Archive for the 'Stuff About Sion' Category

Small Gifts, Big Gratitude (2015 in Review; Welcome the New Year Ahead)

One of my favorite shots from a 2015 photo session with my super talented friend Jade of Tripshooter.com

One of my favorite shots from a 2015 photo session with my super talented friend Jade of Tripshooter.com

Most places in Paris were closed today – shops, markets, museums.

Out on the street by 9 am (early for me on a normal day, unheard of the morning after New Year’s Eve), I walked several quiet blocks before another person even crossed my path. After a winter so far blessed by soft temperatures and sun, clouds and cold have returned to the city. But the still, chilled air warmed me. Everything was calm. All was peace.

Though still dreaming of the *warm* peace in Greece.

Though still dreaming of *this* kind of peace in Greece.

By a couple hours later, my neighborhood had yawned awake. Regulars traded stories over coffee at my corner café, rows of fruit beckoned from the fronts of a few epiceries, the rogue bakery near the metro displayed sandwiches and sweet treats. Their goods are not the best, but their weird hours comfort me – one can sometimes forgive a greasy pain au chocolat when it’s possible to procure the pastry at midnight. Or on New Year’s Day.

I also went to Zurich, though that wasn't nearly as exciting (random lamps in the park, notwithstanding).

I also went to Zurich, though that wasn’t nearly as exciting (random lamps in the park, notwithstanding).

The majority of stores were shuttered, mind you, but these signs of life made me smile. I love the laid-back nature of my neighborhood. More of these open pockets exist when so much else is closed.

To my surprise, I stumbled across a Franprix that was also open. Score. Who ever expected to get groceries on January 1? Unprepared to do a big shop, I corralled a modest number of items up to checkout. “16.56€” the cashier said, “though you have 15.26€ on your carte de fidelité.”

“As in, I can use the 15.26 to pay?”

(A loyalty card shouldn’t warrant much confusion – a straightforward concept, yes – but at the Franprix I normally frequent, they don’t seem to understand how their system works. I’ve stymied more than one employee when trying to employ my accrued points. Once when I handed over a 5€ off coupon that the store had given me on my previous trip, the cashier looked bewildered, then annoyed, then asked “qu’est-ce que c’est ce truc?” What is this thing. A manager had to be called).

So yeah, I was delighted when this cashier-angel announced I could immediately apply the credit to my purchase.

“That leaves 1.30€ due,” she said.

“It’s like a gift!” I said.

“It is,” she agreed. “Bonne année!

I saw magical trees in the small village of Sainte-Sévère-sur-Indre this summer.

I saw magical trees in the small village of Sainte-Sévère-sur-Indre this summer.

Waltzing out with my happy new year’s bounty  – (almost) free food is enough to make me giddy – I continued on my journey. Rounding the corner on Boulevard de Charonne, I suddenly saw a Christmas tree falling from the sky. I couldn’t say whether its descent was fast or slow – it seemed both, really. An elegant dive.

A pleasing spectacle, an unexpected pine tree cutting through the air, but I did think quite clearly: “wow, that’s dangerous sport throwing a tree out a window.” Slow day notwithstanding, it’s usually a busy street.

For some reason, I hardly slowed though I was heading straight toward the event. The tree landed with a simple whoosh and I realized I’d been holding my breath waiting to discover what kind of sound a dropped tree from that height would make. Then a redheaded man picked up the sapin and pulled it to the curb. Ah, the lookout! I was relieved.

I caught his eye and he shrugged amiably and offered a sheepish smile.

“It’s faster that way,” he said.

Indeed. The tree looked to have been launched from the 6th or 7th floor at least.

Feel free here.

Feel free here.

Just steps later, now near Pere Lachaise, an older man walked by briskly. He seemed to be looking at me, though whether he was a bit unstable or another nice surprise awaited I couldn’t quite tell. All I could make out was the word “cadeau” repeated over and over again. Gift. Gift. Gift. 

Or present, present, present, if you prefer.

I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions; I often just feel my way toward a theme or a vague longing at the most. This year, several people have suggested picking one word, which sounded intriguing, though I found myself resisting that slightly, as well.

But something about these small encounters crystallized into my New Year’s wish. On my walk I had been pondering how “intention” seemed to be the one word growing brighter. Sometimes it’s unclear just what my intentions are so the prospect can get hazy, but that was just it: I want more of my energy to be directed. I want to work with purpose and intent.

These tiny surprises that shook me today, though – they were enchanting. They were joyful. Serendipity is necessary, too.

The memorial at one of the sites of violence, La Belle Equipe.

The memorial at one of the sites of violence, La Belle Equipe.

