!TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS…………
    WHAT A BEAUTIFUL THOUGHTFUL POST!
    THOSE KITCHEN SIGNS AND WHAT ABOUT THOSE GARDEN SIGNS!!!!!!!!?
    SO MUCH JUNK OUT THERE.I do not ENJOY walking through stores as much as I use too.MAYBE ITS AN AGE THING MAYBE ITS THE BIGGER CLOSET THING THAT IS ALREADY JAMED PACKED!I Adore things especially OLD things and have always thought I was SAVING THEM from a LIFE NOT WELL LIVED!They live well with me!
    YES to more time with Family and More time for Cooking and Friends………….XX

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you are safe from the fires, Elizabeth, with your beautiful antique collection. I am not against beautiful things. I went to Mali (years ago, when it was safe), and in the Dogon region people took great care to decorate their homes, with elaborate paint and carved doors. But what is beautiful about the mass-produced plastic doodads that are made to be on a shelf collecting dust, then discarded in favor of some other bauble?

      Like

  6. Dear, dear Heather,

    What an excellent read this sunny afternoon here in Minneapolis. As I savor each one of your thoughts, they meld with mine. Yes, Covid has changed everything in my life. I am pleased to report that to date, my husband and I are healthy and I feel extremely fortunate to have escaped a few things so far:

    a. having to go into work as an essential worker
    b. being too young to retire
    c. worry over how we’ll survive now that both of us are retired

    The mere fact that I went from being a busy teacher expecting to go back to school fall to being a retiree at age 62 is a huge transition in itself. But all the things you are mentioning here have given me even more reason to purge what I don’t need and to make much better decisions on how we spend our money.

    My footprint matters – yours and the rest of the world. When I read about the insanely capricious nature of nature and the destruction and displacement it is causing as well as the apathy of leaders to do something about it, it is causing me greater concern than ever. I can’t help but thing that it will be too late if as a global community, we continue to use this beautiful earth as a dump site for our penchant for THINGS.

    Thank you for this well-written essay and enjoy the mere fact that you are alive to “pay attention, be astonished and write about it” (Mary Oliver)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Capricious is exactly the word that eluded me while writing. But I was thinking about it in terms of our desires rather than of the climate.
      You retired?!?!? What a loss for students. But you are still busy with photography? Your work is so ethereal.
      Stay healthy!

      Like

      1. Good morning Heather! I love this blog piece and I enjoyed how you spoke about the desires which are extremely “capricious” – so there is a sort of double entendre going on there! Well written, so true. Yes, I am retired, but we were given the option for early retirement due to the pandemic and since I’m only three years away from the actual retirement age, we took it. I am indeed busy with my photography and I thank you for your support! Stay well, happy and hopeful.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It depends on what you mean by “old.” I guess that if you’re friends for several decades, by definition, you’re no longer young.
      Next time we’ll come to see you.
      You have been an inspiration and role model for me since we first met.
      Bisous!!!!

      Like

  7. A mighty fine essay illustrated, as usual, with the beautiful stop-and-smell-the-roses flair. It would be fair to say that these Times are made rather more tolerable when one is fortunate to live in a place of natural beauty, where you do and I do as well. Mr. P asked me, not 20 minutes ago, if I had a hankering for a change of scene and wished to take an overnight road trip out into a rural part of our state we’ve never visited. We had one of those funny conversations where both thought the other might be due for something New but ended it when we both said we couldn’t give a fig about seeing the world outside, we were perfectly content right at home. My point here is we’d booked for two international trips this year – where one of them would have seen us in your neck of the woods last May. (Your photos are more than satisfying as consolation, by the way! Although a chance to have an aperitif together would have been nice:)) So, no, perhaps I’m not over the restrictions. But I have family nearby and friends live mostly closer now, not so much scattered globally, and we do see one another. Sydney isn’t as closed down as the rest of the world, so we’re fortunate.

