December 3, 2013
It seems like a short while since I wrote about Fall. Now Winter has arrived bringing snow, freezing temperatures and pleasures many look forward to. I have not been very present on my blog lately and I regret it. Troubled times and sad events kept me away. Sometimes you cannot help but just going along with the flow of life and all it gives you, good or less so. I missed reading your own blogs and sharing more of my thoughts and images. Recently though I had the opportunity of taking a few pictures and I thought I would share these moments with you.
It was the first day snow fell. I sat on one of those bright yellow postal buses driving up to a chalet in the mountains. It is a drive I always enjoy for the breathtaking landscape and the comforting feeling of not having to drive myself on the slippery roads of this Season.
Few people were in the bus: not even ten of us including the driver. There were mostly young people studying down in the valley and going up back home in the late afternoon.
Suddenly, exactly at this spot on the road, one of the four snow chains that equipped the large wheels of the bus broke. The driver stopped the engine and went out to see the damage. He did not look really happy as he started to replace the chain; his vehicle had just been thoroughly checked before Winter and he was surprised this should happen. We, the passengers, sat patiently, waiting, reading, listening to music or looking at the landscape. That was me.
I liked the blending of shades, golden trees surrounded by white fields. Snow had started falling again. A snowplough overtook us in the curve, the truck driver stopped and offered his help. “Thanks, it’s all right” our driver replied, “I’ll manage” ! And the truck went off, a long evening of work ahead of him.
The snow fell on and on, softly but steadily. By then we were on our way again, very cautiously. Calmness was all around, a beautiful landscape and hardly any car on the road. I felt safe and warm in the bus and did not mind the delay.
I was looking at a few chalets on the way and imagined how cosy it must feel inside, around a fireplace maybe, as snow was covering paths and mountain pastures.
The road was barely visible. Few vehicles had driven there since snow fell in the morning. It was slippery and the driver was extremely careful and slow in handling the bends and downhill slopes.
Yet it felt good being driven in such a beautiful and quiet environment. I trusted the driver and enjoyed the nature all around us. No more music nor chatter in the bus, the only noise was the sound of the big chained wheels on the crisp snow. A dreamy and silent drive, one that brings peace to your mind and makes you feel good in your heart.
I would have loved to take a picture of the yellow bus in the snow but by the time we reached the village we were heading to, it was real dark. Our HD – Hero Driver – was not in the mood for a picture, too tired from so much concentration on the driving. Nice as he is, he promised I could take a picture next time I am on his bus.
Please, excuse the poor quality or the images (too many reflections from the bus windows).
October 22, 2012
Grape harvest is over in most areas of my canton (Valais). Some grapes will have to wait for a mid November harvest though. The wine produced then will have more flavour, sweetness and this particular flavour “terroir”, from the local soil.John O’Donohue, Irish writer and philosopher, writes about “Autumn and the Inner Harvest” (Anam Cara). He tells of the four Seasons of the heart, Autumn being associated with old age.
“In the autumntime of your life, your experience is harvested. Within the harvest circle, you are able to gather lost moments and experiences, bring them together, and hold them as one”.
As in the Celtic Wisdom, O’Donohue sees Autumn as the harvest of one’s soul that gives a deeper sense of strenght, belonging and poise. A quiet delight when this time arrives in your life.
I like O’Donohue’s deep thoughts and, as I walked through those wineyards last Sunday afternoon, I remembered my mother’s words and memories of her younger years when she was helping her father taking care of their few vineyards over the same hills. It was a hard work for anyone involved. No machines were used. The work started in February/March and ended in October/November. A lot was to be learned over months and years. A harvest of knowledge and traditions were transmitted to sons and daughters, families’ links were valued and strenghtened. Most mountain villagers grew vineyards on the foothills. Their earnings were meagre and when the grapes were brought to the communal wine cellars, the gain was much appreciated. It used to be a joyful and singing crowd which walked down to the valley early in the morning (5-6am) during the season of grape harvest. Sometimes, on lucky days, a postal bus would drive the villagers and winegrowers down to the vineyards. After a long day’s work under a hot sun the return home up to the little villages was much quieter. Bodies hurt and voices kept silent. Of course there was a big celebration at the end of the harvest. It coincided with this other tradition that is still present nowadays : roasted chestnuts (brisolée). A feast when served with various kinds of cheese, cold meats, rye bread/butter, grapes and apple pie; we also drink must (grape juice not fermented yet). A simple and delicious meal-of-the-season.