2015 was a year bookended by horrors in Paris – in my very arrondissement, the 11th, where I live. Just one week into the new year and the killings at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket shocked the country. Then this November the coordinated terror attacks on Friday the 13th slayed so many more.

In between, I watched news in my other home, the States, and saw more violence, by police with unchecked power, hateful political speech, and in a year with more than one mass shooting per day, by too many people armed to the teeth.

Back in Europe a massive refugee crisis saw wave after wave of suffering people wash up onto these shores. And all around, everywhere – from university students gunned down in Garisa to bombs in Beirut – so much sorrow and death.

I lost my words for awhile. What to do in the face of so much pain? These huge issues left me feeling lost and bereft.

But on the personal side, I experienced wonderful things. Two of my dreams even came true.

  • My first novel found a publisher. Yes, four years after I first announced it as finished on this here blog (ahem, watch those optimistic claims, and whoa, how the years careen!), my book finally found a fine home with Queen’s Ferry Press. I am (a wee bit terrified, but mostly, overwhelmingly) thrilled.  There’s now more of a wait (pub date is April 2017!), but I’ve grown pretty patient, I must say. I will share more with you when we’re closer and there’s more news to tell!
I gave this as my current photo when the press asked for one, but I think I'm going to smile in my next one ;)

I gave this as my current photo when the press asked for one, but I think I’m going to smile bigger in my next one.

 

  • I became a dual national. Friends, I never thought I’d get to say this, but it’s true: I am French. After a long process (see patience evoked above), I acquired French nationality in 2015. My naturalization ceremony was held in November – just one week after the attacks. A poignant fact: there were 64 of us newly naturalized citizens at the ceremony. We came from 30 different countries.Vive la France.

    Naturalization collage
    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    On Christmas Eve, I defrosted my fridge and deep cleaned my bathroom – part of my preparation for starting the new year fresh. Then my beau came over with Thai takeout and we watched the film “Tomorrowland.” So simple. So easy. The no-stress holiday. “It’s one of the most beautiful Christmases I’ve ever spent,” he said.

    This is it. Tiny pleasures. Love. What gifts.

    “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” wrote Annie Dillard.

    What if we focused on these gifts, on love, on what we are doing every day?

    What if we stayed awake, stayed alive to all the small beauties surrounding us?

    Flying trees, yummy takeout food, butterfly kisses, and so many things I cannot yet conceive.

    Intention: big gratitude.

    Present, present, present, said the man on the street today.

    I’ll stay present in the moment, in this world.

    With these hopes I welcome 2016.

    Peace, love, and light to you.

    Gift, gift, gift.

Second Chances

Hello, friends.

My, it’s been an interesting year so far and here we are in March. In like a lion! Out like a lamb, we hope.

I’d been all prepared for an extra(ordinary) new year, emphasis on finding the joy in daily living, but wow, did some big stuff come our way instead. The attacks in Paris in early January had us reeling for long after and the conversations continue.

Personal stresses soon confronted me, too: a friend with a mental health crisis, my mom who needed surgery, my job which started exerting extreme pressure.

Hold up, 2015! Let me catch my breath!

"Picasso's Goat" in the old Picasso Museum in Paris (the new one, after much drama, reopened recently). Photo via Malcolm on Flickr Creative Commons.

“Picasso’s Goat” in the old Picasso Museum in Paris (the new one, after much drama, reopened recently). Photo via Malcolm on Flickr Creative Commons.

By mid-February, I was already done with it. I grabbed hold of Chinese New Year, February 19, and said, okay, second chance to start over. The Year of the Goat will be better!

And it’s happened! I am so thankful to say everything is much smoother on all fronts. Loved ones are healthy and safe. Paris is resilient as ever. Exciting, creative developments are brewing…including another book giveaway for you soon!

I just wanted to touch base as I dropped off the radar for a little while, but don’t doubt: I am always thinking of you.

 How is your year going so far? Do you believe in second chances?

Thanksgiving Love and Tears

A recent fall walk through the Jardin des Plantes.

A recent fall walk through the Jardin des Plantes.

Since living in France, Thanksgiving has always been an improvised affair. Some years I’ve gathered in the apartments of friends who are much braver than me – they hunt down the obscure cranberry, shove large turkeys into tiny Parisian ovens, spend small fortunes on the fixins’, many of which are foreign foods here.

I’ve been to lively potluck parties and more intimate dinners, and sometimes, not even celebrated at all. It is just another Thursday in L’Hexagone.

