HARMONY ON HIGH

HARMONIZING ON THE WATER AND DEEP IN SPACE


It’s not just about music. Harmony can mean the harmonious coöperation of … well … you name it. Harmonious, as in smooth. Without a hitch or fights. No arguments, pulling, shoving. No disharmony.

Our most extremely harmonious host and hostess …

These days, life is full of pulls and shoves, so when things are going well — as they have for the past few days — it is harmony through the land! Ring the bells of jubilation!

Photo: Garry Armstrong — And “Serenity,” a totally harmonious boat …

I should mention for you gamers out there that I got a unique try at playing a whole game of “Star Trek” on the virtual machine. Running a star ship is a lot more work than I imagined. I was exhausted when I finished. I felt like I’d really been running a space ship! Tom says “Skyrim” will be even more awesome. It makes earlier efforts seem slightly primitive. Each generation of this technology is a leap over the previous version. While the “humans and sort of humans” look very realistic, they don’t yet look entirely real. But I’m betting in a year, maybe less, they will.

I absolutely know if I got one of these machines and a game? My blogging days would finish in a hurry. Lucky for everyone I haven’t got that kind of money or blogging be damned … I’m off to see the universe and blow up some spare moons!

DESTINATION: FRIENDSHIP

A Trip to Alsace, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


In the eastern part of France, along the Rhine River and the borders of Germany and Switzerland, lies the region known as Alsace.  The colorful history and culture of this area could never be told in a brief post. From ancient time to the present, the land has been part of the Holy Roman Empire, the Frankish Realm, German Empire, Kingdom of France, Nazi Germany, modern-day France and others.  The fusion of cultures and languages makes the area a fascinating trip through history, tradition, architecture and cuisine.  A prominent feature of the region today is the wine vineyards.  A trip down the wine road is a delight.  I have done it often.

Green alternative

Although you can take a flight to Paris and go on to Strasbourg, the largest city of Alsace, by train, the more efficient and cheaper transit may be to fly to Frankfurt/Main, as I did on my most recent journey.  From there you have several choices to reach Strasbourg.  I have taken the Lufthansa bus in the past, but this time my friend recommended Flixbus.

This is a relatively new service connecting many western European cities with a “reliable and green alternative” to other services.  The new buses and quick trip to Strasbourg, along with the significantly cheaper prices compared to the Lufthansa bus, make it the best choice if the timetable fits your schedule.  This time it worked best and I arrived quickly in the center of Strasbourg.

My friend collected me at the bus stop and on we went to the small town of Selestat, which dates back to at least 727 AD.  We have spent much of our time together here in recent years.  It is the center of our adventures.  For me, the best part of the trip is to sit on the small balcony of his apartment, look at the castles on the hills around us and enjoy a local beer or glass of Alsacien white wine.

Selestat, Alsace, France

It is not necessary to go to exotic and expensive places to have a good time.  We watch sports and eat together in my friend’s apartment.  We visit with friends and relatives.  We make some local stops, but the time together discussing American sports is more enjoyable than I could explain.

When my friend was off to work, I took in some of the local sites with his father.  He speaks no English and I know little French.  It does not matter, we have a good time.  At least I am having a good time and I think he is too.  Sometimes I do not understand where we are going until we arrive.  I don’t mind.  It will be fun.  Our first adventure took us to a local distillery museum.  It is new and has interactive displays.  At the end you finish in a gift shop (of course) where we sampled their main product, Eau-de-vie (water of life).  It is really a clear, fruit brandy.  A friend of mine calls it French moonshine.  It will certainly wake you up if you took a morning tour of the museum and gift shop as we did.

The Maison du Distillateur
You’d need help to carry this home.

If a clear brandy does not suit your taste, perhaps the local chocolate museum and shop will.  On our next adventure, all I understood from my friend’s father was chocolate was in our immediate future.  How could I say no?

So off we went to learn about the making of chocolate and to see a demonstration by a craftsmen who melted chocolate and then created leaves and animals and a variety of chocolate charms to the delight of the crowd.

The chocolatier spoke French so I understood little, but watching him create was a joy.

Le Maitre Chocolatier
Old church, small town Alsace

The region is dotted with small towns that are a step back in history.  We have no such places in the US, as these town contain buildings that pre-date America. The culture has evolved over many more centuries and the history of many of these locales tells tales that would delight an historian. In each of the stops, we see a lifestyle unlike our own. I particularly enjoy the ancient churches for what they tell us of the individual towns.

