How serendipitous to write about Jane Goodall--on the 215 anniversary of British paleontologist Mary Anning! Cheers to all the dirt-beneath-their fingernails women who help us understand, appreciate and consciously care for the world we live in.
On arrivera un peu en retard : tu nous garderas deux places?
We'll arrive a little late. Can you hold two seats for us?
See the French man behind these husky sound recordings and read about the job he once offered me, before I corraled him into recording for me! Read First French Essais.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
When Nancy offered to hold a seat for me at the Jane Goodall talk in Aix-en-Provence, I began to stutter (if one can bégayer via email). It was a thoughtful offer from my new friend, but, quickly doing the math, I realized 5 more amies--and my husband--also needed seats! I could not ask Nancy to sprawl out across 7 seats--lounging inconspicuously at a sold-out event (even if I sensed she was gutsy and would probably do it!)
Standing in line with Jean-Marc, a crowd encircling us, I wondered would there be any good spots left? My telephone suddenly rang with the answer! It was my longtime pal Chris. Turns out she was inside the auditorium. She'd already tossed her coat over two seats, suggesting we get to them before she could no longer fend off the crowd!
My savior! So far the night had begun with two assertive women, and now a third was soon to appear--all but beating her chest with her fists!
As the speaker acknowledged her audience, Chris and I looked at each other. We were amazed by Jane Goodall's foreign language greeting--in Chimpanzee! There stood, center stage, a cultural icon--an 80-year-old esteemed scientist--grunting like the "primitive" heroes she had befriended years ago!
The crowd roared as they clapped, delighted by the unusual bonjour. Talk about down-to-earth! Elbowing Chris, I shouted, "That was so cool!"--my own language as simple as uncultured as a chimp's. But who's to say apes are so simple?
For the next hour Jane Goodall talked about our closest relatives: they made and used tools like us, fought like us, loved and empathized like us. Madame Goodall's affection and respect for chimpanzees was palpable, and she couldn't resist holding hands, from time to time, with the dashing chimpanzee seated beside her--a wonderful creation by sculptor Aurélien Raynaud. (Psst! Mom, are you reading? You're going to love this artist's studio! and his statement:
The animal touches what is deepest in us. This is to regain what we have lost, rather than trying to humanize it. Learn to be guided by another form of intelligence and win humility lacking in our civilization. --Aurélien Raynaud (pictured, right, below).
For the second half of the two-hour talk, the soft-spoken anthropologist shared her love of plants. And here is where my interest in Jane Goodall began! As a budding gardener with a growing interest in permaculture and food forest design, I came to listen to what Jane Goodall has to say about seeds, "weeds," and trees: the one in danger of disparition, the second often considered a menace (instead of medecine), and the third--well, what would life be like if you couldn't nap beneath an old oak?).
Jane began with a question -- one I had been so curious to know the answer. "Why, you may be asking, would an 80-year-old woman spend 300 days of the year travelling and lecturing? Why wouldn't I just stay at my beloved Gombe (where Jane studied chimpanzees), and continue learning?"
Here we learn that in 1985, during a conference, Jane learned about the shocking conditions of zoo animals. Seeing her friends, the apes, caged, turned Jane the scientist into Jane the Activist!
In addition to being a voice for animals, she speaks out about the environment. Citing the fires in San Diego and the record sècheresse in California, Jane talked about the agricultural practices that were leading to global warming.
The subject turned dark, but Jane managed to keep things light, using humor and props to keep us encouraged. My favorite prop was one of the stuffed animals that tag along with her during her talks. This one was la vache. (See the little cow in the background, beside the little French girl who presented Jane with a glorious bouquet after the talk).
Jane and her translator are charmed by the sweet French girl who offered a bouquet after the talk.
The cow is her spokesperson against factory farming. As she held up her cuddly friend, I slunked down, little by little, in my chair--thinking of my own dear friend, my tireless supporter, the one who gets me out of bed and through the day. Her name? Café-au-lait....
My mind filled with images of factory farmed cows, crammed one against the other. As thoughts began to torture me, an American in the audience spoke up:
What can we do to help, Jane?
It was such a simple question and Jane, who has the ability to answer questions as fast as they are fired off, didn't disappoint:
Each person can use their skills and abilities to change things!
As Jane's words soaked in, I looked around the auditorium. There was the sculptor, Aurélien, who had devoted his career to representing the voiceless ones... and there was my friend, Chris, who had brought two of her daughters to listen to the environmental talk. And Nancy (who I hoped had found a seat...) was busy photographing what remained of the bees, intent on sharing her findings.
And then there was me. Too chicken to even save a friend a seat! (I thought about my friends Cari and Andrea who were running late to the event.... They finally made it and were perched high above in the rafters. Cari is an artist and Andrea a psychologist--they were bound to incorporate tonight's talk into their work--on canvas and sur le canapé!
This reminded me of my medium--my keyboard! I could get the word out too. Share Jane's message about how if each one of us did even a tiny bit, the result--multipied by billions of earth dwellers--would result in undoing some of the damage we have caused.
"When I see young children today," Jane shared, "I think about the world we have left them to grow up in." The environmentalist's comment caused my skin to prickle, as I remembered thinking the same when my son was born 19-years-ago....
And that was before we were aware of GMOs.
To respond to this story, click here.
Check out Jane Goodall's latest book Jane Goodall's latest: Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants. I will announce the winner soon (Sorry I didn't get a signed copy).
Interested in permaculture? Check out this book.
My 19-year-old, Max, helping to buy a grapefruit tree for our permaculture garden. Now, each time Mother's Day, Christmas, my birthday or you-name-it-celebration comes along, I ask for a plant or a tree or seeds :-) To comment on this post, click here.
Provence Dreamin'? Maison des Pelerins, Sablet. A Vacation Rental Dream in the heart of the Côte du Rhone.
Have you read Chef Alain's award-winning book?: Living Gluten and Dairy-Free with French Gourmet Food yet? Yum! http://buff.ly/1g5FSrh
Me and my date for the Jane Goodall talk. Photo taken a day before, at a family picnic. Thanks, Cousin Audrey, for the picture. To comment on this edition, go here.
Share this post and spread the word!
Thank you for the time you've spent reading my post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi