Sunday, June 30, 2013

what a weekend

despite the rain and cold of our sad excuse for a typical danish summer, the strawberries are producing. three buckets we managed to pick today. there were more, but the energy faded before we could pick them all. they'll be there tomorrow as well.  energy was low because we got home around 4 a.m. last night after attending husband's middle child's gymnasium (high school) graduation festivities. on graduation day, the kids got to the ceremony in the morning, then drive around in a decorated and highly dangerous looking open truck, drinking all day long. they visit each student's house, where the parents try to get salty snacks down them and the odd red bull to keep them going as they go back to their beer and cider and odin knows what else on the truck. hmm, i don't seem to remember my high school graduation being that much fun.

i'm also tired because i've probably got a case of borrelia, which you may know as lyme disease. husband removed a tiny tick from the back of my arm a couple of weeks ago and on friday, it felt like my whole body was breaking down. it started with nighttime leg cramps, which hurt so badly they caused me to throw up from the pain. then, i developed a fever and chills felt generally very unwell. this was no fun because i was visiting friends and not at home.

i called my doctor back at home and he recommended that since i wasn't home, i should go to an emergency room. i did and ended up spending the whole day there, getting a battery of blood tests while doctors ruled out a blood clot in my leg (which i feared it was initially). while lying there waiting for the various tests, i read webMD on my phone (i do not recommend doing this) and diagnosed myself with addison's, deep vein thrombosis and type II diabetes. however, i came across a reference to lyme and remembered that tick from a few weeks ago, so it wasn't all bad. i told the doctor about it and she immediately nodded, saying it made sense in light of my symptoms.

i had actually been to my own doctor last monday with a strangely achey, stiff neck and a swollen lymph node but they couldn't find anything then. the blood tests on friday showed that my body was in full swing fighting some kind of infection. i will have to have some more tests with my own doctor this week to have it confirmed, but they started me on the heavy antibiotics recommended for borrelia immediately.

what's worrying is that i've read that borrelia is on the rise - doctors are seeing more and more cases of it. sometimes people realize it very early (like me) and sometimes it takes years. if it takes years, it can cause serious damage to nerves and joints that people never really get over. i'm hoping since my tick bite was only a couple of weeks ago that i'll escape that fate. tho' i got a little freaked out on friday, thinking my body was suddenly failing me, i'm glad it made a commotion over this so i could get treatment.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

i'm a little teapot

spotted this little brown 70s teapot in a charity shop a couple of weeks ago. when it was still there yesterday, i took it as a sign and decided to spring for the 20 kroner it cost. i'm glad i did. i will make chai in it, as it looks warm and spicy itself. you can never have too many teapots, i say.

* * *

just ordered the dostoevsky archive from the library.
looking forward to reading that.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

looking at life through kittens' eyes

there's a lot to be learned from kittens. they live utterly and completely in the moment. they only do what they want to do. they thoroughly enjoy what they're doing, whether playing, sleeping or eating.

they're not afraid of conflict but they make up quickly afterwards. they cry out when they are hurt or just when they want attention. they let you you know if they are hungry or lonely. they consider everything a potential plaything. they purr when they're happy. when they're hungry, they eat. when they're thirsty, they drink. when they're tired, they sleep. when it's time to play, they play. when it's time to explore, they explore.

they make the most of every moment. they play hard. and sleep hard. they trade on being cute if it gets them what they want. they are fearless. they climb as high as they can and don't worry about falling. if they tumble down, they just get right back up and try again. they are full of boundless energy and when it runs out, they sleep. no matter where they are. they know that the cat on the bottom isn't necessarily losing. we could learn a lot from kittens.

