Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Not-so-Wordless Wednesday

church of St. Peter, town of Carennac , Lot departement, Midi-Pyrénées region

This is the entrance to the small courtyard of the St. Peter’s church in the town of Carennac, Lot department in the southern part of France. From this point, there’s a nice perspective of the tympanum and the short flight of stairs leading to the church’s entrance. It is quite arresting, especially since the view is unexpected (but very much welcomed) when taking a walk on a quiet road of the town by the Dordogne river.

the church's tympanum

The portal was added to the church by the mid-12th century, and one of the “must-sees” in Carennac. In the center of the tympanum is Christ in a mandorla (almond-shaped aureola) with his hand raised in benediction and surrounded by the symbols of the four evangelists. And on either side of the figure are the sculptures of the apostles (source: Le Guide Vert: Perigord-Quercy, Michelin, 2005).

close-up of the Christ in the mandorla

It is always a pleasure to find such treasures in visiting towns. Especially when they are very well-preserved. One of my ideas of holidays is breathing in the quiet, history-filled atmosphere of such places. It’s like having a short lesson in art and history while taking a relaxing walk around.

details of the sculpture on the left (above photo)
and right side (picture below) of the central figure of the tympanum

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Violets Are Blue

sweet violets (Viola odorata) also known as garden violets in our lawn

These are the sweet violets (Viola odorata) growing “wildly” in our garden. They usually grow with common daisies and dandelions in our lawn. And although most of the time they are considered “weeds,” they give a dash of spring color and romanticism in our yard.

backside of the violet flower

I was thinking of digging these viola plants and put them in our flower beds, but I finally decided against it. Aside from the amount of work involved (they are everywhere), I can only recognize them when they are in bloom… which is not the best time to uproot them. Besides, I find that a patch of blue here and there gives a better impression of idyllic charm than having the sweet violets arranged neatly in a flower plot. And they go well with the whites of the daises and the yellows of dandelions in varying hues and heights.

Plus, since these little blue flowers give off a sweet aroma (hence the name), I prefer to have them scattered in our lawn so that when a light breeze passes by while walking aimlessly outside, I’ll have a whiff of their delicate fragrance. Their scent makes me think of candies, thick syrup and ice cream. Maybe one day, I should try to collect the flowers and add them in our desserts. Now, where do I “find” some culinary skill *scratching my head * ? (If some people have two left feet when it comes to dancing, I guess I have two left hands when it comes to cooking :)).

Friday, April 17, 2009

Blooming Friday

our prunier à fleurs (flowering cherry tree)

One of the harbingers of spring is the ornamental plum flowers (prunier à fleurs). I’m hesitant to call it cherry blossom (sakura) as the two are not exactly the same. But of course, they certainly come from the same family. And the leaves of our flowering cherry are purple, not green. Besides, as far as I know, the Japanese flowering cherry doesn’t bear any fruits while the one we have does, although I don’t think it’s edible (well, I never tried to eat the fruits *winks*).

In any case, both sakura and prunier à fleurs in bloom are a spectacular sight. They appear to be large bouquets of dainty little flowers, like a welcome offering as the world enters spring. However, the flowers don’t last long. But even in their withering stage, they still continue to delight us as the petals fall like soft snow. And when there’s a passing breeze, they turn to a magical whirl of downy small cotton balls.

Because of their fleeting beauty, it’s understandable why the Japanese see it as a metaphor for life. And I find flowering cherry trees a romantic, haunting reminder that we have to make the most of what we have. For tomorrow, they might be gone.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Longer, Warmer Days

sunrise seen from our window

I’m really glad days are getting longer now (marked by the use of daylight saving time which started around 3 weeks ago). I don’t mind “losing” an hour of sleep due to DST. After all, I feel like I’ve been asleep (and dispirited) during the cold months. Come to think of it, I think it’s better to really go in hibernation like some animals do during winter rather than having to get up and go through the motions of everyday life with your heart in your boots (I didn’t know this expression exist, but it does. And I find it rather a visual description of having low-spirits during winter). Well, that’s the way it is with me for I tend to be afflicted with the winter blues once the cold season sets in.

And if longer days are accompanied by a glorious sun, then it would definitely put me in a good mood. Ok, maybe not always but at least, I would be less cranky. The sun helps me see things in a better perspective. Maybe because it makes you see the brighter side of things, literally and figuratively… or probably due to the idea that you don’t have to stay cooped up inside the house. After all, the ambiance outdoors is so inviting with the warm golden sun, chirping birds and buzzing bees (and fluttering butterflies if it is a really nice day), myriad types of flowers blooming and the wonderful scent of the warm season.

