Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cookie contest

My housemate and I stopped off on our way home where a group of her friends were gathered and we walked smack dab into a cookie contest. Each of the women had baked cookies and now it was time to rate them.

Samples of each were nibbled then rated one to five on a sheet.

Comments were made about texture, the history of Toll House cookies, oil vs. butter, recipes gleaned from the internet

One contestant admitted using a package mix.

Despite being math challenged I volunteered as a neutral party to tally and announce the results.Drum rolls and a bit of drama and the first place winner took her bows.

Who came in last? The maker of packaged cookies.
No comments on sugar highs.

No Buy Report

The first month of my no buy year has ended with only two temptations.

1. the pastry cutter (which I would never use)
2. A down filled coat on sale. Although this is my favourite style I have two perfect satisfactory winter coats.

I have found I have eaten out less this month not from any conscious attempt. Each time I don’t eat out on a day I considered I put 1 CHF in the little silver canister.

My housemate adds money for when she doesn’t go for coffee.

We both add money based on bets lost, disagreements about who owes what (this is usually the case when both of us want to pay for something so rather than split it, one pays, the other adds to our fund.)

And what do we do with the money?

When there’s enough we head for Marrionier, our favourite restaurant in the next village and feel we have a free dinner. (We also eat there when the funds do not come from the little canister).

Having not bought one single material thing this month do I feel deprived?Nope, nada. Niet, non.

Has my standard of living gone down? Nope, nada. Niet, non.

Am I unhappy? Nope, nada. Niet, non

But then I never related possessions and happiness. It goes to my three rules of ownership.
1. Is it useful?
2. Is it beautiful?
3. Does it have a memory?

If something can't meet one of those three criteria, why should I clutte up my life with it.

Wish I could apply the rules to the paperwork in my life, but it is impossible to have everything.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Buying Candles

The people from Gaza broke down the wall between them and Egypt and poured into the country. Those that had money bought supplies they were unable to buy because of the blockade. Besides food and fuel, one of the common purchases, was candles. Not the pretty kind like in the photo, but anything that would let them have light at night.

Meanwhile the US is blocking a UN security resolution that requires Israel to let humanitarian aid through because it doesn’t include language against the rocket attacks from Gaza.

There is also no language about the attacks by Israel on Gaza, but that is not a US concern.

Reading the blogs of those suffering there is painful.

“We happen to be sort of be in the eye of the storm as it were. Fierce battles employing mortars, RPGs, and heavy machine gun fire were raging all around our house today, at times only a block away, interdispersed with the thuds of Israeli gunships bombing areas of eastern and northern Gaza.”

The people of Gaza democratically elected a government in an election far cleaner than the last two American ones. They hadn’t learned the rule that not only do you have to have democratic elections, you have to vote the way the American government wants you to.

Meanwhile most of us sit in warm, heated houses, with enough food and when we buy candles it is to make things pretty not for light at night.

Gus comes a callin'

For three years I thought his name was Goose, based on everyone’s pronunciation. It’s Gus like Gus Gus the mouse in Disney’s Cinderella.
He belongs to a neighbour, and is a friend to the house’s cat, Munchkin.

I only learned the correct pronunciation last November, after I wrote to my housemate telling of his great agitation after he witnessed Munchkin’s accident. It took a while for her to figure out Goose and Gus were the same.
Gus is shown here having climbed a tree to sit on the roof over the entryway and peeking in my bedroom window. He knows a recovered Munchkin sleeps on my bed and I am sure he is asking her to come out and play. Truly a Peeping Tom.

