Dormancy

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 :

http://www.lavaux.com/

vignes, guérite

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.lapin, tortue

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.chantier

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.terrasse, neige

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.

hérisson, hiver

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.

fatigué

Sleep well, greedy little one 🙂

How do you think my own dormancy looked like over this past month ?

Just like this. Books. Lost in books of fiction, history, biographies, memoir. A few have been read and enjoyed a lot. Others’ turn will come soon.books, Jan. 2013, HDR

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

It’s all about colors !

November 17, 2012

If you read this…

you will know that Scott Thomas’ new photography assignment is about

“Color Composition”.

Please visit Scott Thomas’ blog here :  http://viewsinfinitum.com/2012/11/07/assignment-22-color-composition/ for more information. Deadline to send your pictures is : November 21st, 2012; this challenge is the last one Scott is presenting to us this year. Come and join us ! Thank you Scott, it is always so interesting to share our pictures from all over the world and learn more about photography.

Here are a few pictures I would like to share with you for this assignment :

On a dull Winter day in the South of France, the overall colour in this small alley was beige but for this man’s  striking red scarf and the bright blue gate.

My favourite time for taking pictures is at sunset. I think it brings out depth and brilliance in any colour.

Autumn offers so many possibilities for displaying colours.

An opening to the  light in an ancient church. I particularly like the contrast between architecture and nature.

A magic window in The Cube of Melbourne. Another world is created by the colourful reflections between sky, lamps and decorations.

Autumn and harvest

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….

Season changes

September 24, 2012

There is no doubt about it : we are heading towards Autumn. As I write to you rain is falling heavily. Geraniums on the terrace are dancing wildly as a strong wind blows. Not a single blue patch in the sky but total greyness. Yet yesterday was a real warm and sunny Summer Sunday, with no sign of today’s storm.  I do not mind letting Summer go though. It was a particularly hot Season this year, one that was generous with sun but also with rain. In fact, I am grateful for such months that brought the best out of nature. And, as a bonus, a bit of Mediterranean climate to our cool Alps.

The deep blue lavender tones have  given way to others, just as colourful but with a softer shade. A gorgeous array of contrasts is awaiting us.Scott Thomas at “Views Infinitum” http://viewsinfinitum.com/2012/09/12/assignment-21-end-of-summer/ invited us to express in words and pictures how we felt about the End of Summer and the passage to Fall. His photography challenge ends on September 26, if you wish to participate.

A definite sign of the end of Summer are the  cooler nights and mornings. A warmer and more cosy duvet or eiderdown is now well appreciated.

End of Summer also means end of vacation for most people, especially children. They are now back in school and as you drive around the country and in town you will see those notice boards as you get near a school : “Stop before the shock !” Let’s be even more careful on the road.

Another sign of Summer leaving for warmer horizons is the lenght of the days. They have definitely been getting shorter.  This picture was taken a few minutes after 8 pm, street lamps and floodlights were already switched on. Night falls shortly before 8.30pm.  Shorter and darker days are in for many months now.  I will miss the long days of Summer indeed.

Grape harvest is a big event in my  home state, Valais. Even in this mountainous area, vineyards have been planted for centuries and have shaped the landscape in a unique way. Today is the start of the harvest season. This hillside and a lot of  other areas will be filled with grape-pickers. Busy, noisy slopes bustling with activity. Grape harvest is one of the most significant moments of the end of Summer over here. And I love it !

Just as much as I love eating grapes 🙂Of course, the change of colours in the vegetation is getting obvious. Summer has not gone completely and yet the landscape is changing. Slow but definite variations in shades and textures. The end of Summer is a promise of such beautiful and colourful transformation all around us. I am looking forward to the arrival of Fall, my favourite Season.

I had been hoping to share with you an event that really means “end of Summer” for me. It is the birds’ migration. A few days ago a large group of birds swooped down on the trees behind our house. I had never seen them before in our area. They looked like small partridges, light grey and white feathers. Pretty birds. Such loud chirping and excitement in the almost bare branches, flying from one tree to the other ! Today they are gone having eaten most of the red berries in the rowan-trees. “Bon voyage” to warmer climates, little birds !

Thanks for stoping over in our garden 🙂

Patches of Summer

September 15, 2012

Summer is still blooming, shining and giving us a bounty of Season’s delicacies we never seem to get tired of. Treasures of colours, scents, flavours and sights.

Sunflowers would highlight any day. They show us the way to the slightest sunray. “Tournesol”, from the Italian “girasole”, -“which turns with the sun”-  bears such an appropriate name.

Fine and fragile cosmos playing with the breeze, in white, pink, purple spreading out their petals like arms to better grasp the light and warmth of this Season.

And what about the fruits that abound at this Season ? Now it’s time to pick prunes, mirabelles, pears. Soon there will be grapes – a big event in our area – apples, fruits meant to last and be enjoyed during colder days. Yes, let’s face it, Summer is going to end, Fall is at the door.

“What constitutes the end of Summer for you ?”   This is the question Scott Thomas asks on his blog to anyone wishing to participate in his new photo assignment until September 26.

http://viewsinfinitum.com/2012/09/12/assignment-21-end-of-summer/

It should be very interesting to see how each participant feels about and look at the change of Season. I am going to think about it.

