Sunday, May 31, 2015

“Gather ye rosebuds whilst ye may” or…

In my case – wildflowers.

The quote of the title is very well known (but who knows to whom it should be attributed?)
Urging us in general to not waste time, but to do that for which tomorrow may be too late.
Usually whoever quotes it is trying to get someone else to “get on with it” and they are probably not thinking much of nature.

However, all philosophy aside, I gathered photos of wildflowers today: there is that magic few days in late spring, early summer when almost all the wildflowers are in bloom in my little corner of the Swiss alps. It is a short period – thus the link to the quote. It was a joy to see each one – however, I actually did resist taking photos of the dandelions, the clover buds and the thistle balls – I also add NO cultivated flowers although many are coming along nicely besides the chalets and barns. But I couldn't resist the one lilac tree in someone's yard - and the "fuzzy chicken" - they're back!

And in order to not stretch your brain cells too much on this glorious Sunday, the quote isn’t Shakespeare nor any of the well known and oft quoted poets. In fact I bet that most of this poet’s works are better known for their phrases than for his name: Robert Herrick – a 17th poet and cleric.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Finding one’s equilibrium

Life’s a balancing act: and usually we aren’t on the fulcrum but rather either up or down or somewhere in between, very rarely are we perfectly in balance.

To re-align ourselves, or find our equilibrium, we have many possibilities: from some it is listening to music (and again depending upon the person it can vary across the whole spectrum); for some it’s getting lost in a book; for some it’s exercise; for some it’s sleep; for some it’s vacation; for others work – you get the idea.

These activities can be added to places that allow one to re-center oneself: again there are as many possibilities as there are persons, however we often think

  • City breaks – big cities with museums, concerts and the like
  • Beach vacations – some simply enjoy the sun and water, others are more sporty
  • Countryside – with walks and slower activities
  • Cultural excursions – to a specific museum or entertainment
  • Mountains – hiking of all sorts, fresh air, skiing in the winter

It is the lucky person – or wise one – who knows what they need to do to relax and find their inner point of calm.

For me it’s the mountains, although in an emergency there are a few beaches in this world when in the offseason I can also happily wander. I can be social (very) but inevitably I need to retreat from people and explore nature. Nothing does me more good than a walk through the forests of some mountain peak or cross rough terrain above tree line.

After a two-week period of overly social activities – everyone of which I did enjoy – I was at the end of my rope so to speak so headed upwards. This mornings’ walk did wonders: the sound of the breeze in the trees, the birds twittering their news - I didn’t hate even the crows this morning- the crickets in the grass, the sheep bleating to each other, the sound of the water in the small rivers, it was all good.  Add to it the perfect temperature and sun – I’m me again!

a new fall

Monday, May 25, 2015


I love the fact that the minute I get home from a trip that my word a day is sending me those linked to my (current) mother tongue: French.


(pol-i-TES, po-lee-)

noun: Formal politeness or courtesy.

From Old French politesse (cleanness, polished state), from Italian politezza (polish, smoothness), from Latin polire (to polish). Ultimately from the Indo-European root pel- (skin or hide), which also gave us pelt, pillion, and film. Earliest documented use: 1683.

Well I must be possessed of some politesse as I have kind of tidied up the entry, the kitchen and the living room – picking up a visitor at the train station today (and yes I even got my suitcase emptied and put away – there’s one for the records!) so fulfill the Old French explanation. The Italian of polish or smoothness – hmmm not quite so likely unless you count my newly washed hair that I tried to blow-dry my preferred style – sleek.

Isn’t it interesting that it came from the root of “pel” meaning skin or hide: so does politesse mean that one smoothes or polishes one’s hide or skin? If so I am going to flunk the meaning according to the original root meaning.

Well on to being polite or courteous at least for today: it’s a holiday after all. And there’s more on that particular subject at my housemate’s blog:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Entertaining visitors two

Friday morning was more of a catch-up-on-jet-lag and a late start.

Back down in Martigny the weather was not at all the beautiful sunny day of the day before (which had been predicted) so we drove again around to get the various views and more folklore in the Old Town as well as exploring the local cemetery before grabbing a bite to eat cafeteria style at one of my favorite places.

Vineyards on the hillside

Sign on a restaurant in the "Bourg"

whimsical balconies again in the "Bourg"
details on a tombstone

details on a tombstone

Then it was off to one of my favorite museums: The Giannada.
This time I concentrated more on the car museum bit as had already seen the current exhibition, but F took it all in.

