O say can you see?

With all eyes on the US this week, I’m inspired to begin with the opening line from the American national anthem.

I never learned the words to the ‘Star Spangled Banner’. When I went to junior high school south of the border, we most often sang ‘America the Beautiful’. It is a softer song, more musical and less military, much closer to my heart. Way beyond either of those anthems in beauty was yesterday’s performance of ‘Amazing Grace.’ That hymn stirred my soul and brought back memories.

My family moved from Toronto to Minneapolis in 1969, the summer I turned twelve. We lived there for four-and-a-half years before returning to Canada. I was a sophomore in high school at the time. And if moving from Ontario to Minnesota had been traumatic for an innocent Canadian girl on the cusp of adolescence, leaving it was worse.

I didn’t feel American but I was no longer quite Canadian either. I’d left Toronto a child and returned a teenager — many coming-of-age moments behind me, and with all the fear of missing out of one who is dragged away, kicking and screaming, from the party.

It’s been a very long time since I returned to the States, even longer since I’ve seen some of my old friends. But the country and its people still hold a special place in my heart.

What do I see when I look at this great country now? Joy. Hope. Rebirth. Renewed faith in democracy, however fragile it still seems. As we watched yesterday’s ceremony from afar, the rest of the world breathed a huge sigh of relief. A French commentator spoke of awaking from a nightmare. That about sums it up. It’s been a long four years.

Change of scene to the photo above and my current reality. Around here, all eyes are on the mountains that surround us. And the landmark where we live now in Central Switzerland is this distinctive pair of peaks: der Grosse Mythen und der Kleine Mythen (the big and the small Mythens). The Mythen mountains, pronounced ‘mitten’ in German, bear a certain resemblance to a fine pair of…what, hmm? When I look at them I see not cleavage, but mittens. A pair of hands, held up in triumph, warmly enclosed in wool. They guide me home, geographically and spatially challenged as I am. More on the Mythen region of Switzerland later. For now, let’s celebrate the beauty of turning a page, of both looking back and looking forward.

What do you see that makes you smile?


  1. Mary Katherine K Graetz · January 21, 2021

    Well, who would’ve thought that Bernie and his mittens would become a world-wide phenomenon in the last 24 hours? That’s gotta make you smile. And if the last 4 years felt like a nightmare in Europe, just imagine it over here! It’s been like being underwater, and I’ve just finally clawed my way up for air. Lots of hard work to be done, but you couldn’t slap the smile off my face right now. AND, I got vaccinated yesterday!

    • MELewis · January 22, 2021

      Ha ha…there must have been some jet lag — that meme took awhile to reach our side of the pond. Hilarious! I have some mittens like that — wonder if I can get a good price online? Congrats on coming up for air and getting the vaccine. Woo hoo!

  2. acflory · January 21, 2021

    Cheering from Australia. I watched that young woman delivering a poem of courage and hope, and I got a little teary. Reverence for human life and simple humanity have been sorely missing for a while now, not just in the US but in other Western countries as well, including my own. Thank all that’s holy, the Australian states did the right thing re Covid and forced our Federal govt along for the ride. Life trumped the dollar, if you’ll excuse the pun.
    But it’s not over yet. I hope all my international friends stay well until this virus is finally defeated.

    • MELewis · January 22, 2021

      She was quite something, eh? The youngest poet laureate ever and well-deserved indeed. Glad you are staying safe in Australia. And I’m glad to finally get the word ‘trump’ back! 🥳

      • acflory · January 22, 2021

        lmao. Yes! We can finally use the word as it was intended instead of as a..ahem, never mind. 🙂

  3. Colin Bisset · January 22, 2021

    Everything felt brighter, clearer, crisper and generally better with that inauguration. I kept thinking of Marie Kondo and getting rid of things that don’t spark joy – well, Trump NEVER sparked even a smidgen of joy so good riddance… For me, on my morning walks, seeing dolphins enjoying the surf sets me up for the day. Nature, like your mountains, tops everything.

    • MELewis · January 22, 2021

      Good analogy with the Marie Kondo. I wonder if he is capable of sparking joy for anyone — himself incuded? No, I take it back. Life’s too short. I’d rather imagine you and the surf and the dolphins. Breathe deep!

  4. davidprosser · January 22, 2021

    What made me smile this week was hearing both Kamala and Joe Biden speak about their plans and I got the sense that his reaching out was completely genuine.It’s a terrible shame that his hands are being batted away The whole ceremony was, as intended, quite moving and since then my smile has got bigger as a certain person is not in my face anymore, oh, no I didn’t mean the bird. he’s there OK..
    The young poet was quite remarkable, no wonder she’s the Poet Laureate.
    One big disappointment was the handling of one of my favourite songs It’s not Amay……………..Zing Grace, you could fit another verse in that gap.I think he needs to listen to Judy Collins.
    Massive Hugs as always Mel. Stay safe please.

    • MELewis · January 22, 2021

      What a relief to have Voldemort out of our newsfeeds, eh? For four years I’ve been trying to ignore him and hope he would go away, as bullies often do when they don’t get our attention. 😏 So much to love in that inauguration. I was blown away both by the young poet and by the power of the song. But I love the Judy Collins version of Amazing Grace. Best ever. A very safe, socially distanced hug to you, Lord David!

  5. margaret21 · January 22, 2021

    It’s lovely to feel the freedom and joy from your American friends who’ve commented. I feel it too, but he’s not been quite so directly in my face, since I’m not American. May Amanda Gorman continue to inspire us all with her eloquence and spirit!

    • MELewis · January 24, 2021

      Funnily enough, I lost interest in Trump’s outrageous antics early on as I also felt that American politics were not our politics. But the fact that his name dominated every newsfeed for four years, and that he wreaked so much havoc internationally, made him hard to ignore. Thanks for mentioning Amanda Gorman by name — hers is one worthy of remembering!

      • margaret21 · January 24, 2021

        I thought so. She’s worthier than Trump.

  6. Garfield Hug · January 23, 2021

    In answer to your question…Garfield makes me smile! Love your post as it looked back at your past. So honest and heartfelt🤗

    • MELewis · January 24, 2021

      Thank you so much! I am very grateful that Garfield keeps you smiling. We all need a muse (and to be ‘amused’…). 😁

  7. Ally Bean · January 23, 2021

    Looking out my front window into the leafless trees makes me smile. It’s winter here and with Joe in charge there’s a new vibe in the air and I see possibility ahead, both for the trees and our country. Yep, I’m smiling.

    • MELewis · January 24, 2021

      And so you should be! Love the image of the tree branches with their potential of leaves to come. Here’s to a brighter tomorrow! And to Joe! 🥂

  8. JP · January 30, 2021

    At first I thought those were the Grand Teton mountains of Wyoming – delightfully named by a couple of mischievous Canadiens !

    • MELewis · February 2, 2021

      How did I never make that connection with ‘tétons’? Lol. Of course they were FRENCH Canadians!

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