Monday, October 29, 2007
All of a sudden the sun went out and I saw a shadow of a monster in a black leather coat. At least she didn’t step on me, so I continued my way to the end of the sidewalk.
Whoops. I fell off the curb. That hurt.
The grey-black path looked endless, but I knew on the other side I would be able to find my winter home.
My mother had warned me about the grey-black path, talking about noisy machines with four round thingies that lived to crush little caterpillars like me, but as I always say, “Nothing ventured nothing gained.”
The monster bent down. She put a white something in front of me. I thought about going around it, but that would have been too much work so I crawled on it.
All of a sudden I was flying on a magic carpet of white. My stomach did flip flops, but it only lasted a minute until the carpet came to rest in the grass.
I sat there a moment, not sure of what happened, but the monster tipped the magic carpet and I tumbled ever so gently into the grass.
I still have no idea what happened. My friends tell me I dreamed it, but I know that this morning I was on the other side of the grey-black path, and tonight I will settle into my winter home. I call it a miracle. Now I just want to go to sleep, and when the spring sun comes, I will build the cocoon my mother told me about. She showed me the plans.
You’ll have to excuse me. I’m really sleepy.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Alas, then I go back on real time and wait for night fall to come earlier, but at the same time I will wake to sunlight or at least, here in Geneva, mist light.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Gris, Grau, Grey Geneva, Genève Genf all start with the letter G. We’ve entered the grey season where blue skies become rare, the Alps, and even the close by Saleve disappear in the mist. It is the time to hunker down with tea, wear fuzzy socks, read a good book or play computer games. Still it is necessary to poke one’s head out the door, and I need to get the post. Even in the mist the red of this tree with white plume plants (have no idea what the name is) had a certain ethereal beauty.
During the walk up the hill, a mother and daughter walked down the hill with two German Shepherds. Girl and German are G words too. The female growled and lurched at me. I stepped back and told her to stop. The resulting conversation was wonderful. They were from Bremen had been here a number of years. The male was an SPA find and had a thick coat. He carried a stick in his mouth and looked rather askance at the female’s misbehaviour. The female did not belong to the woman, but she was taking care of it for a friend on holiday.
We must have chatted a good ten minutes, neighbours getting to know one another.Good things can happen in grey weather. Good starts with G too.
Years ago, Friday night was family night, and we would all end up in Harvard Square where we would eat, catch up on whatever we didn’t have time to share during the week and load up on books. That was when Harvard Square used to be Harvard Square. The last time I was there, it was more like a shopping mall with a number of chains. However, a dogpile.com search revealed that Casablanca www.harvardsquare.com/Home/Restaurants/Casablanca.aspx is still there.
When I first arrived in Switzerland and was living in another tiny village, my landlord came to see me to tell me of a meeting at the school because of the increased delinquency. Coming from Boston, I thought drugs, metal detectors in schools, but no…the villagers were upset by two examples of graffiti on the school walls. Sadly, the graffiti has mushroomed since 1990, and not all is as clever as the example, which I am sure will be swept away by the village public words department, amusing or not.
Now some people will say I am crazy, but it is only the past few months I have felt like a real writer. Is that laughing I hear out there? I know I’ve wanted to be a writer since childhood. I know I made my living as a wordsmith be it in the corporate or the journalistic world. And yes I spent hours and hours creating stories and novels.
When my first book was accepted half of me thought it was a fluke. Okay, I had submitted it to at least 40 publishers, but wasn’t it just possible that the U.S. postal service paid the publisher to print it so they wouldn’t have to lug the manuscript around? And yes, my agent was able to sell it in Russia and Germany, but that could have been a fluke too.
The second novel, the one in the photo, well that could have been a demi-fluke, but by this summer when I signed the contract for my third novel, I now feel, notice the word feel, I am really a writer not someone who writes.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Travelling on the train with my Chins always was a good conversation opener, such as what race, how old, names, etc. Now I’ve found a new opener that requires far less care on a ride than keeping dogs calm so as not to disturb others. Knitting. With four hours on a train to and from
“I just bought yarn,” she said. She pulled out a skein of golden dust. “8 CHF, half price.”
My eyes widened.
She then showed me the maroon alpaca wool and explained how the gold would be used as a highlight. We talked about the relaxation of needlework. Her stop was
“Thank you for sharing,” with me I said. Until then we’d been speaking French.
“Comme même,” she said. The same. And then in English, “You’re welcome.”
