Happiness is…

June 22, 2016

… GETTING unexpected news from friends you thought had all forgotten about you. But they did not ! An SMS on your cellphone, a letter with lots of pictures, a telephone call, all of it on your birthday.DSC02708

… LISTENING to a song from years ago by a lady who was famous as an actress, a singer, an activist and a politician (Minister for Culture in her country). A beautiful unforgettable human being, MELINA MERCOURI, from Greece.DSC02167_2

<a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSz4heSSNYM&#8221; rel=”nofollow”>www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSz4heSSNYM</a

… WALKING to the woods just after the rain has fallen, droplets of water still trembling on the branches and leaves.DSC02700

I am listening to the rain whose drops are falling one by one.

I am listening to the rain whose noise is calming my heart.

Lys Gauty

… HEARING the birds sing in the morning as you wake upDSCN1261

… EXPLORING the countryside with a determined buddy as a guideDSCN1440

… BEING MOVED by the tenderness and protection shown to a childDSC02143

… LOOKING FORWARD to the Season of strawberries

strawberries

… IMAGINING things in the sky, like a large lost feather… or an angel’s wing ?DSCN0802

… PLAYING SCRABBLE just for the pleasure of finding words and not for counting  pointsDSC02113

…  And last but not least ENJOYING POSTING AGAIN,  reading you, finding inspiration, energy and time to write to you !

immigration museum 1

I feel sure there are many other reasons to define what HAPPINESS is. Those are just the thoughts that came to mind as I started writing about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cats in the garden

April 26, 2013

A short, very short story.

Two cats in a garden close to my home, so close they often pay me a visit. One jump over the fence and here they are :

Renia, the white Somali, sweet looking but fierce when it comes to defend its preys.Renia

and Solero, the brown Bengali who reigns over our area and whose descendants are numerous  and beautiful.

forget me not

The garden they live in is just beginning to bloom and it is a real pleasure to look at it. What a gift  to stroll through its alleys after the long Winter !  Its gardener, my friend Germaine, so loved by both cats, spends hours tending to it.

This is how Germaine’s garden looks through the eye of my needle.

quilt cats in the garden

A round ochre terrace surrounded by colourful bush, neat narrow alleys and a kitchen garden where flowers have nested too. In a secluded corner lies a small pond amongst pink flowers, home to golden fish and frogs.quilt cats in the garden, 2

An air of Japan, stones,  big flower pots, small plants and cactus.quilt Cats in the garden, 3

Flowerbeds glimpsed at through Germaine’s kitchen window. Nature and beauty are  all around.

quilt cats in the garden, 4

Lovely and peaceful, yes, but on the other side of the fence is someone who is not in good terms with the feline crew. Worried and annoyed by the boldness of Renia and Solero, Ninio-the-Beagle shouts it loud and clear in the neighbourhood. Oh ! Happy Sunday mornings when our pets greet one another…Ninio, 3 ans, 1

Winter yes, but…

December 12, 2012

…I still wish to share some of my Fall colours just before snow fell heavily and unexpectedly. Colours from here and there along those past weeks.

Ninio is posing  in a golden forest and probably thinking: “If I were not on a leash, all you could photograph would be just a vague glimpse of one of my white legs running away like a flash or just leaves !”Ninio, Fall 1

I finally finished sewing a small quilt that brings warmth on a wall of our house. Inspiration came from a photo of a Flickr friend and artist, Eglantine.  I tried to find on fabrics the colours and patterns she painted on wood with acrylic and pastel. Thank you, dear Eglantine, for your inspiration and permission to use your picture. Underneath is the photo of my friend’s artwork.

only

More pictures of Eglantine’s Flickr photostream here : http://www.flickr.com/photos/eglantine/

This is the mini-quilt I sewed and embroidered using scraps of colourful  cotton, polyester, organza and gauze ribbons.

quilt Eglantine 1

Colourful too were the images of a beautiful and fascinating movie I saw recently, in particular the thousands of bees’ swarms working diligently and flying in all directions. “More than Honey” by Markus Imhoof  or “What if Bees would disappear ?” in French is a documentary.  Fascinating, I wrote, but I should also say  very worrying and well worth seeing. The present situation of those precious and endangered insects was filmed in various countries of all continents. Our whole planet is concerned with the bees’ disappearance from their hives or new colonies having to be destroyed.

rûches

What are the causes ? Pesticides or medicines used to fight them ? Parasites ? A new virus ? The stress bees are submitted to during their forced long journeys ? Industrialisation and mechanization ? Pollution or damage caused to the environment ? No sure answer is given but the documentary definitely makes you aware of this terrible danger : the bees’ disappearance and with them the absence of cross-pollination. Losing bees, as we all know, would have repercussions throughout the food supply chain.