Grey's Anatomy

Popcorn and champagne, comfy clothes and two seasons of Grey’s Anatomy: what a great Friday evening. Not only that the telecommand INCLUDING THE BACK, has been located. Now that’s a reason for champagne in itself.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Hat doffing

Ledger a tiré son chapeau, the headline in Bleu Matin read read under a photo of the dead actor in cowboy hat. Ah ha… another way the francophone press writes around the fact people have died. My housemate explained to doff’s one hat is far more polite and poetic way of saying kicked the bucket. Although I continue to collect poetic ways of explaining peoples’ death, the winner is still is “Arthur Miller has joined his Marilyn."
At what point will I know enough idiomatic French? Probably never and that's okay, because discovery is fun.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A day of contrasts

The news from Gaza is not good. I picture mothers trying to eek out a meal, but having no fuel to cook with even when they glean together rice and a vegetable or two. I see a family putting on extra sweaters when they have them because there’s no heat. I see them going to bed early because the electricity has been cut. Somewhere there’s a mother with a sick child, her hand on his fevered head, but there’s no way she can get medicine. The Israeli blockade is nearly complete. The Palestinians are suffering the same was the Warsaw Jews did in the early stages of WWII. The abusee has become the abuser.

At Davos Condi defends America. The country is the piano, the other countries the players, but she doesn’t say that most of the guts have been ripped from the inside leaving only a few discordant chords playable. She doesn’t talk about the damage the country has done, the millions dead or consigned to poverty all over the world through policies that support the few and sacrifice the many. When she blathers about democracy she doesn’t tell of it being destroyed at home with the suspension of habeas corpus, the spying, the media driven election.

Before dawn my housemate gently taps on my door and tells me I have to see the setting moon. She is right. It’s a huge circle occupying a good portion of the sky. Its reflection is a long silver ribbon crossing the lake. As the sun rises it turns the snow that yesterday looked like the thick white icing on an English fruit cake, Barbie-doll pink. Slowly the moon changes places with the sun.

When I settle in the winter garden to write the sky is brilliant blue. Words, that escaped me in the other eight drafts of Triple Decker, fly from my fingers. My blessed roommate is doing a final proofing, and still catches errors and weak points on this what I hope is the final final final draft.

On the Germanic broad carved desk in the living room, dark ruby red tulips promise spring.

From the kitchen comes the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking.

I don’t feel guilt but gratitude that I have been given so much, that I am not the mother in Gaza or Iraq. I am not dodging bullets and machetes in Africa.

I email with a buddy, another Swiss-American who cares as I do that the country we grew up in no longer exists. Although we exchange political news, I also tell him about my being woken to see the moon, and he tells me I live with people who have their priorities right. He is correct.
He sends me a poem. It summarizes the contrasts of my day.

The Answer
by Robinson Jeffers

Then what is the answer?- Not to be deluded by dreams.
To know that great civilizations have broken down into violence,
and their tyrants come, many times before.
When open violence appears, to avoid it with honor or choose
the least ugly faction; these evils are essential.
To keep one's own integrity, be merciful and uncorrupted
and not wish for evil; and not be duped
By dreams of universal justice or happiness. These dreams will
not be fulfilled.
To know this, and know that however ugly the parts appear
the whole remains beautiful. A severed hand
Is an ugly thing and man dissevered from the earth and stars
and his history... for contemplation or in fact...
Often appears atrociously ugly. Integrity is wholeness,
the greatest beauty is
Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty
of the universe. Love that, not man
Apart from that, or else you will share man's pitiful confusions,
or drown in despair when his days darken.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

New plantings

The new vines are planted and protected with green plastic from the elements. In a way I keep thinking of white crosses in a graveyards.

Le Renard et L'Enfant

Animals outnumbered the actors in Le Renard et L’Enfant close to fifteen to one and in the credits the most prevalent job was dresser (trainer). There were dressers to the wolves, bears, foxes. Even the snake had a dresser. The filming was beautiful, done in the Jura mountains in Eastern France not far from here. Take a look at the entire clip… As for the story of a friendship between a wild animal and a wild child, that too was beautiful. The director was the same one who did March of the Emperor Penguins.

Clouds sleeping on mountains.

When I first moved here, I thought I would get tired of the scenery. WRONG: almost 18 years later, I am still entranced by new views.

Today it looked like the clouds blocking the view of the Alps were settling in for a nap.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Fire in the Sky

I looked up from my computer where I had been tweaking my novel Triple Decker all day as well as making sure the English and the American versions were the same except for spelling and punctuation while cutting 5000 words.

