Friday, April 30, 2010

A bit of knitting in a friend's bright and cheery kitchen.

This friend has large, generous windows that let in rivers of light. She laments the fact that the glass gets dirty so fast; exceedingly clean, she is most content when her house waxes tidy and sparkling. But she also adds to it a touch of nature's softness - silent and calm and conducive to inner peace.

Sometimes I go for breakfast. The table is always set with assorted napkins, and she has arranged my place to welcome me. There is a basket of croissants, petits pains au lait, butter, and at least two kinds of jam (homemade, of course), honey, nutella. She offers orange juice, coffee, a glass of water to wash it all down. And in her love for me, she provides two coffee creams - just how I like it.

We talk, we knit, we look at new clothes... women things. Every time I leave there I think, "why didn't you come sooner?" Indeed.

Seize what is in the basket, Allison! There is plenty for today...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Walk in the park

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Looking through the broken glass of one life into the green fields of another.

C.S. Lewis says "further in and higher up!" Is that what it will be like? Will the glass I look through now be shattered, and I will be let to look upon something lovely and new? Something wholly unlike the version I know now, but intimately the same ... only better?

I have wondered what awaits me. I have recoiled at the image others have given me of that eternal place; so limited, so finite, so subjective, so personal. I feel it will be different for every individual, for every heart and longing.

And I wonder, who does break the glass?

p.s. Please comment if a thought strikes you (even anonymously) ... my thoughts are no more than a signal into the great vastness. Do you think something I have not thought?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sage tea in the garden, compliments of Camille.

Monday, April 26, 2010

On life as an ex-patriot...

There is another struggle that comes with being a long-term ex-pat. And I do stress long-term. When I first arrived, for years in fact, there was the excitement and lure of learning and discovering a new language; the thrill of feeling it roll over my tongue like cool water on naked skin. You say things in different ways, and learn to see them differently as a result.

There are the odd phrases specific to each language and region that make it unique, even absurd, to the point of giddiness. A friend of mine says in her local French, "I have so much housework to do today. I am just swimming in the yogurt!"

Naturally, these are the things that draw me to a language, and make me love it.

There are also the cultural putdowns, a local sense of humor, that you can only grasp if you truly know the language and history. The day I began to grasp these was the day I felt I truly belonged. My friends from the New Country come over and ask me to translate, and sometimes I honestly can't. After all, they didn't go through this particular school of hard knocks!

But aside from that there is the feeling that you never will fit in. That you understand, but cannot hear. That you are doomed to a life of deafness.

A friend sat at my table last week for lunch, a businessman. He said something that was a consolation to me. We were talking about this culture, a specific sub-culture where I live. He said, "You do truly understand us, Allison, but there are things, thoughts, you will never understand because you are not us. This mentality is not yours. So while you understand it, you cannot have it - it will not come to you naturally."

You understand, but cannot hear.

Being an ex-patriot will give you that feeling, eventually. The clanging din of sound, even beautiful sound, surrounds you, but the day ultimately comes when that's all it is - sound.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday afternoon...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

There is this song we sing about seeing the dawn of the darkest day. I have always thought that to be the day of the death of the Christ. But there are other dark days; there are other holes of blackness in which people grope and search for illumination.

I awoke of a morning to this bit of light coming through the curtain. We don't live in the land of spectacular sunrises and sunsets. In all truth, the ones I see here pale in comparison to others on the Pacific Coast, on the fields of the American midwest. I have longed for the passionate throbbing of more ferocious vistas, aggressive weather, the terrifying growl of a nature that is more powerful than I. Somehow, the gentle sway of this spellbinding countryside leaves me frustrated at times.

I opened the curtain expecting nothing special, but hoping all the same that for once there would be something truly lovely. I am waiting for a dawn.

Waiting in a fog, waiting in a darkness, waiting for something to come. I hope when it does it is all-consuming, untamed and soothingly fierce.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Coffee with the Russian at high noon.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Through the years, things come back to you, memories, impressions that you gleaned as a child. There is one I have of an open hand, a generous spirit of hospitality.

