Kris à Genève

A Canadian living in Switzerland

November photos

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I have gone silent on my blog over the last months, not because I have had nothing to write, but because I hesitate to return, post after post, to write about Juniper. She is the most fascinating subject in my life, from which I struggle to carve away enough attention to write about or photograph another subject in detail. But I remember from pre-parenthood that my threshold for baby talk was lower, so I refrain from flooding my blog with Juniper’s latest.

In addition, November is an inspiration-poor month for me. I checked: over the years I have shot fewer photos in November than in any other month. Temperatures drop, days shorten, light fades and colours seem to fade to grey. Less visual stimulation for a blog entry, in other words.

To confront Juniper-centricity and the November doldrums, I have scoured my catalogue, to present below a selection of the photos I shot in Novembers past. My catalogue is heaviest in the years since I switched to the digital format, so these photos all date from 2007 onwards. And photos of Juniper may or may not have found their way into this selection.

Eileen and I had a close network for friends when we lived in Victoria. One of our annual rituals was a gourmet weekend in the coastal town of Tofino, for which we would plan one elaborate meal with umpteen courses, each matched with a fitting wine and consumed at a leisurely, convivial pace. We called it Vino in Tofino, and my world is a bleaker place without it. Here is a photo of our friend Dani, which captures the mood of the event: warm and a bit wobbly from all the wine.

In 2009, shortly after Eileen joined me in Geneva, we travelled to Belgium to visit my cousin Juris, his wife Anne, and their children Andrik, Kaylie and Jayden. They have since moved back to their home in Quebec, but that November weekend remains one of my highlights of our ongoing life in Europe. Below is a photo of brothers Jayden and Andrik, high in the Atomium, a monument built to resemble a cell of iron crystal, which was built for Expo 1958 in Brussels.

Fun dictator factoid: Joseph Mobutu from the Belgian Congo first appeared on video as a journalist at Expo ’58. He would go on to become one of the world’s most famous kleptomaniac dictators, renaming himself Mobutu Sese Seko and treating the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaïre for a time) as his personal piggy bank from 1965-97.  Okay, back to the photo of my smiling cousins:

Juris and his family lived in the Flemish town of Brasschaat, near the border with Holland. There was nothing to see there, so we spent a day in the nearest big city: Antwerp. Here are Juris and his beautiful family in Antwerp’s City Square:

Daughter Kaylie is an exceptional gymnast (see the many videos of her on YouTube), so I tried to capture her leaping in an Antwerp park.

Nor is father Juris an athletic slouch. Despite his advancing years, he had trained hard and earned a spot on Antwerp’s first-division hockey team. At the bottom of the page of this recap of the 2009-10 Belgian Cup, you can see that Juris was, ahem, the oldest player in the league. He told us that it was demanding to keep his body going through the semi-pro schedule, competing with guys in their 20s, alongside working full-time and raising a family. Later, Anne underlined Juris’s understatement, telling us stories involving caseloads of Advil and a chronic avoidance of stairs. Juris also told us that he had an unflashy, workmanlike leadership role on the team, but in the game we watched, he broke out and scored two goals!

Next is a sneaky photo I shot of a couple enjoying a perfect November afternoon on the Salève: the mountain that is a fixture on Geneva’s southern skyline, but actually sits in neighbouring France. In the distance, you can see Mont Blanc and the high range of the Alps.

In mid-November this year, the icy bise blew down Lac Léman for a few days, making for bitterly cold temperatures, but also crisp, haze-free skies. On several evenings, I bundled up and drove to a lookout point on the Salève to shoot photos of alpenglow on the Alps. I did not make as many crisp images as I had hoped, due in part to the wind shaking my gear, and me rushing to escape the cold. But when there is pink evening light on Mont Blanc, it is impossible not to come home with something pretty in your camera.

In late 2011, both Belinda and I were poor in employment and rich in time. On a beautiful November weekday, we travelled to hilly Fribourg to walk and talk. Belinda found a job not long after that excursion, depriving me of my midweek buddy. Here is a photo of Belinda standing above the lower part of Fribourg, just before sunset:

The following year, Eileen and I travelled to Paris to attend the Paris Photo exhibition. I enjoyed the event well enough, despite my disappointment that it was not organised around photography’s artists and themes, but instead around galleries trying to sell their collections. The weather was grey and rainy during our stay, which contributed to dramatic night photos. Here is a view over the Seine River from the Pont Alexandre III, towards the Eiffel Tower.

I do not find the Eiffel Tower all that pretty or interesting, but it sneaks regularly into my photos nonetheless. Here is a photo with the same Eiffel background, shot from the fountains in the Jardins du Trocadéro.