“More than Honey” should be released abroad at the beginning of 2013. Don’t miss it if you have the opportunity to watch it. The film was presented at the Locarno Film Festival 2012, in Switzerland.

film, abeilles

Winter in October, first snow and warm colours, just nice enough to take a few pictures and then melt away. Fall was still present and so bright! first snow, october 2012

Since October weather has changed. Snow fell heavily in November, temperatures dropped a lot and a Siberian North wind is blowing every second day. I know, Winter is here but…one can still dream of colours, right ?first snow 1

About three years ago, this shy and unsure little guy arrived in our home from the South of France (Provence),  just in time for my birthday 😉 A ten weeks’ old Beagle looking up at me with eyes that seemed to say: “Here I am, tired from the long drive, my heart and stomach feeling strange,  away from my mom and pack of brothers and sisters… Will you love me ?” If the picture is a bit blurred, it is because my eyes were a bit misty too.

A few weeks later, Nino was already exploring the jungle of lavender flowers whose scent may have reminded him of those vast blue  fields that spread over plains and hills in the Provence. Something familiar for him.Life is not always a tranquil river… (Title of a French movie). At 8 months, Nino had a surgery and came out of the vet’s with this strange and cumbersome kind of hat. It did not prevent him to walk and run head down though, scraping against any stone or branch that was on his way to some interesting scent.

Month after month he grew up into a strong, energetic and alert Beagle, always so happy to walk or  run along mountain tracks. Sometimes on the leash when cows were pasturing nearby, sometimes as free as the air and totally oblivious of my “retour/return !” command. My second son, a soccer player, gave me a referee whistle. Its shrill sounds seems to bring him back to me. Sometimes.Although  a Southerner, Nino really adapted very well to our  long winters. He is never cold nor tired to walk in the snowy forests. His short but thick fur keeps him warmer than any coat I could wear. No cold feet nor frozen fingers for my Beagle. On and on he keeps exploring and digging under the snow.At the end of March though, I almost lost my Nino. During a walk across a field, he ate something poisonous, real bad. I never saw what it was and the  vets who took care of him for three days could not find out either. He had a terrible fit, uncontrollable convulsions. It took him a few weeks and more medicines to recover. Calm, sleepy, recovering slowly but surely. I will never forget this moment of panic,  Nino trembling violently, his four legs all stiff, his imploring eyes saying “help me !” and am so grateful to the vets who cured him so well. A strong little Beagle.

Nino has now fully recovered, as you see from this picture taken yesterday during a walk. He is again the determined and tireless dog that he was before he got ill. Strong and alert in his element, Nature. This conqueror’s attitude… has he been  inspired by  Napoléon crossing the Alps ?;)  I think Nino still has a lot more to enjoy and explore. Happy Birthday, little buddy !

new year and gratefulness

January 10, 2012

The Twelfth Night celebration  is barely over and the traditional pancake is now a memory. It is usually baked with ground almonds, butter, eggs, sugar and flaky pastry. Sadly, this year  I forgot the main attraction: the hidden  lucky charm!  Five pairs of questioning eyes looked around the table wondering who had swallowed it… I confessed forgetting to put the tiny china king inside the cake before baking it. “Oh well, we enjoyed the cake anyway” was the main reaction.

2 0 1 2   is on its way indeed and I sincerely wish you a good health in a Happy, Peaceful and Hope-filled New Year.

The family holidays spent up in the Alps were very enjoyable. A lot of snow fell before Christmas. Skiers were overjoyed, drivers a little less and I was delighted since I mostly walk along mountain paths, skiing is no longer on my programme. The tracks are so peaceful during  Winter contrary to the slopes  which are very busy with skiers and snowboarders. These narrow paths are far less visited than in Summertime. Sometimes you might meet another hiker, a few people going snowshoeing or a hare, appearing and disappearing like a white flash.