The past few years, Thanksgiving has unwittingly become an unofficial marker of my relationship, too, though my beau probably knows I think this only now that I write it. A couple years ago, we had only just started seeing each other, so new it was that when people at that Thanksgiving referred to him as my boyfriend, he gently corrected them (but since there’s no French word for dating, I’m not sure what term we were then. Just curious about the other, I guess).les jardins des plantes, close-up

Last year, I was with my family, a rare occasion, and I was grateful to have the time with them. Just before the holiday, though, I got to experience that special bittersweet twinge unique to romantic partings. When I left Paris, it wasn’t just to return home for the long weekend, but to go to a long writing residency at the Kerouac House; my beau and I were saying goodbye for 3 months. I was moved to feel how greatly we’d both miss each other.

Continue reading ‘Thanksgiving Love and Tears’

Birthday Time (and the best gift from you)

My feet (and the rest of me) in Dieppe on my first birthday in France

My feet in Dieppe on my first birthday in France (the rest of me is there, too)

Happy midterm elections, USA!

Ahem. Yeah. Doesn’t the world feel in such a sorry state these days?

You’ll forgive me if I’m focused more on the personal than the political today. Because…it’s BIRTHDAY TIME! Woot!

If I look a little dazed here, it's because I am. I'd only been in France for a month and a half at this point. Ah, so many years ahead of you, sweetcake! A lot is going to happen.

If I look a little dazed here, it’s because I am. I’d only been in France for a month and a half at this point. Ah, so many years ahead of you, sweetcake! A lot is going to happen.

I received a package from my mom last week with 3 wrapped presents and tried waiting to open them until today. (I’m like an impatient kid in this respect and could only last until the weekend before succumbing to my curiosity and peeking early).

Besides the thrill of gifts (thank you, mom!), this marks a triumph, too. It was the first package that has arrived safely from my mom IN YEARS.

Dipping way back in the archives, I once declared La Poste my number one nemesis. So many packages had gone missing (and I heard from a chorus of readers who experienced the same thing), that it seemed someone was sneaking away with the goods. And so I sacrificed the comfort of care packages from home forever (sniff!)

A 2014 portrait of me by Richard Beban. Looking a little more clear-eyed here :)

A 2014 portrait by Richard Beban.

My mom would heroically try again from time to time to no avail, but this time, holy miracle! It arrived. Let’s take this as a great sign for the year ahead.

I thought to do a little pampering for my birthday (France has taught me the value of self-care), but part of what I wanted was not to get bogged down planning anything.

So oops! Couldn’t get an appointment today for my little treats. That’s ok: I now have a salon appointment on Friday for a hair cut and a massage on Saturday. I’m more than happy to stretch the birthday out all week.

I’ll be seeing my beau soon, then have a little fete with my writing workshop tomorrow.

With any luck, I might even run into some colorful festivity such as this forró flashmob in Paris.

A simple celebration and I couldn’t be happier.

(Oh, actually I could! I love receiving your comments. Thank you for reading – it’s the best gift ever).

Update: wow, package from my dad just now arrived, too. 3 delivered packages from the post in a week? Amazing!

Love Beams and a Reading

“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” -Guillaume Apollinaire

Stop! Small miracle alert. Love beam over the Seine.

Stop! Small miracle alert. Love beam over the Seine.

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

I hope your life is full of love, on this and every day. I’ve spent the majority of V-days single rather than in a pair so I truly mean love in its widest sense, not simply the part about romance. Family, friends, the nice neighbor who baked you a pie, the stranger who gave you a smile – love is all around us!

I’d be lying if I didn’t confess to a special kind of happiness this time round, though. My beau has just arrived from Paris.

Continue reading ‘Love Beams and a Reading’

Culture Shock, Early Paris Days, and Crepes for Chandeleur

The day I arrived in Orlando to start my stint as the writer-in-residence at the Kerouac House, the project’s director drove me to the supermarket as soon as I dropped off my bags. Even if Central Florida felt a world away from France, I was glad one thing remained the same: food is a top priority! (That, and t.p. – not one roll left in the house!)

Pulling into the Publix parking lot, however, I realized, Toto, we’re not in Paris anymore.

Continue reading ‘Culture Shock, Early Paris Days, and Crepes for Chandeleur’

Happy New Year! Blogiversary! Love Your Life!

Which direction are you headed this year?

Which direction are you headed this year?

Hello friends,

Happy new year! Has 2014 started off well? Have you made resolutions? Broken any already? Or are you just playing life as it comes?

I’m celebrating, too, another special occasion. Four years ago today I started this blog and signed in as paris (im)perfect for the first time. Thank you for coming along for the ride!

Speaking of which, as someone always seeking Paris quirk, it seems only fitting that my blogiversay and the “No Pants Subway Ride” take place around the same time.

Continue reading ‘Happy New Year! Blogiversary! Love Your Life!’


paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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