Saturday, December 3, 2016

A weekend away, away

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This is where I am this weekend!
At lovely Sonnenhof, the Community of Grandchamp's "House of Stillness" in the German-speaking region of Switzerland. 
It is in a secluded place on a hillside. Six nuns and right now fifteens retreat guests are staying here. 
Down below is the village of Gelterkinden where the old church rings bells several times an hour.
You can hear the distant church bells in my little video:

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To see more about the Canton of Basel-Landschaft, at the very top of Switzerland, see here.
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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Welcome to my home away from home

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Where I am living this month and next.
A centuries-old Swiss house named l'Amandier, the almond tree (there are some out back, in the garden).
It is one of four or five big buildings here at the Community of Grandchamp. 
Down a bit is the cellar and the Salle d'Accueil (where Sr. S. is heading). 
This Reception is for guests and has for sale books, cards, and nice things made by Grandchamp artisan-sisters. 
Some elderly nuns live on the middle floor with an accompanying sister-nurse.
We volunteers, and sometimes a few guests, live on top. 
Enlarge the photo to see the house's pretty details. 


My room, called la Priere (prayer), on a rare sunny morning. 
For a monastic cell, it is quite big.
It has all I need and more.
The bathrooms are down the hall. 
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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

After the biting "bise" wind, a ray of sunshine

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This morning at 8:50 the first rays of some rare sunshine illuminated the roof of l'Arche, the main chapel of the Community of Grandchamp. 
"L'Arche," French for "the ark," because it looks a bit like Noah's ark.
It was built several centuries ago, but not as a church, of course.
I'll get some close-ups soon and try to explain what it was used for.
Meanwhile, I just wanted to show you how welcome a little sun was today, because yesterday we had the infamous "bise" wind blowing for a whole night and day.
It was like frozen knives piercing us.
Never been so cold in my life!
It even made it into the newspaper:
http://www.thelocal.ch/20161129/temperatures-drop-as-bise-wind-hits-switzerland
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Monday, November 28, 2016

Symbolism of the evergreen branches

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In yesterday's post we saw the new centerpieces being prepared in the cellar.
Today they are in place on the refectory tables.
And the first of the four big Advent candles is lit, on a bed of pine boughs.
One of the Sisters of Grandchamp explained to me that the branches are reminiscent of the palm and olive branches of the first Palm Sunday in Jerusalem, but because palm and olive trees do not grow here in Switzerland, the fragrant local evergreen boughs are used instead, now during the season of Advent. 
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Sunday, November 27, 2016

First Sunday of Advent

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A sure sign that Advent is beginning! 
One of my assignments here as a volunteer at the monastic community in Switzerland is to gather pretty leaves, seed pods, flowers, etc. and to arrange them in little vases for the guest rooms. 
When I went down to the cave (French for "cellar") to look for secateurs yesterday, I got a sneak preview of the red and green centerpieces that the real flower-sister had created for the refectory (dining room) tables. 
And so last night Advent was indeed ushered in.
For my Christian friends, it is a beautiful and important time of  active waiting for Christmas.
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Friday, November 25, 2016

Cookie baking begins!

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The baking of Christmas cookies for the ca. 50 nuns, novices, and postulants of the Community of Grandchamp, plus many expected guests, has begun! 
And as a volunteer I got to help.  :)


Linking to Weekend Reflections.
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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Listen to the cow bells, on real Swiss cows!

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In Switzerland the cattle herds follow the good weather.
In summer they are taken to progressively higher alpages to live for a while.
Now, with snow on the Jura Mountains, they come down here to graze on the warmer plain. 

Today was the first time I heard the familiar din of cow bells out in the big field (grand champ, in French)!
I walked out from the Community of Grandchamp and into the field, walking carefully along the narrow muddy path in the middle of two fields, being careful not to touch the electric fence. 
I was so happy to see the pretty cows up close!
But how can each one stand wearing (and hearing) a big bell around their neck all their life??

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Enjoy seeing and HEARING the videos!

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(Linking to Camera Critters.
And for ABC Wednesday, T is for tongues licking a salt-block.)
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Monday, November 21, 2016

A pretty truck comes to Grandchamp

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Monday is a "desert day" of solitude and silence for the sisters of this contemplative community where I am volunteering.
On this quiet gray morning I was surprised to hear loud noises down in the courtyard.
I leaned out my window and saw this colorful truck!


The men opened all the manhole covers and made sure all was in order.


Even next to the centuries-old fountain that flows continually.


I like how the workmen in Switzerland are always happy to smile for a photo.  :)


A little bit of excitement on a quiet day at the monastery.
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(Linking to Our World Tuesday.)
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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Outdoor cafes with blankets

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Today I took the tram (4 Swiss francs, about $4, for a 12-minute ride!) into Neuchatel and walked around the city's medieval old town.


It was plenty cold but still people sat outside the tea house and ate the beautiful pastries. 
Blankets provided on every chair.


Neuchatel is our closest "big" city, with a population of over 34,000.


But to me the best part of the city is its shoreline on Lake Neuchatel. 
Today, far across the lake, the high Alps were shimmering in the sun in their white snow cover! 

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Welcoming Shabbat in Switzerland

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Shabbat candles, a kiddush cup, and (not showing) wine and bread -- all the elements for welcoming the Jewish Sabbath -- right here today at the Protestant monastery in Switzerland! 
On Fridays the volunteers (all two of us, meanwhile) eat lunch with our volunteer coordinator sisters. 
Today we made it into an early Kabbalat Shabbat with the main blessings which I recited in Hebrew. 


After our nice meal together the room had to be vacated so Sr. R. took the lit candles to another of the beautiful Grandchamp buildings.

