Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I do have a "serious" poem in mind for this week's Poetry Jam, but it isn't ready yet and it's almost time for the next theme. So the silly one while I get my act in gear for Always Looking Up:

At 10:38, the Air France to Paris CDG lifts off and magestically turns northward
At 10:39, the Air France to Paris Orly lifts off and magestically turns northward
looking exactly the same.
You wonder: why are they two?
They fade into the hazy distance
as the Lyon-Bordeaux crosses their trails
much higher up,
linking the eastern cumulous group
to the western cirrus.
The Paris-Toulous weaves its strand
into the contrail tartan
before the high breezes
disperse them.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Waterman

I am going to buy a pen today.
Oh ! Momentous news ! you say.
Well, hey, I plan on buying myself a really nice pen. Not some by-the-dozen bic or biro. I like having a special pen.
Around here, a Mont Blanc pen is the classic graduation gift, and that got me thinking about having a really nice writing instrument. I like to write, and I like to write with something very smooth and fast, proper liquid ink that doesn’t take too long to dry. I’d been through a lot of cheap fountain pens since college, but this time I figured I’d get a Good one. Not a Mont Blanc (I don’t like their style), but a pretty one.
That was ten years ago, on the occassion of my getting the job I have now. My little self-congratulations.
Lapis lazuli blue, with gold trim, a Waterman. I bought tiny six-packs of inks for it, in various colors but always ones I could read. The inks go all together in a wooden box in the spare bedroom, so I never know what color I’m loading next. Sure, some you can’t help but have an idea, but I try not to look. The best part is the 2 or 3 pages where the old ink in the nib gradually runs out and is replaced with the new color.

Two weeks ago, lounging at the bar at the foot of the mountain, nursing a beer and writing up the day’s events while waiting for the shuttle bus to show up and take me back to town, I set the pen down on the table, uncapped, when the waitress came by. While fishing for change in my pocket, it rolled off the not-really level surface, and did a nose-dive onto a rock.
Its golden nib was bent, and it writes no more.
My pen !
My deep blue pen.
I’ve been around to the various pen-knowledgable in town, and they all tell me the same story. This particular model was phased out years ago, and the nibs are not standard size. You can’t just get a new one. You have to send it to Waterman, and they’ll think about it. They’ll see what they can do. The poor nib is really bent out of shape, and the woman at one shop made it worse trying to bend it back - it can’t be fixed.
That pen was with me to Marrakech, Iceland, Romania. It’s been to deserts and beaches and mountaintops and the choking heart of the city. It’s written holiday cards and birthday greetings and thank yous and endless, endless journal entries. It’s been lost for weeks and given up for gone, but always found again.
I miss it. I’m off on vacation Monday, and I don’t want to leave home without it. I have a nice enough ballpoint (dropped from some doctor’s pocket, I found it on the ground at a meeting, the nicest pen I never paid for), but it’s still a ballpoint. I can’t write my journal with that.
It's time for a new pen.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Five things I must have for fall.

I was reading the New York Times yesterday, normally a source of news and information. There was an article on 5 essential things for Fall, and not wanting to be caught out without an umbrella or a new school notebook or something, I took a look.

First, a turtleneck.
Er, if there is a piece of clothing I just cannot abide, it’s the turtleneck sweater. Aside from doing nothing whatsoever to make me look good, their neck-binding/choking/strangling/stifling quality is a definite NO all year round. Cross that off and get a new shoulder bag to tote my lunch to work in, now the old one has unravelled so much.

Second, wide-leg corduroy pants.
For real! It’s a must-do once again to go shushing down the corridor to the sound of corduroy. But alright ; I admit, it’s not so much the fabric itself as the extraordinary price tag that makes these pants a must. I could get those pants, or do my entire month’s shopping instead. With nothing to eat, I’ll be able to walk silently around the office in my fabulous pants. Cross that off and get a guide to mushroom hunting so I can go out and collect the good ones without poisoning myself.

Third, Givenchy gold-band pumps.
Yes, I want to walk around au point all day. My feet will love me. My achilles tendons will never be the same. These are not meerly heels, they’re 6-inch heels. With a gold band across the top of the foot, naturally. I’ll put them next to my hiking boots in the closet, and we’ll see who wins. Cross that off and get some new swim goggles, ones that will keep the pool water away from my eyes, rather than trapping it next to them.

