Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Luck: chance or made?

How often do even those of us who are supposedly (and I use the word advisedly!) not superstitious avoid walking under a ladder, stepping on a crack (now how in the world that could have “cracked my mother’s back” I’ll never know), or have a favorite color, number, object etc. that brings us luck? We all would like to believe that it is a matter of chance.

I have periods where consulting my horoscope amuses me, makes me believe in it – or not depending upon whether I like the message or not – or I think, shows me a sign. Most of the time of course we reject or accept the messages along our paths by how we wish them to be and not at all upon the facts of any given situation.

For those who win fame and fortune we tend to think that they were “lucky”, that something outside themselves allowed them to achieve that status. We do this so that we can believe that, we too, with minimal input can win that lottery, buy that fancy car, upgrade our flight, vacation or whatever, purchase a new home. The key here is believing that we only have to trust in Lady Luck to achieve our heart’s desires.

We rarely, if ever, look deeper into what let the athlete win, what allowed the actor/author/word of your choice become famous. Should we do so, even then we tend to downplay the hard work, the repetition, the many hours spent practicing their art and say, but yes, without luck they still wouldn’t have “made it”.

And we won’t even go into the luck, or lack thereof, in many lives.
Mostly it’s perception: I have had bad things happen to and around me, nevertheless I have always felt lucky. Feeling lucky has pushed me to make my own luck – or continue what I perceive to be as “my” luck. If I play the lottery, I feel lucky even if I don’t win (and I can’t remember the last time I even won the price of the ticket!) as often I will have the “replay” – once even three times in a row. If I sprain an ankle, break my arm or otherwise have a health issue, surely it is because something worse would have happened, had I not.

Signs abound of my "luck": I live in my own home, have a car, two children both of whom currently have jobs, no major health issues, enough money to indulge in one of my favorite activities – travel – or to purchase books, go to concerts. Statistically I am better off than most of the world. In some ways that is luck, the luck of being born in the right place at the right time to the right culture, in other ways I have contributed by studying, working hard, saving and living wisely (i.e. no credit other than a house mortgage).

Ah, but the true "luck": that of having family and friends, of being happy is something that I haven't purchased but have been blessed to receive.

Still it sure didn’t hurt my feelings of luck to find a four-leaf clover and another stone heart on one of last weekend’s walks. They just place themselves along my path begging to be discovered and if that isn’t luck, I don’t know what is!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

“Put a Twinkle in your Wrinkle”

How I wish that I had invented that particular phrase, but I had never heard it until a friend sent me an e-mail with that title. What followed was a lovely uplifting series of photos on aging, some of which have made the rounds many times, but precious if only for this new phrase.

It is an expression from “anonymous” unfortunately so I can’t even give credit where credit is due.

We can however all reflect on how to accomplish this.
And there are as many possible ways of achieving it as there are persons growing older.

My twinkles are often from nature:

Meillerie - lunch in a restaurant on the lake front yesterday
sunrise a few weeks ago
Aoste a couple weekends ago
sunrise a few weeks ago

A much photographed lone tree in Corsier

Yvorne, Switzerland

But they can also be from a good meal, a lively conversation, a book, a piece of music and although I love being on my own, many of my twinkles come from sharing time with friends and family.

risotto on the boat in April

Brunch at my older son's a few weeks back

I have always maintained that if one doesn’t want one’s wrinkles to show, one’s face needs to be mobile. Smiling at someone brings their eyes to your eyes with less attention given to the rest of the face. Laugh and they laugh as well, quite often shutting their eyes slightly, which serves quite well to reduce their vision of your wrinkles.

And hey, even if our‘s are noticed– wrinkles are the badges we wear proudly to prove that yes, we are still here, we have survived what life has thrown us and continue to observe, enjoy, take part in and love life!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Net’Léman or...

The cleaning up of the lake!


This past Saturday and Sunday the 8th edition of this event took place in many spots along the entire lake both on the Swiss and French sides.  The organisor – ASL (Association pour la sauvegarde du Léman or The Association for the safekeeping of the Lake Leman – more commonly known by foreigners as Lake Geneva) has been active long before it became popular to try and clean up various water areas. My older son has been a member since his scout days and did a river cleanup as his Eagle Scout project – with their assistance).

When I stopped on my way into town at one of the stands, I was informed that 1’500 volunteers were expected. They have collected some 100 tons of trash during the first editions, but unfortunately people still dump things in inappropriate places.

some of the collectors

a group of kids doing their bit

One of the collection sites

Throughout the weekend though on top of the collecting of trash, there were many workshops concerning the reduction of trash, recycling or repairing every day items.
The goal is not only to pick up what others have thrown away, but to educate the public as to what they need to do to lower the volume: the few photos that I took showed that children are greatly interested and doing their part. The goal of a Net’Léman with 0 trash will probably never be met, but one can aspire to less trash, not only in the lake, but in our lives!

one of the sorting tarps

details of the TV in the picture above
same tarp and off to the side

one person's list of collected items
a couple of the divers... one where there are bubbles

For those living around the lake, plan on helping next May: www.netleman.ch or become a member of the ASL which, in addition to its work concerning the lake, also helps organize the regular cleaning of the various rivers emptying into the lake www.asleman.ch

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The rescue, or…

at least I hope it was.

