Friday, November 06, 2020

on the threshold

most of us take doors for granted. we pass through doorways tens of times each day, without reflection. the door is, however, a powerful feature of human mentality and life-practice. it controls access, provides a sense of security and privacy, and marks the boundary between differentiated spaces. the doorway is also the architectural element allowing passage from one space to the next. crossing the threshold means abandoning one space and entering another, a bodily practice recognized both in ritual and language as a transition between social roles or situations. doors and thresholds are thus closely linked with rites de passage, the word "liminality" itself stemming from Latin limen, "threshold." this does not imply that each and every crossing of a threshold constitutes a liminal ritual, but rather that passing through a doorway is an embodied, everyday experience prompting numerous social and metaphorical implications.

--marianne hem eriksen, university of oslo
in architecture, society, and ritual in viking age scandinavia
doors, dwellings, and domestic space

this week of waiting for the results of the election has me, once again, thinking about liminal space. we're (hopefully) on the threshold of something new - a return to normalcy (if that's possible) after the utter insanity of the trump years. and i'm looking forward to stepping through that door. 

but i fear that the door won't completely shut on these years because the fact is that there are a significant amount of people who actually agreed with the way he was running things and they voted for him a second time. they're apparently totally ok with the 97 million cases of corona and 235,000 deaths. they're ok with kids in cages and more than 500 children who can't be reunited with their parents due to the incompetence and cruelty of the trump administration. they're ok with a president who grabs women by the pussy. and who has spent $142,000,000 in taxpayer money golfing. and they're ok with leaving the paris climate accord and the iran nuclear agreement. and they're ok with the more than 20,000 lies. and the self-dealing and the nepotism. and the cozying up to dictators. and the humiliation on the world stage. and did i mention the lies? and the narcissism and the petulance and the twitter. there's just. so. much. i'm exhausted from it. and embarrassed by it. and tired of the way it's weakened my very foundation and made me ashamed to be american.

and i'm at my wits' end - with relatives and friends who support the monster. and it feels like some doors may need to close there. but on the other hand, that doesn't necessarily seem like the answer either. but they don't get a pass. they have to own what their choice means - that women lose the freedom to choose over their own bodies, and good friends who are legally married may have those marriages nullified by the conservative supreme court justices trump and his cronies in the senate rushed through. that people will lose their health insurance. that they don't mind children being put in cages. children in cage. just think about that. it's ok because your stocks did well? really?

but back to doors and thresholds. i think we are really standing on a threshold here. we just faced a choice between empathy and caring for our fellow humans and more division and further erosion of democratic ideals. and only by the slimmest of margins does it appear that we chose our fellow humans. what does that say? in this moment, while the whole world balances on the precipice with a global pandemic, that the choice wasn't clearer than that is astonishing. 

i hope we stride confidently through the door with our hearts open. i'll admit mine is pretty closed right now to those who have supported the spray-tanned narcissist and it will take a bit of work on my part to open it a little bit. and right now, i don't really know how that's going to happen.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

can we get a do-over on 2020?

for several years, i've bought arctic paper's lovely calendar. one year, i think it was 2018, i actually wrote a little snippet of my day in it every single day of that year, keeping a kind of diary, though it was mostly lists and trips and what i did that day, not anything deep or philosophical. still, it was the record of a busy life. i did write intentions for every week on the page for the week, which felt like a meaningful practice, even if i didn't always keep them. it featured beautiful paper that explored the changing light and colors throughout the year, so it had a kind of rainbow theme to it. the words at the beginning were a beautiful musing on time. "time is months, weeks, hours, minutes and seconds. time is seasons. seasons are light. light is a guide through time." it was so fitting for a calendar.

they work with different design schools around europe and have young people design the calendars and they're always printed on arctic paper's own beautiful papers. it's a pleasure to page through them and write in them. this year's was no different. it is a moon-themed agenda entitled "the day begins at midnight" and was designed by students from école estienne's graphic design and art direction students. i assume that's somewhere in france.

it's really gorgeous and i love the words at the beginning, especially since i always consider myself a night person, not a morning one...(capital letters removed by me):

the day begins at midnight, when creativity knows no boundaries.
more than an aesthetically attractive calendar,
we wanted to design something that makes us challenge
our traditional perception of time and creativity.
by visually highlighting night-time in imagery
through its content, this agenda wants us to reconsider 
our notion of the day.

