Tuesday, April 30, 2013

goodbye april

april wasn't kind this year. it was cold. it was long. it was windy. did i mention that it was cold? we were all sick at one time or another. we're all coughing. some of us currently are running a temperature. more than one of us. i'll be glad to see april go. please, please, please let may mean spring.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


just catching up on my blog reader (in flipboard, still thru google reader, while it lasts)...also writing this on the iPad mini my sis gave to me (how fabulous is she?)...and having this sinking feeling, as i read blogs i subscribed to ages ago, that i do not sufficiently stick with the things that i try...whether stitching or dyeing or felting or sewing or quilting or whatever....i am a dabbler. it means that while bloggers i long ago followed continue to share their particular area of interest, ever more honed and refined, ever evolving, their techniques more and more beautiful, i dabble and never get any better at anything, continuously flitting from one thing to the next.

what holds me back, prevents me from embracing a thing that is me? or even figuring out what it might be? i'm honestly not sure. it's surely bound up in all kinds of unutterable fears - of failure, of success, of exhausting ideas, of never having another one again, of being derivative, of being unique, of critique, of praise, of it becoming humdrum and boring (hmm, seems i could utter a few of those fears after all).

there are a few things i stick with - breathing, writing, taking photos and cooking. with cooking, i've slogged through a recent slump, cooking daily anyway, despite not feeling like it. at all. i suppose on that front, i'm driven largely by hunger. but it's the same with daily photos - i'm not always inspired to take one, but i persevere anyway, always finding something to notice and photograph. but even there, i don't think i've pushed my photography forward in any meaningful way in a long time.

where do people find their motivation? their dedication? their confidence? their belief? their dogged persistence? their spark?

i don't really have trouble at all finding sparks, it's more that i find too many of them. i am an ideas person. i love new ideas and spending time with people who give me new ideas.  i love thinking of new ideas, but i also love letting go of them again and moving on to a new one. and that doesn't lend itself very well to developing a craft. or a job. or a business. because those take persistently and consistently developing and pushing the ideas further and further. and that's what i admire about so many of the blogs in my reader - the ability their creators have to keep working on their ideas, pushing them further, honing them and polishing them and perfecting them.

maybe my thing is initiating ideas and i need to do a better job of passing them to people who will nurture them. i don't think that i ever need worry about running out. now, to turn that into a viable business...

* * *

perhaps i should just go read this article on finding fulfilling work.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

where did they go?

they were here.

they drove me up a tree.

but now where have they gone?

they didn't really drive me up a tree, it just seemed like that's what molly was thinking. my family has continued on to london, stonehenge, omaha beach and paris and their stay here is over. it flew by and it wasn't long enough at all. i'm feeling a little lost this afternoon, amidst the quiet that has descended over the house. i'm very glad they came, even if the visit was far too short.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

a crafty day at home

my sis wanted to make some felty-stitchy bits for her bathroom back home. so we enlisted child labor. they don't have anything better to do since there's no school.

turns out you can pay the child labor in chocolate. of course there's the small issue that you have to get it at the chocolate café in the airport in amsterdam.

i made a soft leather pillow cover. i'm actually pretty pleased with myself on this one.

it has a ribbon & button closure.  i like that too.

bright bits for my sis's bathroom.

more soon.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

the wind has blown my thoughts into confusion

i seriously blinked and then it was thursday. where has this week gone? i'm nowhere near ready for my family to arrive, but am looking forward to it anyway. they'll just have to live with the chaos of this old, falling down house. tho' my cooking mojo has been nowhere to be found, a visit to the awesome butcher in farre and some wonderful smoked meats made locally by a friend make me think that i can at least wow them with some components of various meals.

husband is sick. really sick, as in horrible chills in the middle of the night due to his high fever. he has been in the big, comfy chair all day, under three blankets, watching netflix and drinking sprite. he's covered in a shiny glaze of fever sweat. it's not a pretty sight. i really hope he's better by tomorrow when they all get here!

the wind has blown today like a hurricane and yet the weather folks didn't say a single word about it. i was actually lifted off the ground at one point when i went outside. not really. but almost. it was that bad. i hope it stops and the weather shapes up before they land at 5:35 tomorrow. at least there's a tailwind for their trip.

we're actually happy there's no end in sight to the teacher lockout, as it means we won't have to take sabin out of school to go do fun things with family. but honestly, if i hear one more parent complain on facebook that they don't have any babysitting for their kids, i'm going to scream. is school really just babysitting to parents in this country? i haven't seen one iota of concern by a parent that they're worried their children are falling behind on what they should be learning. i know i said this already the other day, but it really gets my goat.

