Pedometer for a year

Much has been written about seeing 2020 fully in the rearview mirror, and I don’t have much new to add, which has left me pondering just what to do with this January blog post.

As the year was lurching to a close, I spent close to six weeks not being able to walk much, and since walking is my primary exercise, I was eager to get my feet back onto the trail. That happened a few weeks ago, and I’ve been racking up the kilometers as much as time and weather permit. On one such walk, it occurred to me that I could tell a story of 2020 through some of my walks of the past year.

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Winter solstice and small miracles

The glowing center of this morning glory—still blooming where I live—looks much like a pink star in a midnight sky.

Where were you in the year 1226?
There is a rare treat awaiting us on this year’s winter solstice. It’s called the Great Conjunction, and the last time humans could see it like this was on March 4, 1226.

When two planets in our solar system appear close to each other—from Earth’s perspective—it’s called a conjunction. When it happens with the two biggest planets, Jupiter and Saturn, it’s called the Great Conjunction, which occurs around every 20 years. However, it’s quite rare when they appear to be overlapping each other AND are visible from earth. The last time they looked this close to each other was during Galileo’s time, in 1623, but the planets also lined up so close to the sun that they weren’t visible from Earth. The next time this will happen is relatively soon: 2080.

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Zoom for the holidays, plus a walk around town

A year ago—which feels rather like an entire lifetime ago—I could not have imagined writing this post. But here we are, near the end of 2020: the holidays are upon us, and we are spending much less time in person with other people and more time connecting via technology. Whether you’re working from home or chatting with friends and family, video conferencing has become a fact of life for a great many of us around the world.

How to look your best in a Zoom call
There is a wealth of information out there about how to look good on a video call, and I thought I wouldn’t need to add my two cents’ worth. However, I’ve noticed some issues in my own calls, so I thought I’d go ahead and write up a few tips. Everything here comes from my own experiences in video calls, plus I’ve also included a few links to other articles. There are no photos, because I didn’t ask my friends’ permission!

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Gratitude and autumn color

In the United States, late November means Thanksgiving, a holiday that was intended to recognize a spirit of harmonious living and sharing during a difficult time, and a way of showing gratitude for a successful harvest. Americans have a lot of different ways of recognizing this holiday—American football is often involved—but I think of it as a time to be together with those you love, to share the bounty of good food, and to remember all that we have to be thankful for.

With this year’s confinement in France, I haven’t been able to stray far from home, and I’ll be enjoying my Thanksgiving feast solo (see a photo of last year’s dinner below). Throughout this message, I’m sprinkling in a few views of autumn leaves near my house. Here in my little corner of paradise, we don’t have the red maple trees of New England, nor the golden aspen of Colorado, but we do have an abundance of wine trees,* and they’ve given us a glorious show this year.

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Old stone walls

Where there is rocky soil, there will be stone walls. I don’t know why, but I love these things that are built of stones. I have enough photographs for at least two stories, and this first one is to introduce you to some of the walls and other structures near where I live. Nearly every day, I pass one or another of these sites as I walk around the hills.

Before there were machines, anyone who wanted to farm the soil had to first do the hard work of removing the larger rocks. By hand.

You can picture it: there is a plot of land that someone would like to plant with food crops. The land is rocky, which makes farm work difficult, so the first chore is to remove all those rocks. The whole family spends as much time as it takes—days, weeks, months, a lifetime—to move the rocks away from the field. As time passes, there are growing piles of stones at the edges of the field.

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Searching for the phoenix

“Burning Embers” is a close-up photograph of grape leaves in late autumn.

I’m searching for a phoenix. I’m searching for who and what will rise from the ashes of the year 2020. The world—every nation, every people, every one of us—has lost so very much this year.

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