Sunday, October 27, 2019

October Thoughts

Wild cyclamen blooming in the woods where I walk

Like Anne of Green Gables "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." It's my favourite month of the year, full of Nature's richness, Canadian Thanksgiving, and my birthday. 

I confess, though, that until recently I've felt small joy in this month. It's been busy, busy, busy. The trip to Spain with students was a wonderful experience, but between the preparation and then the jet lag and getting back into school routines, I felt quite overwhelmed. Until this past Friday. 

Friday was a Professional Development Day. I attended a Modern Language Teachers conference at a local school. More frequently, the conference is held on the mainland, meaning an overnight trip. Without travel it was much more relaxing. After the conference I went down to Island View Beach for a walk in the sunshine. Glorious! We've had lots of rainy, grey days and the brilliant light cheered me up immensely. 

Just look at that blue sky! There was a bit of wind, but nothing of any concern. However, just a few miles away ferries were cancelled because of high winds on the mainland. 

The walk along the water, where gulls wheeled and dove, Bufflehead Ducks swam, and the waves rolled gently on the sand filled me with such a sense of well-being. "I'm back," I thought to myself, "I feel like myself again." It's a wonderful feeling and I thank God for the gift of nature and its solace.

A tangle of bull kelp roots, red and green seaweed, and round pebbles on the sand delight me. The low light of late afternoon casts long shadows on the sand.

Today, Sunday, was another opportunity for a beach visit - this time to Mount Douglas Park. Cold crisp air, sailboats heeled over in the breeze, snow-capped mountains in the distance, and a broad beach filled me with more joy.

Leaves by the dozens tumble to the ground in the slightest breeze, leaving great piles of them to scuff through as I walk. Soon the branches will be bare, but for now, the forest glows with colour and light. I want to soak in every minute that I can.

"Listen, the wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves; we have had our summer evenings, now for October eves." 
                                                                                             (Humbert Wolfe)

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Architecture from an Untrained Perspective

Antoni Gaudi was a Catalan architect who concentrated his work in Barcelona. The church of the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) represents the pinnacle of his achievement, and it is not yet finished, almost 100 years since his death. He was a man of deep faith who loved nature and melded both in new and sometimes shocking ways through his architecture. 

The church above is a model of what the building will look like when completed. It is ornate, fanciful, and audacious in its design, unlike any building I have ever seen. I don't know if I like it or not, but it makes me think. I do like the stunning stained glass that circles the church with all the colours of nature. 

Gaudi says, "The straight line belongs to men, the curved one to God." In his work a straight line is rarely seen as he imitated the curving branches of trees, the undulating form of waves, and circles of light. 

In my own humble way I disagree with Gaudi's thought about straight and curved lines. The horizon, when seen from a beach or on a flat prairie, is a straight line to the human eye. A tree, round in form, often stretches straight upwards to the sky. I think the combination of curved and straight make for harmony. What do you think?

In the Park Guell, also designed by Gaudi, I was most impressed by the wonderful mosaics displayed on walls, sculptures, and benches throughout the park. They have me wanting to smash a few dishes and create my own. 

On our way to Madrid, we stopped in the town of Zaragoza where a festival honouring the Virgin of the Pillar was starting. I enjoyed sitting in the plaza under a flat blue sky listening to folk music and watching the dancing. Later, I took a walk across the river through a city park where great views of the enormous church were to be seen. 

No photos were permitted within the ornate Baroque-style church, and it was full of people on this special day. 

My architectural preference tends more to the simple, light, and elegant, more Gothic than Romanesque or Baroque. Of course, there is wide variety in any of the styles, and I don't pretend to know very much about any of them, but I do know what I like when I see it. 

After two very relaxing days at home after flying home from Spain, I was at school for two days catching up with my classes. This weekend I've done some regular housecleaning, baked bread, did a little garden cleanup (it's very soggy out there with all the rain), and we went out for dinner with friends on Saturday night. I'm feeling very much back to normal, although I still wake up at 4 am for a bit each night. 