And does it really matter what is the trigger that causes one human to speak with another, to share a moment no matter how simple? The result is the same.
I was perfectly content to let the writer I was lunching with in
“You must have the chocolate cake,” she told me. It arrived with three forks, a dollop of cream and cocoa sprinkled on the side. Three forks? One for her, one for me, and the third made by stencilling a fork with the cocoa. I took a photo, but for some reason it didn’t come out, which probably is good because anyone looking at it would have instant chocolate urges.
The man who served our food was trilingual: Italian, German and English. While the writer and I chatted he sat at the table next to us scribbling on a small notebook-sized piece of paper. He handed us the poem he had written in German. I could only translate enough words to understand nothing of the meaning, but she filled in the blanks.
He wrote of the pressure of time, and I was grateful that I had the time to enjoy both a fork stencil in chocolate and a restaurant where poetry is served with dessert.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
The lake is calmer today, but there are still waves. Yesterday in the bise, the rocks were hidden by the thrashing water, a far cry from the more normal mood which is so calm it looks as if it were possible to stroll across its surface to
Today, walking along the shore, was like walking by the sea with the sounds of crashing waves. White caps were all across the lake, but up close white birds bobbed on the water so at quick glance they looked like white caps themselves. The water, normally blue, varied from teal to Coke bottle green, depending on the flow of the currents.
The lake is 340 meters deep and fed by glaciers and the
All these things I thought about as I walked along the shore bundled in hat, gloves and scarf. The temperature is a chilly 7° and doesn’t sound much warmer in Fahrenheit at 44°. The walk was my reward because I have caught up on all my paperwork, have all my bills ready to be paid when I go to the multimat (a bank machine where you transfer money to your creditors). It is a chore I’ve been postponing for a while, so now I can feel virtuous for the rest of the day.
Forgive me when I get confused about all the apologies about the past. The latest issue, is not really an apology, but the recognition of the Armenian genocide by
My forefathers did bad things. I am sure as early settlers they shot a few Indians here and there. And probably another ancestor or two was on a ship that captured slaves. As an individual I do not feel responsible for their sins, but I have no trouble saying that even though things like murder and slavery were considered okay then, that it wasn’t okay. It was what it was, murder and theft of the worse kind, theft of human life and dignity.
I also wonder if 100 years from now, if the planet survives and the people survive and the
And in no case, will an apology or saying it is genocide or an illegal war or whatever bring one soul back. However, if only we could look at the sins of our forefathers and recognize them for what they were, maybe, just maybe we might not repeat the mistakes and take more innocent lives.
With each bad news announcement on climate change, I try to consume less. I already use the minimum standby appliances or at least unplug them. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab Stand-by power consumes 5 percent of all residential energy use in the
- Water heater (no way would I give that up)
- Stove top
- Food processor (the one non cooking appliance that I consider indispensable)
- Washing machine
- Frigo (but with an A rating on consumption and it’s as small as I can find to meet my needs)
- Lamps (the flat was too dark for too long, although it is only necessary to light where I am and not the other side of the flat. Now I can see my needlework after the sun goes down.)
- Wall heater/air conditioner used as little as possible I was thrilled that I only needed about three hours of air-conditioning this summer, but had the temperature gone up, it would have gone on in a flash. In cold weather, it is better to wear a sweater than keep it too hot. I find I get less colds too. 65°F is a good level
- Radio/CD player
- Hair dryer
- Hair curler
I do not feel deprived that I don’t have an electric can opener, or garbage disposal, although sometimes I would love a fluffy machine dried towel or an electrical kettle so I can say to a guest, “I’ll put the kettle on.” However, the latter, I can’t say is electricity saving. It would take up just that much more space and having my counter top almost empty so I have room when I cook is more of a priority. In fact the less I have, the less there is to worry about, the less there is to keep clean, etc.
There is more electrical stuff in Geneva because it is a house with three people so there is a dryer so I do get fluffy towels sometimes and more office equipment, but even there we try and turn everything standby off, keep the heat low, etc. And on a cold day, there’s always the cat to crawl up your lap and warm us with her purrs.
Friday, October 19, 2007
The vineyards on the walk back from the village to the house with the lake and mountains in the background.
