Time . Lapses . Limits

TIME . LAPSES . LIMITS 

A beautiful film made by Ville de Quebec film maker Dominic Boudreault showing a time-lapse montage of the cityscapes of Montreal, New York, Toronto, Chicago and Quebec City contrasted at the end with the stars of the night skies outside the city limits. It took him a year to make this. Please full screen it.…and enjoy its beauty of architecture and urbanscapes, ships and starry nights. Set to Hans Zimmer’s score Time from the unforgettable movie of dreams, architecture, travel and love Inception.

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I am very happy that the film features a project I worked on which won quite a few awards and has become a favorite postcard pic and a city landmark – the installation, urban design and lighting of the historic Fontaine de Tourny that was placed on the entry grounds of the Parliament building of Quebec City. It was a gift from Bordeaux, France, for Quebec’s 400th anniversary, and I’d worked on the conceptual and construction planning as well as lighting design of it with the firm I was with at the time. A few conceptual sketches and the final product below. Of course, I have not included the construction drawings, which are prosaic, technical ones but which hold the chassis of a project.

Due to budget restrictions, the original seating and artistic fence proposals made were not implemented and currently a very basic structure surrounds the fountain.

The sculptor who’d made it – only 3 copies of the fountain exist in the world : Mathurine Moreau

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Sidetracked Alert : Since Conan Doyle’s b’day is round the corner – an ode to Holmes from last year https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/05/22/elementary-dr-doyle/

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Overdosing on Facebook

I recently saw this thoughtful, minimalist and well-done little video made by a young  Scottish English teacher addressing ‘Facebook addiction’ from which he himself ‘recovered’ and is now traveling to various countries instead of being sucked by the social network Giant. Facebook addiction (along with texting of course) has become prevalent amongst many teenagers (and adults as well.) Pass it on to those who might need it or to concerned parents of  teens who did not even know of life before Facebook existed. Pass it on. Without judging though.

Although it is ironic that the cameraman (but not the protagonist) of this video has a facebook page, this is a relevant little video, especially at a time when online narcissism has been glamourized to mind-blowing proportions. And unless they are truly marketing, like some older professionals use facebook to do, an average young adult now without even having traveled or worked much has on an average anything between 500 to 5000 “friends.”

I do have an account under my real name.  Joined very late comparatively, though I used to walk past  for over 18 months along the streets and  wrought-iron fences of Cambridge that Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network ran across in the film’s opening sequences. I only befriend those I know, those who I have met in the real world and those who are my real  friends and well-wishers or at most have common friends I know who are working in architecture or music. After all, how can you deny when architect  Ben Van Berkel himself sends you a friend request?  (On the other hand, okay, there are about 10 people on my list I haven’t ‘met’  in person but responded to their requests as they were architects and composers, with whom I shared common friends and we exchanged mails first so we were not total strangers. 10 ‘unmet’ on a list of 180 is not bad.) Yes, I do turn down many ‘requests’ but send a polite mail first to explain why – it is not personal, just a silly principle I’ve to follow to keep privacy and to an extent online security. I will also admit that I have not befriended those who were mean or bullied me back in school and now suddenly send me requests after years goodness knows for what reason.  (It is not because I hold any grudge, far from it since there’s nothing more liberating than forgiveness and equanimity –  it is because I believe that my private profile and photos are meant for real friends, not nosy priers or voyeurs or those who never cared in the first place but now are curious to find out about my life.) They are free to see my professional work site, but the personal is private.

It is okay to be all open too, perhaps to keep all your personal content public as many do on FB and I commend those who are brave or inclined enough to do so – privacy, spamming and security concerns be damned. Come to think of it, even this blog is in many ways a personal muse but one I willingly share in public. But for some reason, I draw the line for Facebook. FB is a convenient invention, but it is not our Master nor our tell-all diary. And one always has the choice on how one wishes to use or not use that networking tool. Perhaps there is something alluring to have the freedom to suddenly ‘befriend’ anyone from anywhere on this planet, to be on a network that has over 500 million people (and several fake profiles on it as well,) and no one should be judged on their choices – but every person is different and every person has a choice on how much they want to share.