Depending on the temperatures, some  bees hibernate in a hole in the ground from October till April. Another kind of bees  winter inside their beehives; the swarm  gathers near their supply of honey and with carefully measured flutter they create their own heating. Very clever and precious little insects.

Other kinds of animals will not even dream of hibernating, never even heard about it ! Like   this tireless and curious beagle, my Nino, persisting in his continuous investigations no matter the Season and temperature.

Reading, as you know, is very much part of my activities.  I received two books : “The Girl in the Blue Beret” by Bobbie Ann Mason. I have not started it yet but am looking forward to doing so soon.

“Stitches from the Soul”, Slave Quilts from the Ante-Bellum South, by Gladys-Marie Fry, Ph.D. A fascinating and moving reading through history and quilting.  Most of all it is about “the  roles and contributions of slave women to plantation life that had been swept under the rug of history”. (G.-M. Fry). This is certainly one of my most precious books on quilting.

The third book under the Christmas Tree was a “pre-Christmas gift” I offered myself. Not really planned but all the more appreciated. One day last December I went into a thrift-shop hoping to find a lamp for my sewing table. I came out with “Ansel Adams’ An Autobiography”. I am asking you : “Which of you, friends of photography, could have resisted buying this wonderful and rare book ?” I have always admired Ansel Adams’ pictures of nature, B&W treasures I could look at endlessly and just wonder. And now Ansel Adams’ autobiography is in my hands and I am enjoying every page of it !

Indeed I am grateful for this piece of luck I found between ancient chinaware and used, certainly much  loved wooden toys.

Grateful I am also

for you, reading these thoughts of mine

for my loved ones

for my three men’s love and thoughtfulness

for everyday’s little surprises

for lessons learnt the hard way

for my boys first drawings, cards and letters to me

for the Forty Shades of Green of Ireland

for Mozart’s clarinet concerto, Adagio

For gingko leaves in the Fall

for my mother’s gift of fabrics

for my unique and favourite sister

for Elvis

for the sea air

for Nino’s  loving and almond-shaped eyes

for the Connemara hills covered with yellow broom flowers

for Syracuse in Sicily

for Roy, Juan y la familia

for snow falling silently, lightly

for the birchtrees forests in Russia

for Dvorak, Smetana, Brahms, Saint-Saens, Vivaldi, Bach

for Indian spices

for Italian cuisine

for a simple cabin somewhere

for B. Kingsolver, S. Cisneros. A. Munroe, F. Sagan

for a glass of Gewurztraminer and grilled salmon

for cello music

for the thoughts in my quilts

for my friends, everywhere, at any time

for, for, for so much more !

Have you ever tried writing your liste of people, things, moments, places, music, food, etc. you are grateful for ? There is a lot to learn about oneself, I think.

Thanks to marah for suggesting this  “List of  100 Things that give you life, the things that matter”.

 

A difficult choice

November 16, 2011

The following photos are new on my blog. Some have been posted on flickr, some were just waiting to get out of my archives. They were all taken in 2011 with different cameras.   Scott Thomas Photography’s challenge at Views Infinitum “Your Best Photos in 2011”

http://stphoto.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/assignment-16-best-photos-of-2011/

was a great opportunity to bring them to light. Today, November 16, is the last day to present your three best pictures of 2011 (or more) if you feel like participating in Scott’s assignment.

I do not really consider them as my “best” but certainly they are favourites of mine. Each for its own reason. I did not take many pictures in 2011: loss of my  camera (Sony Cyber- shot), loan of another one (Canon) for a while  and finally getting a new one I need to get accustomed to (Panasonic Lumix ZX3). Nevertheless here are some pictures I am  very happy to share with you.

A Winter sunset in front of  my home. The day had been cold and the walk to the forest went at a brisk pace. I love how the light branches of a birch tree added a decorative frame over the landscape.

Snow fell heavily, sky and earth were of the same pale shade.  The dark wooden barn stood out in all this whiteness. I wish this image would make you feel the intense silence that was envelopping  the whole landscape. No cars,  quiet birds, even the wind had stopped howling.  A white silence all around.

The Joy of Spring after a long and harsh Winter ! Countless shades of green under a warmer sun. The soft sounds of grasses  brushing against one another was a real delight to listen to.

