June 26, 2010

Days Of Wine And Roses.

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.

Ernest Dowson

Summer - in my vision always arriving as a flamboyant knight - finally regained seasonal reign over the cold North, taking the throne with all the splendor of colours and light, sunshine and fragrance.

The golden time of the year has begun; it will be fleeting and evasive at best, teasing us with few magnificent days of sun and blue skies, only to bestow upon us rain and cold as soon as we let our guard down. Still, these are the days of the elusive summer, which has been anticipated and sought after, like never before. It will compel nature to grow lush and lavish and the air to become saturated with the fragrance of honeysuckle and jasmine.

I intend to spend the next few weeks in the company of the extravagant gentleman Summer and hopefully some lovely visitors as well. Thus I am taking a break and will return again sometimes later in July.

My days of wine and roses are here. And they are not long...

June 24, 2010

The Amazing Workforce.

Look closely at the picture to the left. Can you see what it is? (Please, click to enlarge.)
Yes, these are ants and I need a better camera lens and zoom.
Nevertheless, I can not help but be completely fascinated by these incredible little insects. Or not so little, depending on where in the world we are.
Thankfully, in my part of the world, ants are miniature and pose no harm to us humans. They are more a source of admiration and at time a slight nuisance to us gardeners.

I love to watch these little creatures, ALWAYS hard at work. They seem to be a spring of endless energy. Constantly on a move, busy performing or undertaking something, they appear to be almost a part of a collective consciousness, as they are so synchronized and organized in their work flow.

Already as a child I loved when walking through the Slovakian forests with my parents, we would encounter an ant hill. I always stopped gazing at it with fascination, as it appeared that a bustling metropolis was hiding within its core. A slight disturbance and the hill seemed to come alive in instant, as the inhabitants mobilized their troops.

Here are some cool facts about these amazing creatures (click here for source):

•If a man could run as fast for his size as an ant can, he could run as fast as a racehorse.
•Ants can lift 20 times their own body weight.
•The average life expectancy of an ant is 45-60 days.
•Adult ants cannot chew and swallow solid food. They rely on juice which they squeeze from pieces of food.
•The abdomen of the ant contains two stomachs. One stomach holds the food for itself and second stomach is for food to be shared with other ants.
•There are over 10000 known species of ants.
•Some worker ants are given the job of taking the rubbish from the nest and putting it outside in a special rubbish dump.
•Some birds put ants in their feathers because the ants squirt formic acid which gets rid of the parasites.
•The Slave-Maker Ant (Polyergus Rufescens) raids the nests of other ants and steals their pupae. When these new ants hatch,they work as slaves within the colony.
•If a worker ant has found a good source for food, it leaves a trail of scent so that the other ants in the colony can find the food.
•The queen ant lives up to ten or twenty years.
•The wood ant can threaten the enemy with open jaws.
•There are thirty-five thousand kinds of ants in the world.
•Some ants sleep seven hours a day.
•Ants are normally from 2 to 7 mm long, although carpenter ants can stretch to 2 cm, or almost an inch.
•Some ants care for and "farm" other insects.

Today I am as in awe of these busy little insects as I was in my childhood. However at times they do rise my frustration level; such as when they move into my house or start undermining my patios, just like on the clip below, which I took a couple of weeks ago.

June 22, 2010

Perceptions Of Summer.

Crossing the solstice, we have entered the season of plenty. The Scandinavian summers however are short and the weather very unstable. Even yesterday, which was forecast to be sunny and warm by meteorologists, turned out to be more or less a cloudy and dull affair.

I love summers endlessly though and I have always done so. Being a true summer child, I was born in July and I worship this season passionately. So full of colour and light, it is additionally abundant with scents and tastes as well.

We all know the wonderful property of our senses and the way they are connected to our recollection. How a sound, a fragrance or that particular tingling of our palate can bring back moments in time, so easily and with such an elegance.
I have collected here ten such significant catalysts of wide range of perceptions, which speak summer to me like nothing else can.