And as this video rightly reminds – announcing every little mundane detail of your life as a ‘status update’ that millions of facebook users do is something the world has lived without for centuries and still can. True, FB is a great connecting tool, it has both pros and cons and is a great way to share information, but really – saying what you eat, when you pooped, how long you slept are details we can do without.

There is a whole big wide wondrous world out there that is not virtual. Yes, I do get the irony of writing this through a virtual medium. But still…..

Go out and see that world before it is too late.

Live. Laugh. Love. Learn.

Really.

You do not have to follow Ross or the message he gives in this simple  effective little video. You do not have to focus on how many times he licked his finger. But you can stop an addiction with determination, any unhealthy addiction if you have one.

Enjoy!

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“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882)
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“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

– St. Augustine (November 13, 354 – August 28, 430)

(Hey – if this dude Augustine could travel waaaaay back then, what’s your excuse to not get out into the world and away from that computer screen? And by ‘travel’ I don’t mean package tours in Disney resorts, but real, visceral, tangible travel. Good for the bones, good for the brain.)

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Related post: (1) Mountain Madness and  Thinking in Pictures

(2) Is Facebook making some people sadder with too much unrealistic ‘comparing and judging’ or an online version of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’? A Stanford University studyA Slate online article – Here.

A Time magazine article on the same – Here

Be happy, not envious, for others’ joys. Just. Stop. Comparing. And see how liberating it is. (I haven’t for years after a wise teacher in my school once told the class in junior high – ” Self-improvement starts when you do not compare with others, but compare your self with yourself.”)

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1.1.’11

A year goes by. A New year comes. Every 365.2425 solar days.

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Two leaves and Marley’s tail. 2nd Avenue, New York, NY.

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A gentle little bunny rests on my lap.

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A fly rests on the corner of a horse’s eye in a farm in Wisconsin

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Jazz quartet with Charles McPherson at Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase, Chicago

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Flanked by the great jazz saxophonist Charles McPherson and drummer/neuroscientist  Dave Johnson. Charles is an architecture enthusiast and a brilliant conversationalist

Charles’ music : here; On wiki: here. More: here

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My favourite patio at a secluded location where I’ve enjoyed many a meal and sunset staring out into the ocean in solitude. South Florida.

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Bass guitarist Norbert Marius strums at an instrument he custom-built himself. At Jules Bistro, West Village, New York. (Norbert has also done custom-built installations for Roger Waters’ studio in New York.)

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Moi, dressed as some space-age devil during Halloween, New York City.

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A street light seen from the back of my car seat. I took this photo after it was irreversibly broken after a near-death accident I had while driving it last summer.

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Sunset on a lake in Woodstock, NY.

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A view of the Chrysler building, New York.

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How do you define a Year in your life? Time? Age? Memories? Milestones? Life? (Did you know the Latin word for year is “annus”?) Or  a fixed period on a calender set this way: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year ?

Or a new dose of hope for eternal optimists?

Happy 2011!

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Red December – Post 1

RED DECEMBER – 1

New York, December 1, 2010. In North American seasons, it seems more appropriate to say ‘Red October’ as the leaves change colours. ‘White December’ would seem more apt since most of the north has received its first snowfall by then. But for this December, I feel like writing three posts with a ‘red’ theme in common – Red – the colour of cherry-red lips, the predominant colour of Christmas wrappings and stockings, but most of all the colour of blood, of the heart, of the glow in a fireplace, and of Love.

I just returned from a week in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, cities I lived in for 2 years in 2006 and 2007 for work. Moving from Montreal, Canada, with its cold northern winters, the two Floridian cities were escapes to sun and sand and sea……the stunning turquoise blue waters of their Atlantic shorelines obliterating all the other problems and urban – sprawl lifestyle. Greedy to soak in the waters, I lived on the high floor of a condo on Pompano Beach directly overlooking the vast endless ocean. After two years of filling my eyes and ears with the colours and sounds of the ocean waves that I woke up to every morning, I returned back north. On this visit, after nearly 3 years, I met again those who were dear to me, those who were my friends; and after the hellos, I said goodbye more as a closure once again to those with whom I had shared talks and walks and an occasional drink on patios and on white sand beaches or gone on boat and canoe rides in the picturesque waters of the Atlantic ocean and the Florida Keys. Some friends will remain so forever, no matter how far the distance in miles and years. Here’s to lovely Michelle and Gladys and Debbie and Sharolyn – four versatile, multi-dimensional, incredibly good-hearted women, and to four other straightforward male buddies. Thank you all for your senses and sensibilities!