One of the two flames kept on burning despite a drizzle and a cold breeze! -- The spirit of the Community of Grandchamp, I'd say. 
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Thursday, November 17, 2016

The ALPS appeared today!!

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The glorious Alps were showing this afternoon!!


I've been here in Switzerland exactly two weeks and today was the first time the Alps appeared.
It takes special atmospheric conditions for the mountains to become visible so far away.
Enlarge the photos with a few clicks and feast your eyes!


On our noon break I walked quickly down to the beach to get a good view.
"Quickly" because sometimes they disappear exactly during your 15-minute walk to Lake Neuchatel.


The Community of Grandchamp is on the west side of Lake Neuchatel.
See how far the Alps are?
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(Linking to SkyWatch Friday.)
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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Evergreen boughs in waiting

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This appeared today at the edge of the Grandchamp garden.
Piles of freshly-cut evergreen boughs.
A sure sign that Advent is coming.
Soon the creative artistic nuns will start transforming the branches into Advent wreaths and beautiful decorations for the Christmas season. 
Stay tuned (I'll be here until December 26, camera ready.)
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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sunday bread, home-made

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S is for the smell of the Sunday loaves.
The dark, heavy, healthy bread is so delicious.
The nuns bake home-made bread only for Sundays and holidays.

(I'm volunteering right now at a contemplative monastic community of sisters from various Reformed churches.  The Community of Grandchamp is in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.)
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(Linking to ABC Wednesday.)
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Monday, November 14, 2016

Men and their Mercedes

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So after living in a women's monastic community for any length of time (I've been here 12 days now), you start to miss seeing men around. (UPDATE:  Just kidding, kinda. I speak for myself alone; I'm sure the nuns are fine with it.)
This morning, on our desert day, I walked out and into the little village nearby.
The man was unloading his huge black shiny MERCEDES truck and I actually stopped to ask if I might take a picture of it.
He thought I wanted him to pose.


He snapped the cement platot (English?) onto the crane's cables,


and up it went.


The worker waiting to fit it into place on the new house actually walked UNDER it.
Oi.
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Saturday, November 12, 2016

So many sheep!

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Look!  SHEEP!  Right here in the foothills of the Swiss Jura Mountains! 


My personal Swiss shepherd*, Sr. V., took me up to the hills for a brisk walk on this Shabbat day.
The sun came out for a few hours today after a long time of rain and cold. 
* (while I am volunteering at the Community of Grandchamp)


The sheepdog looked a bit like a sheep himself, only whiter. 


I was so excited to see such a huge flock.
Right there across the lane from the vineyards. With a fence strung between the sheep and the remaining grapes, of course. 

And finally something to contribute to Camera Critters.
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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

3 x 3 = 9 kids!

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On my morning off work here in the contemplative monastic community, I took a short walk into "the world."  In this case, that means the nearby little town.
I couldn't believe this sight: three young women pushing strollers, three kids in a row on each stroller!
They were walking so fast in the crisp air (notice the dusting of snow on the Jura Mountains) that I couldn't catch up to them.
But I did follow them from a discreet distance.


They deposited the children in this nice new school.
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Enlarge the first photo with two separate clicks.  Have you ever seen such a thing?!
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Sunday, November 6, 2016

I love living at a Swiss national heritage site

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This is one super-long house.
And indeed it is named The  Big House (sounds better in French).
It is one of several beautiful centuries-old buildings in the hamlet of Grandchamp.
The little hamlet is included in the Swiss  Federal Inventory of Heritage Sites (ISOS). 
Notice the custom of always leaving a few of the original stones bare, instead of plastering them over; this is out of respect for the old stones. 


 Here's the other end.
The house that I'll call home until the end of December is just over to the right.
(I'm waiting for strong sunlight to photograph it in all its glory.  Be patient.)


The long house overlooks the old farm of the neighbors.
Here in the ring three horses graze what is left of the grass, and young people sometimes have riding lessons.


And old fountain spews fresh water in the courtyard (except if it freezes!).
(Maybe you have to click a few times and enlarge the photo.)
These fountains, ubiquitous in Europe, offered drink to thirsty people and livestock passing through.
And this is my favorite old tree here at the contemplative monastic Community of Grandchamp.
Does it remind you, too, of a menorah?
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Saturday, November 5, 2016

New surroundings!

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The morning after my arrival to the Community in Switzerland it was cold but still partly sunny (today we have cold rain).
So I took a brisk walk along the fast-flowing River Areuse.


A sister friend led on through the fallen leaves.


Where the river flows into Lake Neuchatel we chanced upon a real photographer, with tripod and all.
Maybe he was waiting to see swans.
Or maybe the Scuba diving school divers were about to surface.


New since I was last here nine years ago are these young grapevines.
Some farmers got together and planted one huge vineyard.


This field had a cover crop.


And this is what is known here as the "big field," in French, grand champ.
You can hardly see it, it is so narrow, but between the unsown field and the green field is a path.
It makes a good meditative path where you can be alone and sing or pray aloud.
At the other end is a landing strip and small airport for light planes and gliders.


There on the foothills of the Jura Mountain range is an old and picturesque village (whose name I have forgotten).
You can enlarge the picture. Looks like a castle on the hill.

So these will be my surroundings for the next two months.
Pics of the community coming up in next posts.
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Dina crossing the Alps!

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Goodbye for a little while, dear coastline of Israel!


Thursday afternoon we flew over the Mediterranean and a huge pillar of cloud appeared.


Soon after flying over Venice we  were over the stupendous Alps!


Cruising at 38,000 feet, we had ice crystals on the outside of the windows.


The meandering river was already in Switzerland.


Dam! A big dam on the river.
And in minutes we were landing in Geneva.

More tomorrow about where I am volunteering.
(Linking to SkyWatch Friday, of course!)
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