We whispered amongst ourselves when my mother brought her stray cats into the house. She was always doing that - bringing in the people we would despise. There were always renegades around; the kind of people others would stare at, the kind others would reject.

They were the guests at our table.

It was a lesson in kindness I have never forgotten. A glimpse into humility. Looking back I think my mother saw something I failed to see as a child, I think she must have felt a love directed toward herself much greater than anything we could imagine to be so loving to the unpalatable.

Is there a bit of that legacy for me? My mother has asked us to put our names on things in her house for when she's dead ... so we will know what belongs to whom. I've never liked the idea; in truth, I've teased her about it.

But will she put a label on her love? Will she write my name on that legacy to carry when she's gone?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


And if the bars were to bloom? Nothing but quivering leaves would stand between me and the sky.

How I wish they would.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Forget-me-nots to herald the coming of warm, sunny days! A reminder not to forget the spring when it has gone and winter bleakness has settled in.

Carrying the laundry up from the basement yesterday I spied the russian lying among the daisies with his shirt off, staring up at the blue sky.

And I wondered if he were as taken with the beautiful day as I was, or if he was just trying to see the ash cloud with his naked eye as it descended over the land. Wouldn't he love that!

Monday, April 19, 2010

My fern had died. I came home from a trip to a dried up plant, despite the fact that Meagane had watered it faithfully in my absence.

I considered what to do with a plant I had actually kind of loved. No other plants had thrived in my home, except for this one. It lived in my kitchen with me, sitting on the window sill as I cooked and watched the street for the children to come home from school. It had grown lush and full with time, and I was careful to water it regularly. We were, in a way, friends; waiting as the world came and went, sitting in silent comradery, both living and growing in our own specific ways.

I know ... that's a lot of information about a plant. But I'm not losing my mind, fear not!

When I saw her dead, I felt an inner distress and annoyance; it occured to me that perhaps she was mirroring the way I felt inside. Fern had given up; and what was I to do about it? Throw her out? In that split second, in that sliver of a moment, I decided what I would do (and believe me when I say my resolve had nothing to do with a glowing knowledge of how to care for house plants - ask my plant, it knows the pathetic truth).

Grabbing scissors from the kitchen drawer, I set her in the sink and chopped her entire deadness off. It nearly choked me to do it. She sat there in her huge white plastic pot, shaved and degraded, a perfect compost candidate. But I would not be thwarted. I watered and drained her thoroughly and set her in a new pot up in my skylight window; and waited for her.

I would not throw out an old friend because she had lost her zest for life. Would you? Would God?

Time has passed, and tiny shoots have begun to appear on the ugly lump that remained after the shearing; I feel she has begun trusting that I'm in it for the longhaul. (She has no idea how strongly I feel about this!). And the question comes back to me again: what do you do when the person you count on suddenly has nothing more to offer?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Well, the socks are as yet unknit, but I picked up the Noro I've been hoarding for nearly a year and am knitting this instead. It is the striped scarf featured at b r o o k l y n t w e e d but with four, rather than two, rows per color scheme. Easy as pie, and mindless; apparently what I've been looking for of late.

The yarn is the loveliest blend of silk, kid mohair and lamb's wool; and I've used colors 244 and 279 here, though I've begun to think
b r o o k l y n t w e e d was right picking more contrasting tones. His scarf is truly inspiring if you want to check it out:

I have plans for a little red cotton-linen sleeveless something for Milly, but it is so hard deciding on a pattern! So for now, it's just back and forth, back and forth on the needles while my mind follows suit on the impending tank!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Milly selling spring flowers from her makeshift stand.

"Mommy, will you come buy some flowers for 2 francs?"

Two dollars for dandelions in a plastic cup?
No sense of monetary value, but more sense than I for what is lovely and worth having. It is the dance of children; to make something beautiful from what they find.