The Sound Of Cicadas.
I grew up in family of sun worshipers and almost as far back as I can remember, we used to travel south to the Mediterranean for summer vacations. The sounds of Cicadas equals summer to me, as these little critters are not native to Central nor Northern Europe. Thus their exotic song brings the feeling of summer to my senses in its purest form possible.

Fireflies were the sign of summer while I lived in North Carolina. I will never forget those humid, hot nights, full of sounds of crickets and insects and full of these small specks of light, adding an enchanting feeling to the hot summers of the southeast.

Coconut Fragrance And Taste.
As a fragrance in sunscreens, shower gels and shampoos and as a taste in exotic drinks, nothing speaks of tropics more loudly than the coconut.

The Feel Of A Warm Sand.
The feel of hot sand of the beach between my toes and between my fingers, sticking to my blanket and to my skin, oiled in tanning lotion, while I listen to the gentle surf, watching the endless blue of the sea... Only in summer.

The Song Of Swallows.
The flight and the song of swallows as the day is closing to its end, brings back the summers of my childhood like nothing else can. Almost in instant I am transported back to the Czech country side, where I spent every single summer until I was thirteen.

Scent Of Melted Asphalt.
That scent takes me back to Czech country side too, decades in time, in a split second. I recall walking barefoot on a small country road, after spending an hour or two swimming in the local river during lazy summer days. The hot asphalt would almost give in under my feet, as I was leaving footprints behind, having fun trying to burst the small bubbles, which would form on the melting surface, while its particular scent hung in the hot air.

Scent (and Taste) Of Barbecue.
Moving forward in time, barbecue reminds me of the Scandinavian summers and always will. As soon as the first sun rays warm the cold North, the scent of grilling is everywhere. The Scandinavians worship the elusive sun and move their cooking outside during the white nights.

White Nights.
I have described what they mean to me in such a detail before, thus any more words feel obsolete. I can only add that the midnight sun was the only summer sign I dearly missed while I lived in North Carolina.

Taste Of Strawberries Warmed By The Sun.
My first real summer job as a teenager involved picking of strawberries. There is nothing that literally screams summer more loudly to me, then the sweet taste of the red berry, picked during a hot, sunny day. The Scandinavian strawberries are renowned for their superb quality and are exported all over Europe. A celebration of the Midsummer is never complete without a strawberry cake, made with freshly picked berries.

Scent Of Fresh Cut Grass.
The ultimate sign of summer, that stretches back in time and encompasses both my childhood and adulthood. Endlessly soothing, like a blanket of comfort, when the fragrance of cut grass spreads through the air, it instigates security and happiness. It brings back the meadows of my childhood as well as the city parks and the country side of my teenage years. And even today, this scent defines summer just outside the windows of my white house on a hill like nothing else can. A universal sign of summer in every corner of the world that harbours the four seasons; as soon as the grass grows again, summer has begun.

June 21, 2010

The Treshold Of Light...

... or "My Ode To June Sunsets".

Today's summer solstice marks the culmination of our Scandinavian white nights. It feels like it was just yesterday the longest night was upon us, which meant the onset of the best part of the year; alas now we are heading in the opposite direction. Even though light evenings will be granting us their stunning presence until the beginning of August, the end of June marks the end of a certain magical period that always seems to be gone before it even begun.

White nights fill me with an endless feeling of awe and astonishment. They bring so much enchantment to my surroundings, lifting my spirits and reinforcing my belief in the mysterious. No wonder that already the ancient man built neolithic monuments to celebrate the event of the solstices.

