Sunday, May 17, 2020

finding surprises in your own neighborhood


a most amazing experience today. one which proves that you can still discover something which will inspire you and make you think, within 20 minutes of your home, after a decade of living here. christina saw a program on DR this week, with gardener søren rye, who visited a place called skovsnogen, out near kibæk, where a guy has put up all sorts of art in the forest around his home over some years and it's open to the public to wander through, for only the price of a free-will offering. there is a huge variety of art, from things that look like maybe stalin ordered them, to the namesake skovsnogen, which is a winding wooden snake that's painted bright yellow and which you can crawl around inside, to a brick wall that spells out HATE and which was built in 2011, before trump made a wall of hate his trademark. it was so powerful to come upon this in the forest, to able to climb on it and walk through it.


another powerful work was what i would call the ildsjæl - a golden woman's head, where her hair was sticking upright, like a flame, atop a stylized fire pyramid. She had a peaceful, beatific look on her face, her eyes closed, not the least disturbed by her position the pyre. there was a bench where you could sit and look at her. The more you looked, the more you were affected by her peacefulness with her situation. There was something of the buddha over her, with that zen attitude over what was arguably her plight. but perhaps there was a message in it that it wasn't a plight at all, but freedom and a relief. some small boys came and exclaimed to their parents, "look, mom, it's a fire person - ildmenneske." that's exactly what she was. as we walked away to leave the experience to them, i remarked the she was an ildsjæl, and gave myself goosebumps.


i had moments where i wished we had the place to ourselves. there were many cars there, thanks to an appearance this week on DR, but once you were out, walking the trails, there was decent space between people. though at times, i wished we had more time there for ourselves. and i definitely wished that some of the whining kids that were there weren't there, which made me feel a little old and crabby. but, it was because it was such a striking, intense experience, and i wanted to savor it and that was difficult when there were people crowding up from behind.


there was a huge gong out the trees in one spot. we were recording it, and experiencing the reverberations, and a family came up behind us, chattering away. we definitely wished we'd had it to ourselves.


there were two uncanny figures which were in the vein of our exhibition last year. they were so striking the forest, and only slightly spoiled by an older couple with politiken glasses on, saying, "er det her virkelig kunst," (probably in more correct grammar than that) in a very snotty way. we felt a bit sorry for them with their snobbish view of the world, unable to give themselves over to the experience, needing to hold on to judgements in the face of a world that's changing and where those judgements may be falling away and the world becoming something else.


it will be interesting to see what kind of art arises out there, after corona. maybe christina and i should try to make some, as a reaction to this experience we are in. what would it look like? it would surely be uncanny in some sense. and surprising and unexpected. and it might be frightening and anxiety-causing, but it might also be a relief and somehow freeing.


it's so hard to know the affect this whole experience is going to have, when we are right in the middle of it. but to figure it out through art and in harmony with another artist or artists, and the landscape, could be the very best way to process it - in words and paint and things which hang from the trees.


one thing that was so interesting was that there weren't any artist names or names of the works anywhere visible in the forest, you had to just experience the works for yourself, figuring out what they said to you and only you, through your direct experience of them and the feelings that they gave to you, or the echoes they sounded of your lived experience - like a little hut up on stilts that made me think of Baba Yaga and which made Christina think about whether the hut or the nature around it came first. a thought-provoking experience for both of us, but a very different experience for each of us as well.


it also seemed like a place where you'd want to go on an artist's retreat. to sit in the brutalist shelter, light a fire and settle down to some writing. or to wander among the trees, capturing the sounds of the birds and wind and the leaves. or whether you'd want to record yourself reciting a poem you'd written, or a favorite poem in the amazing acoustics of the metal ball that's all alone, unexpectedly, in the middle of a field.

it definitely won't be my last visit.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

a magical secret chair


yesterday, i took a walk down around the lake after work. i needed to get outside and get some fresh air, so i donned my rubber boots and headed down there. i walked closer to the lake than usual, thinking that the mama swan was on a nest somewhere along the edge. i wanted to find her and see the nest. the papa swan was out on the lake and didn't flee as usual when he saw me. he actually seemed a bit aggressive, so maybe the nest was on our side of the lake and i was looking in the wrong spot. but, in looking, i happened upon an amazing handmade lounge chair. it was made of sticks and held together by fishing line. it looked like it had been there for a few years, so it wasn't newly constructed. i didn't try sitting in it, i just photographed it. but i might want to go out there and try it out. i wasn't sure it was strong enough to hold me anymore, but i will try it this weekend. i rather want to sit there and look out on the lake. it was quite idyllic and in such a peaceful spot. it felt a bit like happening upon a secret magic haven. if it's nice this weekend, i want to go down and feel the magic.

