smellcoffee1Vivre aujourd’hui, live today! Oh yes!

I cried out of sheer joy as I opened up the house/cottage

porch for the season. The 12 windows and door resisted a mega-second and then suddenly came the relief of fresh warm air, access to spring grass, fragrances of newborn flowers, sun sparkling through budding trees, birds chirping and calling to one another announcing the celebration of a gorgeous day to come. WHEW! I hadn’t realized how closed-in winter, cold and gray, had dampened this spirit and how longing I was for this new beginning, a fresh start. Sometimes we have to go back to go forward.

smellcoffee2I’m brought to thinking about April in Paris. Whoops, I missed that deadline. Actually, the best time in Paris is not April, but rather in my opinion, October.

Vivre aujourd’hui, live today, became a life study while first living in France. Cafes were created solely for this reason, as far as I can see, understand, and have experienced. It’s in the cafes where I learned to draw what I saw and to write what I felt, and experienced. I haven’t returned to Paris for five years, a long time for someone who lived there 16 years and at one point commuted every three months.

I left because I couldn’t see anymore. Couldn’t see the France I had loved. It had turned grey and heavy. I’ve waited, and am now ready to revisit it with a new color palette within myself that will be able to see the real joy, the real colors of Paris and the France that I have loved deeply. Time heals. Putting my feet back on French soil will allow the healing. Time has changed the color palette that surrounds my Paris, the Paris I discovered 30 years ago when I quit my “big deal” NYC corporate job to go and learn how to live. It was in that moment, I began the journey of seeing life differently, of walking the walk of learning to live. I now recognize that I am an experiential learner. The one that learns best by the doing, and experiencing, not necessarily by the book.

smellcoffee4Being in a foreign country and culture, I had much to learn. I was living alone in my adorable nest looking at the spires of Notre Dame, being awakened daily by her bells. Initially with few friends, I was at the mercy of my own resources to create my day, my time, and my happiness. Every night before going to bed I planned my next day so I’d have something to look forward to. (I still do this.) I created an itinerary, a gallery visit, a specific site, or the treat of exploring a brand new arrondissement, neighborhood. I created adventures like getting off at the very last metro stop of a metro line I didn’t know. I would wander where I had landed. Sometimes it was a little scary and I didn’t stay long. Others times, I marveled at what I had found.

As a New Yorker, I was an expert stress-driven worrier about the future. In France, it appeared no one had any worries. Not true, but how do they spend all that time in cafes and over leisurely dinners? Stress is a curious thing. We get stressed about things that might happen. Things that are in the making but haven’t arrived yet. We stress as if stress were our badge of courage. The more stressed, the more declared pressure, the more important we become, or not. In some circles, we are admired as being important under all that stress. The irony is under stress we act as if we’re all alone and powerless, victimized.

I like what Winston Churchill said about worry, “When I look back on all the worries, I remember the old man who said on his death bed, he had a lot of troubles in his life, most of which never happened.”“

Our anxious creative minds are wasting our time. When we take time to notice our stress “act” and our actions we might be inspired to create for ourselves a new way of being in the moment. Try breathing, deeply. My friend Mahady reminds me about breathing over the check out counter at Chester Simon’s Marketplace. Apparently, I’ve just taken a very deep breath as I wait patiently for the line to more along... ever so slowly. We need to chat, all of us, and so I’ve taken a deep breath and Mahady notices. She reminds me how 10 years ago I was reminding her to do this very thing. Breathing deeply is a muscle to hone. Seems too simple, but it’s a major step in stepping back and giving ourselves a choice either to survive in our life, or to live our life.

smellcoffee3And so this week, I took a deep breath, checked in with myself to see if this is what I really wanted to do; and the ‘what’ that I wanted was to take myself to Paris. And so, I booked the long-over due flight back to Paris.

And if by chance and good fortune, we should cross paths on the Champs Elysees, we will share un cafe, breathe deeply, feast on this magnificent city, and watch the world go by. And yes, it will be October.

Editor’s Note: Jill Butler is the author of both Wandering Paris and Rendez-vous with France. Her next “Creating Your Vision Workshop” will be Saturday, June 19, 10 -1 p.m in her Chester studio. (Fee $45). For more information, or to register, call 860-526-5155, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For a free pdf download of Jill’s Paris map, send her an e-mail.