All those thoughts and more went through my mind during my afternoon walk. I wished my mother would have been there with me, holding my arm, smiling, commenting, remembering and gleaning the few grapes that were forgotten or left for visitors or birds or beagles Yes, Nino was with me and I had some trouble keeping him close to me, especially when we walked near this beautiful vineyard (below) that had not been harvested yet.
In a photo album, I found this old picture of grape harvest in our area, Valais. My mother could have been there making a pause and chatting with friends. Those days are long gone….
November 19, 2010
What is my Autumn like ? The first sign of my favourite Season is the light haze over the horizon. It is not a fog, just a slight mist, a hazy look that tells you for sure that Fall is there.Autumn brings a most colourful change in nature. In the mountains the larch trees needles turn into a bright yellow-orange shade before falling down into a soft carpet.
Soft and natural carpets everywhere. The kind of carpet I enjoy walking on because of its rustling sound and ever changing colours.Autumn is a Season of celebrations in my canton (state). A family tradition is the meal where everyone, young and less so, meet around a convivial table to eat roasted chestnuts. We usually eat those with various sorts of mountain cheese, “viande des Grisons” (air-dried meat, beef, produced in the canton of Grisons), rye bread and butter, grapes, apples, all local food. On this occasion we drink must (grape). Every year we so look forward to meeting and eating this rather simple and tasty meal in good company.Autumn is also a time for grape harvest in this particularly warm area. Vineyards have been planted for centuries on the side of the mountains and down in the valley. Never do the vineyards look as beautiful as now ! A patchwork of hard work almost all year round. What a reward and a pleasure when the vintage is a good one !This is an ancient cellar no longer in use but I remember that “my grand-father-from-the-mountains” (as I used to call him) had a similar one under his house in a small village. He would take my hand, bring me to his cellar and show me proudly his yearly harvest. What a work it meant !And what a delight to savor the grapes from one’s own vineyard !Grapes and apples, the two kinds of fruits that Autumn gives in abundance over here.Gratefulness for these many gifts of nature in this wonderful Season.
Many thanks also to Scott Thomas for having brought up this new photography challenge.
There is still time to participate ! Your photos have to be posted before Wednesday, November 24.
August 16, 2010
This post is my contribution to the new photography challenge assigned by Scott Thomas, http://stphoto.wordpress.com; its theme is related to Travel Photography. On the following link you will find the necessary information if you want to join us. Everyone is welcome ! Photos are to be posted until September 8, 2010.
For me, Hauterive is not a faraway place to travel to, 15kms at the most from my home near Fribourg, Switzerland (South of Berne). More than a travel in the usual sense of the word, I would call it an “inner journey”. As soon as you leave the main road leading to the Abbey of Hauterive, you enter a small domain where peace, silence and nature help you slowing down. You don´t even realize it but the way you walk down the path leading to the Abbey is definitely more slow.
I did not meet many people as I strolled under the forest archway. It was a weekday; on Sundays the monastery welcomes many visitors coming to the 10am mass celebrated by the Cistercian monks in the Abbey founded in 1138.The community of Hauterive is a haven of peace. Whenever I need some quietness or just a little time for myself , I love to go and sit in the garden in front of the Abbey. Parts of this garden are closed to the public and reserved to the monks. Pilgrims on their long way to St- Jacques de Compostelle in Spain may stop there for the night.Between light and shade, some benches welcome people who come there for a pause in their day. Some – for their own particular reasons at a period of their life – can stay for a longer time at the Abbey and live with the monks according to their rhythm and spirit. I cannot speak for them but personally I always feel a great inner peace as I stay there, outside or inside the church, also when walking along the river.
This is a view of the Abbey (at the back) and the farm (in front). The monks´s monastic life is essential (“ora et labora” – pray, work and also fraternal life). The monks also cultivate a certain form of relationship with the exterior world. Over the centuries they have valorised agricultural land so that they can sell their various products which bring the necessary revenues for their subsistence.Silence is appreciated in the areas where the monks are praying, meditating.
Hauterive Abbey (which means “high banks”) is located near a river, the Sarine. It flows quietly; people like to come and spend the day at the edge of the water. I saw fishermen trying to catch trouts. Cistercian monasteries were often built near a river in rather secluded areas. Maybe they used rivers as a way of transportation for their goods to be sold in the towns nearby ? It was often done so in the Middle Age when roads were unsafe.
To reach the Abbey you can either walk down a peaceful forest path or use those old wooden stairs. They have been restored of course and if they could talk, they would tell of all the people and the countless steps up and down over the centuries. The walls are original with an occasional patch of new cement and paint here and there. No straight lines for them but slight curves, a sort of imbalance as if they carried the weight of time and events.Let´s enter the Abbey itself through the main porch decorated by a fresco. I visited Hauterive several times over the years; for this photo assignement I came on a sunny morning which soon turned out to be a rainy one. The colours would have normally been much brighter.