Fourth, Burberry’s mod coat.
Uh, Mod. Anything with "mod" in it should have been abandoned decades ago. The coat is clunky and ill-proportioned; the neon orange color reminiscent of some drug-soaked spring that I never experienced and see no need to. Yeck. Cross that off and get a collapsable umbrella that will actually hold up against a slight breeze.

And at last, a Miu Miu dress.
Now, this I could actually wear. "Austere 40’s chic." Not so bad, really. A nice drape to just below the knee, fitted but not draconian waist, beautiful print fabrics.

All set for fall shopping!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hey, you! Live gently

Brian's theme for this week's Poetry Jam is Will Write For... a cause of some sort. I'm not a big cause person (like I'm not a quotation person, but that doesn't stop me participating in memes), perhaps because I'm afraid of getting started. Throwing myself into a cause - can't just dabble in these things; it's not serious - somehow should mean I'm committed to it. And I know that either the committment would either eat up my life, or I wouldn't be committed and it would just be a joke.
I know! I know. It doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing deal.
But somehow it is. I have yet to find the right balance.
Anyway here's my Awareness poem.

This blue marvel

Was here long before you.
It gave rise to everything that is here.
It breathes
and shifts
and coughs with the swell of the tide.
We forget that the landscape is not fixed
that cliffs should crumble and fall
and shorelines advance or retreat
and that rivers may change their routes.
We try to be stronger than the forces that
move continents across the seas
and raise mountains from plains.
With our engineers
and our concrete
and our hubris
we try to stop the planet from shifting in its sleep.
In that we fail.
Instead we succeed in scraping bare the delicate living crust
replacing meadows with suffocating asphalt
chasing down animals to the last of their kind.
Will we learn to live gently on this earth
Before there is nothing but ourselves left of it ?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Shootout

Hey look, it's the Friday My Town Shootout! Long time, no post!
But I happened to see today's theme, and decided to come back, at least for a while. And it is...drumroll... Matching.
Er, what?
Yes, yes, you match up a photo to your favorite quotation.
Ah. I'm not really a quotation person. Some of you out there keep whole rolodexes full of nifty quotations in your heads, ready to pop one out for any occassion, at any time, proper attributions and all. Not me. I'm sure at some point some clever person said just exactly the right thing, and it would score me a lot of points both in the appropriate repartée department and the culture and knowing my history departments to come up with one and lay it out here.
Accompanied, naturally, with an illustrative photograph. The Shootout is about Shooting pictures.

In lieu of all that I give you my favorite quotation below. It's my favorite not because it's all that great, but because I hardly ever get to say it. Still looking for that perfect moment. And this sort of is one, so here you are.

Back off, Bub! I'm a scientist
There you have it folks. The one line worth keeping from that lame mid-80's SF flick Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension.
Click here for the full shootout.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


It was not a great year for potatos here at number 5.
They started off alright, poking their leaves up in the spring, both newly planted bits and unharvested sleepers from last year. Then in June we had a few killer days. Hot, hot hot. Water as I might, the plants just cooked in the sun. Some of them straggled on, puny and thin and never flowering, limping through July and finally fading away in August.
The senescence of the leafy plant is supposed to mean the tubers are ready. (they'll not get any bigger - without leaves to pull in more energy from the sun, they're just marking time until next year) So I went out there with my fork to see what was what, at the least to stop the weeds from overtaking the patch.
It's so fun to turn over plain dirt, and see golden nuggets among the clods. Gold!
There's food in the earth!
Not that there's a lot of potato down there. Many are the size of peas or marbles. The largest are just 4 inches by two.
But it's really neat to have my very own taters, waiting for me to look for them under the ground. I'm going to scrub them up and make dinner.

Friday, August 12, 2011

100 words: Summer (again)

Yes, again. Shame on me for complaining about an excess of clouds !
Am I nuts ? I have 8 weeks a year to do with what I will. I have the means to travel. Or stay home and tend my tomatos and my cats.
I have the luxury of time. Whine about a spot of rain ? My house doesn’t leak. Noticably. I have 3 umbrellas. Three !
How many in this world don’t know what Vacation is, have no word for it in their language ? How many toil every day, every day they can, just to live.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

100 words: summer

Where is it ? My season of sun and relaxation ? Of relaxing there is some : with everyone off for two weeks here and three there, work is quite relaxed. Assorted crises aside !

