Saturday, May 31, 2008

Make A Wish

a dandelion clock

Well, summer is just around the corner. Dandelions and common daisies would be replaced by red poppies and rolls of hay in the field. Parks and beaches would be filled with people basking in the summer sun; with kids frolicking in the sand or playing “catch me if you can,” filling the air with chatter and heart-felt laughter; with birds, dogs and cats sharing picnic lunches as they watch two-legged creatures mingle and make strange noises, some of them with a weird looking black object over their eyes.

How I wish for this to happen! But right now, after a few weeks of summer-like heat, the world turned suddenly cold and soggy. Hmmm… maybe the Gods just want to tease mere mortals like me who long for that balmy Zephyr breeze and Apollo’s sun enveloping everything in its golden glow. I hope this is the case. And come summertime, the much sought yellow disk in the sky will reign for at least several weeks.

Whenever I see a dandelion clock, I feel the urge to blow it and make a wish, just like what kids usually do. I know doing so would only disperse the seeds, but it so tempting to give it a little puff of air and let the winds winnow it to the abode of the Gods, carrying my request for some sunshine and a little warmth. Tick tock, tick tock, let the summer countdown begins… and hopefully, the fulfillment of my small wish. Why not make your wish, too... who knows, someone up there will hear it and make it come true :). And then, blow this dandelion clock and let it fill our hearts with hope as the featherlight "snow" make its journey to the land of wishes and dreams.

Arte Y Pico Award

I was given this award/tag by Lalaine. And I would like to thank her for giving my blog such credit. It is very encouraging to have one's efforts appreciated.

In return, I would like this bloggers to know that their sites deserve this award, too:
1. David (
2. Selerines (
3. Wendy (
4. Katarina (
5. Sharat (

And, if you guys would like to pass on this award, the rules are as follows:

1) You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.
2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
3) Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
4) Award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of "Arte y Pico" blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award. .Make sure you visit the link above.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Up In The North

a typical scene on the way to the North

The picture above is a typical scenery on the road towards the north of France. It’s not entirely flat but neither does the region (I use the term loosely --- referring to the area and not to the geo-political meaning of the word) have high mountains nor other natural barriers separating it from neighboring Belgium. This is why since ancient times up to the two world wars, it has become the “avenue” for conquering tribes/nations. They all pass through here on their way to conquer Gaul/France. In the 20th century, it suffered a lot from the two world wars--- including the lost of millions of lives, infrastructures and livelihoods. But the area is recovering, particularly with the opening of the Channel Tunnel in the 90's which boosted the tourism industry.

In those few hilly areas, villages were built and fortified since the Roman times. One example is the town of Laon, with its medieval buildings built on an ancient Gallic villa. The town of Soisson is also in this region, where legends say that a vase was broken by a soldier of Clovis in defiance to the king’s claim of the vase and thus provoking the ruler of the Franks to kill him. There’s also Villes-Cotterêts, the birthplace of Alexandre Dumas, the author of many novels such as The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, and The Vicomte de Bragelonne (with The Man in the Iron Mask as its third part). Not only that, this is where the ordinance making French the official language in France (instead of Latin) was signed by François I. These are just some of the places you’ll pass by on your way to the northern coast with its beaches and United Kingdom on the other side of the North sea; and the northern border, which when crossed, brings you to Belgium, known for its laces and chocolates.

Usually, the South is sunnier than its northern counterpart. But this month, we’ve had a rare occurrence --- the sun showed all its might in the normally rainy North. It wasn’t humid but since the sky was cloudless, you can really feel the heat on your skin. I wouldn’t say it’s scorching but it can sting a bit if you stay too long under the sun. But no matter what, I still love to feel the sun on my face and back. I neither care for a bronzed dusky skin nor a pale alabaster complexion which some people find appealing. I just want to have the warm touch of the sun caressing my cheeks and stroking my shoulders. It is really a boon to have the sun after months of gloomy sky and chilling temperature.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

A salvo to Mother's Day and Spring time

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mater: Fons et Origo

Since that tiny pulse of life began,
I felt your smile, heard your love
You womb has been my haven, my source of strength
My fortress and my cocoon
The cord that connects us is more than my lifeline
It is the bond that forever entwines my life with yours

When you held me in your arms
I knew in that instinctive way of an infant
That there’s no need to be afraid
I will always be protected, loved, cared for
I will never be alone
I will never be abandoned
As I find my way in this maze called Life

