Saturday, April 28, 2007

The mystery colour

Three times within the last 30 hours I’ve had the same discussion about a flowering tree. The flowers look more like feathers, the problem is the petal are a colour that has no name. I’ve heard it described as a very light salmon, white with a dab of orange, pink with orange mixed in, mauve and pink but none of them really works. It would almost be worth it to buy a set of oils and try and mix the colour, except that still would not give it a name, but at least I would know what went into it. What there is no debate about, is how pretty the trees are.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Michael Korda's Photo

The 20-year old Michael Korda book had been culled by the library and I picked it up from the pile under a sign that said, Take A Book. His photo was on the back. He was dressed in suit and tie and leaned against the side of an open door.

The glass panels of the door itself took up about 20% of the photo. Because there were trees filling the opening behind him I knew it was an outside door.
He wore huge glasses like mine. On closer examination I could see tiny lines making squares in his shirt. His resemblance to a horrible boss, a control freak, that I worked for once struck me but did not stop me reading the book.

His head was turned three quarters toward the photographer and his arms were crossed.
I could almost hear the photographer say, “Turn your head Michael. Now fold your arms. A little more toward me. A half smile, no not that much.” The shutter would have clicked and he would have broken from the position and the moment was caught in time for someone to see 3000 miles away and 20 years later.

That set me wondering. Had he just put down a cup of coffee? Was he late for his next appointment? Did he like/love the photographer? Did he change from the suit into jeans and sweater afterwards?

That is what photos do. They stop life. A family can be squabbling, a person arrives with a camera, everyone freezes a smile on their faces and years later, they might remember the day as a happy event. Or some may remember it that way. In most families two peoples’ memories of the same event retold makes the listener wonder if they were talking about the same thing.

In other photos the viewer can imagine the dynamics. Five members of the family are squeezed together, one stands apart. A mother cuddles a child who is stiff in her arms.

I also wonder about photos people keep on CD-ROM. What happens when CD-ROMs become outmoded? Or all the family photos on hard disk get eaten up? When fires destroy a home so often people say what upsets them most is the loss of photos.

I am not a picture taker overall, although I went through a phase of it when I lived on The Riverway in Boston. The number of pictures of my daughter in dresses makes one think that she only wore dresses, but the reality is she wore them so seldomly that we took her picture when she did. Still there are photos of all stages of my life, from being propped up on an overstuffed chair before I could sit, to tossing a salad in a Paris apartment.

Looking at photos of my childhood seem so remote it is like the life belonged to someone else.

Yet in most cases I remember what I did after that photo was snapped. I don’t have to wonder like I wonder about Korda’s actions when he broke the pose. Of course, the other people in the photos have different memories, but that’s okay.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Making choices

The black lab jumped for the stick his master was holding. In reality it looked more like the trunk of a young tree, a good three free across and probably three inches thick.

The master threw the stick as far as he could. It landed in the lake just towards the end of the dock. The dog joyfully plunged into the water sparkling in the late afternoon sunshine, retrieved it and began swimming back to shore.

About halfway he saw a smaller stick floating to one side. It was less than a foot long and half as wide. He let the larger stick float, swam over to the smaller one, looked back at the bigger one, sniffed the smaller one, looked a last time at the bigger one and then brought the small one back for his master to throw again.

His master called him paresseux lazy. I called him intelligent.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Purple walk to the post

Purple prose, song Deep Purple, Movie and book The Color Purple, "When I am old I will wear more purple" T-shirt and book, purple is the colour of royalty, in Christianity it represents the sin of pride,, porphyrophobia is the fear of purple.

No one with porphyrophbia would have survived my walk to the post today. The colour was everywhere, the deep purple pansies, violets, star shaped wild flowers no bigger than my little fingernail and lilacs. And that does not include the wisteria not just one like in the photo on the web site, but over a 100 lantern like globes hanging over a hedge with petals on each varying from almost white to deep lavender, which brings up the many names for purple: violet, orchid, mauve, lavender, aubergine, lilac, plum, wine, grape, amethyst...good Lord, all that for a mixture of red and blue.

Other colours existed, of course: yellow and white headed dandelions (which reminded me I still haven’t had a dandelion salad this year, but I will correct that at noon with a walk in our garden and a pair of scissors) green grass and leaves, and the first leaves were popping out on the grape vines which in the fall will be laden with grapes (coloured purple).

