Saturday, August 28, 2010

turnabout is fairplay

well, it was bound to happen, after all those interviews, someone was going to want to interview me. bill, who you may remember as that guy from the minimum security lockup somewhere in the pacific northwest, sent me some questions. i have to confess that i was down to number 9 and when i pasted in the blok poem, i accidentally erased everything above it, losing more than a week of work and what were likely my best, most articulate words ever, thanks to an ill-timed blogger save. after lying down to make the minor heart attack pass, i managed to reconstruct it. naturally, i had to add a few pictures...but here's what i had to say:

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Julie, I enjoyed participating in your Q and A experiment and I'm fascinated by your blog bravery to do an open request for interviews.  I don’t recall seeing it done before. So, a bit of turn about seems fair - here are 10 questions which I hope will enhance the blog portrait of who you are.

1. By birth you are a child of the American Prairie and, as an adult, you have lived many other places. Was there a moment when you understood the uniqueness of your heritage and what it means to have roots in the history of that region?

i think i spent a lot of years running away from being from a little town on the prairie. tho' i think i can honestly say i was never a redneck, i definitely know one when i see one from having dated grown up with them. the little town was very conservative and very religious (12 churches in a town of 1300) and i definitely fled that...first to southern california and then to the liberal environs of a big ten school.

i was fortunate to be raised by a liberal father - he always says he hopes that one day he has enough money to be a republican, but until then, he simply can't afford it - and a mother who showed me there was a world outside (by hauling me and my horse in a multi-state region every summer). i am very grateful for that, as that foundation definitely made me a person able to make her life in an small european country miles from the little town on the prairie.

i think that growing up on the prairie gave me an actual physical need for space around me. when you grow up there, in that flat landscape, with waving grasses as far as the eye can see to the horizon, you have an innate sense of space built in. i find that when i don't feel that space around me, i begin to feel cramped and tense.

i think i first became aware of what the source of the tension was in my first year in denmark. i was feeling out-of-sorts and generally uncomfortable and chalking it up to generally dreary weather, darkness and the coldness of the unwelcoming natives around me. then, i worked for a weekend in st. petersburg and i was walking down one of the wide streets of that beautiful city when i realized that all of that tension i had felt had melted away. and it hit me that i could palpably feel the vastness of russia around me and that i felt like i could breathe again. and it clicked for me in that moment that it was because i grew up on the wide-open prairie.

i think part of why we've moved to the countryside is because i'm drawn to that sense of space, but generally, i think my very being feels how small denmark is. there are only two places that feel physically as vast to me as the prairie where i grew up and that's russia and when i was out sailing on an LNG carrier. the sea, when it's calm, has that same vastness from you to the horizon that the prairie has. and i think that's the part that settled into my being from my roots on the prairies.
me at the foot of the divine sophia at ephesus (now sans fuzzes - thanks bill)
2. How do you see yourself? As a leader, follower, joiner, individualist, thinker, nurturer, experimenter, fighter, pacifist or whatever else one can be labeled?

any and all of those things at any given moment. but probably less of a leader, more of a follower, a bit too eager a joiner, a hesitant individualist, not much of a nurturer, a careful experimenter and too often a more of a fighter than i would like to think. but i can definitely say that i'm a thinker and have often been accused of over-thinking. blogging actually lends itself very well to that - i can't count the times i've started off with "i've been thinking about...." but i think (see, there is is again) the one of those things no one would call me is a pacifist. that's not to say that i am in favor of war, as i don't think i mean pacifist in that sense. i'm just not very passive. i'm too impatient for that. i guess i'd like labels like worldly, smart and funny. those i could live with.

gratuitous shot of our wegner Y chairs
3. Hypothetical question. You walk into a cafe and immediately notice people waving to you. On one side of the room sits Søren Kierkegaard, Simone de Beauvoir and Fyodor Dostoyevsky and they’re gesturing for you to join them. Simultaneously, on the other side of the room, Hans Wegner, Arne Jacobsen and Børge Mogensen are also inviting you to sit with them. Where do you go and why?

