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Archive for January, 2013

Pines in the snow

pine branch in snow

Pining for snow

eleven cities tour

1985: After 22 years of pining, at last it was there!

When I left the Netherlands in 1983 I could not remember when snow had last fallen or when the country had been bestowed with a winter harsh enough for the Eleven Cities tour to take place. As a youngster I had loved snow and ice-skating, but from my teens till my early twenties, winters were bland. Humid cold, stormy, rainy days, occasionally snow unworthy of mentioning and although I owned ice skates I didn’t have the need for them anymore. I do not remember any of those last winters hindering my cycling to work.

Down south

winter scene RSA

South Africa: yellowish-brown winter scene

Johannesburg, where I settled at the end of 1983, has a climate very different from the Netherlands. Dry winters and rainy summers down south. That first winter I was stunned and abhorred when everything turned brown and yellow and stayed that way for months. I was told that it snowed once every ten years in the city and that the last time had been in 1981. Hhmmm. Instead of loathing rain, I got to love it (Holland, like England, can be quite gloomy with many drizzly days in a row). You simply look out for it after six months of its absence while suffering the views of the scorched fields and parks, and you, as a new immigrant, start to look forward to it just as much as every other resident in the region.

To this day, more than ten years after leaving South Africa and having lived in the Netherlands for a whole year now, I love rain. But I love snow more. As a child I used to sit on my knees, leaning against the back of an easy chair, looking through the window and up into the millions of whirling snow flakes. Snow flakes seemed huge then!  Is it any wonder that the longer I lived down south the more I longed for a good old fashioned winter? Exactly thirteen months after I left Holland they were able to hold their first Eleven Cities tour in 22 years’ time. A friend sent me a beautiful publication of the event. I was immensely jealous and peeved! It was weird to see pictures of my country fellowmen tackling the frozen ‘tundra’ of Friesland while I enjoyed my second Jo’burg summer.

Holland is good to me

roe in snow

Unfortunately, not my own picture – had to nick it from the net

A year ago I arrived in a certain area because of three reasons. I had googled 1) house to rent, 2) pets allowed, and 3) wifi internet. It was miles away from my family and in a province I had visited once or twice during the summertime several decades earlier. I didn’t know that it would be colder here than at the North Sea coast. That geese and Whooper swans would be flying to and fro all day long. Roes running past me in the forest. A huge forest virtually on my doorstep, sand drifts not much further, as well as an old peat collection area, now protected. I just wanted to live somewhere safe with my pets and be spherically connected, so to speak. No, I would not have dreamt of asking for all those wonderful ‘things’ that I got. But then again, I knew then and know now, and have known for quite a while that Mother Nature loves me (and I’ve loved her right back). It’s as if she opened a treasure chest for me.

Pines in the snow

Here then, some (cell/mobile) pictures of my walk with Pantouf through a recent layer of snow (the second since early December).

Pines in snow

This way please!

Pine - exposed roots

Treerosion

Pine and dog

Old beauties

Pine broken branches

All shapes and sizes

Pine needles in snow

Snowy needles

detail pines in snow

Surprise! Detail of ‘Pine trees in snow’ by Maruyama Ōkyo – a well known painting

Pines and bench in snow

Still-life

Pine and dog in snow

Born to sniff

pine bark

Close enough?

pine pair

A fine pine pair – till death do us part

pine - angled

Is it tough being an old tree?

dog on path

Time to go home ~ that was fun!

During the last snowfall, the walking paths, pavements and roads seemed to hold too much warmth for the snow to accumulate on them (it had been exceptionally mild for a while).  So no slipping and sliding.  Therefore, the ideal snowfall.

snowflake

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♫ ♪ Ponty perked me up ♫ ♪ ♫

The Gift of Time“Ponty!” I exclaimed earlier this evening, while working the raisins into the scone batter. “That’ll make a good P-post.” Momentarily taking my hands off the scones-in-the-making, I raised my hands and wiggled my hips to the tune of Jean-Luc Ponty’s ‘New Resolutions.’ It’s also my favourite album by him: The Gift Of Time.

