Saturday, October 12, 2019

dear autumn



dear autumn,

you and i used to have such a great relationship. you used to bring with you the promise of a new semester, the excitement of all of the new books to be read from a fresh syllabus, the comfort of a new university sweatshirt and the impending trip to the seminary co-op bookstore. when i close my eyes, i can hear the crunch of leaves, feel the crispness of your air in my nose. i'm enveloped by the memory of a new brown suede coat wrapped around me as i walk down 57th street and turn on woodlawn, so i can pass by the classic lines of frank lloyd wright's robie house as i head for campus. the golden sunshine is stunning on the red and orange leaves, making the day look warmer than it actually is.

these days, autumn, you fill me with a bit more dread. there's no new semester beginning, there's just the impending darkness of winter ahead. short, often grey days and relentless rain, wind sweeping in off the distant north sea to the west, the trees denuded before they even have a chance to change to glorious jewel tones.

autumn, you give way too easily to the darkness of winter in these latitudes, and that's why you fill me with dread. please be kind this year, with a few glorious golden days to look back on when the darkness comes.

your old friend,
/julie

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

zen koan inspiration













the friend i stayed with in arizona had a small collection of amazing little zen koan 'zines from the 70s. they were done by paul reps. on the front, it says you can send away for a bag with all six for $3. they were so amazing, i had to photograph them.  i had vaguely heard of zen koans, but never worked with them, what with my inability to meditate properly and all. i can see the attraction - an enigmatic phrase to ponder in silence, what could be better?  i have a couple that have always stuck with me, though they are not official buddhist zen koans, i think they have a koanesque quality. one is a quote from the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy: "reality is frequently inaccurate." and from my favorite 20th century russian author, andrei bitov, "unreality is a condition of life." funny, i think they're related. maybe when i try the 15 minutes of meditation tomorrow morning (for the sake of my brain), i'll ponder those. i also feel inspired by paul reps' art, to dig out a typewriter, work with them and a little bit of payne's grey. do you have a personal zen koan (maybe you didn't even know it was one) you ponder when you have a moment of stillness?

morning rituals


i read this morning that 15 minutes of meditation a day can have a great effect on the brain. and i'm thinking, i want my 50ish-year-old brain to operate like a 25-year-old one, as far as the functioning of the old grey matter is concerned. i don't recall searching for words at 25, so yes, bring that on. and it got me thinking about my morning ritual. it mostly consists of picking up my phone to see what madness the spray-tanned buffoon came up with overnight. i normally watch colbert and trevor to get their take on it - i find it hard to take it directly, i need it filtered through intelligent humor. then i turn off my sleep cycle app. then i get up, pretty much making the bed as i get out of it. i'm a bed maker, i think it's the one small ritual that sets the tone for your day. if you leave a neatly-made bed, there's a good chance of less chaos in the day that stretches ahead, even if the cats come along and lay on it during the day, leaving little hollows here and there. our cat bob won't lie on the bed unless it's made and if it's not, he'll come along and stare disdainfully until you make it. and i always make the bed.

next, i make a cup of tea. if it's the weekend, i'll make a pot, or rather husband makes a pot and brings me the first cup of tea in bed. that's a ritual that i love. but things sort of fizzle out from there. i sit down in front of the computer, checking mails, reading articles and blogs, fiddling around on pinterest, maybe writing a blog post like this one. mostly wasting time, if i'm honest. lately, i have australian master chef playing in the background, so i'm also half pondering what's for dinner later in the day (hmm, can i get squid somewhere nearby?).

i'm not sure any of these rituals are helping my brain very much, nor are they getting me regular exercise or making me more organized or helping me figure out what's next.

and speaking of my quest to figure out what's next, i've undertaken a major clearing out in our "box room," where we stashed all the boxes of books and stuff we didn't have room/shelves for when we moved here nearly a decade ago. i'm ruthlessly tossing lots of things that we haven't missed, but admittedly i probably should be even more ruthless about it. i'm hoping having that room more organized will create space in my brain for better habits that move me forward. so i guess i'd better get cracking. but first, maybe 15 minutes of meditation?

Saturday, September 28, 2019

make do and mend


i've been looking since the beginning of the year for one of these, scouring antique stores and flea markets on two continents. it's a clever little darning tool and i saw them first on instagram, under the #visiblemending hashtag. it's like an itty bitty loom and enables you to weave a strong patch on your item of clothing that needs mending. i asked my friend who works at the local red cross charity shop to look out for one for me, but i finally managed to find this one myself. funnily enough, after searching high and low across denmark, and in arizona and south dakota, i found it in an esoteric little antique/junk shop about 12km from home. as i went up to pay, i showed the owner a picture of what i was looking for and he said, we have one and called his wife to help find it! and even better, they were having a sale, where if you spent more than 100kr, then your whole bill would be 50% off, so i got this little speedweve/stoppekonen for a mere 50kr (approx $7)! i've seen them on ebay for as high as 2000kr., so it was quite the steal! i was so delighted and excited, i hugged the woman who owned the shop.


