Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Mother of All Cathedrals

Sometimes things happen thousands of miles away that slice right through your heart.

On Monday after I had left work I saw that my daughter had sent me a text, asking me whether I had heard about the big fire in Notre-Dame. I had not - I don't check my phone at work and I don't go online outside of work-related tasks. Therefore, I was oblivious what had happened that evening in Paris.

I checked in on the European news when I came home, and what I saw filled me with deep sadness. Watching that beautiful steeple fall in the flames... on top, the smoke and the fire raised very unpleasant memories. Someone once said that there is a forest in the roof of the cathedral - centuries-old timber of oaks - and it burned up like that. Half of that roof was still from the 13th century (in comparison, the roof of the Cologne cathedral was built with steel in the 19th century, a decision that was very controversial at that time but proved to be a wise choice).

I saw footage of a robot vehicle sent into the cathedral to retrieve some of the artwork. Firefighters tried to save some of these treasures. It seems that a lot was saved - but there is artwork that is lost forever.

The beautiful stained glass windows - many of them made with medieval glass (just think about that!) - seem to have survived the fire. Those big windows in the choir are stunning and how much do I love the rose windows.

Since there was a lot of renovating and reconstruction work going on (maybe the cause of the fire?) it was just luck that many of the bronze statues on the outside of the church like the apostles were removed just a week before or so.

When I was in Paris the last time I visited Notre-Dame while there was a mass going on inside which added a special atmosphere to this place of worship (and I'm not a religious person).

Like in so many catholic churches and cathedrals in Europe there were many places where you could light a candle. Their warm light put a beautiful glow in so many nooks and corners (and no, as far as I know they didn't cause this fire).

So many details on the outside of Notre-Dame - you could spend a lot of time looking at them and probably still haven't seen all of them.

I do hope they will rebuild. For me it's the heart of Paris. It's on the Île de la Cité where Paris began. Notre-Dame is the mother of all cathedrals, serving as a sample for so many Gothic cathedrals. I can't even imagine what this loss means to the French people.

And I'm forever grateful that my daughter was able to visit Notre-Dame back in the summer of 2014 and could also listen to the magnificent ringing of the bells.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

An Image and Its Story - March 2019

March was full of photos, most of them taken during our trip to Arizona. My chosen photo of the month is from the last day of that trip, when we were already back in Northern California on our way to cross the Sierra Nevada near Tahoe. This is not a very good photo - shot with my phone out of a driving car in bad light - but still, I had to. Do you see why I shot this photo?

Of course it's because of the coyote. These animals keep a special spot in my heart, they are my spirit animal and I just like their cleverness, sassyness, resilience and admire their incredible ability to adapt to all kinds of surroundings and environments.

The Navajo refer to the coyote as "God's dog"  and coyote appears in Native American legends as an evasive and puzzling character, playing the multiple roles of fool, trickster and demi-god. When Kaefer was a little girl, one of our favorite books was Harriet Peck Taylor's "Coyote and the Laughing Butterflies". Coyotes have outstanding survival skills and you can find them in almost any environment - deserts, forests, prairies, mountains and cities (I probably forgot a few). There are many people who outright hate them, but I love and respect them. They are wild animals trying to survive in an often hostile environment.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The California Superbloom

Last week we returned from a short road trip through Southern California into Arizona. It was spring break for me; both the Geek and I were more than ready for a change of scenery.

We left right after I came home from teaching at the German School and made it to Monterey where we stayed the night. While driving down stunning Highway 1 along the California coast we realized that this was the first sunny weekend we had in weeks and everybody was out and about.

One of our destinations was Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, Southeast of Los Angeles, where the superbloom after all this rain was said to be spectacular. But we were getting second thoughts whether it was such a brilliant idea to go there on a Sunday afternoon - we were pretty sure more people would have the same idea. Instead, we booked a hotel in Lake Elsinore, arrived there when it was already dark and walked into Walker Canyon first thing the following morning.

Good thing we did! We heard that on that Sunday about 50,000 people tried to get to Walker Canyon and caused complete chaos - it actually made it into the national news! The trailhead in Walker Canyon is right next to the Interstate, and at some point they even had to close the exit ramps because the chaos was just too much and out of control.

However, when we arrived early on Monday morning there was still ample parking. It was already busy, but far from the chaos of the weekend before. We walked up the trail and were speechless when we saw the blooming hills - a brilliant display of green, purple and LOTS of orange.

It was spectacular.

So early in the morning the California poppies - the source of the orange - hadn't opened yet, but the higher the sun rose in the sky and it became warmer the flowers opened up and the orange color became even more intense. It was an incredibly beautiful display of nature's endless treasures.

If only people respected and treated her more responsibly.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Knits for Dolls

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I'm a rather passionate knitter. Some project is always on my needles and often it is actually more than just one. Kaefer is a willing "victim" for hand knitted sweaters, hats and tops. I have knitted a LOT of hats this past winter since some of them have been very popular in my Etsy shop. However, one of the things I love to knit - and not only because it knits up fast - is doll clothes, specifically knits for 18-inch dolls (like American Girl dolls).

Swing tops are cute and just look good in any color.

It's pretty much a non-brainer. The beautiful lacy cardigan, however, needs more attention. I don't think I have knitted one without making some kind of error and knitting "backwards" again to correct it. It's a bit of a tricky pattern and not something I can knit while watching a movie.

The lace pattern goes all around and is pretty on the back as well.

Every doll needs a tunic, I think, and even more so if it features a beautiful leave yoke. This tunic I started several times because I didn't "get" the pattern and then just simplified it. I'm quite happy with the outcome.

Then, of course, there are dresses. How can you not have a dress for a doll? The yarn for this short sleeve dress is a sock yarn, and I actually knitted a pair of socks for me (which I love). But I had enough leftover yarn to knit up this very cute dress.

The following combo is a dress with a tank top spruced up with a unique cardigan. I love the shape of the jacket - it gives the entire outfit a certain softness and makes the doll "dressed up". It's the leftover of some "tweedy" looking yarn that I used to knit a cardigan for a little girl. Gorgeous yarn!

All of these doll clothes are available in my Etsy shop. I hope to knit up a few more - it is so much fun and the best way to use left over yarn.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Winter Beach

Winters in Northern California can be very different - sometimes they are mild, even quite warm; others bring multiple storms with a lot of rain; some are cold and can even include a dusting of snow (and heavy snow in the Sierras which we depend on for our summer water). This past winter we had a combination of all of these, but the stormy and rainy part certainly played a dominant role.

At the beginning of Januar, when we experienced the milder days of winter and Kaefer was still at home, she and I decided to go to the ocean and spend a few hours at Goat Rock, our favorite beach. The Russian River enters the Pacific Ocean here and the beach is like a spit of land between the two bodies of water.

Where the Russian River spills into the ocean the seals like to hang out, Not just two or three but an entire colony. They have their own "private" beach where people are not supposed to go (of course there are always idiots who ignore that), but it is close enough to watch them. I always enjoy seeing them.

 And just as we are curious about them, they are curious about us as well. This little guy was watching us closely while swimming along the shore.

Kaefer who doesn't get to the ocean that often anymore since she moved further inland clearly enjoyed this day at the beach. I simply love her goofiness.

We noticed that there were way more seagulls at the beach than usual, and they were very active, flying in a huge flock, getting back to the beach and taking off again. It was a constant come and go accompanied by the typical loud cries that these birds make.

Just a few hours at the beach - walking along the shore, looking for driftwood and shells, watching the animals, taking photos - always centers me. We are very lucky to live so close by the Pacific Ocean.