Friday, July 29, 2011

The changing skies

Pelican flying high

The ever changing skies fascinate me, there is so much movement above me and
dance like the clouds change positions...

I love the sky here in the morning, the light wakes slowly over the east facing sea. From darkest night-bluish gray still fringed with stars to beginning streaks of lighter tones, slightly graying above the horizon, first deep orange red beams, slowly slowly filling the sky until a red hazy sun emerges on the horizon.

Not every morning rises like that. Some days a gray light emerges and the clouds hide the sun completely. Changes come fast!
Two days ago stormy winds brought rain and more rain, drenching the small island until
small rivers of water run down the streets. Once in between the sun broke through and magically lit the storm.

Later in the evening the heavy clouds were swept away, leaving nothing but a blue firmament, laced with feathery white wisps high above me.

I wish I could show you the glorious night sky! Imagine it dark, blackest blue, but oh-so star filled. I hear nothing but the brandishing sound of the never-ending waves, far out I can see a few lights of fishing vessels and behind me the stretching strip of land, with it's houses, which become smaller with every step I take. My feet feel the warm waters...
But above me stretches the universe, the awe-inspiring summer night sky of the northern hemisphere. I see the Milky Way, the Great Wagon  and his small brother, countless constellations and the moving dots of airplanes and satellites. I open my arms wide and let the wind fill me with happiness.
Looking up I see more then one shooting star flickering through the sky and I send my wishes out there, for us to be kept safe by the great embracing spirit of all!


All pictures by V. Zlotkowski. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Pink golden sunrise, the early rays glide
liquid like over the gentle morning waves.
Facing the light the moon pales 
and sparkling sand melts into the edge of the water.
My soul reaches the clouds.


Images and poem by V.Zlotkowski. All rights reserved 2011.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Impressions from the South

The gate to our house on Hilton Head 2011

When I was a child the closest to the ocean I could get was the Baltic Sea at the East German coast line, with one large island - Ruegen - and several small ones, almost entirely reserved for the communist elite. Our quarters at the sea "resorts" were usually cramped and rather primitive.
The waters were cold, but the beaches pristine and often undisturbed.

Many people living up there made an extra income by renting out their garage, converted for summer rental for whole families.

Usedom 1965

If you were lucky the company you worked for would send you and your family at little cost to an organized vacation spot, a large place with dorm like living and central eating places, were you would get food stamps for your daily allowance. There were hardly any shops, smallest island traders with nothing but the bare necessities like soap, dry goods, milk, butter and bread. A bakery sold fresh rolls, that was all. People had hardly any kitchens and I remember my mother at times cooking on a two flame propane gas stove on top of a sideboard for a family of five...There was of course no air condition and summer nights were often unbearably hot.
Don't get me wrong, we children loved it and the circumstances were such, that we did not wonder about it. We did not know any better. My parents must have surely felt different about it.
My grandmother told me of wonderful beach vacations, when they rented a villa for the season, lovely beach restaurants providing fresh seafood...
It all ended with the beginning of WWII.

Zempin, ca 1925

Fast forward more then forty years at Hilton Head Island: I am sitting under the slow moving fan at a wonderfully screened in second story porch, an Carolina peach ice tea in front of me, the soft breeze caressing me. I am looking through palms towards the sea, a minute away from the beach, pelicans overhead and nothing disturbing the summer peace but the cries of the sea gulls or the occasional sounds of children nearby splashing in the pool next door.

The house we've rented for the summer is large, my in-laws spending the summer with us, our teenage children having ample space for themselves and apart from a fully functionally home away from home - actually better - since I enjoy a lovely walk - in closet (!) we miss nothing. 

Thinking back to these days many years ago, when all we had as children was a shovel and sand bucket and perhaps a beach ball it still amazes me and I am so in awe of these summer perfect days we can enjoy now. I guess these memories and impressions are strong. Every time we find ourselves in these lovely circumstances I have to think about the summers of my youth. Of course it's me and my husband, since we both experienced similar upbringings, our children basically seeing it as perfectly normal....

Hilton Head is charming, we rented bikes for the weeks we are here and getting my morning coffee at a small cafe some minutes away by bike is a lovely ritual I have established by now. There is a different rhythm at the island. 

