January 22, 2013
Scott Thomas’ first photography challenge this year is about Winter. http://viewsinfinitum.com/2013/01/09/assignment-23-winter/ What does Winter mean to you ?
Here is my contribution to Scott’s assignment.
Winter 2012-2013 is particularly cold and snowy in some areas of Switzerland and yet it is only January ! In an alpine area, this Season brings a lot to mind like the best, in particular the various kinds of sport activities to the most unpleasant and dangerous, like extreme coldness, icy roads, avalanches. There is also one aspect that touches both the vegetal and animal world: dormancy. If you consider the time I spent away from my blog. you could also include humans
During a train travel between Geneva and the Alps, I was looking at a landscape of vineyards under the snow. A lovely patchwork in white and grey shades, no bustling around, just quietness. I thought of nature and its resting time, dormancy. I love this unique landscape of Lavaux terraced vineyards spreading down gently to the shore of Lake Léman. The whole area is protected by Unesco. Here are more pictures for you :
First snow in early December. As I opened the shutters one morning, I was surprised to see whiteness all around. The air was chilly and silent. I smiled as I spotted what looked like two animal shapes sculpted by snow. A hare ? A turtle ? In any case, they were well into their dormancy period.
In a more urban landscape, some construction sites experience their own dormancy period in Winter. Work had stopped. A greenhouse in the botanical garden nearby was all lit up, a warm looking sight. The heat inside was such a contrast with the outside temperature. Tropical trees and plants were blooming, no sign of rest there.
A familiar sight, the terrace in front of our home. On the previous day, I sat there for a while, letting my eyes wander on a landscape I am never tired of looking at. Now it is time for garden tables and chairs to take their own rest.
The little hedgehock was on the way to his favourite spot to spend the Winter: a big heap of leaves secured from Ninio-the-beagle’s investigations. Both had a rather traumatic meeting a while ago… and I doubt Ninio will ever tease the hedgehock again. As I got nearer, he stopped his quick little steps and buried his head in the snow. Discreetly, I retreated and let him move on for a long Winter sleep.
Someone just eaten a good part of my tasty and juicy apple. See below. I had left it on the picnic table while I taking a picture of Lake Livingston, Texas, at the end of a very hot July afternoon. The squirrel’s stomach was full and contented. Not a bit disturbed by my presence, he lied down on the bench warmed by the sun, made himself comfortable and gave me a last look before entering in a lethargic and sleepy state. Aestivation ? Another kind of dormancy, away from the coldness of hibernation in the North.
Sleep well, greedy little one
How do you think my own dormancy looked like over this past month ?
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
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.
October 10, 2011
As promised, here are some of the books I read during these past months. They were either offered to me for my birthday, recommended and lent by friends or bought after I read a critical review. This is where I usually buy them.
“The Butterfly’s Weight“ is a touching story . This is the title (translated from the French) of this little book by the great Italian writer Erri De Luca. A real jewel of a book. The writing is both poetic and thought-provoking. De Luca tells about an epic battle between man and nature. An old hunter, poacher, and an old, noble chamois; it is about their fight for survival. The originality of this book is that each of them, man and animal, tell the story from their own perspective. De Luca’s writing is just beautiful !
Unfortunately I am not sure this book has been translated in English yet, very few of De Luca’s works have been up to now. Don’t miss it when it will be. This is a book I will surely read again. More slowly this time to appreciate it fully.
Another birthday gift. I know, I am a spoiled child… The friend who sent me the following book always chooses books that I just cannot put down. I had never read anything by Carol Edgarian. She received great praise for “Rise the Euphrates”. I read “Three Stages of Amazement” in a few days, so engrossing it was. C. Edgarian’s book is about the fragility and complexities of marriage and a demanding career. I found the central characters, Lena, Charlie and Theo very likeable and believable. Their story is ordinary and yet complicated and very humane with a touch of humour that I loved. A family journey at different stages of their life through love, marriage, motherhood, grief, betrayal, adversity, loyalty, wisdom, hope.
The next ones are three books that I took more time in reading and reflecting upon. The first two books are real stories that will remain with you long after their last page is turned.
“If Nights Could Talk” by Marsha Recknagel is a remarkable, honest and courageous memoir written with great eloquence, even humour in spite of the tragic events that touched the persons involved in this stunning story. M. Recknagel’s memoir starts when a derelict kid – Jamie, her nephew – arrives on the writer’s doorstep. It is about the meanness and love in families, about evil and redemption and how one person can make all the difference in someone’s life by struggling to recreate a family. Marsha and Jamie are each other’s saviours. A beautifully written story, full of feeling and truths. I strongly recommend it.