The sky outside of the winter garden was on fire.
sounded a sunset alert to the rest of the household and there was a stampede to get cameras. This was shot off the balcony.

Afterwards we marvelled at what a gift we had been given at the end of the day.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Build vocabulary I don't know if this is on the up and up but it is fun and if it is true we are feeding the hungry...

I gave up at the 44 level because I had other things to do.

C'est important la Potence

We celebrated a friend’s birthday at Grizzly’s in Grand Saconnex, my old stomping grounds, with a Potence. Potence is French for "Gallows", and consists of a fascinating blackened iron contraption, covered with long narrow spikes, hanging from a chain. Meat is skewered onto the spikes, set over a bowl of rice that welcomes the drippings, taken to the table and flaming brandy poured over the top. Various dips and garlicky butter are along the side to enhance the flavours.When all the meat is eaten, it would not be unreasonable to expect a Knight in armour to swing the device unseat his opponent in combat, that is if he weren’t too stuffed from all the eating

Christmas is really, really over.

There are many endings to Christmas. Some people think it is Christmas night, others consider it New Year’s Day and others still end the season on Three King’s Day, especially here when they bring out the special cake with favours baked inside and the person who finds it can wear a crown provided by the bakery.

In my neck of the woods, I decided Christmas was over when the opthamologist undecorated his cow that had lit up its neighbourhood for many weeks. However, the cow still wears its oversized glasses during the day.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

What would Jean Calvin say

My writing projects this year include finally getting Triple Deckers, the anti-war novel to market one way or another, get Family Values to my current publisher, tweak my mysteries Underground Railroads and Murder in Argelès (part of a series) to my publisher (which doesn’t mean they would be accepted) and finish researching the next two Murder in Geneva and Murder in Damascus.

Researching life in Calvin’s time became a dream. I was meeting my housemate and the people who occupy my old flat for lunch when I walked by the used book marché downtown. To my right was the lake, to my left was the fountain de Molard. And there it was nestled in a carboard carton, La Vie en le Temps de Calvin. I picked it up. Everything I needed had been written almost fifty years ago by a UN diplomat from France: what people wore, medicine, the names of the streets, etc. (this was last year and not
part of my no-buy year, but had it been this year I would still have bought it).

Consider how dreary and restrictive life, I wonder what Calvin would think of his city now, especially like the Route du Rhône with its designer shops Yves St. Laurent, Gucci, etc. And what about the mannequins with so much of their bodies exposed.

In a way I wish I could bring him back just to watch his face as he walked down his city streets.
A friend of mine, Dinah Lee Kung wrote a wonderful book A Visit From Voltaire…(When an American mother-of-three finds herself overwhelmed in her new home in Switzerland, a visitor pops up offering to cure her son's asthma, her husband's growing indifference, and her own resentment of life. Is he the village nutter or - as he claims to be - the greatest mind of the eighteenth century? This talkative character wearing kneebreeches and wig is the last straw. Though she begs him to go home, he unpacks his mouldy trunk instead. Slowly V. becomes her warmest friend as they laugh and quarrel, and he teaches her the best lesson of all: how to live life to its fullest.)
I wonder if she would be willing to do something similar with Calvin.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Knut is no longer a cuddly little polar bear at the Berlin zoo, but a lumbering teenager. However Flock is the new star and in this house we point out the latest video or newspaper shots of her. My housemate even bought her son tissue in a box decorated with polar bears (and me a box with penguins). We even have polar bear toilet paper which makes routine chores worth smiling about.

Fortune Bananas

“I don’t like black marks on my bananas,” the young man of the house said, which worked out fine because I like the well ripened ones making banana division simple. But I couldn’t resist writing on one almost totally green banana “Black Marks”. This led to the idea if you can have fortune cookies, why not have fortune bananas?


