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Ci-gît Pickle

Pickle, the dwarf hamster I had bought with Cédric almost three years ago, died the other day. We had a proper burial in the woods by the lakeside, involving a black cardboard box, a tiny white headstone, and candles. Pets are quite mysterious in some ways. They may not live very long, and it gives us the impression that we know much more about life than they do. And yet as we see them grow old and die, we realize what a lifespan entails. In a crucial sense, my hamster is now wiser than me because I don’t have a clue about death. Dear little Pickle, may you rest in peace.

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January light

I find it tough, once Christmas is behind, to face a long stretch of winter, especially if it’s rainy and there’s no snow in sight. But on Sunday and Monday we’ve enjoyed sunny weather here in Geneva, with some warmth in the afternoon. I was even able to take my book and a cup of coffee (why do people stare?) to the jetty. Afterwards I went to the Parc de la Grange and contemplated the venerable trees that watch over the day’s activities. There’s something soothing to lakeside sites that we know have been inhabited for five or six thousand years, a reassuring presence. I like going to the Laténium in Hauterive, Yverdon’s stone alignment, and this park so close to where I live. I ponder how the ground retains the memory of it, even though we have all but forgotten.

Christmas glee

Each year I take pains wrapping all my presents in a chosen style, and this Christmas was no exception. I went for recycled paper, yellow ribbon, and an individualized Sukie sticker. It almost made up for the fact that I cannot for the life of me wrap items in a neat way – especially if their shape is anything but square – so that I need to distract whichever family member is being honoured from the parcel’s quasimodesque aspect. Gifts are, in turn, a way of distracting said family members from the various issues they take from their daily lives to the Christmas tree, and I believe that in spite of their aesthetic ambiguities, mine did a pretty good job.

Crows and ravens

People tend not to like them. Their sharp cries are perceived as disagreeable, their dark shapes as threatening, their mere presence as a nuisance. But surely, given how many recent book covers proudly display them, I can’t be the only one who is strangely but powerfully attracted to crows and ravens. I find them mysterious, clever, reassuring. Whenever I spot them – flying above streets, foraging in parks, or gathering at dusk – I know there is more to life than the human-made frame of reference which completely absorbs my attention most of the time. I walk around a street corner, hear a crow speak, see it land closeby, and suddenly become aware of a totally different take on reality.

ère Montet

You don’t always realize that things are old until they break, and it may take time before you even notice that they are no longer there. A few weeks ago, as I was getting ready to move to Geneva, I saw through the window of my parents’ house that a piece of our street sign was lying on the ground. I went out under the morning rain and casually took it home, hoping that the neighbours would fail to notice my illicit act of uncivility. I enjoy looking at it, although I’m not sure what “Derri” might signify on its own. One night, my brother and I subrepticiously attempted to steal the remaining part, but the screws were too old and rusty to give in to our efforts. The stubborn sign still stands there, in the street corner, proudly proclaiming: “ère Montet” – the Montet era.

Product placement

I bought these snow-white Urban Ears headphones to celebrate the end of my probation period at Berlitz and the confirmation that I would get the uni job. At first the idea was simply to listen to podcasts on my way home from work without letting the clamour of cars and people quell the soundtrack, but progressively a new field of possibilities made itself known. I can share music. I can hide the voice of my Skype correspondent from a nosy landlady. I can put the end of the string in my pocket and not only will it drown loud noises out, people will refrain from addressing me thinking I must be absorbed in something important. Amazing. And have I mentioned style? If connecting very large headphones to a tiny iPod is counterproductive, one might as well choose a funky version of the former and accessorize. My only concern is that they may not remain white for very long.

Celtic escape

Over the last few months I visited a number of exhibitions and sites related to Celtic culture in the three lakes region. Though I haven’t yet acquired my own dagger and sickle, I’m considering building a mud hut with thatched roof under the trees somewhere. You know it’s time to move on when 1) there still isn’t space for you in the fridge after two months and you have to smuggle your stuff into a corner 2) your host keeps things in your room that she regularly has to come and get 3) she tends to forget you live there so you have to lock the door 4) her contractors use your toilet and you’re asked to clean it 5) in fact she doesn’t even share her own bathroom with her boyfriend, so yours is open to the whole community 6) when you’re away for the week-end she has guests sleep in your bed 7) she thinks she knows what you want or need much better than you ever will 8.) you find her crying over her journal in the kitchen 9) she uses you as an audience for her biased monologues 10) you told yourself: “well, at least I love the garden” but then she had trees cut down and you can’t even build your mud house close to the pond anymore.