30 April, 2007
Recently, an old friend of mine, who I’d lost contact too, sent a nice short email with her new address in New York. After receiving this life sign, I wanted to find some way to instantly get back in touch with her, find out what has happened in her life in the meanwhile, and to communicate to her about my life. And then I figured out how to do this… I sent her the url to this blog! It is one of the brilliant experiences I’ve had with my blog.
Even though, what I tend to write about are those insignificant incidents in my day-to-day existence, or just the random wanderings of my mind, there is still “enough” there for her to discover the flow and ebb of my life these last years. What could be nicer than that?
29 April, 2007
I just got back from a three-day writing retreat at my favourite holiday apartment (here). The weather was spectacular. The rap fields in bloom. And even though I didn’t do any new work, I did work on some older projects and came up with a few new ideas that I’m rather excited about.
Note to self: when things start getting too busy, when my inner balance tilts in the direction of chaos, when no ideas are surfacing... pull the handbrakes and just SLOW DOWN! And then, voila, everything slips back into place. It’s as simple as that!
26 April, 2007
25 April, 2007
The only thought that anchors me into a “living life as it comes” mental state, is the feeling that my husband and I are roll models for our children. Their futures will probably be a series of career changes, whether voluntary or not, and so, at least superficially, I feel it is important to appear as if we can handle the situation: no matter what it might be this evening.
To mark the occasion, I’ve decided to celebrate the job-or-no-job status this evening. There is a new Syrian restaurant down the way, which we’ve wanted to check it out for some time. I’ll tell you later whether our toast to the family was a grateful sigh of relief, or a (somewhat forced) smile to new fortune.
P.S. Later. My husband's group and two others have to wait another six weeks to find out their fate. Breathe deep. Breathe long.
24 April, 2007
23 April, 2007
We are out sailing on Lake St. Louis (Montreal, Quebec). The wind blows hard. I go down below to lie on the forward bunk. The boat charges through the water: sometimes rocking, sometimes ploughing, and sometimes skipping along.
The boat heels so far over that I am lying more on the side of the hull than on the bunk’s cushion. The water surges along the whole length of my body. There is only a layer of fibreglass, a membrane between me and the deep dark depths below. This is, I imagine, as close as it gets to being back in the womb.
22 April, 2007
Both my grandfathers were primarily responsible for the upkeep of the gardens.
Grandpa H.’s large generous back garden bordered on a river and it had numerous flower beds, a much smaller area with vegetables, a tool shed, a pump, a freshwater well, and manmade islands that we could row amongst in his lovely red rowboat. He kept numerous birdfeeders on the tree outside of the kitchen window. Every morning we would watch the birds feast. His garden activities were divided between the birds, the plants, and the water life. It was an enchanting place.
My grandpa B.’s backyard was full of fruit trees and it had a large vegetable garden. It boarded on a school playground. The school children would often creep under the fence and steal fruit (plums, peaches, and apples) from grandpa’s trees. During the hot sultry summer afternoons, adults whiled the hours away, sitting on the porch, drinking lemonade, and watching (or not) us children playing in the garden.
Sometimes we were allowed to bring out our grandmother’s big jamming pots and fill them with water and play in them. This only happened when we were small. Sometimes there were squishy squirmy caterpillars eating up all the leaves on the trees. Their nests were large, sticky, and grotesque.
Today's poem is about the magic of the waterside plants, Snakeshead Fritillaries. I like to think that there might have been some of these plants in the tall grasses bordering the river at my grandfather's back garden.
21 April, 2007
It has been one of those rollercoaster weeks. Much to my dismay, I discovered at the beginning of the week that I had lost my bankcard the previous Friday. By the time I realised this, the culprit had done a fair size of damage to my account. Somewhere to the sum of five thousand euros. I’m one of those people who live from one pay cheque to another, so this sum that the thieves took, I didn’t actually have. For those of you who have built a healthy amount of savings, or for those of you who live constantly in debt, it is hard to describe my sense of deep dismay when I discovered I was, as of that moment, in debt.
