Some of the greatest pleasures in life are free. We all know of the pleasure to be enjoyed from the sunshine when it warms up our face/body with a gentle intensity and we then lean our head backwards and close our eyes as if to abandon ourselves fully to this feeling of pleasure. For people who live in a temperate climate, as it is the case for us here in Switzerland, there is intense pleasure to be derived at this time of the year from natural elements such as snow, water or ice.

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Saturday afternoon, as I was finishing to read a book on Romanesque churches as places of energy (see the book cover a few pictures below), I interrupted my reading several times to look through the window at the snow flakes which were falling gently on the balcony, the railings and the pots of plants as well as on the patch of open space below us. I even moved my armchair to be able to watch the steady fall of the flakes without having to turn my face. Seated on a comfortable armchair, my eyes set on the movement of the flakes and on the snow, I had the impression that my mind was drifting with the flakes. I felt that I was in ‘meditative mode’: what a great experience, quasi-spiritual in its intensity.

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The following morning (Sunday), we had some nice sunshine. So I simply knew that I had to go outside to take in as much as possible of this beautiful landscape available near home. A former university professor (who had taught two different academic disciplines) as well as a former mountain guide and the founder of a famous mountain race (Sierre-Zinal) once said that it was necessary to prepare oneself for the short and miserable days we have here in winter by visiting beautiful mountain landscapes in summer so as to be able to cope with such days. I agree with him only in that we have to make a living so that we might be at work when there is fresh snow around and the sun is shining strongly. However, when this happens on a Sunday, there is simply no excuse not to go out and enjoy such beauty (unless of course one is ill). This is precisely what I did yesterday – by the way, I got to enjoy a very interesting conversation with these two men in the background; the flag is that of the canton of Vaud: green and white, just like nature and snow yesterday. 😉

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When I go running to this area, I usually like to stop by the waterfalls. Yesterday, I was surprised to find three candles on the ground near the waterfall which is easiest to reach. Interesting, as I am sure that centuries ago the Celts would pay their respect to water here because the name of the forest is of Celtic origin (a deity associated with ‘light’). However, I hope that the person who lit up the candles will have come back and cleaned up the ground. Somehow I felt that this flame flickering in the wind was a good metaphor for the frailty of the human condition.

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Then I went to the second waterfall. Even though I got my feet wet, it was well worth it. I must have stayed a good quarter of an hour listening to the gush of the water and enjoying the reflection of the sun on the water, the rocks and the snow. How soothing it was; so much so that I did not even feel the weight of my rucksack (burdened by a second pair or running shoes, spare socks, gaiters, a water bottle, etc.).

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At the third waterfall, I moved a little closer to the water, but still not sufficiently close to be able to take a shot of the icicles without having to use my camera’s zoom. It was so energising that I felt a deep longing to go under the waterfall so as to immerse myself with it fully. No, I can assure you that it was not on my part a death wish as in Robert Frost’s poem ‘Stopping by woods on a snowy evening’; it was simply a very strong desire to be one with nature!

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As I was about to leave, the wind blew some flakes off the trees and off the bushes on the bank of the river. A haze of white and light, as if Belena was saluting me and concealing to my eyes the sight of the chimney of the awful waste incinerator in the far distance — what a stupid idea to have set this monster next to such a place of beauty (there is a verb for this phenomenon, ‘to desecrate’).

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I ran uphill until I reached ‘civilisation’ again. I saw my name written on a van parked at the foot of some ugly blocks of flats. I took it as a wink that I had to continue with my ‘quest’ as it were.

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So I decided to go to the cathedral of Lausanne, Notre Dame (Our Lady), to put to the test some of the information I had read the previous day in that gem of a book on Romanesque churches — although I knew that Notre Dame of Lausanne belongs to Gothic architecture.

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Whilst taking this picture (west entrance), somebody almost hit me with the door while he was exiting the cathedral; so I tried to start a conversation with him about the symbolism of the sculptures, which is now lost upon us. He replied that he had just been to Budapest’s cathedral and that they had damaged the sculptures while cleaning them. So I repeated my point about the symbolism (by specifically drawing his attention to some of the symbols) and I told him and his wife how unfortunate it was, in my opinion, that it no longer meant anything to us, although it must have meant something for the people who went through this entrance some 800 hundred years ago. He kind of acquiesced, but seemed rather unfazed. So I wished them a good stay in Lausanne and I went in.

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A concert or a religious ceremony (I am not too familiar with Protestant liturgy) must have been held not long before because there was a lot of movement of people still going on. So I went to the south entrance of the cathedral to admire the magnificent sculptures there. But it was hard to concentrate as there were two people (from the choir?) who were talking about their singing experiences just next to me. It was so strange to see people come in (this entrance is now a closed space to prevent the light from damaging the paint on the sculptures), but they would not stay for long. People no longer seem to be able to take the time or the effort to discover beauty, probably because they have been used to immediate (or quasi immediate) gratification as when they switch the television set on or reply to a text message.

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So I left the cathedral and walked through the old town downhill to reach the railway station where I would buy a ‘croissant aux amandes’ for my wife. I stopped at Payot to look at the books in their windows. Several titles caught my attention, including this one.

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Back home, I got to see this bird. This bird (or his brothers/sisters) sang so many nice songs for us last year; so we feed him/her (as well as others) on our balcony in winter; in turn, his presence makes us so happy.

See, simple things can make you happy.

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