because extraordinary things happen in our minds at night.
we know our subconscious is active when we sleep.
and we know that some people need to relax simply
to get their ideas flowing. some even find that they are
more creative at night, whether asleep or awake
creativity knows no boundaries, not in place, nor in time.

but here, as we embark on the second to last month of 2020, which has already been pretty eventful, i find i must admit that i never used this calendar at all. i didn't write a single thing in it. it's still pristine and beautiful - blank and awaiting words or drawings or doodles, the recording of a life. and i didn't record a single word of this crazy, mad year. it's almost like this clean, beautiful calendar represents a pristine do-over of 2020, just waiting to happen. 2020, between the covers of this journal, is unblemished, unmarred by oafish, spray-tanned, clownish, embarrassing presidents, and deadly viruses, and killer hornets. it's full of potential trips to exotic places, new experiences and even scratched-down notes of wonderful meals made and eaten, friends seen, laughs laughed. in its very blankness, it's full of potential. potential for a do-over of this mad, terrible year. maybe that's what we most need right here and now. or maybe we just need this damn year to be over already. 

i'll order a new calendar from arctic paper when they release it in a few weeks. and let's cross our fingers that things get better in 2021.

Monday, November 02, 2020

on the eve of the election

i want to record this moment. to send the anxiety out through my fingers onto the page, both preserving it and dispelling it. i did what i could. i sent my vote, via DHL, just to be sure. i have proof of receipt and i voted for biden. he's a shoe in to win illinois, where i vote. i have also, demonstrating extraordinary foresight, produced a daughter who will vote in her first presidential election - in the potentially decisive state of arizona. her vote will really count and she's taking a whole gaggle of friends with her to the polls. i have done all i could.

i fervently hope that the biden-harris ticket wins and if the economist is right, they will. but whether trump and his merry band of trumpanzees will accept it or not is another story and that's probably what's causing the most anxiety for me. we just have no idea how the world will look when we wake up on wednesday. and will that child of mine in arizona be safe? there are an awful lot of guns in the hands of an awful lot of stupid people.

i hate that that thought even goes through my head. and i hope i don't regret putting it down here. i thought maybe getting it out would help dispel it. i hope it doesn't make it come true instead. not that i feel my words have that kind of power. 

i have to believe that there are more good people in the voting population who want something better - better than the lies and racism and the sexism and the xenophobia and the narcissism and the self-dealing and the nepotism (i could go on). people who want better for their children and their futures. i have to believe that most people are good and sensible and moral. because what kind of world will we live in if they're not?

i hope i can sleep tonight and stay busy tomorrow. luckily, i have loads of meetings, so i'm hoping to stay distracted. it's both a relief and difficult to be so far away. better get that application filed for danish citizenship. 

Friday, October 30, 2020

making the best of life in a global pandemic

everyone is talking these days about how covid has changed our lives and about how heavy that burden seems. in fact, reply all's latest episode talks about how this year is scientifically proven to be the saddest, most unhappy year. probably ever, or at least since these scientists started measuring happy/unhappy words on twitter. as if twitter is a happy place. 

but, i get it. it's hard with limited social contact, not much going out to eat or get drinks, not visiting family and friends and feeling awkward when you do, no halloween party, no concerts or movies and no yoga classes. we work a lot more from home and it can feel at times like the workday is just one endless long teams meeting. 

but i also find that there are good things about it. for one, the coffee is way better here at home. i order the beans from a little roaster in trieste, grind it myself and make two cups of espresso in a little mokka pot that i bought in venice (thinking consciously about that every single time), then pour that into plenty of warmed, frothed milk that i get from an organic dairy farmer nearby. 

and while i find myself sitting too long at the computer without getting up and sometimes forgetting to eat lunch, when i do eat lunch, i feel consciously grateful for the plates i had made by a local ceramics artist and to myself for making a really good omelette for dinner the other night and for there being leftovers. i don't feel that way about lunch at the office. at the office, i usually find myself thinking that they would being going into elimination if it were master chef. 

