Friday, December 30, 2016

Ten candles tonight


Lots of light tonight, with the two Sabbath candles joining the Chanuka lights.
The chanukia, made from a liquid-filled bottle, and the candlesticks are both gifts from my sweet daughter, Naomi.
Tomorrow night we kindle the 8th and last candle of the Festival of Lights.
So happy Chanuka and Shabbat shalom!
Oh, and also chodesh tov (a good month) to you, as the Hebrew month of Tevet begins today.
And enjoy the last day of 2016.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A wet, cold, windy welcome home


The easyJet small-ish jet left Geneva promptly at 7:05 am while it was still dark.  A crescent moon hung in the sky as it gradually got lighter and lighter.

Snow on the Swiss Alps made the mountains visible even in the semi-darkness of pre-dawn.  

The pilot was happy to announce that with our strong tailwind the flight would take only 3 hours 40 minutes, but to expect some turbulence.  

Just before reaching the eastern end of the Mediterranean, our clear blue skies got full of clouds, and snowflakes rushed past my window. 

The pilot said Ben Gurion airport was experiencing severe weather and we would have to "hold" over the sea until a landing was possible.  
We flew slow and low over the water for some 40 minutes, just drehing around in that holding pattern. 
Finally the Israel coastline appeared and we went in on an unusual route I've never seen before.

The landing, thank God, was fine and everyone applauded.  
There were big puddles of water everywhere.  
When we walked out into the Arrivals Hall a tall crane was inside, and two men were fixing the ceiling panels.   
All it takes is a big rain (usually the first rain) to flood and paralyze this country. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The star


Follow the star!
You may end up in Sonnenhof, the House of Stillness, in Switzerland, where I photographed the nuns' bright Moravian star.

It is also called a Herrnhuter Stern.
You can find out why in a previous post.

Merry Christmas to my Christian friends and happy Chanuka to my family and Jewish friends.
The two holidays starting on the same night; this has happened only five times in the last 111 years!
Double joy!
(Linking to inSPIREd Sunday.)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Up out of the fog, into the sunlight!

The river flows right next to the Community of Grandchamp, a canal diverts some water through and even under the monastery, and we are also close to Lake Neuchatel.
Having all this water around, the air is saturated with humidity for many months during the gray winter.
Sometimes the nuns just get the urge to drive upward in search of the sun.

And last Sunday we did!
First you go up the Jura Mountains a few hundred meters and enter a dense band of fog.

The band of fog is even worse than our misty greyness down on the plain.

But finally, at about 1,300 meters up, you come out into the bright sunlight!   Yay!

And as the hotel's name promises, at the top you have a view of the spectacular Alps way on the other side of Switzerland!

If you enlarge the photo you see the jagged alpine peaks in the distance and the rounded Jura mountains in the foreground; the white stuff in between is fog.

Lots of beautiful places to hike to.

Just across the cattle guard, one of  the trails ascends.

It was freezing cold windy up there, but look at all the Swiss folks climbing up there!
The ski lift is on top.  But no snow.
It's OK. We'd rather see sun than snow.
(Linking to SkyWatch Friday.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Old stones stand strong


In the previous post we saw the dazzling sunlight inside the upstairs chapel here at the monastic Community of Grandchamp.
But here at the entrance to l'Arche, on the ground floor,

where the nuns hang their warm capes before going upstairs to pray,

you can still see the original stones of the wall, from back sometime in the 1700s!

Just inside the door is a little corner with little boxes for writing your prayer requests (intercessions), so that the sisters will pray for the person or situation you mention in one of the four daily offices.
Enlarge the photo for the simple instructions in French and German.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Dazzling light in the l'Arche chapel


When we get a rare winter day of sunlight at the Community of Grandchamp, the noon time rays come through the colored chapel windows in a dazzling way!

Come in, the door is open to l'Arche chapel.

The altar -- the beauty of simplicity.

Me pretending to be the Hebrew reader for the readings from the Prophets.

The wonderful old roof, I think from the 1700s!

I hope we have sun again soon . . .