Horn on the Turicum

The PicPic

Shell gas pump

Ford Model T

Lizard on the huge crystal in the museum

I also had to drop him at the Protestant temple for a look at the Erni windows then decided that I had to see the Catholic Chapel with the stained glass windows of Father Kim en Joong from Korea (when Leonard Giannada ordered the ones from Hans Erni for the Protestant Temple the city fathers wanted to know what he was going to do for the Catholics: this was his reply).

The Catholic Chapel at La Batiaz
Flower beds behind the chapel
It was rainy all day with snow down to around the 1’000 meter level so beautiful in the background.   
The main Catholic church in Martigny with snow on the hillsides

Up in the village of Les Marécottes is stuck

From out of the restaurant window

More of same

With the clouds clearing in time for me to get a shot of Les Dents de Morcles, Fondue next door made a fitting dinner and end to the day.

nothing like a fondue as winter reappears!
Les Dents de Morcle in the setting sun

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Entertaining visitors…one

Now we all know that I travel a lot, but some of you also know that occasionally I also enjoy receiving visitors from outside of Switzerland: that means playing tour guide, or at least showing whomever I am hosting the local highlights.

The Vevey pulling into the dock at St. Gingolph
So Thursday it was off to Martigny for a couple of nights in Les Marécottes – where I hang out in the summer.

F showed up from the USA (o.k. California to be exact) on an earlier train, but we managed to find each other without an error in spite of his not having a workable cell phone. I had gotten there a bit early as well and happily read one of the newspapers that had gotten laid to the side whilst I was gallivanting around a week earlier: he had a beer in one of the coffee shops across the street.

As the weather was good – and bad weather (really bad) foreseen for the next day, I decided that after lunch (one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Martigny) we should concentrate on anything outdoors just to make sure we were able to walk a bit.

Church steeple so old that the trees are growing out of it.

Wandered with the car back to the rest stop on the freeway with its artificial lakes and wind surfers, parking on the back side in order to also take in the fruit trees and especially the huge wind machine (for want of the correct word) in the middle of the agricultural plots.

98 meters high - ENERCON E-82

Then it was up the hill, stopping at the Gueuroz Bridge for a look back down the Trient Gorges. The Gueuroz Bridge held the record for the highest bridge in Europe for 29 years from the time it was built in 1931-1934 (187 meters) until the Europabrücke was finished in Austria in 1963. Now it is well down on the list.

an old avalanche "tunnel"

beehives on the hill

After passing through Salvan (famous for the fact the Marconi did some of his research here; the church also has a wooden plate honoring the cook who went down with the Titanic) we drove through the village of Les Marécottes then continued on to the farthest one reachable by car – Trétien as well as stopping for coffee at the newly opened Zoo and Alpine Pool. Under new management as of May 14th they were full and I hope that they do well. Two sons have taken it over with the help of their retired father: we wish them only success!

The train that goes from Martigny to Chamonix in France

Having seen a great deal and enjoyed the warmth and sun it was off to the Café Central and their crepes for dinner. A well-spent day of not-quite-the-usual tourism.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Starting over…

Although I love my life, the to-ing and fro-ing especially during the six months
of the summer when I rent in the mountains, sometimes (o.k. often) brings its
own set of problems.

The first trip up, I take linens, towels and most of the first necessities. I unpack the doubles of other items that have been left in storage. Then I make lists of what is missing.

It often takes three or four trips to finally get things back into place (I would have said totally, but 100% never happens).

Then there are the machines that have been left there to re-start, with more or – today’s case – less success: the coffee machine works great normally and I had already used it so why, oh why was it only putting out colored water? One sip and I knew something was wrong, I mean even sound asleep I know when there’s not much coffee in my seemingly full cup.  Call it need of coffee, call it simply not thinking, I checked the capsule, returned it to the machine and proceeded to get another cup of even clearer brown water.  It was only then that I thought to myself: hmmm was that an old capsule or a new one? Searching through my memories (even first thing in the morning a rather delicate task) I realized that, in truth, I had not put in a new capsule. The thus-brewed cup of coffee was almost too strong!

