Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: a year in pictures

2011 : january : PAD
february PAD - with 30 photos, because february has been extra long
2011 : march : PAD
365: the 2011 edition: april
may 2011 - PAD
june 2011 - PAD
july 2011 - PAD
august 2011 - PAD

september 2011 - PAD

october 2011 - PAD
november 2011 - PAD
december 2011 : PAD

the best thing about taking a photo every single day is that at the end of the year, you have a visual review of what happened. i long ago realized that these 365 projects are about remembering much more than they are about taking great pictures. they're about the daily practice. they're about noticing the world around you, even if just for a few minutes, on a daily basis. but mostly, they're about memory.

in many ways, it was a quiet year. we didn't travel much, we spent a lot of time at home. we enjoyed our animals and our garden. people visited us. we noticed the light. we ate great food. we acquired quite a lot of bobbaloos. we horsed around. and had baby bunnies that grew up way too fast. it was a creative year and a year full of color. there were cloudy days and a lot of rain, but when the light came, it was spectacular. in all, i'm rather content with 2011.

i'm looking forward to what 2012 brings. and i will continue to take a photo every day - it's become a way of life for me, having done it for two years now.

happy new year one and all!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

time stretches

i love these lazy, long days between christmas and new year's. they're filled with whatever inspires...baking, reading, playing with yarn and sticks, leisurely rides and lots of chats at the stables, trying new recipes, playing cards, even a bit of knitting with rainbow yarn (another scarf, it's the only thing i can do). it feels like time stretches and is precisely enough. and it's not very often you can say that.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

a glimpse of what lies beneath

on our christmas day walk, i kept noticing the reflections of the trees in the puddles.
i had a feeling that we had a rare glimpse of things down under the earth,
in to the roots of the trees, to what lies beneath.

and it was a clear reflection of the world above.

they say there is a root below for every branch above, so it sort of makes sense.

it was a strange, almost vertigo-like feeling it gave me,
standing on the edge of that secret abyss below,
through the window afforded by the still, clear water.
it felt like you could slip quietly in and explore what was below.

but instead, we walked on.

and a little shiver went down my spine.
i'm not sure we're supposed to know everything about what lies beneath.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

so i've been thinking...

~ everyone should go to the beach at least once a month, just to clear their heads.

~ about whether you can eat the seaweed found on our northerly beaches.

~ and if so, which kind?

~ about the great wars of the last century (i'm reading ken follett's fall of giants, which is set in WWI) and the residues they have left behind.

~ about the need for an editor. and perhaps also a translator. or maybe just some english lessons. unless they really did want people to line up their dogs...

~ that sometimes the best course of action on a sink full of dirty dishes is to pour a glass of wine, turn out the light and go settle into the big chair with a good book. after all, those dishes aren't going anywhere.

~ leaving one square of toilet paper on an otherwise empty roll does not excuse you from changing it.

* * *

what are you thinking about in this liminal week, while we wait for the new year?

Monday, December 26, 2011

lovely shining monday

we took a little family outing to the west coast today. as we drew nearer, the sun came out and since it was about 10°C (or 50°F), it was downright balmy, despite the strong winds blowing in off the north sea.

 and the light. oh, the light.

an afternoon of sea and sand and wind and golden light has completely realigned my very soul.

i am definitely ready for the new year now! bring it on!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

christmas is here. sort of.

a little bit Charlie Brown, but it's ours

it bugs me a little bit that the danes celebrate christmas on what is arguably the day before christmas, but this year, i've decided to just go with it. the duck is in the oven and i'll be putting the veggies in to roast in an hour or so. the sun is shining, we went for a long walk, the gifts are wrapped and of a reasonable quantity. i have to say that everything is pretty much right with the world.

merry christmas, one and all. may it be perfect, whether you celebrate it on the right day or not.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

pagan rituals and the winter solstice

which of these trees?

one of these trees is now in our living room, covered with lights and ribbons and ornaments and tinsel. and i cannot even express how satisfying it is that our christmas tree came from our own yard. photos of it in its new location tomorrow.

in the meantime, happy solstice. decorating the tree seemed like the perfect pagan ritual to engage in on this, the darkest day of the year.

tomorrow the light begins to return. none too soon.

make the most of it, wherever you are.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

a christmas calm

i am unusually calm about christmas. usually, about now, i rush to amazon and panic-order a kitchen-aid mixer. but that doesn't seem to be happening this year. i feel good and calm about the gifts i have for those i love (except for the ones i haven't yet sent to my parents or my sister or my nephews - however, they're used to that, so it's more ok than you might imagine). i picked up husband's gift today...a beautiful handmade knife in a lovely leather sheath (don't worry, he doesn't read my blog - he says he doesn't need to since he gets to talk to me in person). it was so much nicer to go to the artist's lovely home, have a cup of coffee and talk about christmas traditions and life philosophies than to rush around a busy, soulless mall.

