Tag Archives: Switzerland

Friday Finds: What do you See?

What do you see?  Seems a simple enough question.  But sometimes, many times, we are so distracted by life that we don’t see life.  We don’t notice what is right in front of us, the amazing details, the small moments, all the little things that are really big things.  My Open to Delight series  is about being aware of those small details and moments.   One of my favorite quotes also reminds us to hone our See-ing muscles:

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”  Henry David Thoreau 

So my Finds for this Friday are wonderful examples of the practice of Seeing.  They both have a similar theme but what’s great about them is the simplicity of the idea.  You can do this, too.

Kjell Bloch Sandved, a Norwegian photographer, has searched and found the entire alphabet in the wings of butterflies.  You can read and see more by clicking here.

Adam Voiland, noticed patterns and letters in satellite images and searched until he could see the entire alphabet in those images.  Read and see more here.

In 2009, before I had read about Sandved’s or Voiland’s projects, I found the alphabet in Switzerland over the course of a week’s visit.  SwissAlphabet, See

I hope one or all of these projects will inspire you to open your eyes and your mind and practice your ability to see.  

Open to Delight

Have you been finding moments of delight?  Have you been looking for them?

Delight is often right in front of us but if we aren’t paying attention for it, we miss it altogether.  

It’s been a a busy month and at times, I’ve had to remind myself to pay attention.  Among time with family and grandchildren in May, there were many, many moments of delight.  Those are precious and not as hard to be aware of.  It’s those other times when it needs to be a conscious decision to look for the delight in our lives.

Here are just a few of the moments when delight showed up in my life the past several weeks:

In the spring, before the trees have leafed out fully, and after the sun has shifted to it’s spring position in the evening sky,  we have these light patterns on our living room wall.  It only happens for a month or so in the spring and I always enjoy  it when it shows up.

May Delights 1_©GSHaile

May Delights 1_©GSHaile

Unlike other parts of the world and the US, outdoor restaurant seating is not common here in central NY state.  Most of the year, it’s too cold, too wet, too much work for restaurants to have outdoor seating.  Many don’t bother at any time of the year but a few are willing to take that risk in the warmer months. Did I mention that I LOVE to dine outdoors?  So the appearance of these tables and umbrellas is most delightful when it happens!

May Delights 2_©GSHaile

May Delights 2_©GSHaile

Outdoor dining is one of my greatest delights!

May Delights 3_©GSHaile

May Delights 3_©GSHaile

As the lawn begins to grow in the spring, before it’s seen the blades of the lawnmower, our front lawn is COVERED in violets.  This is about one square foot of our lawn.  The rest was equally and delightfully populated with wild violets.

May Delights 4_©GSHaile

May Delights 4_©GSHaile

You cannot help but smile at the sea of violets.  I recently discovered there are actually practical uses for all those lovely purple blossoms.  Will have to try that next year.

May Delights 5_©GSHaile

May Delights 5_©GSHaile

We spent some time in Switzerland visiting family and being Grandma and Grandpa in May. Lots of delightful moments there!  But we also played tourist one day and took a trip up Mt. Pilatus.  Coming down on the gondola, this lovely little church, Klimsenhorn Chapel, appeared on the back side of the mountain.  It was so unexpected, and that is often a part of the sense of delight.

May Delights 6_©GSHaile

May Delights 6_©GSHaile

Another unexpected delight, was happening upon these two men practicing their Alphorns while we were hiking on the Felsenegg Ridge above Zurich.  Click here to listen to Alphorn music, a decidedly Swiss experience.

May Delights 7_©GSHaile

May Delights 7_©GSHaile

Seeing a blimp, or more correctly in this case a zeppelin, is always a surprise and delight.  This one was floating over the Zurich area to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Edelweiss Air.

May Delights 8_©GSHaile

May Delights 8_©GSHaile

Upon arriving home from our travels, the daffodils were in full bloom all over our yard.  One day as I pulled out of the driveway I noticed that the neighbor children had decorated the fire hydrant sign with daffodils from our yard.  I’ll admit to a brief moment of annoyance but then thought of the delight they had taken in creating this much more cheery sign.