not necessarily mine

Then it was booting up the printer: it spends the winter at my landlord’s so first challenge was to remember how to hook it up to my computer: negotiated rather successfully if I do say so myself.  Pulled up the letters that I wanted to print; hit the buttons to print, the machine whirled, made its usual noises and produced a piece of blank paper. Hmmmm.
Second try before I remember that perhaps I had taken the ink cartridges out for storage.
Sure enough – they were in the box of office supplies. Insert cartridges: re-print first letter – obtained a few little blue bits about two-thirds down the page. Re-try  with the same effect. Take out cartridges, re-insert, re-try: still not much and certainly not the letter! Run the cartridge cleaner, try re-aligning and finally managed to end up with a great print of only one of the four cartridges – the blue, but as the letter was written in black… no letter.
And yes, somewhere along the way I had checked to see how much ink was left in all four cartridges: supposedly enough to write two letters at least.

similar to mine

At that point I decided the letters would wait until I get home tomorrow – especially as I do have a full new set of cartridges there (yet another of those items that hadn’t yet made the list).

That, together with the miserable weather (Wednesday at home it was 90°F, today in the mountains it is just barely 42°) means the third thing that has gone wrong or is off: great the rest of the day’s undertakings, activities and tasks should go very well indeed!

Monday, May 11, 2015



Another variant would be:


Or an exercise in positive thinking:


See, fiddling around with words - that made this one bearable!

created with

Sunday, May 10, 2015

I am a mother…

(The following is not exhaustive, simply what came to mind suddenly a few minutes ago.)

Now that’s a short, uncomplicated sentence, after all two of the words are only one letter.

It’s the concept that isn’t quite as simple: what makes me a mother?

Physically it is the biological fact of giving birth to my two sons: I was one of the lucky ones and thought 10 minutes was tough the first time around: I wanted to “stop and finish tomorrow” obviously that wasn’t happening, but it was in retrospect not difficult; the second one was 20 minutes of hard labor – I knew that I had no choice though and got on with it.  Both boys were born on a Saturday night (within an hour of each other though not the same day, time of year nor even close in month or year) and my labor didn’t begin until
mid morning one time and early afternoon the other. I slept well the night before; I slept well the night after.

That was perhaps however the easiest part of being a mother.

All these years later as I reflect it isn’t simple at all: being a mother meant

  • A lack of sleep (still does but for other reasons);
  • Being a mother meant being responsible for that tiny human being that couldn’t feed itself or do anything to protect itself – the dependency would scare anyone, new mothers seem to take it in their stride unless a hormonal imbalance causes depression;
  • Being a mother meant listening (I found that one of the hardest parts of being a mother to a teenager was that they were going to need 10 minutes of your time at some point in the day and it was usually when you were dead tired or at your least available – like midnight);
  • Being a mother meant encouraging – that first step, the reading of those first letters, words, sentences, whole books (we were avid fans of the English-speaking library but as they attended public school in French we also obtained in due time cards to the local library as well), the “yes-you-can” take a test, apply for a driving license, get over the break-up – being encouraging also meant simply stepping back and letting it happen: experience if often the best teacher
  • Being a mother meant all those roles and titles that often appear in the classic texts, jokes or other writings concerning the subject: cook, laundry-woman, chauffeur, teacher, house-keeper (except those teenage rooms – more than happy to let those be off limits!), ironing, bank – a list that is by no means exhaustive
  • Being a mother meant worry, not only worry as to where they were and what they were doing, but also the worry of “am I doing enough”? “am I doing it right” “where did I make a mistake”?

But being a mother also means:

  • The pleasure of the first smile, the first word (for some reason to entertain ourselves one Sunday the older son and I made a list of all the words his not-quite-two-year-old brother knew – I still have the list!), the first step.
  • The joy of seeing them learn something knew – a continual process although perhaps no longer quite as much of a surprise.
  • The privilege of seeing them develop their own personalities, their own strengths (ok those odd genetic weaknesses of manners or character are to be ignored)
  • The wonder of seeing someone that tiny and dependent become self-sufficient and even eventually capable of caring for the parent in a never ending cycle of life
  • The fun of challenging them (and ones self) to see or learn something new, to explore that off-the-road trail, to read that odd book, to interact with a culture or age that is far from one’s own
  • The outright happiness of seeing them reach their potential as good people, productive members of society or goals that they have set themselves.
  • The satisfaction of knowing that like those ancestors you never knew, they would perhaps continue the line of humanity, perhaps even making it a little bit better in their own way.

One thing is for sure: being a mother doesn’t stop from the time it starts until one is no longer alive. It’s a wild ride, but oh the joy and beauty of that phrase for me:

I am a mother!

My 65th birthday