Thursday, January 27, 2011

Peace Amid the Storm

Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.

Luxor feels a long way away from the troubles in Cairo, Suez, Ismailia, and Alexandria. As I made a trip across the river, I was struck how the lives of the people seemed to be going on as normal. A young fellow helped me flag down a microbus by shouting out my destination at each one that zoomed past. Later two youngsters boarded the microbus with punching balloons almost as big as them -- obviously a memento of an exciting night out on the town. Generally speaking, the Egyptian people bear a lot of trouble with quietude. It's something that I have admired. Insha'Allah, tomorrow will be a better day.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cold Nights; Warm Tummies

You, who dare insult lentil soup, sweetest of delicacies.
Aristophanes (c. 446-386 B.C.)

January nights are pretty chilly. I warmed up this evening with lentil soup at our favourite restaurant, where they add 'spicy' in front of the name. Hot red pepper aside, the soup's basic ingredients are red lentils, cumin, and water. Egyptian lentil soup is always served with fresh lemon. I love the 'spring' tang it adds to the soup's winter warmth.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wonder Full

The world will never starve for wonder, but only for want of wonder.
G.K. Chesterson

The day passed far too quickly and I had done nothing and accomplished nothing. So I thought, as I sat on the balcony at 5:30pm. Then I happened to look around the corner and caught a glimpse of the sunset amidst the palm fronds. It took my breath away and made a dull day very special.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Presidential Path

Walking through town this evening it was evident that a VIP visit is imminent. Above is your run-of-the-mill, normal roadway. Actually, it is superior to normal because it has a sidewalk . . . which, you will note, is used for parking while pedestrians walk on the road. It is safer to walk on the road.

Before the president, first lady, or prime minister make a visit to cut a ribbon at some neighbourhood improvement project, the entire length of their motorcade route is spruced up with fresh black and white paint. So when I spotted all the wet paint splashed about, I knew someone important is expected.

I should point out that in many countries the black and white markings denote no parking zones; here, however, these markings are similar to the yellow and white lines down the middle of the road in that they are purely for decorative purposes.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Wandering a Path. Of Truth?

Fear not the path of Truth for the lack of people walking on it.
Robert F. Kennedy

Today I was reminded that the secrets of life unfurl in the most unlikely places.

Taking a walk through the banana grove, so quiet that I could hear the flapping of a raven's wings overhead, I was hailed by Farag. He and his son, Tayyib, were shepherding their small flock of sheep, trying to keep them from nibbling on low-hanging fruit. I met Farag a year ago as I walked along our road homeward. Somehow today's conversation about where I was going turned esoteric as he said, "I think this lady is searching for the path of Truth." Ah, yes, perhaps that is why I contemplate banana leaves, dragonflies, and sunsets. True to his faith, Farag guided me to the Koran, saying I could find a translation on the Internet. The Net may not be the path of Truth, but I was certainly given much to think about as I continued my journey.

As I wandered, egrets watched my progress from their high perch. I got the impression that they could see the path more clearly than I.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Photo Intentions

Whether it's the best of times or the worst of times, it's the only time we've got.
Art Buchwald

I meant to take a photo this morning of the bougainvillea plants that have returned to our balcony, but they seemed less than photogenic. I meant to take a photo this afternoon of my bike carrier full of vegetables as I wheeled home from the village, but my focus was on keeping the bike upright under the load. I meant to take a photo this evening at a lecture about the transfer of villagers to new settlements, but time's aperture contracted and I would have arrived late. So it's a darn good thing that I did catch this shot . . . even if I was late for the sunset.

Friday, January 21, 2011

View from the Roof

When I come home feelin' tired and beat
I go up where the air is fresh and sweet (up on the roof)
I get away from the hustling crowd
And all that rat-race noise down in the street (up on the roof)
On the roof, the only place I know
Where you just have to wish to make it so
Let's go up on the roof (up on the roof)
Lyrics by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, 1962

Provisioning Cat was today’s priority, so I had to decline the Time Traveller’s invitation to climb Qurna mountain this afternoon. When he sent a message saying he had reached the top, I climbed the stairs to the roof and waved hello.

His path is discernible, even from 3 km away. I swear I saw a white Tilley hat sparkling from the top . . . but it may have been a sunspot.

