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Posts tagged ‘Le Petit Prince’

It is such a secret place …. the land of tears

At seventeen, in keeping I imagine, with most seventeens I could not wait to be eighteen and proclaim myself adult.  Adult enough to do all the things thus far forbidden even if I was really too timid or scared or plain perplexed to really want to try them.   Nothing would be out of my reach, I would emerge from ugly duck-dom as the rightful swan and I would, clearly discover all the things that the adults before me had failed to find.  I would invent love and sex and I would invent drinking and I would travel to far flung exotic places and I would absorb by osmosis more wisdom than any adult before me – dullards all – could ever hope to.  At seventeen.

At seventeen I bought a book which seemed to wink at me even though it’s cover was pummelled and punished, tired and tawdry in the second-hand shop I favoured in our local town.  Favoured because I was not yet allowed to go out and make my fortune and my mark on the adult world and therefore I did not have a purse distended with high-value notes.  Of course that was bound to change when this mythic majority was attained.  At seventeen.  The book was ‘The Little Prince’, Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s charming, touching and poignant allegory of a small prince who leaves his own tiny planet and travels the universe, odyssey-style experiencing all the whims and foolhardiness of adult behaviour and eventually encounters the narrator who has crash-landed his plane in the desert and whose life will be forever altered by their sojourn together.  I am sure that the fact that I read it first at seventeen cemented my love affair with this book all the more thoroughly.

These days I keep two copies at home, wherever my home at that moment is.  One in English, the other in French.  If you stay in my home wherever that home is at that moment, you will find a copy of the book by your bed (in the language I think you would prefer).  There is no instruction nor implied obligation that you should read it and I expect, in reality, most of those staying in my home wherever that home is at that moment, tactfully leave it where it lies putting it, I hope affectionately, down to  well-meant eccentricity.

These last few days I have found  myself more wistful than usual and I simply couldn’t put my finger on why.  Then yesterday my youngest daughter sent me a film clip of her birthday party.  Surrounded by her closest friends she is opening their joint present to her.  The delight, the laughter, the tears of piquant joy keenly tangible.  I felt an aching sadness  watching because I was not there.  As neither should I have been.  My daughter was born in 1995 which even for one as mathmatically disabled as I, means she was twenty two this birthday.  She had previously reported to me that this implies that she has no choice but to be a genuine adult going forwards.  She has run out of excuses.  She is no longer eighteen nor twenty-one.  And she is not seventeen.  I realised watching this little video that my melancholy is born of something quite simple.  Thirty years of being mummy to my child-children is now formally over.  They have all crossed quietly over to that place I longed for at seventeen.  And I shall mourn their passing softly whilst delighting in the  young women they have become.  The adults inventing love and sex and drinking and real wisdom that old dullards like me surely never knew.

But I hope they never lose the child that lurks inside them.   The child I cared for and nurtured and protected.  The child that believed in fairies at the bottom of the garden, the child that positively hurt with excitement on Christmas Eve, the child who saw things through naïve eyes that prompt the profoundest wisdom of their lives.  The precious child within.  The essence of our adult self, if only we remember to protect it with all our might and never let it go.

I have reflected and now I can move forwards.  And I offer this to the arcade of entries in this week’s Photo Challenge titled ‘Reflecting’ of which you can feast upon the entire beauteous banquet here

The photograph of The Old North Bridge in Concord MA was taken by my daughter when staying with us last summer.  That she captured it and that it presents a perfectly reflecting image in tandem with the recent crossing of her own bridge to fully fledged adult, whatever that implies, made it, in my mind, rather appropriate.

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PS:  The title of this piece, is of course, a quote from the book.  In context, it concerns the little boy trying to understand why, if thorns can’t protect a flower from a marauding sheep, why the rose would bother to grow them.  The narrator, preoccupied with ‘matters of consquence’ fobs him off with the instant and unconsidered answer that flowers grow them out of spite.  The tyrade this illicits from the far wiser mind of the child goes thus:

“I don’t believe you! Flowers are weak creatures. They are naïve. They reassure themselves as best they can. They believe that their thorns are terrible weapons . . .”

I did not answer. At that instant I was saying to myself: “If this bolt still won’t turn, I am going to knock it out with the hammer.” Again the little prince disturbed my thoughts:

“And you actually believe that the flowers–“

“Oh, no!” I cried. “No, no, no! I don’t believe anything. I answered you with the first thing that came into my head. Don’t you see–I am very busy with matters of consequence!”

He stared at me, thunderstruck.

“Matters of consequence!”