Each evening, the June sun bestows upon us sunset shows that take my breath away.
As the golden disk moves slowly towards the skyline almost twenty hours after it has risen, it turns into a large, fiery globe, instigating moments of great anticipation. Its shape seems to float above the Earth, as if guided by an unseen hand until it meets the horizon in a covert kiss, upon which it spills across the sky like molten steel. Moving slowly out of sight, while colouring our northwestern skies blood red at midnight, the sun only disappears out of view for a short while, never really vanishing, leaving behind strokes of rainbow shades. Simultaneously, the northeast is already the colour of silver. As we move into the small hours of the morning, the imminent sunrise alters the silver sky first into platinum and then the colour of rose gold. In the stillness of the night, day breaks with all its splendor. The golden disk reappears from its short slumber, casting a violet glow across a dewy landscape. And the bird song begins.

Rising almost five hours earlier then in winter, the midnight sun adds about eleven hours more light to our summer days. As we cross the threshold of light, I will try to savour every moment of the longest day and disregard the sharp sting of melancholy, that its departure always instigates in the very core of my being...

The below is a series of photographs taken from my windows during a dramatic sunset two days prior to the summer solstice. As the night progressed, the skies became clear and the splendor of a stunning white night a reality.
Please click the images for a larger view.

June 19, 2010

Monday On A Saturday.

Today I am at work. That is an odd feeling indeed, as I never work Saturdays. No, Saturdays are spend tending to my house and patios, sharing lovely pictures of my garden with you. But not this Saturday. My scheduled weekend has become very unscheduled, but it is all my own doing.

You see, I have a plan. A cunning one, may I add. Today it is raining cats and dogs (what a weird expression that is indeed) and as the weather forecasts predict sunny skies on Monday, I have switched my days around. Thus I will take Monday off.

It is quiet here, no one around. There is a certain tranquility that has settled over an otherwise busy lab. I actually enjoy being here.

Well, I would have actually a lovely day was it not for one thing; the fact that my lab computer had a melt down. It is a mac and even though I am a devoted Apple fan, I have to say this out loud: I HATE that computer. It keeps giving me a blue screen and has overall been very unstable. Thus I am writing this post on a PC. And that is not going all too well, I am afraid, as the computer feels very alien to me indeed.
Therefore while I wait for my electrophoresis to finish, I have decided to post answers to questions that were given to me by the lovely Mel at MELROXX in a recent tag. I have to say she impressed me with the quality of her inquiries, presented by such a young mind.

Thus dear Mel and everyone else interested, here are my answers:

1) What is your philosophy?
My philosophy. I guess that would mean by which wisdom do I live. That has changed a great deal over the years. But one has resonated with me more than any other. Although I find it very hard to follow, the following Serenity Prayer to me eloquently defines the art of living a fulfilled life:

"God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference."

2) If you could be any age again for one week, what age would you be?
This was such a great question, as I realized I am unable to answer it. Initially, I thought immediately; I would love to be twenty again! But after further contemplation I came to the conclusion that my life at twenty was quiet a struggle in every way, not to mention I felt lost and uncomfortable, trying to figure out who I was. Neither would I like to be back in my thirties, as that decade was preoccupied with painful realization of becoming older and stuck in a life I did not enjoy. I guess bringing back time only works if one has regrets. I have none.

3) Who is your fashion icon?
Women that dare to be themselves, through out their life.

4) What was the best moment of your life?
There are so many unforgettable moments as I call them. To single out just one can not be done. I love to revisit them in my mind, as I have one for every year at least.

5) Do you enjoy spending hours shopping or do you try to get over with it as fast as possible?
I used to enjoy going on shopping sprees as a young adult. Those could last for hours, I literally shopped till I dropped. These days I shop online, and although I do enjoy browsing the sites, I will get it done quiet fast.

6) Something you can't get to throw out of your wardrobe is ...
I can never throw anything out, thus I have my basement filled with boxes of old clothes.

7) What is your least favourite household chore?
Vacuum cleaning. I detest that, I dislike everything about it, least of all the smell.

8) A movie that you could never forget.
A few comes to mind, but having to chose just one, it has to be Only You with Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. Even though my favorite movie of all times is Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet.