I spent one day travelling back and forth between the bank and the police station (where I had to place charges against the thief). These are not situations I do well in or with carry through with any sense of authority. Though, I did manage to think and talk logically and I did not melt into butter until I came home.
Now, here is the miracle… The bank, which allowed the thief to withdraw nearly four thousand euros at their bank desk (false signature), and the stores who let the thief purchase a thousand euros worth of merchandise, are giving me back my money. Every last cent. Oh, Happy Days!
This poem describes so well the feeling of celebration that I experienced upon hearing the news. And this next poem depicts the giddiness that followed.
20 April, 2007
Yesterday, Time Goes By’s author, Ronni, wrote nicely about the background of this wonderful video. Please read her post and watch the video. Hats up and a toast to the members of the group, The Zimmers!
The irreverence, wisdom, the joy and fine sentiment of elders has inspired me. In the short time I've been listening in on their blogging conversations, I've learnt to admire their might.
Here’s a toast raised to those who never lose sight of life’s intrinsic need for change… (here):
The Poet of Bray, John Heath-Stubbs
And a toast to those of us who pursue misguided endeavours in hopes of finding or claiming love… (here):
From The Irish, Ian Duhig
And most touching of all, with warmth and sadness, a tribute to a friend, a story of delicate impropriety… (here):
At the Grave of Asa Beneveniste, by Roy Fisher
19 April, 2007
What could be more exciting than to hunt a hanging piñata with a broomstick? Hitting it as often as you could before you are torn away by the adult overseeing the game, and the broomstick was handed over to another child.
It doesn’t really matter who hits the animal so that its guts spilled forth candies; everyone gets a thrill and their fill.
Years after we left Venezuela, my father went on a business trip to various South American cities. He arrived back in Montreal, having carefully lugged a piñata through one airport to another – you could not buy them in Canada then. What a surprise that was!
Today’s poems talk about the thrill of belonging, and why it is meaningless (here), the yearning to fit in and not succeeding (here).
18 April, 2007
My grandfather and father in Valois Quebec, Canada, 1967
When my grandfather and father were alone together they used to have long conversations about my father’s business. Years later, I would overhear my father having the same conversations with my brother about my brother’s business. The conversations were very intense, but the men’s body language communicated such ease and apparent enjoyment of the ritual.
They would be saying, “Fiscal earnings, backup orders, field problems, economical trends, inventory reductions”, but what they were really saying was, “So glad to see you, you are dear to me, I am proud of you … I love you.”
Today’s poem is a gorgeous, raw, genuine portrayal of that intense instinctive rush of love a father experiences for his son.
17 April, 2007
Until I was an adult, my brain was under lock and key: behind the door of (undiagnosed) dyslexia. Behind this door, my imagination ran wild. I went off on adventures. I had many exciting imaginary friends. I spoke secret languages. I possessed mystical powers. I could read. None of the adults in my life suspect any of these things.
My teachers certainly did not believe I could read. Yet, I could. We belonged to three different libraries and I was a voracious reader from early childhood on.
The banality of “See Jane jump. Jump, Jane, jump.” mind-numbing content, my difficulty to read out loud or spell properly, deterred my teachers from discovering my passion for reading. How could they have known otherwise since I kept the workings of my mind under lock and key?
16 April, 2007
Today’s poem does not have any direct connection with origami art. It is called Piss Flower and it’s written by Jo Shapcott. The only association I can come up with between the idea conveyed in this poem and the art of origami, is they both are whimsically marvellous.
15 April, 2007
He belonged to a generation of hard working, risk-taking, and adventure-seeking men. In German you’d say he was a person of “large format”. My dad always told us that his whole ambition in life was to be a Grumpy Old Man. His grandchildren didn’t call him grandpa, but Grumpy, as a term of endearment. I wish I'd remembered to tell him what a magnificant job he did at being grumpy. He was simply marvelous.
Today’s poems (here, here, and here), blog posting (here), and homage (here) are all dedicated to the Grumpy Old Men of the world. God bless you and hold you dearly.