Monday, May 11, 2020

living well in the time of corona


apparently, the prolific slavoj zizek has already published a book about the pandemic, entitled, appropriately enough, Pandemic! i haven't read it, being currently stuck in an endless mrs. pollifax loop, but the article where i read about it quotes zizek as saying, “we need a catastrophe to be able to rethink the very basic features of the society in which we live” and apparently goes on to inquire into what it means to live well. apparently, this is that catastrophe and perhaps some good will come of it after all, if it really does cause us to use this pause to rethink what it means to live well.

i find so much of what i'm reading and hearing to be so negative and dark. and i have to admit that i haven't really experienced it that way myself. perhaps i've been lucky not to know anyone who has had the dreaded virus. or perhaps i live a place that has handled it well and sensibly and so i don't really know anyone who has lost their job (some are on leave with pay, yes, but they expect to return to work in june and i've had one colleague already called back early because we were so busy). i was nervous at the beginning, since i was just starting a new job then, but things are already picking up for our company and it's been nothing but one big exciting project since the day i started.

perhaps it's because i'm fortunate to live out in the countryside, where i haven't felt trapped inside. when i've had to make a grocery store run, shelves are stocked and people are largely practicing social distancing (it comes easy to the danes). i don't have any sense of panic at the store, so the segment on the washington post's podcast about that last week just sounded artificial and contrived to me.

we've actually spent more time with family both in person and virtually during the pandemic than we have in years. several visits from husband's girls and then his sister and her family, who came to enjoy the wide-open spaces and good food. there were friday night drinks with the family in sweden via zoom that we'd never have done without the pandemic. we facetime regularly with sabs in arizona, so even that hasn't been so bad, though her being so far away has been the biggest source of worry to me in this whole thing.

so what does it mean to live well? i've been very busy with work, so i haven't really felt like the pace of life has slowed down, but in some ways it has. it's been nice not to have to get up early, decide what to wear, rush out the door, drive 45 minutes and then sit in the office all day. i have spent entirely too many hours sitting at my computer, mostly in my pajamas, without makeup, but it has on the whole worked really well. we do have the technology to do our jobs from home.  and it turns out that i also have the necessary discipline. and i think having that mutual trust in your colleagues - that they're working hard and also that they're depending on you to do so too, even though you're not sitting together, that is part of having a good quality of life. and let's face it, our work is a big part of our lives, so when work is good, a good chunk of life is good.

and outside of that, it's been great to be at home, hanging with the cats, being able to take a walk around the garden when i really need a breath of fresh air, to be home to let the chickens out and gather the eggs and water in the greenhouse. i learned a new route to walk around the lake and discovered a beautiful hidden place where there's a bend in the creek i never knew about. i've also taken the back roads when going places, exploring small roads and stopping to take photos as spring has come on, enjoying that i don't necessarily have to hurry up to be somewhere at a particular time.

i've made good food and i've also had some days where i didn't feel like cooking and so i didn't and we ate digestives and brie and had a cup of tea for dinner. this time has helped me let go of expectations and all the musts and have tos. and i've discovered that life can have another pace and there can be room to write 750 words a day, and work a whole lot, and cook, and laugh and snuggle with hollister, and get my hands dirty in the garden, and make 15 liters of rhubarb cordial that future me will thank me for. and get a good night's sleep. and spend less and just BE more. and i have to say that i have a hard time seeing the downside in all that.

* * *

i've got news for you, it's not just the workers at mcdonald's in denmark that pity america these days.

* * *

so nice to get another perspective on this whole thing...
don't shoot the messenger, a podcast from the daily maverick in south africa

* * *

speaking of living well (in a fairy tale?), read this beautiful thing from the paris review.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

eddies in the space-time continuum


i found an old ring in a box today, one that i hadn't been able to find for some years. i even swear i'd looked in that box already, several times, but today, there it was. it's the black hills gold ring with the marquise cut diamond. the ring was my mom's and the diamond a remnant of my first, mistaken engagement. i would occasionally have pangs of sadness that i had lost it, but apparently i only mislaid it. for about a decade or so. i hardly ever wear gold jewelry anymore, but i'm glad i finally found it. the other ring is my mom's engagement and wedding ring. when i found the lost one, i went digging in a more recent jewelry bowl, looking for mom's ring. they kind of fit together, but also don't. but it was in a way that was pleasing to me today. i think it's part of the always surprising grief process. i even put them back on after my shower. i just need to be wearing them right now. for some reason unknown even to myself. they make me feel close to mom in a way that i seem to need right now. which is perhaps why that ring showed up today in that box that i swear i had looked in before. perhaps it was there today because i needed it to be. when things like that happen, i always think of arthur dent, stuck on that planet where he perfected the sandwich made of some strange beasts that periodically ran through, slipping between worlds on some eddy in the space-time continuum. today, an eddy brought the ring back to the box where it belonged. just at the moment i needed it.

* * *

in these days of zoom meetings, what's on people's bookshelves?

* * *

whenever i had a break today, i read some of this old interview with murakami in the paris review. that made me happy. and made me want to write. and maybe even made me want to go for a run. but not so much that i did so.