    I’m a firm believer in doing one’s darnedest to Do One’s Bit and even small gestures can mean something collectively And taking responsibility for one’s actions. The past several years has seen me undertaking a lot of shifts in the footprint-lightening direction. (In fact my first conception of what bloggers did was talk about soap-making and frugal living and what-not, and it took a good couple of years before I realised there was the likes of ToF out there!) That and a couple of personal crises in the Health & Other departments saw us really addressing how much we Need in life, and the answer is, unsurprisingly, very little. New stuff doesn’t bring anything more than clutter into your life, (and the feel-good idea that you can replace your old stuff with new and give the old “to charity” has been shown up to be folly when the charities have been swamped with people’s discards and have said stop!), plastic (and the whole recycling scandal) is avoided as best as possible, if you don’t wear out your stuff and look after things you’ll be rewarded with decades of use and then there’s a world of second-hand/vintage to tap into when something may be required. Make do & mend. Fortunately, we’re neither of us driven by fashion or advertising, so it’s not a hardship to not keep up. Plus we’re individualistic enough that there are no Joneses for us to keep up with. We’re car-less since we got rid of our holiday house several years ago, I had the dishwasher taken out last month (no entertaining these days and anyway, washing up together is a companionable pastime). Etcetera. My one guilty admission is that I do understand intellectually the hypocrisy of my choice, but I’m still a carnivore – although my miserly housekeeping means that there’s definitely less purchased.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing–I get a hankering for steak tartare sometimes, too. I think too many people get up in arms about simply scaling back, preferring to plant themselves squarely against change of any kind, except change in the direction of constant “more.”
      The bigger challenge is to change what “economic growth” means. If it continues to value the sale of more junk–especially when so many people don’t have means for the basics of food, housing, education and health care–then we’re in trouble.
      Of course we’re doomed anyway because RBG died too soon.

      Like

      1. True – And steak tartare is certainly worth the occasional indulgence. My corollary for tonight: I was just saying to Mr. P that after trashing the oven with a messy fish pie that I was going to clean it with the pyrolitic function tomorrow , and not feel guilty!! Swings and roundabouts with my resource usage, I skip one energy hog so I can still utilise another … And on the growth front, I’d deleted an extra paragraph earlier on my reflections on just that topic as it seemed to go on a bit, but I concur. Briefly, I think the Western obsession with growth as an indicator of a civilisation’s worth has to go … My news blackout meant I hadn’t heard about RBG – just checked now. 87! We aren’t doomed yet. The void will fill somehow. It’s the nature of things.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The void might be filled by a monster.
          Sometimes machines are better for the environment–dishwashers use less water than handwashing, and your pyrolitic function is probably better than using chemical oven cleaner. Let’s face it–baking soda works for a lot of things but not much for cleaning an oven.

          Like

  8. Thanks for sharing the beautiful photos! I agree that we should all do our part, but let’s not forget the carbon footprint scheme was created by oil companies to shift the blame onto the population instead of themselves. I have become a more conscious buyer during the pandemic because of that

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, but who is buying that oil? You and me and everybody else on the road. Transportation is the #1 source of carbon emissions. The oil industry has worked hard to thwart conservation measures–waste means profit for them. Every errand done on foot or by bike or remotely or combined with other errands to reduce car trips is a nice middle finger to Big Oil.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. As you know, we downsized seriously to our French lives.
    Smaller house, so we can’t have big parties, no big garden, so no big barbecues, smaller income, so no luxuries.
    Are we content with this?
    Yes, absolutely, and I no longer care what others might think ( though that person who refers to my “very small house” at least once a weekmay get slapped one day…)
    Trev never did care anyway!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. That ticked every box, it was like you were writing my own opinion, my own lifestyle, my own pet hates. And you are right – our individual choices do add up. It would be great to think that 2020 was some kind of reset button but fear the ‘influencers’ have too strong a hold on the easily led. Clearly we need different ‘influencers’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Over the summer, my kid watched “That 70s Show,” and the house (especially the basement) was like where I grew up. Then the kid got into “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” I guess “Dallas” was more of that–influencers before Internet–and it was about glitz and being ostentatious. The whole Kardashian thing is a followup. And of course the multiple-bankruptcy buffoon who inherited, rather than earned, his money and who played a rich business man on TV. Let’s hope there’s a reset soon.

