Monday, November 30, 2009

Autumn Before the Festivities

fallen leaves in our backyard

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
- Albert Camus (1913 - 1960)

Before the festivities for Christmas and New Year begin, here are a few more photos of autumn - the beautiful transition period between the euphoric spirit of summer and the excitement of the yuletide season.

Autumn sings a lullaby to the beat of crunching leaves under your feet and the soft pitter-patter of rain as it prepares plants and trees for their winter sleep.

It seems so tranquil – with leaves turning from green to yellow then red, then slowly falling to the ground with a passing soft breeze traced with the lingering warmth of summer. But beneath its serene surface is the frenzy of birds, squirrels, hedgehogs and other creatures getting ready to head south or build nests, finding (and storing) enough food to last for the duration of the cold season.

Autumn is a beauty in contrast – as leaves’ color become more intense, the colder the temperature becomes. And when trees are down to their last leaf, they would then be shrouded in winter mist or covered in soft snow.

felix with ears pricked for falling leaves

But not yet… winter is officially 3 weeks away. So while waiting for the next “scene”, let’s enjoy autumn’s charm while it lasts.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday : Dewdrops on a Spider Web

dewdrops on a spider web

In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous.
- Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC), Parts of Animals

We think in generalities, but we live in detail.
- Alfred North Whitehead (1861 - 1947)

There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.
- Sir Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626), "Of Beauty"

In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.
- Aaron Rose (1969 - )

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Felix, Our Cat

Felix, our cat, at around 3 months old

Aside from the very good weather, our last summer became a lot more pleasant with the arrival of Felix, our cat. I know, we don’t seem to have given much thought about his name (Felix might sound “generic” to some, like “Spot” for dogs or “Bunny” for rabbits) but it’s the first thing that came to our mind when we saw him. Besides, “felix” means lucky and we feel lucky that his cat mother (as opposed to “human mother” of pets) brought him to us.

Felix and his brother grooming each other

Yep, it was the mother cat (which, we think, is abandoned) that brought him right on our doorstep. When we first we saw her (mother cat) last year, she was foraging for food in our compost pile. So from then on, we would always leave food for her. We tried to make her stay with us but she remained wary (although she comes regularly to sit on our kitchen window sill). And maybe because of this, she brought Felix and his brother to us when they are about a month old (their eyes still had a bluish tinge but they were already running and jumping around when they came to see us).

the mother cat grooming her kitten

The queen (a mother cat) and her kittens would come to eat, play and sleep in our garden during the day. But they would regularly go somewhere for a few hours (most probably the mother showing her kittens the neighborhood). Also, they wouldn’t stay for the night even when we provided them with a box to sleep on our terrace. (Most probably they prefer the security of the relatively thick hedges on one side of our garden. Many neighborhood cats pass by our yard and I think the mother feels unsafe having her kittens “exposed” to them).

Felix (the one with the white paw), playing with his brother

Then after a month, we didn’t see Felix’s brother. We didn’t think he died because he was never sickly and after a week or so, Felix and his mother brought him to us again. But maybe he found a new home because he left by the end of the day and never came back. Well, Felix's brother is the bolder and the more independent of the two, hence a neighbor of ours must have seen him on one of their "tours" and adopted him. Felix has always been the cautious, wary kitten - he wouldn’t eat unless his brother and mother are already eating the food and whenever he hears someone coming, he would hide and only show himself when it’s us. (And this even needed a lot of coaxing for some time until he got used to us).

Felix, at around 2 months old

So we were left with only Felix. We thought he would also leave and find another home when he’s old or independent enough. But he stayed with us after his mother thought him big enough to fend for his own: she refused to play, nurse or let Felix get close to her. She didn't even allow Felix to follow her anymore (Felix was like his mother's shadow). So Felix stayed with us and we’re very happy to have him.

