August 14, 2013
Another day in Portugal. After the city of Porto, its harbour and the Douro river, how about spending some time in a luxuriant park of Porto and in Coimbra’s Botanical Garden ? It was founded in 1772 and is part of its very ancient University. More about the beautiful city of Coimbra later on.Won’t you come into the garden, I would like my roses to see you.” Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816) said to his future wife Elizabeth inferring that she was more beautiful.
A hue of far away. Perhaps for this
The dove brought olive back, a tree which grows
Unearthly pale, which ever dims and dries,
And whose great thirst, exceeding all excess,
Teaches the South it is not paradise.
My garden is my favorite teacher. ~Betsy Cañas Garmon,www.wildthymecreative.com
July 14, 2013
where I stayed during the last week of May ? During the two hours flight from Geneva to this ancient and picturesque town, I had a look at this map and thought I would share it with you. The many flight lines all seem to converge to one particular spot in the South of Europe. A small country on the Atlantic coast from where several navigators left for maritime discoveries : Africa, America, Brazil, India, Macao (China). Great explorers like Magellan, Vasco de Gama, Zarco amongst many others.Our destination was Porto – or Oporto – in the Northern part of Portugal, an old city we had been planning to visit for a long time. Spring was much more advanced than in Switzerland, the touristic Season had not fully started yet, temperatures were pleasant. Our timing was good, it truly was the most enjoyable vacation.
Porto and surroundings offer so much to a new visitor that it would be impossible to tell you about all its various aspects. Let me just show you in a few posts the pictures of some of the places that touched me for a reason or another. This is the first post of a few others showing you different glimpses of Porto, the Douro river and Coimbra, a town in the South of Porto.
After landing in Porto and leaving our luggage in a small hotel in the center of the city, my husband and I walked to the upper town. The view was stunning. A labyrinth of houses of all sizes and colours, huddled together and decorated with the famous Portuguese “azulejos” (painted blue tiles). The red tiled roofs added a touch of colour in those dark and narrow alleys as they glistened in the sunset.Seagulls were everywhere, “A winged squadron flying over us, happy pigeons travelling all over the world, messengers of memory, going over the washing lines in the alleys, huts, grocery shops, sleeping dogs in the sun, red flowers growing in the rust…” (Alberto Nessi)Porto is a harbour city. Sometimes here and there an ancient building in Art Nouveau style looked to me like a towering ship from other times coming out of the haze of history.Contrasting styles of architecture add to this city’s charm. Richly decorated mansions, shops or cafés have grown side by side with other houses, more simple, that line narrow paved alleys. There were not too many visitors at this time of the year but these lanes can be quite crowded when all shops and restaurants are open, especially in the evening or early morning. This is where Porto’s life is felt at best.This most unusual and beautiful hall is part of the central railway station of Porto, Sao Bento. Impressive “azulejos” and sculptures cover the walls and ceilings. This beautiful building dating from 1916 is well worth visiting even if one does not travel by train. Which we actually did when going for a visit to another city, Coimbra. More about that later !For now as the sun goes down over the city, let’s just stop for a while on the top of a hill overlooking the Barreido district and others, less luxurious, which lead to the river. Will we meet there later ?…
June 22, 2013
It is such a joy to be back on my blog and back in this community I am grateful to belong to, dear readers. I have a lot to tell you and pictures to share after returning home from…(It will be a surprise in my next post) But for now I would like to share something very meaningful to me. Before I tell you more, let’s take a pause, sit comfortably in the sun or in the shade, and enjoy a cup of tea or a glass of your favourite fruit juice. I am so happy to tell you about a book I read recently, that I loved for many reasons. It is called How to Make an African Quilt: The Story of the Patchwork Project of Segou, Mali. The book is written by Bonnie Lee Black.
This is a memoir, not a crafts book. It contains so much more than the making of an African quilt. Why am I telling you of this book in particular ? Because it touches me personally. The true stories Bonnie tells about her experience in Mali are about solidarity, friendship, determination, cultural sharing and hope. Bonnie created a women’s project that one cannot but love and feel proud of. This book is precious to me because it was written by a friend of mine, whom I did not know as a writer when I first “met” her.
