When I Was Lighter Than Air.


Occasionally, I dream in French. Or, I should say, I dream that everyone in my dream is speaking French because, you know, there’s no actual transcript to check later. But many years ago, I had a dream in which these exact words, in indisputable French, appeared to me: souffle d’argent.

Souffle d’argent. Soof-le  dar-zjen, sort of like this:


Photo Credit: Condolux.net



Photo Credit: taste.com.au

(Souffle is not the puffy food called soof-lay.)

I woke up and wrote these words down, and puzzled over them for days. Literally, souffle d’argent means breath of silver.


Back in Dreamland, I had been in flight when these words appeared to me (in writing, by the way), and I was soaring on a breath of air (souffle d’air), and it was silvery, like a rain that wasn’t made of water, and it was soft and comforting, and it held me up and made me feel safe. And by the way, this dream came at a time in my life when I was very depressed, not clinically depressed, mind you; just having a very discouraging time in my life. But, oh! The waking effect of this dream was that I felt lifted up, not entirely out of my despair, but up enough so I could peer over its edge and see light. And that lightness of being lasted for days, because I could re-summon the feeling of safety and comfort just by thinking of the words: souffle d’argent.

I should also say that I did not hold myself or my subconscious responsible for this message. It came from the Universe. 


Which, apparently, speaks French. 


Which might not be a surprise to French people, to whom I guess the Universe always speaks French.  What I would love to eavesdrop on is the Universe speaking my cat’s language. 


But I digress.

I almost wrote about this souffle d’argent dream ten years ago when I was working on the June chapter of When Wanderers Cease to Roam, but I chickened out because if you don’t know me well and you read about the souffle d’argent, I come off like a snot-nosed twerp: Oh, she dreams in French, does she???


But I’m telling you all about it now because it’s been a long time since I wrote WWCTR and we know each other rather well at this point, and you have found ways to overlook my snot-nosed twerpiness, and you can see for yourself, on page 88 of WWCTR, my hint of what I think is the meaning of this silver breath of wind:


(I have a thing for blue jay feathers. Which I now capitalize: Blue Jay feathers.)


So here it is: the silver breath of air is the ever-so slight breeze made by the flapping of your guardian angel’s wings, which to me is not a person but the awareness of the Universe’s benevolence, because there are times when you forget that kindness exists in almost every random moment, and it feels slightly cool and somewhat silvery, and very fine.

I got a little souffle d’argent, an easement of mind, the other day and don’t judge me when I tell you that it came to me while I was reading an essay written by the author Kim Barnes in which she mentioned that when her memoir came out in 2011 she got a glowing review from the New York Times, which would normally make me hate her, but then she fessed up that her book ” sold fewer than 11,000 copies in almost five years.” Those sales figures are worse than mine! (Although I’m sure that selling the rights to her story so that she could be played by Tina Fey in the movies more than makes up for being out-sold by V. Swift. )


By the way, I want Tine Fey to play me in the movies, too. Are you listening, Universe?

Like that — *poof* — a thorn in my side vanished, the one labeled Not Good Enough For The New York Times. Phhhhht: after reading about Kim Barker’s sales figures, I realize that getting in The New York Times isn’t the bonanza validation, guaranteed six-zeros sales figures that I thought it was! For me, this is a huge deal, because writers in general are just slightly more jealous and insecure than your average 14-year old girl, and there are oh, so many ways that I do not feel Good Enough. But this particular stab wound has healed, and it only took seconds, because that’s the way the Universe works. Things can change in an instant.

I also got a spiritual boost a the other day, at the grocery store, when I discovered that there is such a thing as lime-flavored diet tonic water.

After a fraught eight-day disappearance, my sweet Manx tuxedo stray, Steve, finally made his re-appearance . . . 


. . . and as you can see from the little clip on his left ear, he’d been TNR’d: Trapped, Neutered, and Released by some unknown but loving cat lady. Ooo, I did feel the flutter of a guardian angel’s wing when he showed up, safe and sound.

It was a sunny and breezy day early last week when a strange movement, out of the corner of my eye, caught my attention. I looked out the window in my upstairs work room in time to watch the top half of an enormous locust tree, across the street, snap off and topple 30 feet. It seemed to make just the slightest whooshing sound, and seemed to be in slow motion! Well, because this is just what I do, I grabbed my camera and ran out into the road. . . what I didn’t expect was this:


I never heard the tree smash onto this SUV, and at first I didn’t hear the deep breaths of the woman standing at the foot of my driveway; but then I turned and saw her and all she could say was: “I thought the car was exploding. I thought the car was exploding.” I looked into the car and I don’t know how the driver managed to escape in one piece. That inside space was smashed down like a stomped-on paper cup.

The driver was shaken up but unharmed. I waited with her until the ambulance arrived, and that’s when the woman went to pieces and began to shriek “I could have been killed! Oh my god, I could have been  killed!” I helped her husband, who had arrived some minutes later, unload the cargo from the SUV (the woman is a decorator and had lots of paint and fabric books) so it could be towed away, and then I walked back across my front yard.