But where is the sun ? May was dry and hot and got gardens going early. July, however : sweaters all day. Rain and gloom. Autumn before its time. My lawn hammock has stayed in the cellar, dissassembled. Barbeques cancelled. Long hikes not taken.

Summer come back !

I have a week off before school restarts. Should go to Morocco; make up for lost rays.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Evening Jam

Monday's Poetry Jam theme is Evening, and for once I've got one early.

In the northern summer
when evening comes late,
so very late
the children go in before the light is full gone
and I have the swings in the park
all to my peaceful self.

Monday, August 8, 2011

That summer season

I was looking at the photo at the bottom of Poetry Jam, a photo I took in my kitchen just for the Jam kickoff, and had to laugh: this past weekend I bought a new 6-pack of jars so I could preserve pasta sauce in easy, cooking-for-one quantities.
There's not an empty jar in sight this time of the year. Many of my jars are living at friends' houses for the moment. Some of them will come back and be refilled. Some won't, and the friends will get new ones. Most of the jars are in my kitchen filled with stuff. One has roasted pine nuts, another has bay leaves. One's in the freezer full of pesto. The rest form an impressive array of toast-topping. There's ginger-peach, raspberry-peach, burlat cherry, griotte cherry, and a lingering collection of last year's apricot-berry, blackberry, and blueberry. Far more jam than I can eat before needing yet more (and more!) jars for the fast-approaching blackberry season.
Though, with all that in the cupboard, I could skip blackberry jam. I could.

Yeah, right!
Not making jam is not a solution. I'll just have to round up the empties at the friends'.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fade to black

This week's Poetry Jam task, set by Chris of Enchanted Oak, is to write an elegy for something we have lost, whether it be a loved one, lost youth, innocence, anything. I was thinking of something along these lines for next week's prompt, and I'll just have to find another, now! Anyway, my poem about a lost friendship:

Farewell to Iris

I don't know what I did.
I don't know what I said.
If indeed it was anything at all to do with me.
But you could have left me a message
Stop calling
Give up.
And I would have stopped
Instead of lingering.
Instead of believing our mutual friends
who said you were just very busy
in their effort to be kind.
I have given up now.
For a long time
I imagined that if I met you in the street,
I would feign delighted surprise, as if it had only been a week,
and then drop you in my turn.
Or I would warmly greet your husband,
and act as if you were absent.
Or any of a hundred scenes.
I hold my grudges as tightly as my friends.
Now, I would just pass on by.
You, just another face in the crowd.
Perhaps this has already happened,
And I didn't even notice.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Good idea: take a day off, & take a train somewhere new.
Bad idea: 7 am train. I don't get up that early for work!
Good idea: 9 am trains. Hey, France, trains at nine are early enough for relaxing vacationers, and still early enough to get you somewhere with time to explore before lunch. So schedule some, please.

Today's random destination (within, of course, the limited selection of "trains leaving early and getting there not too late, with a train home again in time for bridge in the evening, going someplace I haven't been before") is Bellenaves. The season is late for sunflowers. In most fields they're starting to weigh down their stalks and look down at their feet, not the sun, but my train rounds a few bends where bright yellow fields are still blooming not very far away. Will have to find a trail that goes to one!
Bellenaves: the road into town from the station.
 The station is a bit out of town; in fact, it's in the next village over. Which way to go first...

You are now leaving Bellenaves.
Sunflowers must be this way, somewhere.

 There is a lot of nice countryside in this direction, but the gorgeous sunflower fields remain stubbornly on the other side of a gorge with no easy way across, and the road keeps turning the wrong way and not taking me around a bend to golden yellow glory.
So I turn around to look for a better road.

Apples are ready early this year. I swear this one made me think this was a plastic-apple tree!
No retouching has been done!

 On the way back I pass a neat little dovecote in an empty field.
Treasures in Bellenaves: a 12th century Roman church. Roman, they say. You can tell it's French by the chicken on top.
There's a panel out front detailing the sights of this church, from the façade featuring Jesus washing the feet of the apostles to the special stained glass portrait of Mary inside. I gather that the interior is still mostly decorated head to toe, but it's closed so I don't get to see it. Stained glass from the outside is just boring.

