Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 was an eventful year

january 2014
i started a new knitting project (a blanket for my mom and no, it's not finished. i got knitting-induced carpal tunnel and stopped working on it.). my 6-month wait for the job at LEGO was finally over. i learned to crochet at a blissful beachside drink & draw. sabin turned 13. and i spent a lot of time with cats.

february 2014
february brought the actual start of my new job and whole lot more LEGO into our lives, but there was still time in the kitchen and for daily meditative photos. the crocheting continued, as that was less demanding on my wrists. the first of spring's stedbiderrogn (a fish roe that's a sure sign of spring in these parts) showed up at the fish guy towards the end of the month. we saw The LEGO Movie and built some of the sets from it.

march 2014
march brought with it the returning light and snowdrops in the garden. and with sabin's little p&s nikon, a first proper shot of the moon. it also meant a work trip to london. my first work-related trip in a number of years and that was most welcome. it's also when i met the amazing group of people surrounding the LEGO Space book. what a lot of creativity and good times began there in london!

april 2014
april was baby animal time around here - we got bacon & bacon, our first pigs and fell a little bit in love with them. there were baby bunnies and a gorgeous moon. sabin chose to be confirmed (after a little private baptism ceremony, since she hadn't been baptized as a baby).

may 2014
may always brings the fields of rapeseed flowers. they just so signal the beginning of danish summer to me. our strawberries were in bloom and we picked violets to make cordial. the pigs grew quickly and were ever-so-charming. at work, i got to assist behind the scenes at a video shoot!

june 2014
june brought mom to denmark to attend sabin's confirmation party. the weather was perfect and glorious and a truly wonderful day was had by all. the strawberries were in full swing and we lived an outdoor life in the glorious weather.

july 2014
july was the month of kittens! there was also a fun visit from cousin emily and we hated to see her go. and at the end of the month, the culmination of the project started in march - with the release of the LEGO Ideas Exo Suit in london. after the work, there was a little time for play in london as well.

august 2014
in august, bacon & bacon were growing and had reached their slaughter weight (and then some), so we reluctantly had them made into actual bacon. it was a bittersweet moment, but the one we had been working towards since we moved to the countryside. and once we tasted the bacon, we couldn't be sad anymore. we will definitely be getting pigs again come spring! the kittens were at their cutest and so we had a lot of kitten photoshoots! there was a trip (or two) to the west coast - for the tall ships regatta in esbjerg and to an art museum with friends (and their dog). there was a big sale of all of the things from the local kulturhus and we got lots of amazing stuff for a song!

september 2014
in september, things settled down in the golden light and the days were filled with raspberries and museum visits and games and yes, more kitten time. the iPhone 6 came out and mine arrived as one of the first! years of loyalty will do that for you.

october 2014
on october first, i headed off for a wonderful work trip to seattle. after seeing old friends and making loads of new ones, i continued to new york city! my first time! there i also saw many old friends and new and had an amazing time working with fans at new york comic con. i was exposed to the pleasures of upmarket perfumes, walked the the entire length of the highline and spent a blissful afternoon in brooklyn. when i got home, we outfitted a new dining room and at long last, hung a lot of pictures that hadn't been up since we were in the old house. in all, a very good month.

november 2014

november started well, with an amazing salon evening at the local library and another visit from emily. but then an emergency trip to say goodbye to my dad came into the picture. it was bittersweet, for sure, but we also laughed so much at the many stories of his wonderful, long life that was so well-lived. i rounded out the month with a world record for largest video game diorama (17.1m2) at brick2014 in london.