my initial reaction is to say søren, simone and fyodor, if only because i wonder what the three of them are doing together, but only if we sit in wegner's Y chairs or arne's egg, as they lend themselves beautifully to good conversation. but on second thought, i think kierkegaard's angst, de beauvoir's militant feminism and dostoevsky's religiousness would probably end up irritating the hell out of me (not to mention that i'm not sure they could stand one another), so let's go with wegner, jacobsen and mogensen, but we'll hope that poul henningsen and piet hein drop by as well.

here's a little sample of why we'd like to hang out with piet:


Losing one glove
is certainly painful,
but nothing
compared to the pain,
of losing one,
throwing away the other,
and finding
the first one again.

4. You’ve stated your interest in different crafts - paper, cloth, weaving and such. Additionally, you have a well written blog that's both intelligent and personal. I understand the time restraints involved but have you considered taking the next steps and moving from craftsperson to artist?

"don't mention the war...i think i mentioned it once, but got away with it...." -- basil fawlty

seriously, i think about this all. the. time. i even scribble down business plans and such. but it's plain and simple fear that holds me back. i'm afraid not to know how much my paycheck will be every month (you also, by my stage, have achieved such a ridiculous monthly salary that you are loathe to give it up)  i'm afraid to turn something that's fun into something i have to do. and those fears paralyze me. one of the reasons we moved to the countryside was to simplify and try to prepare our life for me taking that step, so perhaps i'll get there yet.

interesting fashion choices at legoland
5. From your photographs it's easy to see you have a keen eye but there's also some reserve or conservatism. Your photos rarely include people, especially people looking towards the camera (other than family and friends). Why is that and do you think composed object shots are good enough?

ever since i moved to denmark more than a decade ago, i have had to face again and again that i am more conservative than i'd like to think i am with my liberal arts education and liberal father (he once tacked on an amendment to a bill to make the fence post the state tree of south dakota - it was a tongue-in-cheek attempt to point out the absurdity of the bill in the first place, but seriously, no republican would have that kind of sense of humor). so my not taking photos of people is partially this conservatism, but it's also got more to do with shyness than you might imagine. especially of taking photos of people in public. as far as my family goes, every time i try to make them sit for a photo, we all end up frustrated and the photos are artificial. i'd much rather catch them from the side or in an unguarded moment than do actual portraits of them. i think the good portraits i have taken were all ones i just caught and not ones we posed.

edit: i realized i didn't answer the last part about composed object shots (i blame losing my original text. *sigh*). i will say that i've learned a great deal from doing my composed object shots. i've learned about light and shadow and how you often only notice things when you get them onto the computer. i've also learned about how you can achieve a rather different feel through processing that wasn't there originally and completely change the shot. plus, the rocks sit still and don't argue with me. but i will agree that part of the stagnation with my photography that i'm feeling at the moment is undoubtedly because you can only go so far with composed objects and then no farther. i think it's why i've been drawn to landscapes of late (which is also because we have a lake)...they give me something new but still without the people. i'm going to have to ponder a bit more about why i don't like taking people shots, i'm not quite to the bottom of that yet, all i know is that i've never liked it. i even had a friend back in macedonia who used to walk up to old ladies and ask them if she could photograph them all the time and it just totally made me cringe with embarrassment, tho' i admit she got some great shots.

6. Here’s another hypothetical question. You're dead and there’s a memorial stone (large beach pebble?) commemorating your life. On that stone is a button and anyone can walk up to it and push it. When the button is pushed, music is heard. What music do you choose to be heard?

the song that came immediately to mind is sheryl crow's all i wanna do. i'm not sure if that's deep or pathetic. the second song is madonna's express yourself. i'm a 90s girl, what can i say? i wish it was deeper or even more musical than that, but there you have it.