9) What is your favorite part of a day?
The dawn, even though I very rarely get to experience it. Although I love watching sunsets, sunrises have a very positive feel about them. They signify new beginnings. On the few occasions that I have been up at the crack of dawn, I relished in the stillness of the world, and in the idea of having the whole day new and pristine waiting to be seized. I simply love the notion that anything can yet happen, as the magic of the new day awaits.

-Optional- Which cartoon character do you resemble?
I have been asked this question before and I will answer as I have previously; none.

Anyone who loves these questions and would love to have a go at them, please be my guest. I am sure Mel would not mind.
Now I am going back to my experiments; I trust you are all having a lovely Saturday.

June 17, 2010

Batcat And The Pea.

It has been a while since I dedicated a post to Batcat, the King of my white house. For those of you who are not yet acquainted with my sophisticated roommate, always dressed in an evening suit, I can easily summarize what he is all about in one sentence, as the Irishman did once; Batcat adds ambiance to my home.

Yes indeed, like a proper cat, he relaxes all day long, sleeping the hours away. Except for the occasional awakening to have a snack or two combined with tranquil contemplations, most likely pondering important issues that I would not understand, while gazing out of the windows. Watching birds and potential intruders and ultimately being the overall master of his domain.
The expression on his face at all times makes me aware of the fact that he is indeed so very superior to me in every way.

The only time I can make him move, while watching the black slits in his green eye expand to the size of round saucers even in pure daylight, is in the mornings, when I throw frozen peas on the floor. Yes you heard (read) right. Batcat locates his hunting instinct each morning as I prepare my lunch, which consist of frozen peas. Usually, I throw a few of them on the floor, upon which Batcat takes off like loon hunting the rolling green beads all over the house, as they spread in all the directions, confusing him greatly. He is hilarious to watch and I tried to capture the spectacle on film, but it is not that easy to throw peas and operate a camera at the same time.
Needles to say, as you can all imagine, the floor of my house comes weekend is full of dried peas.

I managed to take one good picture of a very satisfied cat guarding a pea after hunting it down successfully. Now I wonder if this love for peas makes him of a royal descend. Maybe I will try to put one under his blanket in the evening and see if he complains the next day over an aching back.

June 15, 2010

People And Plants.

As the weekend was very April like, I spent most of my Saturday tending to my front patio. The terrace is tiled and every spring, it requires a major overhaul, which I failed to perform this year. Specifically, it needs weeding out. This became painfully apparent particularly after the recent rain, which spurred on this unwanted growth.

As I was bruising my knees and knuckles while ripping and scratching through that minimal line of dirt between each tile, which despite all odds manages to provide enough space and nutrients to house some resilient plants, I became aware of another side of the growing green that I was so furiously fighting.
A nuisance to almost every gardener, the term weed can encompass many various plants, depending on where they are found. Yet, as I paused in my labor, I got to contemplate the amazing vigilance of these unwanted beauties. They can grow out of sand, in drought, with very little soil and no help at all.

I couldn't help but realize that there is a likeness between plants and people. Some of us are just like weed; so strong and resilient, not likely to ever give up or give in. Those who can be thrown into any environment, into any situation and they will do well. Surviving on the minimal, turning nothing into plenty. Always landing on their feat, never brought down by defeat. No matter how many times they are uprooted and removed, they will come again, stronger than before.

I admire people like these as I do not belong to this category.

I am not sure I belong to the other end of the scale either.
That which harbors the more sensitive, but brilliant plants, that giving the right conditions will flourish beyond belief. Under the wrong conditions though will shrivel and subsequently perish. Those particular in every way, demanding care and attention. In need of warmth, sun and attentive care in order to feel happiness. But then will bloom in colours, spreading love and beauty. Very much like an orchid, stunning and intricate, complicated and delicate, one that will only live when looked after properly.

I do not think I am likely an orchid though, even though I thought so once.

Nor am I like a rose, which harbours unapproachable beauty, nor a sunflower, turning towards the sun. Not a tulip or any spring bulb that delivers beauty with extraordinary resilience.