If you would  like to  take part in this new photography challenge, please click on the above link to get all the information.

A second life for this old fountain and a home for all kinds of pretty flowers.

One week in pictures

September 8, 2012

Some weeks just go by their own quiet way and rhythm. I do not mean  a routine because there seems to be something special in each day. In some weeks though there are events out of the ordinary, people and places you will remember. The week described here was one of those.

Monday is sometimes a day when I try cooking new recipes. Pies or quiches are amongst my favourites. Some of them I find reading blogs such as Tammy’s. Her blog is not only about food but also about community supported agriculture. Well worth reading.

http://agrigirl.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/i-like-pie/#more-6508

  The recipe is about a tomato pie. Since I had a big and beautiful zuchini  waiting to be picked in the garden, I added some of it in the pie (grated and grilled a little). This is the only change I made. It tasted really delicious, Thank you very much, Tammy.

On Tuesday I had to go to town  and found a quiet lane to walk for a while with Nino-the-beagle. Guess whom we met ? Another beagle looking lonely behind a fence. What do two beagles say to each other when they meet : “Let’s escape together and go hunting !”

Wednesday morning. Brilliant clouds welcomed me as I opened the shutters. “O, beautiful golden clouds, what will you bring us on this day” ? As it happened, the warm morning turned into a stormy day. A rather temperamental weather this Summer but a rain that was well needed too.

A short break after work on Thursday afternoon. As we  were  sitting on a bench with a friend, a “school-boat” was floating down the canal. A lady was steering the little boat back to its mooring. Not as simple as it looks  and she did very well.

Friday was a rainy day. A drive over the mountains to visit long-time friends of our family. It was cold, foggy. The landscape looked  autumnal and yet beautiful in its own way.

On Saturday morning at our friend’s home, we were awaken by a ballet of helicopters. Every third minute or so, a helicopter would fly over the area, fill a big  bucket of water (700 liters) and pour it down on the forest which had caught fire during the night. It took the pilots two whole days to stop it. Nobody was injured and the damage could be stopped in time.

Sunday was a happy celebration day ! Family and friends gathered around Alima, our youngest niece. The sun shone brightly  for her. There were prayers, songs, dance and lots of African food and music. Another change of scenery in this particular week.  Alima was quite comfortable and relaxed dancing in her  proud grandmother’s arms.

Guess what I did on Sunday ? After a rest following the previous long day, I sat down on a lovely terrace between sky and earth, took my pen and some nice stationary; I wrote to a dear friend all about my recent week. Internet is not part of her world and we both enjoy exchanging letters every month.

How about  photo assignement  this month ? Here is one proposed by Karen at http://karmardav.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/photo-hunt-inspiration-and-early-announcement/

The deadline is August 31st and the theme is about the place(s) that would represent the “End of the earth” for you. Karen explains all about it in her blog (see above link, please).

Looking through some of my recent and older pictures, I found some images that I thought would show you my vision of the end of the earth.

A hamlet up in the Swiss  Alps.  About 15 people live there all year round. Both sides of the mountain slopes seem to close in front of the small village. On a foggy day the chalets look isolated, almost lost in the forest. To me it does look like the end of the earth. When the sun is out though the high mountains all around offer you a different sight: a quiet little village from where you could start hiking to the  mountain pastures.

On a brighter side, here is a man doing paragliding;  it looks as if he is heading to the end of the earth… A view that made me dizzy and envious of the infinite space that lay all around him and that is so difficult to imagine.

Sunset on the large lake, beauty, light, peace,  isolation. It seemed that one could not go further and that the horizon of the lake would be the end of the earth.

Austral mountains and forests stretching out to the horizon.  No visible village nor town nearby. No hikers to be seen around. The only sounds were the calls of the noisy cockatoes. A sure feeling of being at the end of the earth.

As for the “extreme” type of picture I felt like adding to Karen’s photo hunt, I chose this one. I took it a few years ago as I was walking along a mountain trail. Two boys  were cycling and they stopped in front of a trail going down the slope. So steep that I would have hesitated to walk down there myself. I barely had time to ask : “Are you sure you…” and down they went !

in a today’s  music hall. In less than a few hours, Johann Strauss’ son Operetta “La Chauve-Souris” (The Bat or Die Fledermaus) will be presented in a totally different auditorium as it was first shown in 1874.

FRI-SON is a self-managed multicultural  complex usually dedicated to all kinds of contemporary music styles. The sounds that you can hear today and maybe the artistic trends of tomorrow.

Little by little these industrial buildings were transformed into the happy looking hall that has welcomed so many musicians and groups from here and abroad.An entrance door  still closed in the afternoon. Tickets for the Strauss’ operetta were sold out for today’s performance. I got some for next week though.A quick visit inside the concert hall: a modern equipment and old posters of previous concerts.

The empty bar that will be crowded and noisy in a few hours.

On my way back, a bus from the Czech Republic had just arrived. The members of the Philharmonic Orchester from Praha were unloading their musical instruments and getting ready for their “première” in “FRI-SON” (one of its meanings is “shiver” in French 😉 )

And now, just for a change and if you feel like it, here is the Ouverture of “The Chauve-Souris” as played by the Vienna Philharmonic, directed by H. von Karajan in 1987.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHF5LP53LZY&feature=related

Times change but music remains !

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”.