Lively activities very early in the mornings, when the heat is still bearable and joggers, bikers and dog owners share the beach or the perfectly laid out paths through lush vegetation. There are countless spots to eat small meals, breakfasts or dinners, markets sell the freshest produce: sweet juicy peaches, cool watermelons, ripe tomatoes, plums and apricots. I hardly ever get these kind of tasty fruits in New York.
The slow days are wonderful, no extensive planing is required, we sail through them casually and lazy, from beach to pool to riding our bikes along the backwaters through the Lowcountry...

I watch the birds. I am fascinated by the prehistoric feeling of the flying pelicans. They glide effortless, hardly ever flapping their wings, but instead getting carried by the warm currents and only occasionally diving into the sea to hunt for fish.
They look like bands of hooligans, a little rough, but I love them.
I see gulls, egrets, herons, South Carolina cardinals everywhere. It is simply a paradise.
The area around Hilton Head is also one of the largest breeding grounds for dolphins. They can be seen often. 

The island has a rich history reaching back to the days of slavery, plantations, cotton picking, rice planting and the Gullah culture is still witness to those long gone days.
Savannah is nearby, the wonderfully preserved city of the old South, were I have been walking for hours already under the live oak shaded streets and dreaming my way into living in one of these beautiful houses, the old French living culture alive all around me.

People are so welcoming and the Southern drawl is incredibly charming, the slowness of living so enticing.

Perhaps my yearning for beauty and colors, great homes and design stems from those years of missing it, longing for things I only could imagine or heard from stories my grandmother told me so many years ago.

I am deeply grateful.

Greetings from the Southern coast!

Pictures by V.Zlotkowski and via google image.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Vacation and a road trip

I have always loved the excitement of a road trip. The preparations of the journey, the planning of routes, accommodations, sight seeings along the way and the choices of restaurants and last but not least the arrival at one's destination.

Our travels will bring us to South Carolina, a place I love, not just because there is such beauty in the name, but because of it's history and lifestyle. There is certainly a Southerner hidden within me! The slower pace and the French influences, the style, charm and language are dear to me and to spend more time then the average tourist in Savannah,GA adds to the thrill of this year's summer time.

We will stop over near Raleigh, NC. The small town of Wilson will shelter us for the night. The kids are all excited about the hotel and pool after a long journey!
And to sink into the jacuzzi will be IT for hubby and me!

My book list has been modified to put us in the mood and we will listen on the road to our well loved audio version of John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
A story only life could create so incredibly and perfectly captured by Berendt's effortless prose. Storytelling comes easy to him and this one will hold me tight again. My fascination with crime stories, the South, a slew of eccentric characters, all fueled by his unwavering eye for details will delight me like the first time I read the book, more then 10 years ago.
And no summer is complete without the typical beach readings, easy and fun, entertaining and amusing!
I picked Karen White's Charleston based stories The House On Tradd Street and the sequel to it: The Girl On Legare Street!

Of course there are so many more good reads, loose yourself in a bookstore on any given sweltering day and you surely will find one of those lovely stories, wrapped in local hues, which can transport you to your destination of choice!
Just the other day through this lovely blog I came to discover another Paris story: Hidden In Paris. You can buy it here! The chain reactions in the blog world are sheer endless, one of the many things I so adore about it! 
This tip came from the charming Vicky of French Essence.
Thanks, darling!

Our annual family vacation brings us to a lovely island in South Carolina, only about twenty miles outside  Savannah, GA. 

A beach house awaits us, there will be lots of bicycling, tennis and walking, beach combing and long nights poolside with clam bakes and wine under the stars. 
And I will write about my impressions, dreams and plans.

I will lure my husband to discover Savannah again with me. We will walk hand in hand along streets lined with spanish moss covered oaks and across many small squares. It is something I can't wait to do. Small cafes await...

We've been there for one night years ago on route to Florida. This time it will almost feel as if we were moving there for a while. This truly tickles my fancy!
Yesterday's Sunday breakfast

Still at home we have pulled the traveling bags from the attic, the quiet place were our summer dreams camp over the wintertime. Stickers from last years travels to Italy are a reminder of the wonderful time we've all had in Tuscany!
This year will again see all of us together, in-laws, our older children from Germany and the youngsters here!
My packing list sits on my desk, bedroom dressers are open and I can't wait to start packing!
Between bathing suits and sun cream, snorkel equipment and ballet flats, sundresses and shorts I dream of my toes in the sand...loosing myself a little on an endless beach! 

