Today is the first day of our Christmas Retreat at the Sri Vast Ashram. It has been very (unseasonally) rainy. The vegetation is lush and growing by the minute. Here are some samples of plants decorating our gardens.This is my daily schedule:The chimes are heard at 5 a.m. , inviting the community to the tea ceremony, in which we celebrate our existence by sitting quietly, listening to the day awakening around us and sipping ginger lemon tea.At 6:oo yoga classes begin. Some days, we go to the ocean, about 10 minutes away.At 7:30 is breakfast, eaten in the open air dining room. For the next few hours, we choose the way we would like to contribute to the maintenance of the community. I go straight to the tailor shop, where I am busy with Shiva and Ayepa, sewing clothes and interior decorating items. Soon we will be making, bags, hats and slippers to sell in the boutique.After lunch at 12:30, we take a little rest. I go back to the tailor shop around 2:30; others my go for a walk or atend to some personal interests. At 5 p.m. e meet in the Satsang Hall to sit quietly. This sitting is not considered a meditation since the whole day is a meditation!After supper at 6 p.m. we meet again for Satsang (Being in the Presence of Truth). This is an inspiring occasion to ask questions of our teacher Guruji Sri Vast and share in his wisdom. There is a lot of laughing and singing. I am filled with gratitude and joy to be here.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
This is the name of the village next to the community I am living in. It is a typical South Indian farming village, despite the influx of tourism over the last decade. Here above you see the winding narrow raod leading to the village. On both sides there are flowering vines growing up into the trees. One of the first sights on entering the village is this collection of staues of deities. A bit further on I saw this goat resting on a pillar!
The first time I visited the village 4 years ago, my senses and sensibilites were assaulted by the sight, sounds and smells of it all: the dozens of street dogs , seeming of one family, aged beyond their years by fleas and relentless reproduction, the motorbikes spewing a trail of exhaust, cow dung and dog droppings mixing with the layers of garbage, a woman squatting on the ground selling fresh fish arranged on a wooden box, aromatic chai tee and pungent coffee sold in tiny chrome cups. None the less, the dogs sleep obliviously in holes they dig in the dirt, or wander around looking for anything to live off, miraculously avoiding being hit by the motorbikes, cars, taxis and busses pushing through the narrow passages. Looking down the street, it is hard to tell what is a boutique, a vegetable stand, a cafe, a bank or a bike rental. All businesses are multi-purpose. All signs blend into one image of daily life here. Between it all, the schoolchildren in their beautifully combed and/or braided hair, in their pert uniforms and bare feet, wearing backpacks full of books, wind their way home slowly, chatting and playing with their friends. The most cheerful and polite children I have ever seen!
At the top you see a picture of the Indian Ocean at dusk, just a 10 minute bike ride away from our hilltop community. We can see and hear the thundering waves when we sit on the rooftop of the main building. With this image I bid you all farewell, till next post. Best wishes for a speedy recovery to my hometown, now coping with a massive snowstorm.
Friday, November 27, 2009
After a detour to Switzerland to visit friends from my past life there and four days in Freiburg in Germany, I got on the plane in Frankfurt for Chennai. Now, here I am at my station for the next four months. It is hot and there is so much to do in the community where I am staying near Pondicherry. Internet is a bit shaky.... so here are some pictures before I'm cut off again.
Here you see the workers doing their best to get my house done. Next is the community garden and finally three women who work on the construction site.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Today is my second to last day in Spain. This morning we went to the flea market, one of the biggest in this province. It was about 22 degrees Celsius and crowded. I shopped successfully: a Walkman to replace the one I broke (it actually worked! 5 Euros), a pair of new suede gardening gloves that go halfway up my forearm (3 Euros), a bar of chocolate-scented soap made here in Castello d´Empurias (2.5 Euro) and a pair of well-worn funky shoes (3 Euros).
Here are some photos of the beach at 8 a.m.
More Catalonian curtains.
These cows came toward me as I went along the bike path yesterday.