I hope I am the flowering chives.
Fragile and easily burned by frost, while preserving its inner core pristine and unblemished through terrible ordeals, withstanding even the most fierce conditions. Thus ultimately resilient and strong, patiently waiting for the optimal requisite in order to thrive. And thus, when the time is right, once again growing with incredible perseverance. Looking so plain and ordinary, resembling weed, yet cultivated and sophisticated, bursting with taste.
Armored with patience, guarding a hidden treasure to be revealed to those who can see beyond the unpretentious look of this estrange plant; only when cherished the right way and given freedom to an unrestricted growth will it bloom with soft violet-blue flowers, full of sweet nectar, reflecting the evening sky during the month of white nights.

June 14, 2010

Colourful Midnight.

I have learned a new word recently: skiving. Or to be a skiver (aka slacker). And that is exactly what I have been this weekend. A blog skiver. I simply could not get myself to do any writing (or visiting for that matter) at all. I had no ideas nor any profound thoughts were filling my mind and I spend my Sunday sorting out clothes and watching old movies.
Thus today my post is short and unsubstantial. And so boring, as I am again posting pictures of night sky that most of you are certainly fed up with by now.

But I simply can not help myself.
June is the time of our white nights and as we approach the summer solstice in about ten days, their culmination is imminent. I simply have to pause every single night, as I gaze towards the north west skies, that shimmer full of light above the city below. The midnight sun has arrived and will stay around for a couple more weeks.

While the white nights were somewhat absent last week, due to heavy clouds and fog, yesterday, as the cloud cover finally lifted, the sky revealed the night sky in all the magnificent colours of a fiery midnight sunset. And as you can see below, what a difference ten days can make.

June 12, 2010

June Bloom.

June is my favourite month, even though weather-wise it is rarely pleasing. This past week has been yet another record breaking one, bringing us as much rain in one day, as is usual for the whole month of June. Additionally, it rained non stop (and that means literally non stop) for five consecutive days.
Safe to say, the nature around is certainly not thirsting.

Today feels truly much more like April, not June. The sky contains a plethora of colours, everything from pristine baby blue, to white, grey and ominous black. It is windy, and the clouds bring occasional heavy showers, which are over as fast as they began, replaced by brilliant sunshine. This signals a true weather change ahead.

The humid warm air, which is now retreating, brought out the most beautiful flowers in my surroundings, in splendid, vivacious colours. Cherry Laurel, Spiraea, Rose Hips and variety of wild flowers are in bloom. Thus my views do remind me of the fact that summer is just around the corner, even though the weather tells me otherwise.

June 10, 2010

Beautiful Blue.

The 8th of June was in 2009 declared as the official World Oceans Day, even though it was proposed as such already in 1992. As this past Tuesday marked the first (official) anniversary of this splendid concept, the collage below is my own tribute to the body of water that will forever hold my outermost admiration and appreciation; it is a combination of all the images of this beautiful blue in all its variations; from steel grey to turquoise green, which I have shared here with you in the past.

To me the ocean is an undying symbol of freedom and power, a source of life and hope, inspiration and serenity. It is ever changing, encompassing the variety of human moods, anything from stillness to motion.
Yet, there is nothing more tranquil and purifying than letting one's gaze lean against the surface of the azure blue water, following its curved outline until it meets the horizon, while letting our minds wander and our perception become as clear and deep as the sea itself...

(Please click image to enlarge.)

June 08, 2010

Love Thy Neighbour.

Whether we like it or not, most of us are forced to live in a certain proximity to other people. Our neighbours. We can not choose who decides to move next door and thus this kind of involuntary co-existence can often cause friction to a lesser or higher degree.

I read in the news the other day, that neighbour disputes account for a vast majority of filed court cases and many such feuds results in incredible violence.

I really never worried much about my neighbours while living in apartments. There could be the occasional loud music or disturbance coming from above, below or next door, but nothing that would keep me awake at nights. I guess my true awareness of what having neighbours means occurred when I bought my current house, which is also my first house.