The school gym was decorated with oriental rugs, pillows and other accessories typical of the Middle East. The Mayor bedecked with a wide yellow and orange ribbon (of his office ) running from his left shoulder to his waist, greeted each person as they entered the gym for the annual village apero and update of activities. He spoke to the villagers about the accomplishments of 2007 and the plans for 2008.

Then all the youngsters of the village who had reached the age of 18 were presented certificates of maturity. Several children who had excelled at sports were recognized and the villagers gave the appropriate applause.

The apero this year was Lebanese dips, local wines and hot mint tea served in traditional glasses as people milled around chatting with neighbours that they hadn’t seen for a while although the noise level made repetition necessary.

Several of the neighbours had gone together, people who had lived in the community for a couple of decades or more. I was definitely the new kid on the block, but that's okay. Everyone is new at some point.


I know this will be hard for people who know me to believe but I am taking a newsbreak until Monday…It was Kucinich not being allowed to debate that put me over the edge. Not that I think he stands a ghost of a chance but the media so far seems to be dictating who the top candidates will be by their choices of questions, etc. And how do we get all the issues on the table if only mainstream candidates are allowed the floor, which I am sure is the point in keeping Kuchinich out in the same way Nader was kept out.

I am sure there is a Ph.D thesis in their somewhere. One source has already examined that questions about the environment have been in the single digits. Looking at transcripts or getting the bits and pieces that I can glean from C-span I haven’t heard a lot about habeas corpus being restored or the crumbling infrastructure either in the debates.

On Monday I will go back to scanning papers from the US, Canada, UK, France, Switzerland, Israel (Palestine) and whatever other country is making headlines. I am sure the world will survive without my monitoring but will I?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The pot of gold at the end of the...

“I’m surprised there isn’t a rainbow,” I said as my friend pulled out on the Route d’Hermance on the way to lunch. The sun, which poured though the rain, created a silver grey sky.

“But there is.”

I turned and looked and over the lake was a rainbow that spanned the road up and beyond the village at the top of the hill, and it was one of the fattest rainbows I’ve ever seen.

A January rainbow is unusual. I think of August as rainbow season. When I was still working many times I’d emerged from the office to summer sunshine and before I could complete a 20 minute walk home, violent rain would leave me drenched. Still I would go to my balcony and watch the rainbow or rainbows appear over the château across the street.

And of course there was the night I took the evening commuter bus into France. The other passengers were serious-faced, tired after a workday in stuffy unair-conditioned buildings. They ignored the sudden rain storm that had started during the few second we were in the border tunnel.

Then someone exclaimed “Regardez. Attention.” On the left side of the bus was a double rainbow and then a third appeared. Passengers standing scrunched down to look out the window and soon people were chatting and smiling…the rainbow cure to grumpiness.

Once again I was caught without my camera (I will never learn), but my friend and I joked about the pot of gold and we did find it...or two: A parking place where parking is almost impossible and a Thai restaurant that we passed by accident.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mud-luscious and puddle wonderful

In Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman
whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's
when the world is puddle-wonderful
the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and

balloonMan whistles
e.e. cummings

I found a new country lane to meander down and the e.e. cummings’ words mud-luscious and puddle wonderful jumped into my mind as I smelled the mud as the ice let go of the dirt. It is a smell that only happens in spring, and even if January isn’t spring, it felt like it and it smelled like it.
I side-stepped soaked hoof prints and human foot prints and a tractor rut, but not successfully enough not to leave my shoes two-toned: beige and mud-coloured. They'll be easy to clean.
In one place the mud ran down a series of mini terraces reminding me of my brother and I creating a waterfall of little trickles in our driveway during a March thaw until almost all the muddy water filtered into one of the two puddles that gathered at the bottom of the hill.
The colour of the mud on today’s stroll varied from milk to dark chocolate and I tried to NOT think about a hot fudge sundae.

I passed fields that blocked traffic sounds, but I still could hear airplanes approaching and leaving Cointrin.

I wished I had a dog scampering along besides me. When I did have my dogs(First Albert and Amadeus and later Amadeus and Mika) walking wasn’t a choice. Granted many mornings their walks were minimal, but on weekends in Boston we would circle the pond across the street or stroll along the Muddy River.