Thursday, April 19, 2007


One almost needs sunglasses with the yellow rapeseed fields near the house. Last weekend in the Jura it was fields and fields of daffodils.

Speaking of sunglasses
When I sat with friends in the Jura last weekend I realised that I was the only one without sunglasses and in fact haven’t even owned a pair for decades. Maybe I will pay for it someday, but I stopped wearing them years ago because it distorted and diluted the colours around me and that made me feel cheated of the genuine beauty around me.

Speaking of not having stuff…
It also dawned on me my make up shelf is not like other women’s. It is limited to foundation, blush and one box of hair colour: no creams, no lotions, nothing, nada, rien. Maybe it would be different if my mother and grandmother had not passed down good skin genes (as far as dry skin is concerned—the amount of acne over the years turned out to be citrus caused not gene caused). I didn’t need skin treatment I need not to drink orange juice everyday. Saved a lot of money on skin stuff and orange juice, but I doubt any financial advisor would recommend this is a life financial plan.

Indian costumes
After the brouhaha years ago by black women against Bo Derrick for corn-rowing her hair and co-opting their culture, I will admit I was a little self-conscious about wearing Indian clothing. But my Indian girl friend has brought me two wonderful Indian costumes that I now wear for their beauty and comfort. Last night I wore the pumpkin-coloured one (great match with my hair) to the Indian dance recital. I also stayed over rather than risk missing the last bus. This morning after breakfast I was amused that I, the Swiss-American was wearing an Indian costume, and she, the Indian was dressed in ordinary (although they looked great) slacks and a sweater. Neither of us felt our cultures had been co-opted.

Favourite Advert
Tarzan swings out of the jungle onto a Swiss mountain side and stops to milk a black and white cow as he sits on the Swiss stool that by tradition is strapped around his waist. He then drinks the milk. The sponsor is milk of course. I want to gag at that part. Just the thought of swallowing milk cold or warm makes me want to gag. He then smiles, looks out at the Swiss scenery as the cow flies off on his rope supposedly back to the jungle.

Okay, this blog is a mishmash of topics… Least anyone think I consider my adopted country perfect and my natal country without redemption, an article in the paper this morning accuses the Genevoise police of torture. I can get equally upset and activist in either case. Torture is wrong. Period. At least here the response is to put an end to it. It would be hard to be totally ashamed of both countries. Where could one run? A Cave?

Virginia Tech
I won’t deny how horrible the shootings were. We lost 32 citizens, young people with a future. 32 families will never be the same. The Iraqis have been losing more than that on average daily for five years. John Hopkins, not a shoddy university, estimates over 600,000 Iraqis are dead directly or indirectly because of the US invasion. 600,000 vs 32. Two hours of terror vs. five years of terror. One crazed killer vs. a crazed country.

For the third time since I became a Swiss citizen, I am voting. This time it is for the local mayor and 2 co-mayors. I did vote although there is no contest. Only three names on the ballot and for the designated roles.

However, my housemate caught me out when I said I wasn’t going to vote my one stock (life insurance company and it is the way the life insurance is set up). She’s right. I will drop that ballot in the mail too.

Jet d’Eau and an Yvoire memory
It is easy to miss a skyscraper high fountain when it is turned off. The fountain was shut off for seven days for maintenance. The last time I was on a boat in the lake (my daughter and I escaped to Yvoire for lunch and a day on the lake, the boat passed so close that we felt the spray on our faces. The sunlight caught the water making rainbows in the air.

Tiger Woods, Jay Leno and George W. Bush were all on the same plane flying into the US and all three had forgotten their passports. (Okay it is implausible, I know but it is a joke.) The customs officials asked them to prove who they were.

Tiger Woods took his golf club and swung it and explained how to make a good swing. He was let in.

Jay Leno told a joke then explained how important timing was in comedy. He was let in.

George W. Bush said, “I don’t know anything.”

“Come right in Mr. President,” the customs official said.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Visit the Café du Soleil

It has a website.