He looked at me there, with my hammer in my hand, my fingers black with engine-grease, bending down over an object which seemed to him extremely ugly . . .

“You talk just like the grown-ups!”

That made me a little ashamed. But he went on, relentlessly:

“You mix everything up together . . . You confuse everything . . .”

He was really very angry. He tossed his golden curls in the breeze.

“I know a planet where there is a certain red-faced gentleman. He has never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never loved any one. He has never done anything in his life but add up figures. And all day he says over and over, just like you: ‘I am busy with matters of consequence!’ And that makes him swell up with pride. But he is not a man–he is a mushroom!”

“A what?”

“A mushroom!”

The little prince was now white with rage.

“The flowers have been growing thorns for millions of years. For millions of years the sheep have been eating them just the same. And is it not a matter of consequence to try to understand why the flowers go to so much trouble to grow thorns which are never of any use to them? Is the warfare between the sheep and the flowers not important? Is this not of more consequence than a fat red-faced gentleman’s sums? And if I know–I, myself–one flower which is unique in the world, which grows nowhere but on my planet, but which one little sheep can destroy in a single bite some morning, without even noticing what he is doing–Oh! You think that is not important!”

His face turned from white to red as he continued:

“If some one loves a flower, of which just one single blossom grows in all the millions and millions of stars, it is enough to make him happy just to look at the stars. He can say to himself, ‘Somewhere, my flower is there . . .’ But if the sheep eats the flower, in one moment all his stars will be darkened . . . And you think that is not important!”

He could not say anything more. His words were choked by sobbing.

The night had fallen. I had let my tools drop from my hands. Of what moment now was my hammer, my bolt, or thirst, or death? On one star, one planet, my planet, the Earth, there was a little prince to be comforted. I took him in my arms, and rocked him. I said to him:

“The flower that you love is not in danger. I will draw you a muzzle for your sheep. I will draw you a railing to put around your flower. I will–” 

I did not know what to say to him. I felt awkward and blundering. I did not know how I could reach him, where I could overtake him and go on hand in hand with him once more.

It is such a secret place …. the land of tears

I always cry my own tears when I read that passage because it permeates to the heart of my own protected child-self nestling deep inside.

Your bonus because her wonderful song, which in truth, apart from her petite figure in contrast to my rather more gangly frame, WAS me at that precise age, has  been shamelessly ransacked in the text of this piece, your bonus therefore is Janis Ian:

Saving the trouble of thinking for oneself

Today I give you three quotes.  I’m supposed to give you one each day for three days but I am far to discursive to stay on task for three whole consecutive days so I have invented my own rules for this lovely challenge set me by three lovely people:

Life With Molly – written by a young woman to her future children with quite extraordinary maturity and insight

White House Red Door –  A true teacher who shows us how to nurture with her beautiful achievable food matched by her lovely words

Worlds Biggest Fridge Magnet – Can do Cam suggested me  months ago so I hang my head in shame whilst urging you to take a look at his blog

These are my quotes.  Randomly trawled from the murky depths of my cobwebby mind, they’ve all kept me company for decades  which might imply they are the right ones to share.

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“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart”

‘The Little Prince’ Antoine de Saint Exupery

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“Of all the words of mice and men the saddest are it might have been

‘Cats Cradle’ Kurt Vonnegurt

(I should note that Vonnegurt was paraphrasing a much earlier poem by Maud Muller which I read much later hence, perhaps,  my loyalty to his tenor.)

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“Take bread away from me, if you wish take air away, but do not take away from me your laughter”

‘Your Laughter’ Pablo Neruda

All of these quotes stand beautifully on their own and are bookmarks in my mind for the most important things in my life – my heart;  laughter of those I love and  of strangers; and to sieze the moment, to make it happen and if whatever it is doesn’t transpire to move on with no regret. I rather hope that they might pique your interest  sufficiently to want to explore three consummate writers and their work.

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And there is a bonus – the title is A A Milne who said “A quotation is a handy thing to have lying about, saving oneself the trouble of thinking for oneself – always a laborious business”  in his essay  ‘The Record Lie’ which I also highly recommend … it’s not ‘Winnie the Pooh’ though those that know me know that I have a particularly high regard for the Bear.

I now have the pleasant task of suggesting the following to take on this challenge.  As ever it’s a feel free to pass sort of challenge but I do love these bloggers and I do think they would do the challenge great justice.  Take a look at them and those that suggested me, they are all praiseworthy.

Poshbirdy in Quillan – Feisty and funny writing of the feast and famine of renovating a house in France

Not the Average Mama – certainly not average this is a wonderful blog written by a remarkable stepmother

Write on the Beach – a brilliant writer whose stories of England and France are truly compelling

I’d like to dedicate this award to ….