Friday, April 16, 2010

I came upon tiny quail eggs at the market - freshly laid! Naturally, I had to buy some, and as you can imagine the Russian smiled down thoroughly entertained from his towering height when I pulled them from the basket...

Sunny side up or hard-boiled?

It was as if electricity had just been invented, and the six of us gathered round to see; it doesn't take much to thrill us. They were surprisingly hard to crack! My eldest, who feels a kind of Einstein complicity with her native-Swiss father, watched on in amusement as my fingers gutted the poor little eggs and I tried my best to display a sense of deft precision.

A small feast.
And after they had been gobbled up, which took about one second, the questions arose, Aren't there any more? We're still hungry! Were there any chicks inside?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Daniele's jar in the promise of morning.

It took at least half an hour to scrub these clean after I brought them home from the brocante!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Alas, from whence the mittens came!
(those don't look like walruses to me)

Walrus mittens ...

just finished!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I have been mother to children in the hospital. I have walked the cold halls holding small hands into rooms that make you feel like a lab rat.

When those days are ours to endure, I bring candy in my pocket to suck when the doctor steps out; I sit and knit and say absurd things to make us laugh when fear of the unknown would devour us; I fix their frightened eyes with my smiling ones until the anaesthesia kicks in and they fall asleep; I stand as the glass doors close behind me and feel the helplessness of entrusting them to the mercy of a surgeon and his knife.

Have you been that mother? Have you felt that sinking aloneness?

Have you listened on while they tell you your son has a disease unheard of in his age and gender group; swallowed calmly while they say he may have something else, too, but they can’t imagine what?

Sitting at my kitchen table one day after everyone had gone to school, I began to understand my vocation. I realized, as I cried out my heavy heart, that as mothers we have no right to lose our heads. There is no room for drama in our world.

For we are anchors in theirs.

Sunday, we went AWOL. For once, nothing was broken. We were not the exception; the rare case no one could unravel. With an ice pack and a sling, we walked right out the front door in an odd state of ecstasy!

Monday, April 12, 2010

A plate of chocolate covered strawberries for an afternoon treat! I finally found the right chocolate to use for this. Co-op glaçage clair or foncé, depending on if you like a milk or dark chocolate coating. The Co-op brand doesn't slide off the berries like the Migros brand does. Use tin foil (feuille d'alu) to lay them on after dipping, and then simply peel them off and arrange them on a plate. They'll be gone within minutes!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I have walked through fields of fog. Have you? A fog of the heart; when blindess is overwhelming and you find yourself reaching, groping into a deceptive mist. I have walked there. The minutes pass, the hours, the months; hoping it will clear.

There is no compass that can bring you out; it is a waiting. Sit and feel it settle around you. Sit and let it soak you with its uncertainty; let it penetrate until you think you will die from exposure in the empty land of questioning.

It will clear. I can't imagine how, or when. But something tells me in my dampened soul that it will; and all will shine bright on the flowerless fields.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

You belong...

Friday, April 9, 2010

There is a vast pond deep among the rolling hills of the Franches Montagnes that feels like home. I didn't know that was the reason I was drawn to the place until two days ago when my nephew pointed out its Rocky feel. Spring has sprung there, and tiny tendrils of freshness are pushing up through snow on water creating the oddest, most intriguing textures I've seen in 6 long months.

oh ...

medusa... spaghetti... eels... loch ness?

The grasses of summer past preserved in the bog-like waters of the pond. We shall swim among them yet!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The beautiful sock yarn I bought in Chicago is still sitting in a basket on the floor by the window looking cheerful. Aunt Vreni's laundry line has galvanized me into knitting action, though, and last night I sat knitting the mitten I've been trying to finish so I can ... start the socks!