I know everything I did this morning was mundane, but it was so enjoyable. Well the 5 a.m. run to the airport to leave my housemate might not have been on the top of my priority list, but it made me ready for an 8 a.m. date with a young writer friend. We zipped to a nearby café for her renversée (Genevian for café au lait) and raisin bun and my tea and almond croissant. Our discussion might not have been remarkable, her future trip to Barcelona and mine to Italy and next year Iceland, kids, parents, writing, but joy of joys she knew where to get a turkey. Bless Canadians for having Thanksgivings earlier than Americans.
My daughter will be here for Thanksgiving and what started as a nudge from a Brit friend to do the meal, has grown into a major feast with several nationalities to join in. And since dinde (turkeys) are usually sold in parts, I was relieved to order a whole one. When the butcher asked for the date I said 20 November.
“Vous êtes en avance, Madame.”
Of course I am early, I am neurotic about stuff like that, and told him so.
The next stop was my bank. M Buck greeted me warmly. Granted my business isn’t huge, but he treats me like gold, another pleasure of doing business with a co-operative.
The weather today is crystal clear, the bise having blown out the dust in the air. It nibbles my cheeks. Cold like this infuses me with energy.
The vineyards looked a bit forlorn, having been divested of their fruit. Too bad I missed the vendage with pickers wearing plastic buckets on their back that are the same shape as the wicker baskets of olden days. Today, one lone man, with his truck, examined the vines.
I walked to the village centre which is about as opposite to a metropolis as is possible to get. At the mairie I stopped to ask for a train pass. The village hall has daily cards, good for all of Switzerland at the reduced price of 30 CHF, a real bargain, but in limited number.
“Quelle date, Madame?” The man behind the counter sported a Salvador Dali moustache and wore a gray turtle neck sweater, and he reminded me a bit of the writer Robert B. Parker, although less chunky and better looking. All were gone for 24 October, but he offered me one for 29 October. Sadly, I need to be in Bern on the 24th. “Desolee,” he said and he sounded so sincere, I reassured him it wasn’t his fault.
The next stop was the local farmer’s market. Literally. The local farmer comes to the school parking lot to sell his produce. I was thrilled to see beautiful gourds, which will decorate the Thanksgiving table. As I chatted with the farmer’s wife, the woman next to me said that she adored my accent.
“Je le detest,” I told her, “mais merci.” As always it is fun to watch people’s faces when I say I am Swiss. Although the woman had finished her purchases, we continued to chat. I said au revoir to all, and she admitted she stayed just to listen to my accent and especially how I would say au revoir. There was no unkindness in her remarks.
My last stop was the post, but I didn’t have the box key. The postmaster, for whom the term Obsessional Compulsive Disorder was invented, did consent to give me the mail, without checking ID and permission slips. This is progress after three years.
As I ambled back to the house, I realised what fun I had with each encounter of human or scenery. Now I am toasty in the house, a cup of tea at my side, watching the trees jump in the wind as I sit down to write on my novel, on my newsletter. Life is so very, very good.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Sunday, October 14, 2007
The booklet with the explanations, the voting card, and much information were spread out among the advertisements from different candidates as well as the newspaper with the graph showing where the 15 political parties stood left, right, liberal conservative.
Although we are on different parts of the spectrum we cross over on some issues and are much more in agreement. We weren’t trying to convince the other of our point of view, just bouncing ideas off one another to make sure we each understood why we were voting as we were.
The night before we had done the short and long survey on http://www.smartvote.ch/ where we answered questions on our view points and then the computer was able to generate a list of the candidates that most matched our opinions along with biographical information. However, we have to factor our knowledge in of the people themselves.
I should add this is an election year where we elect the equivalent of the Congress which is set up like the American Congress. However from there seven leaders become the equivalent on the cabinet in ratio to the parties and one of those becomes president for a year.
Unlike the American election, money is not a factor. Also the election period is short—a few weeks.
As new citizens we take the right to vote as an almost sacred obligation in this tiny democracy. Our communes, cantons and nation put their faith in us to be responsible citizens, so the weight of voting weighed even more heavily on us.The ballots are due at the voting place via mail by next Sunday. We can always vote in person, but we will make our decisions within the next 24 hours. In some cases we may cancel each other out. In others we will reinforce the other. In all cases we are trying to act in best interest of the country, and in a couple of cases, voted the country’s interest over our own.
Amazingly when my housemate suggested that I go to the chalet in the Valais this weekend, I said no. I was planning to catch up on paperwork and do the miserable chores I had postponed. She asked a second time. I said no. And a third. On the fourth, the mantra of pleasure before work kicked in, thank God, and we were off.