May Delights 09_©GSHaile

May Delights 09_©GSHaile

When you are gone for a few weeks in early May, the grass seems to have exploded into growth when you return.  The lawn desperately needed to be cut but after my husband finished mowing, I went outside and noticed a small clump of flowers that he’d left un-cut under the oak tree.  He knew I would take delight in the way they swayed in the breezes and how pretty they were.  Mostly, the delight came from his gift of knowing  that and leaving them for me.

May Delights 10_©GSHaile

May Delights 10_©GSHaile

I discovered that these volunteers in the yard are part of the Aster family and known as Robin’s Plantain.  Playing with my camera to capture these images offered more delight.

May Delights 11_©GSHaile

May Delights 11_©GSHaile

Those are just a few moments when I found delight in the past weeks.

What have been your moments of delight recently?

Know anyone who would enjoy this post?  Be nice and pass it on to them!  Thanks!



Windows on Spring

Despite the fact that it’s not a Wednesday, I couldn’t resist posting today because it’s the first day of spring!  In this part of the world, it doesn’t always look like spring for a few weeks yet, but the vernal equinox is a window of hope that warmer, sunnier days are coming.  Spring is my favorite season, with all it’s sense of possibility and potential, so it’s a reason for celebration.

Windows are one of my favorite subjects to photograph.  Windows are endlessly fascinating and full of symbolism.  I pulled some particularly welcoming, spring-like windows from my collection to share with you today and remind you of what is to come.  These windows are all in Switzerland where people take great pleasure in adorning their windows with color and pattern and, most often, flowers.

Happy Spring!

This window and flower box seem to be waiting for spring.   ©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 1

This window and flower box seem to be just waiting for spring. ©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 1

©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 2

Primrose and mini daffodils in lovely pots adorn this city window sill. ©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 2

©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 3

Pansies and daffodils are some of the most delightful flowers. ©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 3

Even with just one small flower pot, this homeowner created a happy window on the world.  ©GSHaile  Swiss-Window-04

Even with just one small flower pot, this homeowner created a happy window on the world. ©GSHaile Swiss-Window-04

Geraniums are by far the preferred choice for flower boxes.  ©GSHaile  Swiss-Window-05

Geraniums are by far the preferred choice for flower boxes. ©GSHaile Swiss-Window-05

©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 6

©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 6

Such a happy shade of blue!  They even included coordinating Lobelia in their boxes. ©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 7

Such a happy shade of blue! They even included coordinating Lobelia in their boxes. ©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 7

Even the trim on this window looks like a series of smiles. ©GSHaile  Swiss-Window-08

Even the trim on this window looks like a series of smiles. ©GSHaile Swiss-Window-08

More geraniums!  ©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 9

More geraniums! ©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 9

Even this old farmhouse had it's bit of flowers.  ©GSHaile  Swiss-Window-10

Even this old farmhouse had it’s bit of flowers. ©GSHaile Swiss-Window-10

Christmas Market in Zurich

The Christmas Markets of Europe are legendary.  We spent the better part of November in Zurich, Switzerland with family.  The trip was mostly for the purpose of greeting our second grandson and helping out, all great fun but not the usual tourist activities.  We did, however, take  a few hours one day to stroll around the city and enjoy the Christmas season atmosphere of Zurich and it’s Christmas Market.  I wanted to give you a glimpse of the sensory feast that is Zurich at Christmas time.   (Be sure to also read the captions included with many of the images.)

Many towns in Europe, large and small, have Christmas Markets.  Zurich’s is located in the main train station, though the nearby shopping district along the famous Bahnhofstrasse also takes on the air of a Christmas Market.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

Zurich main train station, Bahnhofstrasse entrance.

The main train station is often teeming with people.  This was a “slow” Monday morning as we tried to avoid the crowds.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

A slow mid-morning on Monday at the Hauptbahnhof in Zurich.

The ubiquitous Mondaine clocks of the Swiss Railway, a smaller version of this clock can be found at every train stop in Zurich.  True to Swiss precision, they self correct every minute.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

The huge clock in the main station in Zurich.