speaking of goats, i'd like to have one. then i'd make goat cheese. and i'm sure that would help my cooking mojo immensely.

on that note, i'm off to make up beds so people have somewhere to sleep when they come.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

tuesday blahs

at least we can paint while we wait for school to resume
the teacher lockout continues in this country. if the government hadn't locked them out, they would have gone on strike, so it's sort of a six of one, half dozen of the other sort of thing. the teachers gather and "demonstrate" with smiles on their faces and lattes or beers in hand, hanging out with their friends in the sunshine on the squares of the cities around denmark. i'm not even entirely sure what the dispute is about and i frankly have read quite a number of articles about it. something about not having their preparation time dictated to them (or taken away from them). as it is, they spend only 16 hours in the classroom actually teaching our kids. that seems like not very much to me.

but most surprising is the utter lack of outrage. parents have begun to complain that they don't have any child care options (many are taking their kids with them to work). i haven't heard a single parent who was concerned that their kids are missing out on three weeks of their education and the implications of that. no, it's as if school is a babysitter where you park your kids while you go to work and when you can't do that, what do you do?

maybe it's just that it clouded up again today and was windy and intermittently the sky spat at us, but i feel a little disappointed in people. where are their priorities? where is the outrage? doesn't anyone care about anything anymore?

* * *

when tragedies like the bombings at yesterday's boston marathon happen, the whole internet is awash with sympathy and photos and opinions. and i have a hard time relating to it. i've never been to boston. i've never run a marathon. i don't know a single person who was involved. it all feels very far away (which, in actuality, it is) and remote from my safe little corner of the world. there's nothing i can do about it. i don't have any answers. and it strikes me that people are killed in tragic circumstances all over the world on a daily basis and we don't go nuts on twitter about it. why is one place's tragedy more worthy of attention than all of the others? i'm sorry about what happened in boston, but i feel quite helpless to do, or even feel, anything about it.

* * *

love lisa congdon's nordic adventure occasional series.
i think i need to assign myself a project.

Monday, April 15, 2013

monday is a good day for a manifesto

i want light and laughter and love and moments of perfect clarity.
to float with the unbearable lightness of being.
to live in love and creativity and happiness and contentment.

to be full of ideas.
to share them.
to release them into the world
to become what they can become,
like children.

to be open.
not to judge.
to let people be who they are.
and realize it has nothing to do with me.
to release control.
to float free.
to not be tied down by negativity.
to be filled with boundless energy.
and abundance in every way.

to be kind to the planet.
to use its resources wisely.
consuming only my share.
and leaving it behind better than i found it.

to grow...inside, but also in the garden.
to change...inside, but also the world around me.
to embrace...myself and my faults, but also those around me.

to be wiser about who matters and who doesn't.
and when to say no.
and even more importantly, when to say yes.

to run headlong through this life, open and aware and alive.
basking in the unbearable lightness of being.

* with thanks to gillian, whose manifesto inspired and to kundera for the unbearable lightness of being, and also to me, for being open to change and a whole lot of other things.

synesthetic moments and the future of the past

i'm fascinated by the notion of synesthesia. probably because i first learned about it in a russian context. i think it was in nabokov's speak, memory, that i first encountered the condition. as wiki puts it: it's a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. for many people, this means that they see numbers or letters as colors or hear sounds as colors. it's something you are just born with and which isn't that understood. you can't make yourself have it and many people don't realize they have it until they realize that others don't see or hear colors in the same way.

i have a mild case of it - often getting an impression of a color from music and definitely getting strong color flashes from various emotions. this one must be more common, or there wouldn't be phrases like, i saw red for angry moments. i see color less in anger and more in moments of deep love and happiness and contentment - and they are generally warm blue-greens (probably why i painted my blue room blue), tho' i also see deep, rich purples and sometimes yellow and orange.

anyway, synesthesia continues to fascinate and when i came across this performance of russian composer scriabin's attempt at composing a synesthetic symphony, i had to share it.

russian composer scriabin's prometheus: poem of fire
an unfinished, unrealized synaesthetic work (he meant for it to be performed in the himilayas).
performed instead in a concert hall at yale.
i love how anna gowboy, the scriabin scholar behind the project, put it:
 "tonight is the future of the past."

a version of it was also done at the university of iowa sometime in the 70s.
but lasers have come a long way since then.

