A teeny tiny vacation

26 08 2011

Today is the second anniversary of my skating accident. August 26th, 2009 is a day that will live on in infamy – read all about it here, if you wish.

Physically, I’ve pretty much recovered. I do still have some pain when doing a handstand or a cartwheel, and the flexibility in my left wrist is probably about 95 percent of what it used to be. But I can live with that. Psychologically, however, I still have trouble when I am traveling at speed and faced with a situation where I have to trust others to react correctly. I have a split-second to chart and signal my path, and I just never know what that other nutcase coming towards me – be it on a bicycle, attached via leash to a dog or with composite rubber wheels strapped to his/her feet – is going to do.

In celebration of two more or less accident-free years on skates (not counting my two splashes during last year’s Berlin Marathon), I decided to go for a mini-hike this morning, close to home. I had always wanted to walk up the hill that rises up high above the town I live in, near Zurich – to diversify my training and take a break from my rollerblades for a day. At the top there is a cafe with a terrace that features a panorama view: the city is to the left, its eponymous lake front and center, and the Alps rise off in the distance to the right. It’s simply spectacular.

...isn't it?

A cable car links the town in the valley with the recreation area on the crest of the range… the altitude difference is probably only about 400 meters but looks like significantly more. This is my preferred method of getting to the top, usually in anticipation of that wonderful, frothy latte macchiato that’s waiting for me there. But today’s mission was to propel myself up the trail as long as the weather held and it wasn’t too hot.

Cable cars are for wimps, anyway.

After about 15 minutes along, I decided that the next time I see the words “very steep ascent” on a hiking trail sign, I will believe them.

But the quiet (except for my heavy breathing) and the solitude of the forest (except for the baby snake lying across the trail that jumped about a foot as I approached, scaring the bejeeses out of me) felt like a little tiny vacation from real life.

Once up top, I decided that it was too soon to go back and continued on along the ridge for a few miles. Somewhere, I took another path back down I had never gone before, passing idyllic meadows with cows grazing peacefully in the sunshine. Arrived home after about 2 hours, soaked in sweat, knowing I had done my duty for the day.

What a great morning. What a great workout. Sometimes the world really is alright.

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Requiem for Pascale

18 07 2011

It was just another cold and rainy Sunday afternoon, one that passes for “summer” here in Zurich. I had gone out for a walk in the mud and some fresh air, and when I returned, the SMS message was waiting for me.

“Please call me,” from probably the last person on earth I expected to hear from on a Sunday. Something was up.

I called.

Gayle answered by saying my name: “Evelynn, Hi.”

“Hi, what’s going on?”

Silence.

“What happened?”

“Evelynn, I have to tell you…. I… something bad… ”

She couldn’t even say the words.

“What happened? Is it about Pascale? Did something happen to Pascale?” I had sent our mutual girlfriend several messages the days before and had received no response. That was not like her and I was starting to wonder.

“How do you know?”

“I DON’T know… Know WHAT? Tell me! What happened?”

“Evelynn… Pascale is… Pascale is dead.”

And then she told me about how she just found out that our friend went hiking alone in the southern Swiss canton of Ticino last Thursday, slipped, and fell off a mountain. How an emergency search & rescue helicopter later found her body among the rocks in a deep ravine.

She was 38 years old.

Full of life, with boundless energy, and ambitious plans. With a smile as wide as Montana.

Pascale was my nordic walking buddy. She lived in the next town over and we would often meet to gossip and stride through the rolling meadows and woods that straddle the two municipalities. In summer we enjoyed brilliant sunshine, in the company of cows, and savored the smell of the flowers and grasses in bloom. In winter we would meet after sunset, the short days making for frigid and sometimes treacherous going on icy paths.

That was our favorite time to walk and talk: in the dark, making tracks after a fresh, quiet snowfall.

Pascale was the co-snow-bunny I featured right here in my blog a few months ago. On skis she was mostly fearless, but she never let me take her flying.

Pascale and Gayle were colleagues at a previous employer, and the three of us remained friends even after she and I quit our jobs there. We all are just a few years apart, similar in physique and character: tall, with long, straight, dark blond hair, athletic, extroverted, loud and very demanding of ourselves and others. We always wanted so much more out of our lives and careers than the men we had to work with were willing to concede.

We got together for regular ladies’ lunches and dinners at swanky restaurants across this outrageously expensive city to have a fantastic meal, philosophize about life and celebrate ourselves.

Our last ladies’ lunch was just two weeks ago, also on a Thursday, at a hip Fusion-style restaurant just around the corner from the workplace where we first met almost exactly five years earlier. For dessert we ordered champagne, toasted each other and the great things that lay in all of our futures. We wondered how much fun it might be to start a business together.

I still see Pascale standing on Zurich’s busy main commercial avenue, Bahnhofstrasse, that afternoon. She was wearing a light blue blouse and slacks, and carried a large white handbag. The pearl bracelet on her wrist jingled as she checked her phone for messages. We said goodbye, kissed each other three times on alternating cheeks.

“Don’t be a stranger,” I said.

“I’ll call you,” she responded.