And, looking down, I found this:


The first Blue Jay feather of 2016. And yeah, it’s a flight feather.

So a lot of stuff has been happening right in front of my house lately. But the very best stuff has been happening in this little corner of the Universe, where you, my beloved Dear Readers, have lifted me up with your words of awe and fine folly — kissing tigers in disguise? That’s genius!

Thank you, my Wonder ones: Monique, Casey, Susan A., Elizabeth, Maryanne in SC, Jeanie, Mo, Vicki A, Megan, Kirra, Gretchen, Janet!, Brenda, Ann, Judy, Deborah Hatt, Laura, Deb, and Bunny: I am in awe of you all.

This is not the blog post I set out to write today. I set out to write about the Super Duper Triscuit Quartet Give Away that I forgot about, in my black hole of listlessness.



So let’s put that on the agenda for next week, June 17, when we gather here again to see what snot-nosed twerpiness I’ve been up to.

In the meantime, I hope you all have sweet dreams and feel the feather-light presence of your own cosmologically-appropriate angels.









17 Comments, RSS

  1. I can still remember my high school French teacher explaining that when you dream in French you’ll know you’ve mastered the language. So for years, I dreamed of dreaming in French, but I’ve only eyes for language and no ears and thus never achieved my dream.

    And can I also say what a gift it is when an author you admire admits a failure or foible and is honest? Your day might have been made by learning a NYT author sold fewer books than you have, but your honesty is what brings lots of us back here every Friday, making our day!

  2. Thea

    More to say later (maybe), but I feel it crucial to rush this: We bought two copies of each of your three books. You *are* Good Enough.

  3. Kirra

    THANK YOU Vivian for this lovely post, and your weekly blog. It always makes the end of my week brighter and it’s nice reading everyone’s comments. I’m glad we can help out when you are feeling low, as you often brighten my day!

    I love your thoughts on gaurdian Angels, the universe and souffle d’argent (I’m going to steal that phrase for myself, as a fellow French language fan). Keeping yourself open to the nice things that can happen by chance or luck, including those beautiful Blue Jay feathers.

    I’m so glad you’ve found a fact that makes you feel better about book reviews/sales etc. I studied music and have friends who are professional musicians and I imagine it’s similar as an author. You put in sooooo many hours to rehearsing and you might get a bad review and lots of people at a concert OR a good review and hardly anyone there. It’s unpredictable and hard work, but my friend always says it’s about sharing great music with other people. Just like how you share your amazing paintings and entertaining writing with people in your books and blog.

    I like Tina Fey but haven’t seen that movie yet, I ALWAYS have time to read your blog though!

    Bon weekend 🙂

  4. Oh, dear Vivian – You’ve had quite a week! Signs and wonders, messages and deeds … and all with you as its center. And, we, your “dear readers,” are not surprised one tiny iota by this. You are, after all, a bringer of gladness, a harbinger of what is good and bright. I am so thankful the lady in the SUV was not hurt, and I am so glad you were there to comfort and strengthen her. YOU were her silver-winged seraph, and I’m sure she was/and is profoundly grateful for your presence with her in that event.

    Also, Bravo! to the cat person who TNR-ed the tail-less Steve. Handsome Steve, who has returned to gaze upon you lovingly. Now that his fuzzies have been whisked away, he will be a much sweeter, friendlier lad too. Our outside kitties all have clipped ears. It makes them, somehow, look dangerous and jaunty, doesn’t it?

    I think it was Tolkien who wrote in “The Hobbit:” Who knows what may lie around the next bend in the path, or through the next garden gate?” (at least I think it was him) So, let’s meet with anticipation, and our own jauntiness, this approaching week – collecting Blue Jay feathers, butterfly wings, beach glass, cockle shells, and friendly smiles as we go.

    And, kudos to you, Vivian. I love your honesty and your bravado, your zest and your “joie de vivre.”

  5. Vivian,

    I’ve been away. Actually inspired by you I’m just returned from two and half weeks in France. I too have been dreaming in French, but I’m having the same experience now that I did when I was there, I don’t understand a word of it!

    But lucky and blessed girl that YOU are you did capture just the exact understanding of what the Universe wants you to know. You are delightful, wonderful and enchanting, if maybe a little worn out right at the moment.

    Have you read Julia Cameron’s Artist Way? In it she says something that is so true for those of us who want to constantly express our creative side. We are fishing for creative ideas in a pool and like many streams and pools ours needs to be restocked. We restock our pool by running away to Atlantic City when there’s a gas leak or sitting in a beautiful wood, paneled room in Seattle or sitting in the sunshine with a new friend drinking something bubbly.