* * *

fantastic images by edward burtynsky
check especially his shipbreaking photos from bangladesh.
thanks bill, for the link!

* * *

do you know where your antipode is?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

scenes from a sunday

motivated by the impending visit from my family i did a bit of decorating. the entryway has long been a repository of coats and shoes and the odd case of wine and not much else.

our favorite cupboard, which we bought in the early days of our relationship stands there, but was serving only as a place where i keep kleenex and batteries and hang all of my various purses and bike helmets and oddly enough, a feather boa.

but i vacuumed out the spiders and cleaned it up today and even unearthed some of our other favorite things...glass plates and vases from our early days together, a fish plate we bought in istanbul, ceramic fish and hens we bought in palanga, martini glasses from prague...

...a few cookbooks and an inherited ceramic apple. it was fun opening boxes that have stood patiently waiting for almost three years(!) and bringing out these beloved items. it made me happy and it also made me wonder why i didn't do it long ago.

they promised better weather and today was much warmer, but still not all that nice...it was a bit rainy in the afternoon and rather grey and overcast all day. i've been watching this little mushroom all winter. it appeared last autumn sometime and has been hanging onto that stump for months.

a fine mist of raindrops on the crocus. there are crocus springing up all over the place - it seems like there are more this year than there were before. but perhaps i just don't remember them all from last year.

the little chicks are at that scruffy, awkward stage. their mother parades them around, scratching up good bits and clucking them over to gobble them up. they're pretty shy and never stop moving, so it's a bit hard to get a decent photo of them.

husband tilled around the strawberries - we've got 8 rows and will plant two more this year, to have ten. i hope it'll be a good year for strawberries! that big pile behind husband is cow poo that a neighbor kindly brought by. our sandy soil quickly loses any nutrients it has, so we need lots of fertilizer. that giant tank in the background is the gas tank we found buried right next to our well last weekend. we had to have it emptied and dug up. husband intends to cut it in half and make a big grill with it. with him, that's not just idle talk - it's not far from word to action around here, so i'm sure we'll soon be grilling on a grand scale.

i hope your sunday was a good one too!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

overt racism becoming endemic in denmark

even our little black bunny was the last one to find a home.
in recent weeks, there's been some media swirl about a horrendously racist, pompous, superior and fascist-leaning blog post written by a danish politician, marie krarup (of the danish people's party (dansk folkeparti)), after a trip to new zealand. the blog was published on berlingske's website and is an absolutely stunning exercise in xenophobic, arrogant offensiveness. there is a full text (in danish and english) here. krarup stands by her racist remarks and refuses to apologize. but how do you apologize for stupidity?

being shockingly racist is nothing new for krarup - look here to see what she said about a visit to niagra falls. since it's in danish, and i do realize that's a minor language, i'll tell you what she said, "Niagara Falls in Canada has been allowed to remain White. In this multi-culti country a white person is always seen next to a black, one brown and one yellow. And they're all smiling so happily! As if to say to us: multi-culti is really good! But the waterfall is just white." this was posted on her facebook page and the comments all glowingly agree with her that multiculturalism is bad. jesper (the peasant) frederiksen actually comments,  "multi-culti functions only if there aren't too multi of the antisocial culti." i am rendered speechless by such a public display of racism in an elected official.

when i first came to denmark fifteen years ago, it was frowned upon to say things like this in public. a politician's career would have been over for such behavior. now, it's commonplace and even encouraged. granted the danish people's party is the most extreme right wing example, but they're the ones who have made it ok to bash foreigners and lump them all together into one big, bad group that's out to destroy the danish way of life.

all of this underlines the power of storytelling. for a good decade, in denmark the story has been told and repeated that foreigners, especially from the middle east, come to denmark to cause trouble and live off the supposed fat of the danish welfare state. there has a been an entire bureaucracy built up around a push for integration that looks a whole lot more like assimilation. and fear of The Other has become the order of the day.

i've spent some time in recent weeks interviewing foreigners who have moved to denmark for various reasons and i can safely conclude that this rhetoric and tone are not without damaging psychological consequences on the immigrants themselves. in the push to be stuffed into boxes at danish language schools, many of these people end up in a fog of depression and loneliness. they are bewildered that their danish neighbors don't speak to them and aren't interested in them. they feel isolated by a lack of language and bewildered by a culture that feels like it's rejecting them (and may actually BE rejecting them). many more of them than is healthy made the distressing statement that they began to feel they didn't know who they were anymore.

