Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, Summer 2017
Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, Summer 2017

Life Alterations

Pantheon, Paris, Summer 2017


Hello, all.

Labor Day weekend soon commences… the last summer hurrah will unfold.  And I hope you find joy in the days ahead, as well as in the rentrée fast on its heels.

I have been away a long, long time, I know.  I feel as if I write into a void, one of my making, so it’s all the more difficult to find the right tempo, the right voice, at this moment.  When left to my own devices, I am all stuccato, as my fragmented diary entries from the summer show.  I’ve never been so in love with lists.  They were about all I could wrap my head around, including (especially) when contemplating my emotions.

I am back in New York, wrapped up in work and love.

I have met my beloved’s family and friends.

We now plan a trip to introduce him to my family.

This is utterly precious to me, this connection and pleasure and joy and love I have with him.

I honestly don’t remember any relation that came before.

Palais Royale, Paris, Summer 2017


My French improved.  A lot.

But alas, my illness didn’t.

I turned the second (solitary) half of my summer in Paris into a silent retreat, coaxing my body to begin digesting food again, to begin walking and moving again.  That is not hyperbole.

I have, you see, a rare chronic illness that I will have to manage all my life.  Okay.  That’s about all I have to say or share on the matter, because I have no desire to write a chronic illness blog.  My time in Paris ended up being the beginning of a life-long management plan-in-process.  It was messy.  It was exhausting.  It started to work.

And now I continue in New York.

Lyon, Summer 2017


By the time I came back to New York, the person who left for Paris seemed like from a different era.  This, too, is why I haven’t updated the blog.  Self-transformation seems to have been happening rapidly.  Even when I felt stuck or lost.  Maybe that is common.  You can tell me.

I returned wanting lightness.  Wanting conciseness.  Wanting the puzzle of daily life to be easier to put together.  So, by the end of the second week, half my belongings were jettisoned.  Entire old lives were said goodbye to.  I’m about the future, not the past.  The people and the objects of my present are the velvet ribbons leading to that future.

Tip: Do this sort of grand release in private; if people know the particulars of what you let go, they will freak the f* out.  This is a private ritual when you say goodbye to past lives.

And what is that future?  I cannot know for absolute certain because of that uppity chronic illness, but these are my guiding principles:

Photography and writing

Foreign adventure



I can see myself taking off for three or four months at the beginning of the year with only a carry-on.  Indeed, that’s the hypothetical plan, though I’m wanting to watch myself a little bit longer before deciding anything final beyond the holidays in France (with the beloved).  And I can see myself doing another couple of months in the summer.  In other words, I see a near future that is all about what I can physically carry (which is not a lot and a lot less than before).

That encourages release.

Trianon Gardens, Versailles, Summer 2017


Being with a Frenchman, being increasingly part of a French community, and staring at bobo and working women Frenchies in the Marais this past winter and summer… These bring changes too.  Especially on the style front.  They have simplicity down.  They know the art of “the repeat.”  Nothing showy.  Discretion.  Class.

And I’ve found freedom in this.  I’ve drawn my style lines closer and closer and closer to my own idea of simplicity.  I’ll always be the “special” American with all her big silver jewelry (so not French, which I’ve known before the Frenchman) (second aside: “special” in French doesn’t mean the same thing as “special” in English). But I’m starting to note how different I “dress up” for American friends versus French ones.  I think it will be easier to streamline all this into one aesthetic presentation when I have less.

So I’m selling things.

Lots of things.

Even set up a little “store” on eBay.

Yes, with Hermès.

There will be other things too (as I have time to photograph, to post).  Like my red and my black Kelly (the porc Kelly is already gone), more scarves, teacups, a few fountain pens, some grand-scale Issey Miyake and Comme des Garçons.

I mention it because people are starting to see and put two and two together and contact me to buy things directly.  Which I welcome.