This little village with its Heidi houses is wonderful. It’s walking through those jigsaw puzzles of my childhood without the jagged pieces. Not only do I look at the outside of the chalets, I get to go inside, sleep under the duvets. I am sure none of the houses in Heidi’s village had a satellite dish as in the photo, when the book was written, but I am sure it does now. Fortunately I do not have to drink warm goats’ milk like Heidi did, but we did have a fondue, perfect for a cold fall evening.
Peter and the goats are no where around, but there are beautiful black steers and cows. The two in the photo look like one steer with two rears. Sadly another photo of two steers kissing (well one licked and licked the other, didn’t come out.
The fallen leaves crunched under foot omitting a dry clean smell. The sun dappled the rocks and trees. Although most of the hike was solitary, I passed a couple with two huskies and a grandmother and granddaughter who were giggling as they tried to catch each others’ shadows. Like Robert Frost, I did come across a fork in the path, but I took the one more trodden, because the other involved a lot more climbing. Sometimes lazy beats ambitious.
Walks like this heighten my senses, smell, sound, feel reminding me once again how truly blessed I am with the life I lead.
Friday, October 12, 2007
"The America model turns on cost-benefit analysis, with regulators weighing the effects of new rules on jobs and growth, as well as testing the significance of any risks. Companies enjoy a presumption of innocence for their products: should this prove mistaken, punishment is provided by the market (and a barrage of lawsuites). The Euopean model rests more on the 'precautionary principle', which underpins most environmental and health directives. This calls for pre-emptive action if scientists spot a credible hazard, even before the level of risk can be measured. Such a principle sparks many transatlantic disputes: over genetically modified organisms or climate change, for example.
"In Europe corporate innocence is not assumed."
Later in the day I walk through the city. Certain smells escape from the stores. The parfumerie is flower sweet and could come from any place, but when I pass the chocolateries that make their own, the smell of rich chocolate forces me to stop. Only in a place that values chocolate as a national treasure can this smell be so frequent. At this time of year their windows are decorated with pumpkins and black chocolate nuts in green marzipan spiked coating so they look like the real chestnuts that have just broken out. I’ve never bought one, but I love looking at the display.
There’s the library with the smell of books and the friendly people behind the counter and we chat about the upcoming book sale. I can’t help with the set up this year because I will be in Bern, but hopefully I can volunteer to work on one of the sale days before I leave for Italy.
I walk down by the lake. The water is calm. One of the travel boats is finishing its trip. I stand there for several minutes loving it all and once again thank my good fortune at being here.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Why I agreed to a 6:10 train I do not know. I suppose getting to Geneva at 12:37 made some sense. My housemate said she’d pick me up and we’d go to the Mikado for lunch. Thus began the sushi countdown as in five days until I have my sushi lunch, four days until...
I passed only closed boulangeries as I wheeled my suitcase (heavier than usual because I’d put my laptop in it) through the Argelès streets to the station. The smell of baking bread attacked me from several places. In Perpignan (according to Dali the centre of the universe) there wasn’t time between trains to pick up anything to eat. Besides the TGV was on the opposite quai and the idea of lugging the suitcase down the stairs, risking the up elevator to the station, back down and up where there are no escalators, seemed counter productive even if I had had the time.
This train had a snack bar, but the conductor told me, it wouldn’t be open until Montpellier. By then I was definitely peckish. However, after Montpellier, the snack bar didn’t open. People who know me, realise that when I get hungry I switch into my Mr. Hyde mode. In fact, Hyde is a kind gentle soul in comparison.
Had we not been late into Lyon, I could have grabbed something to eat between trains. I know all the spots having spent lots of time there tooing and frooing from Geneva. Still, I was comforted with the thought of sushi being only and hour and a half away…
We arrived at 14:05…my housemate had not waited because she had another appointment. I headed for UBS to replenish my Swiss cash then Burger King, needing to get something into my stomach and it was close. Mr Hyde disappeared.
I made it home only to discover my angelic housemate had bought a plate of sushi home. I now picture her with a halo around her head. We had it with a glass of champagne for the evening meal to celebrate my return.
Train lag left me ready for bed at 21:00 and I indulged. I had earned it.
Monday, October 08, 2007
I will admit to not being too coordinated but usually unwrapping candy is not something I have difficulty with. The paper was stuck. Every eye was glued to my travail.
Marciel decided to demonstrate how easy it was EXCEPT he dropped the candy.