perhaps this is a common phenomenon for all who are in exile (chosen or not). it's hard to retain who you are in the face of an alien culture and way of thinking. especially when a psychological switch lays the entire burden to suck it up and integrate at your feet as the alien.

it's important to return to enlightenment values which value all individuals as equal and equally having something to offer if we are just open to what that might be. we've got to stop the negative, racist rhetoric in this country. we need to get a whole lot more outraged about it and show the elitist, fascist marie krarups of this country that it's not acceptable. i'm increasingly convinced that as individuals we can and must make a difference, starting right here in our own neighborhoods. my project gives me a chance to do something and i definitely intend to use that chance.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

vignettes of a life (while we wait for spring)

i can't believe it's almost friday.
the week is flying by.
things are picking up, getting busier.
that is both good and bad.
time hurries at breakneck speed.

but we still haven't seen spring.
we've hardly even scented it on the air.
the only evidence is in the birdsong.
and even they sound a bit chilly.

i took frankie to the vet today.
he has a sore on his haunch.
he's fine, but he's wearing a collar of shame.
seeing him in it makes me laugh.
which seems a little bit mean.

i'm aware this isn't a poem.
i just wanted to play with margins.
my writing is going elsewhere this week.
can you tell?

it's like i'm only allotted a certain amount of words.
and when they're used somewhere else.
i have none left to use here.
apparently they're not like doritos.

the horses were mysteriously out in the pasture today.
i couldn't imagine how they got there.
and locked themselves in.
turns out they didn't.
a kind person driving by saw they were out.
(no one was home.)
and put them back in.
isn't that fantastic?
the danes can be nice.
when they want to be.
they just don't want to be very often.

that's not really fair.
another dane was nice today.
she gave me a whole shoebox full 
of vintage embroidery thread.
in colors from the 70s.
ones you can't get today.
it was wonderful.
and it made me happy.
i could see it made her happy too.

i'm working on a project
that i'm finding difficult (what else is new?).
it's difficult because it breaks my heart
to hear the stories i'm hearing.
i'm not sure yet what to do with them.
what i have a is a chance to make a difference.
if only i knew how.

my family will arrive in a week.
i hope the weather improves.
because this house isn't great.
and it's not going to get better in one week.
but we'll make it through.
if we stock up on gin.
and laughter.

* * *

this made me laugh so hard today.
and hysterically.

* * *

go see ulrika's gorgeous photos of kristina's wonderful home!

* * *

inspiration on making a difference here.

* * *

and a thing of dark, exquisite beauty here

Sunday, April 07, 2013

name that ship type

yes, i was back in esbjerg last week, taking pictures (480 of them, to be exact) at the harbor. what is it about ships that's so fascinating and wonderful? they really do make me totally happy. and do you know the various kinds pictured above? there's a hint for at least one of them in the name.

Thursday, April 04, 2013


is it weird to be a little bit in love with a ship that's being scrapped?

it also reminded me of this:

and that made me laugh.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

art(ifacts) of our memories

sabin started painting lessons yesterday with a professional artist (who is also a good friend). it's a marvelous opportunity offered by the local paint shop (she's got both wall paints and art supplies) and we snapped up one of the five spots as soon as we heard about it. at the end of the first hour and a half, sabin had painted this apple. i realize a mother is not unbiased, but i think the kid's got talent! and best of all, she was inspired. so this evening, instead of watching t.v., she said, "let's paint."

she's in her fruit phase, as she produced this pear. she had the most beautiful rosy blush in the middle (just like on the real pear that was her model) and then her father gave her some advice that messed it all up. she may work with it a bit more tomorrow when it's dry.

i had to include one more shot where you could see her face. after this, she painted a banana as well. definitely in her fruit phase. i think they'll be awesome in the new kitchen.

while she painted in broad strokes on canvas with slippery paint, i turned to an old book, my ink and watercolors. first a little longing for spring materialized on the page. probably because i bought a fritillaria earlier today and it was on the table in front of me (right next to those new candle holders).

then some nyhavn-style houses marched across the page.

and begged to be filled in with colors.

it was such a good way to spend the evening. the t.v. was off. i sat across from my near-teenager and all of the earlier frustrations of the day (which are many when you have an almost teenager in the house) melted away. the stacks of dirty dishes and orange peels and my martyrdom at constantly serving as her maid no longer mattered. nor did the scowls and grumpy comebacks. paint and brushes and art and candlelight and quality time together melted it all away.

these are the things we will remember. and happily, we have the art(ifacts) to prove it.

wordless wednesday: second-hand shop finds

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

stone age fare - or adventures in homeschooling during a lockout

is this what they mean by a stone age diet?
there's a little meme circulating on facebook (tho' i think it originated on reddit) - it asks: what was the coolest thing your parents did for you as a kid?