they also had three beautiful darning mushrooms, which i snapped up as well for my collection. they were 5kr apiece, so i paid a mere 2.50kr after the discount. that's about 35 cents apiece!!  i'm building up a collection of all kinds of different darning eggs and mushrooms, in the hopes that i can start up a local group where we can do visible mending together on a saturday morning once a month. it's a small step, repairing the clothes you already own, but a step nonetheless.


my favorite one is on the left and i adore the one on the right as well. but the one in the middle - look how much it's been used! just imagine all of the things that have been darned and mended using it. i'm always wishing that i could tune in to hear the stories that vintage objects could tell. this well-loved, much-used darning mushroom, must be so full of stories. even though i can't access them, i feel happy that i can hold them here with my collection. maybe late one night, if i listen carefully, i'll hear all of the darning mushrooms whispering to one another in the tin and be able to hear their stories.


Thursday, September 26, 2019

bittersweet ending



i made a short journey yesterday in a truck. it's the last journey that "my" lego ship will ever make. after three long years, thousands of kilometers traveled on the wheels of the curtain-side trailer beneath her, she's going to be dismantled, her bricks going to a good cause. when she wasn't being pulled by a truck, she traveled by ferry and rail. she visited the far corners of europe, from istanbul and italy in the south, to estonia, latvia and lithuania in the east to norway in the north. she was seen by crowds of people on trafalgar square in london, in front of the european parliament in brussels and near the brandenburg gate in berlin. and i was with her pretty much the whole way. probably the crowd i remember best was on a glorious, sunny autumn day in klaipeda - there were balloons, music playing and children looking on in wonder. that was just over three years ago.


but even as i write this, she's being broken down. i don't have the heart to go down and witness it. the fans at the lego fan weekend in the little town of skærbæk will have the chance to buy her bricks that aren't glued, by the kilo, and some of the cars and one of the lifeboats will be auctioned for a good cause - fairy bricks - an organization that gives lego sets to children who are hospitalized. the bricks that are glued, which is about half of them, will be recycled by lego themselves, and turned back into lego bricks that will go into sets and have a new life with children all over the world. that makes me happy.


this is probably the project i'm most proud to have been part of in my working life. the seed of the idea was one i presented in my job interview and it became so much more in collaboration with the ideas of the amazing creative people i worked with. and it was such a privilege to see it come to fruition beyond my wildest dreams. so i feel sad that it's really truly over now, but so happy that the ending is such a worthy one that will bring joy to so many, who may not even know the source of the joy, but who will undoubtedly feel it. goodbye, jubilee, you were amazing.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

the view from sunday night


it was the kind of weekend that happens all too seldom. still, sunny days, not too warm, not too cold, just hours and hours of glorious sunshine. we spent as much time as we could outside. me, fighting with the lawnmower, which for some reason is puffing out billows of smoke. we briefly thought it was because we had accidentally put diesel in it, but it seems not. it's going to have to go to the lawnmower doctor if i can find one that can be trusted. when i couldn't mow, it meant i had more time to go for a long walk and to sit in the sunshine with a cold drink and a good book. i've just started salman rushdie's latest, quichotte. just a little ways in and i'm getting a humbert humbert vibe from the main character, though so far, he's exhibited no pedophile tendencies.


the elderberries have all been harvested and i got 8 bottles of dark, deep purple cordial. our blueberries are still producing and i'm not yet done picking them - they're all going into the freezer for smoothies, aside from the ones that i threw together with the last of the blackberries and made into a lovely, jammy dessert that i invented after reading this recipe and this one (sorry, you'll need a subscription to access those).


there was a harvest market at our local little historical museum and someone was selling the most beautiful baskets, so i had to have one - it's important to support local artists, and how could i resist with that hole-y stone attached on the side? paws mcgraw approved the purchase.


these autumn days feel slow and a bit lazy, i poke around in second hand stores,  finding treasures. i'm also gathering and preparing second hand textiles for the rug i'm going to weave for the kitchen. while i'm doing this, i'm still pondering what's next. i'm not sure what it is, but i'm starting to feel like i need to figure it out and i'm wondering a bit why i haven't. and feeling a little bit stuck that i don't even really know how to go about it in a more active way.


Friday, September 13, 2019

getting my flamingos in a row


i've been slow to get over my jetlag this time. i've been prolonging it by staying up late and sleeping in. days and days of dreary, ceaseless rain haven't helped. i've been curling up with elizabeth gilbert's city of girls, which i've now finished, so my excuses for inertia are running thin. the truth is, i don't really know what's next, so it's kind of hard to get started on it. but i really should be doing more to figure out what it is. but how to go about that? make lists? go for a walk? try to tune in to what my heart says? maybe just get on with actually doing something (perhaps tidying up that box room?) and letting it come to me. as always, i'm impatient, but i have to remember that you always just have to do the work. and sometimes doing the work means giving yourself a few days to do nothing at all. this summer has been a lot. and it's no wonder my flamingos aren't really in a line. well, they are in this picture, but less so in reality. and maybe that's ok for now.