Landrace Clouds

What are landrace clouds? I made it up. Combination of words to describe the reality of cloud appearance in my neighborhood.

My neighborhood. According to the Swiss National Meteorological office, my Swiss neighborhood is the Northern Alps, the north facing slopes of the northernmost range of Alps in Switzerland. Using more common tourist and environmentally friendly vocabulary, my neighborhood is in the Jungfrau Region of the Berner Oberland around Interlaken. I live in the north-facing drainage basin of the famous Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountain triumvirate.

Now all that aside, over my years of walking this neighborhood, I have noticed that barely observable, minimal fluctuations in temperature, humidity, pressure and wind create quite dramatic formation and dissolution of very low level clouds. Please do not confuse them with fog. For a patient viewer, a dance reveals itself. And where there is dance, there is music. Not in astronomical time, but in real time. See it. Feel it. Hear it. 

Unmistakeable to a person on foot.

So for me, landrace clouds are very specific, locally generated occurrences. That is my starting point. That is real. Then the fiction begins. I call it fiction because of the reality that what we call ‘fixed’ or ‘settled’ science is not really fixed or settled or permanent. I like working and writing on the edge of the fixed because every edge is fuzzy and invites exploration, as do these landrace cloud phenomena.

I ask myself, what really happens at the point where a cloud begins its formation in touch with the earth? My response is a bit alchemical, a bit old school. I theorise that point as the interaction of earth, air, water…kind of special already, no? But what about ether? What happens at the moment of generation and the final moment of dissolution?

So, I go hunting in my neighborhood for generation points of landrace clouds. Following are eleven images from recent forays.

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1. Here is a generic shot of clouds in my neighborhood. Note the lake(water), the mountains(earth) and the sky(air). Note the cloud varieties.  Anybody sense the presence of ethereal?

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2. Here is a closer view showing certain cloud interactions with the earth.

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3. In this partially zoomed view, note the implied dynamics of the landrace cloud edges.

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4. In this zoomed view it is clear to see the scale of the landscape and the recently generated landrace cloud.

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5. And now the landrace cloud hunt begins–first person–on the ground–in your face.

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6. I learned the landrace cloud dynamics first hand. They always move. Their edges always change. The harder I looked, the further away they were.

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7. On another day, I learned that if I just stood still long enough, the landrace clouds came to me. But on this day no such luck.

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8. Without the opportunity to be at the point of cloud generation, I had so satisfy the walk by appreciating such details as here.

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9. Spring wild flowers in Alp pastures never cease to amaze.

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10. But as I was looking for the landrace cloud points of generation, I saw this hut at the edge of the forest.

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11. And at the peak of the roof,  protecting this hut, was…

All of the above represent a ‘typical’ walk in my neighborhood. And that is why fiction is just too close to fact. 

Lunch

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I had lunch, with a couple chums, over at my friend’s place today.

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In case you think it was too early to have a picnic…just nearby the first spring hay was being cut. And, oh how I wish I could share with you that sweet spring green fragrance.

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This is the pasture the morning before it was cut.

Corner Store

I grew up on the East Side of Detroit, post WW2, near the City Airport. Then, Detroit was booming, steel and autos, proud and popular. At the corner of our block, there was a store where, if I had a note from my mum, I could buy her a package of cigarettes. The real grocery shopping though, was done with my dad’s car taking us to Kroger super market about a mile away. And that is how I grew up for some 25 years. Groceries came from a well kept super market. Cigarettes and spur of the moment snacks from the corner store.

Then I found myself living in North Africa. No super markets and lots of corner stores, called bakals. We bought almost all our groceries for daily sustenance at the bakal. Convenient and efficient.

Time travel to the present, in Switzerland–no bakals, no corner stores but there, to serve local small populations, are local mini supermarkets–downsized versions of supermarkets. Very convenient. They are the smallest in scale of stores increasing in size as the surrounding populations increase in size. Yes, there are supermarkets. Yes, there are regional sized superstores.

Yet, even with all that, there exists these days an annual excitement like we use to have 50 years ago in Detroit when we would go downtown once a year for a special shopping festival–like the Christmas season. Here, once a year, end of the harvest season, in the capital city of Bern, there is an onion festival. There are two images in this post. Above is the 2018 festival itself. Below is the content of a shopping bag from the festival. The shopping bag collection of goods can not be found in local stores now, or fifty years ago, or in North African bakals.