Why this much change?  I’ll repeat what I said above: I see a more nomadic life.  I see leaving my apartment and my things closed up for six or more months out of the year.  It’s time to consider not only what belongs to a past life… but also what is too beautiful to stay locked up in darkness.  A Kelly bag is one of the latter.  Because I’ll be carrying my canvas camera bag.

Souvenir Sellers, Tuileries, Paris, Summer 2017


I’ve thought about you often, about the blog often.  Like wanting to share the perfect navy blue top/T-shirt I found at the Paris soldes.  Or the maxi Diane von Furstenberg dress worn to meet the beloved’s most special friends, completed with gold sandals and a clutch splattered with Sakura blossoms.  Or the tea drunk in Paris.  Or the fall-over-style-love I now have for Repetto’s Dance Line.

So maybe all that can be revealed in the weeks ahead.

In the meantime, have beautiful celebrations this weekend.



This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. Bravo on your evolution, Catherine, and on facing a distressing diagnosis with so much grace and courage. I would like to write to you separately — hope your email is still current? Sending you lots of love xx

  2. I keep staring at the sellers photo. It’s such a part of the Paris (tourist) experience, that no one mentions, it’s all about the chic-y chicness of the French people.

    “Stuff” does become a burden over time. So I can understand the purge. I live in home full of stuff, stuff, and more STUFF. The kind of stuff, that “but I NEED it even though I haven’t used it in 2,000 years for this life that never happened that I didn’t even know I had until you pulled it out.” I can’t control other people’s clutter, but I can control mine.

    I’m predicting the Hermes Indian shawls are going to be on the chopping block. Those black Kelly boots, so beautiful though. But more curious to know what your keepers are. Are you keeping any Kellys? I feel the crossbody strap make it more of a practical bag. That said, my point of reference is my notHermes kelly that I don’t worry about.

    I’m happy for your joy and happiness. It seems we all have our struggles amidst our highlights. And I hope you stay that special American and not get too “Madame Chic” ;P

    1. Ha! LOL. “Madame Chic” I will never be (or, as you suspect, I think, ever want to be). So Not Me. I’m fortunate in finally having found a Frenchman who has no desire to smooth out my “specialness.” Or (maybe I should hasten to note) change how I appear or dress. He says I am always elegant.

      There’s one final Hermès Indian shawl I would like to find a new home for, but the yellow and the pink are just two useful (yellow) or happy (pink) to consider letting go of. And yes, all the Kelly bags are at least being offered for release. I find shoulder straps less useful than other people, I think, preferring either a shoulder bag or a lighter handbag. But if I were honest with myself, I think I could sell pretty much everything. Everything. The only objects that give me pause from reducing my life to one carry-on and one in-hold piece of luggage are my photographic prints and my big-ass printer.

      I don’t know how that sounds, from the outside *and* so suddenly, to the ears or musings of others. Not that it matters. My future feels very wide open, and I want to make sure I am not kept back because of objects.

      Keepers. Right now, the Dalvy bags surely. I can’t express how functional and beautiful they are for *my* life. An enormous amount of scarves and shawls (now that my skin is clear from Accutane, I plan to wear them more this fall and winter). My fabulous fur and shearling pieces. Boots are a difficult one because I don’t have the strength to walk in them anymore. But I can’t get rid of my moto jackets quite yet despite their weight. There’s just something perfect about the ones I’ve kept.

  3. It is always wonderful to hear from you, and share in your changes and evolutions. Letting go of stuff is definitely in the air – many of my friends are lightening up, and realizing how good it feels to disencumber oneself (several threads on tPF are devoted to this at the moment). You have always had a healthy and beautiful relationship with your possessions, and are generous about sharing your joy, so I’m not surprised that you are clear-eyed about letting go of objects that no longer feed your soul. Best wishes as you move forward!

    1. Thank you, Moma. I do hesitate to seem at all mystical about the objects…it feels rather practical to me, instead. Not about soul but about body and movement and options. Now, photography—that’s about the soul.