and i haven't gone completely nuts for sabin either, unless buying a 10-year-old an iPhone 4S is nuts (we couldn't expect her to go on using her 3GS when the camera's so much better in the new one). she'll also get a few clothes which she needed anyway and some custom bobbaloos of her real-life bunnies (don't worry, she doesn't read my blog either), but there won't be any over-packaged plastic toys in her stocking this year and i'm quite pleased with that.

we're going to be home this year - we have spotted a tree on our property that we'll cut down tomorrow and bring in, then we'll drink mulled wine and decorate it together on the 24th (which the danes mistakenly think is actual christmas). i bought a lovely, plump duck, so we'll have that with roasted veg and eat ris a'lamande for dessert, like the danes do.  we'll light candles and watch movies and play games and go for a walk (snow or no), feed the animals, play with the bunnies, gather the eggs, give matilde her new blanket and some carrots.

it feels like it will be a calm, warm, restorative time. and that must be what it's supposed to be about.

in which she starts out pious and ends up her usual devious self

i'm learning - slowly, all too slowly - to let go of my expectations of other people. especially the small ones (both people and expectations). for example - if you were copying selected pages of a book that would give you an idea of what that book was about, you would find it natural to include the table of contents, right? apparently, that's an unrealistic expectation on my part. but i have realized that the level of frustration it causes me is COMPLETELY not worth the energy it takes. so i'm trying to let go of such expectations and their attendant sense of frustration. and on the odd occasion when i'm able to, i find it makes me feel lighter and generally makes my navigation through the world easier and much happier.

but it's hard. especially if the failure to meet my expectations makes the person who failed to meet them, in my head at least, seem less intelligent or perhaps downright stubborn. because those things aren't necessarily true. (tho' they are also not necessarily NOT true.)  but once i've decided someone is stupid or stubborn or unprofessional or all three, i pretty much write that person off and they have no chance with me again. this has not always been a good thing. so i'm trying to be less hasty in my judgements when people fail to meet my expectations.

the problem is that the we are FULL of expectations. it's how we navigate the world - cultural expectations, expectations towards what we consider politeness and fair treatment - our expectations guide our actions and behavior. it's so automatic that we don't even realize we have them. hence the frustration and disappointment when they're not met.

i do realize that this is all rather abstract. so here's the deal...i've recently been working with some people who i had professional expectations towards and i have been surprised several times when those expectations, especially of what i would consider a normal level of professionalism, were not met. i was surprised when i was asked to do something that i deemed contrary to my professional integrity. and in refusing to do this thing (it wasn't something illegal, or anything serious like that, it just felt unfair and unprofessional towards the client), i in turn disappointed the expectations of the person asking me to do it and it became a rather pissy vicious circle of disappointment. but i stood my ground because i felt my professionalism was at stake, as well as my sense of duty towards the client. and this wench person doesn't seem to be able to just let it go. she has actually said to me several times since how irritated she was that i maintained my professionalism instead of compromising and just doing what she asked - her argument being "we do that all time."  which frankly, isn't an argument at all. and made me lose respect for her even more, because she can't even put together a proper argument.

but i'm trying to take a deep breath, holding onto the feeling in the pit of my stomach that i did the right thing and just let go of it. being righteous about my sense of right and wrong isn't a good use of my energy either.

it makes it all much easier that i can clearly see a way to use her lack of professionalism to my advantage. mwahaha!

Monday, December 19, 2011

if you think about it...

...santa claus is a rather scary idea. you've got a bearded old man in a funny suit who uses candy to lure small children onto his lap to tell him their secrets. after which, he sneaks into their locked houses via the chimney in the middle of the night, eats all of their cookies, leaves some wrapped packages containing odin only knows what and disappears again into the night, flying away without a trace in an archaic mode of reindeer-drawn transport. still wearing his funny suit and hiding behind that beard.

it's practically the clinical description of a paedofile-leaning terrorist.

who came with that idea anyway?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

speed dating and that fizzy feeling

over the past few days i have come to understand the concept of speed dating (i realize i'm quite possibly left behind in the mid-noughties with this notion and perhaps no one does it anymore). speed dating in the sense of a fast, intense conversation with a new person, where you ask a series of set questions and form a quick impression. tho' my purpose was quite different than selecting a date (what with husband being a keeper and all) i think that the almost instantaneous sense of whether you click with a person is actually the same. i have effectively speed-dated more than 60 people in the past few days and there are handful that i could almost instantly tell that i would like to hang out with and get to know better.