“Shot in the Heart” (Un Long Silence, in French) by Mikal Gilmore. Mikal Gilmore writes about his brother, Gary, who was sentenced to death and executed by a firing squad in 1977 after he committed a murder and refused any appeal.
“I have a story to tell. It is a story of murder told from inside the house where murder is born. It is the house where I grew up, a house that, in some ways, I have never been able to leave.”
Before Gary’s tragic story devastated his own life, Mikal Gilmore decided to write this brave book to try and understand his heritage, to undo the blood ties and escape the family’s curse. M. Gilmore’s book is a real investigation both affective, painful and uncompromising about his own family and his origins. “Shot in the Heart” is a very dark and courageous journey.
Today, October 10th, happens to be the 9th World Day against Death Penalty. The campaign focuses on a petition asking for a universal moratorium on Death Penalty. It will be the main theme of the 4th resolution of the United Nations regarding DP that will be voted on December 2012.
Both of these books are also powerful and humane documents about resilience. They are about the ravages caused by a devastated childhood where love and respect are just absent. “Murders of the flesh and the spirit”, as M. Gilmore wrote. Reading those books was not only trying to understand the perversity of the acts that destroyed a family. It was also about realizing how someone’s childhood can be broken.
Then, I needed another type of reading, one I had meant to do for a long time. I chose Thich Nhat Hanh‘s “To Touch Life”. The Vietnamese Zen monk resides in a small community in France. He teaches, writes, gardens, works to help refugees worldwide. He also travels all over the world to share his teaching about inner harmony. How to fulfil the unity (oneness ?) between body and mind through conscious breathing and meditation.
Before saying good-bye and wishing you a pleasant week, and a good reading – whatever book is in your hands at the moment – let’s share a few quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”
“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”
“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
More inspiring quotes by Thich Nhat Hanh here :
April 15, 2011
For the past month the internet connection in our home has been less than satisfactory. I will spare you the technical details but in short it has become more difficult to get a reliable and lasting internet connection. It has also something to do with the age of my PC If I add that my camera (not the youngest one either) has been acting strange lately, you may understand my distress about these technologies I was never an expert in anyway. This is to explain my unwanted silence on this blog. I regret it but little by little I will visit you again and look forward to these moments indeed.
In the meantime… Spring has arrived here too. Rapidly, beautifully and unexpectedly warm. In the 20-23°C over the past few days although in the past days the North wind has lowered the temperature by ten degrees. Brrrr…
Not sitting much in front of my stubbornly silent and empty screen, I spent more time in the garden; I read or finished reading several books. I also spent more time in the room that used to be a playroom and now is a music and sewing room.
Do I see you smiling ? Don’t worry, I am not trying to compete with the drums when my son is practising “Ska music” with his group. The sewing machine remains silent on those occasions… but when the room is quiet my sewing machine is playing its own tune, music and inspiration are in the air !
This is a wonderful and inspiring book by Janet Bolton (Patchwork in an orchard) about “appliqué” in patchwork. My friend Marie, in http://ancientcloth.blogspot.com/ mentioned it a while back in her blog and I was delighted to find a copy of this book in a second hand bookstore in town.
La Pléiade is also the name if a well-known collection of books from authors of all horizons . Precious books with soft leather binding and thin pages (onionskin) that one turns slowly and with care. I was telling about it to Janice, another friend and multi-faceted artist, http://postcardsfromwildwood.wordpress.com/ as I replied to her comment in my post about it. I chose Tolstoi and his “Carnets”; he is an author I like to read and re-read now and then. Classical and insightful works that fascinate me.
And of course, another favourite books of mine, Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” is one I read slowly, month after month. There is so much to learn about living more simply, eating locally, being responsible for one’s own decisions and acts regarding our environment.
Regular walking through my colourful garden brought much pleasure. This constant renewal of Nature in the Spring is always such a wonder and pleasant discovery.Poppies, wild primroses, cherry trees blossoming or anemones, all are so welcome after the cold and not so bright Winter. I really hope you are enjoying the same wonderful feeling.
February 1, 2011
Some days are more eventful than others. A little while ago, as I opened the frosted mailbox in the garden, a long and white envelope with foreign stamps was waiting for me. It contained a dear friend’s letter together with a copy of this drawing.