“To see one blade of grass at a time rather than simply a mountainside of green makes every element of life important”
Joan Chittister

Nino, of course, is one of my favourite models in photography. On that day, he was keeping a low profile…hiding in a field, looking rather worried. What you do not see are three black and white cows grazing peacefully a little further away. He is afraid of them although he has made progress during the Summer. Cows are everywhere around here, so many pastures for grazing.

I thought he was sleeping after his recent disturbing experience. He looked so comfortable and relaxed in his sleep but as soon as  he heard my “click”, he opened an eye ! “One does not disturb a dog who is sleeping”, we say. Yet, I did, just could not resist taking a picture …

On a sunny afternoon I was driving near a farm. I caught a glimpse of an extraordinary water- jet ! I stopped and looked at this beautiful sight : the sun was shining on the drops of water as if a rainbow had fallen onto the field. The sight was even more surprising when I downloaded the picture. Almost unreal.

A white swan gliding silently on a canal reminds me of a peaceful Summer walk.  There were fishermen, small boats, ducks and this lone swan hoping for some pieces of bread that I did not have.

Last October I visited friends in the South with my family. Ticino state is the only Italian-speaking area in my country. A little bit of Italy here and there. This door is the entrance of a pleasant B&B, an ancient house of the XIXth century, nicely restored and welcoming guests all invited to the same wedding. What a wonderful stay and wedding party !

Autumn arrived slowly, with days that looked like Summer so mild and sunny they were. Yet, little by little, terraces were deserted, leaves started falling, temperatures dropped.  Mornings are frosty and the forest is covered with a precious and rustling carpet, night falls around 6pm and soon the trees will be bare. Snow is just around the corner and next year too. With more pictures !

I hope you enjoyed this short travel through some of my favourite pictures. Thanks for traveling with me  and thanks Scott for another enjoyable assignment.

Photo hunt and idioms

October 28, 2011

Karma’s photo hunt for this month is about photographing idioms. If you feel like participating – you may do so until October 31st – then get ready to take pictures and share 3 photos, or more if you wish so.  Karma also posted a link of a great list of idioms to help us. Interesting and fun ! Please go to her site for more information :

http://karmardav.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/october-photo-hunt/

Here is my contribution :

I am not so sure if this was meant to be a life-size dummy or a dress stand. It stook quietly in a room of a small castle near Geneva.

“Ancient times, ancient customs”

Nino was not so guilty but very impatient  with me gardening on the other side of the fence. “Woooooo”…

“The guilty dog barks the loudest”

Three mushrooms – good or bad I do not know – standing in line in the forest. The fourth one was either watching them or rebelling…

“Bad things come in three”

No broth in this old cauldron but it fitted perfectly the idiom I chose.

The best broth is made in the oldest pots”

Those graphics may look pretty but…

it’s “All Greek to me” !

A fabric with small chickens and ducks I knew I would use some day. Not exactly for an idiom though !

“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch”

Thanks Karma for this great photo hunt. It was interesting and sometimes funny to see the French and English translations of the same proverb.

il faut casser le noyau pour avoir l’amande
no pain, no gain; one has to break some eggs to make an omelet (lit.: one must crack the shell to get the almond)

il faut tourner sept fois sa langue dans sa bouche avant de parler
you should count to ten before you say anything (lit.: you should turn your tongue seven times in your month before speaking)

il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué
don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched (lit.: do not sell the skin of a bear before you kill it)

quand les poules auront des dents
never; never in a month of Sundays; when pigs fly (lit.: when hens have teeth)

Good luck with your choice of idioms and pictures !

Have a pleasant weekend.

Mail in the letterbox

February 28, 2011

The day started under a cold mist but with a definite hint of a blue sky above. As often at this Season, mornings look dull and grey. Then slowly but surely the fog disappears leaving behind soft layers of this Winter haze.Off I went to the woods for a morning walk with my faithful little companion, as watchful –  and playful –  as ever.

It was a quiet stroll, no encounter of any kind although Nino could confirm you there were some deers around, for sure. Unmistakable tracks and scents tickled his nose.After a pleasant and  lazy walk  through narrow paths and slightly frosted fields, we were back home. One of us decided to take a nap…

… the other went to fetch the daily paper and mail in the letterbox. And then came The Surprise ! A letter from abroad with beautiful stamps that suggested forest,  berries and little visitors creeping under the pine trees. I immediately loved those stamps  and will keep them in a special little booklet. Smalls or inchies 😉

The content of this  letter sent by Gerry in Michigan  http://torchlakeviews.wordpress.com/ was even more appreciated !