Turning my attention from the mountain to the valley below, I was struck how I have moved from a landscape of white to one of vibrant green, but for the gallebeyyas, egrets . . .

. . . and donkeys. I believe I’ve mentioned that the Arabic name for the egret translates as “Farmer’s Friend”; hence, the two are often found side by side.

Next Morning Update:

It wasn't just the Time Traveller climbing into the heavens yesterday. We looked out last evening to see the Man in the Moon raising his head over Luxor. Only here can I make out his features. I love looking into his eyes!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Salad Days of January

Friends are the bacon bits in the salad bowl of life.

It doesn't get any simpler than tomato, cucumber, green pepper and white cheese with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of fresh lemon juice. (We forgot to buy an onion.) It's great to be back in a land where January greens have not travelled 3,258 km to reach my table.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Melatonin: 1. Caffeine: 1.

Melatonin is said to help travellers get over jet lag. Trying it for the first time, I have popped a pill the last two nights to improve my sleep at night and thereby have a functional day following. It seemed to work yesterday, but late this morning I spent two hours sleeping in the sunshine on the balcony until the chilly shadows crept over me and I moved to the warmth of the blankets in the bedroom. As I slept, the passing time was marked by calls to prayer from the village mosque. When I heard the call for the Asr (afternoon) prayer, I had to force myself out of bed at 3:30pm. Cat wasn't particularly happy about getting up either. She, too, has been very content to sleep the day away.

Caffeine takes the credit for any productivity today. A strong cappuccino motored me through unpacking and some house cleaning. I'm very happy with the new 'Aerolatte' device that makes such great foam. I see many fine cappuccinos in my future.

I was awake in time to see the Sun set. Lots of clouds added to the drama of Ra's descent into the Netherworld.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Even when change is elective, it will disorient you. You may go through anxiety. You will miss aspects of your former life. It doesn't matter. The trick is to know in advance of making any big change that you're going to be thrown off your feet by it. So you prepare for this inevitable disorientation and steady yourself to get through it. Then you take the challenge, make the change, and achieve your dream.
Harvey Mackay

Over the past two to three days, the Time Traveller, Cat and I have passed through time, space, and climates. We witnessed a glimpse of a sunset in Toronto, a beautiful soft-toned sunrise over Germany, and a fiery red sunset over the Mediterranean – all during one very long day.

Our trek began with afternoon snow at Toronto. We landed, the next morning, in thick fog at Frankfurt. Later we touched down in surreal conditions in Luxor as whitewashed cement walls were reflected in the rain-drenched streets making it look like a land covered with snow. After 30 hours without sleep, there was a brief moment of space/time disorientation. Where am I?

We are definitely in Luxor and things do look similar, although not. Change continuously realigns reality. For example, today we visited our favourite café, which is not there anymore but has been replaced by a similar concept, which looks quite nice. We could not sample the food due to an all-to-familiar power outage, so we moved on to visit our favourite café in its new location. Elements of the old place have been incorporated into a more airy and modern setting. The food remains good quality and our friendly waiter-friends are there, so we’ll be back. The change may be beneficial -- now we may have two favourite cafes to visit.

Last night, Luxor’s mountains welcomed us back spectacularly, if somewhat ‘loudly’. Since my departure, many more lights have been added, brightly illuminating both the mountain and the doorways of the nobles’ tombs.

Thankfully, we awoke to the quiet, misty palms and sugar cane fields. Mother Nature steadies me. We made it! And a new chapter of life in Luxor begins. I’m not yet sure where the plot will take us so stay tuned.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hushed and Solemn

The cold was our pride, the snow was our beauty. It fell and fell,
lacing day and night together in a milky haze, making everything quieter as it fell,
so that winter seemed to partake of religion in a
way no other season did,
hushed, solemn.
Patricia Hampl

All was hushed this afternoon. The doves did not stir from their perch as I focused in on them from the bedroom window. What fluffy coats they wear against the winter's cold!

