Monday, November 17, 2014


Which is a word, believe it or not, that has been taken over from the German, as is, into English: who knew?

Very appropriate that this be the word of the day today when I opened my e-mails, especially after yesterday’s blog and my recent experiences.

Gemeinschaft means social relations that are based upon not only kinship, but also social ties and personal affection: community.

We have often heard the expression, concerning the raising of children, that it takes a community: I have learned that it also takes a community to bury someone. It takes willing hearts and hands to help clean out a home; to help the immediate family and small villages seem to provide the best.

The reason for funeral services, memorial services or even a simple gathering at the cemetery or to strew ashes, is to comfort those left behind, to draw them into the greater strength of a group, to allow all to share in the remembrance of the deceased person.

Animals hide away to die; in old Indian cultures, the elderly would decide upon their “time”, hold a ceremony that allowed them to say goodbye then wander off to their favourite (often highest) point and allow nature to take its course. The moral and mental strength that took is mind-boggling to us today.

We, as a Gemeinschaft, are hopefully learning every day - and especially in sorrowful circumstances – to come together, to assist each other, to become and remain: a community.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Supporters

And, no I don’t mean football, basketball, baseball, volleyball or soccer fans.

Rather, I am thinking of those persons who in the face of adversity or crises are
capable of becoming someone to lean on, someone to listen, someone to provide that which is momentarily lacking be it food, drink, telephone calls and a host of other actions and items way too long to list.

We sometimes call some of them “carers”, but by supporters I also mean those who by one simple or non-repetitive task make another’s life easier.

My aunt (mother’s younger sister) was one such: in her professional life as she was unmarried she would take on the holiday surgery schedule so that other nurses with families could be home; she provided fresh baked goodies most weekends (not that my mother was a slouch in that department herself), she it was who gave us those toys (namely dolls, stuffed animals and watches) that were beyond my parent’s wallets.

When my father passed away, my mother’s church had a group that supplied the food for the reception; when my mother passed away, the same group provided her children with food for that reception.  And when my little sister passed away there were her friends to help us bind the community.

When my husband died, many a supportive deed was accomplished in our favour, but I am also talking of those who by their acts of listening to the lonely mother, father, grandfather, grandmother, neighbour etc. are supportive.

If I mention the supporters it is because they are rarely acknowledge: their assistance and care often taken for granted, but who of us can get through life without having the odd “hand up”?  They smooth life’s paths, ease life’s challenges and aid in facing adversity. 

Without the selfless giving of one’s time or talents, life would be so much poorer.
I salute those who give their place in line to someone more rushed; to those who provide coffee or tea for all entering their sphere during times of stress and grief; to those who print the photos or type the programs; to those who polish (unasked) someone else’s shoes; to those who walk an elderly/handicapped person across the street; to those who make the phone calls after accidents; to those who aid someone who has fallen in public to get back up and who stop long enough to make sure that they are o.k.; to those who by their presence make life a little bit easier, warmer and loving.

Heart from Harmony

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Haiku and blurry photos

Am traveling south
Towards greater warmth and sun
Escape from the grey

The photos below were taken out the train window and are thus willingly blurred
and seen through dirty glass: rather like one’s life-in-suspension whilst traveling –
the scenery either dashes by or drifts by (clouds) with little definition leaving one
to hopefully relax in an out-of-normal cessation of time.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Baked Love

It all started at the book sale last week: one of my Mary friends (there is Mary A, Mary B, Mary D, Mary G, Mary H and Mary S so far, if I add the foreign language Mary's as in Maria there would also be F and T) had been helping out at the English-speaking library since 1956 and although she no longer is there every Wednesday, she still helps with the book sale.

She is also a neighbour living just below me on the lakefront.

We got to chatting – the usual “how are you”? We really should have coffee/tea”, etc. then she proudly announced that she would be turning 90 the next Wednesday – Nov.12th.

Well I thought – need something here, but as was on a non-residue diet (don’t ask, it’s over and all is well) waited until Tuesday when I all of a sudden thought – ah ha, I haven’t made brownies in a long, long time, the weather is cooler, I have the time, let’s do it.

Then, as is my wont, started thinking…
I need to thank S for giving my younger son a desk and two sets of drawers and she loves my brownies; need to thank F who took me to the doctor; then it was going to be the physical therapist's birthday as well and, oh by the way, brownies would - if not make the pain go away - at least be a welcome comfort to my housemate who just lost one of her best friends – and whom I would be visiting.