Vreni and Fritz. He was outdoors "purging the forest" when I stopped by with 5 kids in tow. "Vreni will get you something to drink," says he. And the smiling woman whose back is literally cracked in two, forcing her to walk in an L position, her head hanging nearly to the ground, poured us little plastic cups of orange juice out on her front stoop and sent us on our way with chocolate.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wait, why are there ashes falling on my head? I was hanging up the laundry when bits of burning paper came soaring out of the sky. I could hear the faint laughter of 12 year old boys and looked up to my son's room... Elias?

The little fire-starters, invited for a sleepover, were lighting paper and throwing it out the window to see what they would see. But they didn't reckon on me seeing.

The wrath that followed is hard to describe, and I was of two minds about serving them the oreo and cream cheese birthday cake I had made and chilled earlier in the day - and believe me when I say that dirt cake is no easy task. Have you ever put oreos in a blender? Have you witnessed first-hand the onslaught of powdered cookie in flight? When asked individually (my own son included) how their dads would react if they started a fire in their own bedrooms at home, each said unassumingly and fully subdued, "He would punish me". Hmmm. Really!

The upside to this gripping novella is that the shed is completely cleaned and swept out now thanks to my three repentant charges, and the outdoor spring cleaning I was so dreading has done itself up!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Language is the source of misunderstandings.
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

And how! I just read this quotation and am inspired anew to pursue my profession. The right words can alter the course of this world, I daresay; they inspire the uninspired, transform misunderstanding into understanding; sharpen or dull the blade of communication; tear down walls or build them up; join enemies in an enlightened bond of mutual consciousness.


The kind that lingers through town with you, and laughs over insignificant things; that is there when the floor needs sweeping, noses need wiping, knees need bandaging; the kind that will fly a great distance to have coffee with you, dinner, a day out. It's the kind that goes with you to the hospital when your child has been diagnosed, when there are no words, when the world suddenly seems bigger, emptier, meaningless; and that friendship sits beside you and offers you a peanut butter cup.

Monday, April 5, 2010

If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer...
If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

- Shel Silverstein

Sunday, April 4, 2010

little easter lamb

A family tradition, this little sweetie is on our breakfast table every Easter morning, with butter and honey and molasses. We pick him apart after the baskets have been found, and hubby and I have had at least two cups of coffee! Why, incidentally, is it that all the good holidays have children waking up so early in the morning?

WARNING Access strictly prohibited to unauthorized personnel. Enter at your own risk.
Isn't this life with a true friend; isn't this life the way God sees me? I sat making Easter bread with my daughter last night, and we were laughing about the oddities and absurdities of the moment. She was twisting bread dough into little swirls to make the fuzzy fur of a lamb (a picture of which I will post later on), and images cascaded through my mind, which I did not hesistate to share.
"Mom, some people are double sided ... you are triple sided. I wonder if your friends know who you really are."

Indeed! Authorized personnel only; thank God for risk takers.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

40 some white eggs and the world to hide them in!
Early morning frost; I wake up to the warm hairy arms of kindness and think how lucky I am. Lucky. Is there luck in God's world, Linda? You've said there are no ifs, but is there luck?

In the chilly, wintry days of this past week, when snow lay like powdered-sugar across the spring-green fields, I had my sister's scarf to keep me warm; and the colors of it to keep me happy. I am lucky to have a sister who will leave a scarf and a book under the pillow for me to find when she's flown away.

Friday, April 2, 2010

My daughter asked, "Is that your scarf, mom? Why have you put it there?" Why indeed. I wonder if she knows the unpure things that hang on that cross for me, the unspeakable secrets he has carried with him and laid to rest there. The things that shroud me still.

Looking up, or in, to Jesus on this day brings a quiet knowingness; peace that he sees me in my humanity; that in a crowd of a billion earth-inhabitants, he sees this one here, in this place, with this heart.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

...fais attention poisson d'avril !

Early morning rush to make a zillion fish for April Fools ... and you walk around all day long with them stuck to your back (and your behind), pretending to a string of giggling children that you haven't noticed, and what's so funny?