I will soon leave behind my own thick coat and warm boots. Gloves and hat will be packed away with them in the closet. I shoveled heaps of soft white ice for the last time, enjoying every minute. My soul is hushed and solemn as I prepare to take flight.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cradled in Hope

May God's grace be upon this shawl . . .
warming, comforting, healing, and enfolding.
May this mantel be a safe haven . . .
a sacred place of security and well-being . . .
sustaining and embracing in times of illness, loneliness or sorrow.
In receiving this shawl, may you be cradled in hope, kept in joy, graced with peace, and wrapped in love.
May you know that Melrose holds you in prayer and love, and that God's grace surrounds you always. In the name of the Risen Christ we pray. Amen.
Prayer Shawl Blessing

I was overwhelmed by the kindness and care bestowed on me by the church community in the form of a knitted shawl. How blessed I feel to be the recipient of such a thoughtful gift as I embark on the next segment of this mysterious journey called 'life'. I have taken pleasure in and benefited from their fellowship. I can only hope to give back some of the warmth, comfort and healing that I have been so fortunate to receive.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chat with Cat

The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.
Anthony Robbins

This evening Cat took the opportunity to check in with the 'white knight', who saved her from the streets of Cairo. The Time Traveller's communications are most intriguing.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Uncle George

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints in snow;
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft starshine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry:
I am not there. I did not die.
Indian Memorial Poem

Today great numbers of family and friends gathered to celebrate the life of Great Uncle George. Amazingly, after the heavy snowstorm last night, the Sun shone upon us.

Uncle George was remembered as a quiet man of deep thoughts. As a farmer, a man connected to the land, the Indian memorial poem selected for him was fitting. And his ethereal presence was evident in the millions of glints upon the blanket of snow.

The Quietening

A hush is over everything,
Silent as women wait for love;
The world is waiting for the spring.
Sara Teasdale

Crows gathered in the treetops just as a weather front approached from the East. They did not squawk. They pointed their beaks windward and waited. Meanwhile, the little sparrows had taken shelter in the pine hedge and the dove huddled beneath the boughs. It's amazing that something so light as snow has the power to quieten the world; even the crows.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Eye to Eye

Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity.
John Ruskin

After a whirlwind day, I found it quite peaceful to stare into the eye of a mum that stared back at me from across the dinner table.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Golden Day

For you wake one day,
Look around and say
Somebody wonderful
Married me.
Fred Ebb

Today we celebrated the golden anniversary of two wonderful people who have contributed to the lives of many.

Their joy shone through the day as great numbers of friends and family came together to congratulate them. They are blessed, as are we.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Snow Birds (2)

Beneath it's snowy mantle cold and clean,
The unborn grass lies waiting for its coat to turn to green.
The snowbird sings the song he always sings,
And speaks to me of flowers that will bloom again in spring.
"Snowbird" lyrics by Gene MacLellan

It's easy to understand how a song beseeching a little bird to "take the snow back with you" might strike a chord in Canadian hearts, topping the charts in the 1970s. A lot of big, fluffy flakes fell from the heavens this morning. It's still novel and exciting to me, so I was quite happy to shovel the accumulation twice between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

When it stopped, the birds circled the feeders and emptied their contents. It amazes me to see the numbers of birds that seem to enjoy the snow.

And I love my red snow birds that brighten the winter's whitish-grey winter palette.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Precious Dawns

However long the night, the dawn will break.
African Proverb

The new morn dawns in the homeland . . . at 8:15 a.m. When the world is still wrapped in darkness it's difficult to pull myself out from under the warm covers to begin the day. But today a sprinkling of snow on the sidewalk called me out of the house with shovel in hand. I am thankful that I am healthy; slightly over-weight and out of shape, but healthy. Ilhumdulila!

And I am grateful for the gift of a new computer that Mom and Dad presented me this morning. What a surprise! As I write this post, data is streaming from "Precious" to ???. Hmmm. What shall I call her? Stay tuned. Tomorrow's post should (insha'allah) come from the shiny new kid on the block.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Here to Be Here

I feel great gratitude for being here, for being, rather, for there is no need to tie oneself to the snow mountains in order to feel free. I am not here to seek the ‘crazy wisdom’; if I am, I shall never find it. I am here to be here, like these rocks and sky and snow, like this hail that is falling down out of the sun.
Peter Mathiessen, The Snow Leopard

I have no idea where I am going, but I have faith that I am where I'm supposed to be. I am here to be here, and I'm enjoying it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens;
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens;
Brown paper packages tied up with strings;
These are a few of my favorite things.

Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels;
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles;
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings;
These are a few of my favorite things.