The best walks were in Môtiers that little village where I first lived in Switzerland with the 600 people and 6000 cows. We could walk up a mountain, pass fields with cows, hike to the château, stroll passed Jean-Jacques Rousseau once lived, stop at the waterfall or amble next to a canal.

Sometimes on the way back we would cross the little one-person wide wooden plank bridge over a mini stream. The bridge frightened Albert so he had to be carried across.

Other times we might stop at Mauler & Cie in an old monastery and now a cave that turned the local grapes into a reasonable champagne even if they couldn’t call it that. There was one fountain, where Ama would ask to be lifted up so he could drink some water, probably rearming himself for more territorial marking.

The boys would come back from these long tours “cooked” as my Swiss gentleman friend used to say, meaning they curled up in a ball and would wake only for dinner, eat a bit and go back to sleep until morning.

Walks like this make me want a dog, BUT I know it leads to walks at 10 p.m. in the rain that I don’t want to do. And when I got back to the house, I only have to clean my shoes, not one or two pups who were overjoyed to live in a mud-luscious world.

Friday, January 11, 2008

My first no buy test

As I have written before I want to go a year without buying or adding anything to my household with the exception of food, tickets and replacement stuff. I will not wait until Jan. 1 2009 if my toilet needs new innards, for example.

Today, I had my first no buy test…
We were Atac across the border and I saw a pastry cutter for a couple of Euros.
Now the house has one in Corsier.
The number of times I used it in almost three years?
I was tempted to buy one thinking I could use it in Argelès?
Do I cut pastry in Argelès?
Sometimes. I use a knife.
Does it work well?
Then why would I add another thing when I have something that does the job perfectly well?Just more clutter

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Rewards are not for the birds

A reward for a good writing day is a walk by the lake, usually just about the time the sun is thinking about thinking about setting.

The water has so many moods. Two days ago it was lapping noisily at the rocks, but this afternoon it was merely whispering secrets.

If I go about this time I notice the birds line up on the dock barriers and I think of last Christmas when I was at my mom’s in Florida and about the same time of day the birds would cover her back lawn. Then one by one, as if guided by some avian air controller they would take off and land on the trees on the lake behind her house.

The last couple of times I had forgotten my camera, thinking I had enough lake pictures, because photos can’t capture the sound and smell of the water. Today I remembered it. The birds were waiting for me, although they didn't know it.

On multi lingualism has had articles about English only legislation. And while I agree that a person living in foreign country needs to have some command of the native language for integration, I hope I never have to live in a monolingual society again. It is just boring. Switzerland, a country of seven million people has four national languages. Geneva, which is about 47% foreign is a cacophony of tongues.
Walking by an employment agency with jobs posted in the window, every single one required a minimum of two languages. One listed seven and that was for a secretary.
Most social events I go to are multi lingual. A Turkish film I saw the other night used Turkish, German, English with German and French subtitles, but when they spoke German, the subtitles in that language went away. I could follow the jist but it was work.
A friend who recently broke up with a gentleman was listing the reasons. Other friends weren’t as sure if boring was good enough, or not being adventurous with food, or didn’t like to read might not be good enough reason to discard a perfectly nice human, but when she added, “and he’s monolingual,” we all nodded in agreement—that was the final straw.
There are people who have lived here 30+ years and boast a word of French has never passed their lips. Maybe they are happy, but they do miss out on a lot of the great things that require French, plus the need to have someone help them through the bureaucratic details we can never escape must be frustrating.
And then I think of the Englishman living in Southern Spain who said he would never go back to the UK. “Too many foreigners. And they won’t even learn English.” Later when asked how his Spanish was, he replied, “I can order a beer but not much more.” He had been there a good five years. Amen.