Monday, June 24, 2013

the last hen standing

we awoke saturday morning to silence. no incessant crowing of various roosters, some young, just trying out their crackly voices and one mature but hoarse little black swedish rooster, none of the incessant chatter of what i call chicken cheerleading, which the other hens sometimes do when one of their compatriots is laying an egg. i didn't notice it at first, since it has become part of the background noise of my world. then husband came in from a visit to the compost heap and he asked if i'd seen any chickens this morning. i hadn't yet been out to scatter their grain, so i said no. he said there were an awful lot of feathers around and in the coop and he was afraid we'd had a visit from a fox.

we had indeed. and with around 40 chickens, not a single one remained, save a little black chick, just a few days old (it disappeared before i could take it in under a heat lamp, so i fear it's gone now too). even the pheasant babies they had hatched out had vanished. a snack for a fox and her cubs, no doubt. it was eerily quiet. we walked the property, looking for scared chickens in a tree, unable to believe that a single fox, even with the help of a couple of puppies (cubs?) could take out 40 some chickens without us hearing a thing. it's true we had grown lax. the chickens are completely free range and run around the property all day long, but they always come into the henhouse at night. we'd gotten lazy about closing them in, so we were tempting fate. one neighbor told us that foxes don't hunt in their own territory, so that explained why we'd seen foxes in the area, but never been visited by one in more than two years.

on saturday, when we were out in the garden, both husband and i swore we heard a bit of low chicken chatter, but we never did spot them. they were well and truly scared. we had no sightings at all on sunday, but it was rainy most of the day, so that was understandable enough. then this evening, as i walked down the path to see why the horses were running around like maniacs, i was sure i saw a hen dart across it ahead of me, but she quickly disappeared, so i wasn't sure. then, when i went to take the horses in, i spotted her up in a tree. all alone. she's a pretty one - a real mix of our two breeds - the danish land race and the swedish blacks, one of the young ones, hatched out at easter. i still hold out hope that there are a few of the others around.

i have oddly mixed feelings about the whole thing. on one hand, i'm sad that i didn't properly protect my chickens and on the other, i have a kind of strange, slightly awed respect for a fox that could take so many chickens in one go and leave only feathers behind. there weren't any bodies or blood or carnage at all. in some sense, nature is cool. i'm glad this pretty little hen survived. and i vow to take good care of her, closing her into the henhouse, safe and sound, at night. if she'll just go back over there.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

it's midsummer, so we burn a witch

sankt hans, the midsummer celebration in denmark features the burning of an effigy of a witch. i'm not sure where that tradition comes from, nor why we perpetuate it. but there you have it. that's just how we roll here in denmark.

Friday, June 21, 2013

nifty fifty meets the kittens and falls in love

a couple of weeks ago, i spotted a used nikkor 50mm 1.4D lens in the window of photographica, denmark's most wonderful photography shop. they weren't open, but i contacted them and was able to buy it via mail. i'd long wanted a portrait lens and since it was used, the 1.4 was about the same price as a new 1.8, so i went for it.

sabin has fallen in love with it and it has awakened her interest in photography - she even gets out the tripod regularly! i'm still getting to know it and learning that i can't get as close with it as with my 60mm macro lens, but i love how fast it is and how well it does in low light.

it was way too dark when i took these photos of the kittens last evening, but somehow making them black and white seems to give them a soft, filmlike quality that i really like and that i don't really get with my other lenses.

the kittens are wonderful portrait subjects when they hold still, don't you think? funny how having a new lens has renewed my interest in photography a bit as well. i'll admit my daily photo efforts had stagnated and become a bit routine of late. this helps.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

teal blue hair


yes, i got a bit of blue put in my hair.
if i can't have a blue room, i might as well have blue hair.
i wonder if this is what a midlife crisis looks like?

* * *

as always, terry eagleton makes me think. and laugh. and want to head for the pub.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

seeking inspiration in saul steinberg's work

as i move to the next stage of decorating my torso (it's finally the color i want it to be - funnily enough, based on leftover paint from my beloved blue room), i find myself turning to saul steinberg. a jew who fled europe in the years leading to WWII, he became the quintessential new yorker and was, for years, a cartoonist at the new yorker.

i'm drawn to his simple lines, his use of rubber stamps, his clever fingerprints, his small topographies and the way in which he mixes styles. especially that last bit.

i do like to draw and mostly i draw plants and feathers, but also buildings - barns and houses. i had a couple of steinberg's books from the library a couple of months ago and i snapped these iPhone shots of the things i wanted to save.

there's something about me and inspiration and i never know when i will actually use it, but i am a compulsive collector of things which inspire. but, if you've been coming around here any length of time,  or follow any of my 119 pinterest boards, you know that.

i love this passport photo steinberg made with his own fingerprints. a passport is an identifying document, and what could be more identifying than a fingerprint. it's genius.