Felix sleeping after playing

Even at around 5 months now, he’s still as playful as when he was small, actually even more than before. I thought he would mellow down now as he doesn’t anymore have his brother or mother to play with. But it became the opposite. He rarely stays still for more than a minute or so (except when he’s sleeping), and when we’re outside he would remind us to play with him by grabbing our legs with his front paws (without the claws, thank goodness!) and then sprinting away. When we’re too busy to play with him and he’s bored with his toys and games, he would chase his own tail. He follows us everywhere except when he knows we’re leaving for work or do some errands (he doesn’t go beyond our gate… well, not yet). And when we come back, he would be at the door waiting for us.

Would you like to play with me?

He loves catching things and would jump high in the air to catch whatever you throw at him (unless he’s not in the mood). And one of his favorite games is to climb trunks and vertically growing branches (I think he finds branches growing horizontally boring). He likes to be petted but wouldn’t sit still on our lap or lay quietly next to us when we’re watching something on TV. And he loves to snuggle close to us in bed at night. He would even wedge his way between me and my husband, with his head on our pillow and his body under the covers.

Felix climbing for his toy at around 5 months old

Now, if only if he would stop chewing on anything that resembles a string. (He even tried to chew the temple arms of my eyeglasses. Good thing he hasn't chewed any electrical cords... yet.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Blooming Friday

autumn crocuses in our garden

While many plants are preparing for their winter sleep, these autumn crocuses, on the other hand are just getting ready for their spectacular display. Their yellow flowers are like miniature suns sending tiny burst of sunshine and warmth on a gray autumn day.

Their intense warm color is as crisp as the dried leaves crunching under your feet. And when lit by the afternoon glow of a fair autumn day, the flowers cast a soft, subdued hue that goes perfectly with their dark green foliage and red-orange shade of fallen leaves.

I’m glad we “inherited” these crocuses. Aside from blooming in autumn, they don’t need much care and quite hardy. Also, their color goes well with mauve fall asters. A blush of golden yellow crocuses tempered by the cool hues of autumn asters adds more romance to a lovely fall day.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cornflower and Battlefields

cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) or bleuet des champs in our garden last summer

Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) is the symbol for les poilus (French veterans of World War I). And since the 1918 Armistice Day is celebrated today, I thought of posting a few photos of the cornflowers we had last summer.

And I think this flower is an appropriate symbol for the French infantrymen who fought during World War I. The battles were generally fought in the fields of the northern part of France. And cornflowers usually grow in these grain fields. And not only that, the plants with their abundant and intense-colored flower, robustness, and vitality are like the infantrymen whose spirit and bravery withstood the harsh, desolate life in the trenches.

One of my favorite films, Un Long Dimanche de Fiançailles (A Very Long Engagement) tells the stories and experiences of several poilus as subplots. And the nickname of the male lead character, a poilu, is “Bleuet” (cornflower) --- a reference to his eyes. It may be conjecture on my part, but I think the author of the novel (the movie was based on the book with the same title by Sébastien Japrisot) gave this nickname to his lead character as homage to the many young men who fought in The Great War (WWI). “Bleuet” is a young man full of hopes who is sent to the frontline, leaving his family, loved ones and a life filled with promises. And as history shows, many of these abled men did not make it back to their homes and families.

So, to the French poilus and other veterans who fought in World War I, rest in peace and we salute you for your courage and patriotism.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

So Long, Blue Sky

a fine October day

Sunny days outnumbered gray ones last October. But now that it is the wet, wet month of November, I think we’ve seen the last of blue skies and pleasant temperature for this season. although I sincerely hope not for I’m already missing it.

Well, at least I could try to console myself that the weather has been relatively clement for a longer period this year. And rain is good for the plants while the temperature is not yet close to freezing. We had almost no rain for about 3 months last summer and the garden needs a good amount of watering.

Besides, time flies fast. Before you know it, the gray sky will be clear again, and rain will be replaced by snow. It would be colder, but I think snow is lot more fun than rain. For the mean time, let me just say a temporary adieu to blue sky and sunny days.