      Like

  11. Je suis d’accord avec toi : les tous petits gestes de chacun peuvent faire la différence. Ne sont-ce pas les ruisseaux qui font les grandes rivières ??? Je suis comme toi, je ne parviens plus à acheter de nouvelles fringues tant mon dressing déborde… je recycle ; je fais mes produits ménagers ; j’achète du savon en brique fait de façon artisanale ; je mange moins de viande ; je consomme local le plus possible ; j’achète dans l’épicerie du village et ne vais dans les grandes surfaces, comme toi, que pour la grosse épicerie ou les trucs spécifiques que je ne trouve pas dans le village (il faudrait d’ailleurs que je me demande si c’est vraiment indispensable…) ; je réduis mon temps de douche au mini et ne prends plus jamais de bain ; je ne laisse pas couler l’eau pour rien… nous arrosons avec l’eau de pluie récupérée ; et encore pleins de petites choses longues à lister… comme tu le dis si chacun de nous faisait un petit geste pour la nature, nous parviendrons peut-être à faire de grandes choses pour notre terre, pour nos vies, pour l’avenir de nos enfants…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tu es aussi une modèle pour moi; tu m’apprends beaucoup d’astuces. Je te remercie. Notre amie du café ce matin, très écolo, prend des douches froides! Je n’arrive pas. Courte, oui; froide….aaaaiiiiieeeee!

      Like

  12. Your pics of the streams show hardly no weeds or even grass. Why is that? I grew up in Kentucky and now live in Florida and I always run into weeds. There it looks manicured.

    Good luck with your recovering arm. As an amputee I know all about physical ailments.

    Chad

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Most of the photos show a little side stream of the main river. It has a tree-lined dirt path that gets quite a steady traffic of joggers, so any grass is beaten down and what does grow gets trimmed. It’s very dry here so the grass stays dormant in summer and grows in winter. The main river is far, far below its winter depth, which affects the vegetation. There’s grass, but I don’t walk in it. And at this time of low water levels, the rock river bed is even exposed along the banks. Come winter–or worse, spring with the mountain snow melt, the river will be far deeper.
      I am just a wimpy whiner about the arm. Amputation is much more serious. Good luck to you. Stay well.

      Like

  13. I love your post and your pictures – that river looks so beautiful!! For a long time I’ve been a ‘bad’ consumer – I buy things when I need them and I try and get the most out of what I have. I’ve figured that I have everything I need as far as ‘stuff’ is concerned and I don’t follow fashion trends. I’ve recently had a conversation with an ‘anti-mask-wearing’ neighbour, who told me that she could not see herself ‘doing the shops’ wearing a mask. I asked her what she needed from the shops in the first place, which kind of threw her. Too many people have a sense of being hard done by for not being able to go and buy junk that they don’t need, and too few of them stop to think about their real needs. Yes, our economic system is based on people constantly buying new things, but there’s got to be a way to keep the economy going without all the wasteful junk?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s exactly what I mean–there’s plenty that needs to be done–repairs, improving energy efficiency, etc.–but unfortunately economic measures don’t gauge quality, only quantity.

      Like

    2. I noticed when I moved to UK about 25 years ago that ‘going shopping’ was a sort of sport or weekend outing for lots of people. That really threw me – the idea of dragging about the shops when I didn’t need anything was so completely foreign. Patronizing though it may be I actually felt sorry for people whose lives were so small or unsatisfying that the best and most interesting thing that they could think of doing was to trawl through shops in their spare time.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. I grew up in New England, land of the Thrifty Yankee:
    Use it up,
    Wear it out,
    Make it do,
    Or do without.