It all started with a day entirely free of meetings, coffees, lunches, dinners or socialness of any kind. It was meant to be a day of catching up on office work, of sorting, of cleaning, etc. So how did it so quickly morph?

Coffee in the village was leisurely, as I had no reason to rush. Upon my return home I went straight to the neighbors to bring them up-to-date on some research that I hadn’t had time to tell them about before leaving for the weekend. After that I decided to wander around my garden and see what needed my most urgent attention…

And almost stepped on a poor baby bird that had obviously tried to fly before he/she was ready. It seemed to be fairly perky, steady on its’ feet, able to hope quite far, etc. and I was only grateful that I was able to cup it in my hands before either of the cats who were following me could get seriously interested (mind you it was close as I had to grab him/her right under Babette’s nose and paws).

Then it was into the house for a cardboard box and to search for the contact number for our local bird sanctuary. I called them and the man who answered, after my description, told me to place the bird back outside on a bush or low tree as he/she (the little bird) would call his parents and they would take care of him. I explained that I had cats and he said that I would need to keep them in the house for 2 – 3 days! 

I obeyed the instructions and put him on one of the trees close to the house as high as I could with the help of a chair. I came back into the house for my camera to take his picture outside, but by the time I got there he had already flown off and again landed in the grass under my oak trees. I kept an eye on him as he hopped further and further away: his parents did some swooping (and presumably instructions and consoling) and then I had to leave.  When I returned later in the afternoon, junior was no where to be found around my house; the cats showed no interest in any particular spot when I released them so I can only hope that the hour and a half spent rescuing the baby bird had a positive ending.

hard to get a decent picture

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Be Happy – it’s contagious

There was another of those wonderful thoughts for the day on one of my websites: “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves. -James Matthew Barrie, author (9 May 1860-1937)”.

How true – one can’t make someone else happy without its affecting one’s self in turn.

How often have our days been changed by the simple fact of someone smiling at us: showing us by word or deed that we are listened to, that we are noticed and thus that we matter? And in return, have you noticed that if you make the effort to really listen to someone, to pay a compliment or do a good deed, that your day is also brightened?

This doesn’t necessarily imply being a Pollyanna either, simply being more aware of the positives in life, of making an effort to be nice to spread the sunshine: after all in physical terms, there is more daylight (although not always with sun as well I know!) than there is darkness in most of the world, most of the year.

We drift to those who are cheery; we flee those who are constantly negative. Perhaps we should take a hard look at ourselves and loose a few of the sarcastic remarks, try and find the positive even in bad situations. If everyone made an effort to be more like the sun than the dark, we could change at least our immediate environment and the people that we make happy will in turn help us be happy.

I’m going to look for the smiles when I leave the house and am sure that if I give a few by the end of the day I will feel that it has been a good day – what more could one want?

Some beauty too perhaps? A spring walk below provided that. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

My first hike of the season

Well it would perhaps be better labeled if I said my first slow climb up the hill and leisurely meander down on the other side.  If my lung and heart are in fine shape thanks to finally having been able to walk up to coffee in my village mornings for the past month or so, the same can’t be said of my arm/leg coordination nor of my legs period.

Still I was mighty pleased that I could do it without stopping – o.k. once to stand still and listen to the silence around me: silence only broken by the twitter of birds and the wind in the trees – and another time to pick up a rock or two. Said rocks got carried a ways, then I decided that they didn’t possess enough energy and left them on the side of the road. After all I can’t haul back a rock for every walk that I take, as it is I have plenty dotting the spaces where I live.

It was a gorgeous day, Saturday, but no real wildflowers out and the plain at the top held no sheep nor cows, nor even a yak as it did one year. I was chuffed though to find some wild baby spinach where Marcel had shown me all those years ago and happily added a few leaves to my salad at lunch.

My season has started – I am back – and one of my favorite mountains (Les Dents de Morcles) watch over me through my kitchen window.

Les Dents de Morcles

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother’s Day

Like there is only one day each year that one is a mother?

Being of an analytical mind I had to trace the origins: apparently the Greeks already had a Spring festival dedicated to the maternal goddesses, honoring Rhea, wife of Cronus, who was the mother of many Deities in Greek mythology.

The Romans also enjoyed a Spring festival called Hilaria dedicated to Cybele – a mother goddess. Side thought: is this where we get the adjective hilarious – from how that festival might have been perceived?

Early Christians celebrated a Mother’s Day of sorts when they honored Mary, the mother of Jesus on the fourth Sunday of Lent.