  4. I can’t imagine what it must be like to wake up each morning feeling lousy. My best friend has faced the vagaries of auto-immune conditions for years so I have some sense of the immense determination and strength it takes to navigate that life.

    Life has taught me that ascribing emotional meaning to objects makes them ‘heavy’ and very difficult to part with. Once I gave that up (and oh, how I wish I had come to it sooner, as you have!) in favor of simply savoring the memory of a person or place, I’m willing to let things live another life elsewhere. Lightening one’s load and opening up to new possibilities are important for all of us. Look what it’s doing for you!

    I wish you well.

    1. Thank you, Nancy. I have friends (and clients) who are inspirations to me in how they manage their own physical challenges, so I’ve been learning much from others. I am fortunate to have that perspective to help me.

      Sometimes it’s been funny to realize what “meaning” I’ve ascribed to an object. Take a particular set of funky jeans. My beloved raved about them last winter, so I kept them this summer despite the fact they are too big and too loud. I wore them last weekend, whereupon he found them “special” (French meaning). Ha. In the donate pile they go! Lesson noted (if not learned).

  5. After only a two week vacation in France with my love, I feel transformed. I cannot imagine your transformation. I’m excited for your new adventure and more nomadic life. I only hope we can continue to peak into it. Your Instagram is my most favorite account as it reminds me of childhood adventures with my mom throughout Paris and now adventures I’ve had with my love. Your photography is moving and captures so many emotions. Love it.

    1. You are quite beautiful to say such words, Atexasgal. Thank you. I’ve followed your French adventure with delight on Instagram. Some places you visited brought back MY memories, and I was overjoyed by that. So thank you. It was delicious.

      May the transformations and all the love continue, continue, continue.

  6. Dearest C.,
    So good to hear from you, and the new post really speaks volumes about the power of transformation.
    The light, the lightness and the elegance of “less”, it all shines through.
    The love, the health (sometimes better, sometimes worse), all being part of a journey- and the nomadic life you are planning on embarking is a journey like no other. I feel exhilaration and also peacefulness while reading your thoughts, like it all has come together.
    I can think of Alexandra David-Néel, “La Femme aux Semelles de Vent” (both a person and a scarf) as a symbol for this new stage in AA.

    Happy rentrée,

    Kindest regards,

    1. Thank you, Aneta.

      I believe you are right—that scarf would make a beautiful symbol. I have dreams and more dreams about leading the adventurous life I wanted (and believed I would have) when in my teens and 20s. I feel I am finally on the cusp of that life being possible, and so now I want to take that chance. My two tasks on that path is clearing my life to what serves—and then regaining strength and balance with my body. Neither is easy. But the goal is positively enticing.

  7. How wonderful to hear from you and thank you for sharing your thoughts and transformations.

    The world is full of possibilities, and one does not need stuff in order to appreciate them. The title of a Vaya Con Dios song of my youth comes to mind: you’re young and you’re traveling light. I understand it to mean young in spirit and traveling unencumbered by the unnecessary emotional significance we attach to things, things which invariably end up dragging us down. When you truly know yourself is when you can let go of the things, people, or feelings that no longer serve you. That being said, you might happily acquire new things that fit in with your true self.

    I do hope you will continue sharing your journey.

    1. Thank you, Vivian. I will be listening to that song! And you are right…I just might happily acquire the new things, and indeed I did in Paris. Even pieces of Hermès, pieces I use every single day, all day. I will share them soon.

  8. This is amazing! I have been thinking of you and knew you were up to something new., creative and mystical. This is all such big, excellent news. We are in the same boat with a strange illness. I am still working on dealing with it after ten years. I am still an H lover and have enjoyed my many purchases from you over the years. Please give me a heads up on your sale. I am dancing with joy getting your news. You remain my inspiration, Princess Catherine.
    Keep us posted as we care about you.