I never took any pictures inside the Abbey but the monk I asked about it said it was all right. Those are the stained glass windows on the South side of the church, their bright colours subdued under the cloudy sky. The “rosace” (rose window) is very striking.
Rose windows are particularly characteristic of Gothic architecture and may be seen in all the major Gothic Cathedrals of Northern France. Their origins are much earlier and rose windows may be seen in various forms throughout the Medieval period (Wikipedia).
There were very few people inside the Abbey. I sat for while on the chair on the left. On Sundays and special celebrations the nave and the lateral aisles are all taken up. The monks are reunited behind the choir-screen for the celebration. Their Gregorian chant fills the Abbey. Moments of spirituality and sharing. I feel like saying a sharing beyond all religions, a sheer spirituality that the site inspires and transcends. The monks´chant is bringing life to the ancient walls.Leaving the Abbey by the quiet forest path, I was surprised by a bird flying right in front of me ! I still don´t know how I managed to take a picture. But here it is, a graceful bird dashing to the purple flower bush. A lovely ending of my travel with you. I hope you enjoyed this quiet journey near Fribourg, Switzerland. Thanks to Scott for another interesting photography challenge.
For more information on the Abbey of Hauterive, here is a link to its site. An English translation is available too.
August 2, 2010
Our National Day on August 1st started like this :
A bright blue sky, some pretty clouds to make it more alive, little Swiss flags fluttering in a light Summer wind. In short, there were great perspectives of a lovely evening with music, dances and some other celebrations that many people in the village had been preparing for quite a while.
Around 9pm, as a band of young musicians from the next village and a folk group from Indonesia had just arrived, a violent wind almost blew away the big tents where the guests were preparing to play and dance. And the main street in the village looked like this :
People had deserted the tent where the food was prepared. Usually it is a big barbecue and the local famous meal : “raclette”, mountain cheese melted over a open fire (for a smaller crowd) or over a grill and served with potatoes and pickles, like last night. That is my main regret… I so enjoy eating raclette and I was not the only one !
Families of Dutch tourists were waiting patiently and more or less joyfully for clement skies… No usual National Day speeches nor anthem, no official fireworks nor bonfire, no dancing in the streets nor in pubs (too crowded !) but some isolated fireworks who brought cheerful sparkles under the rain C´est la vie ! So is life !
February 11, 2010
Yes, this happy time of the year has come again ! Time also for a school holiday that coincides with the celebration of Carnival for all those who wish to participate. And there are quite a few, believe me ! Of all ages. Last year in February I happened to visit a small town, Bulle. In spite of the freezing temperature, the atmosphere in town was very warm. It was the Children’s Carnival ! For weeks, the kids had been making their own costumes at school or in kindergarten ; they were proudly and joyfully coming and going in the streets of Bulle.
It was a colourful event; imagination, creativity and talent sparkled in those beautiful costumes . There was music too, dancing, singing and above all the enthusiasm of everyone for those happy confettis-battles !
At the end of the parade, a few little heroes were obviously very tired… and happy to be pulled in an old hand-cart. The Children’s Carnival was a great success, viewers and actors, all enjoyed themselves a lot. Then everybody went back home, by foot, in a cart or by car… The streets would keep a trace of Carnival for a long time ! And the kids would dream in colours, with in their ears maybe the sound of exuberant trumpets and drums.
December 31, 2009
Slowly but surely the hours go by and soon another year will greet us !
It has been almost one year since I started this blog. Very hesitantly at the beginning and not so regular with my posts. As contacts were made, my pleasure in sharing images and thoughts increased. For this, I want to thank each and all of you who have visited, left a comment, encouraged me. Thanks also for giving me inspiration for photography, quilting, and much more. Sharing our own passions in life is just so rewarding!
On the last stroke of midnight, I will share a glass of champagne with family members and friends. A small group of us in a chalet up in the Alps. We had a lot of rain these past days, snow has melted but there is still plenty for skiing in the New Year !
As we will exchange kisses and wishes for “une Bonne et Heureuse Année” – a Good and Happy New Year – the dark sky will be illuminated with fireworks. Ninio-the-beagle will start his wolf like dance and howl at the noise but a little piece of Panettone (special Italian cake we eat on this occasion) will calm him. And lots of caresses, of course. Then we will go out in the snow to admire the blue and red and green showers of stars falling into the valley below. A true wonder! There will be plenty of “Oh !” and “Ah !” and “Wow” ! And maybe more snow falling in the first night of the New Year. Hopefully !