14 April, 2007
When people first discover that in our small four-member family microcosm we have three different family names, three different countries of birth, four citizenships, and six grandparents originating from four different countries, they often say, “How exotic!” What they really mean is, “How confusing”. And these are the people who are not fazed easily. The other ones, those who are easily fazed, tend to give the Disapproving Look, and try, not always successfully, to keep their unkind thoughts to themselves.
For some of us, it is not easy to explain relationships and connections in our family. Questions like: where do you come from, or who are you, tend to make us contemplative not communicative. Our lives are not paved along straight lines, nor are they supported by any ordered grids. They are certainly not exotic, though they are, at times or in some situations (e.g., international customs line-up), very confusing.
The disadvantage of being “different” is that people constantly, often daily, ask, “Where are you from?” Even strangers. People who have no business asking. Yet, interestingly enough, the advantage of being “different” is that people constantly ask, “Where are you from?” Thus forcing me ask myself the question as well.
Do you live in a situation or place where you are asked this question all the time?
Today’s poem, but not only this poem, all the poems of Jackie Kay explores so tenderly this idea of “Where are you from?” I cannot listen to any of her poems without my heart bursting and being moved to tears. What she says makes me realise that in the deeper meaning of confusion there exists straight lines of basic truths and love’s lattice or grid.
13 April, 2007
Springtime is magical because you never know what to expect. And even if we are mentally prepared for Anything and Everything, if is a rare thing to embrace the good with the bad. Here is a blog post from Mata H. of BlogHer; who doesn’t believe in just grinning and baring the discomforts of a cold rainy day, she manages to celebrate the rain.
Today’s poem (here) is from Valerie Bloom. In this lovely piece, she explains how people feel the changing of the seasons in countries that do not experience spring, summer, autumn, or winter.
12 April, 2007
First, I decided to listen to poetry every day (here). Secondly, I thought I’d see whether I could find poems that present parallel experiences in my own life or in my life’s philosoph, and write about those.
This jewel of a poem, is by James Berry, and it concerns what to do when you encounter a ghost in the middle of the night.
The reason I relate so well to this poem is because when I was a wee thing in Venezuela, I was told stories about ghosts, witches, and bogymen*.
There was, actually, a bogyman living under my bed. My bogyman was nocturnal (well, aren’t they all) and lay in wait in case I got out of bed at night. If I did leave my bed, he would reach out and grab me by my ankle and pull me under the bed.
I never was told what would happen under the bed, but my four-year-old imagination was vivid enough to know that I really didn’t want to know.
Other than pulling me under my bed if I wandered in the night, my bogyman was a rather placid, even harmless being. I had this trick to knock him out for the night. I would turn off my light before going to bed, run across the room, and then leap heavily onto my bed, and bounce on the bed three times. This ritual never failed to put the bogyman “to sleep” for the night. It worked, for my bogyman never did manage to stay awake after doing this. Which I can prove by the fact that he never did manage to grab me by my ankles.
(* Adults told me these stories and not mean minded siblings. It was a cultural thing. This might be something a few of you will find hard to believe. Yet, I caught a Brazilian friend of mine warning her son not to go down into the underground garage at the apartment complex they lived in because a horrible witched lived down there. When I confronted her with the inadvisability of telling her son this, she said she preferred to talk about the evil of witches and ghosts, rather then warning her young son about possible encounters with people of evil intent. I’m not saying I agreed with her, but my friend’s explanation did give me another perspective on why I was raised with ghosts, witches, and bogymen.)
11 April, 2007
Has there EVER been an American adaptation of a foreign film, which came even close to doing the original justice? If so, please, remind me.
I just remember the sacrilege of transposing films such as La Cage aux Folles (French), Three Men and a Baby (French), Dance with me (Japanese). Not that these films were brilliant, but they all had a sense of magic, humour, and timing that was completely lost in translation.
10 April, 2007
After writing this entry last week, I decided to open up the boxes with my journals and take a look at them. Can you imagine writing a journal for twenty-five years and never reading them? Well, it’s true; I never did. That is, until four days ago.
I sorted the fifty some odd notebooks into chronological order and I’ve slowly started reading them from the beginning. I can only find journals from 1986 and onwards. A box or two must have gone missing along the way. Still, it’s interesting to read about my life way back then: the balance between mortification and fascination holds at the moment.