You never cease to guide and enlighten me with your wisdom
We shared my tears and laughter,
my struggles and my surrenders, my winnings and my loses
You are my mentor and my friend
The one who keeps holding up a mirror to me so I can see who I am

I don’t know if I can ever repay you
Maybe I will never be able to
But I’ll try to be the best person I can be
For to do so is to respect and honor you
Thank you for who I am and who I will become
I love you with all my heart, my dearest mother

Fons et Origo: Mother, you are my source and origin

Happy Mother’s Day to all who unselfishly gave and continues to give their life and love to their families especially to my beloved mother, my dear sister and sisters-in-law, my mother-in-law, my relatives and my friends. You all deserve the best in the world, not only today but for the rest of your life. This might seem late, but on our side of the world, we celebrate "Mothers Day" today.

Merry Month of May

another photo of tulips in our yard

I love the month of May. It means getting rid of cumbersome, heavy clothes in favor of easier-to-wear light ones. It’s usually sunny and there’s no more risk of frost (except for very rare occasions when you have hail) so it’s quite ideal to do some gardening (hence my sporadic posts) or just lazing around under the sun. Many spring flowers are in full bloom and trees have grown back their leaves. You have daisies, dandelions and red poppies (if the weather is really good) in untamed and unkempt agricultural land. Or colza that colors the field with vibrant yellow against the blue sky and scattered green woods as natural barriers and resting places for birds and field hands. And of course, there are the lovely tulips. They look divine as they gently open to the warmth of the sun; gracefully sway with the cool spring breeze; and gallantly bow, humbly acknowledging man’s applause of their beauty and grace.
Then we have many holidays, prompting us to take a short vacation every weekend or every opportunity we get. In fact, we prefer taking vacations, even short ones in May rather than the official summer holiday months of July and August. Days are longer and there’s a high probability of clear, bright days. If you have some rain or a cold breeze, it doesn’t feel too disappointing; for after all, it’s still spring. It’s very frustrating when it’s supposed to be summer, and you have to spend your holidays with heavy showers and chilling gusts of wind (for the past several years, this happens to be the case).

And on the practical side, accomodations (and flight tickets if you’re going out of the country) are less expensive. Prices in July and August skyrocket up to around 4 - 5 times that of the cost in May. (This is a drawback when you have kids of school age. But I believe having fun and quality time with your kids is worth it :)). The added perk is that there are less tourists, so you can "click" your camera to your heart's content --- without having to wait for them to walk out of you camera frame *grins*.
So we’re off for another short holidays. This time in Perigord-Quercy, the region of foie gras and truffes (truffles), of medieval towns and fortresses, of gouffres (underground grottos) and prehistoric dwellings. À bientôt! (see you soon!)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Not-So-Wordless Wednesday

another view of the French Pyrénées

The hills are alive with the sound of music… Nope, this is not in Austria but in the French Pyrénées. I cannot help feeling (and singing) like Maria (of The Sound of Music) whenever it crosses my mind. Visualize lush green mountains with cows and sheep pasturing, the tinkling of bells around their necks as they graze, and the occasional whistle or shout of the herdsman. You can also hear or, if more fortunate, see a gurgling brook or a cascade of waterfalls as they gush and tumble on rocks or a deep ravine. And from a distance, you see snow-capped mountains, with the snow glistening under the sun’s rays. These and the blue sky as the backdrop… who could resist singing with a dreamy smile while looking at the beauty of the scene?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Nunc Scio Quid Sit Amor

roses in our garden which usually start blooming in May

You are not at all like my rose," he said. "As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world."

And the roses were very much embarrassed. "You are beautiful, but you are empty," he went on. "One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you--the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or ever sometimes when she said nothing.

-The Little Prince by Antoine de St-Exupery, Chapter 21
Translated from the French by Katherine Woods

This is one of my favorite excerpts from The Little Prince.I firmly believe what the little prince said about his rose is true. It is unique or has become unique because of the time he spent with it --- just like with our loved ones.Of course, as individuals, there's something that differentiate us from the others, that can prompt us to say "I am I; and you are you" . But we can only see their true "uniqueness" after being with them for some time. At the start, they might just be one of the many “chapters” in our life. And then, as we turn the pages, we realize that they’re not just a footnote or an appendix but rather the subject, without which, our book is just a collection of anecdotes and random topics; “thesis statement” that gives direction and flow to our discourse; the pivot point by which our life is hinged upon.

