Friday, June 26, 2009

Happy time in Eguisheim

DSC01377 Two real delights of living in the lower Netherlands are the proximity to the Ardennes and the Alsace.

The Alsace is a strip of wine country along the French / German border four hours south of Maastricht.  There are lots of charming villages in the Hautes-Vosges foothills DSC01428between Strasbourg and Colmar, each filled with excellent local cuisine, sparkling white wines, and enormous stork nests.  An evening in Riquewihr is complete sitting out in the sunset with a glass of chilled Muscat listening to the bill-clatter of storks tending their huge nests.

Eguisheim is a small village west of Colmar, the birthplace of Pope Leo IX in 1002.  His statue reigns over the fountain in the central town square.

DSC01310 Stitch

The village is filled with houses and shops in the local style of irregular timberwork and pastel plaster.  The facades around the main square can look almost artificial, just a Disneyland-facade created to draw in the tourists.  This impression is heightened by the appearance of gardeners and streetcleaners early each morning, a backlot crew who set the stage for the flow of visitors throughout the day.  But, venturing off into the narrow back streets, you’ll find crowded local bars and small courtyard restaurants, built long ago into functional variations of the same themes (Note: cobblestones and crutches do not mix).

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The inns and cafe’s are high-quality, reasonably priced, and the town serves as a base for exploring the expansive vineyards and family wineries beyond the circular town road.  A lot of these small vineyards offer an intimate tasting with the family in their homes, a nice change from the larger corporate kettles.  Especially if you can speak a little French or German, these family operations give a glimpse of their inter-generational crafts and the wide character of white and sparkling wines in the area.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

First looks at the new foot

Post-Swss ‘looks like it all paid off…

Two weeks after the procedure to correct my left foot, I went back to the doctor’s office to remove the cast and see how things had turned out.  It’s a bit of a tense time: the toes are pointing the right way out the tip of the cast, but how are the joints, the tendons, the nerves, the alignment?

Thankfully, it all looked great.  The foot is clearly back beneath me where it belongs, and I’ve got good sensation across the base. The joints appear functional on the x-rays, it looks like I’ll have more degrees of freedom than  might have expected, good omen for getting back into (mild) hiking and sailing.

The doctor was delighted with his handwork and asked if he could send copies of the case report and x-rays to his mentor in the US (who did my first-round surgery 12 years ago).  A good sign.

So, I’m in a boot for the next month, no more than 15 kg pressure, give things a chance to heal and anchor.  Then some physical therapy to get the joints moving and the muscles strengthened, learn to use the new arrangement, and I’m good as new by mid-August.

…maybe better.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Clearing out the clutter

Clearing out old books and old ideas. Time is change, so it's time to change and throw out the unused stuff that clutters the shelf and the mind.

A good friend back in Seattle posted this update on his Facebook page this week, prompting a back and forth about whether this was a good thing or not.  He maintains that “what I haven't used in a while needs to go: my differential equations book, gone!”.  I ‘eep and wonder what’s lost and what’s left.

I know the source of my sensitivity.

Years ago, I was given a membership in the Island Sailing Club for my birthday.  It was perfect: I didn’t want to buy or maintain a boat, but the idea of going down to the docks and taking a day’s sail on a whim was very appealing.  I took lessons and learned my knots and lines, gained ASA certifications, and spent many happy days on the water with the family as the kids were growing up.

William1 Laura1 Laura2

Around the time that the kids hit 6th grade, they started to get other interests, and travel started to hit me harder at work.  Eventually, I found that I was only using the membership a couple of times a month, rather than three times a week.

And so, it came time to remove the clutter.

I remember this being a real watershed: it meant admitting to myself that I wasn’t going to be going sailing on a whim any more.  Sure, I could still charter, but dropping the membership meant giving in to a changed life that no longer had time for wind and water, locking in the transition away from being out at sunset a couple of times a week.

I still have that reaction to ‘removing the clutter’. It means that I am locking in choices about what I won’t do any more: it means giving something up. 

I need room for new stuff in there!  If old stuff is in the way, it blocks new things from coming into your life.

Yes, clearing out leaves the world a simpler, more beautiful place.

But it feels like a bit of the past and some of the future goes too...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In and around Lugano

‘finally got a few pictures posted on Flickr to show some reflections of the past couple of weeks here in (and above) Lugano.

Lugano and the Lake

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Lake Lugano 08 Lake Lugano 31

Lake Lugano 40 Lake Lugano 44

Morbio Superiore

Morbio Superiore 85Morbio Superiore 75  Morbio Superiore 93 Morbio Superiore 56


Agra 056Agra 024 Agra 065Agra 080


Morcote 26 Morcote 19Morcote 16 Morcote 77

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Father’s Day thought for Jim Redmond

Father’s Day is always a time for reflecting on all the support and encouragement I’ve received from my father, the same that I’ve tried to pass on to my children.  And it’s a day that I think of Jim Redmond.

Derek Redmond was a sprinter for the UK Olympic team in the 1992 Games in Barcelona.  He pulled his hamstring half-way through the race, forcing him to the ground.  Yet he got up and started hopping to the finish line,175 meters away.  His father, Jim, ran down from the stands, gathering his son onto his shoulder to help him around the track and across the line to finish.

For me, the event, and especially the exchanges between them as they came around the last turn, have always captured the essence of what it means to be a father, and to have one.