Not bragging–just amazed at the range of goods. Pain d’épices from France. Onions and garlic from Germany and France. Decorative garlic, onions and peppers from Switzerland. Honeys and blood orange marmalade from Southern Italy and magenbrot from Switzerland. 

Holiday season is upon us like no corner store could imagine.

Best wishes to all.

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Shopping bag content.

The promise is yet to come

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Corylus avellana, 600 meters above sea level, 12June2010, North facing slope, Bernese Highlands, Swiss Alps.

Hazelnut or filbert. At the risk of sounding too much like an oldtimer…

Once upon a time, before European mass produced chocolate became common in the United States, if you wanted chocolate with nuts, you had primarily chocolate with peanuts. Then if you took the big voyage to Europe and tried to find chocolate and peanuts…impossible.  Chocolate and nuts in Europe meant chocolate and hazelnuts. Need I say mouth watering?  

600 m above sea level

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Swiss Alps spring pastures

At 600 meters above sea level, early May in the Bernese Highlands, grassland pastures are full with first wild flowers. Imagine in the air, the fragrance of fresh green pasture spring.

Real Life or Dream

I have had a difficult time writing this. Not only because it is personal, but because it is also unsettling, unique, even frightening. Some of you may be aware that I suffered a stroke just about a year ago. Lots of people suffer strokes. I have been fortunate in my rehabilitation. I can talk. I can walk. I can write. I can take care of myself. These were not the case in the first three weeks following the stroke. So let me say to all my medical support, nurses and therapists thank you very much. Now, it is just me and the daily mental battle of rehab vs retrogression. No big deal. Humans seem to need battles to excel, to live. Strange as it seems.

For me, it is the first three weeks that perplex me, that put me into some kind of twilight zone between dreams and real life. It had been signed off at the time as stroke induced dreams but they came in such volume, in such intensity, with such fear. Then a couple days after a full night dream wherein I had violently struggled to free myself from entrapment, I noticed an horrendous bruise on my thigh at a place that could have easily occurred in my dream, so I had to ask myself dream or real life? And if it was real life why do I not recall my activities that night? I only recall the ‘dream’ and that ‘dream’ did not occur in the hospital.

Because of these uncertainties, I feel obliged to recall them in detail. Those ‘dreams’ in detail will become a series of short stories, if I have the fortitude to work through them. Fortitude? Well, since the stroke, one of the lingering effects has been my inability to even come close to multi-tasking. So I have stepped away from what many of us see as the natural multi-tasking complexities of the modern Western world.

The following set  of photos exemplify what I find as simply satisfying in life these days. And when I try to resolve the awkward and fearful complexities of the first three weeks after my stroke…I rarely have the will power to remember or the endurance to examine. Rather I go out for a walk in the fresh air. The therapists call it looking to the future instead of the past. I can live with that; but the dream versus real life intrigues me.

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Brussels Amsterdam Paris

Freeze Frame Fragments

Three long weeks ago, I came down from the Berner Oberland in Switzerland. I came down from my home in the Jungfrau Region highlands–a place of large scale Alpine geography and small scale agricultural human life.

Why go to Brussels Amsterdam Paris?

Since the mid-1960s I have regularly passed through these cultural capitals of Western civilisation. But, not once over the past two decades. I have relied, instead, on the main stream media and WWW resources to describe these cities.

Those sources had frightened me. Terrorism. Inundation by other than Western cultures. Erosion of urban public realm quality. So, I went to look.

Used a ‘5 days in 15 days’ rail pass for country to country travel. Day passes for central city core public transit travel. Stayed in 100Euro or less digs at night–central city location, clean and newish beds, clean ensuite and free 24/7 wifi.

Before I share my observations, please for those reading flahertylandscape for the first time, note that I have lived and worked in North Africa and the Middle East for more than 25 years. In those years, I lived the expatriate cross-cultural life working with people from every continent on both the northern and southern  hemispheres of the earth. To be clear, living and working means real life, five senses, emotional and intellectual exchanges. Dare I say, ‘been there, done that’–no, I won’t say it because it has a subtext overflowing with hubris. Among humans, every day, I always find something new to learn–except for the basics that the Greek philosphers covered a couple millennia ago.

The following observations could be classified under: urban landscape, or urban public realm, or cultural landscape of Western civilisation. Hey, I had fun…’kinda’! 🙂

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Travel

It really is about the trip.

