The pace of nature

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.

“Spring teaches us patience. Things – and we, a well – grow slowly. Do not overvalue the speed that races to produce what the heart is not yet wise enough to use well.”

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.

“Summer teaches us that to have the fullness of life – great tastes, good fun, warm sun and wild abandon – we must have less of it than we expect. Too much of anything sears the soul.”

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.

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Spring connection

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.

.Happy, happy Spring to  each of you !

At a slow pace

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 🙂

Taking time to sit for more reading and leaving aside other activities that can wait a little.

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.

See all I found when I opened the pretty wrapping papers!

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”.

This is the first of her 12 calendar cards. Each month I will share a different one with you. I wish you  a lovely start of this New Year. May it bring  Peace in your heart and mind.

Quiet Sunday

November 28, 2010

A silent whiteness everywhere

Sky and soil of the same shade

Pale and grey in the early morning light

A palpable coldness through the window

A curtain that softens the wintery touch

Snow on a  quiet Sunday morning.

Summer abundance

August 24, 2010

Time for harvest ! Thanks to a very hot Summer,  Nature has been very generous ! We are having lots of fruits.  Here is an apricot tree growing on the way up to a mountain village. You can pick the fruits  yourself in the orchard,  then pay for your precious  harvest and go back home to prepare pies, marmelades, jellies or just eat them as they are: fresh, juicy, sweet.

I made some apricot marmelade for the Winter months;  a tasty reminder of a wonderful Summer afternoon spent in a steep field facing the mountains. I love spices and in this marmelade I added  just a few pieces of star anise.In our garden there is  only a single bush of redcurrants. But what a harvest ! This year its berries are particularly big and sweet. A vanilla pod gives an exotic touch to this bright red marmelade .Wild blackberries grow on a bank behind our house. Every year more and more. Almost an invasion… but one I don´t mind.  It is quite an experience (a painful one !) to pick  those delicious fruits hiding amongst their stubborn and sharp thorns !A painful job but what a reward ! The most gorgeous marmelade for your breakfast; I like to spread butter and marmelade on a slice of brown bread for my breakfast, a “tartine” as we call it.Another delicious fruit is the “zanette” (local name). These small yellow prunes are also growing in our mountains.  Not much bigger than an  olive. The prune trees do not give such a good harvest every Summer but sometimes you can be lucky. And when you are, those tiny prunes taste so good that you just eat them as you pick them : au naturel ! And if  you can save some, the marmelade you make is a real dessert. If you like “chaud-froid” (warm and cold), you can heat it lightly and serve it with an ice cream.  Why not giving yourself a treat ? 😉

Summer heat (1)

July 22, 2010

Inside or outside the house, the Summer heat we are experiencing for  almost a month is almost tangible. Trying to keep it outside is a job starting  early in the morning. I or someone else in the family (but usually it’s me…) open  shutters and windows widely. The  cool air moves around three similar windows and refresh the whole ground floor. A real delight ! Then, as soon as the Eastern sun gets warmer, I half close the shutters and shut the doors. I left them open just to show you the palpable heat trying to sneak in 😉

This second picture was taken in Andalusia, in the Spring of 2009. The sun was so hot already, even at the end of the day. I liked the way the curtain caught sight of the golden disc and of the heat you could feel through the rough textures of the linen.

And well… there are others who feel the heat in spite of their never ending energy ! Our animal friends. Little Ninio is no longer himself… even if he is still  full of mischief and hungry as ever. So thirsty too !  All of  sudden, he gets tired and stops all activity.The only place he enjoys resting on these days are the cool tiles of the ground floor. And even there, he looks like thinking :”When is the snow falling again ?” 😉

light and lines

July 16, 2010

Or when the  sun   plays with lines and textures at sunset. Illusion. Another view of things we imagine static.

A curtain starts moving in waves although there was no breeze inside the living room…

Wooden walls and wallpaper caught the same reflections from the sun through the roller blinds. Quite intriguing !

poisson d’avril !

April 2, 2010

No, it was not a “poisson d’avril”, April Fool’s Day in English ! But  real snow that had fallen all night long. Yesterday, 1st of April, I could not believe my eyes as I opened the shutters : all white again, silent and very cold. Why do we call it a “poisson d’avril” (litterally translated “April’s fish”) ? On that particular days kids love to play tricks to one another or to adults too ; one that is well known is to hang – very discreetly – a paper fish on someone’s back. It creates lots of laughter, of course 🙂

Looking down from the roof window, I could see someone not a bit worried about the weather… hiding under a snow blanket  and probably waiting for me to find him !

This is the view I have at all Seasons when I open the window. I love it all year round. This is also the start of my daily walks in the woods. A place where people meet to play tennis or soccer or pétanque (French lawn bowling)

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)