We packed our bags and presents and cats and groceries and headed for a christmas in the country, for the very first time. Christmas is probably the least probable time of the year when we find ourselves thinking of change. Yet it is change my thoughts unwillingly return to each year, and the reminder of how much I was against the changes that shaped our christmas from a beloved tradition to a glove that just does not fit.
Traditions are not meant to be broken, but sometimes life goes on and old ways cling to us desperately like the last leaves on winter-bare trees. Sometimes a shrug and a shake may be a better way. Sometimes a sparse arrangement of the most precious baubles and garlands and angels is better than a tree so covered in tinsel one barely sees the branches underneath. Even if it seems like traditions can be set in stone, they all have had to flex through time to stay on board. Sometimes it is time to gently nudge them into new grooves and discover how surprisingly smooth this can be, and how welcome the end result.
(Loviisa, Finland; December 2014)
It was one of those days when a meeting requires not a single step out into the city. Was I really in Zurich, or was I in limbo, like the man who lived in an airport terminal for years? At least the last leg of the year featured a watercolor sky. And a pair of mysteriously exchanged gloves. The ones I now have are prettier than the ones that went home with another lady. Unfortunately she also took my precious fleece liners.
My gloves were from Cambridge and my liners from the US. Even as a glove, life tosses one around like a leaf in the wind. Fortunately there will be no more tossing for me as I am firmly grounded until January. I hope you all are enjoying a quiet and peaceful last week of the year.
(Zurich, Switzerland; December 2014)
Same location one week later, when I only remembered the approximate location (after Nevada and before Cheyenne) and after studying Google Maps for about two minutes. The world is small – or Google Maps is great? Which is more frightening?
(Wyoming/Colorado, USA; December 2014)
Once upon a time there was a street so squiggly that people came to see it from far. To drive down it was sightseeing. To walk down it drunk was daring. To photograph it was expected.
And yet the roses did not mind. They thrived, covering every spot of earth in between the zig-zagging road. Because they had the most beautiful view of the Bay. Because for them, what was crooked to most people was normal.
(Lombard street at night, San Francisco, USA; December 2014)
Back to 1852 and the gold rush. When saloons were rowdy and smelled of sawdust. When bourbon was cheap. When paintings of half-dressed beautiful ladies on a picnic was considered daring art. When there was no plastic and no need for 4 “cash only” signs.
Last time I was here I drank cheap port out of a scotch glass. I debated with a bartender who looked like Dr Phil and had been banned from Canada. I listened to gray-haired hippies with cobwebbed trumpet sleeves singing blues.
This time I drank GT out of a proper glass. I was scolded by the bartender, a lady in her 60s. I listened to a fantastic gray-haired blues band and there was not a single hippie in the saloon. Life goes on. The saloon survived the 1906 earthquake. I wonder whether it will survive the next big earthquake. If that happens during my lifetime I will be back. Perhaps then it will be time for a bourbon and some more blues.
(The Saloon on Grant, San Francisco, USA; December 2014)
There was a day of fog and rain and flood. Roads welled with water as we drove into wine country. Leaf-stripped vines stood in cold muddy foot baths as we navigated through closed roads to a winery spared of seas of water.
And then there was a swirl of crisp grass and apple in the glass. And another swirl of plum and raspberries, with a hint of chocolate. Chatter among strangers from all across the world, gathered around an old wooden table. There was an Australian couple celebrating 10 years of togetherness. A Hawaiian couple globetrotting their retirement days away. Two Finnish ladies who stole a day off from work. And a Californian winemaker spinning hilarious stories from that cold little country up north, from another life.
And there was wine. Bottled poetry. A whisper of a dream in a glass. Before long, there was sunlight and blue skies, too.