I am not saying that an instant "click", that magical moment when all of a sudden everything falls into its proper places when we meet our significant other for the first time, could not happen. It could and it's wonderful. However, somewhere along the course of the relationship, there would be moments of doubt, of comparing, of finding if we measure up to each other’s so-called ideals – “maybe I’m not good enough for him”, “maybe he’s not good enough for me”, “maybe it would be better if…”, etc. If we don't go through this phase, well and good. If it does happen, what is important is that after all these comparing, weighing, deliberating, we learn to appreciate and find that the person we are with is unique... not only because they possess something that stands out, but also because of the time we spent with them. Those important and not-so-important moments we’ve shared with them put us in a certain position to evaluate and realize that those moments are priceless BECAUSE of them. The instances when we put up with each other’s idiosyncrasies or support one another’s dreams, the times we shared a laughter or a tear, the occasions when we hit rock bottom or are up in the clouds in high spirits with our significant other by our side… these are the things that make them all the more dear to us --- unique, incomparable, irreplaceable.

They say love is blind. Maybe it is so, because even if other people say “oh, he’s not that great” or ‘she’s not really exceptional’, we still stay with them. I don’t think true love is blind to our faults. I think it is “blind” because even if there are others who seem to be a lot smarter, wittier, far "better" than our significant other, we choose and decide to stay with them. The time we spent “taming” them had made them more beautiful, in all the sense of the word, in our eyes. They might seem ordinary to others, but they are special to us. Their spirit might get lost in the vast ocean of personalities and faces, yet, for us, they still stand out. They might be invisible and inconsequential to the rest of the world but not to us, NEVER to us. They are “The One” that gives color, depth, meaning to our lives. And even if we search high and low, nobody else can take their place. We have found the beauty of their soul which makes them unique in the entire world, in the entire universe if you want. And we learn to ascertain this because of the time spent together, of being really with them ---physically and emotionally.

So to my dearest, on this special day, I’d like to say you are to me, like the rose is to the little prince --- unique, beautiful, worth giving up the things I hold dear. For it is with you I have taken roots. It is you who have sheltered me from the dark side of myself. It is through you that I learn how to fly with you as the wind beneath my wings.

nunc scio quid sit amor... now I know what love is...

(Thanks to my philosophy and theology teachers for planting the seed of wisdom about love, to my parents for showing me a concrete example, and to my husband for allowing the seed to grow so I can fully understand, experience and savor its fruits.)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Love and Parallel Universe

One of my treasured books is the Griffin and Sabine Trilogy by Nick Bantock. No, it’s not about warring member of the Galactic empire or hobbits and men against one dark lord for the ownership of a ring. It’s the story of two ordinary persons, Griffin Moss and Sabine Strohem who met through extraordinary circumstances. Griffin lives in London while Sabine lives in Sicmon Islands somewhere in the South Pacific. They share a love for art (both are artists)… a bond so strong and enigmatic that Sabine could see Griffin’s artworks in her mind as he draws them. Call it some sort of ESP. However, Sabine can only see his handwork and not the hand nor the face behind it. What is more perplexing is that their paths have never crossed. For years, Sabine could see Griffin’s works in her mind without knowing who creates them and how and why she is seeing them. Then, one day, Sabine saw an artwork of Griffin in a magazine with Griffin’s name and address. So, to borrow a phrase from the book, their “extraordinary correspondence” begins.

It is truly remarkable for it seems that they live in a parallel universe. When they decided to meet, they couldn’t see each other, literally, even though they are in the same place at the same time. And yet, they can receive each other’s letters and postcards. It is somehow like the movie “The Lake House” (2006) where the protagonists came to know each other through an exchange of letters. However, unlike the movie where the characters live in different time period, in Bantock’s stories, Sabine and Griffin live in the same time frame albeit in a parallel universe/dimension.

I would prefer that you read the books to know more of the details. The trilogy is such a haunting series of lovely stories and I guarantee you that it is a very interesting read. If you think reading a trilogy is a bit too much, try going through at least one, preferably the first book. Even if you’re intention is only to skim it, I won’t be surprised if you find yourself compelled to read it for Griffin and Sabine is an epistolary novel --- the story is revealed through documents such as letters, diaries and the likes as seen in Dangerous Liaisons or Dracula. But the difference is that with Griffin and Sabine, the story unfolds through real letters and postcards. Of course the contents are fictional, like any other work of fiction, but the physical form is real --- postcards and letters written on a piece of paper or stationary complete with envelopes and stamps! Reading the book feels like having accidentally found a bunch of old correspondence, long forgotten, kept in an old chest in the attic or an old shoebox at the back of our closets. It awakens our curiosity, as if we’ve found some long-ago, hidden treasure, and we feel, to quote a phrase from the back cover of the first book, “[a] guilty pleasure of reading other people’s mail.”