That wierd lemon I saw on my first day here has ripened. It´s delicious and so aromatic.
The river Muga going out into the Mediterranean sea.
It has been a wonderful 22 days!
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Saturday afternoon I needed a break from watching all the energetic Latin dancers so I wandered from the arena towards the Old City of Maribor. Most of the shops were closed and I began to feel hungry. On a corner near the cathedral, I found a little restaurant that offered a complete meal for 8.90 Euros (about $15). The descripton was in Slovenian only and I was sure it would all be delicious...but I had no idea that the Slovenians must have ENORMOUS appetites.
Follow me through this meal, starting with the photo at the bottom. The first dish was a platter of excellent prosciutto with bits of Parmesan-like cheese, served with bread made of pizza dough brushed with rosmary and olive oil: so delicious I ate every little bit. Next came a cauldron of home-made broth filled with little cheese dumplings. After that: an enormous plate of pilav rice, grilled chicken and sauteed bell peppers, leeks, onions and mushrooms. I had to pass on the mixed salad that was next on the menu so that I would have a bit of room for the jelly roll with nuts and cream for dessert.
All of this was accompanied by a white Maliborcan, the local favorite wine, a small bottle of AntiStress drink (it has aloe vera, ginseng, magnesium and lots of B vitamins) and an expresso to finish off. What a feast!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Last weekend I was in Maribor, Slovenia, to attend the International DanceSport Championship competion. It was a one-day event featuring 96 couples from 51 countries. My favorites were the Italian couple, Gabriele and Antonio Goffredo, who placed 5th. The winners were the sensationally powerful and elegantly controlled Russian pair, Alexey Silde and Anna Firstova. Two couples danced for Canada: Anton Belyeyev with Antoaneta Popova and Maxin Fomin with Alina Litvak. Here are some random photos, taken early in the afternoon, to give you an idea. The finalists were still on their (high-heeled) feet at 11 p.m.! Bravo, bravo to these heros of dance.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Of all the typical and beautiful sights in the area I am staying at right now ( Catalonia, Spain), I love the hand stitched white linen curtains. Usually I spot them in the windows of the oldest houses. Simple, timeless traditions.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Dear readers, I retired on October 16th and flew away on the 23rd! After landing in Frankfurt, Germany, I took the train to Arnhem, Holland. There I visited my 98-yr. old aunt. We went out for a walk in the nearby park, admiring the ducks and swans in the pond and the lovely scarlet Japanese maples. I was picked up by my cousins for a stay with them in Bergeijk for a few days. On the 19th, I flew with Ryanair to Girona, Spain. My son, John, picked me up and brought me to his home in Empuriabrava. The first photo shows the canal behind his house in the evening. The backyards here are boat parking lots. All the canals join boaters to the Meditteranean. Then there is a wall of morning glories, and John´s lemon tree. The one in the middle is a strange mutation!
Monday, October 12, 2009
On this brilliant Thanksgiving Saturday, we decided to make an excursion to see two monasteries, located in the Laurentian foothills just north of the Ottawa River. We took the ferry over the river at Carillion and drove toward Lachute and then west to Brownsburg-Chatham. The monastary of the Greek Orthodox nuns was found about 8 km west, at the end of the Chemin de la Carriere. The Saint Monastere Vierge Marie La Consolatrice was founded in 1993 by a few nuns from Greece, who brought their yoghurt- and cheese-making skills with them. There are now 22 nuns living in the monastary and visitors are very welcome to stay in their guesthouse, to picnic outside their little store and to buy their products. Women must put on a long skirt (can be borrowed at the boutique) and cover their shoulders if they wish to walk the grounds and enter the chapel. I took a photo of the river rushing down the middle of the property . There is a small park, with gardens and benches just beside the river.
