Thursday, March 30, 2006

Merry Christmas -- Solved

I know Christmas is still nine months away, but when it involves international travel it is good to plan in advance. Our original idea was to go Thailand to spend it with a Syrian friend, but my daughter’s work schedule would have meant she would have spent more time in the air than there and the cost was budget-choking. (I still have to tell Yara but I haven't ruled out a trip to Thailand at another time).

Plan II would have been to spend it in Geneva. My housemate’s family would have been there and my daughter and Marina would both be welcome for a full house. Presents would be downplayed with a secret drawing rather than excess, which was indeed welcome. However, the trip was still too far for her for the too little time that she had.

Then the problem of where came up. With the several ton elephant that exists between my daughter and I we needed a place that the elephant wasn’t welcome. She suggested my step-mom’s. My step-mom loved the idea. I did mention it was only a maybe but she was so excited that any other alternative seemed unreasonable.

Today I booked my ticket for December 16-Dec. 31. Although my daughter won’t be able to spend a long time, I will have a good amount of time with my mom, and my daughter is talking about an elephant-trip to Geneva in November to see her old hash friends, have a fondue at the Café du Soleil and check out my new home, which she hasn’t seen (I don’t think unless she cat sat once for my housemate).

Christmas solved.


For years I’ve used the expression “you’re trying to gaslight me,” when someone was driving me crazy. I knew it came from the 1944 movie with Boyer, Cotton and Bergman, but I had never seen it.

Today it was on TV under the name Hantise. When I was little I thought Charles Boyer was an old man. A dogpile search showed he killed himself at 80 two days after his wife died. He must have been 46 when he made the film and he looked young and sexy. However, I still wouldn’t want to be gaslighted by him or anyone.

Mini beach holiday

It is a mini Argelès vacation. I’ve finished Triple Deckers (which is now being proofed by friends to scare away all typos) and I am all caught up on my journalistic stories. Today the sky was blue. I walked to the beach and settled on a bench where I’d never sat before. Rather than face the water I was looking in the direciton of the 14th century fortress Madeloch perched on the middle mountain surrounding the bay.

It had protected France against Spain, Spain against France and Majorca against whoever.

My mind wandered to those who had lived in this village long before the palms were planted lined up in perfect symmetry and brick walkways were flanked by cafés and boutiques. This village only began to attract tourist in the last 100 years or so of its 1000+ year history. For the intervening centuries farmers and fishermen must have walked where I sat.

Today is was couples holding hands, a roller bladder, a lanky young man in an orange T-shirt and a cocker puppy who thought it was fun to pull back on his leash. Heel or à pied was not in his vocabulary yet.

No one could tell the temperature from people’s dress. Some wore sweaters but a couple of young women had spaghetti strap shirts without any sign of goose flesh.

It today was in the late 1930s I am sure refugees from Franco would have been where I was.

A few of the cafés and boutiques were open, others were painting and hammering for the tourist season. Some are still boarded up.

In my pocket I had my ticket to go back to Genève, where my roommate has complained about the cold. I’m a little old for the university spring break, but the feeling doesn’t have an age limit.

Of course, with the strikes getting back might be harder, but as they say on verra.

Spring memories

Fresh peas and baby potatoes about the size of a fingernail are on the market now. As much as robins, this is another sign that spring may still make it. The unpeeled potatoes steamed in a little olive oil and fresh sage (good for the memory) are wonderful. The peas need only to be cooked for a couple of minutes and then sprinkled with butter and/or cream and fresh mint.

Most of Europe is warmer causing the potential of floods in Czech from rains and snow melting too fast.

I think of my former neighbors whom I still miss. My dog Mika preferred their house to mine, and seldom would go by their door without scratching to be let in. Of course he was then hand fed salami as he sat in a place of honour on the couch and told how beautiful he was. No wonder he loved them.

I benefited as well. They preferred bread from Prague and every couple of days a loaf would arrive in the diplomatic pouch. Too much for them to consume, I would find a third of the loaf hanging on my door.

Many people in Geneva tend not to make friends with internationals who have limited contracts because they will only lose them. I would rather have had their four years of friendship than missed knowing them.

One of my fondest memories is having the man help me open my rusted plant holders on my balcony. He and I were speaking English. His wife was making suggestions. She and I were speaking French. His daughter and son-in-law who were visiting and I communicated in my bad German, and of course the family was speaking Czech. Despite the polyglot atmosphere the plant holders were fixed and I could plant my geraniums.