About 14 years ago, I responded to an item in a French quilters’ magazine that mentioned Bonnie’s Patchwork Project in Segou. Bonnie was asking for used French quilting magazines with patterns she could use for her project in Mali. I found quite a few on my bookshelves that I sent her and her Malian friends. At that point we started writing to each other now and then, and we’ve kept in touch over the years.
Guess what ? Today I have the immense pleasure and honor to welcome Bonnie Lee Black as my guest writer on this blog. I am also very thankful that she has offered to share her life-changing experience in Africa as well as some patches of her life. Thank you, dear Bonnie, for telling us more about your book, your quilting project in Mali and what your hopes are.
“Thank you, Isabelle, for this honor to share with your readers my wonderful experience in Mali, now encapsulated in my new book, How to Make an African Quilt. The title, as you suggest, is really a metaphor for “connection” – cultural connection – and I’m hoping that theme comes through in its pages.
This book is actually the sequel to my Peace Corps memoir, How to Cook a Crocodile (Peace Corps Writers, 2010), about my two-year service as a health and nutrition volunteer in Gabon, Central Africa. When I completed my service in Gabon, I decided to go to Mali (rather than return to the United States) and do independent economic development work there. I was in my early fifties and felt I still had more to give.
Soon after settling in Segou, Mali (which is the textile “capital” of the country), I met a group of talented Malian seamstresses who asked me to teach them patchwork quilting. Well, that was a challenge for me because I’d never done patchwork quilting. But I soon taught myself from a quilting primer and happily created the Patchwork Project, which the women loved. In the book I share their stories and show their joy, especially as they sat together at the quilting frame (a makeshift contraption I made from lenghts of bamboo) laughing and singing as they stitched.
I took the project as far as I could in the thirty months I lived in Segou. But it could go much further to help the women there earn extra income. I wrote this book in the hope that someone, somewhere, some day might read the book and be inspired to take the project further. That someone would have the business-and-computer knowhow that I lacked – and still lack. When the talented graduates of the Patchwork Project of Segou, Mali begin to make patchwork quilts to be sold internationally over the Internet, then I’ll feel that my dream for these women has come true and my book has done its job.”
Bonnie Lee Black
Amkoullel, l’Enfant peul, 1991
by Amadou Hampate Ba,Malian writer and ethnologist, 1900-1991
Here is a link to the Wandering Educators website which shows a video about Bonnie’s book.
December 23, 2012
Sharing some snowy
JOYEUX NOEL, MERRY CHRISTMAS, FELIZ NAVIDAD, HYVAA JOULUA, FROEHLICHE WEIHNACHTEN, GLAEDELIG JUL, BUON NATALE
A beautiful little book “Au nom de la mère” or “In the name of the mother”. Erri de Luca tells about what is probably the most well-known story in humanity. The Italian author focuses on Miriàm, a young Jewish girl engaged to Iosef. Under his hand, the story of the Nativity is seen in the Hebraic context and is a praise of all mothers, body and soul. A wonderful read particularly during Christmas time.
« Grace is the superhuman force to face the world on one’s own, without any effort, to defy it… It is a prophet’s talent. It is a gift and you received it. You are full of grace”.
Iosef to Miriàm, Mary, Marie
If you would like to see more of this magnificent painting by Andrea Solario, “Madonna with the Green Cushion” ( part of it is pictured on the book cover), the following link leads you to Le Louvre Museum in Paris.
November 9, 2012
Erri De Luca (1950) is an Italian novelist, translator and poet. He is selftaught in several languages including Ancient Hebrew and Yiddish. De Luca is also a passionate mountain climber. “The Weight of the Butterfly” is one of his books I thoroughly enjoyed reading and that illustrates beautifully this facet of Erri de Luca.
I feel like sharing with you in pictures some lines of one of his poems : “Considero Valore” or “What I highly value” :
a strawberry, a fly,
the mineral kingdom,
the constellation of stars.
An unvoluntary smile,
and two elder persons in love.
I highly value all that will not be valuable tomorrow and all that has not yet much value today.
repairing a pair of shoes and
Rushing up to the first cry, asking permission before sitting, feeling grateful without even knowing why.
