Paula Swenson

Archive for May, 2009|Monthly archive page

The Month of Blooming Flowers

In The Natural World, Travel on May 31, 2009 at 5:10 pm

May, Květen in Czech, is the month of blooming flowers, and indeed everything seems to be blooming simultaneously, in this warmer than usual spring of 2009. Cherry and apple trees have already lost their blossoms, lilacs are in full bloom and the chestnuts are full of flower “torches” and spirea bushes are white as snow. Meadows are dotted with the blue of forget-me-nots, white fleabane daisies and yellow buttercups and dandelions. Trees are in full leaf now and it feels like summer half the days with temperatures soaring above 23C (73F) and the rest of the days are chilly, windy and rainy, more in keeping with Spring. A profusion of tulips are giving way to stately iris, and lush peonies are already nodding colorfully in local gardens.

This month our adopted town of Litomyšl is celebrating 750 years of existence, there have been sword fights in the square, pageantry with horses, kings and armoured knights and a lot of beer and sausages! Recently some modern interactive sculptures have been temporarily added to our public places and last night we had moci noci (powerful night) with museum, castle and monuments open until, midnight free of charge, a fire juggler in the monastery gardens and a festive fireworks display to end the evening. So our modern fairy tale continues.

© Paula Swenson 2008
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Confessions of a Nomadic Soul

In Travel on May 31, 2009 at 4:40 pm

I’ve never met a trip I didn’t like. Which is not to say that I’ve never had a bad travel experience, but rather that, on the whole, nothing can make my heart sing like heading out the door with a packed bag in my hand.

Perhaps it was the fact that when I was a baby my parents used to wrap me in a blanket and lay me in a basket on the rear floor of the car (pre-child seat era) and drive around to get me to sleep. Maybe it was the long summers spent in the family station wagon criss-crossing the USA and Canada, or the big green and white World Book Atlas with all its exotic places: Tierra del Fuego, Madagascar, Mandalay, or Sognefjord. It could even be that the travel bug is an inherited malady, I can trace my roots back to nomads on both sides of the family.

Whatever the cause, I find travel intoxicating and fulfilling. I often find that I am only home a short time before feeling that restless urge to get on the road again. I consider myself lucky indeed to be married to a man who shares my addiction to being on the move. Sharing new experiences has kept our relationship fresh and fun for 18 years and counting.

I used to despair that my travel list kept getting longer, rather than shorter. As I hear about new places from fellow travelers, I add them to my list, but there are also so many places I long to revisit, so many people we have connected with that I hope to see again. Recently I decided that it isn’t a list to conquered, but a catalog of possibilities to be savored! I feel much better now.

© Paula Swenson 2009
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Without Reservations

In Art and Creativity, Travel on May 4, 2009 at 3:42 pm

My husband and I like to travel without reservations, both in the literal sense (no pre-booked hotels) and the figurative sense (go for the gusto!)  This philosophy often leads to the very best travel experiences in the form of unpredictable personal encounters with the culture. 

A recent serendipitous encounter came while wandering the backstreets of the town of Urup in the Gorema Valley of Kapadokya in Turkey.  Two young boys, Murat and Resul, best buddies – aged 10- stopped to practice their tiny bit of English and then asked Steve to take their picture.  As we were trying to use our tiny bit of Turkish to get an address to send the photo to, a neighbor who spoke English gave us a hand.  Afterwards, the neighbor, Naile, invited us into her garden for the ubiquitous Turkish tea.  We sat in this lovely oasis on the hillside above Urgup, enjoying the cool breeze and chatting.  We discovered she and her husband had retired here, that this had been her mother’s house and that after a career as a nurse, she had studied to become an Ebru artisan.  Ebru is the ancient Turkish art of creating marbled pictures, by floating the colors on a thick pool of gum Arabic and using a stylus to ‘paint’ the motifs. 

Naile asked if we would like to see her studio (of course we would!) and then asked if we would like to see how it is done.  We watched in fascination as this very talented woman showed and explained her ancient art.  Steve got some fabulous photos and then she offered to guide me through the process – what fun!  I actually managed to create some respectable looking Ottoman style tulips, of which I am inordinately proud.  Then Naile, who obviously enjoys her work very much, did two more demos for us, one of roses and the other of carnations . . . truly amazing.

It was an enchanting experience for me as an artist and for Steve as a photographer; without our realizing it, two hours sped by.  As we were thinking we should leave, she invited us to see the rest of the house, one of the original Ottoman era buildings of Urgup, so of course we said “yes”.  We got upstairs to find that her husband had cooked Makarania (a sort of pasta) and we were invited to eat with them in their traditional ottoman living room!  How could we refuse?  We had a very nice meal, chatted about modern Turkey and it’s place in the world, the importance of art to life and other weighty topics.  After a final cup of Turkish coffee, and exchanging emails, we said our good-byes and headed out with a lovely painting of Dervishes on an Ebru background to grace some future wall, and my own Ebru creation, which had, by then, sufficiently dried to take along.

If we’d had reservations about accepting a stranger’s invitation to tea, we would have missed one of the highlights of our trip!


© Paula Swenson 2008


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