An American in Europe. An American auto-freak in Europe. Born in Detroit, Fisher Body, Ford, Chrysler, General Motors, the steel industry, cities built for cars, long distances in the countryside, hours in a car, big comfortable, powerful cars. In my blood.

But something about European cities changed me. These cities were not made for cars. They were made for people. In other words they were human scale, not mechanical scale. They had a comfortable, a walkable feeling. Back in the US, when I was on foot in the city–it was always a battle with cars. Not comfortable. OK, enough of that.

In 2017 Brussels Amsterdam Paris, the public transit makes getting between cities and getting around cities a breeze. I really liked it. Minus one pickpocket I, the ‘mark’, caught in the act on a Paris Metro.

Travelling on public transit can either be helped (fun) or hindered (lost, disoriented) by signs and signage systems. Making clarity of the complex. A challenge.

 

Deutsche Bahn Inter City Express

 

At Brussels Midi, everything about the station looked at least thirty years old and not of first class maintenance. Even the engines had been tagged. And not cleaned. And the platforms showed the wear of fifty years.

 

That ‘oldness’ traveled right through the Brussels’ busses, trams and metros. I purchased day passes each in Brussels Amsterdam and Paris–each required mechanical or digital validating before riding. In Brussels the percentage of people riding without validating was obviously many times higher than Amsterdam or Paris. It was part of a general feeling I sensed in Brussels–disrespect for the urban public realm.

 

Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris had city sponsored electric assisted bikes for public short term use. Didn’t try them. Learning how to integrate bikes, pedestrians, autos, trucks, trams and busses is not a casually easy experience. Local rules, local eye contact, local priorities are local and need to be understood to assure safety. Takes more time than I had. These are the Brussels’ version–freshest part of their public transit system.

 

The Amsterdam Central Station opened on a broad pedestrian plaza, at the same level, and without any automobile conflicts, with barrier free access to numerous trams connecting to all corners of the city.

 

When I arrived at the Paris Gare du Nord from Brussels, I was immediately struck by decorative detailing, which was, in their central core urban public realm, always calling for my attention.

 

At the exits from the Paris Metro are two kinds of maps: the Bus Stop and the District Pedestrian. This District Pedestrian map for the 11th Arrondisement, included an alphabetical index of street names.

 

At each Paris central city bus stop is a local map including an indication of what is a 2-minute walking distance, landmarks and the nearest other public transit points.

 

At the same Paris central city bus stops are complete maps for each stopping bus showing every stop on the route plus direction of travel and the 24/7 stop schedule. Superbly helpful. Actually essential in a city with so many tourists.

 

The Paris underground is called the Metro and access by stairs is identified in the classic Art Nouveau signage of Hector Guimard, Metropolitain–this station: Pere Lachaise.

 

Paris Gare de Lyon signage for arrivals, local departures and the fast trains.

 

At Gare de Lyon there are more than a dozen tracks dedicated to the TGV fast trains which travel at 300kph(180mph).

 

I had never ridden on a TGV before. Seeing them up close on the platform–next best thing to a fast car. 🙂

 

The TGV interiors. Some have two levels. There are multiple seating arrangements so it is wise to look at a layout and understand the direction of travel when selecting the required seat reservation. Also the seating carriage storage options are convenient for multiple heavy and light baggage. And the interiors are quiet…but if you have ever been in the countryside when the long metal tube goes by at 300kph…it is not quiet.

 

 

Graffiti

Among ‘graffiti artists’ there are some great conceptualists, colorists–some take me right back to R. Crumb and the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers; but…

In the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s I saw Detroit change from a city of proud hard working people to a fearful city with its own no-go areas and degraded housing. The neighbourhood I grew up in, the East Side near the old Detroit City Airport and the neighbourhood where my grandparents lived, eight blocks away (my grandfather worked 50 years for the City of Detroit) are now of city blocks without houses–burnt, looted, demolished–neighborhoods with no value and without potential home builder interest. And after 50 years of degradation, nobody knows when or if there will be recovery. These neighbourhoods decreased, declined, were degraded by the behaviour of people who did not respect others’ property, did not respect the urban public realm.

These days I see graffiti and tagging of others’ property and the urban public realm as the forewarnings that such degradation is on the way. It is a sad reality that is part of human nature, human life in the later 20th and early 21th centuries in the Western civilisations and unfortunately transferring to other cultures and civilisations. It is a sign of disrespect.

