“Nice is nice.” Pronounced “Neese is nice,” it’s been my mantra the last few days. It is a line from Bonjour, Mr. Satie, one of our favorite books when my kids were young. It keeps reverberating in my mind. Nice is nice. Nice is nice. Nice is nice.
In Tomie dePaola’s enchanting book, worldwide traveler Uncle Satie visits his niece and nephew and tells them of a contest in Gertrude Stein’s Parisian salon to determine the better artist: Pablo (Picasso) or Henri (Matisse)?
I’m not exactly sure who says, “Nice is nice,” but I remember sitting on the kids’ beds reciting that line, in a very fake French accent, relishing the beauty and complexity of language. It is a children’s book that is a delight for parents. I can’t give any other details because the family copy is sitting on the bookshelf of a certain 2-year-old’s bedroom in Belgium.
The warm memories of reading Bonjour, Mr. Satie fill my heart, as do the recollections of walking along the palm-tree promenades and wandering through the flower market of Nice, enamored with bouquets of French blue agapanthus. Last week’s headlines, compounded by too many other devastating events, threaten my lighthearted thoughts.
How do we deal with the randomness of tragedy, the sickness of hatred, whether behind an assault weapon or a steering wheel? I can’t begin to comprehend the senseless slaughter, the loss, the utter inhumanity.
So I pull my bicycle out of the garage and escape. Pedaling clears the boggled brain and the heavy heart. Mother Nature never disappoints.
On my route, I appreciate the beauty of midsummer. A stand of teasel (Dipsacus) with Mount Nittany as a backdrop frames my view. The morning sun glows halos around the teasel combs. Nature’s chance planting of blue cornflowers (Cichorium intybus) and delicate umbels of Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) creates a stunning border along Houserville Road.
Trumpets of lilies welcome me to a brief interlude, to rest and ponder over breakfast of homemade elderblossom water and a dripping ripe Pennsylvania peach. Life can be so simple, so delightful. Then, the flag is lowered to half-staff. Laurie Lynch
“Life is a tragedy full of joy.” Bernard Malamud