Although they encouraged me to take another, I wasn't going to be beaten by a piece of candy and eventually I did get it off to applause that could have woken the neighbors.
On the other hand as much as I would like to own one again I am thinking about two train changes with suitcase and lap top tomorrow I am glad I do NOT have a pup in tow.
Friday, October 05, 2007
Many of the 18th century houses have been replaced with ticky-tacky vacation homes and slightly less ticky-tacky year round homes.
I miss the scrawny Catalan women with their black dresses, shoes and stockings and white aprons. Their gray hair was always pulled back in tight buns like my Nova Scotian grandmother. On a table in front of their houses, they would sell courgettes, tomatoes and aubergines from their front gardens trusting passers-bys to call to them to come out so they could be paid.
The last vineyard was replaced four or five years ago by the gendarmerie.
This walk always has memories:
*Of my oohing and ahhing over the beauty of everything French and Bill pointing to dog droppings and telling me they were more beautiful than American dog droppings.
*Of walking with a lover at night, his arm draped around my shoulder and bats flying over head. He told me of the good things bats do, what cleverly constructed creatures they were.
*Of the outdoor movie theatre where I saw Crocodile Dundee in French without understanding a word. The area has now morphed into a miniature golf course.
*Of the man who ran one of the camp grounds along the route, suggesting we go out. I didn’t.
*Of running through the rain to get back to the village
But they aren’t sad memories, just accumulated ones, because I will make new memories with each excursion. And this walk will be held in my heart until the next time I do it.
I love looking closely at the bark. If you look closely at the lump in the upper left corner is a dog’s head. Lovers have carved their initials, but they are barely visible.
Each fall, the leaves are cut back leaving only round stubs at the top of the trunk.
It is said that Napoleon planted trees like this and others all over
*It took me seven years to finish university, leaving after the first semester, completing another year, leaving for two years to live in Gemany and then being just ahead of the group of students who came back married.
*I had my first (and only) child when my friends were having their last.
*I was on the early wave of couples of divorced, but not totally. My parents were the true leaders there. I was one of only three children in my school with divorced parents, and the other two were twins.
*I quit the
*I retired on the early side and began a new business at an age when most people are heading for the golf course, but I had spent grade school years playing golf.
Maybe whether it is a flower or a human we all have to blossom at our schedule.
Years ago my girlfriend and I were walking by on our way to the beach.. She wanted to take a photo with her new camera, an early digital model. He was outside, and I asked permission. Hel took us back into his workroom and was delighted to show us how he made the cement masks, the molds, the cement frogs and ladybugs.
We heard a screaming and thinking his wife was angry at him for bringing strangers in, we started to leave. Instead of introducing us to a shrewish Catalonian woman, he introduced us to his parrot, the shrieker.
In the ongoing conversation he confessed how much he disliked the development. My friend and I exchanged glances.
Only when we were on our way back to the beach, did we share our mutual fantasy: M Arnel was not a nice old man, but a crazed killer seeking revenge on the developers by killing the builders and preserving their faces in cement ala Stephen King.
I have met M Arnel since, but I can never tell him of this fantasy, for everyone in town calls him a nice old man.
Most of the boutiques and restaurants are shuttered for the season, although a few places like La Reserve stay open all year round. This building has been there for years (there are sepia pictures of it with women in long dresses standing outside) going through many incarnations.
One of my favourite memories is being there with my French daughter and my Japanese Chins the late Albert and Amadeus one February when it was mild enough to eat on the terrace. I had tied “the boys” leashes to my chair and left to go to the toilet, just as Amadeus spied a dog playing on the sand. He ran to join the dog taking both Albert and the chair with him.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
This morning I discovered I am a GOTY. I'd decided to do one of those artery clogging English breakfasts at Franck’s and feeling lazy I read the English not the French paper. The headline proclaimed that people over 55 were the happiest of all age groups in the UK. And the happiness increased to people over 65 who said they had more projects at that age than they had when they were 30. And what is a GOTY. According to paper it is someone over 55 but thinking modernly and happy with their lives or Getting Older Thinking Younger. That's me.
Sometimes it’s best to leave things to fate. In Argelès we hang clothes out the windows. As I hung the sheet, a pillow case, caught in the fabric, fluttered down and landed on the electric wire. Not wanting to deal with it immediately, I went back to my writing only to be interrupted by a dock three floors down. The neighborhood child had found a way to retrieve it. Fate often resolves problems if we just leave them alone for a while.