december 2014

and december was spent sending out surprise packages of LEGO goodness to the volunteers from the event in london. a task which truly and thoroughly brought me joy. to package up a box full of things that you know that someone will love as a gesture of gratitude must be one of the most satisfying things a person can do. there was also a lot of Bionicle fun, with the winding down of the battle for the gold mask and choosing the winners from over 1800 entries worldwide. and after that, christmas with family with all that entails - games, laughter, presents and way too much food! what a way to end the year. you've been a good one, 2014, but i can't wait to see what 2015 brings.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

mythical sightings in the garden

it had been far too long since i had a proper leisurely wander in the garden with my real camera in hand. far too many shots of late have been snapped with my iPhone. but on this lazy leisurely sunday, where i've declared that i shall not leave my pajamas (you can put a coat over them and tuck them into your boots for a garden wander), i spent a good hour out in the cold, fresh, still, frosty world. my trusty photographic assistant molly the cat was there (turns out she's not that much help).

i managed to catch glimpses of a few mythical characters out there...a unicorn, a wizard and a popsicle-toting yeti. you never know what you'll see when you go out into nature and have a look.

i forgot how good such activities are for my soul. and speaking of things that are good for the soul, i'm going to be taking an online course - who am i now? with the wonderful kylie bellard during the first two weeks of january. if you'd like to join me, that would be awesome.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

not a creature was stirring...

the tree is up. there's not snow and it's unseasonably warm, but we're ready for christmas. i only did one last minute panic online buy, which is pretty good for me. and then i also texted the child and told her to buy those adidas she wanted in berlin as one of her presents, because there's always something at the last minute. and then we were sure they'd fit. but other than that, i'm good with how it looks under the tree. not too excessive, but also pretty good.

i've been making opera fudge ala martha stewart, my beloved russian teacakes and looking up whiskey cocktails. tomorrow, we head for husband's sister's house, with a giant pork roast in hand. it's one of the last few precious ones from bacon & bacon. alas, even after 16 years, they still think christmas is on christmas eve in denmark (it's not), but i've learned to lived without oyster stew and deal with the pork- and duck-intensive christmas meal. i've got a turkey brining for when we come home on the 25th (also known as actual christmas).

here's wishing you all a very merry christmas. catch you here for a year-end review soon...

Friday, December 19, 2014

remembering dad: in my sister's words

i wanted to share some words of gratitude and a bit of remembrance that my sister wrote to the people of our little hometown for their kindness after dad died (complete with capital letters and everything):

Each year, a small bank in Eastern Iowa runs a holiday spending campaign around which they’ve developed a nice logo. It’s called the “Shop Local” campaign and that is a theme I’ve heard from my father for my whole life. I see that logo and while the concept warms my heart, but I can’t help but feel annoyed by Hills Bank for the grammar error. “Shop” is a verb and it needs an adverb descriptor. You know your adverbs often end in “ly” because you watched those Saturday morning Schoolhouse Rock videos. It should be the “Shop Locally” campaign, but I digress.

Hills Bank points out that each dollar spent in your hometown stays in your hometown a few more times before leaving. But each dollar spent elsewhere is gone forever. It’s easy for me to overlook the significance of this while living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, we’re near the intersection of  two Interstates and money probably moves around pretty easily. But when you imagine the consequences of those dollars leaving Platte forever, you can’t deny the significance of that for your local business owners, your friends and neighbors.

I might have chosen a more glamorous way for him to go. But Dad perceived himself as healthy and able to the very end. And while shocking for us, it’s good for him. No lingering or withering away. He had a life well-lived and it’s surely best that he never had to deal with the word “leukemia.”

My heart is full of love and gratitude for you fine people of Platte. When we phoned from McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls to say that it was time to say “goodbye” to Ralph, you walked into his room two and a half hours later. When we threw a party to tell stories about Ralph, you filled that clubhouse with laughter and gave generously to the donation jar.

Dad’s service featured flowers with garden vegetables and a brilliant hand of poker cards. A wonderful young trumpet player gave us his remarkable rendering of Taps. The Presbyterian ladies brought Dad’s favorite pecan pie and folks lingered afterward and then they went on with the business of the day. I think Dad might have approved of the whole thing, and trust me, gaining his approval was no easy task.

Mom has extraordinary friends looking out for her. Cards and long letters have come in from far and wide because my father seemed to make a lasting impression on the people he encountered.