As you turn around from the previous scenes, the Christmas Market fills the other end of the station.  Grüezi” is the Swiss German equivalent of “Hello”.   The huge central Christmas tree is dripping with thousands of Swarovski crystals. 

Zurich Christmas Season-1

All manner of items are on display.  My favorites were the intricately carved wooden decorations and the pop-up cards.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

Zurich Christmas Season-1

The Christmas Market spills over into the outside corridors of the station as well as along the famed Bahnhofstrasse.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

Just a few of the special foods that tempt in the Christmas market.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

In the US , our notion of “swiss cheese” is pitifully limited. This is a very small selection of Swiss cheeses.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

A plain pretzel from Brezelkönig (Pretzel King). You can also get them with butter, with cheese, with meat, and much more. There are pretzel stands on most every corner in Zurich.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

One of the many sources of chocolate. The Swiss chocolate shops are more like jewelry stores. This one even had a guard by the front door.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

Läderach chocolate Santas.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

Roasted Chestnut (Heisse Marroni) stands dot the city beginning in November.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

Christmas cookies are an age old tradition in most European cultures.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

Christmas cookies with intricate “painting” of traditional Swiss farmers.

I found this little pocket for Christmas  solitude and meditation in a corner of a shopping area.

Zurich Christmas Season-1


I hope you enjoyed this tiny glimpse into the Christmas market in Zurich.  It’s always fun to be exposed to traditions that are unique to our own but it also makes me pause to consider what my traditions are.  Take time to savor and appreciate the details of your family’s particular holiday traditions.

Something interesting in the ordinary

Way back in November, a friend asked me to speak at a professional photographers’ meeting. He wanted me to speak about how I find inspiration for my work.  At the time, August seemed a looonnngggg way off and I agreed.  Well, the meeting is tonight. 🙂

It’s been a very interesting and instructional process to think about and clarify what actually does inspire me.  No worries, I’m not going to give the whole talk here.

Once portion of it was worth sharing, though.  A critical piece to me is the practice of seeing, with a capital S.  Really being in a place and moment and seeing beyond the obvious to get at deeper levels of understanding.

On a trip a few years ago, I did what I call the alphabet exercise. I challenged myself to find the entire alphabet in images. Instead of going from main attraction to main attraction, only hitting the highlights, I slowed way down and really had to look deeply to find all the shapes.  Some may be a stretch, but that wasn’t the point.  The point was slowing down and really seeing, being present.

This quote from photographer Elliott Erwitt says it well:

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them. “  

How could you slow down and find something interesting in the ordinary this week? 

Swiss Alphabet ©Gail Haile

Swiss Alphabet ©Gail Haile

Please remember to share with with friends who would be interested.  Thanks!  Have a great week!

Windows, windows, and more windows

Last weekI shared some of my images of doors from a recent visit to Switzerland and promised that this week you would see a few of the window images that I captured as well.

What is it that is so interesting about doors and windows?  Of course, the Swiss know how to make a window interesting,  Shutters are a rainbow of colors, and most window sills support at least one flower box, most often filled with geraniums. I love the colors and the textures and the shapes. But also there is that sense of what stories could those windows tell, both from within and without?  Windows are, by nature, full of metaphor.  Take a look at all the quotes that use a window metaphor here.

I’m going to make a point to look for interesting doors and windows in my everyday world. Maybe I have been guilty of not seeing what’s right in front of me?  Perhaps I need to remember one of my favorite quotes from Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. ” Surely, the Swiss don’t have a monopoly on that sort of thing?  I’ll keep you posted.

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Doors, doors, and more doors

When I travel, I am drawn to photograph doors and windows.  Here are just a few of my favorite doors from my most recent trip to Switzerland.  I have hundreds more!  (Next week, I’ll share window images.)

Especially in areas of Europe that have buildings much older than our 2 centuries of old that we have here in the US the doors can be interesting.  Doors vary a great deal in design, color, complexity.  Whenever I return home I think about photographing doors here but there just doesn’t seem to be the diversity and uniqueness in our doors , at least in the places I frequent in the US.

Two questions always come to mind.

1. Am I not looking in the right places for interesting doors here in the US?

2. What is it about doors that is so intriguing to me (and other people, I suspect) ?

What do you think?