this seems to have been made of spilled ink - i love the notion that something artistic and beautiful can come of a mistake and i imagine being able to use that on my torso somewhere.

here's some of that mixed style i was referring to - all within one piece. the man in the middle is my favorite. people aren't really something that i draw much, but i'd like to try something like that.

i love the way these small, disparate drawings are connected by ladders and stairs, it has an autobiographical ring to it that i think will be perfect on my torso.

and a collection of meaningful objects - this is the kind of thing i draw in my art journals - just collections of the random things which are lying around the house.

and this use of rubber stamps in an unexpected fashion just speaks to me. i guess i'd better get to work.

what/who is inspiring you?

Monday, June 17, 2013

is this art? a torso project update

it's time for a little torso project update. some of the creative women from the original torso project weekend met up yesterday to show their finished products/works in progress and to discuss next steps towards showing the work.

the end results are as diverse as the women themselves. as i see it, the common thread for all is autobiography. these casts of our very bodies, frozen in a moment in time, are the canvas for a snapshot of all that we feel has made us who we are, right here and right now.

words, photos, maps, yarn, paint, drawings, color - all have been used to depict the individual lives of each of us. how we see ourselves and how we imagine that others see us. these torsos hold fragments of our memories, our lives, our documents, our experiences. they are there, written on our very bodies.

but i find myself thinking about whether they are art. we used artistic techniques - collage, paint, photography, one person even "drew" in yarn, as you can see above - but did we achieve actual art?  which raises the more complicated question of what is art anyway? it's a bit like that old joke about pornography, "i know it when i see it." and i can't help but think that what we made wasn't art per se.

but if it's not art, then what is it? it is expressive. and highly personal. it is storytelling. and a bit of art therapy, in that i think we all found it therapeutic to look within for our memories and stories. but to ask a museum to display our work would be a stretch. a big one. maybe it would be different if yoko ono or madonna had been part of our project - they would lend caché and would have perhaps lifted us all in our visions and our work. one of the most powerful things we did yesterday was that each person shared the thoughts behind their torso. and it made them so much more meaningful to hear people's stories.  but art needs to be able to stand alone, as we can't stand them beside at an exhibition and explain them to people.

but the fact is that we are a bunch of creative people in a little town in the middle of nowhere in denmark who happen to have tried to tell a little piece of the story of who we are in the form of a plaster cast of our own bodies. and while a few members of the group are trained as artists, as a whole we are not. we are teachers and office workers and librarians and nurses and consultants and physical therapists and prison guards. and those are wonderful things to be.

what we had was an amazing experience - to make those torsos together in a room of 20+ women. baring ourselves (literally) and opening up our hearts and experiences and stories and sharing them is a powerful thing, a wild woman sisterhood sort of thing. but where do we go with it? we are going to exhibit them locally at the end of august, but i wonder beyond that. they might fit well in a library exhibition, connected to other forms of autobiography, or to part of a storytelling conference. but i honestly don't think we'll convince a museum or a gallery to show them.

here's mine, i'm not done yet. it's filled with words that resonated with me - many in danish, because those are the newspapers that i have at hand. i've given those words first a wash of sepia, followed by a a wash of watered down paynes grey ink, as i don't want to completely cover them. tho' i do intend to cover them to an extent with small paintings and drawings of places and memories that are important to me. but mine isn't art either, but it is a personal expression of me. words are important to me. as is expressing myself. right now, it's darker and more foreboding than i actually feel, which is interesting, but doesn't reflect the hazy vision of it that resides in my head. and that's a big part of the process too.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

if a tree falls in the forest...

...does it make a sound?

a big storm blew through late yesterday afternoon. high winds and driving rain accompanied it. there were branches down on the road here and there and we decided to check our forest today. to our surprise, there was a wide swath of downed trees. i tried to count, but stopped at 35. there are probably at least 50 and it's a clear path, like a tornado went through, even tho' otherwise conditions weren't as we know them for tornadoes in the midwest of the US (instead of hot and humid, it was rather chilly and no lightning and thunder seemed to accompany the storm).

what i wonder is how we didn't hear all those trees crashing down, even tho' we're a kilometer or so away from our forest. it must have made quite a racket.