And the artwork is quite vivid and intriguing. The images are leaning towards surrealism --- a window to the characters subconscious. I find them enigmatic and yet revealing, the paradox an attractive pull to immerse oneself in the mysterious and poignant world of Griffin and Sabine.

The combination of the images and words is quite powerful, drawing you deeper and deeper into the story and consequently into the psyche of the protagonists. I believe the story is not only about a singular communication of the characters and finding one’s soulmate. Personally, I find it also as an invitation to a personal inward journey of dealing with our insecurities and certainties, of letting go and holding on, of slowly stripping oneself of illusions and delusions in order to reveal our true self and find true love.

It has been in my all-time favorites ever since I read the first book more than a decade ago. And every time I turn its pages, a certain thrill comes over me. I don’t get tired reading it for each read seems like the first and yet not the first. I know I don’t seem to make any sense, but the book is really spellbinding… and so haunting… like some buried, unexamined part of me has been laid before my eyes. Well, if you don’t get affected by it the way I am, you would certainly enjoy the romantic and captivating love story of Griffin and Sabine. It is truly extraordinary.

To-Do List Tag

I was tagged by Gracey regarding my to-do list. Well, I’ve got many things I should do but I’ll post here 5 of them (in no particular order) I should try to start, if not finish, for this week.

1. Do a spring cleaning inside and outside the house.
2. Sow seeds and plant bulbs we bought. I still have half of them to do.
3. Put away winter clothes and take summer clothes out of their storage boxes --- the inconvenience of having four seasons *sigh*
4. Weed, weed, and weed.
5. Bloghop --- return the visits to my site and read my friends’/co-bloggers’ entries for the past several days.

I’m sure many of us have our share of things must-do’s and have-to’s. So, let’s hear those of Wendy,Portia, Maya, Rojoy and Cinderella.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Not-So-Wordless Wednesday

One of the series of cascades in Val de Jeret (Jeret Valley), Hautes-Pyrénées, France

The gushing of a waterfall as it tumbles on rocks and deep ravine is a sight to see. So imagine a series of them as you walk through 4 km of woods, each cascade a beauty on its own. This is what you will see if you go to Val de Jeret (Jeret Valley) in Cauterets, Hautes-Pyrénées.
There are two ways to see these successive waterfalls--- on a car through a winding road or on foot through a trail in the woods. I would suggest the latter. By car, it might be easier but you cannot just stop to admire the cascades because the road is sinewy and parking is not allowed except for one or two areas along the road. By taking the trail, I think you could appreciate the view more --- you can make your stop as often as you want. And I believe a world of enchantment open as you enter the woods with its canopy of leaves with shafts of sunlight making their way through the gaps, its tranquility and a sense of entering a different world where knights go looking for princesses; and elves and fairies reign.

Then you will hear the surge of water from a distance, the rumbling sound a welcome and refreshing note after your walk (the trail ascends up to around 450 m above sea-level from the point of your departure). Each cascade offers its own charm and coquettishness as you weave your way through the forest. It is very tempting to take a dip but by the sheer force of the falls, I guess a strong swimmer might have second thoughts (besides, you’re not supposed to go into the water). One great perk --- you can have your fill of the view and enjoy it to your heart’s content without paying anything! It’s free. Just do your share of respecting nature.

see my other wordless wednesdays
see other wordless wednesdays participants

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bright Sunny Days

our yellow tulips on a sunny day

I know I have been slack in posting entries these past days. Well, good weather has finally arrived in France and we’ve been having bright clear days, almost summer-like for almost two weeks. Plus, we’ve had two long weekends. May 1, Labor Day, falls on a Thursday, so Friday becomes a company holiday or if not, people usually pose a day-off. And the same with May 8, the World War II Armistice Day. And until around 3 years ago, Pentecostal Monday (lundi de Pentecôte, the Monday after Pentecost) is a national holiday. But now, it is a working day, although still many take a day off to prolong the weekend. So this year, the preceding weekend has been really a long one.