I have to state, in no uncertain terms, that I have wonderful neighbours, all things considered. Perhaps sometimes what can raise my irritation level is the very close physical proximity I feel to them, based on the construction of the five chain houses. This becomes painfully apparent when I am outside. Our terraces are adjacent and so close, that I can follow a conversation as if it was taking place on my own patio. Additionally, when in search of solitude, at times I can not find it, as it interrupted by screaming children and loud adults.

It is the good with the bad, as with everything else. My neighbours are helpful and caring, making sure that I am fine considering that I live alone. We own common grassy areas and I need not to worry about mowing the lawn or shoveling the snow on regular bases, as the men will always do that for me. Houses are maintained and painted and I need not to concern myself with such tasks that would otherwise have to be my responsibility, should I live on a property alone.
At times though I miss exactly this kind of independence. The ability to control and being in charge of what happens and when it happens, deciding how tall a hedge should be and when it should be cut. To find the needed tranquility and stillness after a busy day, instead of feeling the oppression of others who I do no choose to be around.
Thus at times and more strongly recently I have felt an urge for a change. An urge to move out into a small cottage in the country side. The dreams and desire are there. But as we all know too well; from a thought to action is a long way.

Until then I take solace in the fact that I live in magnificent place, with stunning views, both proximity to nature and to a bustling metropolis, and even though I am alone, I never feel lonely. Until the time is right, I decide to see the glass half full.

May I ask about your neighbours? Do you have any stories of dispute or stories of wonderful friendship that sprung from being neighbors initially?

June 07, 2010

From Bare To Green...

Considering we have reached June and the onset of the summer season, this signals the finale of my Monday Birch Tree Updates. This installation of my progressive photography (as once termed by Hilary, my good friend) also completes another series of my autumn Sunday updates From Green To Bare, which took place last year.

Never before have I payed such a close attention to this magnificent tree in our front yard, as during these past ten months. Not just to the tree itself, but also the changes that the adjacent trees and plants undergo between seasons. I have closely studied the yearly circle of the Birch and became familiar with the progress instigated by nature and ultimately by the ecliptic journey, which our Earth travels around the sun. The tree has almost become my friend, that silent sentinel, which I can gaze at every morning from my kitchen window, as the world greets me with yet another day. In twilight and bright sunshine, in still summer air and in windy autumn, green in foliage and bare in snow, it has been there to add ambiance to my views. Always the same, yet always different.

Nature is magical at the very best. If we only pay the slightest attention, miracles await to be discovered on daily bases. No need travel far and away, the best usually lies just a few steps from where we live.

Thus without further ado, here is a compilation of the four seasons of my majestic friend; The Birch Tree.

(Please click images to enlarge)

June 05, 2010

The Time Of Magenta.

This week Mr.Summer arrived.
With stunning colours and splendor, warmth and sun - and perfectly on time. As if by a stroke of magic, the first day of this month started with brilliantly blue skies and the sensation of a new season became apparent.

I know it is only temporary, as conditions such as these are rare and the forecasts already predict a change ahead. But I am enjoying this summer preview while it lasts.

Again, both humans, animals and nature love this weather. There is a collective atmosphere of happiness all around, so palpable in the song of the birds, the laughter of people and in the unexpected intensity of colours. The sky is so very blue and the green is so very green. Additionally, a new colour is currently dominating my surroundings.
In every shade, it is the colour of my Rhododendrons. I have three different plants and they all bloom in late May, beginning of June. The warm air has spurred on this bloom and only within the last five days, the bushes went from bud to fully opened flower, giving my views a burst of fuchsia, violet and pink.

When I look out of my kitchen window and see the splendor of this magnificent bloom, I can not help but smile as I recall our arctic winter, just a few months ago. The bush looked so sad and lonely as it stood there, its leaves shrivelled in the deep freeze, a far cry from its magnificent June self.
Once again, nature and the way it is capable of renewing itself, returning back with new stunning beauty every season, never ceases to amaze me.