~ the first thing that leapt to mind was that they didn't baptise me as a baby, thinking that when (if?) i was baptized, it should be something that i chose for myself, because i wanted it and understood what it meant. i did eventually choose to be baptized and join st. andrew's presbyterian church in iowa city. it was at a time when i needed to believe there was something else after we die - i'd lost my favorite uncle and my favorite cat, bob, around the same time and since my uncle was a veterinarian and bobby had suffered horribly with kidney cancer, i needed to believe that they were together in heaven. so i got baptized. now i'm no longer sure about all that, but at the time i made the choice, it was the right one for me.

i've been pondering that question today, as the government and the teachers' union in this country cannot agree and today a lockout of the teachers around the country began. with some reluctance, i told my child that we were going to do a homeschool assignment (do you know how hard it is to find some ideas/curriculum that aren't religious if you google it? shocking, but the stuff of a different post.). she has two friends here and i told them they could pick the topic they wanted to work on and we'd find ways to do a whole range of things - reading, writing, science, cooking, art, history, maybe even math (not my strong suit). i was thinking vikings, but they chose food.

i've decided to have them look at different time periods and the food that was common then. with the prevalence of the paleo diet at the moment, i asked them to research (google) it a bit - what did they really eat in the stone age? what sweeteners did they use? was there loads of meat? were there any grains? what root veggies were available? was there really as much cabbage as in my new paleo cookbook by danish hottie chef thomas rode? i told them they could use google and the cookbook and that they should create a pinterest board with what they learned. i want them to create a presentation about it and then, tomorrow, i want them to cook a paleo meal. they're sixth graders and tho' only 12, are starting to be a bit teenager-agtig (that's that danish suffix that's just better than -ish), so they were a bit reluctant to start with. one of them developed a fever of 39 and i'm not sure how far they got. but they do realize that i'm serious and that this has to end in the kitchen.

next food time period i want them to investigate is the viking era (see, i will get vikings in there). after that, i'm going to have them read the chapter about maple syrup in the little house books and then make a meal ala little house. they say this lockout will last for at least two weeks, maybe longer. but there's no reason not to learn something in the meantime. and hopefully, sabin will eventually look back on it as one of the cool things her parents did for her as a kid.

* * *

i love REI's april fool's joke - adventure kitten gear.

Monday, April 01, 2013

ponderings as the holiday winds down

questions i'm currently pondering:

~ will spring ever come?

~ what is the shape of now?

~ what is the feeling of now?

~ what is the look of now?

~ what do i want to be when i grow up?

~ tho' i've read lots of complaints out there about daylight savings time, i still love it. i'd rather have my light at the end of the day, thank you. it cuts back on television time and lets you sleep a bit longer.

~ what will i read next?

~ will i ever really be able to quiet my mind and meditate? (and will it help if i do?)

~ as much as i think the notion of coaching is a snake oil worthy of p.t. barnum (there's a sucker born every minute) or scientology, do i actually need one? or would it be better to just go running?

~ is it ok to be a snob? 

~ is it ok to assess the blame in order to avoid taking on someone else's bullshit? (husband says yes and i'm inclined to believe him.)

~ how can i introduce play into my everyday? and is there a way make a living doing so? (without involving too many children.)

~ i need more happenings in my life. and pop-up shops. and restaurants. and quality coffee. and organic veggies.

~ how can i be a better friend to me?

~ when will i stop using that essie nail polish that destroys my nails?

~ do you think you are drawn to the things you need, just when you need them?

~ where is the outrage in the danes over the coming teacher lock-out? (it starts tuesday and will last indefinitely.) and what do people do who don't have a child old enough to be left home alone in front of the internet with her iMac?

~ why don't people don't write letters like this anymore?
What is needed is constant work, day and night, constant reading, study, will…. Every hour is precious for it…. Come to us, smash the vodka bottle, lie down and read…. Turgenev, if you like, whom you have not read.
that's not quite true, i have read turgenev. and my bottle of choice is gin.
but of course, chekhov wasn't writing to me.

* * *

how fabulous does this version of alice in wonderland look?
with art by yayoi kusama.
circles are everywhere, i tell you. everywhere. it's the shape of now.