Eileen and I bought a car last winter, a key advantage of which is quick excursions to destinations that are poorly served by public transportation. In the November prior to the arrival of our car, Danny, Chris and I set out from Geneva with a general plan to hike from nearby Gex up to the high ridge of the Jura Mountains. We left Geneva at the reasonable hour or 10h or so, but with the Sunday schedule and transfers on the bus, we did not begin walking from Gex until after noon. The walk was relatively short, but it was dark not long after we returned to Gex, from where the next bus to Geneva was not to leave for another hour. We each withdrew a small sum of euros from the bank machine (Gex is in France) and drank beers in a Gessian café. We had only walked for three-four hours, but returned to Geneva at around 19h! A long-winded way to say that Eileen and I are happy to own a car, and to introduce the following photo of Danny and Chris on the Grand Mont Rond in the Jura Mountains.

I am cheating the November theme with the following photo, but only by one day. Eileen had several elaborate costumes in mind for Juniper on her first Hallowe’en: Napoleon or one of the creatures from the Alien movies, for example. In the end, none of these costumes transpired. Instead, on October 31, Eileen rummaged through the drawer to find a Canadian toque and a King of the Mountains onesy for Juniper and took her into the hall to ring our doorbell for her first trick-or-treat experience.

Juniper lived her first November much as she has lived the other months: actively and expressively. She suffers few cuddles and wonders why sleep must interrupt activity.

You see? I find it impossible not to stray into Juniperland.

We shoot a few photos periodically to document Juniper’s growth and development. Here is one of them, shot in November, showing our chubby, coordinated girl in her still-favourite position: chauffeured face-forward through the world by Dad.

We introduced Juniper to solid food in November. Carrots were the first food she tried. Her gagging during this first meal sent Eileen into peals of laughter. It was not worrisome gagging, nor was Juniper reacting to the taste: she simply did not know how to swallow. Since the second or third day, she has gobbled all of the different fruits and vegetables we have given her, except turnips, whose taste she disliked. In fact, Mom and Dad’s spoon hands are now too slow for Juniper’s appetite.

Juniper is advanced in some aspects of her physical development, but rolling is not among them. We dutifully place her on her stomach several times per day, and she is strong, active and happy in that position, but it has not yet occurred to her to roll out of it onto her back. One morning, she surprised me by rolling from her back to her side, and later onto her stomach. The back-to-front roll is meant to come after the front-to-back one, and so we had never had her practice it.

Busy with our new arrival, Eileen and I did not make a single overnight trip to the mountains this past summer. We did not really remark this absence until friends began to talk about the upcoming start of the ski season – “you mean we missed the summer season entirely?” Taking pity, our friend Tatiana invited the three of us, plus Emily and Axel, to her family’s condo in the mountain resort of Leukerbad. Ski season had not yet begun, but preparations were well underway: throughout the weekend we heard the snow blower on the western slopes. Our time in Leukerbad reinforced that having a baby simplifies the flow of activities in life, without slowing the flow of time. The weekend whizzed past, but reflecting on what we did, our list of activities was short. We prepared and ate meals; we played games; and we walked around town a couple of times. Voilà le weekend! I barely found time to squeeze off a few photos. The following one was my favourite, shot from the parking lot as I packed the car before leaving.

My November highlight this year was a visit from our friend Daphne. She is thriving in the most unlikely of places: New Jersey, where she is an assistant professor at Rutgers University. You may be thinking: “yes, well Kris, New Jersey neighbours New York City, so despite your condescension, I am sure there are all sorts of opportunities in the Garden State for a bright, energetic woman like Daphne.” But you would be mistaken, as Daphne is not based at the main Rutgers campus in NYC-neighbouring northern New Jersey, but instead runs a marine research laboratory on Delaware Bay, in the swampy extreme south of the state. As I said: thriving in an unlikely place.

During her visit, I accompanied scientist Daphne to the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). This was my third visit to the centre, but I have yet to have the opportunity to visit the 27km of tunnels and four giant particle detectors that comprise its famous particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider. It is only open on the rare days when it is neither in operation nor undergoing maintenance. But the museum in the visitor’s centre presents well the mind-bending theories and engineering that underpin the work of CERN’s researchers. Here is a photo of Daphne peeking through the central section of a previous model of particle detector:

During Daphne’s visit, we drove to Basel for the opening of the city’s excellent Christmas market. Here is a photo of some cocktails and snacks at Münsterplatz, above the Rhine River, where a family was celebrating the occasion:

Juniper enjoyed the lights and sights of the Christmas market, and we three adults enjoyed the atmosphere and mulled wine. But instead of being an outright destination, the market provided a pleasant setting to visit with Daphne. We ate, laughed and walked – again with the short list of activities – and I took particular pleasure in seeing how much Daphne and Juniper enjoyed each other’s company. Here is a photo of the three ladies in the courtyard of Basel’s Rathaus:

 

What lesson to draw from this post? Memorable moments can shine through the grey and dark of November, so I will keep my eyes open when the days shorten at year’s end.

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Written by Kris Terauds

December 22, 2013 at 11:18

Posted in Photography

Tagged with ,

One Response

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  1. Great to see you blogging again. Love the photos.

    bsuryab

    December 22, 2013 at 18:54


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