Saturday Six


1. We went to a friend’s the other evening, and I took along (what else?) a pie. I’d made it with griotte cherries, which are dark and tart. Our friends were asking about the filling (we were trying to translate griotte across languages — one person was born & raised in Switzerland although she’s half Norwegian, one is Serbian, another Austrian). I explained how simple the pie was — I’d barely done anything — just the fruit, 2 T of flour, and 1 or 1.5 T of vanilla sugar. They all expressed surprise at how little sugar I used. Our Swiss friend said, “It takes a real baker to trust the flavor and not add anything to try to augment the taste.” I hadn’t been thinking in terms of baking techniques, just that I like the flavor of the cherries and don’t like overly sweet baked goods. The decision had been instinctual, not intentional, but her words reminded me of writing — a good writer knows when to stop adding (plot points, characters, metaphors, etc.), and this is why spare, clear prose is so challenging to write. Sometimes I think it’s easier when you don’t know all of the options you aren’t exercising!

2. For several months, I’ve been looking forward to narcissus season. I learned about it while doing my usual Swiss research and knew that it only lasted for 2-3 weeks in May. With our cold and rainy spring, narcissus season was delayed this year, which gave me enough time to Plan Narcissistic Things. I found some excellent alpine hikes and a site that provides daily flower forecasts. I asked Andrew to reserve Saturday for hiking — the weather had finally improved, and many of the fields had started to blossom. On Monday or Tuesday, I realized that the weather and flower forecasts were lining up for Friday. All of the fields would be in bloom. The day would be clear with good visibility and temperatures in the low 70s. Saturday would be warm but overcast with possible thunderstorms. So I invoked the freelancer’s prerogative: to swap Friday and Saturday. Today is a work day. Yesterday, we hiked. And it was gorgeous.

Click for a high res version — the white on the grass is all narcissus flowers.

3. After we climbed to the summit of Les Pléiades and were ready to begin our actual narcissus hike, we realized the trail markers our map listed didn’t line up with those at the crossroads. We were standing there with a printed out trail map and some notes when a family stopped to see if we needed help. The father looked over our map. In a perfect instance of cross-cultural Dadness, he reviewed the marked highlights, gave us extra pointers, and noted an interesting area that was off of our trail but “worth looking for.” This was all happening in French, of course, and I was really excited when I grasped that he was telling us about marshlands (I learned the word for marsh a few weeks ago when I was reading about Yverdon-les-Bains) and carnivorous plants! I couldn’t translate what kind, just that there were mosquito-eating plants. We went off the trail a few times to explore, and our mountain hike ended up going through meadows, woods, and a marsh — which I found by stepping in it. Oh that squelch of mud between your socks and the soles of your shoes. Who has two thumbs and needs waterproof hiking boots?

But I recognized the area from his description, and as we kept walking, I spotted a carnivorous plant!


This was especially exciting because I never spot anything — Andrew always sees things first. But a friend of ours made a bog in his front yard and he has a beautiful pitcher plant growing there so I recognized this one right away. We kept going and found an entire bog of Sarracenia!

The narcissi were gorgeous, as was the view, and pictures can’t capture the clean, mountain air, or the constant, gentle ringing of cowbells, or the spicy scent of flowers, like lilies but not as aggressive. But I was beyond delighted by this bog and our off-trail adventure, which was all about serendipity: meeting a man who happened to know the trails well, stepping into a marsh, and then recognizing a plant from a friend’s personal bog. The planned adventure needed an unplanned complement to truly come together.

4. Speaking of French comprehension, we’ve had an outstanding issue with our management company since March — the incessant construction caused flooding in our storage unit, and they offered to pay an indemnity to make up for the damage and inconvenience. We were fine with the solution and glad they made the offer on their own, but they didn’t follow through. We followed up several times. Still nothing. I finally withheld the amount of the indemnity from rent after 2 1/2 months of reasonableness. Within 24 hours they sent a demand letter saying we hadn’t paid our full rent and if we didn’t pay within a few days, they’d take action. REALLY? I was super steamed — and what recourse did we have? It’s not like we could call collections on them. So I wrote an epically reasonable letter in English AND French and sent it. The next day they paid the indemnity, officially forgave us for subtracting the indemnity from rent, and apologized. Yay! SO glad that’s finally settled.

5. I think I found where the Weasleys live.

6. In 4th grade, we ended each of our Language Arts/Social Studies (LA/SS) units with a play. In our Greek mythology play, I was Narcissus (girls’ school, so no gendered casting) and one of the Fates. All of our lines rhymed. I only remember little bits (“We are the goddesses of Fate / Even Zeus considered us great!”) but part of what amused me so much about the narcissus walk was remembering my scrawny, short, 9 year old self reciting:

I am Narcissus
a beautiful youth.
All the young nymphs loved me
and that’s the truth!

Wearing a white sari draped to look like a chiton, of course.

© 2016 Anindita Basu Sempere. 
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