I hope your summer as well comes along nicely, relax and refresh, wherever you are.


Pictures as indicated, via google image (map) and my own.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Early summer heat

The early summer heat unravels me. I try to tend the garden, but by late morning the hydrangeas look dead. Only the cooler evening air will revive them. For good measure I am going to water them longer tonight.
I hope for rain, but there are no clouds. 
The midday heat hangs heavy over the garden, the house sits quietly.
There are no sounds.

It's the year of the chipmunks, I watch them play among the flowers and bushes. They are allover the garden this year.
And oblivious to me watching them.

Later in the afternoon the sky begins to look a bit bluish gray.
And then gets solid, there is no blue left. More rumbling above.

I move outside and sit under the umbrella on the small stone patio behind the house and begin to write. I love how it has cooled enough to enjoy the garden. I feel the wind caressing my bare arms and neck, the sweat under my hair begins to dry.  It darkens more and the dog slowly walks over and stretches out next to me. He looks at me warily. The changes of weather make him always uneasy. I weigh the options for rain.
The happy sounds of the two little girls next door carry over the fence and make me smile. 
I feel the rustling of the wind in the trees around me.
My hope rises.
Birds begin to twitter again, but the swallows fly high in the sky. Too high for showers. 

An airplane crosses above. I can't see it but hear the faint rumble of the breaking sound barrier. 
Another stir and gust of wind, stronger now. But looking up into the sky all I see is the reemerging sunshine behind the trees, westwards over the Hudson.
It has blown over, no rain yet!

All images by V.Zlotkowski.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Love in a cold climate

You might agree with me: Relationships between parents and their teenage children can be straining at times. Perhaps particularly between mothers and daughters.
Having raised only sons before I am surprised by the fierce opposition by which my 14 year old daughter challenges me. I am slowly getting used to one word answers to well intended questions, or the angry motions with which I am complimented out of her room. That I am in her mind completely lost when it comes to questions of fashion is something I know by now - I am hopelessly old fashioned - and my passions are more then boring. Reading versus texting? Playing piano when I could listen to an Ipod?
I have been reduced to graceful pick ups at midnight and tours to the mall, handing out cash and otherwise staying in the background.
Cooking is not required either, since other mothers provide much more sophisticated meals then I do.
Family time consist mostly of our core family. Mother, father, youngest boy.....and occasional visitors.

After having succumbed to my status I was more then touched, when my girl hopped on the large parental bed a few nights ago, where I was reading late and she suddenly opened up with shining eyes about an older boy who had asked her out...
My husband joined us minutes later and we had the most wonderful, intimate and heartfelt conversation about the pursuits of love. Oh, how I cherish these rare minutes.

Next morning all was obviously forgotten and she left me for the day with a few well placed rude remarks.  Sitting in the car with tears in my eyes I wished her to the furthest camp available. (NOT HAPPENING) Angry and helpless I vowed never to let her bother me again like that!

In the evening I picked her up and she had brought back a small package for me.
Wordlessly she felt I must have forgiven her, but this small gift showed me more then this. She had thought of me, while with her friends out there, perhaps our quarrel must have left her as uncomfortable and sad like me and I realized once more how we both in our mutual disapproval long for each others love.
She had shopped in my favorite place and remembered...

I unwrapped a blue and white mug with my initial and although the handle had not survived the journey (Rather symbolic, don't you think?) I fell in love with it instantly! While we hugged each other I thought how I hold her and her gift close to my heart and it shall remain there, reminding me throughout all these surely to come rough times of our love for each other, our bond.

It takes patience and understanding to deal with a girl smart and independent beyond her years, but it takes unconditional love to endure the sometimes heartless moments between us! 

Slowly growing up and feeling that we can live with each other without loosing independence is something I wish for her to discover. And to still be kind.

Slowly giving her the freedom she so requests and trusting and hoping she will know right from wrong is something I have to learn even faster then I thought.

And in-between there will hopefully be a steady trickle of the things I want her to feel one day all by herself:
Love, compassion and patience!  

I am of course not telling you anything new. 
But I have learned that sharing these difficult moments eases the pressure. Hopefully it makes us feel less lonely in our journey as parents, knowing that we are not alone in our quest for parental skills which might carry us through tough times and good ones alike...

So long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen!

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