Poor Hillary

I am not a big Hillary fan. In fact I am sure I could not vote for her, however since Massachusetts always goes Democrat, that is safe.
I couldn’t support her pro Iraq war vote nor her vote for the Lieberman-Kyl amendment that Bush could use as authorization to attack Iran. Her claim if she knew now, what she knew then she wouldn't have voted for the Iraq war.
She should have asked me, even though I believe the woman is far more intelligent than I am in many areas. Nothing that happened in Iraq was any different than what I said would happen.
However, as far as the media is concerned, they vilified her for being too cold and then they vilify her for showing emotion. She cannot win. And there are some real gender issues on how she is treated as a woman candidate. I will rail against her voting record, her attachment to big business, but these are issues not gender qualities.
Meanwhile, I wish the media would discuss the real issues: our attacks against other countries, our failing infrastructure, the growing inequality, the national debt, etc. but they prefer the bread and circuses of a woman acting like a woman…

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Our frigo is full.
I read the book Plenty in almost one sitting. The rest of the title is One Man, One Woman and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon. The young Vancouver couple recorded their year of only eating food grown within a 100 mile radius.

They claim, and rightfully, that most of us have no connection to the production of the food we eat. Some children have never seen a real cow (although this can’t be true here in Switzerland).

They also commented on how food is no longer safe not just because of pesticides, but lack of inspections and methods of production, which has produced the mad cow and e-coli scares. This does even begin to touch on the extra hormones and GM problems. Also the amount of oil used to ship a kiwi 10,000 miles has other negative repercussions to the planet. And we won't mention the cruelty to animals shoved in holocaust camp like conditions.

Interestingly enough, he wrote more about the history of food, lost species, etc. She wrote more about the relationships of food, who cooked, getting to know the fishmonger, etc.

Because they started in winter, their limitations were far greater. Of course things like olive oil were out. Even salt, but they experimented in making their own.

Finding wheat in a region where wheat was once plentiful took them almost the full year. Their first attempt produced half wheat half mouse droppings and difficulty in grinding it to useable form, not anything that would encourage people to duplicate their experiment.
Recipes were included.

But they have a point in terms of food corruption and the environment. There is something far more meaningful chatting with my honey producer on which is the best honey for a cake than walking up and down a supermarket aisle. I love my fishmonger who was at the dock at dawn and includes cooking suggestions and the latest neighbourhood gossip.

It is much nicer to go to Leo's and Marike’s place for our hand raised goats and chickens and pluck tomatoes smelling of the sun off the vine during the summer in Argelès, or walk up to local farmer’s market in Corsier knowing I have been by the farm hundreds of times and I am supporting a neighbour, not some nameless stockholder in a conglomerate.

If the authors had nine to five jobs spending the amount of time they spent searching for food (most often on bicycle) would probably be impossible. However, they pointed out that often taking the time to shop for fast food and cooking a healthy meal can be the same depending on certain factors.

I have tended to buy locally and seasonally, more because the flavours are best and the idea of support of people I know already mentioned. And it is not hard to buy local olive oil and olives when one lives with groves in walking distance. The same is true of wine. So many restaurant meals have been accompanied by wines where I can see the vineyards that produced them out the window.

But I don’t want to give up my bananas and tea and some things that can't be bought locally. And I do try and buy fair trade wherever I can. Unlike so many on this planet I realise how lucky to be hungry only by choice...

When a tree joined us for lunch

The winter sun blasted itself through the restaurant window warming us even more than the miso soup.

My writer friend turned to me. “Can a character really change?”

We launched into a discussion that took us through the sushi, the brochettes, and the complimentary saki served in paper thin porcelain cups that when the saki was added a naked man was revealed on the bottom of the cup.

We racked our brains for how we had changed, or how we had observed change in others. We discussed how events might change people such as an Iraqi veteran suffering post traumatic stress syndrome and other events far less dramatic than a war.

We acknowledged that in fiction the character has to change or evolve. In fact, we need to put our characters into situations where they rise or don’t to the problem.

But…but…does that mean the basic character changes?

We still didn’t have an answer.

Outside the window was a huge tree. We came up with an analogy. (I have a friend who choses friends if they speak analogy because she knows they will be able to communicate well.)
That tree started out as a seed.

