whistlestop caboose

The view from the back.

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www.zidao.com Apprentice harmonizer, for sheer fun. Journeywoman writer, for work and pleasure. Starting point was Iowa, current stopping point on this journey is Switzerland, with frequent pauses around the world to watch and listen to the crowd, and occasionally make comments.

Tulips 2006 for Gran ellengwallace's Tulips 2006 for Gran photoset

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Damp around the edges

The Swiss Alps have had a wonderfully long, toasty autumn, the warmest since 1843, only occasionally damp around the edges. We had one of those edgy mornings Monday.

Jan Vermeer's apples

Dawn light in the Swiss Alps reaches the basket of freshly picked apples.

(You can view the really large size on Flickr.)

Don't cry for me Argentina

. . . just because you are heading joyfully into Spring while I bow my head as winter draws near.

These are not tears, but the last touches of autumn dew, sparkling with the first rays of dawn in the Swiss Alps.

(You can view the really large closeup on Flickr.)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Perfect apple pie for 70th wedding anniversary

Hard to believe that my mother can remember her wedding day 70 years ago! I have just posted a series of photos on Flickr, on baking the perfect apple pie - tomorrow I will post the recipe and instructions. Meanwhile, here is the completed and ready to eat pie, on one of the dishes my mother received as a wedding present, American fostoria dinnerware that she treasured.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

International car rally roars around mountain

This was an unusually noisy day in the Alps, with the Rallye international du Valais (read that: Valais int. car rally), starting its first day under my nose. The starting point was precisely in front of my house, with 100 cars gunning their engines, drivers pulling down helmets and rolling up windows, and then roaring off. Rallies are noisy beasts.

I've posted a series of photos on GenevaLunch, with a short news report. To give you a flavor, here is one.

I pulled weeds while the racers lined up, since it was too noisy to work. In addition to car engines being revved, helicopters flew very low, right over us. We have the rally here every year although most of the time it finishes a little bit above us rather than starting here, and I see coughing cars and sweat-soaked teams whipping off their helmets.

This year I had more time to observe the spectators. There are more, far more, men than women. Most of them do not look very fit but they are willing to park their cars further down the mountainside and walk 30 minutes uphill to get a good viewing spot. For some reason I can't fathom, the number of people with canes, wheelchairs and crutches is relatively high. People with small children have to carry them uphill, even though the mostly little boys are clearly thrilled with the racing cars. Mothers, rather than fathers, tend to carry them. People with dogs have to carry them, for the noise makes them skittish (so why bring poor Mutt, I wonder?). No one looks at the view. Strangely, for I have a lot of flowers and people driving normally look at them, no one looks at gardens. No one looks at the sky, which is spectacular on this warm late autumn day.

The first car misses its sharp turn, which has a very steep drop into the woods to one side, and I remind myself how I always take it slowly. The team ends up near the top, however, so they know more about recovering from a missed turn than I do.

Supporters drift down for an hour after the last car has left, and they all seem happy.

I think it is mainly a guy thing, and if I live to be 100 I probably won't get it.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Swiss alpine skyfire

Here is what I saw this morning, very distracting and hard to sit down on front of the computer when the sky is ON FIRE! It lasted 10 minutes and then the day turned docile, as if nothing had happened. A bit like a wild night and then you get up and go to work as if nothing happened, right?

(same as photos published on my Tribune de Geneve blog, but larger)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I can hear the F-18s in the clouds

Vrrroooom, it's the season for F-18 training. I can hear the Swiss air force fighter jets zooming around in the clouds, chasing each other. I hope they're not in this cloud, which is heading straight for me at top speed. Clouds are usually soundless.

I'd like to think the pilots are a little higher and fly by radar rather than sight. Probably, right? aiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeee.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Old age could look like this

After the girls from Iowa sing for a few years we might look like this. That wouldn't be so bad.

Girls from Iowa sing!

Blooming, singing . . .

Back to front: Claire, Judy, Cathy, Mary, Ellen and Judie. Behind us: some of the other girls from Iowa.

Last month I was in the US and got together with the Girls from Iowa. We do this once a year. We usually get a little carried away singing and dancing but I can't show our faces since in our other lives we are respectable people.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Pilots have two directions to choose from

Dawn continues to be a beautiful time, so I thought I would take a picture. I looked in front of me. The business of looking one direction is excellent for teaching you to look in other directions, so before settling down to the day's mundane stuff I looked to the right. The mountain was smoking a fine cigar, to my surprise. And then I looked back the other way and pilots were busy. Some were learning to fly across, others to fly up. It probably doesn't look this way from the cockpit, where I suspect the world is always below (assuming the pilot has the basics under control).

Friday, October 20, 2006

Listening to cloud movements

Selling the farm: Allaman, Vaud, Switzerland. October 2006

On my "work" blog for the Tribune de Geneve online newspaper I wrote today about clouds, with a link to a good site that explains them (in French!), with photos. It's been cloud-minding weather. This time of year their busywork up in the sky is very distracting, but it should be: they are sweeping out one season and sweeping in another. It's a process very like cleaning out our garage. You can't do it in a day.

The clouds have kept me focused on the fact it is autumn. Signs are everywhere, even if it is warm outside and work goes on indoors, especially in front of computers, without regard for the season shifting. Here are a couple of the autumn treasures I've seen this week when I wandered outside.