7. It’s summer and you’ve decided to take a hike. At the trail head there are two choices: One is a walk through a valley with lush meadows filled with flowers and birds. The other one winds under a forest canopy with occasional streams, small waterfalls and ultimately reaches tree line and there's mountains with scenic views? Which path do you take?

i'll go with the meadows. again, i think it's the prairie heritage. i think mountains are beautiful, but i don't have a need for them like i do wide-open spaces. denmark has nice forests to go for a walk in and i do love to try to find mushrooms and i enjoy the forest, but meadows, with the rustle of grass in the breeze, they just calm me. tho' i have also learned to love a harsh beach - not the kind where you laze about in the sun, but the kind where you need your rubber boots, a scarf and a warm jacket and you can't hear yourself talk because the waves are pounding on the shore with such force and the wind is really blowing. those can clear my head and calm me too (but that wasn't really part of the question, was it?)

8. Judging from your blog(s) you never sleep. With job, family and new property and house, how do you juggle what you do? Do you devote a particular amount of time to each of your endeavors? Or is it more spontaneous?

totally spontaneous. and i'm a night owl. i stay up too late every night, tho' by thursday i'm usually really tired and i go to sleep at a reasonable time that one night a week. i watch very little t.v. and if i do watch t.v., i'm always attempting to knit or stitch or paint feathers on stones while i do it. i also never put away the laundry and husband does the dishes. and the ironing (except the tea towels, i iron the tea towels). it's the beauty of being married to a dane - the males of the species are completely domesticated. that's part of why he's a keeper.

9. What great or memorable past experience would you like to re-experience?

two things come to mind, one is a train ride in the balkans in the summer of 1997. the temperature was perfect, the wind coming in through the windows of the train was perfect. i was wearing my favorite dress. the landscape outside the train featured ruins and farms where they were still using horse-drawn implements. i don't think i ever felt more alive before or since that night. i would love to experience that again.

and the other isn't really something i've experienced myself unless you believe in reincarnation. i've mentioned before that i'd like to have lived in 1913 - to have experienced the creativity and change that was in the air, especially in russia, in that era.  to hang out with the symbolists, the intense creativity of those involved in the ballets russes, the dramas, the salons, the whole aura of that milieu just appeal so much. even in denmark, at that time, asta nielsen was becoming the world's first film star with her abyss. it was such a dynamic, sweeping time. i would love to have been part of it. somehow blok's the stranger (neznakomka), tho' it was written a bit before 1913, captures it for me.

 The Stranger

The restaurants on hot spring evenings
Lie under a dense and savage air.
Foul drafts and hoots from dunken revelers
Contaminate the thoroughfare.
Above the dusty lanes of suburbia
Above the tedium of bungalows
A pretzel sign begilds a bakery
And children screech fortissimo.

And every evening beyond the barriers
Gentlemen of practiced wit and charm
Go strolling beside the drainage ditches --
A tilted derby and a lady at the arm.

The squeak of oarlocks comes over the lake water
A woman's shriek assaults the ear
While above, in the sky, inured to everything,
The moon looks on with a mindless leer.

And every evening my one companion
Sits here, reflected in my glass.
Like me, he has drunk of bitter mysteries.
Like me, he is broken, dulled, downcast.

The sleepy lackeys stand beside tables
Waiting for the night to pass
And tipplers with the eyes of rabbits
Cry out: "In vino veritas!"

And every evening (or am I imagining?)
Exactly at the appointed time
A girl's slim figure, silk raimented,
Glides past the window's mist and grime.

And slowly passing throught the revelers,
Unaccompanied, always alone,
Exuding mists and secret fragrances,
She sits at the table that is her own.

Something ancient, something legendary
Surrounds her presence in the room,
Her narrow hand, her silk, her bracelets,
Her hat, the rings, the ostrich plume.

Entranced by her presence, near and enigmatic,
I gaze through the dark of her lowered veil
And I behold an enchanted shoreline
And enchanted distances, far and pale.

I am made a guardian of the higher mysteries,
Someone's sun is entrusted to my control.
Tart wine has pierced the last convolution
of my labyrinthine soul.