Or maybe because I’m just a “sun-person.” Oh, I don’t try to keep myself meticulously tanned the whole-year round. I’m a sun worshipper in the sense that I love being warm, waking up to a bright, cheerful day and be able to go out... with just one layer of clothing (I find winter clothes cumbersome)! And of course, it’s an opportunity for me to try having a green thumb. I might not be born with it, but who knows, with practice, I might be able to make things grow without them dying in the middle of their life cycle *winks*.

Well, after the early arrival of spring and its sudden departure, I believe the sun has finally decided to come back, albeit timidly. And I’m optimistic it’s going to stay this time *cross fingers.* With longer sunny days and be able to have outdoor meals, take early evening short walks or watch the sun goes down with the lingering afternoon warmth, who would grudge about "losing" one hour of “night time”?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

a busy bee probing a grape hyacinth (muscari) in our garden

Spring is on its way!!!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Post Easter Wishes

detail of a stained glass in our town church

I know this is a bit late, but I hope everybody had a wonderful Easter. The sky was overcast here during the Easter holidays. But at least it wasn’t that cold. And we haven’t had any bizarre spring blizzard or hailstorm so far. So the weather might not be that enjoyable but the important thing is the spirit of the season --- the salvation of mankind, the resurrection of Christ, and life-everlasting with Him in paradise.

Easter, as a religious festival, is always associated with churches. So I thought it would be a good idea to post some photos of the details of stained glass windows in our town church. The edifice was built around 1,100 years ago. And I assume the windows are as old as the church. I have always been fascinated by the ethereal quality of the scene created by the light streaming through the stained glass, with motes of dusk swirling in the beam of light and the colored figures in the glass seeming to come alive.

And with the general silence, the atmosphere of being watched over combined with the solidness of the church walls, it gives one a feeling of perpetual security and beatitude… especially during times of distress and hopelessness. And I hope the church (and other religious edifice) will be preserved for another thousand of years --- not only for its religious purpose but also for its aesthetic and historical value.

I hope with passing of Easter, we all have a wonderful “re-birth”, a new start for the year ahead. And spring will be in full swing any time soon (I hope), so we can all look forward to warmer, brighter, sunnier days *smiles*.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Not-so- Wordless Wednesday

Seeing a seed sprout leaves is like magic... for how can a tiny thing carry so much life in it?... how is it possible that a thing so small start and support not only itself but also other forms of life?... I guess it's one of the many miracles of nature.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spring is "Touch and Go"

Silver white winter that melts into spring... – a line from a song in The Sound of Music

Spring came early this year. Oh, it’s still cold in the morning (we sometimes have below zero temperatures) but the day was clear and sunny for around two weeks before the official spring season. So, after a snowy freezing winter, we were more than happy to see and feel the warmth of the sun. It was even around 18°C during the hottest part of the day --- quite pleasant to be outside . So we took the opportunity to do some gardening and spring cleaning (and hence, I haven’t done much “written” updates here). It’s nice even to be just outside the house literally and feel the sun on your back after days of being cooped up inside to stay warm.

But it seems that spring knocked on our door and then suddenly left when we opened the door to let it in. There were days when it was rainy, or the sky is covered for most of the day. Plus, a chilling wind that swiftly sweeps away whatever warmth the sun brought during the intermittent periods that the clouds dispersed. But at least it didn’t snow or frost. I have sown seeds in the past weeks, some of them directly on our flower and vegetable plots, the rest in small trays. I just hope they would grow since almost half of them are quite “old” (left over from past years). And with the seesaw-like temperature we've been having, I’m half-afraid they won’t germinate.

However, the coming days looks promising. The arctic wind is still present, but the sky seems to be clearing up. I hope spring will stop teasing us and come back to stay. I would love to bask in the sun and feel its warmth seep through my bones --- it not only drives away the vestiges of winter but also chases the blues that the cold season brings out of my system. Waking up to a sunny sky leaves less room for depressing, humorless thoughts. And who wouldn’t want to get out of bed with sunbeams streaming through your windows, prodding you to get up and enjoy if not seize the day?

Well, I’m crossing my fingers for a good weather in the coming days. It would be great to see one’s surrounding leap back to life --- bare trees turn green, grass gets covered with dandelions and daisies, bulbs and plants paint the ground in a myriad of colors with their flowers and perfume the air with the scent of spring.