the past few days, i've been happy to be working at home, because on tuesday when i got home, husband said there was a kitten yowling out in the big barn and i needed to rescue it. the poor little thing had its eyes all stuck shut and it was very distressed, cold and hungry. i brought it in, gently washed its eyes with warm water, put some aquaphor on them to soothe them and ran to the grocery store for cat milk until i could get to the vet the next day to get proper kitten milk replacer. i concluded that the kitten was a little older than i thought, as it has pretty good teeth and within about 36 hours, it was a different, lively, lovely little kitten that was ready for his first photoshoot. he does need to eat every few hours and i have to mix milk replacer for him and give him some soft food, which i also got at the vet. he's doing very well. i think his mama is a young wild thing that comes for food and i tried to give him back to her, but she wasn't having it. it's late in the season and i think she doesn't really know what to do. but anyway, thanks to corona, i'm here for him.

i've had a really sore throat for a few days and i'm coughing. i haven't gotten tested, but i don't have a fever and i can still taste things, so i think it's just an ordinary cold. though how, with all the hand washing and hand sanitizer, one can still get a cold is beyond me. one part of me just wants to get the damn virus and get it over with.  

another positive is that this damn virus makes my work life really exciting. we have the exhilaration of quickly bringing solutions together as the situation changes in various countries - like france's new lockdown (probably to be closely followed by one in belgium), we're moving quickly to help our stores there, adjusting their black friday campaigns and making them able to meet with customers online. it's seriously really exciting and makes me appreciate working with talented and hard-working colleagues. 

denmark finally instituted mask requirements in public places - like grocery stores and the library and such. they had required them on public transport and in restaurants and bars (until you're seated at your table) some weeks ago. i'm a little tired of hearing people moan about the mask requirement, questioning its effectiveness. and only thinking of themselves. as i see it, using a mask is something we do for one another. i was happy to wear a mask this week, since i had a sore throat and i didn't want to give it to anyone. i don't do it for me, i do it for my fellow humans. 

another thing i did for my fellow humans is that i voted. and sent it via DHL to be sure it got there. i have proof of delivery. and boy, will i be glad when this election is over. 

how are you coping these days?

* * *

 acedia - that thing we're all feeling now.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

looking for the elusive red thread

we got together in our local creative group on sunday and made small "flexigon" books together, inspired by places that mean something to us. because i love the little museum down in randbøldal, where i go to weaving every other wednesday, i wanted to make that the focus of my little foldable book. i selected some photos that i'd taken there, as well as a photo of the runner for my kitchen that i wove there at the museum. many of the photos i chose were of that work in progress and the one in the middle is of the new runner that i just started last saturday. what i wanted to ponder in my little book was the magic of the place. because it really is a magical place. 

and what came out was something else entirely. i began to think about the way that we trace red threads of meaning through our lives. or the way that we probably should do that and don't always do so. and my little book became a kind of meditation on that. perhaps because i have used red strips cloth in my rug, or because i often struggle to figure out whether there is a cohesive meaning to my life. it can feel like i'm really just bumbling along. 

but it's strange that wasn't what i sat down to create. i wanted to create a little book that expressed the magic i feel in the air when i'm at the museum. it's a really special place. it makes me feel calm and centered and present. i feel it immediately when i step out of my car, my shoulders relax and i breathe deeply. it's in a little valley, on the curve of a creek, nestled down in the trees. part of the magic is the group of women which gathers there, especially the leader of that group, who is a lovely, spry, can-do woman who makes things happen. she's a big part of the magic. but the place itself has something special as well. maybe it's on just the right vortex, or just the way it's placed, there on the creek, nestled at the base of a tree-covered hill, is perfect. and i wanted to try to capture that in my little book, but instead, it ended as a search for a red thread. 

i guess i unconsciously chose that myself when i chose the pictures that i did. i have many other pictures that capture the magic, but the ones i chose were nearly all of my own weaving and in that way, i guess i did control the direction it took, even if it maybe felt like i didn't. i guess i'm just looking for that elusive red thread.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

i wonder if cards can help me reopen my creativity?

i got this deck of intuiti cards from an ad i saw on instagram. they were developed by a student at a polytechnic in milan to open up creativity. they use tarot, numerology, design and gestalt psychology and should help with opening up one’s creativity. i thought it would be interesting to work with them to open up my stymied creativity.
the first exercise they recommend is to take the primary cards (they have roman numerals) and pick the one you like best and the one you like least and try to explain to yourself why you choose each one. they say to do it out loud, but i want to do it “out loud” here on the page.

