"Gretchen, you're not having a cow; you have a French Salon!"
Little did I know that my "reason to gather" with women in the name of wisdom back in 2016 had been a source of growth among bohemians like myself. French Salons were hosted as part of a movement called the Age of Reason, or Enlightenment. Men and women gathered as equals to discuss mind, body, and soul matters, thinking humanity could be improved through rational change.
At the time, it seemed that many women I knew were in an existential state of mind about marriage, career, and family. I was in the middle of a 5-year non-compete in the paint business, not knowing if I would ever be able to use my color gifts again. 5-years for an Aries like me is a long time.
My C.O.W. rules were simple:
Gather around a table with food, wine, and flowers. Discuss an essay written on wisdom. No judgments or opinions were allowed––only questions and insights about what the piece prompted in them—no silent partners.
Everyone had to speak and share reactions in the first round. This gave introverts and extroverts the freedom to go first or last and express themselves quickly, depending on their comfort level. After that, we used an incense stick as a Talking Stick to continue our discussion, which we burned at the end. The more we rephrased our opinions into insights and questions, our conversations became more powerful.
One night, we went off on a Google tangent. One of the women said she used to call her dad for answers. Now, she Googled. This forced her to be more thoughtful about her conversations with her father. She found herself wanting to connect to him more deeply.
When I told them that Google was my daddy, they all laughed. I went on to share why.
I am known for whipping out my phone and goggling when something is in question to ensure we have the information right. In fact, during our C.O.W. time, I often googled words to align and clarify their meaning in the context of what was being said.
For an insatiably curious child like me, who never grew out of her curiosity, Google was the parent with all the answers I never had.
One of the women at the table let the tangent run its course, then grabbed the incense stick to share an insight new to her.
She had always gotten upset with people who pulled out their phones to search for information in the middle of conversations. She had judged their actions as a lack of caring rather than someone's need to understand something at the moment, in light of wanting to be wiser because they cared a lot. As much as she did.
The questions and insights gathered from everyone were a rich harvest we got to split at the end of the night and take home with us.
Eighteen months later, everyone who came to that table experienced a profound change, endings, and beginnings. We dispersed back into our worlds, all the wiser for it.
When I designed my new wallpaper patterns, I imagined them as Salon Patterns, not just French, but also cultural, bohemian, and most of all, fit to host fantastical conversations.
And so it is.