Music Monday: “Nuages,” by Django Reinhardt

Happy Monday, everyone!  As long-time readers know, Monday is the day I share a favorite music track.  Sometimes it’ll be related to my writing, but sometimes it’s just something I like and want to share.  That’s the case with today’s track.

Django Reinhardt (1/23/10 – 5/16/53) was a Belgian-born French guitarist of Romani descent.  Two of his fingers were disabled in a fire, so he developed a completely new and different style of playing:  “hot” jazz guitar.  He played in the Quintette du Hot Club de France with violinist Stephane Grapelli, and toured all over Europe.  He’s been cited as an influence by a diverse group of musicians ranging from Sir Paul McCartney to Tommy Iommi and Willie Nelson.

Please enjoy this recording of Nuages, by the aforementioned Hot Club Quintet, featuring Django Reinhardt.


Blogging from A to Z: N is for Notre Dame de Paris

Catherine paced back and forth in front of the cathedral, trying to keep warm as she waited for Farukh. At least the weather was dry. She had wondered more than once over the course of the week what had made her ask Farukh for supper; she could have bought him some small gift, after all.

layoutBut then she remembered his cat-like dance down the institute’s hallway and could not help smiling.

“I hope you have not been waiting too long.”

Catherine hadn’t even recognized him as he approached. She’d been watching for the admittedly dreadful beard … which had been trimmed into chic submission. His thick black hair was wind-tousled.

“No, not long.”

“Your cheeks are red from the cold,” he smiled … a smile that rendered him more handsome than Catherine had expected.

“Well, the restaurant is not far.” She pointed down the way. “Just past Shakespeare and Company, in the Rue de la Huchette.” — From my novella, His Beloved Infidel

nNotre Dame de Paris is an impressive example of French Gothic architecture.  It’s the first known example of flying buttresses — but they were not part of the original design.  As the weight of the stonemasonry increased during the building process, they were added to keep the walls from collapsing.

It’s also the oldest continuously-active church in Paris, with construction begun in 1163 and completed in 1345.  The night we visited, I lit a candle for my French teacher, Mademoiselle Lois T. Sato, who had passed away just two months prior.  A Vespers service was taking place … and shortly after we left, the giant bell, Emmanuel, began to ring out to let citizens know that a new pope had been elected:  the man who would become Francis I.

Of course, it’s not Monday here without a song, so here is “The Bells of Notre Dame.”

(Photos of Notre Dame taken by the author.)

Blogging from A to Z: H is for Humane Society

hIf you’ve known me for any length of time at all, you will soon hear about my passion for animal rescue and humane education.  I was always the one bringing home a stray cat or wanting to adopt a puppy from the box outside the grocery store, as a kid (I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, in a rural part of Oregon … that was a common sight at the time).

I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up, so that I could help animals.  Unfortunately, that dream got put on the shelf.  While my language skills were in the tippy-top percentile, my math skills were not.  It was not until adulthood that I learned I had dyscalculia.  Anyway, those math grades were enough to keep me out of veterinary school, so I put that dream on a high shelf.

IllustrationCut forward to many years later.  I volunteered as a cat socializer, adoption host, and dog behaviorist at the San Francisco SPCA in the 1990s when I lived in the city, and I had a houseful of pets — all of them rescues.  My Wednesday evenings were spent connecting people with new best friends, or helping shy cats if there were no customers.  Saturdays were an all-day affair of helping people train their newly adopted dogs.

Then I was divorced and moved to a different town.  I got custody of the pets, but I wasn’t volunteering anymore.

That didn’t change until after I remarried, moved to San Jose and, tragically, lost a 14-week-old kitten to an incurable disease called feline infectious peritonitis.  I felt helpless; I didn’t know what to do.  My husband brought home another kitten from Humane Society Silicon Valley, which was very near our home.  I didn’t feel quite ready for a new pet, but I came to love that little cat dearly as she snuggled with me and purred almost immediately.

When that kitty, whose name is Lulu, was about a year old, I felt very strongly called to volunteer at HSSV.  So, I took some orientation courses and started training.  I decided to work with the more aggressive and challenging cats, because I had one of those at home (her name was Abigail) and knew that they could be great pets if they came to trust humans.


I’ve been volunteering there for more than six years now.  I often tell people it’s the best things I do all week.


In the wake of the unexpected death at age two of our cat Teddy, due to cardiac thrombosis, I put together a memoir based on the journal I kept during my first year volunteering at HSSV.  It’s called Hugs and Hisses: My Mission of Love as a Shelter volunteer.  Teddy was, like Lulu, an HSSV shelter alum.  I had the permission and cooperation of the shelter’s staff, and I do not accept one dime of royalties; I donate every bit I earn to HSSV to help other animals in need.  In fact, this week I’ll be sending the first quarter royalties off to them via their donation link.

I would love it if you would consider buying a copy of the book, but it’s not mandatory.  It’s available via Amazon or Barnes & Noble in either paperback or eBook form, as well as in eBook form via Smashwords, Kobobooks, and Apple’s iBookstore.

As always, it wouldn’t be Monday without some music.  In keeping with the theme, I chose this clever video from SPCA of Wake County, promoting the adoption option.

Blogging from A to Z: B is for Bayou

bWhen I was doing my research for Bayou Fire, I took two separate trips to New Orleans.  During the second one, I took advantage of an opportunity to go out onto Bayou Bœuf.  It was amazingly peaceful, and I soon put away my camera to just enjoy the atmosphere.   I learned a great deal about the wildlife and plants thanks to Captain Brian Torres, who was our skipper that day.

Bayou Bœuf

The first thing you should know is that a bayou is a calm, slow moving body of water typically found in a flat place (like much of Louisiana).  Bayous are home to a surprisingly large amount of wildlife, such as nutria, snapping turtles, egrets, blue herons and, yes, alligators.  Because I was there during brumation season, I didn’t see any.  Captain Brian kept apologizing for this, but there were so many other neat things to see that it didn’t matter.


An egret in Bayou St. John

Bayous can be wide or narrow … but one of the things that can make them wide is coastal erosion.  This is a huge problem in Louisiana, where they are losing the equivalent of a football field every 10 minutes or so because of it.  Causes of coastal erosion include pollution, climate change, and levees — because rivers that can’t flood can’t deposit silt.  The barrier islands that used to protect the Gulf coast from storms are gone now, and so every storm that hits the region means more damage because there’s nothing to slow it down.


I also visited Bayou St. John, which is adjacent to New Orleans’ City Park.  There is an island in the center where Marie Laveau and her daughter, also named Marie, were reputed to hold voodoo rituals on St. John’s Day and All Hallow’s Eve.  It’s a beautiful and quiet place, readily accessible via the Canal Street streetcar line.

If you would like to learn more about the importance of the bayous, both economically and environmentally, I recommend reading Mike Tidwell’s Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Monday without a song, so here’s John Fogerty’s “Born on the Bayou.”

(The photos included in this post were taken by the author.)