* * *

there were a bunch of great quotes in the murakami article and i want to save some of them here, capital letters and all:

"When I start to write, I don’t have any plan at all. I just wait for the story to come. I don’t choose what kind of story it is or what’s going to happen. I just wait. " 

”I myself, as I’m writing, don’t know who did it. The readers and I are on the same ground. When I start to write a story, I don’t know the conclusion at all and I don’t know what’s going to happen next. If there is a murder case as the first thing, I don’t know who the killer is. I write the book because I would like to find out. If I know who the killer is, there’s no purpose to writing the story.” 

”When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long—six months to a year—requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.” 

”All human beings have a sickness in their minds. That space is a part of them. We have a sane part of our minds and an insane part. We negotiate between those two parts; that is my belief. I can see the insane part of my mind especially well when I’m writing—insane is not the right word. Unordinary, unreal. I have to go back to the real world, of course, and pick up the sane part. But if didn’t have the insane part, the sick part, I wouldn’t be here.” 

“…a sense of humor is a very stable thing. You have to be cool to be humorous. When you’re serious, you could be unstable; that’s the problem with seriousness. But when you’re humorous, you’re stable. But you can’t fight the war smiling.” 

”Experience itself is meaning.” – Murakami (i might have to have that one tattooed.)

kind of appropriate that, since the other phrase i'd like tattooed is from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "reality is frequently inaccurate." said by Ford Prefect, not Arthur Dent. and one more, from Bitov, "unreality is a condition of life." that's it, my next three tattoos.





Sunday, May 03, 2020

because the world needs more cat pictures







just some of the great pictures i've taken of bob and hollister recently with my new iPhone 11 pro. my favorite part of working from home is definitely hanging out all day with these guys. hollister gets in his soft instagram impulse purchase bed under my desk, purrs loudly for some minutes and then goes to sleep. it's so nice to have him nearby to keep me company.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

my media diet


stumbling upon the WITI (why is this interesting?) newsletter, i found myself reading the whole stack of their monday media diet entries. aside: what is it about substack, it seems like all the cool kids are writing there these days.

when i first saw the title "media diet" - i was like, YES, i could use one of those. but it's more general than that, it's more like what media do you feed yourself with these days, rather than which media are you cutting out of your life to save on mental calories.

i recently did the latter, not reading any news, not listening to my usual news podcasts (the daily, post reports and today, explained), not even watching trevor noah, colbert or seth meyers. all of the anxiety out there has not been good for my sleep, i can tell you and staying up on the news does not help. but it did help very much to give myself some distance from it for about a week to ten days. i slept and felt much better. but slowly, i've started reading and listening and watching it all again. but never right before bed. then, i'm reading a book. at the moment, i'm rereading all of the mrs. pollifax series. comfort reading. i highly recommend it.

and as for my media consumption, i've fallen in love with the peaceful, serene videos from chinese youtuber li ziqi. she cooks and farms and dyes indigo and weaves cloth and makes a soft cotton mattress from cotton she grew herself and she just knows how to do all of it so calmly and beautifully and cinematically. it's mesmerizing. the guardian wrote about her in january, but i only just discovered her through the wonderful reply all newsletter. watch her and feel your blood pressure come down to a manageable level.

i've been reading a lot of substack newsletters. like this one from sluggo mczipp, and drawing links and nisha chattel's internet totebag. they have all led me to music i didn't know, or interesting things to read or delicious recipes to make or made me think or made me laugh. i highly recommend either these or others like them (please let me know yours in the comments, like it's 2008) to distract from the global pandemic. it's good when not all the things you read are about the latest stupidity to exit the spray-tanned clown's mouth. there are still smart people in the world, doing and writing interesting things. it gives me hope.

also on my media diet is a real life subscription to the paris review. i so love their podcast that i subscribed not long ago in order to support their work. it's nice to go to the mailbox and find a physical, real paper magazine in your hands,  and then to sit in a favorite chair, turning the pages, reading poetry and just generally good, thought-provoking writing. i highly recommend. and i actually just start at the beginning and read it through to the end. preferably while sitting in a comfortable chair with a latte or a hot cup of tea at hand.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

notes to self :: corona edition

1. try not to be an asinine racist. even if you're frustrated. and tired. and shot through with the anxiety of the whole world, which because of some kind of connection to the whole (capital w) that pema chodron claims you should be thankful for, you are utterly in tune to. and which is actually freaking you the fuck out.

2. try not to sit at your desk all day, never getting up to pee or eat lunch, having one online meeting after another, recording some of them with camtasia because they're not really meetings, but software tests and then not really editing that much because there's no time and you really have to pee. try not to send evidence of your asinine racism to other people because you didn't edit the damn video and you have too many notifications turned on. and seriously, just refer to #1 and don't be an asinine racist in the first place. shame on you.

3. try to go outside. go for a walk. skip around the lawn. jump rope for half an hour. lie on a quilt under the big red maple tree and stare at the sky. whatever you do, just. go. outside. now. well, not now, now, because you should really be in bed.

4. get some sleep.

5. don't read all. the. news. and whatever you do, don't listen to it, because then you will hear that spray-tanned satan's voice. and this will not help with #4.