Are you influenced by what you read? Does your mind absorb the ideas set down by others? Do you live inside the scenes created, even temporarily? I suppose that’s why reading fiction is a form of escapism.
As a Librarian it is no surprise that I value books and reading for self improvement. I value learning from the experiences, and thoughts that others have worked so hard to set down in words. The more you read the more you learn. Even if you don’t retain it all and reject some ideas, we grow and evolve by taking on a little bit from each book we read.
At the moment I am reading a novel titled “Deception” by Michael Meehan. It is about a young Australian man who traces his ancestry to France in order to unravel his family history. It is exquisitely told, set in the Australian desert, Paris and New Caledonia. He weaves his tale masterfully between the past and the present. I have engaged in tracing my family history in the past and yet for the first time it has occurred to me to trace the one French branch of my family tree. It would be so interesting to learn some more French history while unraveling my own family tree, also fulfilling my love of all things French.
Meanwhile someone close to me has discovered they have cancer. It is a shock. I remember reading a few years ago a book titled “Your Life In Your Hands” by Jane Plant. She is a UK scientist who had breast cancer, suffered through chemotherapy, a mastectomy, radiation treatment, and was eventually given 6 months to live. As a scientist she researched the situation thoroughly, eventually having a “light-bulb” moment thinking that in Asian cultures the incidence of breast and prostrate cancer is remarkably low and they don’t eat dairy products. Eliminating dairy products from her diet from that moment the tumors shrank and disappeared altogether. She wrote her book in 2000 and now in 2008 she is alive and cancer free. Her experience, research and discoveries provide hope and practical advice for others facing the cancer death sentence. I gave the book to that person to read and make up their own mind. After all what have they got to lose?
Not only are we what we read but we are what we eat!
Driving through Nice in France I was surprised to see an extremely unusual building and then delighted to learn it is a library. Who else but the French would build such a quirky building? I love it. The busy tour schedule meant that I couldn’t get back to the library to walk around or go inside. Next time I visit Nice I will for sure.
Meanwhile at our library we are preparing for the annual celebration of Children’s Book Week and the theme this year is Fuel Your Mind. The CBCA website offers promotional materials for sale to libraries, such as posters and bookmarks, however access and availability of these is limited. Often the graphics are directed towards a young audience and not suited to the secondary school students. So we produce our own signs, posters, and bookmarks. This year we have used the Nice library as the key graphic as it represents the theme of Fuel Your Mind perfectly.
I can only admire and applaud the French creativity, ingenuity and courage for producing architecture such as this unusual library.
Fourteen blissful moments stand out from my busy tour of Europe; moments where my soul was filled with joy, awe and contentment. This was the beauty I was aching for and found in these moments. Each experience stands alone complete in itself as if within a glass bubble – a diamond.
Discovering the Lion of Lucerne which sits upon a ledge on a cliff in a quiet grotto amidst the busy city streets of Lucerne. I stood spellbound as I felt the sorrow and serenity of the Lion’s message.
Seeing the huge statue of Jesus with outstretched arms accepting all, as he stands on an outcrop on the lakeside at Lucerne. We spend a quiet moment taking in the bliss while drifting on the calm green waters.
White swans and brown ducks paddling briskly on the rapid moving crystal clear Alpine water of the Reuss River that runs through Lucerne. Children feed the ducks at the water edge on steps below the Roccoco Cathedral perched on the banks. An old roofed wooden foot bridge crosses the river and is adorned with flowers of purple, white, yellow and pink. Meanwhile colourful flags flap in the summer’s breeze heralding the Yodeling Festival that has attracted crowds of people dressed in traditional costumes. We wander.
Seated on a balcony at Engelberg I listen to birds singing tunefully and sweetly (no Aussie squawking here). I also hear the rushing water of the swift Alpine stream that runs through the town. The church bells chime for the 6am call to prayers at a nearby monastery. Cow bells clang from the fields nearby. The warm air stirs the red and white Swiss flags atop the chalets. The sun has risen and strains to penetrate its rays into the darkened valleys and forests, still working to melt the remaining snow upon the mountain peaks.
Returning to Innsbruck from nearby Rinn we travel down the mountains listening to “The first time ever I saw your face” by Roberta Flack on the bus sound system. The sun slips behind snow-crested alps, glowing golden swords of light that swathe the already picture-perfect landscape into an impossibly more beautiful scene.
Burano is a tiny residential island in the lagoon near Venice. Casanova once lived here. Canals wind through the village. The houses are painted different colours, traditionally so that the fishermen could identify their own house when returning by boat in the frequent fog. Our stomachs full and content from a fantastic local seafood feast, we wander along the canals in the hot afternoon sunshine, looking in shops for souvenirs.
Seeing the masterpiece of Michelangelo at the Sistine Chapel I sit with my back against the wall gazing up like the crowds of people gathered to do the same. The paintings glow with the bright colours looking as fresh as if Michelangelo had just left the room. How lucky I am to see the paintings now after recent removal of decades of built up grime.
Tony’s Bar in Sorrento stopped us in our tracks and we succumbed to the quirky and inviting makeshift bar set up on a cobbled carpark. The animated Italian waiters offer us seats, drinks, music and conversation. The ladies have Bellinis and the men drink beer. We listen to Dean Martin sing That’s Amore and watch with amusement as the crazy traffic of small cars and mopeds whiz by.
We queue outside the Galleria Acadamie in Florence waiting for our turn to see the Statue of David. The street is narrow, hot, grimy, and the wall beside us is covered with graffiti. An unlikely home for David I think. Inside though the first glimpse of his glowing white perfection is stunning. How did Michelangelo create such a beautiful image of man? It has such grace and beauty and emotion and there must be no finer work of art on this Earth.
Sparkling summer rain fell gently as we took shelter in a tiny shop entrance in the hilltop town of Saint Paul de Vence in France. The artfully arranged cobblestones glistening in the wet. Exquisite art, jewelry, lace, weavings, clothing fill these unique ancient stone shops. We share a Croque Monsieur, talk to the shop keepers, buy some gifts, and feel happiness that communities like this still exist in our multi-national corporate world.
We rested in the shade sitting on the grassy river bank beside the Pont d’Avignon. Free from vendors and the hustle and bustle of the busy streets we watched people walk to the end of the ancient arched bridge where it ended in ruin mid-stream. Meanwhile black dogs swam after brown ducks in the water. Boys paddled yellow canoes and cruise boats motored up and down the river.
The French experience enveloped me at Beaunne, a small quaint stone village in the wine region of Burgundy. We sat drinking coffee outside a café watching locals shop, read newspapers, walk small dogs and deliver goods. I speak French to the shopkeepers. We buy local red wine and gaze at displays of frois grois, snails, terrines and pates in shop windows.
Laugh, laugh laugh! The weird French acrobat/comedian had me laughing the minute he appeared on stage at the cabaret show at Nouvelle Eve in Paris. His act was not original but the practiced skill with which he delivered his silly antics was masterful. He milked the audience and I was hysterical, tears pouring down my face. After his final bow I gasped for air, exhausted from the laughing, my cheeks sore from the strain.
Blue lights twinkled on the Eiffel Tower. We stood on the bridge nearby where the small Stature of Liberty greets visitors who arrive on the Seine. The hand of the statue reaches up towards a small half moon. We group together in the warm night air under street lamps helping each other try to capture that perfect image of the twinkling Eiffel Tower at night with our digital cameras. We all hoped for a special image that would help our memories preserve this unique moment forever.