    When you feel that the creative process has drained every good idea you’ve ever had and that loud-mouthed side kick we all carry with us, Fear, starts giving you a harder time than usual, it’s time to put down the brush and the pen and go out and RESTOCK your pool.

    And I also believe what Elizabeth Gilbert has to say in Big Magic, that ideas are floating around just waiting to grab us and kiss us and make us their very own kind of magic. But we can’t see them or hear them when we’re too tired or FEAR, that dark side of the creative coin, is shooting off his mouth.

    So I’m wishing you rest, renewal, souffle d’argent and voila! (my new favorite French word which I can both pronounce correctly and understand) your next creative idea, whether it’s for us your loyal readers or just for you and just because, will come to you dear heart.

  6. “Snot-nose twerpiness” – It’s the very best kind and what keeps us looking forward to Friday.

    Oh, my DoG , as you would say, why do we fall into the “not good enough” trap? We compare ourselves to other people and poof, our general satisfaction with ourselves and our lives evaporates. Someone is always smarter, stronger, prettier, more creative , or more whatever, but big whoop – we need to we keep telling ourselves that we ARE good enough and that is enough, NYT book reviews be damned!

    Sweet dreams – be they of “souffle d’argent ” or slobbery tiger kisses.

  7. STEVE! Glad for you. My feral friend Papi has similarly gone missing…and while I’m hoping for a positive resolution, it’s been more than three weeks, so I fear it wasn’t a benevolent cat lady who interrupted his routine.

  8. I love this post.
    A baring of the soul:)
    I just just mentioned you in my post.
    Thank you for inspiring me..
    I usually dream and think in French..because it is my mother tongue..
    and never quite thought about it this way..in fact..can you believe I had never even heard of this expression?

    Oh tjose trees..

    I live in an area w/ huge rees and have had a few topple over..:(
    She was ..très chanceuse.

    I love Tina Fey.
    however I just watched Sisters ..on a plane..and I thought..well it just was not my favorite..and that happens:)
    She’s magnetic to me:) The movie wasn’t.

  9. Nancy S

    Vivian, I would love to know why you find so many blue jay feathers. I have so many blue jays in my yard all the time and have never seen one feather! They could at least leave a feather once in a while in payment for all the feed I put out for them.

  10. Becky

    Good morning, I have been following your blog for a while. (Only 1 of 2 ). I never felt the urge to respond before but your last posting moved me to write. It all started when I found your book WWCTR….and loved it!!! Then along cameGOAAF…what can Isay but WOW! It made me want to travel to each garden and take in the beauty. Out of order but then I HAD to have LeRoad Trip. Such labor of love….thank you. I thought that XYZ on page 160 was so profound. Which brings me to finding the blue jay feathers…..I have always felt that angels watch over us and nudge us in life. Sometimes it’s is a safety nudge, but a lotof times I think it is for us to see that bunny hiding in the grass or feel a cool breeze in the early morning or feel the loving gaze of your dog. Right now Katie is laying her head on my lap gazing at me with adoration. (a 68 lb. lap dog) The blessings we have are so astounding to me.
    Also, thank you for sharing your painting lessons. They have helped me so much. I am a pretend watercolorist and the lessons are great in breaking down techniques that seem to be so difficult. As I am painting I can hear you guiding me through the painting.
    I love your blog….it always makes my day. Thank you.

  11. Megan

    So glad Steve came home again! How worrying. It’s all been thrilling at your place lately. Pleased to say it is all quiet here, no falling trees or gas leaks. Fingers crossed for you and the furry ones.

  12. Barbara S

    This was a lovely post, Vivian. I have only recently found your blog via Paris Breakfasts blog. Yes to angels, blue jay feathers and signs from the Universe.

  13. Carol

    Finding blue jay feathers is a delight! Your corner of the universe has been busy.
    Welcome back Steve! His little time away may not have been enjoyable but maybe now he’s a wanderer ceasing to roam.

  14. Angela De Marco Manzi

    I have both your When Wanderers and Road Trip books and I love them both. I take out Wanderers every few months (maybe 6) just to help me breath. Thank you.

    • Vivian

      Hi Angela — Your comment has stayed with me since you posted it five weeks ago. I’m very touched, and I hope to see you here again soon…thank you.


  15. SusanA

    I hope I can still leave a comment here, more than a week after this was posted. I have some eldercare responsibilities that don’t always allow me to read your blog posts until much later. But I wanted to come back and thank you for acknowledging your Wonder Ones. I’m so glad we all could lift you up, as it’s no more than you do for us each week. I love your honesty and your humor, and every time you express gratitude for a blessing, like Steve returning or like you finding a bluejay feather, I feel like I’ve felt the blessing too.

    I found a bluejay feather once, several years ago. I gave it to my husband because that’s his favorite bird. He kept it on his desk, but it must have gotten lost in a move because we haven’t been able to find it anywhere. I still mourn its loss. I hope one day I’ll be surprised by finding another one. I love your collection in a jar.

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