Slowly, I am considering what my next project might be. Perhaps a web-based journal: along the lines of my printed family journal. In the family journal, I wrote about time long gone (i.e., my childhood memories), time not-so-long-ago (i.e., stories of when the children were young), and philosophical meanderings on family and friends.
In this new project, I can mix text (e.g. entries from my old journals), photos, film, slideshows, comics, and podcasts all in one “document”. The last family journal took over two years to make. This new one just might be a continual work in progress.
Have any of you done anything like this? Any suggestions about how to proceed?
Sara and I had a lovely time up north.
Back in Luebeck. The day has risen grey, grey, grey.
I’m starting a new writing project. Will tell you more later…
05 April, 2007
03 April, 2007
It was truly a magical year and the experience taught me much about appreciating the diversity of cultures, and, more importantly, survival: learning to share a small place with other people, and learning to make the most of it. Yet, looking back, the moments of complete happiness and contentment occurred when I became Small. When the beauty and magnitude of nature was so apparent, it filled me with elation.
Being on the ocean for weeks and weeks and not encountering any other human beings convinced me that earth/nature just might be so mighty as to be able to survive the often destructive or inappropriate behaviour of the human race. And for a while, I held onto this hope. Yet, slowly, inevitably, and inconveniently (here) I realised that our planet is at risk of not surviving.
Even though I believe intrinsically that human beings are good, I do not always have faith that we are smart. It is so difficult to know whether the information we receive about global warming, excessive wastes, animal extinction, etc. is correct. And so often, if correct, the information does not offer us any viable alternatives. The information points the finger, but only the finger of blame, and not in the direction we should be pursuing. It would be so wonderful to find some inspiration or direction about where such viable alternatives might be found.
Yesterday, I watched this video presentation, by Janine Benyus, which she gave at TED 2005. She asks questions such as, “How does life make things? How does life make the most of things? How does life make “things” disappear into systems?” She comes up with twelve natural (biological) phenomena, which could possibly help us to solve twelve (or more) distinctly human-created volatile ecological problems.
She says, “Learning about the natural world is one thing. Learning from the natural world, that’s the switch. That is the profound switch.” This made me feel so elated; knowing that the beauty and magnitude of nature can led us in the direction we need to follow.
Please look at the video and tell me what you think.
(Note: I found the introduction of the presentation quite annoying. Ms. Benyus’ attempt to “sex up” the topic didn’t ring true with me. But, do persist, for what she is saying is very fascinating, though how she says it doesn’t always hit the mark.)
02 April, 2007
My daughter, Sara, won regional elocution contest in February. It was announced by the head judge that the winner of the contest would be sent to the state-wide contest mid-May. Yeah-I-can’t-believe-it reaction from Sara; while Proud Mom and Proud (chosen) Aunt watch on as she gets her photo taken for the newspaper. Head judges announces that the next round will be held in Luebeck, not in Kiel, as is customary. Yeah, Sara has the home game advantage: I contemplate dressing up Sara in Hanseatic traditional folks costume.
This morning, while I was at work, Sara received an invitation to the ober-regional elocution contest in two weeks time! First, we were not informed that there was an ober-regional round. Secondly, Sara had no text chosen as yet. Thirdly, Sara was not so enthusiastic to participate any more, in general, and particularly in an ober-regional way: she was not sure she wanted this experience to go on any more. Fourthly, she’s on Easter vacations and she’s mentally already on vacation, and we’ll be physically on vacation in two days time…
Arriving home, Sara was obviously close to giving up on the whole matter. I have a heart-to-heart with Sara: something along the lines of sheeet happens you got to pull yourself up by the bootstraps, let’s figure out Plan B, and every cloud has a silver lining… And it worked! Ten minutes later we chose three different authors (Philip Ardagh, Walter Moers, Norton Juster), found three appropriately crazy texts.
So, now she’s set, crisis avoided, and there is nothing to worry about. What a Super Girl my darling daughter is. I’m prouder than punch.