Florida Keys  

It often takes a visit back as a traveler to appreciate what you left or find closure and peace for why you did. It IS true that familiarity breeds contempt and scarcity creates value. That is sadly a truth about human nature. The scorching sun and the serene waters that I’d begun to take for granted towards the end of my stay there in 2007, bogged by the lack of intellectual or ethical values that predominated much of flashy-car-and-silicon-boob-and-loud-showing-off South Florida, reminded me that the warmth of the sun can be appreciated only after experiencing the bitter northern winters, and the fakeness that used to affect me could disturb me only as long as I allowed it to – for if I chose to look beyond the noise, I could always find a quiet little bench in a hidden boardwalk on a marina where the boats docked where I could sit and enjoy fresh oysters I’d bought from Mr. Fish on Pompano, or find quiet beaches away from the crowds and choose to bicycle and canoe without giving a damn of ‘what car I drove or someone else drove’ (a predominant showiness of status that is found most in South Florida and Los Angeles-area-California when you live there.) And I discovered that beneath the surface, there were many authentic, happy, laid-back people and friends who did care about Florida’s fragile ecosystems and had a joyous relaxed attitude, sunnily different than the neurotic “Go-Go-Go” hustle of the Big Apple or the overtly-intellectually-competitive climate of Cambridge, MA, that I had grown more accustomed to.

When I transformed into a traveler again, I became more open to the charms of the city that a fresh revisit can bring back, (unlike the fear I’d experienced while getting lost driving in Overtown, the most crime-infested neighbourhood in Miami; or another time when I naively was walking into a dangerous trap while buying something off Craigslist and was saved by a friend.) This time, I let it all be, and just went along without fear, focussing more on all the far better memories I had of the city. Fort Lauderdale brought back its lovely beaches and my favourite hangs behind porches of lesser-known gems of restaurants that looked out into the ocean. Sadly I saw on this visit that many smaller cafes and shops which I’d frequent had closed down due to the economic hit this region took during the recession. Chatty business-owners told me tales of how the economic crash had affected their lives and those of others. Some of those stories were sad, some were funny and a few outright bizarre. In another honest talk, a good friend of mine (who is a self-made entrepreneur and a rising star in the building trade, with a residential project-in-construction even on the exclusive Star Island that he walked me through,) explained to me that he bought his Porsches truly for their engineering, not as any ‘symbols.’ He explained how given a chance, most men who liked cars would like to own a Porsche – more for its speed and amazing engineering, not necessarily for any ‘show.’ Thanks to him I can now say I have experienced what driving a 2009 Porsche Turbo feels like ;-) (Still, nothing beats flying a humble Cessna…but that’s just a personal preference.)

And this time, with a renewed perspective free from any past preconceived ponderosity, Miami brought back its Latin flavours, its predominant whiffs of delicious Cuban cooking,  Spanish guitars and the heat of its warm sun-kissed Decembers.

I am no ethnic gypsy, just a metaphorical ‘gyspy’ due to my nomadic travels and the many cities I have lived and worked in, but what better way to start a Red December than the haunting strum of the musical mastery of a real gypsy group of Catalonian Romani gitanos who reside in Southern France – The Gipsy Kings? Though I had received training in classical dance for many years, for a couple of years later in my 20s I took a rigorous training in the style of dance known as Gypsy Flamenco. And it is hard to remain still when the Kings take off on their guitars and lively vocals. But for this post, I have attached one of their pure instrumental compositions – a sensuous Red rendition that stirs one’s inner passion, and reminds us once again of the poetry of love, of longing and long nights under an open sky, of the hopes and desires of timeless youth when hearts were open, and gazes held fire, and the flow of your blood pulsated against your skin with a Dionysian rhythm of an inspired frenzy surpassing the Apollonian mind……..