Spring is the time of renawal and I will write them as they do me.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Plastic bags

French grocery stores are no longer giving plastic bags. You can buy them, they write the date on them and when they wear out they replace them. Years ago people took their baskets shopping. Although it is a pain if you forget the bag, it is much more environmentally friendly.

The only problem is that I've used store plastic bags as my garbage bags. However, you can still get plastic bags for vegetables, but even then I used one bag for all rather than be wasteful. Once at the Co-op in Geneva the cashier explained to me I had to have one bag for all. I told her as the customer, I wasn't wasting plastic and the oil they are made from. In Swiss grocery stores they tend to package vegetable in quantities that aren't made for a small or one person family. When you can select the quantity, you weigh them and a sticker comes out with. I put several stickers on one bag.

I am not sure I am a throwback to my grandmother who used and reused everything or a throw through to the future when waste will once again not be possible for the human race.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

No need to dust for fingersprints

The two window boxes looked desolate. The dead leaves from last year’s flowers could not cheer up the purple and blue flowers on their white ceramic background. I searched the marché to buy replacement flowers and grabbed petunias thinking they were pansies. Okay, I am not a great plant person. I do know purple and planted the flowers.

My neighbor Madame Martinez stood by watching. She has one those open faces that breaks into a smile at the drop of a bonjour. A real plant lover, last year she talked me through each of my attempts to bring nore plant life to the street that is a floral wonderland. “Not enough dirt,” she said referring to the left box as I patted the petunias into the soil.

“I know. I’ll get some later.”

Her husband went to one of the two royal blue containers that flank my front door. “Papillons ate your geraniums.” He pulled out the dead plant and showed me where the little buggers hollowed out the inside. The rest of the calf-high planters was weed-cover but at least it was green. (The other planter has a tree which hasn’t succumbed to my neglect.)

I am still not sure if the Martinez’s applaud my attempt to no longer be one of the only houses on the street not to have flowers or despair for my black thumb or both.

I went in and did some things. By the time I came out again, one the planter with not enough dirt was emptied of my new petunias. My first thought was they were stolen, but then I saw the weeds in the blue planter had been replaced by the momentarily missing petunias. I didn’t need to dust them for finger prints to know that Madame Martinez had been at work. I must remember to say merci before I return to Geneva.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Phish and Philosophy

I was the only one in the store, but it took almost a half hour to buy a fish filet. Dani, the fishmonger, stood behind the crush-iced-ladened counter with the fish arranged artistically in head-to-tail order. Cut lemon, cooked prawns, tartar sauce were decoratively displayed. I made my selection in minutes. We spent the time talking about life, the importance of community and calmness, families, recipes, life in Paris vs. life in a village etc. Not a moment of my time was wasted as we laughed together and bridged new understandings. All that and a good piece of fish for lunch. She believes she should only be open mornings and never Sunday and Monday to give time to the things she enjoys in life. She has enough.

All that and a good piece of fish for lunch.

Starting the day with news

As a devoted news junkie there’s something I like about waking up and watching BBCnews and CNN before getting out of bed, probably a variation on the joke about the man who said he read the obits before beginning a day. If his name wasn’t there he went ahead with his day.
If the world hasn’t ended I can start my day.

This morning I noticed something I have heard on French news from the BBC. When reporting on US, the statistics are preceded with the phrase “If the numbers are to be believed.”

Meanwhile there is a sense of ridiculousness about the news. Drug people from Columbia are being indited. We have to catch them first. In the whole drug war, it is all on catching on people and nothing about treatment. The drug trade always seemed to be the use of free market and globalization at its purest.

Then BBC discussed the bugging of Greek officials’ phones to the lead up of the Olympics that lead to the suicide of a man. They had an unnamed diplomat at the American embassy saying it was the US because the US wasn’t confident in the Greek’s ability to provide security.

And of course Bush was still in fantasy land talking about Iraq. Once again a man stood up and said how glad he was that Bush was Commander in Chief.

A bit of talking back to the television then I can do my morning routine of exercise, breakfast and start to write.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Hope however minimal

My buddy Dennis sent me this to give me hope.

The rebuttal said everything I’ve been feeling for the last three years.

A pilgrimage for charity

May wandered off to get a nightie for her pilgrimage for her walk of St. Jacques de Compostelo and She will earn her pilgrim’s shell, stay in monasteries with other pilgrims in the medieval tradition.

