Tuesday, May 30, 2006

This is ridiculous!

It is snowing in southern Germany - on May 30th! What kind of global warming is this??!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Rainbow Gems

My love for color and light, which finds expression in rainbows, also means that I enjoy other manifestations that are similar. I love prisms and collect both antique chandelier crystals and new cut glass shapes to hang in windows so I can see the tiny rainbows dancing on walls and floors inside the house. I also have a deep appreciation for stained glass windows - which means that I find great pleasure in spending time in churches and cathedrals, much to the despair of family and friends who might accompany me there. (Those who know me do so at their own risk, or attempt to avoid it whenever possible!)

My favorite gems also shimmer with rainbow colors - I love opals. Diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds may flash, but for some reason, they do not fascinate me. The unique patterning of each opal, the colors that change under different lights, the depth of their appearance all make them the stones that I desire most.

My love of opal jewelry goes way back to when I was eighteen. I had just gotten my first tax return, from money hard-earned working my way through college. I needed most of that for financing tuition, etc., but I wanted to buy myself something special from a bit of it. I had access to a wholesale jewelry store and found the ring of my dreams there - a fairly small opal in the middle, surrounded by eight smaller ones, a flower-like cluster, set in gold. I think it cost something like $25, if memory serves me right, and I still have that ring - as a matter of fact, I'm wearing it right now! I should have it assessed to see what it's worth nowadays. I have never tired of seeing each little stone glowing with its tiny specks of color.

Since then, I have been given some opal jewelry (usually on request, as I have a very particular taste) and bought myself both finished jewelry and stones to have set to my own designs. The stones are larger now, since I can afford to pay more than I could back in college, and I wear more white gold and silver than yellow gold. I have a brooch, several pendants, earrings, and rings. The latter are the most fun to own and wear, as I can see them myself - no mirror necessary! My favorite silver ring has a long oval stone that looks dull and gray when no light shines on it, but shows wonderful colors especially under neon light. Other opals look best under sunlight - each is different and unique.

Now that I'm planning a big vacation trip that includes Australia as a destination, I hope to see opal mines there. Coober Pedy is the location that claims to be the most important source of opals in the world, and there are lots of shops selling stones and jewelry there, so of course that's where I want to go! What better souvenir could a traveller bring back than a lasting treasure such as an opal.

I've always seen opals as a picture for an interesting personality too - simple and plain on the surface, almost colorless, seemingly. But when you look into the depths, there are many colors, light flashes, and unique patterns - never boring, always changing, and deeply fascinating in the long run.

Diamonds are not this girl's best friends!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Stormy Weather

I admit, storms scare me.

Not the normal, run-of-the-mill summer thunderstorms; I like to sit on a porch and watch the light show! And though it's been awhile since I experienced a North Dakota blizzard, I don't think I'd be afraid as long as I could stay inside and was well supplied with warmth, food, and a good book.

What triggers my fear is extreme, strong wind. Like the tropical storm (not quite a hurricane) I experienced in Florida last summer - the pressure on the windows of the third floor apartment I stayed in made me hope they wouldn't break and drive slivers into me. I was evacuated before the worst part came, and there was never any real danger; nevertheless, I felt that primeval fear that goes deeper than any logic.

We've had strong winds here this past week, and not too far away a man was killed by a falling branch. When I'm sitting upstairs at my computer or sewing machine, it can feel like the wind is going to take off the roof, and I confess to turning everything off and going downstairs, where I feel safer.

I heard a weather expert talking about the changing global conditions on the radio. He said the averages may not seemed much changed from what they used to be, but they are composed of more extremes. When it rains, it's heavier; droughts are more severe; winds are stronger; floods are more frequent; heat and cold more pronounced. Will we experience a world in which we have to fear for our lives due to natural forces beyond our control?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Indoor gardening

This week I'm doing some work that can only be described as "weeding", though it's not outside in the garden. I'm going through various closets, drawers, and boxes to find and toss out all the belongings that have seemingly collected themselves throughout the years. It's easy for that to happen - all you have to do is buy new things when they're needed and forget to throw or give away the old ones.

There are:
towels too good to throw away, yet too worn to use
round tablecloths - how many years have we already had the rectangular table?
embroidered Christmas doilies, kept for sentimental reasons, yet no longer pretty
bedding no longer regularly used but kept just in case the house is full of company some day
old videos which no one has time to watch, even if we knew what was on them
bottles of cleaning fluid samples for who knows what purposes
window decorations that were used one year but not nice enough to use again
Christmas and Easter decorations from holidays past which don't go with our style anymore
more vases than I can ever fill with flowers

Weeds, weeds, weeds - but there are flowers in there that can be seen now that the other things are gone. I'm keeping old laces and linens for future patchwork possibilities, and of course I still have enough towels and bedding to put up all the company I could wish for.