And now the drooping plumes of ostriches
Asway in my brain droop slowly lower
And two eyes, limpid, blue, and fathomless
Are blooming on a distant shore.

Inside my soul a treasure is buried.
The key is mine and only mine.
How right you are, you drunken monster!
I know: the truth is in the wine.

-alexander blok

10. I said there would be no food questions, I lied. Can a guy get a really good Mexican burrito in Denmark?

you most definitely cannot. way, way, way too far from mexico. and there's a totally insufficient influx of mexican immigrants. and the danes don't realize it's just wrong to put creme fraiche in the guacamole.

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thank you, bill, for these questions. since you sent them, i've been pondering that interaction between kierkegaard and dostoevsky and trying to figure out why i never take pictures of people. so you made me think and that's really the best thing one can ask. do be sure to visit bill's blog - just a moment of miscellany, he'll undoubtedly make you think too. 


heidikins said...

I love the way you talk about the prarie, it makes me smile. I have the same need for rocky, craggy mountains which I felt sheltered me as I grew up.

Coincidentally, when I drive across the prarie I start to feel claustrophobic, like the sky is crushing me, and I need a mountain (or a building, or a light-post) to hold it up.

Excellent questions.

beth said...

wow....we got to know you and see you all in one amazing post.....loved it !

mrs mediocrity said...

Fabulous. I am not from the prairie but I grew up in NY farm country, and I need that space, too. And trees. And grass and flowers. Need them.
It was really good to learn more about you like this. And I think you need to stop being afraid. You are an artist.

Char said...

love the questions always about who to talk too in past and present lives. i like it so much that i use it in interviews.

always lovely to know more about our hostess.

The Queens Table said...

That was a nice read. Thank you to Bill for the questions. Your answer about your need for the wide open spaces seems to touch everyone in a way that makes them think about their own connections to the earth landscape.

I come from a place in the US where most folks yearn to go to the beach. I have always found the beach boring after an hour. Sure I marvel at it's vastness and the wonder of the tides, but for me that straight line of the horizon is just too darn flat. I crave the hills, valleys and awesomeness of the mountains. Yet I grew up in the suburbs of a large American city. My soul would connect to the mountains in my dreams, until I finally found them in so called "reality" for myself. I completely understand that calm "ahhh" feeling. It is..."I am home."

Linda said...

I don't take many photos of people because I don't want them to get angry at me for trying. I once asked a cute little old Frenchman wearing a beret if I could take his picture and he yelled "Non" at me and took a swing at me with his cane. However, in India they love having their photos taken.
I went to school in Texas (having been in Az)and felt like something was missing. It took a trip back home for the first break to realize that it was the mountains. Couldn't see anything but a flat horizon in TX.

Anonymous said...

Some great questions (thanks, Bill) and some equally fascinating answers.

kristina - no penny for them said...

wow, looonnng!

but i so enjoyed reading this. on a saturday morning, with a coffee and some toast with sour cherry jam and some music. just perfect.

i totally understand your fears. not that that's helpful. but i so know what you mean.

p.s.: have i mentioned lately how much i'm looking forward to blog camp berlin?

Elizabeth said...

Good questions Bill and the answers gave us a little bit more info on you Julie. Love the answer about why husband is a keeper.

Have a fantastic weekend everybody.

f8hasit said...

This was a most entertaining post! Kudos to Bill for sending you such thought provoking questions! Bravo!

I ALWAYS enjoy coming and getting comfortable losing myself in your blog posts, but now I feel like I've pulled up a chair and you've served me a nice cup of tea.

I think I might just stick around until cocktail hour, if that's alright.


Unknown said...

That's a great interview. I love the text and the photos that accompany them.

Thanks to Bill for getting you started.

julochka said...

thanks everybody. i actually quite enjoyed being on the receiving end of the questions for a change. :-)

Magpie said...

piet hein - that gave me a little frisson. my sixth grade teacher, a wonderful woman, gave me a copy of a book of his poems at the end of that year. i wonder where that book is...