“There’s part of the sun in an apple,
There’s part of the moon in a rose,
There’s part of the flaming Pleiades
In every leaf that grows”
by Augustus Bamburger
On the same day but later in the afternoon I enjoyed reading a great blog that another friend, Gerry, had just started posting : “The Gently Used Ideas Store” !
This particular post drew my attention to the correspondence between the drawing and Gerry’s theme in this post : mythology. The mention of the Pleiades in the poem was both strange and welcome.
In French, we often use the word “pleiade” to describe a group of renowned persons, like “a pleiade of artists or writers, etc…”
Gerry’s prompt about mythology made me reflect on who the Pleiades really were. So, I looked on my bookshelves for a particular book that was just waiting to be read… Have you ever heard that a book does not exist or live until someone reads it ? It seems so true to me.
I finally found this book, here it is : a “Small Mythology Dictionary”, very nicely illustrated too.
The Pleiades were the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione, daughter of Ocean and Tethys. They were Artemis´companions. One day, as the hunter Orion pursued them and their mother, they implored the gods to save them. They were transformed into doves and then placed in the sky as a constellation. In fact, the Pleiades are only a cluster of six stars in the sky because one of the stars hides itself… Some pretend it is Merope; she was the only one of the seven sisters whose lover was mortal.
The names of the Pleiades were Alcyone, Celaneo, Electre, Maya, Merope, Sterope, Taygete.
In my small mythology dictionary, there was no mention of the Pleiades but a page was dedicated to Atlas, their powerful father, son of a Titan, one of those gods who ruled the world before the Olympian gods. Atlas and the Titans were overcome by Zeus and the Olympian gods during a terrible battle. The Pleiades´father was condemned to carry forever the heavens on his shoulders and all the weight of the world.
This is the story of a Winter day that started in a freezing and foggy morning. It ended in the sky, a dark but starry sky where I looked for a constellation of seven sisters pursued by Orion…
Thanks to Gerry and the inspiration I found in her daysprompt
January 6, 2011
Walking in the garden a few days after Christmas. I was enjoying a fresh and early morning sun as I spotted a branch of blackberry, shaped like a heart. A wild and stubborn bush, not ready to give in to Winter. The persistent branch made me think of this past Summer bounty and of the delicious marmelade waiting on the kitchen table for the family breakfast.
Fleeting images of particular moments during the Holiday Season. I realize that the grandfather who once was as tall as his grandsons looked now small and frail. Emotion. A moment of love shared between generations, smiles and looks of complicity that belong to the three of them only. A wonderful bond.
My activities will not resume until mid-January. These days after Christmas are “in slow-motion”. Remembering family celebrations, animated talk around the table, gifts being offered, a surprise for everyone. Each family member had decided to offer a gift to one person only chosen by drawing lots. Each one kept the secret until Christmas Day. What an excitement as the time for sharing gifts came ! I was so happy that mine was meant for my Dad! I offered him a soft warm fleece jacket in his favourite colour, grey/blue. He loved it and is wearing it almost every day since Christmas
Sidney Poitier’s spiritual autobiography is one the best I have read in a long time. “The Measure of a Man” is the story of his life from his birth on Cat Island in the Bahamas until his recognition as a great actor in Hollywood. When he was about 12, S. Poitier told his sister : “When I grow up, I want to go to Hollywood and become a cowboy “. He had just seen his first movie in Nassau, a cowboy one of course. In 1963, S. Poitier was the first black actor to win the Academy Award for best actor for his great performance in Lilies of the Field. He also received the Life Achievement Award for an outstanding career and humanitarian accomplishment.
Reading his memoirs is like having a worthwhile conversation with an older family member, his words are powerful, reflective, generous, humane and so moving. It makes you look closer at the foundations of your own life.
Looking forward to even more reading. Family and friends know me… and I received several books:
The Amish Quilts, 1870-1930, showing many reproductions of quilts from private collections in Switzerland; there are also some very interesting chapters about the origin and history of the Amish.
Matthieu Ricard, “Spiritual Paths”, a small anthology of some of the most beautiful Tibetan writings. To be read slowly too.
“Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time. I have already started reading it and can hardly stop…
“The Rothko Chapel” by Domique de Menil. With her husband, John, Dominique founded the inter-religious Chapel in Houston/Texas in 1971. The de Menil’s dream was for the Chapel to promote interfaith dialogue, human rights and the arts. I am so grateful for this gift, a beautiful souvenir of a memorable visit of this Chapel some years ago.