The second treasure in Bellenaves I saw from the train on my trip to Montluçon this spring. A nice castle in town, turrets and all. The village website promises it's open for visits in July and August (except Mondays). Today is Tuesday, but no luck: closed for repairs. Alas, there's no good view of it from outside the tall gates and walls.
So fine. A tour of the countryside is in order. The clock on the church says it's 10:35, so I've got two and a half hours.
There's a nice map posted in town, with all the roads, streams, sites, and hiking/biking/riding trails in the area. I take a quick sketch of the route I've decided will take me past the bright flower fields, with a couple of landmarks, and take off.
After 10 minutes or so, consulting my little sketch I wish I had added a few more roads. And then it hits me - I have an all-new camera with a screen that works! Just take a picture of the map.
Too late now.
 I did find some sunflowers. And I had some really great long shots of the fields, and one with a silly scarecrow in the middle and all, and then I played with the rapid-fire function shooting a pair of hawks in the air, but 87 of those photos have mysteriously disappeared in an accidental deletion.

Though I did get a shot of the sketch of the map!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

pics of Puy de Dome

Here are more of my adventures with the new toy. It's pretty much like the old toy only a lot lighter, which is great for a nice long hike. It's about time I got out and about this summer (hikingwise, that is - it's been so rainy and I've been playing cards so often on Saturdays, that not much walking has been happening).

So I went up to my usual place, looking for blueberries. It's early in the season for them, if the season were normal this year. But in fact it's too late. It was such a warm spring they all got going early, and then in my usual patch they graze sheep occassionally and sheep love to eat whole blueberry plants. I discovered there were a few left. Just enough to tease.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

J'espère que vous allez bien

I received a nice little postcard in the mail the other day. Sylvie had sent a beautiful image of Chaves, Portugal and its arched roman bridge across the river. She wrote about how nice and warm it was there, and how they would finish their week of vacation in Porto. Then she gave her good wishes for our health and signed off with a kiss.
Like thousands of postcards circulating around this earth.
I went out in the yard and read it out loud to the trees and the sky. The card was addressed, you see, to the former tenants of my house, who have not lived here for more than five years. In fact, I think they have both passed away.
It left me wondering, when I die, who will be sending me postcards years afterwards? How do we tie up all those loose ends?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Replacement

 So the new camera body came in the mail the other day.
(who am I kidding? it's been nearly two weeks. I'm just that far behind on blogging.)
 so I went and tried it out, with just the regular lens, at the rose garden in Clermont.
The macro function seems to work well.
 Just imagine if I had the +7 adapters attached... there'd be maybe two raindrops in the whole image.

Later I'll see if I can get the cats in action & try out the continuous shooting button.

Monday, August 1, 2011

P-Jam 67

Today's Poetry Jam theme by The Bug is about being 67, whether that's future present or past. I admit to not being terribly inspired this weekend, but I did play bridge at the club on Saturday, and we did win (again! who'd'a thunk it?). My position there as young pet to be cooed over and coddled will eventually fade away, and I came up with this.

Bridgeaddict at 67
When you're retired, you can play bridge at the club every afternoon of the week except Sunday. Monday is Chamalières. Tuesday is Desaix, going back for seconds in the evening. Wednesday and Thursday are Lafayette. Friday is back to Desaix, Saturday Lafayette. Like clockwork, you make the rounds. Even Sunday's there's often a tournament somewhere, and if not, you can always fix up a foursome at home.
The Tuesday evening game is the best. The young people come to that one after work, and you can talk about something else for a change. You've got to encourage the young people to come, for who else will be filling the clubs in 20 years time?
20 years ago you were one of them. One of the Young People. It's curious how the time goes. One day you're the belle of the ball, the marvel everyone wants to partner with. You weren't that young, admit it, but with this gang, not-retired-yet is plenty young. It was a pleasure to come to the club then (as it is now, but of a different kind). For the workday you were the oldest, the boss, the stick in the mud. Tuesday nights you were the kid, the adventurer, the learner.
You mocked (gently, slightly, and never out loud) the bluehaired women living from tournament to tournament, counting their master points, then. Today you are one. Trump that.