Friday, December 18, 2015

Joyeux Noel, A True Christmas Message


German soldiers of the 134th Saxon Regiment pose with men of the Royal
Warwickshire Regiment in 'No Man's Land' on the Western Front in
December 2014. Photo is in the Public Domain. You can read the
article HERE

I am returning for a third time to an earlier post about a film that still moves me deeply: Joyeux Noel, the 2005 film that was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film. This has become my favorite Christmas movie, and I watch it each year.

The individual stories highlighted in the film were fictitious, but the over all story is based on a true happening on a Christmas Eve in 1914, in the theater of war: Scottish, French, and German troops agreed to a cease fire, and put down their weapons to celebrate Christmas Eve. Bonds were formed. The next day, troops  even warned each other of planned shellings and offered refuge in each other's trenches when the shellings occurred.

Last year, the  Sacramento Bee published an article about this phenomenon, a phenomenon that occurred in several places across Belgium and across the Western Front. One such place was Flanders Field, (the site of John McCrae’s famous poem later, comparing the blood of slain British warriors to red poppies.) 

On Christmas Eve, German soldiers began playing music familiar to both German and British soldiers. Soon an informal truce was struck. Troops visited each other, gave each other food and small gifts. Some played games. For a little while, Peace broke out. Afterwards, as in the movie, army generals made sure it would not happen again. In the following war years, at Christmastime, generals stepped up the fighting to ensure no one would even think of a truce.

For all three military groups, the only thing that saved troops from being tried for treason was the fact that 200 or so in each case would have to be tried. Instead, all the participants were transferred to other fronts to make sure such an event wouldn't happen again.

Joyeux Noel is a remarkable film--a reminder that we are human first, and that the human impulse is toward peace. It is the political impulse that moves nations to war.

So here it is, the New Year on its way, the Christmas message hovering still. We still live in a troubled world, wondering how to meet the challenges.

Best wishes for a time of true peace, when people can be united again in their common humanity.

What is your favorite Christmas movie?


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Return to Pacific Grove

Pacific Grove in the afternoon.
I've been meaning to post ever since we got back from Spain, but life and work intruded -- in a happy way. I'm working on a new story, to be included in an anthology coming out next year.
Though I've kept my nose to the grindstone, it's made my blogging lackadaisical. Then Thanksgiving came -- a wonderful communal gathering with my beloved god family -- and after that we went to Pacific Grove for the weekend. Pacific Grove, Monterrey, and Carmel have long had a shared place in our hearts. We come back when we can, like homing pigeons, to walk the beaches and visit the art galleries in Carmel.

We spent both mornings in Pacific Grove, driving, then walking along the sea wall, enjoying the slate-blue of the distant waters, the foamy white ruffles of incoming waves, the soft hush-sh-sh of waves rippling and splashing on rocks, the muffled roar of larger waves, and the kwee-dkwee-kwee of the seagulls that soared and swooped from rocks to shore and back again.

A distant boat on the endless waters.

A lone seagull, taking it all in.

Rocks that jut up like sculptures.

And a rock littered with roosting gulls.
That was the ocean view.






On land, the ice plant that makes a fuchsia-colored carpet across the sand in spring was bereft of flowers, but it glistened in green and red tones like stained glass.

A path of beauty.

Fall colors like stained glass

Someone staring out to sea.













For years I've wanted to visit the Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, an "overwintering" spot for monarch butterflies, November through February each year, free for viewing. This time we did. Look closely. Nature has truly devised a great safety system for these delicate creatures;
At first we thought they were only dried
Hundreds of butterflies with folded wings, looking like
so many dried leaves in their wonderful camouflage.
leaves hanging from trees--and not
pretty leaves, at that. And then a little
kid pointed them out to us! "They're
in camouflage," he said. (Smart kid!)
We looked again, and were amazed.
Hundreds upon hundreds of folded
wings. Camouflage indeed!

One butterfly opened its wings









Both afternoons, we drove into Carmel to enjoy the many art galleries. We have certain galleries we particularly like: One is Classic Art Gallery. One is the Carmel Art Association, a collaborative gallery that features work by local artists and puts out a lovely small catalogue each year that is like a book of art gems. You can visit them HERE. We also like Jones & Terwilliger Galleries.  But actually there are so many good galleries, an amble through them is like an amble through several fine art museums.

Because Rajan is into black and white photography, we stopped by two photography galleries we've always enjoyed.

One is the Weston Gallery. They are featuring a color show in one section at present, but they specialize in the art of some of my husband's favorite black and white photographers: Ansel Adams (his hero), Edward and Brett Weston, Yousuf Karsh, Michael Kenna, Imogen Cunningham . . . . You can click on the name of the gallery above, and, once there, click on the artists and see wonderful samples of their work. The other is Photography West Gallery, featuring some of the same artists, all working in black and white film (my husband's first love) rather than digital.

Both afternoons we stopped by a charming restaurant/bar called Grasings on  6th and Mission, and had a glass of crisp Chardonnay. The place had a soft, warm atmosphere and a friendly staff, and it made for a nice pause in the day.
Hubby's ear in lower left corner. :-)

A nice pause in the day.
 My birthday was Monday, but since we would be driving back to Sacramento that day, we celebrated Sunday evening at a little French restaurant in Pacific Grove. (Or maybe it's Monterrey: those areas run into each other, and I'm never quite sure. )

                                              It's called Fifi's Bistro Cafe , a reasonably priced, charming restaurant with a cosy atmosphere. Fifi was there that evening, as it was the restaurant's 30th anniversary. She's French, of course, and she looked casually chic, as the French somehow always manage to do -- black dress, red scarf, hair tumbled back in a clip. We are not dessert eaters, but when she found out we were celebrating my birthday, she insisted on bring an order of flan for us to share, and she brought a beautiful red rose to the table, scattering the petals over the white tablecloth. How French!

I have a lot of questions in this post: Have you ever seen the monarch butterflies wintering over in some location? (I understand there are quite a few; not just Pacific Grove.) Do you have a special affinity for the ocean? Do you enjoy black and white photography? What is your favorite art form?