The travel of a vagabond, the nun’s fence,
The patience of the condemned man, no matter the wrong,
I highly value the use of the verb “to love”, Amore,
and the hypothesis there is a Creator
Many of those values, I have not known.”
“Oeuvres sur l’eau et autres poésies, 2002″
Erri de Luca
Quote about books :
“I read old books because pages that have been turned many times and that bear the marks of fingers have more weight for the eyes, because each copy of a book may belong to several lives.
Books should remain free, unattended in public spaces so that they would travel with passers-by who would take them for a while and read them. Then books should die like their readers, used by sorrows, contaminated, drowned, put inside a stove during Winter, torn apart by children to make little paper boats. Briefly said, books should die in any way but not because of boredom and privately owned, sentenced to life on a shelf”.
Erri de Luca
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….
October 10, 2012
Today, October 10, is the 10th World Day for the Abolition of Death Penalty. Many events of all kinds are organised all over the world for this occasion. This year the emphasis is put on the progress that has been accomplished for the past ten years regarding a universal abolition of death penalty and also on the challenges to be taken up in the future.
This quilt is a common project created in fact for the International Day against Torture and Death Penalty, I sewed it a few years ago. The many embroidered squares of cotton were sent to me by members of various Human Rights organisations in my area, namely Amnesty International, ACAT, Lifespark. Each plain cotton square has been stitched with the name of an inmate, one who is sentenced to death. Behind each name there is a life, its history and a fate which in several cases has already come to its end.
This quilt took me months to put together. It is filled with so many various thoughts and emotions. It was definitely not an easy quilt to sew. Nevertheless it was one I wanted to create with others for this special day, as a mark of our engagement for this cause.
As I sewed along, my thoughts went to these inmates, men and women sentenced to death, waiting for years in their cells, a respite between life and death. In one month, one year, ten years, even longer often, they will be escorted to the death chamber. Some prisoners receive a brief letter about their scheduled day and time of death. Others will never learn about their planned execution but in the end, all of them have to follow the guards to a chamber or a yard.
How could I not think also of the victims and their shattered families and friends ? I thought of their loved ones whose life had been changed forever in the most devastating way. Never to forget. Some families have found inner peace in a forgiving process. They are members of reconciliation groups, like “Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation” http://www.mvfr.org/. I truly admire each and everyone of them, as I believe forgiveness is probably the most powerful action a human being can accomplish.
Then I also thought of other families, often forgotten, their distress and deep sadness is just as immense. They are the prisoners’ families, innocent of any crime and yet having to face this ultimate punishment : the scheduled execution of a spouse, a son or daughter, a Dad, a family member or a friend.
What about some of these death row inmates who had been claiming their innocence for years and who were proved right, only too late ?
So many thoughts went into every stitch of this quilt. Such inexpressible feelings under the embroidered names of those men and women whose life or mental state went very wild, violent and uncontrollable : feelings of despair, regrets, shame, revolt, remorse, indescribable sadness, loss, hopelessness although at times Hope would shine dimly in their borrowed time.
Yet, there is Hope that one day a universal abolition of death penalty will prevail. I truly believe that Justice, anywhere, can use other means than a penal revenge to protect society from dangerous criminals instead of killing them. Is killing a good response and example for showing that killing was wrong in the first place ? “An eye for an eye and the world is blind” said Gandhi.
I expressed my Hope in choosing colourful materials, mainly African, for sewing together the various embroidered squares. As if instinctively I wished bright shades could help healing painful scars in the heart of all those concerned, in an humble and compassionnate way.
Many thanks to all of you who joined me in this project.
We were out in the recreation yard, just walking in our separate cages, exchanging thoughts. After they came to take F. back to his cell, I waited for my escort but he didn’t come. I guess he forgot about me.
I walked about until I ended up by the gate. A nice breeze was coming through the bars. The sun was shining and I closed my eyes and stood there, facing it.
The rays warmed my skin. It felt good, like when I used to stand on the beach. My eyes still closed, I saw oranges, reds and yellows, and I was somewhere else.
It was still and I could hear a bird chirping somewhere in front of me. My eyes still closed, I reached towards it but my fingers collided with the gate instead and I was at once brought back.