Sunny Spain seems very far away as I watch the clouds scud past my window and pull up my jacket hood as I dash to the car in the rain. Autumn is well and truly here.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Barcelona in the Sunshine

The rain is pouring down here this morning, echoing in the chimney, pattering on the skylight, and dulling the already muted garden. Sunny Spain seems eons ago.  I've spent the past two days doing very little and feel great! Later this morning I'm off to school to see what my students got up to while I was away. 

Our group of 14 arrived in Barcelona around noon, after 24 hours in transit. We all slept more on the plane going there than on the return flights. Our guide, Silvia, met us at the airport and we dropped our luggage off at the hotel, then hit the ground - walking rather than running. 

Barcelona is a beautiful city with the soft air that comes from being near the Mediterranean. Beautiful architecture, interesting sights, great food - there is much to appreciate about it. Narrow streets bordered by tall buildings meant that one had to look up to see sky and trees, while maintaining an eye on the ground for uneven cobblestones, and also looking straight ahead to prevent bumping into the many people on the streets. 

Looking up along La Rambla. 

More looking up - the Umbrella House, also known as Casa Bruno Cuadros - is distinctive for the ceramic umbrellas and fans decorating the house. There is also a dragon. The original owner of the house owned an umbrella shop on the main floor, hence the decor and name. 

Looking up to see intricate light fixtures. They are everywhere in many styles. 

The sheer number of decorative features in this photo make it a busy one, but the busyness typifies the city to me. 

If you've been watching the news recently, you might have heard about protests and demonstrations in Barcelona. They occurred in the square reflected in the photo above. While we were there, quiet groups of people with posters and signs stood in front of the buildings, watched carefully by police, but there was no violence. That changed later, after we left. 

I quite like the distorted shapes of reflected buildings in the window.

Light slants in another narrow passageway. 

We were almost ready to leave the city and head back to our hotel. In the Plaza de la Catedral a talented guitarist had been playing and singing, filling the air with lovely, gentle melodies. A street performer created bubbles that floated up and up before bursting into nothingness. As we prepared to leave the square and head off for dinner, the guitarist began singing a song that my students knew well from Spanish class. I use it for teaching some grammatical concepts, but also for culture. 

The students looked at me, wide-eyed, "Mrs. Orr, - it's Vivir mi Vida!" They started dancing and singing along. Tears pricked my eyes as I thought of how wonderful it was to have these students see that what they had learned in the classroom was a part of real life. That moment was one of the highlights of the trip for me. 

My next post will be about the Gaudi architecture that Barcelona is so famous for. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Home Thoughts

Outside my window a fine drizzle is dulling the view and making me very sleepy. After more than 24 hours in transit, I arrived home last night, not too late. I spent 8 days traveling with a group of my students - in Spain. It was a wonderful trip and I will likely tell you more about it once I regain some energy.

I am thinking about how, regardless of the length of a trip, on the last day in a different place, one's thoughts turn towards home. While wandering on my own in Madrid for a few hours on Sunday, I yearned to see my husband, thought about my garden, started planning projects, and wondered how my other students were doing with their Teacher on Call. 

I am doing very little today. All those grand plans I thought about seem less important today. I'll get to them later. Although school is in session, I've booked off an extra two days for trip recuperation. There's been some laundry shifted from washer to dryer and folded, a chat via Skype with my daughter and young Iris, and very little else accomplished. 

In my kitchen the carcass of a roasted chicken that I froze before leaving is in the slow cooker, flavouring stock that will become soup. For dinner tonight I pulled a container of White Chicken Chili from the freezer. 

I am trying to not nap today. The best way to recover from jet lag is to try to keep to the schedule of where one is at. Last night I made it to 9 pm; we'll see how tonight goes. 

I am reading nothing right now. I read the above book on the plane coming home - a great story about WWII and the unsung women who willingly risked their lives to help out. I'd recommend it. I also read, via our digital library, "The Girl You Left Behind," by Jojo Moyes, also very entertaining. I read Kate Atkinson's "Case Histories" and have decided that I am not a fan of KA. Her characters seem mired in unhappiness. 

I am going to an appointment later this afternoon, and will pick up a few groceries on the way home. 

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