There is great satisfaction - and a therapeutic effect, certainly - in the orderly contents of my closets now. Is it spring that inspires this?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

"In case there's a change in the weather"

This line from the "Surrey with the Fringe" song ("Oklahoma" musical) has been on my mind during the past days. I realized that I was thinking "another sunny day" one morning and asked myself why I was not content. After all, I complain as much as anyone else when the weather is bad (i.e. dark, cloudy, rainy, stormy) for days on end. I guess it's all about change and variety.

A German saying goes:

"Nichts ist schwerer zu ertragen,
als eine Reihe von guten Tagen."

Roughly, that translates as "Nothing is more difficult to handle than a string of good days."

Is it the fact that we don't appreciate things when we have them all the time, so that "bad" weather makes us thankful for "good" weather? (I realize that "bad" and "good" are relative - in desert areas, rainy days would be the "good" ones.) Or does it mean we humans have a basic need for change and get bored when things are always the same?

I can't imagine living in a climate where the weather and vegetation are the same all year round. I love the changing seasons and find variety invigorating. And when it comes down to it, I can't control what the weather does anyway. I have to take it as it comes. But what about other aspects of my life? Should I attempt to bring more change into it? Food for thought there...

Lest this entry should get too philosophical, here's a nice appropriate weather rhyme in German. It parodies the typical farmers' sayings about signs and weather:

"Wenn der Hahn kräht auf dem Mist,
dann ändert sich das Wetter -
oder's bleibt wie es ist!"

(When the rooster crows on the manure pile, the weather will change - or stay the same.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

'Tis the season

Achoo! (or for those sneezing in German, Hatschi!)

"Pollen" does not really rhyme with "jolly", and this is not a jolly season for all those with hayfever and similar allergies. My allergenic is not up and about yet, so for now the yellow dust that covers cars, window sills, and furniture is merely annoying. But it won't be long before I rejoice in every rainy day. My sympathies go out to all who suffer now.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Sounds of summer

Birds singing
Wind rustling through grasses and trees
Referee's whistle from the football (soccer) field two blocks away
Waterfall splashing in the village pond
Motorcycle motors (not very aesthetic, but definitely summery!)

Walking is such a wonderfully sensuous experience!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Scentsational season

The sun and the warmth are bringing out the wonderful scents of the season - now that the daffodils and hyacinths are on their way off the spring stage, the next stars are waiting in the wings. May has two, three real highlights to offer - lilacs and lilies-of-the-valley are already budding, and I look forward to their scent on walks in the coming weeks. Then it won't be long till the peonies take over before the summer scents of roses and lavender predominate the coming season.

Those are the most important ones that occur to me - though I should mention the delightful smell of freshly mown lawn, the mysterious, tantalizing scent of something unidentifiable hidden behind a high hedge in the neighborhood, and the numerous flowers and blossoming trees and bushes that I don't know on a first name basis...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Spring green

There's something special about the first green of spring. In part, I'm sure that's due to the fact that there was less green in the winter (though there is almost never *no* green here, what with grass, winter grain fields, and evergreens). But that's not all.

The green of spring is lighter and has more yellow to it. Even the pines and firs have new tips that are lighter and brighter, giving them a more dimensional look than at other times of the year, when the dark green is more bluish. It's a friendly shade, as if reflecting the increase of sunshine.

There's one more thing that I've noticed about spring green. The fact that the leaves are not yet full-sized means that there's still lots of light shimmering through the branches. Later, the shade makes the deeper green look even darker.

At this time of the year, I am acutely aware of green. In the summer, it becomes a backdrop for the other colors of flowers, and gets taken for granted. I love the changing seasons - they make me see the same things every year as if they were brand new. Including green.

I'm reminded of Tolkien's wonderful words in The Lord of the Rings:
He saw no colour but those he knew, gold and white and blue and green, but they were fresh and poignant, as if he had at that moment first perceived them and made for them names new and wonderful.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Weather and the Forecast

The holiday dawned bright and sunny this morning, despite the forecasts of wet, cloudy weather for today. Tout le monde was out on bicycles when I went walking, and though the blue sky with an occasional cloud turned to overcast in the afternoon and the wind had a definite chill to it all day, it looks like the day off was actually rainfree!

What did someone (I think it was me) once say? "The weather forecast is always right, but sometimes the weather forgot to listen to it."

It's interesting about anticipation and fulfillment - if you expect the worst, and the mediocre happens, you're pleased. However, if you expect something to be wonderful and it's 'only' mediocre, you're disappointed. In that case, shouldn't pessimists be the happiest people in the world??