this is the card that i chose as the one i like. i had laid them all out (there are 24 of these primary cards) and then, without thinking too much, i chose the one that spoke most to me in this moment. it would undoubtedly be a totally different card on a different day. but today, it was this card. what i like about it is that it is dark and deep, but the path is bright and clear. that dark blue opening down at the end may be dark and have eyes, but i don’t get a scary feeling from it. nor do i get any ominous feelings from the darkness of the forest. the yellow eyes glowing seem to me like lights in the darkness and i feel that when i get there, they will guide my way. it makes me think of autumn and the time of darkness that lies ahead of us. now, after more than 20 years of it, i’m not afraid of it or dreading it anymore, but looking forward. it’s only when we experience darkness that we can appreciate the light. and this darkness doesn’t feel ominous to me. it feels enveloping and mysterious in a good way. we never know what’s ahead and i feel like we shouldn’t. i get the feeling, looking at this card, with its forest of trees and dark blue opening with yellow eyes at the end, and bright orange path through a bed of deep green, like we may be walking through the darkness, but light lies ahead. 

this is the card that spoke to me in this moment today as the one i liked least. it has a dusty pink background, a blue oval with a green border and with a symbol made of shapes in the middle. they are intertwined and have that möbius unendingness to them. they are a long skinny diamond shape, a half circle, a circle and a triangle, all tangled up within each other. they look like one of those desktop puzzles where there’s a way to take them apart if you fiddle with them just right while you talk on the phone. 

i didn’t like it because in their closedness, they seem unwelcoming and so tangled up in their own thing, there’s no room to join them (they remind me a little bit of the danes). they poked at that terrible feeling that i get when i feel like i’m excluded or don’t belong. being closed off, kept away from the group, not welcome in the community. they also feel somehow like a ritualistic symbol used by a secret society, one that also is based on exclusion. and there are no openings, every way in is closed. the colors were also not appealing in their combination – kind of washed out and clashing a little bit, though not exactly clashing, because they’re too faded for that, but they aren’t in harmony. 

the intuiti booklet gives this explanation of the first card that i chose: 
XVIII: with eyes closed she goes down the dark winding stairs. one step after another, she perceives some changes in her body. at first she becomes narrow and starts to crawl like a baby, then her face gets longer and hair grows all over her body. she continues to go down, in the shape of a beast, in the darkness, and she hears the moans of desire, feels the burning hope, and sees the sparkle of terror. and she continues to go down, in the dark abyss of a dream that contains all the other dreams.

trust the irrational. you must feel, not see.

and the second card: 
XXI: she walks and dances, she devotes herself to the joy of life, she puts a cross step in her walk, and she spins on herself like that, without reason, just for the fun of seeing the colors of the world turning around her. And so that the world too realizes that she is turning within it.

it’s time to connect the dots. 

interesting how different the story the maker applies to them in relation to the story my mind told when it saw them. that seems pretty powerful and the fact that they’re each more or less opposite to how i experienced them is a very rich learning. it reminds me that there is always two sides to everything and those two sides can be diametrically opposed (i should have known that in light of the times we are living in). i also quite like the notion that i should trust the irrational – and i do think that’s not so far from my interpretation of the card that i liked on this day. it was a little bit irrational that i liked it since it seems a bit dark and ominous. And i only see the world in the second one now when i look at the blue background edged in green – it could have an elongated globe-like quality, but i still see it as excluding and not connecting the dots, despite that it’s intertwined. it may be intertwined, but it’s also very closed, so it’s a kind of self-contained and while they may be tangled, they aren’t really in dialogue with one another.

interesting. i’m looking forward to working further with these. i don't know if the exercise opened up my creativity, but i guess time will tell. at least it resulted in these words and that's something.

