Reflecting on a Year of Change

Autumn reflectionsFor me, autumn is a time of reflection.  A time to think about life and where I am going.  I know that this kind of reflection should occur around January 1st, but for me it sets in with the cool days and changing leaves.  Maybe it’s the change in the physical environment that pushes me to think about  life changes as well.  So, in the golden glow of the tree outside my window, I reflect on the passing of time.  Reflecting on a year of change, what was my family doing one year ago?fall leaves at trunk of tree

Reflecting on a year of change

For our little family, it is hard to believe that one year ago we were settling into a new life.  We were experiencing everything with new eyes.  The enthusiasm of the 6 year old in our family was infectious.  Sure there were frustrations, moments of wondering where in the world we belonged, but the excitement overshadowed the rest.  I think about all of the wonderful friends we made or reconnected with over the last year, and how comfortable we feel in our new skins.  And as Thanksgiving approaches, I feel extra thankful that we have been able to settle so quickly into  the Pacific Northwest.  Much is still new to us… I still do not know the names of most streets, nor how far away different towns may be.  There are still so many new faces at the school and in the neighborhood.  But this place immediately felt like home.

I found some thoughts that I put to paper last fall.  Perhaps now is a good time to post them.  As I read them, my enthusiasm re-kindles and I remember that with new eyes you see the world differently… often with a golden glow.

Here is what I wrote one year ago, about 2 months after we settled into our new home:

When we moved from Paris to the Pacific Northwest, I was worried that I would miss the Paris food scene.  I had grown accustomed to twice or thrice weekly visits to the green market, regular visits to my favorite neighborhood bakeries, and my favorite fish vendors.French Butcher (boucherie)Our diet had changed while living in France, partly based on how I shopped and what I could purchase.  For one, Duck had become a regular item on our dinner table, and I was buying a lot of the fruits and vegetables that I knew we would likely not be able to find as easily once we returned to the US… things like mirabelles, bergamot, and certain varieties of strawberries.

The diversity of certain fruits and vegetables in France seemed to me much greater than in had been in the DC area where we lived prior to Paris.  Varieties of fruits in particular seemed much greater.

Apple varieties in France

Varieties of Apples in France

For example, about 10 different types of plums abounded in the Paris markets from August through September. They included every size, shape, and color of plum, from little mirabelles to medium-sized round and oval green, yellow, and red plums; to large round and heart-shaped purple and crimson ones with juicy read or yellow fruit.

Our time in Paris went quickly and we ate well while we were there.  At first, I was timid with the language, happy to try to speak, but afraid that I would then have to understand the response.  I felt a new sense of sympathy for non-English speakers in my own country who are trying hard to communicate, but are just not yet fully there.  It was often a struggle, but mostly it was a joy.  I loved exploring a new place and culture, new foods in the market, and just getting to know people I came to recognize on the streets and in the shops in my neighborhood.  For the most part, people in our neighborhood were friendly and happy to offer tips on pronunciation and vocabulary, and to teach me bits about French culture and foods.

Now we are in a new place that I find strangely familiar and foreign all at once.  For one, places have strange names that I cannot pronounce, like Snohomish, Skagit, Puyallup.  People are friendly and less reserved than the French custom we grew to know.  Hugs, high fives, and fist bumps abound along with words like “bro”, “bud”, “cool”, and “awesome”.  Once again, we are making new friends and learning new streets, trying new restaurants, and exploring new areas of town.  I love it!  Its exciting and fun.

I am so over-the-top excited about the local farmer’s markets!  I am amazed at the selection, freshness, community, and quality of the produce I am finding!  I have never eaten produce as fresh as these greens, berries, apples, cucumbers, salad, tomatoes, and the list keeps going!Farmer's market blueberries and blackberriesMost of the stands in our green markets are organic, which for me is a breath of fresh air!  Even in Paris there were only 2 all-organic markets, which were unfortunately not very close to our apartment.  In our Paris neighborhood, there were markets at least 3 times a week and very convenient, but there was only one organic stand at each of these markets and the produce was not directly from one farm, but rather from a distributor who sourced from multiple local and not-so-local origins.

The sense of community is alive in both the Pacific Northwest and Parisien markets.  In Paris, the vendors were knowledgeable about their foods.  They would asked when you wanted to eat the veggie or fruit you were buying, so that he or she could choose one for you that would be at peak ripeness on the day of consumption.  Here I enjoy speaking with the vendors about their farming practices.  The passion for their profession really comes out in these discussions.  A magical connection forms when the person selling you the food played a roll in growing it or selecting it for you.  Knowing that the farmer and vendor took time to reflect about the people he or she would be selling to automatically creates a sense of attachment between both the buyer and the seller.

As with many of my thoughts, I see that these reflections on a year of change have turned to food!  So I will put my reflections away for the moment and leave you with a thought…

To eat a freshly picked, locally grown vegetable or fruit is divine… no matter where in the world you may be!Farmer's market multi-colored radishes

More reflections to follow on children’s diets in the US versus France, and… an interview with my French grocer!

Since writing this post last Friday, horrible events unfolded in Paris.  I want to end this post with healing thoughts and warm wishes for friends, former neighbors, and all who were affected by the tragic events in Paris last week.

Paris Evening Eiffel Tower



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