The British had a “Mothering Sunday” where even the servants were encouraged to contact their mothers, but our modern day celebrations come mainly from Julia Ward Howe (1872) and then more formally from Anna Jarvis who – although she never married nor had children – worked to honor her mother and together with supporters lobbied politicians until Woodrow Wilson signed a Joint Resolution establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. He did this on May 8, 1914!

Meanwhile many other nations have an official celebration with the date varying so if your kids miss one (one son is in France and they celebrate it in a couple of weeks so am betting that he won’t have remembered: the other will wake up to the fact tomorrow most likely) they can always use someone else’s.

Or, if you are lucky like me, they don’t wait for just the one day of the year but are more spontaneous in their thanks and remembrance of the fact that you are their mother.

So not to reproduce the same thoughts as last year, here’s the link to the blog I wrote about being a mother.

With a newer photo of the two men who allow me the honor of being a mother on Mother's Day, as well as the rest of the 364 days of the year.

Christmas 2015

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Facebook as a stimulant

When my internet boots up there are several tabs already open and if Facebook is one of them in recent months I have not been very assiduous in my perusal of information posted therein.

However, the settings are such that I do get an e-mail when someone tags me or posts to my wall. And imagine my delight when my cousin Wayne tagged me in a report that he had found about the World’s Oldest playable organ – one that we had both visited whilst he was here doing my kitchen I believe.

I was in my mountain flat and made a snap decision to return to the Basilica of Valère above Sion just to see if I could get a better picture than we had on our last trip: although the answer to that is no (too much light coming through the upper window), I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Perched on two hill tops overlooking Sion in the state of Valais in Switzerland, the Castle and Basilica of Valère are sometimes known as the “Fortress” as it was a fortress protecting the residence of the canons of the Cathedral until 1798.

Basilica of Valère

The Rood-Screen
Looking from the back West wall
 The Basilica itself was begun in the early 1100s the continued in the Romanesque style until the early 13th century when a choir with a group of windows were added in the Gothic style. In 1526 a Crucifixion scene on the rood-screen was added and the vaulted ceiling was rebuilt in 1554. In the late 1800s, early 1900s the Swiss federal government financially supported the restoration of the Basilica. In 1987 the overall restoration of the castle and the Basilica were begun and should finish in 2017.
St. Sebastian's altar - 1450
Pope John-Paul II conferred the title of “minor Basilica” on the cathedral in 1987 and Holy mass is still celebrated.

But it’s the Pipe Organ that interests me most. Not only was organ my favorite instrument back in the days when I played, but this is the oldest playable pipe organ in the world.
It was built around 1435 in a ship’s-hull-shaped loft with buffet door panels painted by Peter Maggenberg (also around 1435!). It is the Rose window above that hinders one from getting excellent pictures especially in the afternoon as it is on the Western wall: some day I shall have to return in the morning for another try.

Left: the mystic marriage of St. Catherine. Right Mary Magdalene at the feet of a risen Christ

built around 1435

from below one really sees the ship-hull structure

In any case a lovely outing – and who would have thought that it would all be due to Facebook!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Love in the rocks…

Or love on the rocks? Or love rocks? Or Rocks of Love? Grammatically and in essence I couldn’t make up my mind as none of these titles actually really define what I mean.

Maybe I should go with “heart” something, as in, My heart of Rock, Rock’s hearts or My heart in the Rock.

Perhaps the last is best.

All that in an attempt to explain my morning’s serendipity.

Now my family and friends are well aware that “my” mountains – or any mountains available – are a source of great pleasure and add to my wellbeing. In fact two or three days of only city, or flat country are enough to have me depressed, but it did take awhile before the reason dawned upon me – a lack of mountains.

I recently found out that I have also passed on my need to gather rocks to my younger son. Just looking around the house testifies to that particular passion although I have long given up trying to label them, I most likely have at least one from every trip I ever took and I have a hard time preventing myself from picking up more every summer when I am here.

So this morning I am out on my usual walk – and carefully keeping my eyes on the path whilst in motion as we know what happens when I don’t – and even sometimes when I do and lo and behold right in front of me, at my feet, a heart in the stone.

Ah the mountains return my love.

A heart in my path

Sunday, May 1, 2016

First day of Winter, oops

I mean of May.

Which is turning out to be one and the same in any case.
This year has been topsy-turvy and weird all around: no winter to speak of, I think it snowed once at home and certainly didn’t stick, and in recent past we have had horrible, gray, rainy and cold days, interspersed with lovely 20° C days where one would have been forgiven to think that summer was coming early.

I have moved my things back up to the summer rental – so, of course – it is logically that winter followed me, especially since I swapped my winter tires for summer ones just Friday!

Big thick flakes at 6 a.m. this morning made for lovely pictures when I went out mid-morning for a walk: sticking scrupulously to the paved roads – after all the broken bones in my arm are finally solidly knit and I really, really, really, don’t want that to change.

6 a.m. May 1, 2016

This is Spring in the Swiss alps – even at low level as I am at only 1’100 meters.


A cup of snow



Purple sticking out of the snow

Snow covering purple flowers