June 03, 2010

Random Reflections.

I am back from my involuntary break caused by the call of science. Paper is submitted and now begins the nerve wracking wait as it is distributed for peer review. It will be criticized and scrutinized in details, most likely rejected by the third reviewer, asking for more proof and additional experiments.

Thus it is best to forget about it and once again divert some of my creativity into a more relaxed writing.

Having no posts prepared, here are some random reflections that have been occupying my mind and my thoughts, briefly or more intensely in the last few days.

I have noticed that from time to time, there is a public manifestation of joint bad driving days. The air pressure or air quality, the weather pattern or some other unseen phenomenon affect our collective consciousness, giving rise to a certain chaos in traffic.
This past Monday was one of those days. I was on several occasions stuck behind such bad drivers, that they had no business being on the road. People were braking and speeding randomly as if they were alone in traffic, using their turn signals on a whim (while turning in the opposite direction) and appeared under the influence of something. It was a strange morning drive to work indeed, causing my irritation level to rise periodically.

Leaving bad drivers behind, I have recently started to seriously contemplate old age. I notice the elderly more and most of all differently than I used to. When I was young, old age was largely removed from my thinking. It appeared as an extremely distant future that felt very remote and alien. I recall being fifteen years old, talking to my grandmother, on one of her last visits with us before she passed away. I asked her then how it felt to be close to eighty, when my own lifespan of only one and a half decade appeared already as an eternity. To additionally live more than five times my age came across as absolutely endless. She only chuckled and then replied amusingly; "One day you will know".
And sure enough, that day has come, even though sooner than I expected. Now I am half that age and my perception of time has changed considerably, as it moves with incomprehensible speed forward, increasing exponentially by each passing year.
I watched two elderly ladies at a buss stop the other day, wondering where they were going and if they were happy. Were they in good health? Did they feel like there was still something to look forward to? Did they feel lonely? Did they have families or not? At the grocery store last week an old lady was at the cashier in front of me. Her hands shook uncontrollably and paying for her purchase was a major struggle for her, causing the line behind us grow longer and more impatient. As I helped her with her groceries, I felt a wave of strong empathy wash over me, as I wondered if I will one day, in not so distant future, find myself in the same situation. This sensation left me with a sting of melancholy...

Moving on to more amusing issues, my shower tap broke the other day. The dispenser started giving me trouble a few months ago, when it began to drip. Within the last weeks the dripping escalated and developed into a weak stream of water. As I do not like to waste water and additionally I do pay for water, I was forced to finally call a repair man to come and fix it.
These are one of the times when I miss the presence of man in the house. If my Irishman was here, he could take a look at the dispenser and decide what should be done. Instead I rely on the smiling face of a stranger telling me in no uncertain way that a repair is futile and that the whole thermostatic mixer needs to be replaced. I feel so very ignorant standing there, trying to mobilize all my brain power, using all of my female intuition in order to ascertain whether he is telling me the truth or just seeing an opportunity to make some money off a clueless female. I try to ask the right questions, but eventually I always give in, trusting the professional standing in my house, realizing that I can simply not control everything. Thus I spend a fortune this week, but my shower is no longer dripping.

Before I bore everyone silly with a long post, let me leave you with a few pictures taken close to and right after midnight on Tuesday. The neighbourhood was fast asleep and as opened the windows, I felt an urge to step outside. Giving into the sensation, as I entered the yard, I experienced a magical moment. My solar lamps were casting a warm glow into a still night. All I could hear were frogs in a nearby pond. The air was unusually warm, humid and scented with shrubs in bloom, among others lilac.
And the night was light.
While in the west the remains of a stunning sunset still coloured the skies red, as I gazed in almost the opposite direction over the nearby roofs, the imminence of sunrise was already apparent in the north east. These beautiful views signal the impending White Nights culmination.

For the first this year I felt that winter has finally ended. In nature and in my perception as well.