This is where I say thank you to the lovely Bendilyn Bach, writer of a blog that I read and unfailingly enjoy, by the name of ‘Loving a Frenchman’.  I’m saying thank you to Bendilyn not just for writing words that never fail to please me, for making me smile or think or both but also for nominating me for a Liebster Award.  The Liebster, as you may have found out on your blogly travels is a way of paying it forward and saying ‘take a look’.  The formula is simple – I now answer the questions Bendilyn set for me and her other nominees and then I nominate 11 Blogs which I love for the award and ask them 11 questions which they in turn answer.  I have laid out the rules below.  And in case you missed what I said THANKYOU BENDILYN!

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The rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you for a Liebster Award and link their blog to your post.
  • Answer the 11 questions they’ve asked you.
  • Nominate 11 bloggers who have 200 followers or fewer for the award.
  • Ask 11 questions to your nominees.
  • Let your nominees know you nominated them once you’ve posted about your Liebster Award.
  • Add the Liebster Award badge to your blog!

The questions asked by Loving a Frenchman and my answers:

  1. Why write?
    Because it needs to come out
  2. What is one item on your bucket list?
    To drive an ice truck
  3. What historical figure would you most like to meet?
    William Wilberforce
  4. Favorite book.
    Le Petit Prince, Antoine de St Exupery
  5. Favorite movie.
    It’s A Wonderful Life
  6. Favorite song.
    How Can I Tell You, Cat Stevens
  7. What is your biggest regret?
    I don’t have them – no rear view mirror or I would eat myself up with guilt and remorse
  8. What will you never do?
    Knowingly eat Andouillette (the dish of death)
  9. Dogs or cats?
    Dogs (but I don’t hate cats)
  10. Whom do you admire?  Why?
    The Queen (though I am not a Royalist) – she has the most difficult job, had no choice as to whether to take it and has carried it out for decades with dignity and aplomb
  11. What can we do to make the world a better place?
    Be mindful

Drum roll …. my nominees are:

  1. The Mindful Expat … I love this blog written by an American Psychologist who, for the love of a French Engineer has found herself in Lyon
  2. 750 Metres …. the husband of another blogger I follow and love (La Petite Maison Bijoux) writes about gardening in Haute Loire at altitude – lovely pictures and clean, clear script make this a favourite
  3. Ditzy and Disapproving … the new kid on the blog this is a funny irreverent blog which alternates between the Dizzy lover of all things and the grumpy old woman in the making.  The author to my certain knowledge is 24!
  4. No Blog Intended … another young woman blogging about life in Belgium and the aspiration to study in Russia
  5. Carls Crafty Kitchen is my favourite food blog …. Carl is a wonderful cook, a great raconteur and a closet comedian
  6. Create and Consult … Peronel Barnes is a very talented artist and a very smart business woman – her words are worth reading
  7. Femme au Foyer ... the writer lived in Clermont Ferrand capital of The Auvergne, France with her husband and tiny children and is now back home in the USA with the same husband and an extra even tinier child … this is a warm and lovely journal
  8. Diving for Pearls – the blog of a one time professional photographer who makes you wonder at her skill and long for her to be professional again.  She blogs in a wonderfully conversational way about creating and creativity and peppers her site with the most beautiful photographed images.
  9. Michael Gordon online is all about the healthier way to be – from barleygrass to magnets, Michael covers it all.  And water.  And as a BOGOF Michael is an independent celebrant whose other blog Vows that Wow is a great introduction to the alternative means to a baby naming, a wedding or a funeral.
  10. Living in Light – Bobbi Kumari is the lightest brightest of shiny stars and her fashion designs are wonderful.  That she is a Christian underpins her work, her life and her writing.
  11. The Politics of it All – Another bright young thing – this time Alfie Lambert … smart, contentious and articulate his writing never fails to prick my grey cells in a good way

And here are my questions to the nominees:

  1. Why should people read what you write?
  2. Fruit or cake?
  3. What is success?
  4. Advice to your 14 year old self
  5. Favourite place on earth
  6. Pictures or words?
  7. If you could spend an afternoon with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
  8. First love
  9. Town or country?
  10. The greatest invention of the last 100 years
  11. What is content?

If blogging be the food of life, write on 😉

PS:  The title says I would like to dedicate this award to and I do dedicate this award to my husband (he of the Two Brains) and The Bean.  One got me through the early days of being alone in the deepest depths of a foreign land and the other makes me a better person – I’ll leave it to you to work out which is which ….

 

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