during two of the conversations (quick word about my project: over a period of ten days, i'm assessing the english skills of 120+ people who work with children) i actually had goosebumps. i was left feeling decidedly fizzy and longing for more time. interestingly (and to my relief), those who i didn't connect intensely with didn't produce an opposite reaction of revulsion - it was more like the conversation was over quickly and there was no fizz. this reaction only marginally had to do with the language skills of the person in question.

this, of course, got me thinking. what is it that attracts us to other people? after this experience, i think it's something quite subconscious and perhaps even intangible. or it involves a whole lot of signals that we both give and receive of which we are almost completely unaware on a conscious level. i don't even think it has that much to do with the topics being discussed, it's just a kind of instant connection. chemistry perhaps? or maybe an ability to pick up on the energy or aura another person radiates?  whatever it is, i was left wanting more.

i can tell that i need to spend more time out among people. that fizzy feeling definitely gives me some much-needed energy.

*  *  *

holy crap, i can't stop thinking about this.

*  *  *

happy weekend, one and all!

Monday, December 12, 2011

loving right now

things i'm loving right now...

...the house is slowly beginning to look like christmas.

...5-6 eggs a day.

...that husband is sitting in the kitchen with a cup of tea, listening to a radio program about vikings.

...the big project that i'm playing a little part in at the moment. new iPhone 4S (how did i live without this?).

...reading the cadfael books by ellis peters. nothing like a 12th century detective monk who knows everything about herbal remedies to put things into perspective.

...thinking about all of the exciting things in the year ahead.

...this little interview i did on kamana's blog. mostly because it made me realize that i'm really content with right now.

...that aside from a slight moment of mania on discovering the lego weaponry aftermarket for my nephews, i'm doing really good on not going crazy this christmas.

...a good night's sleep.

...bunny buns.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

quaint little churches: part II


i'm beginning to think my theory that all danish churches have dutch renaissance architecture is a little off. two more little country churches dash my theory. so i have a new theory: churches in denmark are painted white. or is it just a hypothesis? (i knew i should have paid attention in high school science class instead of reading dostoevsky.)

the tyranny of the gift list

there is a tyranny afoot in denmark. it's the gift list. families ask one another for a christmas wish list. and while it's all well and good to let those who love you know what you'd like, it seems that these lists end up chiseled in stone. not a single item that's not explicitly on the list will make its way under the christmas tree or into a christmas stocking. and frankly, that stinks.

it means that no one's going to get these gorgeous, durable, well-made, hand-woven tea towels or these beautiful one-of-a-kind knives. i've been participating in a handmade market this weekend and last and tho' many people pass through and look - and they especially stop and talk to the man who is making these beautiful knives - they're not buying anything. and i find it very frustrating. these are beautiful, unique items that no one else will have. and that's actually the problem. i heard a man say yesterday that he thought his son would love one of these knives, but he didn't dare to buy one because it wasn't on his son's list. it's not even that the knives are prohibitively expensive - they're well within a normal family christmas gift price range.

i despair a little bit about what to do about it. the handmade movement that is sweeping the world is definitely skipping denmark. it seems that if it's not over-designed, industrialized and exactly like the hansens next door have, it's not going to sell. unique, beautiful, one-of-a-kind items just won't do. and people are afraid to use their own imagination in buying gifts for their loved ones - they won't buy anything that's not on the wish list, even if they think the person might like it. i heard a man on the radio yesterday say that if his grandchildren didn't get their wish list to him in time, then they didn't get anything for christmas at all. can you believe that? he was so resistent to knowing his grandchildren and what they might like that he'd rather not give them anything if he had to think of it himself?

the wish list takes all of the fun out of gifts - both for giver and receiver - there's no surprise, there's no imagination, there's no creativity needed. and i think it renders the whole thing rather empty for all concerned. i'm not going to participate in it anymore. we have to start somewhere.

Friday, December 09, 2011

things i learned this week...

gratuitous bunny shot

~ zumba is HUGE among the over-forty set in the back of beyond. (don't worry, i haven't tried it, so the populace is uninjured.)

~ whatever lego wants, lego gets.

~  sometimes people are just assholes and there's not much you can do about it. it's best for your sanity to just get over that.

~ when the child gets sick, she goes down fast. and whines kind of a lot.

~ you can work for the mayor and not have a clue as to what's going on in your community.

~ there's nothing to stop the wind between us and the north sea. (and lemme tell ya, it's blowing.)

~ a lot of people have their own domain.

~ teachers apparently have lower divorce rates than the general population (informal and potentially sketchy evidence based on a sample of 21 - tho' the divorce rate was 0% among those polled).