Still, It felt good to have been away, if for only a moment.”
More information on this World Day for the Abolition of Death Penalty here :
(Human Rights Education Associates)
August 9, 2012
Summer is well on its way. We are having such a heatwave over here ! Unusual canicular days are followed by violent storms, heavy rains and coolness. Temperatures going up and down at brief intervals. Our landscape is especially luxuriant this Season, gardens and fields are grateful : flowers, cereals and vegetables abound.
An orange-red rose, my favourite, with as many petals that open every day as the pages of a scented book you would read with delight.
Some of our fresh vegetables picked early in the morning and served for lunch. On the menu that day for our visitors: leeks with vinaigrette, grilled zuchinis and chards au gratin with cheese. We will have to wait a few more weeks to taste our purple potatoes, something new this year.
It has been a rather busy Summer with little time for blogging and visiting you, my friends, I feel sorry about this; there were several birthday celebrations, family and friends’ visits, excursions and picnics in the mountains but also quiet times along a river near our home. Days are longer and as the sun sets on the water, I sometimes meet a family of swans catching its rays as they glide gently towards the shore, hoping for some pieces of bread I don’t always have.
Summer also brought its days of sadness and loss. Two dear friends passed unexpectedly leaving family and friends deeply shocked. The sun shone brightly though as we all gathered in a small mountain village graveyard to pay homage to both friends, at a two weeks’ interval. Sadness for the great loss.
Sadness for all that remained to be shared and said. Sadness when the realization of their absence became more tangible every day. Why so soon ? Unanswered question. At about the same time, I began reading a book about Celtic Wisdom by the Irish writer and philosopher, John O’Donohue: “Anam Cara” or “Soul Friend” in Gaelic. Thank you to Lumens Borealis http://lumensborealis.com/about/ for having introduced me to John O’Donohue’s writings.
Serendipity, happy coincidence in a moment of distress ? I don’t know but here are a few lines, comforting thoughts, that J. O’Donohue wrote about death in his inspiring book :
The Dead Bless Us
I believe that our friends among the dead really mind us and look out for us…One of the exciting developments that may happen in evolution and in human consciousness in the next several hundred years is a whole new relationship with the invisible, eternal world… We do not need to grieve for the dead. Why should we grieve for them ? They are now in a place where there is no more shadow, darkness, loneliness, isolation or pain. They are home. They are with God from whom they came. They have returned to the nest of their identity within the great circle of God…the largest embrace in the universe, which holds visible and invisible, temporal and eternal, as one.”
So much gratefulness for these lines and deep reflections about death, and about much more I read in this wonderful book. Hardly a day passes without thinking of those two close friends although now sadness is mixed with the serene and happy feeling of having known them both.
For R. and J.-J. I chose this Vivaldi Cello Concerto, largo. I know they loved it.
The circle of life. As days go by, sorrow is followed by joy as a new life has brought happiness in my family. A baby girl, Alima, is sharing her irresistible and peaceful smile with us all. A sweet messenger of Peace as shown on the card her parents sent us :
“Jàmm rekk ! Kayra dorong ! La paix seulement”
Good wishes in Wolof, Mandinka and French. Alima’s papa comes from Senegal, her maman is my niece. The words chosen by her parents to announce their daughter’s birth mean : “Peace only or Peace be with you”.
Welcome sweet little Alima !
Over the past month, I have been asked if I was working on a new quilting project. Yes, indeed I was and still am. A quilt is finished and has been offered to my sister for her Birthday. Two others are in progress (WIP) ! But that is another story that I will tell you about later. Just a few shots to give you an idea.
December 15, 2011
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience” (Ralph Waldo Emmerson).
Patience was really needed to fulfill Scott Thomas’ last photography assignment for this year http://viewsinfinitum.com/2010/12/08/assignment-seasons-2011/ The aim was to picture the same view during our Four Seasons and see the changes nature brought to a particular place in our surroundings. I chose a view close to me and that I love all year round: the landscape I see from my kitchen window.