From Barbara, my English quilting friend, I received the loveliest Desk Diary you can imagine !
More gratefulness. To Marie, http://ancientcloth.wordpress.com/ my inspiring and creative friend; she sews and expresses herself beautifully in her quilts. Marie sent me those colourful parcels.
Wonderful handmade gifts and special fabrics I look forward to sewing in my quilts. Precious presents from here and there. Thank you so very much, Marie ! All is truly appreciated. My thoughts are with you.
January will be a slow month for me. As my friend Marah wrote on a beautiful card : “Never let the urgent crowd out the important”.
September 7, 2010
One morning recently, a good friend called saying she might come and visit with a common friend of ours during the afternoon. I decided to bake a cake I quite enjoy for its flavour first and then because it is so easy to prepare. Here is the recipe in case you want to try it :
For a round baking tray (middle size)
1 pack of puff pastry
200 gr (2 cups 1/4) of ground almonds
1 cup 1/2 of sugar
1 cup of milk
1 tsp of cinamon
1 pinch of salt
Mix all these ingredients
Then roll out the pastry on the baking tray (use a fork to make a few holes on the pastry)
Spread the ingredients you prepared onto the pastry
Pre-heat the oven at 200/230 °C (400-450°F)
Cook for 25 minutes
Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving
This pie tastes even better if you bake it one day in advance.
Some of you may think my almond pie looks a bit “burnt”… Well, almost but not really. I can assure you it tasted delicious ! And why should it look like this ?? That’s the question. You see, I was reading. A specially dangerous chapter that kept me totally concentrated on the story. At the same time I vaguely smelled something just as dangerous coming from the kitchen “Oh ! mon gâteau” (my cake) ! I rushed to the kitchen, book in hand of course (in case I would forget it somewhere on the way…) and I saved the almond pie from a very hot oven. Then I went on reading waiting for my friends.
“Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow” by Peter Hoeg is the book I was reading with great interest and more as “le gâteau de Babette” (Babette’s cake) was in the oven and requesting immediate attention ! I could not have been further from my kitchen. In fact Smilla, the fascinating main character in this book, was secretly - and dangerously - going aboard a ship in the darkest night you can imagine. She was persistent in doing her own investigation about a mystery death. The story takes place in Denmark (Copenhagen) and Greenland, two countries I don’t read about enough and I thought this book would be a good opportunity. It was, definitely so. And much more than that! This reading just cut me off from my surroundings for a few days, so exciting was the story. It is not a recent book, I had heard and read about it but somehow had missed it. Now it is done and I thorougly enjoyed its reading. I hope some of you did too or will do so soon !
August 9, 2010
This is the first book I read by Dan Hofstadter and it was a real pleasure from the first till the last page. He wrote three previous books. His most recent, The Love Affair as a Work of Art, is a collection of essays on French writers. For several years D. Hofstadter was also a regular contributor to The New Yorker.
This fascinating book is about his years in Naples and about Benedetta, the passionate and mysterious Neapolitan woman he met there. But not only. D. Hofstadter shares with so much talent his knowledge and love of this unique city and people. His words bring to life – and how brilliantly ! – some great Neapolitan characters whom he befriended during his stay.
D. Hofstadter makes me feel like going back to Naples and exploring some streets and areas I was a bit unsure of visiting as a tourist. It is not easy to describe Naples´atmosphere beside its hustle and bustle. There is so much more that remains unseen to a visitor on vacation. If Naples is a future destination for you, then read D. Hofstadter´s book about it. He has seen this city with his heart. Is there a better way to visit and feel a new place ?
“Falling Asleep in the City”, a few words of the Prologue that made me love D. Hofstadter´s book about Naples immediately :
“Whenever, after a long absence, I return to Naples, that beautiful and wounded city, I find myself looking forward to bedtime, to the first few moments of falling asleep. I always stay in one of the more populous quarters, in a room overlooking a steep, narrow street, and as I throw open my window a vast wave of sound floods over me. Settled in bed, I´m disconcerted at first by the sheer volume, by my feeling of floating helplessly in a tide of half-drowned voices, people calling or quarreling, snatches of jokes, television commercials, soccer games, ghosts of song twisted by the wind; footfalls mingle with rasping sc0oters, a baby´s crying with the honking of horns. Yet soon the noises soothe me, and suspended between wakefulness and sleep I enjoy a sensation of homecoming, of rejoining a crowd of kindred spirits, faces I have always known.“