A retired midwyfe from Scotland she is dropping over 200 letters into the mail asking for sponsorships.

She doesn’t want the money for herself, but for a charity in South Africa run by two former accountants who left their work to take care of AIDs orphans in a tiny village. May visited them and saw children who were lucky when they had powdered milk. Often corn was ground and water added (not necessarily good water) to provide their basic food.

Another friend is thinking of giving up a lucrative job to work with the elderly.

Thank god for the people who try and make the world better. Good on anyone who at least goes through live without making the world worse. A pox on those who destroy life.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Small worlds and all that

When I was a bride living in Germany we were friends with another couple, a musician and his wife from upper state New York and their infant son. Even after we returned to the States we stayed in touch and after my marriage broke up, my daughter and I visited them often. By that point they had a little girl, one year older and I have pictures of the two girls at various stages.

One of those visits gave rise to a family story. Before driving back to Boston, a good six hours, I called home to let me roommate know we were on our way. Once in the car my daughter started to talk and talk and talk. She recited nursery rhymes, she sang songs until I thought I would go mad. Nothing would stop her. At home I staggered out of the car. She did too and hoarsely whispered to my roommate, “I did like you said, I kept Mommy awake.”

Finally we lost track but they were in my thoughts. Last week, I did an email search and found the name of the son, working at a company. I took a chance and emailed.

An email came back. It was the right one and Sunday night my girl friend and I had a good chat. Despite life’s disappointments and successes, her voice sounded just like it did when I sat at her kitchen table watching her roll out pizza dough. I half expected our two little daughters to climb into our laps.

However, when we started talking about our kids, we discovered that both girls were now living in Leesburg VA. As soon as my friend sends the contact numbers I’ll pass it onto my daughter who is looking forward to talking to her childhood buddy.

At one point my friend and I caught up on our mother’s who have both died. We had at times difficult relationships. I wonder what our girls will say about us, but then again, maybe I don’t want to know.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


When Amadeus and Albert, my two Japanese chins, went to the great dog biscuit factory in the sky I was left with lots of wonderful memories and some less wonderful ones like the horror of five international flights with dogs, which although they ended with healthy pups, were a worry. After we moved to Toulouse, a while back, my neighbor, Anne a 13 year old who later had a successful liver transplant, renamed them Einstein and Mozart, and as long as I lived in the neighborhood they were known by that, except when they were called the musician and the brain, which in Albert’s case was more complimentary than factual.

Recently a friend named her new pup Mozart and this weekend I was in Schwyz visiting a friend and former colleague and her St. Bernard pup Einstein, who although only four months is already bigger than an adult Lab.

This Einstein has a gentle soul and is a lover of slippers. I found my slipper-shod foot surrounded by his mouth, although no pressure was applied. He rolled his eyes up with a gee-it-would-be-nice but accepted my decision to remove foot and slipper from my mouth.

My friend’s house looks out on snow covered fields leading into a pine wood. I did not roll down the blinds because I wanted to wake to the beauty. Because I left my room door closed, my slippers were still on the floor in the morning.

As I write this Einstein is laying on the rug at my feet, his head on one of the slippers, a worthy compromise.

You can't believe in stereotypes

The Swiss Germans have a reputation for being cold and unfriendly, but if one woman on a train is an example, they are in danger of losing that reputation. I wanted to go to Schenderleggi, but the name was not posted on the board by the track where the station attendant told me to wait. On the train I asked this fortiesh blond in my bad German if it were the right train.

“Ja,” she said and showed me on the map that covered the trays at each seat the route. When the conductor announced the stop in his sing song Swiss Deutsche, she turned and held both thumbs up. I smiled and thanked her, but her helpfulness wasn’t through. She led me to the door and made sure I knew how to push the button that opened the doors. “Sie Sind eine gute Frau,” I said.
”Merci,” she said.


Spring is trying but not hard enough. In Geneva it is still duvet-coat cold, but there is a hint of a smell that only happens in spring of the ice letting go of the dirt, probably what e.e. cummings was thinking of when he used the word mudlious. When I left the house much too early to catch a train to Zürich, the last hoots of the owl were drowned out by a chorus of birds, which have been silent through March.

Munchkin the cat must notice a rise in the temperature because when she asks to go out, she changes her mind less often when testing the wind with her nose and also stays out longer. There is a temperature that when she does go out she is almost immediately meowing at the door or window. She seems to know which room we are all in and has a large amplifier in her system that lets her voice penetrate barriers.

