Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hot and Cold at Year's End

On Monday morning we were having a delicious breakfast while basking in the sun in Encinitas, CA

Yesterday, Tuesday, I got caught in a snowstorm in Portland, OR. It was very pretty but bit tense when it came to driving home.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's that Most Special Day of the Year

On December 6th I remember how Saint Nicolas came bearing the simple presents of my childhood. In exchange for the carrots and potatoes we left by the hearth for his burdened donkey, we arose to find the plate filled with small fruit and little pink pigs made of marzipan. With the hope we had been good enough most of the year, our slippers had been set next to the donkey’s treats awaiting our present. He never failed to leave me the box of colored pencils, or the book, or the doll I yearned for. They were modest presents by today’s standards, but in post-war Europe they were treasures and received as such.

On December 6th, 1911, my mother Georgette Marguerite Marie Rocher was born in Brussels. Upon falling in love with her, my father re-christened her Mahaut, a name now belonging to my granddaughter, Isa Mahaut. Happy birthday Maman, wherever you may be.

On December 6th, 1970, we brought home two-year old Amy, our new daughter, to be a sister to three older brothers. She was certainly the best present that any Saint Nicolas or Santa (she was born on Christmas Day) ever gave me!

On December 6th 2008, a phone call woke me up at 2:37 am that brought back into my life a long, long lost love who shares this day with me.

Merci Saint Nicolas for all these gifts!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In Grateful Memory

In the fall I visited several sites of La Bataille des Ardennes (the Battle of the Bulge). This small rose garden commemorates American prisoners of war who were executed by the Germans. The inscription reads:
These rose trees were offered by rose growers of Tyler (Texas)
in honour of the American soldiers who fell here

1945 - 1995

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Tourist at Home

When I was growing up in post-war Brussels the concept of children holidaying abroad was unheard of, and what’s more excursions outside the city was few and far between. Summer had women of the family gathered with the children in an apartment at the seaside for a couple of weeks and I enjoyed a string of wonderful month-long summer camp courtesy of the YWCA. By the time I reached 21 most of Belgium was still foreign to me.

Now that our lives have taken a new turn, Michel is my travel guide in my own country. This fall we took a canal trip on a cool sunny day on this boat

Until the canal met the Schelde on its way to Antwerp and the North Sea.

Along the canal new pricey apartments with a view mingle with much older houses

but old village churches and buildings are still very much present.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

From the Provence

We stayed at my cousin's lovely house in the charming village of Signes

Where adults enjoy the café life while watching children play

Over the years little has changed in the heart of this pretty village

Sunday, September 20, 2009

September in France

Some images of September in France
Peaceful cows around Nevers

A comical cutie along the Canal du Midi

A café near my village in the Languedoc

We stopped in the Camargue

For a delicious meal

In this restaurant

In Aigues Mortes we admired the ramparts and the slow peaceful river

And walked around Sainte-Marie-de-la-Mer where I loved this "cadran solaire"

Next stop, la Provence

Saturday, August 15, 2009

August Is For . . .

August is for delicious raspberry tart

and a gift of blueberries from my neighbor's garden

which made for the best muffins,

August is for visits to the Japanese garden

on a hot hot day when only the fish was cool

and for sipping cool drinks by the river

August is for sleepy visiting granddaughters

for bicycle rides

and pretty little things lying around

and, of course, August is when the kitchen sink is full of sticky pans

and fresh jam lines up on the window sill

August is also for a return trip to Belgium but that's another posting.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Part Four: And so, Dear Reader, . . .

Part One: Les Etangs d'Ixelles
Part Two: The Course of True Love

Part Three: Poste Restante

2008. I turned seventy in October. Raising children and a professional life are memories now. I have lived alone longer than I ever did as a wife, and I am contented here in the Northwest where the climate reminds me of my native Belgium. It is a solitary life but a pleasant enough one filled with visits with children and grandchildren, new and old friends, art classes, books, my rose garden, sunny weeks in the French house I share with a friend.
Witnessing my granddaughters in the throes of young love inevitably evokes my own first love but I don't allow my heart to linger in that painful territory. Though I regret not sharing the simple pleasures of life with a companion, I have long ago come to terms with that sadness. It's a locked box relegated on a shelf in my memory.

December 6. My mother's birthday and the anniversary of bringing my new two-year old daughter home. I am not dreaming of either milestone when the phone wakes me up at 2:37 am. Instantly, the fear of unspeakable harm to my children fills me with panic.

-Françoise? (a faint Belgian voice ) Françoise? (Michel? Yes, Michel)
- Oui? (fear recedes but my mind goes blank)
- Do you know who this is?
- Yes. Yes. Of course I know. (does he imagine I could ever forget his voice!?)

I can't go back to sleep after that night's long emotional conversation. I am stunned. Literally. I sit on the edge of my bed and cannot put two thoughts together. I cannot figure out what I feel, too many contradictory emotions collide in my head and heart. Like Pandora's my box has burst open and all the ills and pains of that impossible love are washing over me. The urge to flee them is as strong as the temptation to believe Michel who is finally free and who for decades has held on tight in his heart to that one last nugget: hope.

Four months and many letters and phone calls later, still filled with misgivings, I wait for him in a hotel room in Brussels. My escape plan is ready just in case this meeting proves disastrous. Then, we are in each other arms and all is as it should be. The next 40 days are the happiest of our lives, "as though" to quote someone else, "after a parenthesis of 50 years, life is finally back on its normal course."


Living on separate continents creates many geographic, practical and legal complications. And so, Dear Reader, I will not marry him. We'll live sometimes here and sometimes there. Together. At long, long last together.

The end . . . and the beginning.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Lies, All Lies

I know what it said about *rainy* Portland, well, just compare it to Southern California or the south of France for that matter . . .

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Glass Fusion 101

You need a teacher.

glass in many colors,

and a board on which to assemble your pieces.

When you're done, they are set on a kiln tray.

The next day you can see what you and your classmates achieved.

I made pendants and earrings,

and a Mondriaen-ish paper weight, and had great fun doing it!

Monday, July 20, 2009

John Day Slideshow

For those who enjoy looking at other people's pictures only.

It was hothothot and no breeze to speak of but the evening light was so beautiful that we stayed out clicking away till 9 p.m. This is truly "dead zone' country. Even my friend's Verizon cell phone stopped responding.

Over those two days I often thought of the pioneers who followed their wagons on foot across the continent. They must have been so weary while crossing over this barren unpromising country and then so elated when they reached the river and the green valley. What a day that must have been for them!

(The pictures should pop up to fill your screen by themselves. If they don't, try clicking on the arrows at the bottom right-hand corner.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Change of Scenery

My friend Eleni and I left Portland and Mount Hood behind us

and headed due east and south to new landscapes. Wheat fields and windmills

gave way to the John Day National Monument area where extraordinary sights delighted us:

a lovely moonrise,

unusual flora

forbiding rock citadels.

65 millions year old "painted hills", and

lava mounds.

Then we returned to more familiar landscape on our way back to Portland. All in all a memorable trip.