Here is the building from the outside.
Long ago it was part of the Indiennes dyed fabric production.
(More about that later.)
(Linking to inSPIREd Sunday.)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Fish jump up the waterfall to spawn!


Watch my little video and see many big fish attempting to jump up the waterfall! 
The exciting phenomenon happens for just a few days every year (although some say it happens two times in a year).
I got to see it in late November! 

Swiss people come and line both banks of the River Areuse to watch.
They shout their encouragement or their congratulations when one of the fish succeeds.

The big Lake Neuchatel is just downstream.
The fish swim upstream, against the current, to reach distant gravel beds at the river's source.
There they spawn.

I think these are trout.

The water gets smoother just after the strong ones get up that waterfall.
The video and pictures were taken in very late afternoon. 
Here is a shot of the river in sunlight, taken in the time of colorful foliage a few weeks before the spawning:

(Linking to Camera Critters meme.)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Sunday fruit platter


In Israel we take fruit for granted.
It is plentiful, varied, and not too expensive.
But here in cold Switzerland fruit is a big deal.

Here at the monastic Community of Grandchamp the nuns serve a platter of fruit -- as the first course -- only at the special Sunday meal.
(Special to me because that is the one day a week we get meat.)
It's hard for me to imagine how all that (mostly organic) fruit has to be imported.

The refectory (dining room) has six tables, seating over fifty people.
Often I get the job of setting the tables before the noon meal.
That's after I lift all the chairs onto the tables and sweep and wash the floor.
BTW, we eat meals in silence.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Hot chestnuts!


I see that December 14 is the newly-created Roast Chestnuts Day.
For me, every time I go to the city of Neuchatel it is roast chestnut day.
For me and many others -- look at the long line of people waiting in the cold to pay several Swiss Francs for a few hundred grams of the nuts!
You can see (especially if you click and enlarge the photo)  the silhouette of the man doing the roasting, while an older woman (his wife?) stands at the window of the kiosk weighing, wrapping them in paper, and selling.

Here is my little purchase.
It's also good as a hand-warmer.  :)
I always start eating on the tram, because the soft nuts can be peeled so easily, AND THEY ARE SO GOOD!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Grandchamp "tea wagon"


Meanwhile, back at the monastic Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland, this is what I call the tea wagon.
Mid-morning it is taken from its parking place under the stairs.

In the kitchen a sister or postulant or volunteer fills the wagon with thermoses of  tisane, coffee, and tea and bread and butter and jam and tows it across the courtyard to our break room.

Here we take ten minutes from our work to sit down and enjoy a break, drinking and eating in silence.

I like how the wagons here (like in the garden) have a double handle: if the load is very heavy two sisters can share the burden.
(Linking to ABC Wednesday.  W is for wagon.)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Cherry trees under netting


While exploring the farms around Sonnenhof, I was fascinated by this huge "cage" of trees.

Rows and rows of cherry trees, all enclosed by netting.
There must be a hundred!

On one end, the "cage" was open and the upper netting was rolled back.

I imagine this saves the cherries from hungry birds and bats.
Leave it to the Swiss to cover the whole orderly orchard in such an orderly way.

Looking down from the monastic house Sonnenhof, you can grasp the size of the orchard.
Imagine the color and the fragrance when all those trees are blossoming in May!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The bells of Sonnenhof


The monastic Community of Grandchamp is centered in the French-speaking region of Switzerland and it has a smaller branch, called Sonnenhof, in the German-speaking area.
Here are some pictures of the Sonnenhof chapel during Advent.

Simplicity and silence play a major role in the life of the nuns and their volunteers and retreat guests.

The Community focuses on this icon, the "icon of the Holy Trinity," which depicts the visit of the three angels to Abraham and Sarah at the Oak of Mamre.

A small bell is struck once to open each of the four daily offices (prayers).

You can just see her silhouette here in the darkness in the cloister outside the chapel, but the sister is ringing the bell to call everyone to compline, the last prayer of the night.

This is the bell and knotted rope, with the village of Gelterkinden below.
UPDATE: To the folks dropping by from inSPIREd Sunday meme--you can see more about my monastic life as a volunteer for 2 months in the posts starting in November.
(Linking to inSPIREd Sunday blog.)