Where I stayed in Schwyz spring seemed even further away with snow still piled up and cross country skiers sliding through the fields, but I was staying at 500 meters in a little town called Schenderleggi. It seemed like the start of a DuMaurier novel. I want to go back to Schenderleggi… with the name rolling around my tongue.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


I did it. I got from October to Marc without losing my one pair of gloves. Today I left them on the bus. They were cheap gloves. The last expensive pair I bought were from the leather market in Florence and were the softest red leather I ever felt. I caught myself stroking my hand the whole one time I wore them before leaving them on a table in a forgettable village in France on an adventure with RB2. Now the question is do I bother to find one more pair of cheap gloves for the rest of the winter.

Selling and selling out

There is a group that wants to buy the 1291 document that formed Switzerland in that year, making it the world’s oldest democracy and put it in a US museum. Needless to say, the plan is met with less than enthusiasm. As one newspaperman wrote, he couldn’t imagine Americans selling the Declaration of Independence. No one mentioned the sell-out of the American Constitution.

Fighting Graffti

A novel way to battle graffiti on trains and in train stations has been announced by the CFF. They have asked that the employees who wash the graffiti off, first use their cell phones to take a photo. They will store the photos in a data base and because some spray artists have distinctive styles they hope by preserving evidence they will increase their convictions. Now there’s a use of cell phones that is original.

Trains and oranges

About 98% of the time when I am on a French or Swiss train someone eats an orange. The smell is wonderful. However, on my weekend getaway to Paris, no one ate an orange, and I arrived home feeling something was missing. Today, the heavens balanced themselves. On the Number 9 bus from Eaux Vives, a woman with short hair peeled a blood orange.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Death announcements

Le Matin Bleu kept the francophone tradition of not announcing deaths. Slobodan Milosevic didn’t die, according to the newspaper, he escaped his judges.

Postcards from Paris

Friday night – Three women, three nationalities, ages from three different decades in a Parisian flat complete with tiled roofs out the window, good food and great conversations.

Saturday – lunch at a favourite vegetarian restaurant. The owner sang “I want to be loved by you” to one of his staff and we chorused poop poop de do. He convinced everyone there was an imaginary hole on the route to the toilets and even the most self-conscious local made an effort to step over the hole. People watched to see if they would.

Saturday – Sacre Coeur in the rain, a candle lit for a sick relative, a wander through the square where artists drew passer-bys, a discovery of all kinds of cloth shops, and a cup of hot tea in a tea room. When Marina said “entertain me” then disappeared for the obligatory stop, Mary and I quickly added faces to our knuckles and serenaded her on her return to “Let me entertain you…” followed by “There’s no business like show business…” with the appropriate “leg” kicks.

Saturday night – Three women in jamies watching DVDs as the rain pattered against the window.

Sunday – leisurely breakfast followed by a boat trip. This may be the fourth time I have done it (the boat trip), but I never stop pinching myself that I am in Paris and not as a one-time thing. I lost count of the times after 30 and maybe they shouldn't be counted. For a “little girl from Reading,” as my childhood friend’s father termed me, for a New Englander whose mother believed if you went much further than Boston you fell off the edge of the earth, it is a miracle.

Book launch report by popular request

Four people have asked why I didn’t blog my European book launch.

The evening was wonderful with old and new friends and a few strangers too.
The location was my hairdresser, maybe a strange place for a book launch, but the two brothers that own the salon, use it as a gallery and a place to support the arts or maybe vice versa.

The night was horrible, rainy, cold, damp – thank goodness Swiss buildings are well heated. I did say before I read selections from THE CARD that I wasn’t sure I would have gone out on a night like that.

Some people are shy about reading. I take great pleasure in it, especially when people respond as I hope they will. It takes so long to produce a book, and even when I am in the middle of writing it, I am never sure it will find a reading public. So when people laugh where they should, or cock their heads at just the right moment, there’s a feeling of “I nailed it.” Of course, there’s always the fear that blank faces will look back at you, but this did not happen.

The question and answer period after also touched me. One of the women in the audience remembered me reading one of the same selections in Zurich over ten years ago. At that stage, the book was still a seedling.

Christmas music played to create the mood. The son of my housemate played bar tender and made a new friend, a plus for helping me out.

