Sunday, October 19, 2014

Autumn leaves and chestnuts

DSC09075 (1300x975)My days seem to grow longer as they actually get shorter.  I make coffee at 7 before the sun rises, reading the overnight news and sketching out the day while the warm rains spatter, unseen, against the kitchen windows.  I drive home from exercise at 7, headlights picking out the leaves and puddles, reflecting store windows and traffic signals.  A normal workday more than consumes the available daylight.

So I look forward to spending the weekends out in the sunshine, maybe a museum or a walk.  DSC09081 (1300x958)Today it was the South Hill Park Arts Centre in Berkshire.  ‘back in the day, I was a member of the Kirkland Arts Center, taking weekly classes in still life and charcoals, life drawing and pastel techniques.  This feels much the same, studios and student exhibitions, class announcements and seminars.  If it were closer, I’d be tempted back into the routine.

DSC09065 (1300x975)DSC09064 (975x1300)

The difference is the rambling mansion set into rolling grounds.  Three trails loop around the lakes and through the forests, wooden sculptures punctuating the turns.  DSC09085 (1300x1047)It’s not spectacular art, but the trees in autumn were lovely against the lakes and the ground was filled with spiny green chestnut casings crunching underfoot.

I needed a lesson. 

The first was in recognizing the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’, always my life’s work.  The good, Sweet chestnuts come in the spiny husks and have tassels at the tips.  The ‘bad’ horse chestnuts have simpler husks and shapes.  I confused the two, of course, but collected a good cup or two. 

DSC09071 (1300x975)DSC09073 (1300x974)

The second lesson, still pending, is in how to cook the nuts for use in recipes and snacks. 

The British are, admirably, superb naturalists:  But I needed to take time to slow down and observe.

DSC09076 (1300x961) DSC09080 (955x1300)

The Centre had a movie (Arthur and Mike,an innocent road romance)  and a decent Sunday Roast.  But mostly it was simply nice to be out and about while the sun was shinning.  The days may be shorter, but a day in the countryside, autumn colour and chestnuts, still restores the soul.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

You can tell I'm headed back….

DSC09048 (1300x958)…because I'm pointed the other way, as Snoopy observed from atop his doghouse.  I do it from within a ferry, but the idea is the same.

Its been a good week but a lot of road time.  A few days in Maastricht, followed by a long drive to Munich for a day of meetings, then another day’s journey back. 

The discussions were good, and we enjoyed some seasonal Bavarian beers and cuisine to celebrate progress.  Oktoberfest was just finished, so harvest soups and immense slabs of beef were on the menu.

DSC09003 (1300x975) DSC09004 (1300x975)

Germany was rainy and cool, typical fall weather, and the traffic was typically fast and aggressive.  There is still more construction per linear kilometer along the autobahn’s than anywhere else I go.  The worst seemed to be around Stuttgart: the ring road was clogged with accidents, and the DSC09018 (1300x710)short-cuts through the city followed steep and narrow roads.

Levity came from the mural in a restroom half way back.  Otherwise, I tunneled into podcasts and ruminated through the miles.

DSC09014 (1300x1170)In Maastricht, the Christmas lights were going up as the leaves were coming down.  I finished my VAT reporting, worked the fundraising, and caught up with friends.

The ferry back was considerably quieter than the ride over.  The boat was filled with school groups, all taking pictures.  The difference was the near-maniacal focus on individual and group selfies.

DSC09035 Stitch (1300x762) - CopyDSC09020 (1300x975) DSC09026 (1300x974)

DSC09025 (1300x1074)I take a lot of pictures, but most are outwardly directed, thinking of light, composition, and the feeling of the moment. 

Scenery is backdrop for them: it’s a completely different way of seeing the world.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Naar Maastricht

DSC08962 (1300x974)We’ll have gale conditions for the crossing, the Captain rasped over the ferry’s loudspeakers, followed by a list of precautions.  I eyed the waves breaking over the Dover seawall and gauged the wind-driven heel of boats entering the harbour.  Not a pleasant trip, but warm enough that I could enjoy the view from the deck.

DSC08955 (1300x974) DSC08963 (1300x974)

It’s always impressive to see the crew get a boat that large spun out of dock and off into the Channel.  The British watch working sailors the way the Dutch watch river management, clustered along the upper rails,pointing and critiquing.  The ferry slid sideways, turned upwind for a boat length, then ran downwind through the gap to the open sea. 

The wind rose, the boat pitched: we were off.

DSC08966 (1300x968) DSC08969 (1300x968)WP_20141013_002 (1300x734)

Apart from the cruise, it was a pretty easy jump to Maastricht.  And it was nice to be back among my things again, especially since the repair work on the front walls had been completed.  New paint, clean fabrics, shiny windows: Bionda and her friends did  lovely job on the clean-up.

Life was looking up – I went downstairs for a biertje (herfst bok) to celebrate.

DSC09013 (1300x975) WP_20141013_009 (1300x734)

I was up early this morning, picked up bread and milk, stumbled across the set of Flikken Maastricht, filming behind the old city wall

‘pretty fun to see the cast putting a scene together.

DSC08998 (1300x974) DSC08999 (1237x1300)

It was a warm autumn day, the light was perfect, the fall colours in full display along the river.

I lingered an hour before getting down to work.

DSC08996 (1300x975) DSC09001 (975x1300)DSC09012 (1300x920) DSC09009 (841x1300)