I started taking pictures in December 2010 on a day when snow fell like in a fairy tale. Snow flakes kept falling silently day and night leaving a strange quietness over the landscape. The bare rowan-tree outside the window became heavy with snow and some of its fragile branches broke. Gusts of wind brought snowflakes onto the window and they stayed there, frozen around the wooden frame.
“Winter teaches us what it means to close one phase of life so that we can begin something else, totally different, totally new. It gives us the joy of beginning over and over again throughout the whole of life.”
April changed the view from my window. Green fields dotted with dandelions and buttercups, the first soft green leaves opening slowly in the rowan-tree and a pot of daisies decorating the windowsill. Not much warmth yet but more light and the beginning of a long awaited Spring.
Summer in a blazing heat around midday. Everything is growing wildly in the garden, the wheat fields are looking almost white under the sun and bunches of red berries are now hanging in the rowan-tree for the great pleasure of lots of birds. This is the end of Season for daisies, geraniums will replace them later. I often sat in the shade of the ever present rowan-tree in this inviting folding chair.
Fall and its warm colours; leaves are turning yellow and rusty on the rowan-tree, purple heather has replaced geraniums on the windowsill and a small mapple-tree is showing its autumnal dress. The fields are still green but with a touch of gold, at sunset a light haze emerges from the forest in the far. Almost all ripe red berries have been eaten by the birds preparing for a long migration to the South. Happy and excited reunions in the branches and a carpet of little red fruits on the ground.
“Fall teaches us the value of resting our minds as well as our bodies, the value of readiness, the value of transition. In all the in-between phases and places of life, we are given the time to allow our souls to catch up with our restless energies, to take stock of the present, to get sight of all our possible futures and choose between them.”
Thanks so much Scott for choosing this theme for your last challenge this year. I took many pictures (with different cameras) at each Season before choosing these four ones. I love the way Nature looks like through this opening. I surely missed a special light or a moody sky but generally this is how my Four Seasons would appear to you from my kitchen window. Although sometimes you may have some surprises…
Like this silent cat, sitting on a woodpile and observing me patiently behind the window as I was preparing breakfast one morning. When I finally saw him, I could not help but opening the window and giving him some of Nino’s kibbles. Behind me there were loud howls of protest ! Just an example of an early morning in my kitchen.
All quotes are taken from Joan Chittister’s monthly Newsletter (The Monastic Way) and I thank her for letting me share them with you.
December 3, 2011
How would you feel if suddenly your world would look in yellow or red or blue or whatever colour you cannot imagine right now ? Would it change anything for you ?
This is not a recent picture. Since the time I took this portrait of a lady deeply concentrated on her work, I could not figure out what exactly she was doing. I am always shy to take pictures of people in the street. The scene was so special, the mood in her workshop too, I just had “to click” from the street. From the various phials, pens and tools I had a quick glimpse at, I imagine she was doing some sort of calligraphy. What would you say she was making ? What do you see ?
Last Summer I visited a gallery in my hometown. There were two artists who presented their artworks. A lady (Mathilda Raboud) who had created some funny, cheeky and unusual ceramic angels and an Italian artist from Florence, Rosario Memoli. He had worked with all sorts of textiles that he either sewed or stuck on a white canvas. It was abstract art, a kind of reflection on the way space is organised between immobility and movement.
I know it is abstract art… but I could not help seeing it differently. Or rather finding a meaning to his particular creations. Laugh if you want but it is what I seem to see in the above picture : a proud rooster is chasing away a black and white sheep while his favourite polka dot hen is quietly nibbling at a flower
Same sort of tragedy with this other artwork by Memoli… I see a sort of hen (yes, again) and a strange mythological creature with a dangerous looking dented tail. They seem to be arguing. Could the reason be the many colourful seeds in the upper right corner that both are coveting ? See the way my imagination takes over sometimes ?;)
For a long time artists have shown us how to see and think differently. They taught us that there are as many ways as there are people since we all see everything differently. A liberating gift, isnt’ it ?
Rosario Memoli’s artworks bore no title. Maybe the artist intended to free our imagination ? The writer Eugène Ionesco wrote in his book “Découvertes” :
“An artwork is a series of interrogations. Since there is a construction, one can consider a work as an architecture of interrogations. Every artwork must be brought into question”.