My last book launch for CHICKPEA LOVER had been at the now defunct book store Elm (hopefully there was no connection to their going out of business and my reading). That night was as hot as this was cold. But that reading had something special: my daughter and neighbour were there. For this reading they were in two different countries, and I did miss their faces in the audience. However, I carried their warmth with me.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Tea and Perspective on Mothers and Daughters

Yesterday morning I had tea and biscuits with two charming little girls, three and five and their writer stay-at-home mom. Actually, the girls had milk and bite-sized chocolate bears with milk, but were allowed to sample our gingery biscuits.

These are lucky children; well-loved, disciplined to a point that they are well-behaved but not discouraged to speak freely. Their creativity is encouraged. A quick argument over a ball is resolved with fairness; each is encouraged to take turns. They are eager to show their dollies, or their colouring books. They are bright children, often surprising me with their vocabularies and memories.

This morning on waking I thought of the mom gathering the littler one in her arms after a fall from a chair. Tears disappeared quickly. A few minutes later she made a ruling over a gift. Their mom is only slightly younger than my daughter. As we sipped our tea, I had nothing but admiration for her. But then I realised to her daughters she is an all powerful being able to withhold chocolate teddy bears, decider of who gets what, controller of bedtimes, walks and everything that happens in their lives.

The next jump in my thoughts as I spent the last few precious moments in bed was how much power I gave my own mother over me. Only when I watched her ashes spiral into the air on a spring April day in the woods behind her apartment, did I realise it was me that gave the bits of dust the power once I was an adult.

Munchkin, the cat, looked at me, trying to decide if she wanted to encourage me to get up to let her out. She settled down with her tail over her nose, and I went back to my own musings. This time I thought of my own daughter, over whom I once had the same control of chocolate and milk, bedtimes, television viewing, everything. Today any power I have over her, not that I want any, is of her own relinquishing to me. Both she and this stay-at-home mom-writer are adults with their own ways to find as I had to find mine.

The stay-at-home mom as she metes out discipline and love is not interested in power. She wants her daughters to develop into what they can be and knows loves and fairness is the way to help them along the road. Sometime in the future these two little girls will have to deal with developing their own independence and maybe they will fight to be free of the woman that once had so much power over their lives, power that the mom never saw it as power, but as love. Love is not about power, it only exists as one person allows the other to have it.

In that house, around the kitchen table looking out on the countryside, there is love. There is a re-enactment of lives for eons between women and their children, little daily events like milk and cookies, talks and games, but each in its own way is special.

I hope when those two little girls are grown they and their mother develop a relationship of appreciation. They may not remember yesterday’s rainy March day, but the feelings created will be part of them. The mom will not be able to solve their adult hurts with hugs, she will not be able to negotiate their lives, but she will have given them the skills for them to do it themselves not because she is powerful, but because she is loving.

Pussy willows

The early morning snow turned to rain as the temperature rose. As the day wore on it even felt like a spring rain, the first in a long, long time.

I was invited to lunch with another writer at her villa in the Geneva countryside. There are several old villas there, all part of an ancient estate. Hers, before conversion, was where the owners pressed the grapes. The stone press about the size of a double bed, decorates her living room. Outside her double-doored windows grapevines are lined up like a marching army, twisted from battle. In a few weeks they will begin to green.

As I wait for her to unlock the door before I return home after a meal and conversation on varied topic, I notice that at the tip of each branch of the leaf-shorn bushes a single rain drop glisten in the late afternoon light like so many transparent pussy-willows, but unlike the pussy willows in the woods and those just appearing in the stores for sale, these will only last in memory. Again I am reminded how important the minute is and how I should not waste them. Like the brother-I-always-wanted RB2 said, “each day should have a celebration.” Mine was water drop pussywillows.

Monday, March 06, 2006

2x in 16 years

Whenever it snows I find myself singing Winter Wonderland, although no one listening would recognize my version. Sunday morning as I slogged through the snow to the bus to catch an early train to Payerne the melody beat in my head.

Because it is the 78th Car Show, all the canton flags big enough to cover at least three king-sized beds decorated the Pont du Mont Blanc and the Jet d’Eau could be seen through the flakes.

More people tramped through Cornavin train station than at rush hour on Monday, mostly men and boys on their way to see the latest automobile models. It is easier to live on the left bank not the right bank near Palexpo where the car show takes place. At least I can get away from it and there aren’t thousands of people crowding a bus I want to take home.

I got up to the voie and there was a message on the board “10 min. retard”. The train was late, which would mean I would miss my connection in Lausanne. I have used Swiss trains since 1990 sometimes on a daily, sometimes on a weekly basis and never less than once a month. This was only the second time a train was late.