How a seed grows depends on where it is planted. The seed that created the large tree in the parking lot flourished because it had plenty of sunlight and water, but had it been covered in earth in a dense forest it might be stunted. If it had been carried on the wind to a desert it might never have grown at all. Had a tornado or an extra strong bise blown it might have been uprooted.

Then again it had undergone changes, seasons of being in bloom then losing its leaves, branches pruned. If one major branch had been cut would the nutrients that flowed from its roots make the other branches stronger?

Yet…that tree would never be a zebra, bird, fish or any other living creature. It would always be a tree. And neither my friend nor I were good enough botanists to determine which kind of tree it was, especially in its leafless state.

We knew it would never be a pine or spruce. It was destined to be whatever kind of tree its genetic make up decreed.

So then maybe the answer is characters can adapt to their life situation to make our writing interesting, but the base is always there. And maybe that is as true in real life as it is in our writing.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Crow duty vs. bone duty

In spring and summer the sound of the Corsier Tabernacle Chrous, sweet bird song, gentles me awake.

This morning it was a crow convention loudly disputing some point.

Munchkin lept from the bed using my stomach as a launching pad to sit on the radiator by the window guarding the house from the birds that had the nerve to land on the roof over the entrance where only 20 hours before she had perched meowing to be let in. And she stayed on the radiator until every bird had moved on to other activities.

It reminded me of my Japanese chin, Albert, and his bone duty. Our Riverway Boston apartment had a long corridor with the front door on one side and the bedrooms on the other. The kitchen was on the opposite end.

Should my daughter and I forget to pick up any bones, Albert, rather than going to his bed or one of ours would place himself and the bone, in front of the apartment door and growl and bark at anyone going upstairs.

Between you and I, I really doubt that the minister and his nurse wife, the doctor and his dental technician wife, the 70-year old woman trying to establish an acting career late in life or the two Bobs had any interest at all in Albert’s bones. All liked the little dog and would speak kindly to him.

In fact one time, when I came home to find that Albert had arranged the kitchen trash artfully around the living room, I couldn’t find Albert. He had high-tailed it, or low-tailed it out of the flat. When I called to him, I heard one of the Bobs say, “Sounds like you’re in trouble Albert,” but they offered to keep him while I cleaned up the living room.

However Albert didn’t know that his bones weren’t coveted, although if he had been a little brighter he might have figured out that they were in more danger from our other pup, Amadeus than any of the neighbours. Still both my daughter and I tried not to forget to debone the flat before going to bed and let Albert (and us) get a good night sleep rather than remain on bone duty.

Crow duty, bone duty…I am lucky enough to have animals that assume responsibility.

Foray Number 2

Having survived the long trip to the garbage (see below) yesterday, I decided to rebuild my strength by making a trip into town. The first list of errands, bank, post, library, lunch, which seemed so doable as I snuggled in my bed the night before, seemed more ambitious after a shower and a session of getting my bills ready to pay at the Multimat (the machine that transfers money from my account into any body else’s account in the country making checks totally obsolete).

My housemate and I headed downtown anyway and I was glad she was with me.
Lunch seemed a good resting point and after all these years of being in Geneva and walking by La Taverne de la Madeleine on the Route des Toutes Ames (all souls), I finally got to eat there.

Some say it has been an inn or food serving place for at least 400 years, but the present association has been running it for the last 80 or so. It advertises itself as an alcohol-free restaurant, and has been mentioned in more than one novel. My housemate used to eat there often as girl when she was at a very restrictive boarding school and it was considered a safe place for school monitors to catch you.

We both chose the pumpkin filled ravioli, but I was well aware that my appetite is down and was only able to eat half. Doggy bags aren’t the done thing a thing my hips are happy about.