I've talked so much about it, had so many fondues and other meals there, met with so many writers you can visit it too.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A tale of two ducks

The Route d’Hermance is one of the main roads from Geneva to France. The villages on each side are bedroom villages (a smaller version of bedroom towns) interspersed with farms, vineyards and horse pastures for the many stables. The Lake and Alps are on one side, the Jura on the other.

Driving back from breakfast at Migros on the Route with my housemate a female duck stood on one side of the road, her web foot posed to walk across.

“I hope she doesn’t get hit,” my housemate said.

Then we saw her partner on the other side waiting.

In the rearview mirror we were able to see the two ducks reunited in mid air heading for the Lake.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The smell of water on Good Friday

I ambled (the pace my sore back is comfortable with) to the lake, a two-minute trip down a small path surrounded by walls of large moss laden grey squares of stone. In one crevice, four violets and their green tongue-shaped leaves were almost at eye level.

Violets have been my favourite flower since I was a child. The hill outside our backyard would be covered with them. My mother and I picked bouquets almost a foot across and put them in our pewter pitcher. Even at four and five I wanted to absorb the colour combination into my soul.

The lake glimmered blue-grey in the muted sun, a Manet day, not a VanGogh day. The Alps were hidden in mist. The lake has a certain smell, a clean smell that words don’t describe. The closest I can think of is the smell of sheets that have been sun-dried. I cannot find the words to describe the smell of mud in New England as the winter frost lets go of the earth.

Yesterday the lake had been dotted with white caps and was Coke bottle green. I learned that the Rhone runs through the lake and during the Bise the water gets churned up and changes colour. The person who told me that said when you fly over the lake you can see the Rhone passing through.

Ducks swam in the water so clear that I could see the ridges in their webbed feet. At certain angles the heads of the male mallards looked deep purple instead of luminescent green.

A few boats bobbed off shore. On one sailboat, the masts nude, a family ate a picnic. The cries of their baby floated across the water.

I found a place to sit and a small white un-coiffured poodle, Maisie, checked me out, found me uninteresting and moved on.

On a normal Friday, I would have been alone, but this is a four-day weekend and families were strolling up and down.

I found a perch and sat and watched at peace with myself and the world as I smelled the water.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The best cities and guilt

Zurich and Geneva have been named one and two of the best cities in the world to live in once again with Vancouver coming in right after by Mercer Consulting who does an annual scoring.

The first US city is at 28th place, San Francisco, the next is Boston at 36th, Chicago and DC tie for 41st, Portland, OR is 45th.

Once again I shivered at the pride of being Swiss, although I will never say this country is perfect. At least they aren’t under minding world peace and attacking other nations. I am underwhelmed with their Pharma and Banking interests. On the good side they have signed most of the international treaties for things like the prohibition of land mines and child soldiers, which the country of my other passport (COFMOP) has not. I don’t wake thinking that deaths of innocents are being caused directly or indirectly by my new countrymen as I often do with COFMOP especially after watching the news or reading the Middle Eastern papers with their graphic photos showing dead and maimed children. Instead of becoming immune I get more and more upset.

The glimmer of hope when Harry Reid said they might pull war funding next year helps. And he isn’t even one of the senators or house members that I have telephoned over the last couple of weeks asking them to end this war.

Still my American side is haunted in what has been done in my name, and the beauty and peace of my new homeland, does not irradiate the pain I feel at my rich and safe life as others are dying for nothing on both sides of the battle. My guilt at my enjoyment of my life does not stop the enjoyment bringing more guilt. Thus I will make more phone calls and still feel helpless and guilty.

Although the criteria of being one of the best places to live has nothing to do with war machines and military sales, it has to do with quality of life issues such as cultural, health, etc. I assume excitement and robust nightlife were not on that list either.


My hosts barely believed I had never seen Casablanca and set out to remedy the situation immediately thanks to the DVD. The film was made in my birth year and of course some scenes and phrases were as familiar as my left hand (or right).

So settled in with cushions at my back to protect it, I watched. Crossing borders is so much easier today, but what a shame that after all this time we are still fighting wars, sadly with the US as the aggressor instead of Germany this time.

Wonder what Rick would have said about that and would he have let Ilsa get away if this were modern times.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


I will admit I Google (acutally I use myself. I have found review of my books and other strange things.

However, the strangest of all was to see my novel Chickpea Lover: Not a Cookbook being sold on Ebay. Last bid $3.45