Friday, September 04, 2020

a modern take on the church fresco

there's a little church on the island of fyn that has stirred up big controversy. a local businessman commissioned a contemporary danish artist named jim lyngvild to do a modern take on the church fresco. lyngvild is a costume designer and photographer and designs elaborate costumes and then does traditional, very painterly setups with real people that he photographs in hyperreal HD. they look like they'll step out of the frame and when you look, you can almost hear them.

lysets engel (angel of light) - based upon john 1:1-5

"in the beginning was the word, and the word was with god, and the word was god. the same was in the beginning with god. all things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. in him was life; and the life was the light of men. and the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not."

i might also mention that lyngvild lives not far from this church in a viking-style longhouse and practices the viking religion known as asa. you can definitely see the influence of that in these modern frescos. i want to call them paintings, because they are extremely painterly, but they are photographs. he is not a fan of photoshop, so all of the details are meticulously set up and staged and not just photoshopped in afterwards. i have no idea where he got the lions, but they look a bit like they might be in a museum of natural history somewhere. he's the kind of guy with connections to get him access to staging a photoshoot such a place.

grebet i ægteskabsbrud (the grip of adultery) - based on john 8:1-11

"they say unto him, master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?...woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? she said, no man, lord. and jesus said unto her, neither do i condemn thee: go, and sin no more."

my photos are just snapshots taken with my phone, but i think i found this particular of the photos to be the most powerful one. the woman holding an iPhone and filming is such a statement on modern stoning - or condemnation, or canceling, as it's come to be called. i also love the ambiguous and not-so-ambiguous genders in this photo. it's both an echo to the traditional fresco (which were also quite graphic in their way at times) and a very sharp look at today. that the woman jesus forgives is a lesbian makes it even better. the tattoos, the naked bodies, the clear viking influence make it even more powerful and thought-provoking. i stood in front of it a long time and even went back again for a second look.

opstandelsen (resurrection)- from john 20:1-18 

"...and they say unto her, woman, why weepest thou? she saith unto them, because they have taken away my lord, and i know not where they have laid him. ... jesus saith unto her, mary. she turned herself, and saith unto him, rabboni; which is to say, master."

more animals from that natural history museum. and i'd love to see the wings in person - lyngvild must have made them, as he designed and sewed all the costumes. for me, the animals signify an exoticism - they're not ordinary farm animals, but wild animals found in africa. 

nedtagelsen fra korset (removal from the cross) - from mark 15:37-40

"and Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. and the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. and when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, truly this man was the son of god. there were also women looking on afar off: among whom was mary magdalene, and mary the mother of james the less and of joses, and salome."

one of the giant works contains the chairman of the local church counsel and we think it's this one, though we couldn't really find confirmation of that. we think it's the younger man on the right side of jesus. and it's kind of ironic, because this summer, the church counsel voted not to put the works back up after their upcoming renovation. apparently some of the older members of the congregation and the church counsel were a bit offended by the nudity and the rawness and were provoked by the works. but perhaps it's not that surprising, as church counsels are not often known for being modern and forward-thinking. it's a shame, because the frescoes were attracting 1000+ visitors per week to the church in what's otherwise a forgotten corner of denmark and a sleepy little town.

moses & loven (moses and the commandments) - from exodus 20:4-5

"thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for i the lord thy god am a jealous god, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me..."

this was the only one based on the old testament. i especially love the golden bull's head. in denmark, it's a clear symbol of a butcher shop and they must have borrowed it from one for the photo. it also made me think of the logo of a steak restaurant that's in tivoli. there was something playful about that - it felt like an inside joke. it also felt a bit like some of the commandments might be about to be violated within the picture - bare breasts, heaped fruit, extravagant gold fabrics and furs. it's the 7 deadly sins waiting to happen. 

bebudelse af jesu fødsel (tidings of jesus' birth)- from luke 1:26-38 

"and the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with god. and, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name jesus."

the richness of the dress in this photo exuded luxury. that's not how i had thought of mary before. it also seems medieval, rather than biblical. i like that twist. i found myself thinking about the location where it was photographed - trying to remember which danish castle might have had such a room. i couldn't help but think of kronborg castle in helsingør - it's the hamlet castle, but i suppose that any castle from the area has such bricks and arches. what that has to do with the virgin birth, i don't know, but maybe it's not really about that anyway.

jesus on the cross

and the last photo, a striking jesus on the cross. he set it up on a beach in south fyn. awaiting the wind being just right. though how he got that dove to sit there like that, i have no idea. it does make me think that his supposed loathing of photoshop is more myth than truth. i find this one especially painterly. and i find it also to be the one that most pays homage to the tradition of christ on the cross and the bloodiness of it all. 

this painting is clearly not one of jim lyngvild's, but i thought it was amusing to include it, because it's such an old-fashioned contrast to the others on the walls and it made me think of the small-minded, conservative church counsel that voted not to keep his amazing works. don't they look a dour group?