Two-tone goats are a Valais specialty. These have been in a patch of sticky burrs.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

In memory of John Stephens

John Stephens of Chew Magna, Sussex, in England and also of Spain, died last Friday, hiking with his wife of many years, Pat, and very close friends, in the Pyranees.

He was first a colleague, then a friend, and we had lost touch, in part because John and Pat had decided to do away with some of life's complications, starting with computers. Also in part because I never got around to answering their last letter, interesting and filled with news as it was.

I had news of them through a mutual friend very recently, maybe two weeks ago, telling me that John, an excellent designer, had returned to the painting work he loved, and that he had a show opening in Spain. That was an important reason to write, and I put it on my list for the weekend, this one or the next. John had stopped working as a designer and I was one of his clients when he decided that he no longer really enjoyed fighting computers and large organizations, that life was too short and he wanted time to hike in the mountains and paint and work on his boat. I had enormous pleasure imagining him free of the corporate world. Life is short, he said, and you never know.

I'm sorrier than I can say that I didn't have one last catching-up conversation with him. I would have liked to have heard more about the mountains he loved so much, and walking in them, staying in huts and building fires, sharing a good bottle of wine with friends.

He was a good man, with a big heart and a soul that wanted the world to be right, and he was a hard-working man - he was also bright and creative, and I think that knowing he had a chance to let those last two words shine will bring solace to Pat. It does to the rest of us.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Last rose of summer

I think this might be it. Let's hold our breath and admire her bravery. It's 4-5C/40F at night, chilly for a pink bud.

Snow at 4,000

It snowed at 4,000 meters during the night and at noon the sun came out so we could see it.

I worked outside most of the day, but took time out from turf-cutting and replanting to shoot a few pictures of a patch of grasses which I love this time of year . . .

Thursday, October 12, 2006

And if it is not your birthday but you want a present

. . . here is something beautiful, to be shared with someone else who might enjoy it - it's a rose that sits high in the Swiss Alps, enjoying the first rays of sunlight and a beautiful view when it takes time to look up.

The deep colour is just what the sun washed it with, no touching up.

Shoes 'n blooms for Mary birthdays

Here is a bright happy birthday hello to my sister Mary, who always does something special on her birthday, so I will be interested to hear what this year's day holds!

And here is to buddy Mary, whose birthday I thought about, briefly forgot about, remembered, missed and remembered again - oh dear. She has the world's most amazing ability to get her friends to take off their shoes and kick up their heels: a good recipe for happiness.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Curious cow

Two posts back I showed Farmer Bernard's cows, down from the hills. Here is the curious cow, a lovely creature! A summer munching grass high in the Alps does wonders for a girl's coat. These are milk cows and they give wonderful alpine milk for cheese.

In a very tight spot

Who cares how tight the spot is, when you've got this view?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Life is just full of work and cows and flowers and ...

Too much going on in life, but all of it interesting (except the kleenex my daughter decided to eat because she was bored, waiting for me to finish on the computer).

The words will have to wait for another day, but here are some images for now.

The mountain garden was harvested and tilled to make room for autumn onion and garllic planting. But one last pumpkin vine, with flowers babies, had to be left for a few extra days to enjoy balmy October days and cool nights.

In the valley, near Lake Geneva, everyone has been harvesting fruit and the smell of apples and plums and especially grapes fills the air. I stopped near Tara's school and asked some of the seasonal workers, from Portugal, if I could take their picture. These are Gala apples.

In the space of a week almost all the grapes are cut and taken to the wineries or cooperatives. The leaves suddenly turn the most beautiful colors! I used to love maples and other northern trees that turned red this time of year, something we don't have in Switzerland. But we have gloriously multi-colored vineyards.

And then, up in the mountains, the cows came down from the high Alps. At night they are still out in the fields, their heavy loud bells clanging all night long, but usually in fields just far enough away so that they sound like chimes. Here is one of the neighbors, a curious young girl.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Today the sun rose in the West

Last night a fantastic full harvest moon rose over the Alps. This morning an even more fantastic thing happened. As the full moon prepared to set in the West, the sun rose in the West. I've never seen this happen before and don't expect to ever see it again.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Rings on their fingers and bells on their toes

We just can't see the toes. American women expressing themselves.

Old people are not always unhappy or lonely

Here is a photo of my mother, age 94, taken a couple weeks ago on a day warm enough for her to sit outside. She had all four of her daughters visiting, which was a little overwhelming. We asked if she minded so much chatter around her and she smiled, saying she enjoyed hearing all of us having a good time together.

I attended a conference last week in St-Gallen, Switzerland, on aging. I learned much about the demographics (a huge number of us are getting old rapidly!) of aging, but also about the realities of old age. I read a report by Dutch researchers who said something I think we would all do well to reflect on: old people are unhappy and lonely in relation to their expectations. An older person will feel let down, miserable and be unhappy if she or he expects to be surrounded all day by laughing family members who pay a good deal of attention to the wise elder, but who in reality are off working or taken up much of the time with their own lives.

People (and I think this is not just the elderly) who are realistic and generous in their expectations of others are more likely to be happy and to attract others to them.

Easier said than done, of course.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Vancouver bear

I was looking for a photo of my mother for International Day of Older Persons, but I don't have it with me and will have to post it Monday morning. I'm not sure what she would think of this substitute, but here is a bear from Vancouver, who does not quite qualify as an older person. Here, nevertheless, is to older people everywhere: may their lives be rich and happy in the ways they hope for!