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Once in a lifetime

ONCE IN A LIFETIME

“That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.”

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That it will never come again

Is what makes life so sweet.

Believing what you don’t believe

Does not exhilarate.

– Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)

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New York. 20. 10. 2010. If you ever get a chance, please take the Amtrak train from Montreal to New York in mid-October. It is certainly one of the most picturesque and magical rides you will ever take in this lifetime (or $ 60 well spent) – it is literally like winding through a painting enriched by spectacular fall colours and the breath-taking beauty of Lake Champlain along the shoreline of which and the Adirondack mountains the tracks traverse by. A long ride, but one that leaves you fulfilled and overwhelmed by the gorgeousness of nature’s colours and serenity; and the fragile-but-oh-so-beautiful gift of human life. As I’ve oft-repeated, it is one of those journeys that is a reminder once again that “We all have the right to feel sad at times, but we do not have the right to feel ungrateful.” Because, compared to what luck could have handed us, we are so, so fortunate………

The sweetness of life comes from days lived well, with the decision to follow the best of  rational ethics and integrity one is possible of practicing; of acts of love and kindness to others without losing wisdom or the logic to analyse and create and to think independently and not fall prey to hypocrites; the sweetness of life comes from the knowledge that at the end of each day the only person you need to stand before and answer to is your own conscience; to look back at a life led without hypocrisy, where you adhere to integrity if only for your own sake; and to know before you fall asleep each night that you have never knowingly hurt anyone for it takes very little to be kind, to think before you speak; to know that we are so lucky in comparison to far larger problems, injustices and sadness in the world and therefore to complain a little less and at times, a lot less; to know the truth of global realities and the reality of our own  strengths and weaknesses; to give a thank-you to the inventors and minds which made our infrastructures and taken-for-granted comforts possible; to thank the hearts of the gentle souls amongst us who are capable of healthy love; and to always remember that because life comes, but only once, to make the most of it.

Trust me on this one, for I’m on my fifth life now through four brushes with death in my past, and every day lived reminds me of life’s sweetness. We go through trials and troubles, fight back or climb out of abysses, but at the end it is only those who love the gift of Life and the responsibility of integrity and authenticity that gift entails, who know the pleasure of the sweetest of slumbers: the true exhilaration of a clear conscience and a life led without regrets. And with the strength to take full responsibility for every action you have committed or will commit once you have left the realm of childhood. The peace of mind for staying on-track on that one single choice? Priceless.

A typical view from the Montreal-New York train in Autumn. (photo by Kevin Ebi. livingwildnreness.com)

The Montreal to New York Amtrak route

Bicycle Alert: On the topic of land travel, check out the tales of an interesting and friendly young Franco-Swiss adventurer I met in Old Montreal who has been traveling along various continents of the world since the age of 32 on his bicycle for the last several years. He had just finished a tour across Central and South Asia and was setting off across America. Marco Ausderau : http://acrosscontinents.ch/Navigation/histoire-d-un-reve?set_language=fr&cl=fr

One of  the quotes that inspired him to embark on this long journey is Antoine de St. Exupery’s words: “Fait de ta vie un rêve et de ton rêve une réalité.”

Memories of Montreal – un petit film

Montreal, Canada. 10-10-’10. I have been busy with my travels these past  several days and shall be traveling for a few more to come…..and Internet access has been sporadic and minuscule, at best. One of the joys of traveling and reconnecting with old friends and places in general is the humane factor of touch, sight, sound and smell which the virtual world, no matter how rich it can be, can never equal. The virtual at the end, serves only as the medium – the conduit through which the essence of the real can be captured only in bits and pieces on a two-dimensional plane.