Wherever you are, I wish you a real Happy New Year and the best of everything for 2010 !
December 24, 2009
May you all receive the Christmas light in your heart.
A time for a pause and for sharing,
A time for celebrating and thinking of others, not able to do so.
A time for giving one’s time to prepare traditional meals that will bring everyone around the Christmas table.
Joyful decorations, Nativity scene, scented candles, cinnamon cookies, spiced tea, Christmas songs in church, a snowman in a garden and so much more. There is this special mood at home that makes you feel like prolonging this happy time of togetherness. And why not ?
“The essential is invisible to the eyes, one only sees well with the heart”.
Those were the words the fox said to the little prince as they were going to part. It was the fox secret that he confided to him. And to many readers across the globe since the book was published. “The Little Prince” is a wonderful tale for all ages, a story to read to children, a story for all times. And the fox secret is good to remember well beyond Christmas.
November 26, 2009
This was no Thanksgiving Day but these people were having some kind of celebration, for sure ! It was a few years ago in Lyon (France). I was walking along the river flowing across the city and stopped beside this barge where a long table had been set and beautifully decorated. Obviously they were waiting for more guests. A young man was giving a sweet kiss – un bisou - to his partner. Another man smiled to me and said “pas de photo, svp”, “no photo please”. Jokingly.
Thanksgiving was not celebrated on this river boat but all the guests around this happy table were definitely thankful to be together on that day. An engagement or a wedding lunch ? And two of them even more grateful to the paths of life that brought them together.
Today as I remember this moment in Lyon, I thought of sharing this picture with you. To all of you who celebrate this happy day I wish a wonderful Thanksgiving !
August 20, 2009
Grazalema. One of the most picturesque and important villages in the Sierra de Grazalema (mountain area). One of the many “pueblos blancos” (white villages) in the province of Cadix, Andalusia, Spain. Andalusia is the Spanish area where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea in Tarifa, the very Southern part of Europe. Andalusia is also a country of mountains and valleys, not unlike my own country, Switzerland.
Nothing is more enchanting than discovering one of those white villages behind a steep curve of the narrow winding mountain road. They look like brilliant jewels nested in a box that would be the pine forest or the rocks. Truly magnificent ! The “pueblos blancos” are generally built on hills so that its inhabitants would see from afar any unfriendly visitors, troops would be better said. Some villages are still surrounded with ramparts, the protection against invaders of the past.
The Romans conqueered this area and then Berber tribes (from Northern Africa) took it over in the 8th century. A special craft, weaving woollen blankets, was developped at the time and it is still maintained today. The local factory used to employ 5000 workers in the 19th century.
Most of Grazalema’s inhabitants live in small white houses with colourful tiled roofs. The narrow paved lanes were not built for cars . There is hardly enough space for a vehicle. Those villages are meant to walk through, stop and chat with friends, sit in front of your porch, admire your neighbour’s flower decoration or share the latest news. Time seems to have slowed down although this beautiful area is popular and very much alive when visitors come for holidays. Mountain climbing is wellknown up there.
People staying there nowadays go to work in larger cities down in the valley. Or they live on craftwork; they also produce meat, a delicious one. Goats, pigs and cows seem to own the pastures. I also tasted goat cheese produced locally as well as olive oil, exquisite in salads or on a slightly salted toasted bread at breakfast. Well worth trying ! The blankets that are woven by the women and sold in the villages are still the very same than the ones you can find in Northern Africa.
Driving down from la Sierra de Grazalema and back to the hill at Sindhura’s Hotel, my head was spinning with all I saw between ocean and high mountains. What a diversity in a single province ! Andalusia, the most Southern part of Europe, is a place I enjoyed visiting immensely for the friendliness of his people, the blending of ancient cultures and religions – Islamic and Christian, the variety of landscapes and food, the way of life. To me, it seemed that people knew how to take time when needed: stress and rush (apart from the big cities) seemed less apparent. Four hours away from home and a complete change of scenery. Truly magnificent.
Sindhura Hotel, in Muela, near Vejer de la Frontera (Cadix province), was a heaven of peace after a long day of visits in the cities and towns around Cadix. Close to the ocean and the mountains, it is the perfect place to spend a few days in Andalusia. The small hotel is situated on a hill, in a quiet environment.
Anna and Alejandro have restored an old house and transformed it in a most welcoming hotel. Anna lived in India and Malaysia for years, she cooks Indian food too. What more could I have asked for ? And she spoke perfect English which was so restful (I speak French with too little knowledge of Spanish, unfortunately). I really loved this place which gave you a feeling of well being. When you sat on its terrace facing a white city along the ocean far away, you just felt so good and relaxed…