An elegant handwriting on a card,  a fine drawing  by Thomas W. Ford : “Queen Ann’s Lace” flower. In Gerry’s  envelope I also found two delightful postcards by artist, printer and naturalist Gwen Frostic. The cards are original block-prints by the artist. I simply love them !  Precious art pieces from an amazing person I learned about on the following site. It is well worth reading about Gwen Frostic’s life and achievements.

http://web.archive.org/web/20010506005958/http://www.freep.com/womenhistory99/qgwen1.htm

Many, many thanks Gerry for this thoughtful letter and gifts. If my day started under the Winter fog, it certainly continued under a bright sun 🙂 This type of “real-mail” is precious indeed.

Long before her death, Gwen Frostic wrote her epitaph:
“Here lies one doubly blessed.
She was happy and she knew it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A week of snow

December 7, 2010

The Blues of the Nets. No cheer, no crowd, not much around these days but a lot of snow and a few noisy crows watching over deserted nets.

A snowy forest star just as lovely as in Summertime.

Braving  wind and  snow on the coldest day of the week (-7°C).

Dialog between four (not too friendly)  eyes :Dog to Cat : “Hey Chubby ! You’re on my territory ! How d’you like our new chaseground, by the way ?”

Cat to Dog : “Not as crazy as you about it… and I don’t mind sharing your territory, I’m faster anyway and I can climb, remember ? ;)”

Snow and fog; it was probably the most beautiful and special day in the country but… totally chaotic on the roads and in town.

Another morning of deep snow and freezing temperatures (-6°C). The laundry will have to stay indoors.

What an utter pleasure  to see the sun again and the beauty of the landscape under its cool rays on a forest path !

This is a little of my week for the past seven days.  There is less snow today because it has started to rain. The air is still cold but someone cannot resist the call of the forest  and off we are on the road and tracks again 🙂 !

Random views of a morning walk

September 13, 2010

As every day, Nino-the-Beagle and I went for our morning walk. It was still raining a little after the violent storm of the night before.Small drops of water were shining on grass and flowers,   the coolness of the air definitely announced a change of  Season.

There are always the usual stopovers on the way. Nino so enjoys following tracks and investigating them further (down). He loves  digging furiously, puffing and digging again with great insistence. Sometimes he lifts his stubborn and cute head and looks at me as if saying “I know “it’s” here, not far, I’ll get it,  just wait !” And on he goes, digging happily and throwing earth into my shoes.

As he was searching underground, I was looking up to the sky, a lovely blue sky washed by the rain. There was this cloud as big as a vessel sailing towards Northern skies. I wondered where it was heading to and what shape it would take on arrival.

I am always fascinated by the shapes and moves of clouds. Endless transformations.  When the sun shines through them…

… clouds seem to take another dimension, they become more alive with shades, transparency and depth.

Later I stopped at the bottom of this tree and sat on a bench. Above in its branches there used to be a sort of small wooden platform. I never knew  if it was meant for hunters or for bird watchers. As I looked up though I saw only pieces of broken wood, the hut had been  destroyed by the storms or by somebody, I don’t know. It looked a bit desolate.

Nino was beside me looking down – again – at something that seemed to interest him a lot. It was a  stone that looked like a nicely wrapped parcel, a small gift of nature. Maybe this is what he thought too ?  and did not know where to start  opening it and chewing at it 😉

It was getting close to lunchtime. I had a risotto in mind. Those mushrooms were tempting but just not safe enough for me to pick and add them to our meal …

Storm was looming again over the forest and the fields. Dark clouds,  a few drops of rain. It was time to get back home at a fast pace. Which we did but not quite fast enough. Half an hour later we arrived home. Soaked.

Just a few thoughts of a morning like many others, yet different, unique in so many ways even if I know this area.  Unique in the way I felt on that particular day and how I looked around trying to be really present during those privileged moments.

“I am at home, I have arrived

There is only here and now.

I feel strong, really free,

I find refuge in myself.

I am at home, I have arrived”

This is what Thich Nhat Hanh calls “the meditative walking”.