Saturday, May 10, 2014

Voltaire, Rousseau, and Donna-Lane

D-L outside her 1st home in Switzerland
I got a glimpse Saturday into why Donna-Lane loves her adopted country of Switzerland so much.

We drove out to the north side of Lac Neuchatel, a couple hours from Geneva, to Peseux and Motiers. Peseux was the town where D-L first landed a job in Switzerland, which is no easy feat for someone not from Switzerland and especially if you're from outside the European Union and need someone to sponsor a work permit. Motiers is the village where she lived during those three years when she worked at Interskill.

For those of you who don't already know, D-L had wanted to live in Europe from the time she read the Beverly Gray mystery novels ( as a young girl. Beverly Gray traveled the world having adventures.
When she left the Peseux office each work day, D-L drove over the mountain and through the picturesque Val de Travers ( to the village of Motiers, home to probably fewer than 1000 people,  of which Donna-Lane and her two work companions may have been the only 'foreigners.'

The 20-25 minute drive is incredibly peaceful with views of the majestic Jura mountains, the deep valley, rolling pastureland where cows graze, a couple other small villages enroute. This indeed is a very different Switzerland from the international city culture of Geneva. More like the village of Argeles-sur-mer, where we live in southern France, yet even smaller.

D-L showed me the building where she had her 1st apartment in Motiers ... the streets and fields where she used to walk her two Japanese Chin dogs ... a store selling absinthe (, a highly alcoholic drink which originated in the area and was banned for many years ... a cave in a former monastery where we purchased some award-winning Mauler family champagne ... and the building "where Voltaire slept" when he visited Rousseau.
Voltaire slept here
Geneva-born Jean-Jacques Rousseau was one of the great political thinkers of the 18th century, called "
one of the most eminent enemies of hypocrisy." He promoted a society in which people are free and can have their say. For this and other views he was vilified by the ruling elite, and for a time he fled to Motiers, then part of Prussia. While in Motiers, Rousseau was reportedly visited by the French philosopher Voltaire (the pen name for François-Marie Arouet), who advocated freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state.

While she lived in Motiers, D-L wrote portions of her novel, Running From the Puppet Master. The lead character, Leah, lived in Motiers for a time when she was on the run from a tyrannical and politically connected husband. Donna-Lane showed me where the fictional Leah crossed the border into France on foot in her attempt to flee to freedom. 

D-L showed me as well a stream that worked its way down from the mountain and the dirt path alongside where she often walked the dogs. Near the source of the stream at the base of the mountain, there was a small waterfall where the rushing water splashed across moss-covered stones and into a shallow, crystal-clear pool. She told me how she would have a picnic on the bank of the stream, sometimes with her daughter Llara when she visited, sometimes with a friend, often with just the dogs.

During a very challenging time in her life, Donna-Lane found great peace by this simple stream in a remote and movingly beautiful part of Switzerland that few people have ever seen. She told me that this is the place where she'd like her ashes to be scattered (though not anytime soon).
High above the stream on a rocky outcrop, someone mounted a representation of the Swiss flag. So if you ever pilgrimage to Motiers to remember the great writers who are associated with the village - Rousseau, Voltaire, and D-L Nelson - the flag on the stone will confirm you're in the right place.

Taking a different route back, as we often do in our adventures, we passed beneath the Château de Joux, which dates to the 11th century as a fort, in Pontarlier, France. D-L said during WWII, the Germans used it as a base from which to launch raids into Switzerland.
As we crossed the Jura back into Switzerland and descended toward Lausanne, we were treated to spectacular views of Lac Leman and the snow-flecked Alps beyond.

Donna-Lane has been a Swiss national since 2005. It took her 15 years to earn her Swiss citizenship, and she cherishes her adopted country and nationality with a passion.

She took a chance on a little place she'd never even heard of in a country she'd never even visited. Both she and Switzerland are the better for it.

For a quick summary of Donna-Lane's life and career, visit our website at

To learn more about D-L's novels and other writing, check out her website at

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