 

In Brussels and Paris graffiti dominates many local neighbourhoods. No retail at street level–only graffiti–but people still living upstairs. Rents must be reasonable, eh?

 

In Brussels, this fine glasshouse used to be the centre of Francophone cultural life…but now…

 

In Paris central city mixed-use six story apartment/retail/commerical buildings are everywhere. Some very beautiful buildings. Unfortunately, the graffiti fungus takes hold at street level.

 

It does get tiresome, to say the least.

 

My Brussels neighbourhood 50 years ago–tagged by today’s new ‘owners’.

 

In the end, it is about disrespect for public realm and existing social communication channels. Welcome to the 21st century.

 

Arts, Architecture, Culture

In Brussels Amsterdam Paris in the architecture is the history of successful business, cultural pride and confidence. It is such a pleasure to leisurely examine these details. A real pleasure of visiting these centuries old cities and vicariously sampling their cultural, business, arts and artisan success.

 

Brussels–always on the funky side–and smallish–4 stories tall–narrow lanes.

 

Paris–does not disappoint–Haussmann scale–6 stories tall–broad boulevards–London, Paris, and Rome–deep cultural roots…Brussels, not so much.

 

 

New Folks/Old Folks

After my uncomfortable non-Germanic pause at the Koln Hauptbahnhof and Dom Cathedral plaza, I had much more enjoyable encounters with the new folks occupying the Brussels Amsterdam Paris urban public realms. That’s right–enjoyable encounters–as in walking around the city centres with out feeling threatened. As if there was no immediate threat of death–and I have been close to terror and war in the Middle East and North Africa for more than 25 years.

 

My first stop out of the Alpine highlands was the Koln Hauptbahnhof and the Dom Cathedral Plaza–my only thoughts…where are the Germans? Got back on the next train and headed to Brussels.

 

Lots of years I’ve lived in the oil-rich Arabian Peninsula and what I saw and heard in the public urban realm in Brussels–Muslim girls unchained–having fun talking, laughing, eating–being jolly in public–dare I say, being themselves in public–a first in my observations.

 

The mood on the streets of Brussels–carefree, fun–when have you read or seen images of people having fun in the past year in Brussels or Paris?

 

The new and old in Brussels–draw your own conclusions.

 

The new and old in Brussels–who is scared?

 

Dom Square reminded me of Amsterdam in the early 1970s.

 

Paris landmarks 2017, the old and the new.

 

…and this is where we all end up–frightful or peaceful?

 

Visceral Noise

But…all of the above ‘pleasures’ were wrapped in a visceral, an inescapable package of stool, urine and excessive noise. I have to repeat it–stool, urine and excessive noise made up the inescapable reality of the street life of the urban public realm in central city Brussels Amsterdam Paris. Worry where you step–all the time. And no escaping the noise in the urban public realm above ground and underground. There are no safe places in the urban public realms of Brussels Amsterdam Paris. Is that civilisation? Is that desirable in the public realm?

So, we all just pretend it is not problematic? It is not a health problem? It is not a sensually repulsive reality? Is this not disrespectful of the public urban realm?

But that is not new for cities, George Orwell and Victor Hugo made that clear over the 19th and 20th centuries.

People choose not to see it. Not to talk about it. But, they all have encountered it. I couldn’t bring myself to photograph the details of so many places where I could not walk three steps without encountering stool in some stage of degradation or urine and always…always I was encased in excessive mechanical noise. In this image of beautiful Amsterdam, the preferred doggy-do is the one meter strip along the water’s edge.

 

Back Home

Glad to be back in the Alpine highlands.

And for a recent local historical perspective, in the mid-1980s, in this Alpine highland region of about 25,000 permanent population,  I could not find anyone who knew what a falafel was–what to speak of actually buying a falafel wrap for an anytime snack.

Now, thirty years later, about the same population, there are more than a dozen little shops selling kebabs and falafels.

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Brussels Amsterdam Paris 2017 conclusions–go yourself to see–then draw your own.

Can’t find my way home

…can't find my way home…

The various clouds appear, disappear, move and change at many different speeds simultaneously–and today they hid the giants of Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger–normally visible in this frame.

I am working on a story, The Orient Express, whose beginning and dénouement occur in the mountains surrounding Mürren in Switzerland.

This landscape inspires me because its very presence is mysterious–a consuming presence that forces me to interact with an elusive and overwhelming mystery…without beginning, without end…

Landscapes such as this are beyond my words.