a bluer moon

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Super Moon on the Costa del Sol back in May

When I was a kid, I loved the moon. Not sure why I was always so drawn to it. I remember being very small and waiting at the bus stop in winter and looking up at the moon with wonder and awe.

One of my favourite summers when I was a younger man was the summer of 1996. I spent the summer playing at the Aspen Music Festival, studying with musicians Bil Jackson and Dennis Smylie, and working part-time at the Stew Pot in Snowmass Village, which is less than half an hour up the road from Aspen.

Why did I love that summer so much? Although I can give many halfway decent answers, I’m going to have to blame it on the Blue Moon. When you have two full moons in one month, the second is a Blue Moon.

There were many good things that happened then, as well as many frustrating and overwhelming ones. One memory comes to me again and again. It was the end of August. We’d had a fantastic Summer Season, in which we played some masterpieces of the symphonic literature. It was all winding down, and most of the musicians had said their goodbyes.

It was bittersweet. A part of me knew that we’d shared something magical that summer. I was driving down a deserted mountain road outside of Aspen, and Neil Young’s song ‘Harvest Moon’ came on my radio. In that moment that the song’s opening guitar sounded, the Blue Moon
appeared from behind one of the mountains.

For a split second, everything was just alright with me and the world. I can count on one hand the number of times that’s happened in my life.

We have another Blue Moon this month. Tonight’s the first one. Then later in August, the Bluest of Moons is on its way. I can’t guarantee anything, but I get a good feeling about the whole thing. That the Blue Moon here in 2012 might be the best one yet.

‘Come a little bit closer/hear what I have to say.
Just like children sleeping/We could dream this night away…’

my rays of sunshine

Before there was even the thought of Ella and Louis – the Magyar Vizsla brother and sister that I talk and write about a great deal – before them there was a dog who came walking up to our car on a little road in southwestern South Dakota on the way from Sturgis down to Colorado. There was no intention of taking this dog. None. She was a mop of very dirty black hair, and looked painfully hungry. After giving her a bit of food, she jumped into the car and insisted that she was coming with us. Clearly of her own volition.

Lyle in snowy Colorado

Her name was Lyle, and there was something about her that I’d never experienced as a dog lover. See when I was a child, we always had dogs. My brother Michael had an incredibly strong connection to each one, but the very first dog, Dandelion, lived an astoundingly long time and he was especially fond of her. So much so that when she died, he was unconsolable. From my perspective, this was preposterous. ‘What’s wrong with you?‘ I wanted to ask him. ‘The old dog’s gone, which means we get a brand new dog. Maybe even a puppy.‘ He only wanted Dandelion. Once again, this made no sense to me.

So, back to Lyle. Brought her to Germany, and she was my only responsibility in the early days when I was still polishing my German. She’d run alongside my bicycle as I went to get papers from the main train station. She’d watch German television with me and offer sympathy when I insisted that I’d never get this language.

She was the perfect café dog. For hours, she’d sit next to me as I nursed my tea (sometimes even a coffee) and read book after book in my native tongue and sometimes even struggled through the daily papers in the adopted one. She was simply happy to be alongside me.

You see where this is going, right?

Lyle and me

In late January 2005, Lyle was healthy one day & violently ill the next. Before I could even consider taking her to the vet, she was up through the night unable to sleep. Took her out to the street in the middle of the night and she desperately wanted to go deep in the snowy bushes and be left alone. I held her the rest of the night and sometime around dawn she died in my arms.

I was suddenly my brother who I’d ridiculed. For months, I cried everyday. She had been my companion in such dark, frustrating moments. I didn’t want a shiny new puppy. I wanted Lyle.

Still brings tears to my eyes when I think about her.

Sometimes you really need more time to grieve the passing of a pet. And anyone who says they need more time…

I completely understand that. Without reservation.

But in this case, the only way to still the waves of inconsolable emotions was to get a new dog. Or in this case two new dogs. Then there it was written in the local Munich paper:  ‘Hamburg family has Magyar Vizsla puppies‘. Went to get them at Easter time. In the photos, they were still tiny. They were anything but small when I first saw them. The thing that sealed the deal for me was Ella laying next to me on the bench at the family’s house in Hamburg, and she began to purr. Just like a cat. She still does it to this day. It’s easily the most adorable thing she does, which says a lot. Louis was very standoffish. Over the years, he’s grown to become anything but that.

Here they were when they were still quite small:

Louis (on the left) and Ella as puppies

And if you know me at all, you know that my day revolves around these two. Happily. I’m sure I’d go outside if I didn’t have them begging to be taken, but I wouldn’t go as often. Or for as long.

I literally have hundreds, if not thousands, of photos of them. I’m loathe to include too many, but here are some of my favourite:

earnestness
Ella listing to the port side
in the autumn leaves
Going up Wendelstein-one of our favourite hikes
serious glove tug
goodnight happy dogs

Happy Birthday my rays of sunshine. You give so much more than you take. Thanks to all of you reading for loving them too.

going up up up

looking up up up at Eze

What is it about me that even when I’m on a beautiful coast, I want to go up up up? That’s a rhetorical question. No way you could begin to answer that.

The previous post was about the devil’s bridge that connects Eze with the towns heading west towards Nice below. As nice as the winding roads were going up there, once there I looked out across the high coast and something in me had to go higher. In the distance I saw la Turbie and we were off. Much less tourism in this little village with the Trophy of Augustus sitting atop the summit.

Here that is:

Trophy of Augustus

But after all that climbing, albeit in the car, the next goal we pushed on to reach was Peillon. Read somewhere that this was a destination that the locals headed off to to get away from the bustle of the Riviera. This we had to see, right?

The village of Peillon sits perched atop a cliff, and from a distance looks impossible to reach. Not only impossible by car-this place doesn’t look reachable by hiking. My kind of place. The narrow, winding roads reminded me of some of my favourite places in Colorado.

Of course the discussion while driving eventually came round to whether traffic going uphill or downhill has right-of-way. It was a moot point, because there was practically no oncoming traffic (uphill drivers should have right-of-way for the record).

Then, there we were-atop the cliff.

Peillon

And the most curious thing? While we were up atop Peillon, I read about a hiking trail climbing farther up into the mountains. If you supposed I wanted to go up immediately, you’d be right.