Taking advantage of the holidays and the sunny days, for the past two weeks, we’ve been gardening and catching up on some reading. Also we took sometime to visit my in-laws in the northern part of France and crossed the border to Belgium for a short visit. So, please excuse me if I have neither updated this blog nor visited your sites. I’ll try to make it up for these coming days. It’s just that the weather is so good --- sunny, warm with a soft breeze to cool the skin that I find it a shame to spend it indoors. I’ll really try to visit everybody and post an entry periodically. As soon as I have sown the seeds we bought and planted our summer bulbs, I’ll be more diligent. After all, I just have to wait for them to grow… if they will grow *winks*.

Having said that, I’ll go back to gardening and get another good dose of the sun. But I’ll make it appoint to visit everybody before the week is over. And post an entry, even a short one every other day, if not everyday :). Ciao!

When The Bells Toll

muguet or lily of the valley in our yard

I should have posted this on the first of May, but our lily of the valley or May bells (Convallaria majalis, muguet in French) gave us this single “stalk” or raceme of flowers only recently. I wanted to write something about it on the said date because the French celebrates Labor Day with this flower to bring luck for the whole year. But then, as I’ve said, our muguet is a late bloomer *chuckles.*

I’m not really sure about the relation between muguet and labor. All I know is that the flower usually blooms around the first of May. So maybe that’s why they used it as a symbol. In any case, it’s supposed to bring luck (although some would argue that only a raceme with 13 flowers is the real McCoy) and the tradition can be traced back to the renaissance era when Charles IX offered it to his courtiers as a symbol of good fortune. And I believe it’s not only the French who appreciate the blooms, for in 1982, it became Finland’s national flower. (source: wikipedia)

Well, lucky or not, I like muguet for its fragrance… a bit musky with a tangy note. It really is a good spring scent for it would certainly put a spring in your step :), as if you've just had a refreshing shower on a humid day. Incidentally, its extract, or at least,its synthetic counterpart is used in soaps, perfumes and other household products. And I like its bell-shaped flowers --- very appropriate for it tolls the coming of sunny, bright days. The color and the size of the flowers adds more daintiness and charm to its already delicate heady scent. And against the greenness of its leaves, I think it is spring personified.

They’re perennial plants (meaning you only plants them once, and voila! you'll have them for a long time --- no more planting every spring/autumn), multiply and grow easily even at a height of 2000m above sea-level. So I believe they’re ideal for those who don’t have much time to do gardening. In spring, you have these little white scented flowers and in autumn, the flowers turn into tiny bright-red berries that look so delectable. Be careful though, for it is toxic and the plant can be invasive for its rhizomes and spread extensively if left unattended.

Muguet is also called Our Lady’s tears because it supposed to have been borne from Virgin Mary’s tears as she mourned Jesus at the cross. Others say it is the drops of blood of St. George as he slays the dragon to save the princess and consequently the whole city for the dragon’s lair is where town’s source of water is located (source: wikipedia).

I think the beauty of the flower deserves such compassionate and chivalrous legends. There's something in the purity of its color, the delicateness of its scent and the fragility of its appearance that call out to the Muses and bring out the poet in us.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Ain't No Mountain Higher

view of Vignemale from the north

Vignemale is a mountain massif forming an intimidating part of the Pyrenean range. I say intimidating because it is the highest point on the French side of the Pyrénées, with Petit Vignemale (3032 m above sea level) and Pique Longue (3298 m) as the predominant and known peaks. The picture above is a view of the massif if approached from the north.

Well, we did not climb these peaks for it is really a difficult trail and you have to cross Glacier d’Ossoue (the largest Pyrenean glacier) from where the picture is taken to reach the summits. And since we’re not professional hikers, we just contented ourselves with looking at it from this point (refuge des Oulettes de Gaube). Well, reaching the refuge is already quite a feat for me and I wouldn't want to push my luck. Besides, even guide books marked the trail to Vignemale as "very difficult" so I wouldn't dare try it as I'm not equipped and trained for that.

To reach the refuge, you have to cross lac de Gaube (Gaube lake) and follow a rocky path of about 2000m above sea level. It’s not as daunting as hiking the trail towards the Vignemale peaks but I think it would already give your legs and lungs a good workout. Well, I believe you won’t mind too much the physical effort once you see the view around you. It is quite picturesque, especially with the lake behind and the view of Vignemale looming ahead that you cannot help but stop and take a few photos. Just don’t forget to take lots of water and have a good breakfast before starting the hike :).