on the edge

June 28, 2009

on the edgeThere is this village up in the Alps,  a hamlet really, only a few chalets almost hanging from the steep slope. Hardly anyone lives there nowadays. It used to be a larger village where families of mountain farmers made their living in growing wheat, rye, vegetables on terraces.  Goats  provided milk and cheese and mules were the only means of transportation. No easy life up there but the necessity to cultivate every inch of soil.chèvreWhen I am in the area, I often walk to this village on a small track along a narrow irrigation canal. Water ! so precious at all times in such an environnement. The canal is called “bisse” over there and it is built in the same way as the Arabs did in Northern Africa, in the Atlas mountains. Arabs who did travel as far as the Swiss Alps  many centuries ago and who shared their knowledge about water supply.

bisse sous VerreyIn Summer the sun is hot in this micro climate. Coolness is provided by the gentle flow of the water in the canal and the shade in the woods. Tourists have discovered this pleasant walk  and enjoy hiking along the mountain slopes for miles. I love it up there. In all Seasons. In Winter it is easier to do snowshoeing. The silence is  palpable. Hardly any birds around but the mountain ones or those who did not migrate to warmer climes.Verrey, sentierIn the late Fall, I like to bring a book with me, sit along the track and read. Often my eyes lift from my reading and just look and admire this unique landscape all around. Sitting on the edge of the mountain, somewhere between sky and earth. The mountains towering above and the valley deep down below. I have walked on this path countless times, it is never the same and always a renewed pleasure, a deep gratitude for such a world we inherited and have to protect.verrey hameau

poem for the day

June 24, 2009

Bright morningAs I opened the shutters this morning, I recalled this poem that I read many times…

With Every Breath

With every breath I take today,

I wow to be awake;

And every step I take,

I wow to take with a grateful heart–

So I may see with eyes of love

Into the hearts of all I meet,

To ease their burden when I can

And touch them with a smile of peace.

(author unknown to me)

These are my wishes for you on this cool but sunny Summer day.

Here is a quilt I made with so many various fabrics, all from Africa. As many fabrics as memories of people, friends, places, particular circumstances. One of my favourites because of all it evokes to me.

marchés africains 1“Marchés africains” (African markets)


Enchanting encounters

June 19, 2009

Walking in the forest, even if you go the woods  every day, does not always prepare you for the strange encounters you can do. I have noticed and admired these variations in all Seasons. Nature changes and so do trees, bushes,  anything vegetal. The light goes through various shades along the day and over the months. It is a never ending pleasure and surprise to see  today what you had not really paid attention to yesterday. So  it was with this strange “couple” I really saw on a Spring morning. How many times did I walk on this path and looked without seeing these two tree trunks on the edge of a pasture. Then all of sudden Spring had transformed them completely. In front of me stood two vegetal creatures. “She”, the Lady of the Woods, was particularly visible, slightly bent forward, her long disheveled hair falling on her back. I was stunned and just had to take this picture so as to be sure I was not dreaming !

the lady of the woodsAccording to the time and light of the day or to the weather, rain, frost, snow, the simplest forms of life look like magic natural sculptures.

forestdialWalking in the woods after the rain one day, I almost went head first into this spectacular spider’s web. At that moment it looked to me like a huge forest dial trembling in the light breeze, raindrops trapped in its threads like pearls. A magnificent view !

crinièreSometimes a noise or a slight movement makes you lift your head or turn around. Often you do not see anything. It can happen that your steps disturbed a bird or a lizard and you just hear something without seeing them. But at other times you meet some of the forest inhabitants. In this case  a horse grazing in a field at the edge of the woods was hidden by the tall grass Its white mane barely emerging. A real lovely, peaceful moment on  a hot Summer afternoon.

fox close-up

walk in the wood 2.6.07 031Some encounters are more surprising and really take you aback. This fox was standing on the side of the forest track, not more than 30m away from me. I slowed down hoping to take a picture before he ran away between the trees. But he would not move, he just stood there looking at me, maybe wondering if I was a friend or an ennemy. It was hunting season. I continued walking slowly towards him until I probably got too close  and all of a sudden he was gone !

A curious and lovely looking animal not rare

at all these days around the farms and houses in the village. Not always welcome. His cry at night is frightening. But I do love seeing one of them running across fields or in the forest,  tail almost as long as the body, elegant and rapid, glancing swiftly in my direction before disappearing in the wheat or corn fields.