Nothing could be done except to take out my natel (cell) which is in a fluffy Dalmatian dog case and advised Florian I would come in an hour later.

When the train did pull in, it was one of the sleek double deckers. I mounted the stairs to the second story and as we plunged through the swirling snow I wasn’t the least bothered as the scenery passed. Being late twice in sixteen years is fine when there is such beauty to look at as I rode through a Winter Wonderland. This will be a record snowfall for Switzerland.

Brandons de Payerne

The Brandons of Payerne is another word for carnival. I went out to spend the day with Florian and his family and to stand and watch the cortege (parade) with the chars (floats). All the floats are made by local groups such as the gymnastic club and in past years they have been imaginative with themes from good citizenship, political satires, movies, cowboys and Indians, in fact just about any theme is possible. Much love goes into this enterprise, which is not commercial, although some of the stands along the cortege route selling chestnuts, balloons, sausages, sweets, and confetti are.

However, because of the snow, the floats could not roll safely. Only the bands marched. It is a tradition for some of the bands to play off key. Many are costumed as are the children who decide what they will wear as carefully as American kids plan Halloween.

Although the snow had stopped and the sun was in a rare blue sky, the offering was on the disappointing side. As I left I saw the confetti had melted into the snow creating a rainbow around our feet.

Faux Christ, Faux Texan

He looked like the paintings of Jesus Christ that decorate hundreds of churches and Sunday School texts only without the radiance. He was dressed in robes that would have been in style in Jerusalem in 20 A.D., probably more to keep him warm. The look was not totally first century. I doubt if Christ wore sports socks in his sandals. This man had a crutch in place of a staff to lead his sheep. The crutch was the kind that grasps the lower arm not the kind that is thrust into an armpit. As this Faux Christ waited for the No.9 bus at Eaux Vives, he took the crutch and started spinning it like a proud majorette at an American high school football game. The bus came, he got on perhaps on his way to try to stroll across Lake Geneva.

This man probably in his late 50s early sixties is French speaking but he wears cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, not a small one, but a huge one that if it were not for the design would stand taller than a top hat. He is always dressed in an impeccable beige suit with a thick leather belt around his waist that crosses one shoulder Canadian Mountie style. His pants have a butter-cutting crease. Over his suit he wears a long black leather coat with ribbons on the shoulders with both the right and left held down by a sheriff’s badge. A third sheriff’s badge, at least six inches in width and length is over his heart. Two American flags are in each of the coat’s lapels. Like the Faux Christ he carries something to help him strut, not a full crutch but a cane from which dangles a Swiss Army knife.

The words of a Christine Lavin song came to my mind in both cases. She sang about derelicts and crazies with the lyrics “He once was somebody’s baby.” I don’t know what made the Faux Christ and the Faux Texan into what they are, but at one time a woman held each of them as a baby in her arms as she gave him a breast or a bottle never dreaming of their future.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Each day is a gift

Swiss death notices have always fascinated me. Often several appear for the same person put in by their families, employers and organizations they worked for. The smallest might be 1/32 of a page and like one today, that touched me, they can go up to half a page.

The notices list those who miss the “defunct” with messages or not along with funeral information.

The picture of Yolande caught my eye. She was a pretty woman with short blond hair and wearing one dangling earring. Her smile radiates. I suspect she was a blond, but the black and white photo doesn’t tell me.

Her family tells me she had “quit” them in her 52nd year after a long and bad illness, which she supported with courage and dignity.

But above the message and the list of her survivors is a letter she wrote. I will give a loose translation.

“If you think I’ve quit you too soon, you’re right but this long walk in the glade filled with shadows and light where I have been cradled gave me permission to live unforgettable moments intensely.

“To all my entourage, I leave with hope of having communicated to you all my energy, my joy in life and my strength. Know that it is with much humility that these lines have been written to send to you this message of deep love. The world is peopled with marvelous persons.

“I thank everyone, especially my children, my parents, my family and my close ones. I can never thank enough my doctors (she names them) which was an incredible meeting and for allowing me to live a serene life with my cancer.

To you, who have supported me with exemplary courage, when you think of me, never forget for an instant to live in the present for each day is a gift.”

She died March 1. There are five other notices of various sizes from the places she worked and clubs she belonged to. There is a notice from where her father was a president. One was from Nice in France.

