In September, my latest book, The Pandemic Year in Paris. A Coming of Retirement-Age Memoir, will be published. Join me on my journey! Here is an excerpt from the prologue:
Arriving in Paris in March 2020, fresh from an eight-week long, solo, soul-searching retreat that took me from the frozen forests of Quebec to the cloud forests of Costa Rica, I found myself stranded and without income in a series of incremental incidents that transformed my carefully planned near-future. I intended to stay in Paris for two months of dancing, dining, music, and wandering, followed by May in Warsaw (to lecture), June in Copenhagen (to do research) and in Stockholm (to see my daughter), July in Shanghai (to teach). Then, visits to Germany (Greifswald, Hainewalde, Potsdam), and to Stockholm before returning to the U.S. to teach by August 20th. Instead, I was gifted 18-months of unfettered freedom, albeit radically constrained and intensely local. Before, I only knew Paris well, but during my stay our relationship progressed to one of intimacy.
Earlier, in September 2019, I visited my daughter, Hanna, in Stockholm. We chatted about spirituality, self-love, Law of Attraction, soulmates, and, more pragmatically, where I’d spend my Spring 2020 sabbatical. Although my toxic, if thrilling, relationship with Trocadero Man hadn’t officially ended, I felt the writing on the wall. My inner voice advised solitude and recuperation – ‘wintering’. I resolved to get my shit together once and for all, emerging, I envisioned, like a free and beautiful butterfly from her psycho-emotional cocoon. My propensity for detrimental romantic relationships in which I persevered with the determination of a religious fanatic had to end.
Six weeks in Costa Rica before heading to Paris seemed a salubrious solution – a kind of tropical wilderness retreat for neophyte explorers of spaces interior and exterior. For a cathartic six weeks, I slept in sea-level jungles, explored high-altitude cloud forests, and lay on white sandy beaches, eating when hungry, sleeping when tired. I spent waking hours as a child might – studying disciplined armies of leaf-cutter ants, sloth-spotting in the forest canopy, listening to waves lap the shore and crash against rocks, and observing the antics of howler monkeys as they swung with terrifying ease from branch to branch of the arboreal canopy with the insouciance of aerial acrobats. I also meditated, watched Joe Dispenza videos, tapped with Brad, read Eckhart Tolle and a smattering of other self-help gurus with the avidity of a spy looking for a secret message…Eventually, my inner voice spoke: “get down to business, you’re leaving in ten days.” Back to friends, responsibilities, urbanity. I understood her message: I should take an ayahuasca journey. I’d long been curious about this plant medicine and several friends had participated in transformative ceremonies. Maybe such a psychotropic jolt would realign me with my path…