In 1984, a South African housemate put a cassette in my hands: “here, I think you will like it.” For several months two of Ponty’s early albums were played to death.  I didn’t like it, I adored it. Her American boyfriend was a fan. Very lucky me.

Altogether, over the years, I bought five albums by him and I went to see him live at the Montreal Jazz Festival. There he performed as one of the members of Trio! – what a show. Stanley Clarke, bass and Béla Fleck, banjo. I will never see a better performance by a musician, I am quite sure of that. He is a powerhouse and his interaction with Clarke was unforgettable.

Why he perked me up?

I was feeling maudlin this evening after Inessa Galante’s Ave Maria (Caccini) suddenly pulled one of my heart strings waaaaay too far out. The ¡thoing! got the waterworks going. I miss my son. Not his warm-hearted, easily approachable personality, because he didn’t have it, but maybe just because they pulled him out of me? I dunno, I only got one kid so I can’t speak from experience. I’ve been trying to accommodate this loss too (how many more times?) but I’m not good at it because I carry my heart on my sleeve. People like me don’t accommodate, we express. We resolve, we want to do something. Doing nothing is like being incarcerated, where you can’t do anything. But I can, and I want to, but I don’t know what. I’ve given it into the hands of the universe but of course I often feel the urge to get involved.

Came to chase the blues away

Tim Buckley

Tim Buckley

old photo

Heart Blues

As my youtube playlist carried on, Ponty was followed by Buckley who came to chase the blues away, which is normally heartwrenching, but now it was so serendipitous that I called “Thank you Baby, I knew I could count on you!” Is that what I do, talk to dead people who overdosed?

Damn good voice though.

EveningScone Delight

sconesNaturally, preparing scones is a kind of therapy and then I got to eat them too, yummie!  I thought I would quickly write a blog post about my perker upper but that never works, of course (quickly).  Still, I got another P in. 🙂

Best scones ever: an old ‘O’ recipe from the Harlem Tea Room.  I always make the raisin variety but add chopped apple or apricot as well.

Gonna have seconds now.  Thanks for listening.

Poirot – a cat mourned way too long

Tabby

Doesn’t he just look like an Egyptian God, this fellow?

My African Prince

Ah, I know, I’m ridiculously biased!  Aren’t we all, whether cat or dog lover, pointy nose or flat face, virtually bald or a fur ball, big or small, the places they occupy in our hearts are huge.  Way too huge at times, I think.

Do all pet lovers have one?

Long ago I read that there will always be a lifetime pet.  Long after many other, much-loved four-footers have walked over the couch, there will always be that one.  Perhaps it’s one that you can never quite think of without getting a lump in your throat.  Or suddenly (but not inexplicably) feel melancholic.  Or tears well up in your eyes and at times you even cry.

Poirot is that kind of pet for me.  He died 5 1/2 years ago on a country road in Quebec, Canada.  He was eight.  I now have cats that I may be even more besotted with than I was with him.  Yet, he’s my lifetimer.

Never acclimatised

He was born in Africa and never hid his hatred for the Canadian cold, where he experienced five winters in Quebec.  Always full of snow and plenty very cold.  He semi-hibernated during those winters, but what he hated more than the cold was sharing the kitty toilet with the other cats.  So, rush out – tippy-toeing at high speed, do his business on the side of the barn and rush back in to carry on sleeping.

As I’m typing this, I’m thinking “Is it any wonder that he opted out?”  Yes and no.  He departed in May, so he could have had one more clammy summer of mouse hunting, his passion.  He always brought a dead mouse home to show off, usually by late morning.  That’s why I knew that day in May that something was amiss.  By 4 pm he had not shown his face all day.  After 20 minutes of searching, I found him on the side of the road, like a flat grey stone, which is what I thought I saw from a distance.

How do I accommodate this?

A Buddhist friend told me years ago that I should accommodate Poirot’s loss.  I thought I found a way to do this, but after a while the old ache resurfaced.  Perhaps just like the phantom pain experienced after the amputation of a limb, I will experience pain in my heart because he was cut out of my life way too soon?

tabby

A tyke in Africa ~ 1999-2007

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