~  the handmade movement has not come to denmark.

~ those jerkies at dk hostmaster (the people who insist on centrally managing the .dk domains) are ROTTEN at customer service.

~ sometimes when the bunny escapes, it's permanent.

*  *  *

i'm sure there's more, but that's what i've got right now.  happy weekend, one and all!!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

more soon....

i am working on a very interesting project...take delusions of grandeur, neuro-linguistic programming, a crazy american guru, daycare folks, teachers, the english language, lego and microsoft and shake it all together in the middle of nowhere and you've got my project.

more soon...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

happy birthday dad!

we used to stage a yearly shot where we got dad up on a horse. this was from summer 2010. dad and amber.

i remember the one horse show we dragged dad was in tyndall and it was about 104°F in the shade all day. the lunch stand ran out of cold drinks. tyndall ran out of ice. the swimming pool across the street was like a bathtub. and still we showed on. funnily enough, dad never wanted to come to a horse show again...however, he happily continued to foot the bill for the horse shows (and shoes) for years and years afterwards. as long as he didn't have to attend.

happy birthday, dad.  we wish we were there to celebrate with you and eat german chocolate cake.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

scenes from the first snow

6/12.2011 - scenes from the first snow

scenes from the first snow

scenes from the first snow

scenes from the first snow

scenes from the first snow

scenes from the first snow

i spent a lot of time outside today, despite the snow. looking for our escape artist bunny, who broke out of his cage in the night. but this time has disappeared. i still have hope he'll be back out there in the barn, driving the other bunnies mad tomorrow morning when i go out. but i'll admit i'm worried. i wonder how much he knows about the big wide world. a neighbor came looking for his foal, which had also disappeared. perhaps they've run off together...young lop-eared bunny and a young quarter horse foal - off on adventures in the snow. there must be a story in that....

yes, i have an accent


like most people speaking a foreign language, i speak danish with an accent. danish has three extra letters - æ ø å - which have been designed to make it nearly impossible for a non-native to sound like a native. when combined with some letters like a soft d (which sounds like an L in my ears), danes can produce shades of sounds that my ear is simply incapable of discerning from one another - sod sød sy ud øl - i could go on, but seeing them on the page doesn't have the same effect as hearing them. the differences are subtle and often, to my ear, more a difference in pitch than pronunciation. and i don't always catch the nuance of which word was meant in the course of a normal conversation (for years, when husband's girls were small, i thought they were asking for beer (øl) in the car, when really they were asking to get out (ud)).

but i go blithely along, speaking danish in my own unique accent, which i'm told is a hard-to-place combination of native english speaker/slav, which probably has to do with my years of studying russian. and i was quite content with this. until recently.

there's someone who i'm around several times a week who has begun mocking my accent. to my face. which is awkward in meetings or when you're standing there, trying to talk to the vet. every time i contributed to the conversation at a meeting last evening, this person answered me in a mimicking funny accent.  i'm not sure if it's a socially awkward attempt at amusing or if it's genuinely mean, but i'm definitely not finding it all that funny. he also oddly repeats words to me in swedish if i didn't catch what he said. i can't even begin to guess what that's about.

if you think about it, EVERYONE has an accent. no one is accent-free. my mom always claims that the area i grew up in south dakota is accent-free because tom brokaw grew up there and he "doesn't have an accent." i always thought that it was because his fargo-like original accent (because the accent where i grew up is pretty much identical to the one in the coen brothers film) had been beaten out of him so he could be a news anchor.

but let's face it, our speech, no matter the language, is colored by regionalisms and ticks and odd pronunciations. and yes, it's fun to make fun of accents and regionalistic tics - it's what makes fargo such a hilarious film or the canadian eh at the end of many sentences that bob and doug mackenzie effectively exploited for comic effect. but comedy has its place and if you're going to mock someone (which i love to do, don't get me wrong), you have to know them well and you have to have earned the right to mock them. you have to know where the line is and not constantly find yourself on the wrong side of it. because if you don't, it borders on something like that seems a lot like racism.

i was telling a friend about this whole situation and she was the one suggesting it was a bit racist. i'll admit i balk at that word, but it is something like racism. if i were indian and he were mocking me in an indian accent, it would be more obvious. but can it really be racism when a person of the same race mocks your accent? perhaps it's a racism born of xenophobia, but a belittling experience in much the same way as more obvious racist acts. whatever else it is, it's definitely unpleasant.

i guess i ultimately feel that i could take the mocking of my accent if the person doing it had earned the right to do it - by knowing me well enough and by being someone i respect and who i felt respected me. i fear that's what's missing here.