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes;
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes;
Silver-white winters that melt into springs;
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the dog bites,
When the bee stings,
When I'm feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don't feel so bad.
Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers

Cat's whiskers twitched today as I cooked up a big pot of chicken 'stew' for her. There are days when she raises her paw and sends her food dish across the floor, apparently in dissatisfaction with the home-cooked cuisine. Vitamins enhance the healthful ground chicken but sometimes junk food tastes so much better and a pouch of Whiskas brings cries of excitement. Those are days when it just doesn't pay to be a good mother. ;-)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It's a White World

Winter came down to our home one night
Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again.
Bill Morgan, Jr.

After two days of rain, we woke to an enchanted landscape. All was fluffy white -- except for our cheeks that were rosy after shovelling the sidewalks. Such fun -- and good exercise too!

The garden seat blanketed in snow seemed so delightful and so full of potential for summer ponderings.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Culinary Adventure (in Small Steps)

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.
Harriet Van Horne, NY Newspaper Columnist

One of my resolutions for 2011 charges me to broaden my culinary horizons. Now, I'm not a wild and crazy gal, so don't go expecting to see eel (or even sushi) appear in upcoming posts. Instead, I'll be taking small steps guided by the wealth of experience available in technicolour on food blogs. I can spend blissful hours cruising through my bookmarks and then adding to my list as I discover more wonderfully inspiring blogs.

Usually, I copy an interesting recipe over to my hard drive with the good intention of trying it someday. This evening I came across The Dog's Breakfast blog out of Montreal. I was immediately drawn in by the luscious visuals. To be true to my resolution, I jumped out of the comfy chair and away from my computer and headed into the kitchen. "Roasted Walnuts with Rosemary" promised to be a simple, 10-minute adventure.

I did not let the fact that I couldn't quite match the ingredient list deter me. Only walnut pieces could be found in the cupboard and the dry rosemary seemed past its 'best before' date so improvisation with the fresh herb was necessary. And there was a bit of adventure as my walnuts went, seemingly spontaneously, from golden to black. Oh well. The result was edible and my culinary adventure is off and running. I look forward to making this simple nibble again and serving it with pears and Stilton blue cheese, or apples and dark chocolate.

Stay tuned for more excitement. ;-)

Roasted Walnuts with Rosemary

walnut halves
dried rosemary
fine salt

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. In a saucepan, over very low heat, melt enough butter to coat the walnuts lightly. Turn off the heat, throw the walnuts into the saucepan, and stir to coat. Season generously with dried rosemary and salt. Turn the walnuts out of the saucepan onto a baking sheet, leaving any excess butter behind. Bake for 7 minutes, or until the walnuts are just turning from gold to bronze.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Herbal Scents

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Remember me to one who lives there,
She once was a true love of mine.
"Scarborough Fair", 19th century lyrics to traditional English ballad

How I wish I could share scents through blog posts. I was treated to wonderful fragrances when I opened little bags of fresh herbs. If such olfactory pleasure can come from the grocery store, imagine breathing in the bouquet from potted herbs in the kitchen window! I'm tempted to try (again) to grow little pots of herbs. I'm beyond the old love charm of parsley for lust, sage for wisdom, rosemary for remembrance and thyme for magnetism, but I do like stirring up some tasty potions. Tonight it was mushroom duxelles in puff pastry. Once I refine my technique, I'll be sure to share. Stay tuned. ;-)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Turkey Trot

I have no desire to crow over anybody or to see anybody eating crow, figuratively or otherwise. We should all get together and make a country in which everybody can eat turkey whenever he pleases.
Harry S. Truman

The Time Traveller and I began 2011 by chasing wild turkeys in the woods. I hope that isn't a bad omen for the new year! ;-) Much smarter than their domesticated cousins, the wild fowl saw us coming and quickly trotted, all in a line, for the escarpment. I caught one before it went over the edge: it's a dark spot on the horizon in the left third of the shot.

Update: For a closer view, in which you can actually see the bird, check out the Time Traveller's blog.

We had begun the trek in search of waterfalls. We took in Albion Falls from a lookout but the others eluded the navigator with the map (me). Oh well. They will be there for another day.

It was certainly invigorating to walk in the fresh, misty air, thick with the scent of decaying leaves. The temperatures were well above zero and precipitation in some quantity fell all day.

The Time Traveller decided to take a tour, driving the length of my hometown. With few cars, twinkling lights, and a well-washed street, old King Street looked very pretty.