Then, as I am making them (two double batches!) may as well make sure that I leave some for my younger son, who although he eats very healthfully has been known to make an exception for my brownies.

In short, I baked for friends and family because I love them. I’m not always so good with the hugs or words, but brownies I can bake. And I figure that “baked love” isn't the worst way of showing it.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Death at a distance

           Death at a physical distance not the way our Western society seems to hold death (and many other unpleasant things) at an emotional distance, something to be shut away, not mentioned and certainly not acknowledged in many cases: that in itself would make a blog.

The latest of these came when a good acquaintance passed away suddenly last Wednesday in Southern France.  I call her a good acquaintance out of respect as I am not sure that I can claim her as a good friend: we only met some ten years ago; she lived a seven-hour train drive away and over the years I probably only saw her a half-dozen times on trips to visit my housemate. That being said I always spent time with her during those trips be it having coffee or tea in her home, or out, having a meal together, laughing over many things, talking about Africa (she had spent time in Burkina Faso as had my oldest son) and looking over her books (she sold used books in English to the local expat community: she was also a seamstress and I had her make me two summer dresses at one point). I was there to celebrate her 75th – and met two of her daughters. Our most recent meeting was just this past summer and my brightest memory the evening four of us women had “girl’s night in”, i.e. popcorn, champagne and DVD’s – although we had so much to talk and laugh about that we never got to the DVDs as I recall.

I had to first process the shock – and didn’t write at all for several days – however as has been my want since childhood, things have to be written for me to integrate them.

Barbara’s death brought back all those others that happened at great physical distances (one of the downsides – and there really aren’t many – of living far from family is the distance needing to be bridged during crises).

The first for me was my mother-in-law in 1975: she had a stroke just days after having returned home from visiting us and we were not able to get there to see her in the hospital for three weeks (three very long weeks!). When we did, we saw her in the evening in the hospital and she passed away that night. The next was my favorite aunt in 1980: I was extremely fortunate in that my mother was able to tell me when to come and I was able to see her in the late afternoon before she passed away that night. My father fell, broke his hip, had a stroke then passed away from pneumonia all within the space of 10 days in 1998 (and as he was on the mend no one made it to see him). Although I was undergoing chemotherapy at the time I was able to be there for his funeral.  Shortly thereafter, it was the death of my husband: a good friend took me to the hospital in the middle of the night to see him one last time – we had been visiting him in ICU the week that he was in a coma due to a lung hemorrhage and before that in the hospital whilst he went through the process for a heart transplant.  Closing my own personal litany of deaths was that of my little sister in September of 2012. That was the only one where I actually had the privilege of being with her as she rendered her last breath although I had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and the whole of the USA.

Interestingly enough – of all of them, hers was the easiest, perhaps because I was physically present or perhaps because she suffered the most over the three years that the disease progressed.

In any case, death at a distance becomes very close and one needs closure so I will be traveling down to be with the villagers (she was an icon as on top of the used-English book store and alterations or the making of clothes, she also was in the Gospel choir and knew literally everyone), her daughters and her friends as we celebrate (the mourning will be done in private) her life this coming weekend.

R.I.P Barbara – you were loved and your death only creates a bit more distance than usual in between us.

Always a twinkle in her eye!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Cats – not the musical as

My younger son posted to his Facebook wall.

The first few days, weeks, months after we had to put down our last cat, for me there was no question of ever acquiring another (the fact that it happened very shortly after my sister died didn’t help, nor did the fact that my brother and sister-in-law also had to put down their dog then as well).

The second year it was nice to not have to organize someone to come in and see to cats as I traveled. This state of affairs lasted until the middle of this summer, then all of a sudden I couldn’t imagine spending the winter without a cat in the house.  I patiently waited until I finished renting in the mountains for the year, then checked out the web-site for the local animal shelter:

They were open for adoptions three afternoons a week and as my younger son was interested in going along with me we were finally able to do so two days ago.  I went thinking that I would take a cat that had been there some time, would let the cat pick me and would even be willing to have two as I was sure that it isn’t easy to place pairs.

Well, it seems that all the cats that we looked at and touched were more than happy to be our friends – even the ones that the girl thought were difficult! So that wasn’t helping.  After two hours (poor son, he is allergic and his eyes were red and he was coughing) we did finally decide to take the pair of sisters: Gougou and Kitty.

Now it won’t matter what language you translate this into, Gougou as a name just wasn’t going to happen and Kitty in our eyes wasn’t much better.  It was a very long drive home (traffic hour) and when S mentioned that one looked almost like she had eyeliner, I said Cleopatra – promptly shortened to Cléa.  Gougou took a wee bit longer but with her white bib – in France a “bavette” it just seemed to come out of nowhere – Babette.