I paid my bills and the activities were more than enough for my first day back into the world.
Maybe tomorrow I will make the library and post…(or not)

My first foray

I have never been a patient patient, but with this case of flu I decided to be good and take it easy by staying warm, taking all the stuff my housemate brought me, making sure my neck had both a cold damp scarf and then a warm flannel one, and not rushing to recover (we won’t discuss the laptop on my bed where I continued writing). Reluctantly I decided to postpone going back to Argelès until February 7th but it made sense (which I do not see any inherent merit in one way or the other) after some medical tests, the Geneva Writer’s Conference and my writing mate’s reading of her book Back Burning at La Faim.
However, I reached the point of feeling better but with greatly reduced energy. So what should be my first foray into the big bad world after 9 days in the house?
The kitchen’s compost box was full of oranges, banana peels and was beginning to smell. Thus I took the huge walk twenty paces outside the front door to the compost can…Glory Hallelujah.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The limitations of mirrors

Let’s face it: most bathroom mirrors are boring, little square boxes mass produced. Oh, okay, some have stage mirror lights and size may vary.

This mirror was in the villa I stayed in during my visit to Collodi Tuscany and was not boring. I wouldn’t call it beautiful and the word kitsch might even pass my lips, but certainly, each morning as I huddled in the cold, I found it amusing.

One of the facets of aging is there’s a lot less time spent mirror gazing. As a preteen I used to spend hours in the bathroom, singing into my tooth brush as I gazed into the mirror and pretending I was on Ed Sullivan. It was one of those boring square boxes hiding medicine and make up.
The rest of the family stayed well out of hearing distance, not that caterwauling was ever mentioned. I just knew that’s what they thought when I emerged from the bathroom to always find them at opposite ends of the house.

My image in the mirror has gone from being my face to my mother’s face then to my grandmother’s face. And when I look now, it is to check that my roots don’t need touching up and spinach isn’t caught between my teeth. For a few minutes it removes the reason not to get a face lift (it’s not my problem, it’s the problem of those that have to look at me).
A mirror might be able to help me make sure my face as optimum as aging allows, my hair is in place but it can do nothing to help me sing. So maybe the next best thing is to try and make the mirrors of the world interesitng unto themselves.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

On Reading O

A copy of O found its way into the house. American magazines are rare or cost about two Harvard courses here. Like many glossies it is difficult to find the articles between the ads, and yes, because of my profession I know it’s the ads that pay for the magazine not the stand price.

A couple of things caught my attention. One was the side bar that the difference between successful and unsuccessful people is that successful people fail more. Logically, if you don’t risk you don’t learn, if you don’t learn, you don’t advance…yadda yadda yadda…that’s a good yadda yadda yadda not a sarcastic one, by the way.

I do hear my friend Mary’s voice, saying “define your terms” and one person’s success is another person’s failure, so if being a CEO is nowhere on a success chart, that’s okay. But as a writer and as a person who teaches writing, I remember a Simmons professor who said every writer has 250,000 bad words in them. Well that’s 250,000 failures if you want to use that term. I prefer to think of it as 250,000 experiences enriching my life on the way to computer pubelle…good riddance, I loved you well for a short time.

I suppose I could say I was a success because I accomplished everything I set out to do: university degree, write, marry, have a daughter, live in Europe. In my youth I still hadn’t added work honestly, make the world better, have strong friendships, etc. And in even achieving even tiny parts of each of these goals I made some really big goofs along on the way. As I tell people who say they did something stupid, “But can you claim you divorced a dead man you were never married to in the first place?” and they realise I’ve won the stupid mistake contest even though I never set out to do that.

My mother used to say about her many neurosis that they were her neurosis, she cultivated them and she loved them. I guess I feel the same way about my failures, but like revenge they are best tasted cold.

The other second thing that hit me was a beauty column where a woman worried about the bumps left on her underarm skin shaving. I wanted to write the editors and demand the name and ask her “Are you for real?

“With the US Constitution under attack, with US poverty second in the industrialized world, with thousands of people losing their homes (not to mention those all over the world who have lost jobs and security because of alleged smart leaders' clever investing), with people being killed in two wars of US making and hundreds of thousands more being killed in tribal conflicts, with global warming threatening the planet, you, you idiot are worried about underarms bumps?”

The mind boggles.