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Travel Reflections

I’ve spent a lot of time traveling lately…traveling by “trains, planes, and automobiles” with a hefty dose of walking.  We spent 3 weeks in Switzerland, spending time with family and enjoying some of the culture and beauty of that little country.

One day involved a train ride up the mountains to Gonergrat,  where we were treated to a  perfect view of the Matterhorn and the surrounding Alps.  It was truly awe inspiring scenery but it seemed too vast and amazing to capture in pixels.  I just soaked it in to my soul and will remember that feeling.  Another day involved a car ride through the lush green hills of the Appenzell region.  Those hills were dotted with geranium covered Swiss chalets and hundreds of Swiss brown cows.  Every bend in the road presented another postcard view of the area.  Again, it seemed that any images I captured failed to fully convey the essence of that place.  And, to me, those scenes, while beautiful, are obviously so.  Of course we see them and are inspired by the beauty.  We expect and delight to be astounded by such beauty.

Traveling by airplane usually involves a lot of time waiting in airports and most airports do not offer much awe inspiring scenery while you wait.  We don’t expect to see anything interesting or beautiful during those waits.  To keep me occupied while waiting  at the gate in the Zurich airport, I wandered around with my little point and shoot camera and captured reflections that I saw.  I’ve been playing with reflections for a while now so it was fun to continue that. There’s usually a lot of windows, therefore light, in airports and the floors are usually highly polished (especially in Switzerland where even the parking garage floors shine), so reflections abound.  It was interesting to watch for the colors and the shapes that were right under our feet if you only pay attention.

What beauty have you seen lately that was not obvious?

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Cobblestones: Mandala Monday 6/10/2013

In Europe, cobblestones are ever present.  Usually they tend to be more symmetrically laid out  than this group that I came upon while in Zurich.  Nevertheless, I liked the patterns that these randomly arranged stones created and was drawn to capture this image, isolating the stones and their patterns.  At first it seems a very monochromatic image but then you see the shades of  green moss at the edges of the grey stones and the brown soil and then that one reddish leaf  over to the left.  At the time, I didn’t think about making mandalas with the image but when I came across it later thought it could be interesting to see how those patterns might generate further patterns.  Wouldn’t it be cool to design a courtyard using one of these mandalas!?


Next week and after, I’ll be moving away from my Swiss images for a while to use some newer ones I’ve taken recently as well as a few I specifically have in mind to create in order to make mandalas.  I’ve been working in the garden a lot lately, where most of my considerable rock collection resides, and came across at least one that begs to be photographed.

Have a creative week!

Sacred Place: Mandala Monday 6/3/2013

The sense of time and history is very different in Switzerland (and much of the world) than in the US.  We think a 250 year old building in positively ancient.  I’ve been to Hugeunot Street in New Paltz, NY and marveled at the antiquity of these buildings dating from the 17th century Dutch settlers.  Strolling the streets of Zurich, you routinely encounter dates inscribed on the front of buildings to indicate when they were built.  Inscriptions from the 15th or 16th century are quite common.  The Grossmünster, one of the main churches in Zurich that was pivotal in the Reformation, was built in the 12th century.

We visited a monastery in Einsiedeln, Switzerland that has a long, interesting, and sacred history dating from the 9th century. It still serves today as a pilgrimage site, as well as religious and educational facility.  The church is impressive and quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the US (sorry, no photography is allowed inside) and the grounds are extensive and hold a sense of sacredness for all they have witnessed.

Today’s source image was taken on the grounds of  Einsiedeln Monastery.  There were several massive sycamore trees that were covered in moss and even grass growing between some of the branches.  I got close to the base of the tree and shot up towards the branches and the sky.  Most often with trees, I just shoot the branches against the sky and pay little attention to the trunk of the tree.   The different perspective made for some very three dimensional mandalas.

As you can see, I was having fun with this one.  At first, I thought I should eliminate a few to post here but couldn’t decide which ones should go.  So, a feast of Einsiedeln Sycamore mandalas for you! Enjoy and let me know which ones are your favorites.  Then I’ll share which ones are mine.