Today I did not see any animal friend in the forest but I heard many ! It was right after the rain,  as the day started to grow dark. Birds were singing their late day songs so cheerfully, beautifully, competing with each other or just answering good night messages. This is my favourite moment for a walk into the woods. For the softness of the air, the unique light playing hide and seek between the trees and… for the birds songs of course.

light in the dark

Venice’s mosaics

June 11, 2009

Last Fall the patchwork group I belong to presented a Quilt Exhibition in a little town of Switzerland. Its main theme was the “Mosaics of San Marco’s Cathedral in Venice”  (Italy).  One of our members had  received a great photography book  about those ancient and superb mosaics. Each of us was free to use one of the photos and interpret it in her own way with the materials of her choice. Quite a challenge ! We all loved it, the choice was not easy but after a few weeks each friend in the group had decided on a particular picture for her mosaic quilt.

Those are the fabrics I started cutting to sew my own mosaic : pink, black, white and beige shades, all in cotton.

mosaique Venise, cuttingI began in sewing black and white strips together, then in cutting those horizontally before adding them around a square of cotton (light pink or beige).

At the back of the picture you can see the copy of the photography I chose for “my” own mosaic in Venice.

Each square (including the checked borders)  measures 12×12 cm, each black/white square 1x1cm. Really tiny.

Quite a job but the result was well worth it!

mosaic 1Then I started a nice part of the making of the quilt : assembling squares together. The plain and coloured ones. As I sewed on I realized I had not enough white and beige materials, the sort that looked old, more like a stone that would have been walked on for centuries… I introduced here and there a square in a light brown tone which looked pretty much like the picture of the mosaic I was trying to reproduce on fabrics. And it worked quite well ! The more varied, the better.

Months and many stitches later,  my own interpretation of a mosaic of  the San Marco’s Cathedral in Venezia was ready for the exhibition. I hand quilted the mosaic with a curved pattern so as to balance the many straight lines of the  squares. Here is a detail of it. It’s probably one of my favourite quilts. The theme inspired me very much. I have visited Venice several times, always with the same pleasure and admiration. So much beauty !  If possible at all, travelling there in the less “touristic” season is an advantage. I loved this unique atmosphere  one feels when walking in the back lanes and discovering this fascinating city by boat along the narrow canals of the Doges’ City. And what to say about the Gran Canale,  its palaces,  historical monuments and piazettas (squares) arched bridges and the flotilla of gondola boats that undulate on the Canale… A unique city.

mosaique Venise 1The finished quilt is 1m x 75 cm. It is lined with two borders of light pink and dark red shades. And I simply love it 🙂 To look at and to touch it.

Venitian mosaic

This blog has been rather silent over the past weeks… I travelled to Andalusia, the most Southern part of Spain, a province whose shores border both the Atlantic ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. This is also an area of hills and fields covered with olive trees and all kinds of fruits and vegetables. Andalusia’s mountains (sierras) are familiar to a Swiss visitor ; thick forests of pines, high peaks,  pastures, winding roads and snow covered mountains. olive trees plantations

Andalusia is also a province of ancient and magnificent cities where Hispanic and Muslim cultures blend in beautifully. I visited three large cities : Granada, Cordoba and Cadix and many other smaller towns or “pueblos blancos”; their architecture and setting were just as  amazing and enchanting: Baeza, Jaen, Ubeda, Vejer de la Frontera, Arcos.

On a sunny and windy Sunday morning I was in Cadix, walking on a promenade  along the Atlantic ocean, in luxuriant and almost tropical gardens.fountain Cadix, colour

Cadix, promenadeIt was a Sunday of celebration, a First Communion Day. Many families were walking in the gardens, all dressed up, chatting happily and enjoying this special day,  all generations together.

Cadix, First CommunionFurther along the walkway, I reached the harbour and the beach. There, in the midst of boats facing the ocean people were having a happy lunch or sun bathing, away from the crowd and the busy streets of the city. A real holiday mood !

Cadix, lunch at the seaside

Cadix, harbourThe merchant city of Cadix or la Habanita (little Havana) is one whose history is present at the corner of every street, a city where I loved spending my Sunday. I sat for a while in the parks looking for shade or at the harbour.  Coming from the mountains, sea has always fascinated me. I could sit on a beach or in a harbour, looking to the sea and imagine the ancient ships which left the Andalusian shores centuries ago and sailed toward the New World. My visit ended with a delicious “café solo con pastel” (coffee and pastries) on the terrace of the Parador (hotel) facing the ocean. A slow and relaxing day I love to remember.