After a lunch stop in Brownsburg, we took the route north and soon turned west toward Harrington and the Riviere Rouge road north to the Buddhist Monastary. It was a magical experience to enter the gates and find the exotic pagodas, temples and commemorative statues of Buddhist heroes set below a hillside of autumn foliage. We were greeted very warmly by a Buddhist monk, one of the many living there year-round. It seemed a place of joy and prosperity, although there were no flower or vegetable gardens. Why? For the love of the deer, who came out of the woods to eat away whatever the monks planted! Here I am with the statue of a jolly Buddha, greeting visitors at the entrance.
I would like to try standing in this goddess's shoes for a while: all those heads and hands available to take care of earthly tasks!
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
My friend Rosanne, whom I met at work, breeds Golden Retrievers. Her last litter of 9 puppies was born May 8th; I have been visiting her almost every week, watching them grow, helping to clip their nails, to weigh them and bring them to the vet for their shots. Now they are all sold except for Caprice, the one she decided to keep, and Puce, my favorite, that Rosanne "secretly" wanted to keep too. It looks as if Puce will get a new owner this week anyway! So we had a photo session with our darlings. They now weigh about 30 lbs!
Sunday, October 4, 2009
My artist friend Anne Babbage, who studied art education with me at Concordia University in Montreal,asked me to submit a painting for a fundraiser. It was held to help her work colleague Sue, who was stricken with breast cancer. The silent auction took place yesterday at Sue and Anne's workplace, the Whitlock Golf and Country Club in Hudson, Quebec.
Reto and I went by and found an enthusiastic crowd, milling around the great collection of paintings, photographs, gift certificates and vintage wines to bid on.
My submission was:
“The Wave “ 2008
36” x 36”
acrylic on canvas
This work is the second to last in a series, in which I focused on the theme of rocks. Using a newly acquired technique, I was able to capture the various textures and markings of rock surfaces. I was interested in the personality of each individual rock. The arrangement of the rocks gave the painting the appearance of a family portrait. Finally, I became interested in including the environment of the rocks in my painting and working with the depth of the painting materials and a larger format. The series of rock paintings ended with a 36” x 48” work featuring sand and aquatic materials applied to the surface with acrylic medium. It was sold at the Art Fayre in Dunvegan, Ontario, June 2009.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Our drive to Cape Cod was 750 km long and took us 9 hours, including stops for lunch and supper. Our route this time was along Highway 40 to Montreal, then on the 10 east to Highway 50, south to the u.s. border, Highway 91 and 93 to Boston, taking the 95 around the city and then Highway 3 along the coast, over the Sagamore Bridge onto Cape Cod. Highway 6 took us to our destination: Brewster and the Sweetwater Forest Campground.
It was great to be "home".....yes, we felt that way because we knew our way around this area from last year's vacation. The campground was almost empty (off-season) and our spot was close to the little lake, where we later rented a canoe to explore the shores. The next 10 days were sunny, sometimes with a crisp a breeze. It was a glorious time of cycling, walking the beaches and relaxing in front of the fire.
The return trip went over Highway 2 from Boston to North Adams , to spend a day at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, known as Mass MoCA. The most impressive exhibit was a retrospective of the work of Sol Lewitt, on three floors, to cover the 3 stages of his life's work. More about the exhibition in my next blog.
At 4 p.m., filled with fresh inspiration for our ATCs, we drove north into Vermont, following Highway 7 all the way to the 89 and the Canadian border. This home route was only 50 km more and well worth it: we must go back one weekend to stop at all the sights south of Burlington!
P.S. I found the name of my "miracle flower": it is an Hibiscus!
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Last summer I spent two weeks in Cape Cod in August and was enchanted by the bushes of magnificent flowers that were blooming at that time. I found examples of different colors, all equally impressive. Before going home, I decided to visit a nursery and purchase one of these shrubs for myself, although I was warned that my climate was not ideal.
Well, a small miracle has happened. I think this plant enjoyed the cool and rainy summer we had here because it is covered with buds and blooms right now!. The top two photographs show my flowers; the bottom photograph is one I took last year in Cape Cod. Sorry, but the name of them has escaped me. Anybody who can help? We are leaving next Sunday for another 2 week stay so I can find out!