So until I find the time to write a more reflective or analytical post, I’m re-posting an older article and video which had been, in essence, a quick ode to a city that has always remained dear to my  heart. On this trip, as I packed up the remnants of my existence here and found closure on many levels, I understood with some poignancy that it was indeed “Goodbye Montreal” and “Hello New York” for good. Time flies, people change, precocious girls we knew from our work days get married, have children; men we knew who carried an intense fire for living look beaten and broken in the grind of work life and compromises….those who thought they would live a ‘James Bond’ existence wake up to a reality of  ‘The Office’ (ah! mid-life crisis, or should I say mid-life acceptance, for many a man.)  A girl who was a sworn spinster is now married in a big Greek wedding with a baby on the way. A good architect friend who had the worst year of his life in 2008, is now not only on his best year but has become a successful theatre-actor on the side. Another who I thought would forever remain timid and servile has broken free and has his own firm.  A man who I thought had crazy intensity  ended up truly being intensely mentally crazy when I saw him again after two years. A girl I thought would never lose her integrity, I found, has now sold her soul in the name of society’s cliched definition of success……

We meet many, we lose a few, we remain static with some, we grow for, with and at times, away from others.  And for some like myself, sometimes looking back I have to confess (as a private joke that a few friends will understand) by fluke, I certainly was ‘Saved by the Bell’  in October 2008 in Montreal. Had it not been so, I certainly might not have perhaps found myself in Cambridge and subsequently in New York City. Thank you, Antonio Stradivari!

Life goes on, time never waits and all that is left behind are memories…….Yet for some places and people looking back at them never quite brings clarity – like looking at one’s past and hoping to get a balanced vision – yet instead it feels akin to when you open an old book and find inside its pages a pressed exotic flower from long ago and its faint scents and faded colours prevent detached objectivity.

But: We move on, thus. We must. We look back – sometimes with 20-20 vision, and at times with visions still blurred and foggy. Yet we move on. Or at least try our best. Or hobble on. Or, if we are lucky, sail smoothly away.

And oh yes – one more thing – xkcd-style. Just for the heck of it (or maybe it’s just all these cafes selling baguettes here.)  Either way:

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MÉMOIRES DE MON MONTRÉAL

(originally posted on May 25, 2010)

This is a short and quick film I made to capture some moments at my favourite city where I lived and worked for many years as an architect. I made this to celebrate both Montreal’s unique poignancy AND vibrancy.

Location: The film is based on my photographs through my years in Montreal. The apartment featured is on Ridgewood Avenue where my balcony and windows opened out into the forest of the Mont Royal Summit, behind the gigantic St. Joseph’s Oratory featured both in the early part and in the closing shot of the film. The ‘summit forest’ is the highest point of the city at the bifurcating median of the eastern traditionally ‘French side’ from the western ‘English side’ though of course in reality the city is entirely mixed and diverse. My apartment’s location enabled an incomparable view of the surroundings as well as the seasonal changes of the magnificent trees in its forested backyard. I lived in two different apartments over the years on the same street though I lived in other areas of the city as well, including the Plateau Mont Royal neighbourhood, in downtown Montreal, on the east side near the Village and also in the historic suburb of Vieux Longueuil. I’ve had 7 addresses during my years in the city.

The office featured in the film is of my architecture mentor Dan Hanganu on Rue Dizier.  Its arched windows looked out into the art galleries of Rue St. Paul. The three friends in the ‘four architects’ photo are Anca, Lucia and Athena (and no, we are quite the opposite of the self-absorbed, shoe-crazy, man-hungry, navel-gazing ‘sex and the city’ hyper-materialistic girls.) I met them while working at the historic multi-disciplinary and multi-national architecture firm Le Groupe Arcop one of whose founding fathers had a fellowship in his name at McGill university which I had been awarded more than a decade ago, not knowing then that some day I would go on to work at the firm he had founded. There are other pictures here of friends who are dear to me. I have added quite a few well-known streets and landmarks of the city as well as those places that are personally meaningful and memorable.

The repetition of the sunflowers in the clip is not just a reminder of the lively kiosks and flower shops dotted around the town (and the little herb and flower corner of my balcony), but also a representation of the human potential and inclination to seek and search for joy in life despite how gray the skies may become at times and…….well, because sunflowers are my favourite blossoms. I always say that no matter how sad a moment may be, looking at a ‘happy sunflower’ brings back the smile on my face. They just seem to be such sprightly optimistic flowers, following the light of the sun….