It was love and sacrifice that brought people together to build unique structures before there was any modern technology or construction equipment.

Ribeauville, Alsace, France

I could wander endlessly through the streets of these old towns and villages, stopping in shops to view the local wares.  It is a joy to have a cup of coffee at one stop, a pastry at another and perhaps a wine at another.  The slow pace of exploration is so much more pleasant than the tourist traps of the major cities.

Yes, I enjoyed Paris and would even go again, if I could, but the back streets of the small towns will fill your eyes with delight and warm your soul for reasons you will not fully comprehend.

Sunset in Alsace

Each time the sun sets on our visit in France, the sadness grows a little stronger.  That is because there is one less adventure in our future, one less year to be together.  It is also a time of joy, because there was one more adventure and one more memory to take home.

THE CAT IN THE TREE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

The story of the cat in the tree is part of our family folk-lore. While not a major, life-altering event, it’s a good story with a happy ending.

Tom and I were scheduled to leave for London the following day. It was summer. Both of our young adult children were living at home with us. We were relaxing after dinner when we heard a cat meowing from outside the house. Our two cats — we also had three dogs — were exclusively indoor cats.

Tom, me, our kids, David and Sarah, and our three dogs at our wedding in 2002

We commented that we hadn’t realized our neighbors had cats. After a few more ‘meows’, we decided to do a head count and make sure that both of our cats were where they were supposed to be. One cat, Hillary, was missing. Shit!

So all four of us went outside and started to frantically search the fenced in backyard for our missing cat. We were worried she might be injured since she lived on the second floor of the house. The only way to get from there to the back yard, was off our bedroom deck and roof, which was pretty high up from the ground.

We searched and searched. It started to get dark so we got flashlights. When we called, she would answer us, but we couldn’t pinpoint her location. One minute she’d sound like she was off to our left. The next minute, she’d sound as if she was on our right. We got increasingly confused. We were also beginning to panic. We had to find Hillary if we wanted to leave on our trip the next day!

It eventually occurred to us that cats can climb trees. We might be looking in the wrong place for Hillary. So Tom took the flashlight up to the bedroom deck and shined it straight into the giant evergreen tree right outside our bedroom. There she was. Contentedly sitting in the tree. We figured she must have started to slide down the slanted roof and caught her fall by jumping onto the overhanging tree branch.

Tom said he’d climb the tree and get Hillary. The rest of us were afraid Tom would kill himself so we tried to dissuade him. Tom convinced us that it was an easy tree to climb and that he was an expert tree climber. So we agree and Tom climbed up to the second floor level and tried to grab Hillary. She got spooked and moved higher up the tree. After this little dance continued for a while, our daughter, Sarah, decided to step in.

Who do you call when your cat is stuck in a tree? The Fire Department. Sarah called our Volunteer Fire Department. She explained that both her cat and father were in a tree and needed help. The operator then asked Sarah if it was her father or the cat’s father who was up in the tree with Hillary.

Hillary

The Fire Department actually came. You might think firemen rescue cats from trees all the time and would know how to do it. This was true — fifty years ago. Not, however, these days. The firemen asked US what we wanted them to do. “Get a ladder.” Tom answered. So they brought out a tall ladder. But it was not tall enough.

The fireman then yelled up to Tom, “The ladder’s too short! What do you want me to do?”

What Tom did was creative and brave. He grabbed Hillary, hung upside down by his knees on a branch and handed the cat off to the fireman at the top of the ladder. Victory! Everyone gathered around the rescued cat – and completely forgot about Tom, still hanging upside down in the tree. One fireman finally went back to the tree and asked if Tom could get down on his own. Tom was hot and sweaty and exhausted, but he managed to climb down safely.

Before the firemen left, one of them phoned in a report to the office. This is what he said: “One cat and one adult male in tree. Successful recovery.”

That pretty much sums it all up!

THE WHEELS OFF THINGS – BLACK & WHITE

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Wheels


Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong

It was Shirley Jackson who reported that “the little wheels off things” would forever appear in our lives. And they do. Big wheels in cars and bicycles and everywhere the roads run, but little wheels of gears and motors and toys. We find them everywhere. We look and we wonder — where did it come from, this little wheel? What sprocket, gearbox, or clock sprung this wheel?