First night was spent in the laundry room, both hiding behind the furniture under the pipes, 24 hours later Cléa was already acclimated but Babette is a bit more stand-offish.  Both don’t like sudden movements and prefer people coming down to their level, but are (very) quickly adjusting. They are four years old but have retained their youthfulness and absolutely love being petted and rubbed.

My winter will be much warmer with them in the house and I can only plead for anyone else needing a cat or dog to head for their local animal shelter – there are so many needing good homes.

Just a word for those of you wanting pictures right away - have you ever tried to take a picture of a cat that doesn't even really want to see you at the moment? It took until last night to get anything slightly o.k. but here they are!

Babette who looks like she got into the chocolate

Cléa, who contrary to appearances here, comes readily and loves being petted.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gray day, happy incidents

Does it take a gray day to notice or be more aware of the things that lighten a day?
Would I have noticed the bright orange leaf, which had gently floated onto my raindrop-splattered car window?   

Or the pretty red squirrel that dashed across the street as I was coming home?

Or the fun of the wrapping on my mini chocolate?

If the sun had been shining, perhaps that would have distracted me from noticing those touches of
Lightness: no matter, I did see them and greatly rejoiced in those splashes of color on a gray day.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A celebration or…

Food lovely food
When my housemate declared: “it’s time to celebrate, I’ve just sent off my 11th manuscript”. We debated which number it was at lunch and if one adds the one she wrote on her bout of Breast Cancer (The Cockeyed Nipple – available on Amazon; and the one that she wrote with other writer’s; Lost and Found in Camden  (proceeds also donated to Breast Cancer research, available on Amazon:, it would actually be the 13th. As I rather like number 13 and this one is set in Switzerland, I am sure that this is an auspicious sign), her husband and I said, “when, where?” and I added that I would drive them/us wherever she wished.

As one of our favorite waiters from our local restaurant has now opened up his own, taking over the Café de la Frontière on the border and since her husband had not yet been there, we decided that would be our goal.

Ah, ah and might I saw ah with a bit of awe thrown in!
She went for the “contraband” menu, I for the bi-monthly menu and R. for a hunt-based one.
We were none of us disappointed from the starter, in my case squash soup with bits of foie gras; she a foie gras lightly pan-fried and he a Caprese salad (mozzarella and tomatoes). Our main courses were also very pleasing to the palate, so much so that dessert became a modified version thereof, D-L and I settling for an apricot sherbet (that actually tasted like apricot and had bits of fresh apricot in it) and R. for a highly gourmet creation of chocolate and ice cream.

Stuffed would be a good word. Sun was shining throughout: all for celebrations!
Café de la Frontière, Anières, Suisse

Squash soup with a twist: tasty!

Duck with rasberry sauce

Some of us were tempted to lick our plates!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The early morning run…

And I don’t mean the jogging one, although in its time it too was fun, but rather that trip to the airport or train station.

My husband travelled a lot and as we were early risers anyway, it really didn’t matter that he often took the first flight out of Geneva at 6:00. For two years we lived just 5 minutes from the airport then  - although all the way across town – there was no traffic: I could get all the way to the airport at 5:00 (remember this was back when arriving an hour ahead of time was not only feasible, but legal and doable) without seeing any other cars and the bonus was sunrise on the way back.  Also the bar was open and we often had a coffee together before he walked through the then-easy security check. When our first son was born, it still didn’t matter as just put him to sleep in his carrycot and threw that in the car along with the suitcase.

In the early 80s we were in our “new” (now 33-years-old!) house and again early in the morning I could get there in 18 minutes without speeding if the lights were all green (and they often were). Now I had not only drive in along the lake as it changed from night dark to dark blue to shades of blue and gray, but also the bonus of sunrise over Mont Blanc as I drove across the one bridge linking left and right banks.

There was a smattering of cars going in and maybe two more coming out – still no big deal.

I continued to take my husband to the airport  - and was probably the only wife in town who didn’t mind doing so at the crack of dawn – as I loved that peaceful time of the world waking up, of seeing it before about 99% of the rest of the inhabitants in our state and town.

Traffic grew, but the early morning run is still not only doable, but pleasant.
My younger son needed to catch a train this morning at 7:15 and was very surprised that I offered to take him in – but oh what a blessing to yet again experience that early-morning calm and the beauty that was this morning before the sun came up!