Outside my window the bise is ripping through the trees. The sky is a strange ribbed grey with the light shinning through to make the evergreen outside my window almost luminous.
I have writing to do dressed in my old jeans and sweatshirt, my feet toasty from the radiator behind my desk. Tonight is my book launch where hopefully I will see old friends that I have invited. My housemate and her son are helping me. My housemate is bustling around downstairs filing papers. There is harmony all around. Each day IS a gift.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Celebration Part II

I am disgustingly happy. I know some cultures say it is tempting evil eye to say this, but with one exception that will hopefully pass, I love the way I am living. My living situation in Geneva is nothing short of fun with a generous amount of joy thrown in. Sharing a house again with others, the coming and going, the laughter, is great. It goes beyond functionality. And if I ever desire alone time I have a nest to run to. I get two lives in one.

My calendar needs control to allow me writing time, but this is not a complaint when I have a chance to visit with friends. Most are creative and share my politics, although they all have their own set of interests making sharing fun. The mental stimulation is enhanced by the warmth. The beauty of where I live

And if I don’t accomplish my to-do list each day, which at best is unreasonable, there’s always tomorrow. I can laugh

When Rb2 said we should celebrate things everyday, I have much to celebrate, but I don’t take it for granted. Maybe not taking it for granted will keep the evil eye away.

Tee sticks

The tables in the dining car of the Zurich-Lausanne train had lemony-beige starched table cloths. RB2 and I ordered our Fruhstück of brotchen and croissants. The menu said tee sticks. I selected the Ceylon. “What is it?” Rb2 asked.

I didn’t know, but the dark haired waiter brought my cup. The tee stick was in silver with holes, about four inches long and ¼ of an inch wide. It looked like a slick skyscraper but it made a great cup of tea as the Swiss villages with their chalets, a castle or two, lakes, mountains and a lightly falling snow brought us back into the French-speaking part of the country.

Although we were only away a night all the little details including changing languages in this tiny three-language country, made it seem as if I had been on a holiday.

Celebration Part I

RB2 first saw Chris Rea in Cape Town and then a few years later in Rotterdam. He introduced me to him in 1990 at a concert in Lausanne. When we saw he had a Zurich stop on his last tour, we grabbed tickets even if it was a three-hour train ride.

The concert hall was a stand-up only. The first place we found we had no view of the performers but the instrumentals were so great I only half minded. It has been a long-time since I was at a stand-up only concert and I’d forgotten smoking was allowed in the hall. What was new was all the people with their cell phones pointed at the stage recording the concert.

RB2 touched my shoulder and beckoned me. He had gone on reconnaissance and found a wonderful hidey hole in back of the in-hall bar.

Rea is not that well known in the States. He is a rock-blue-jazz gravely-voiced singer, song-writer with tremendous performance on guitar, banjo and harmonica. I’d always liked his lyrics but you felt the music and the advantage of standing was you could dance. In fact not moving would have been impossible.
Towards the end of the concert RB2 asked if I wanted a champagne. Is the Pope German? As we clunked our plastic flutes together he said, “You should have something to celebrate every day.”

The concert was a good thing to celebrate.

A dead duck and other musings

A dead duck found near the Jet d’Eau on Lake Geneva had Bird Flu. The disease has arrived officially in Switzerland. Near the news article was a report that the disease started in a bird farm where chickens were pushed together and never saw the light of day.

A man refused asylum in Switzerland because they didn’t believe he was in danger was sent back to his home country to be arrested. He is serving a nine-year jail term.

Gee, the US has attacked other countries, built a gulag, ignored international treaties, reheated the nuclear build ups by ignoring the nuclear non proliferation treaty, engaged in torture, spied on its own citizens and now wants to build a wall (to keep people out not in) between Mexico and the US. Doesn’t that sound a bit like the old Soviet Union?

Bush has had many bad ideas including running for president but the stupidest yet is to sell US ports to a company owned by the UAE. Meanwhile a British company wants ownership of a New England utility. I may be out of line here, but I really feel a country should keep its infrastructure in its own hands. Years ago I thought of writing a futuristic novel where there were no more countries, only corporations in as I pledge allegiance to IBM (or Microsoft, or GE). People laughed. Maybe I wasn’t so far off.

With all the bad news later today I will take a train to Zurich, meet up with my best buddy RB2 in Lausanne and we’ll go to see a Chris Rea concert. The world may be going to hell, but at least my friends aren’t.