With a flick of her long blonde mane she turned away and melted into the crowd.

Pascale. March 4, 1973 - July 14, 2011.





On the road again

23 05 2011

So did the world end last Saturday? I have been so out of touch I wouldn’t have noticed. But somehow it seems like the same place it was prior to May 21st, 2011 – the date all those religious conspiracy-theroist wingnuts, who misused every medium in the country, tried to convince us that The Rapture was upon us.

Looks like Judgement Day came and went, huh?

But that’s kinda why it’s taken me so long to update my blog… I didn’t want to do all the work, you know, for nothing. Just wanted to wait and see if we would still be around after last Saturday.

(And we are! Great!)

I’ve been traveling with my husband and some friends, and have not had time to unpack my computer, let alone look at email or check up on current events since about 10 days ago. I have gone totally radio silent on Facebook. My FB friends are probably wondering if I drove into a ditch or something. Withdrawl has been brutal.

I don’t even know what day of the week it is. (Thursday?)

We have been on a whirlwind tour of the southwest USA, doing things like…this:

Early morning hiking in Grand Canyon. (May 22, 2011)

Our friends – two lovely Swiss folks who have been to the United States only twice before – are thankful guests, and the ultimate tourguide R. has been showing them everything this great part of the world has to offer.

My own role as the sidekick has been to provide the color commentary, filling them in with useful (and useless) USA-flavored information, mostly comprehensible translations of common Americanisms and vignettes from my own childhood in small-town America.

They often greet my explanations with blank, puzzled looks. There is clearly a clash of cultures going on here.

And fun as it has been, I have noticed that I am stressing out quite a bit about not getting enough alone-time. Prior to our roadtrip I spent 2½ months in my own little Evelynn-Starr world, doing all sorts of Evelynn-Starr things whenever and however Evelynn Starr felt like doing them. And now I have to share my time and my space with three other people. It’s been a rather rough re-entry into social life.

Complicating things is that our travel companions are somewhat novice. Imagine innocent camera-toting tourists underway in a foreign country where they don’t speak the language or understand the humor. I need not say more – you’ve all seen them, you know what I am talking about.

So I have decided to take a break from group activities, just for a few hours, to recover a bit of sanity. At this moment, I am sitting on the 18th floor of the Aquarius Casino and Resort in Laughlin, Nevada (also known as “Little Las Vegas”). I just won 50 bucks at a blackjack table downstairs and retreated to my hotel room in order to take some time to stare out the window at the Colorado River and think.

Just call me the Lone Rangerette.





Swiss summer fun

28 07 2010

Summer brings everyone outdoors. It’s warm, beautiful and the days are long. But nowhere does summer entice the population to spend its time outdoors more than in Switzerland. The Swiss have perfected the art of being perfect – clean water, clean air and pristine landscapes – and as soon as it starts to smell and feel like summer outside, the Swiss are off gallivanting through their own personal playground: the Alps.

Now there are about a million crazy things you can do in the summer with the Alps as your backyard (and another million in the winter). I had never heard of most of these so-called “high risk sports” till I arrived here six years ago. Oh sure, usually harmless pastimes like hiking and mountain-biking are popular here, too, but please – only if the path hugging the side of the mountain has a 40% grade, is less than a foot wide and drops off into a deep ravine on one side.

Here’s a short list of stuff I’ve discovered that looks cool, is cool and inevitably ends up claiming a couple of lives every summer. The activities all involve moving vertically somehow, usually from higher ground to lower ground, in a more or less controlled fashion. A good reminder that gravity is a law and not an option.

Base Jumping – This is the craziest of all and the one that is probably responsible for the most casualties. Definition: Jumping from fixed objects. B=building, A=antenna (or tower), S=span (i.e. a bridge), E=earth (i.e. a mountain edge). You freefall and pull the chute just before going splat.

Look ma, no parachute!

Canyoning (known as canyoneering in the U.S.) entails hiking up a mountain and then traveling through its canyons using a variety of techniques that may include other outdoor activities such as walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling, and/or swimming. I’ve done this and it’s incredibly fun. Canyoning combines agility, strength and a healthy love of heights – on land, in the air and in the water. Often though, there is only one way out – down. Some important safety information, found on the internet: “There is great potential for injury for the unlucky, the reckless or ill-prepared.”

Paragliding – Jumping off a mountain with a kind of sophisticated parachute (called a “paraglider”) open already. On a pleasant day, paragliders can fly for hours with only the thermal lift to carry them. Their colorful chutes often dot the summer sky across Switzerland and sometimes pose a hazard to low-flying aircraft. Getting one tangled in your propeller can be messy.

Spectacular view

Tobogganing – This is the summer version of the luge in winter. You sit in a plastic or metal tub and careen down a mountain in a metal canal. If you use the brakes you’re a sissy.

Via ferrata – Italian for “iron road” – a form of rock climbing that sends you on a mountain route equipped with fixed wire cables and artificial hand- and footholds. It allows non-climbers to try real mountaineering. One website reminds potential athletes that in order to actually enjoy your outing, you need to be “fearless”.

Rock climbing for beginners

Summer adventure, anyone?