Music: The featured musical pieces on this video are ‘Oblivion’ (violin – Joshua Bell; bandoneon – Carel Kraayenhof) & ‘All of Me’ by Jazz great Lester Young (tenor sax), Teddy Wilson (piano), Jo Jones (drums), Gene Ramey (bass). Since I wanted to capture the paradoxical ‘poignant joyousness’ of the city, the first half of the film includes a heartfelt piece ‘Oblivion’ played by the versatile virtuoso Bell (whose movie The Red Violin’s ending culminates in this city and who I met in Montreal, so I thought it would be appropriate to place his rendition.) The second half of the film picks up the tempo, rhythm and joie-de-vivre unique to this belle ville and reminiscent in a very jolly 1950s tune ‘All of Me’ (composed by Gerald Marks & Seymour Simons) played by the jazz legend  Lester Young – which captures the spirit of the famous International Jazz Festival that Montreal hosts every summer and also the ambiance of its many cafes, clubs, youth culture, its ‘book capital’ status and bicycle and pedestrian-friendly street life.

Additional photography: Almost all the photographs used here are my own. The ‘night vision’ shots though hazy, I felt captured the lights, music and movement better of the city’s nightlife and festivals than clean ‘perfect’ ones taken with a camera stand. There are around 5 pictures featured here taken from Montreal tourism. And out of the total 160 photographs used here – 12 are from the collections of two friends who are extremely talented professionals and have their own studios and should be credited – Jessica Petunia and Robin Cerutti who are both Montreal residents

http://www.flickriver.com/photos/jessicapetunia/popular-interesting/

http://robincerutti.com/

The music in the video is beautiful when heard through the right speakers since a tiny mono speaker of a laptop cannot do justice to a big jazz band nor to a 1713 Stradivarius.

This is just a little personal ode to a city that has meant so much in my life and where, in many ways, an integral part of my mind, heart, soul and body will always remain, always belong, and live on through its multifarious memories.

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Mountain Madness


MOUNTAIN MADNESS

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Much Madness is divinest Sense-
To a discerning Eye-
Much Sense-the starkest Madness-
‘Tis the Majority
In this, as All, prevail-
Assent- and you are sane-
Demur- you’re straightway dangerous-
And handled with a Chain-

– Emily Dickinson (1830 -1886)

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My road trip to the West, with hopes to traverse through Montana this month was interrupted a few weeks back by a really bad car crash that completely ‘killed’ the car. Hit by a speeding angry 4 x 4 Dodge Truck. In Racine, Wisconsin on lake Michigan north of Chicago.

Saved by 1 foot of metal buffer – a complete T-collision and I’d have been dead smoked meat now. The hit was so bad that the car’s chassis broke in 2 parts. It really came out of nowhere. A deafening crash, Boom and I’m looking into an overpowering White Bright Light and smoke before my eyes which 2 seconds later I realize is my face in my white bright air bag and burning rubber. I’ve had brushes with death before but I’ve been thanking the safety engineers of Toyota and the inventor of the air bag and seat belt ever since this particular brush. The impact was so strong, the seat belt casing got ripped apart. No injuries, thankfully, though the mechanic thinks it’s a miracle given the impact and the fact that the front half of my car is gone. Had bought a new Toyota in 2006. R.I.P. mon voiture.

The truck driver was safe and sound, arrogant, strutting around, unapologetic despite speeding 30 miles over the speed limit and even to the policeman’s shock not once, that’s right, not once came over to ask how I was doing. Kind friendly mid-westerners from the residential neighbourhood where it occurred poured out. So in August, I’ve decided to celebrate life again and place only pictures…..a breather from the lengthy posts. Perhaps I was writing those long posts in July as ‘therapeutic’ writing after the crash. I’ll make a little video as some more self-invented therapy to recover further from the horror of death-so-close and as a little goodbye to the silver car that had served me so well and traveled thousands of miles from the Florida Keys whence I viewed tropical fishes in the South to the very North of Quebec close to Lac St.Jean national park areas, the fjords of Saguenay and the Taddoussac region where the giant whales live, and from Cape Cod in the east to Chicago……alas, its death occurred in Racine (‘Root’ in French) Wisconsin, but its metal and safety features saved my life.

Drive safe everyone! And watch out for crazy speeding drivers. And thank the unnamed, unseen automobile engineers who design cars so well these days, that if one gets lucky, one can still walk out of high-impact crashes without a scratch. And thank the ephemeral gift of life. So precious. So short.