    So I’ve never been very good at conspicuous consumption and mostly don’t understand the mindset — so much of it seems gaudy and tacky and wasteful. That said, these last few months have made me much more aware of how and where I was spending various resources, with varying results at improvement.

    As for economic measures that measure only quantity, a great big Bronx cheer in the direction of Milton Friedman.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. It’s so amazing how your background and life and learnings ares so similar to mine only I’m a few years beyond you and live in a different hemisphere!
    I saw the alternatives as an exchange student, how people lived with so little and enjoyed the moment. Later, I continued to expand my understanding of alternatives to consumerism while studying and working overseas. I couldn’t relate to family and friends at home in the US with their huge house and three cars and all their grown-up toys, overflowing houses with basements, and two more floors with so much and then complained about how poor they were!
    I can’t bare to buy things in plastic or packaging, processed rubbish foods, and my house is way to small for anything other than necessities I don’t even have a closet! I can’t justify a car when I can walk or hop on public transport, even out in the country. My kids couldn’t care less about new things, and shop only when they need to replace something. I took my kids home to the US once and it was a disaster, driving every where, shopping, waste and excess every where. No freedom, completely controlled by things and worries about personal safety! They were so miserable!
    Yes, it makes a difference how each of us lives and consumes! We make our own choices and our society is a result of all our collective behaviours!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe it’s stages of life, where after a certain point we lose interest in what’s shiny and new? But my kid is even more anti-consumer than I am.
      I have had the pleasure of meeting a number of readers IRL and each has seemed like a long-time friend, with an uncanny ease to the conversation. I hope you get to pass through one post-Covid day and I bet we would have plenty to talk about.

      Like

  16. Your serene photos stir me to take deep breaths. We were trapped in the midst of wildfire-land over the past two weeks and spent ten days living in beyond hazardous air, sitting ducks wondering what would happen when the oxygen ran out. I am so over shopping. My most cherished commodity is air.

    Our smoky days we scrambled for MERV13 filters (sold out), an air purifier (mostly sold out), and KN95 face masks (plentiful, thanks to COVID). We chugged water like there was no mañana. At times we believed there was no mañana. COVID has fallen off our radar.

    The past six months, we’ve focused on things that make life more stable, more authentically pleasurable: replacing deteriorating deck boards, a simple iron railing for our front stoop. I patronize a local farm for extra good cheese, new apples, better flour. I gave away a good quality area rug I had never liked and bought one I’d like to gaze at long term. We’re picking tomatoes, grapes, and zinnias, remembering former obsessions as life in a strange land.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Good questions. I share your distaste for the quick consumerism, the plastic baubles, yet still fall into it at times when I ‘need’ something. But like other addictions, sometimes taking a step back and thinking for a second kills the impulse. We’ve just moved so are back in consumer mode while having jettisoned a lot of unneeded stuff so being cautious about anything we add. I agree 100% that small things can make a big difference. And wealth is far too often equated with happiness. Hope that arm cooperates!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Here I go, what makes me happy at 54 years of age?
    Hearing my childrens voices whilst I cannot give them a motherly embrace. Having my husband by my side after 35 years of marriage(no, it has not all been smooth sailing) Having a job that I love, being employed in these uncertain times. Getting dirt under my un manicured nails whilst in the garden. My 2 fur babies welcome home at the end of a long working day. Blue skies and sunshine, drops of rain to invigorate the garden.
    Being safe, being loved. That’s what makes my happy, that is what I need.
    Suzana from tropical Queensland, Australia.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I am from Hawaii so I am surrounded by a lot of natural beauty as well so climate change is much more important and relevant to me than to someone who might live in New York City or some other urban setting but that is what is so frustrating about the whole issue. We tend to only worry about affects us directly and that is why the problem is only worsening.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lucky you to be in such a beautiful place! I hope we change course on climate change fast. Even so, it will take a long time to switch over from dirty technology. Why it’s imperative to get going.

      Like

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