  9. I have missed reading your always thought-provoking reflections and seeing your wonderful photographs but am happy to hear your love and adventures continue. I hope your health improves and the ‘letting go’ cleanses mind and spirit. Love to you and yours. Susan, London

  10. Hi C,
    So sorry to hear about your chronic illness but I know you have the strength to manage it. There are so many things I want to say in response to this post, but I’ll keep it simple: 1. I’m on the same path as you in so many ways. I’m even considering adopting a uniform – this fall, gray tee shirts and black jeans. Every single day. I’m not completely sold on it yet, but experimenting.
    2. THe most important thing I want to say – what you are going through – this transformation and reinventing yourself is so familiar to me ( and to you, really) as a Scorpio. This is what we do. You are rising from the ashes of Scorpio to the Phoenix. You know me, so you know I’m not too hokey about this stuff, but I truly believe that our sign is all about this re-invention and transformation.
    3. Please update – privately or publicly – on your writing. I’m so looking forward to reading you one day!

    1. I am an avid horoscope reader, Kristi, and yet I forgot this key element of the Scorpio personality. Thank you, thank you for reminding me. This image of the phoenix gives me something beautiful to hold onto.

      Your new uniform very much appeals to me. I can see wearing exactly that each and every day—except (oh my goodness) what about my other clothes, especially dresses. But it *could* be the backbone to my sartorial life. I have the black jeans. And plenty of black or gray yoga tops.

  11. Dear Catherine
    It’s a delight to read your post again as always and I am very sorry your illness has proved to be a chronic condition. I pray that your management of it continues to work and things will improve in time.
    Thank you so much for sharing your life and thoughts. I have always admired you for this and how beautifully you write from the very first time I started reading your blog (from the one before this!). Strangely enough, I don’t feel sad, as expected, that you are rehoming so many of your H treasures – indeed each and every one of them was so very carefully considered and chosen. Not Sad. At all! Au contraire – I am very happy for the reasons why and how you have come to this point and beyond excited about your future of love, work, travel and adventures! Perhaps I identify with change, whether it be a need or something imposed upon because for the last 2 years I too have gone through changes that can only be described by the word ‘seismic’ – all imposed unwanted and uninvited on my life. In any case we must embrace it whether prepared or not! I know you will achieve most if not everything with intelligence and elegance – I sincerely wish you every success and love. Love is all you need. x

    1. Thank you, SPD, for not feeling sad at all. That delights me. What doesn’t delight me is that you’ve been going through this seismic change without desiring it. It is so hard when life presses and forces such transformation on us. If only it could be our choice always. Yet your attitude of resilience and capability illuminates your words and voice. That is beautiful to see and feel and I wish you much joy.

  12. Dear C, my (agnostic) prayers are with you. It is draining to live with a chronic condition, I can relate. At the moment I am looking into relaxation responses/meditation, because the mind/soul needs to be “minded” when faced with chronic pain.
    Your desire to carefully let go of your treasures strikes me as organic and logical when choosing a more nomadic lifestyle. I remember when I returned to my then apartment after a year in China, I was estranged from the “settled” lifestyle and amazed at the amount of stuff I had accumulated. Keep your avid readers posted on your aesthetic evolution, I am so curious on what you are keeping and what you are acquiring now. Shallow AV loves those sartorial posts!
    And finally, thank you for sharing your stunning photos, the last one floored me.
    Hugs from Dublin, AV

  13. Dear Catherine,

    I am very sorry to hear about your illness! I’ve been meaning to write you for a while! It was great to see you again in Paris…and yes, your lover is right – you are always elegant.

    I thought a lot about what we said. I can’t say that I have been able to stay focused on my transformation, but you continue to inspire me also in this ! Regarding wardrobe and style consolidation, I did make some progress and practically I do not buy anything unless I am actually filling a gap created by something that became too old. Work and life experiences less on track ….but I do not give up!

    Please do let me know when you finalize plans to come back to France and anytime you want to stop by in Lille I would be happy to be your host!

    Sending you my best wishes

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