So since I couldn’t take pictures of Montana, I decided to celebrate here instead memories from earlier trips to mountain worlds. Among my six ethnic mixes covering both Northern and Southern European lands and the Mediterranean Waters and Dead Sea, I also have the presence of the mountain worlds of the northern Himalayas in my mix…..the call of the mountains is very strong in my blood, and a passion for mountaineering and ice-climbing. So strong was the call to dwell in the mountains, I’d ended up being a Buddhist monk for 3 months in my early 20s up in the mountains – not so much for any religious reasons but because I figured the best way for free boarding and lodging in the most breathtaking views of the Himalayas was to be a monk instead of the restricted weeks of shivering treks and flimsy tents that as mountaineers we have to brave. These are pictures from some of my favourite climbing ranges through the years – the Kumaon range of the Himalayas, India (bordering Tibet), the Kanchenjunga range (in Sikkim bordering Nepal which has the third highest mountain peak of the world), Bhutan, Ladakh and closer home, the ranges in Canada.

I usually don’t take too many photographs as I like recording pictures like movies in my mind instead (an anomaly which is both a blessing and a curse – especially when it comes to being unable to forget.) But these trips have always overwhelmed me with the sheer beauty and scale of the magnitude of the landscapes – pictures in my mind which I hope never to forget and hold with possessive passion. Mountain worlds dotted with terraced hills, tall trees, monasteries, enchanted forests, mountain lakes and days and nights in hard core mountaineering. There’s no other way to put it – I madly love mountain lands and some day, I will go to Montana, though this trip got interrupted.

Upwards & Onward! (as one brave lady on my blogroll always says.) No matter how dampening the downers in life may be…And mountains are a reminder that it’s possible to walk in the clouds. And climb every cliff. With your own sweat and determination (and, er…piolets and crampons.) After every storm in life. And breathe again the fresh air of freedom…….and thank one’s luck each time one does so. To be born on this planet. For the gift of human life. And the responsibilities it entails.

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Ladakh – the highest plateau of the world

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Ladakh

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A monastery in Ladakh at night

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A gorge in the Kumaon range

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The Kumaon range of the Himalayas – on the way to the Kafni & Pindhari Glaciers

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Approaching the peak – the 16 day uphill climb gets closer to the final leg up the summit

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Celebrating my b’day in June with a Himalayan trek. 1997. (My lucky climbing sweater – I’ve had it for more than a decade. And wear it in the last leg of every climb through the years.)

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Terraced valley in Sikkim

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The breathtaking Kanchengyao around lake Gurudongmar in northern Sikkim.  The Kanchenjunga is one of my favourite ranges for mountaineering, apart from the Kumaon range. Its highest peak has a 28,169 ft elevation. The 2.75 sq. mile state of Sikkim is home to the red panda.

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Kanchenjunga range viewed near Darjeeling…a call of the wild I cannot deny.

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minus 25 degree celsius – the walk before the ice climb. 2008.

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Ice, Ice! (this picture is in Canada not in the Himalayas)

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Raphael – our ‘lead’ climber

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My parka and three layers of clothing to keep the cold out, but the exercise still makes one sweat

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Fire on ice

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Guillaume reaches on

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2006. We’re envious of those who have shoes with inbuilt spikes ;)

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The rest of us use old-fashioned external crampons on our shoes….

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Banff…in the summer

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Bhutanese monastery in the Himalayas

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Perched on the rocks…

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at the edge of a cliff…location, location – that’s what helps monks with the meditation ;-)

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Mountain Magnolia

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Kumaon range. Near Nanda devi peak

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On and..

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on and on.

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The team on one of the climbs

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A little rest, at last.  Un petit plaisir de la vie avec du thé chaud sur la glace

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Uttarakhand Nanda Devi

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” It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” – Sir Edmund Hillary

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A small update: By coincidence, Randall Munroe put up this cartoon 2 weeks after this post on his XKCD website. It just seemed to tie in so well with the ED quote and near-death-car-crash I’d started this with, thought I’d place his cartoon:

xkcd _ the carriage