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Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It 🇫🇷

A short essay from my personal memoirs from Paris in August 2008 for the 10th anniversary of Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat Pray Love” anthology. If you would like to join me and be part of her anthology, you can submit an essay here: http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/eatpraylovemademedoit/

On a warm summer’s day six years ago in the Left Bank of Paris, I awoke one morning nestled in a bed in a hotel on Rue Christine. An entire day ahead of me awaited with no particular agenda or tasks as I was on holiday. What a luxury it was as much as the bed in which I had slept in the night before.


Not soon after, I left the hotel after getting dressed in search for a boulangerie on my way towards a FNAC so I could purchase an adapter for my phone which I had inconveniently left at home. I headed to La Poste to mail some postcards back home to friends in the States and a copy of the first-edition book of love letters (“Love Letters of Great Men“) as a gift for a dear friend in San Francisco. To my delight, I had purchased a copy for myself as well.


On my way back I found what I was searching for, a boulangerie called Boulangerie de Papa, near the St. Michel Metro stop. I ordered a petite déjeuner formulae complèt. (Pain au chocolat or croissant, café au lait, jus d’orange.) With my small bounty in hand, I went outside in search of a place to sit. What I saw was this:
I had just finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat Pray Love” the month prior and her story had haunted me. It was the first book that I had written notes in the margins – songs that I was listening to when reading passages, notes, thoughts, and emotions. At the time, I had never traveled alone before either always with family, friends, or colleagues. It was in the beginning of a transfomative time in my life. I was a mother of a young toddler, still finding my footing on motherhood and life. It was also the first time I traveled by myself and separated from my daughter even though I had travelled to Paris before and speak the language. So seeing this young woman seated at a table with “Eat Pray Love” in her hands was a welcoming and familiar sight with no tables available in the small Parisian patio designated to the restaurant.

I walked over and asked if I could join her and she politely nodded her head. I mentioned that I had just finished reading the book and how much I had enjoyed it. It was a coincidence in the middle of Paris that one would find something that had inspired me to take a risk and venture out to seek answers of my own. I immediately asked her for her permission to take a photograph of her for my writings. With a giggle, the word “yes,” and a smile, I snapped the photograph above of a lovely young woman named Chantal from Canada.


Memories of the anxieties of young motherhood and the emotions swirling about still come back quite vividly, but with the filter of time and separation. The book inspired me to take a risk and encouraged by the knowledge of another, do something for myself that I would have otherwise put off for years. My life has changed so much in the past seven years, similarly on a path not far too different from Elizabeth Gilbert’s. We share a love of food, an adventurous spirit, courage to face our fears, leave the paths that don’t suit us, and find ones that fulfill us, time to be still to meditate and focus within, and an abundance of love.

I travel around the world now building social impact businesses and have joined the thousands on Instagram in photographing and writing about the places that I visit. This would not occur with that first step years ago on a summer’s day in August in Paris. The natural light in the City of Lights is a photographer’s dream regardless if you are an amateur or professional.

  

To this day, I still have the copy of Eat Pray Love on my bedside table, a little tattered, marked up with tabs, and the highlighted passages faded over the years. I also bring my daughter along with me on some of those travels to share with her life beyond the confines of our daily lives. She is my best traveling companion and is learning also about how to eat, pray, and love.


Places in Paris featured:

Relais Christine
A Relais-Chateaux property
3, Rue Christine
75006, Paris
www.relais-christine.com

Ladurée
21, Rue Bonaparte
75006, Paris
www.laduree.fr

La Boulangerie de Papa (now closed)
1, Rue de la Harpe
75006, Paris

Cathédrale de Notre-Dame de Paris
6 parvis Notre-Dame
Place Jean-Paul II
75004 Paris
http://www.notredamedeparis.fr

Restaurant Georges
Le Centre Pompidou
Palais Beaubourg
Places Georges Pompidou
75004, Paris
www.restaurantgeorgesparis.com

Le Meurice
A Dorchester Collection Hotel
228, Rue de Rivoli
75001, Paris
www.lemeurice.com

Les Jardins des Tuileries
Rue de Rivoli
75001, Paris

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Signs of Summer

With just a few more days of spring left and the weather in New York City heating up towards summer, I thought it would be a perfect time to introduce a photography website after receiving a note and the honor from the folks at NASA Goddard on my Instagram account. My photograph “Umbrellas of Arashiyama” from a visit to Kyoto, Japan earlier this spring was selected as one of the winners of NASA’s Global Precipitation Measurement Mission’s “Signs of Spring” photo contest.

I had visited Kyoto for the first time 15 years ago and did not have the chance to visit Arashiyama or the Sagano Bamboo Forest at that time. Arashiyama is a UNESCO World Heritage site and many photographers have published photos of the bamboo forest. Since I’ve seen others photos, it immediately made to the top of my list of places to visit while back in Kyoto. the light filtering through the bamboo and greens of the forest compelling for anyone to want to visit there. The umbrellas providing shelter from the elements and signs of more weather volatility to come due to climate change.

As it happened, I traveled back to Japan during peak cherry blossom season. But, it was raining that day, a definite sign of springtime. Rain makes flower and blossoms bloom and as it happened, the GPM satellite was launched in Tanegashima, Japan in February 2014 with part of its mission to measure rainfall and precipitation. The visitors with their umbrellas in the bamboo forest became in its own way a rainforest and a reminder in how important it is that rain and forests are protected for the environment and fresh water supplies on our planet. We, as people, depend on fresh water. My photo was originally posted on Earth Day, April 22, 2015, and the NASA hashtag on that day to remind us that there is #NoPlaceLikeHome.

A Japanese H-IIA rocket with the NASA-Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory onboard, is seen launching from the Tanegashima Space Center in Tanegashima, Japan. Source: NASA/JPL. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

In April 2013, almost exactly a year before I took the photo in Arashiyama, Japan, I was invited to NASA Goddard for the NASA-JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) GPM cherry blossom NASA Social. During that visit, I got to meet the multinational teams  from both NASA and JAXA responsible for the GPM satellite to be launched at the Tanegashima Space Center in February 2014. Seeing the labs and clean rooms where the satellite was being assembled helps with the contextual understanding of how weather affects our planet and the volatility in extreme weather conditions that we are now learning to live with and understand. 

Missions like GPM and the satellites helps us with weather tracking, predictions, data collection on water, etc. The science and technology behind the missions will bring more information in how are planet is responding to global climate change.
As we leave a season and embark on a new one, I can honestly say that I have now come full circle and delighted that I could capture it in a single image.

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2015 NASA GPM “Signs of Spring” Photo Contest winners