I’ve always been proud of the clean streets, storefronts and yards and back yards in Platte. There are young entrepreneurs in Platte and folks who know how to get things done. And you’re raising money to build new community attractions. This is not a community in decline, it’s a thriving and vibrant place.

The Platte Avera Health Center was near and dear to my father’s heart. Please remember to donate to the hospital in his name. Maintaining that hospital is good for your family and generations to come.
When you’re finishing up your Christmas shopping this year and next, cancel that trip to Mitchell or Sioux Falls and look for the things you need in Platte. Do this and think of the dollars that stay at home and benefit your friends and neighbors. Do this and think of my dad. He’s somewhere smiling on you.

And from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your love and support.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

a submariner's personality

an old friend of dad's wrote a wonderful column about him and i had to share it. there were a couple of stories in here that i'd never heard before. they really made me laugh. it's so interesting to see my dad through the eyes of others. i think it's very hard for us to do that as children, we have one perspective on our parents and while it can be complex and multi-faceted, it's completely unlike the perspectives of friends and others in the community. it's sad that it took his death for me to get this new perspective, but i'm also grateful to have it. good that so many of dad's friends were awesome writers.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

how do you resist the borg?

every year, i bristle at the tyranny of the gift list in denmark and every year, i swallow and succumb to it. they're like the borg*. and i've even become so assimilated that i passed along my child's gift list, including a bunch of links, to my sister in the states. much to her quite understandable dismay. the child, now a teenager, is hard to buy for and only likes very specific things. so that's why i passed along the list this year. but i'll admit that i hate it. with a passion. and i feel i should be raising her better than that. and i'm disappointed in myself for sending the list. i think i'm pretty much completely failing as a parent because of this.

i hate as well that i've been given a gift list for our nephews (not my sister's children) and i've gone out dutifully, if grudgingly, and purchased the desired items. and i didn't enjoy it. and i won't enjoy giving those gifts. because it's just a sterile transaction, it didn't require any thought on my part and it didn't require that i knew anything about them, nor will it evoke any delight in me to watch them open the item from their list. there's no surprise or moment of excitement on either side of the transaction. it's just that, a transaction. and i have to say that i think it really sucks. it's hollow and consumerist and well, lame. and every year i vow i won't do it.  and yet here i am once again, going through the expected motions. cultural norms are hard to resist. and i am apparently far too weak in the face of them.

actual meaningful gift which i made for my dad last year for christmas.
i imagine mom is snuggled up under it right now and that makes me happy.
but i realize that this gift thing isn't about me. it's about the receiver. but i have to wonder if they really appreciate just automatically getting the things they asked for. where is the delight? the surprise? the joy? i suspect it's absent on their side as well. case in point? i made the blanket above for my dad for christmas last year and he loved it. and it was not something he asked for. but it was perfect for him and it was handmade, so score all around.

but back to the tyranny of the danish gift that christmas doesn't really mean what it once meant, but is just a consumerist holiday and we are living in a society that equates needs and wants and just buys whatever we think we need when we need it, rather than waiting to receive things as gifts, do we really need this gift charade?

i've said previously that i'd much rather stumble across something in the course of the year and give it to the person in question, out of the blue. but do i act on that? no, i haven't. but maybe i should start. maybe 2015 will be when i start.

*star trek: the next generation reference. get it or get over it.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

condolences...or lack thereof

why do we have such a hard time talking about death? why all the euphemisms? passed away. passed on. why is it so hard to say someone has died? is it because it seems so harsh. so final. so cruel somehow. it seems that people just don't know what to say about it, so they try to package it inside more delicate words, like it will make it better that you don't have a father anymore. but it doesn't. and while you dread the next condolences, you also feel it acutely when they're not there from people who probably should say something to you, if only as a formality because it's the first time they've seen you since it happened. and then it's kind of worse if they go on and on about two recent funerals they attended, without even acknowledging that you've had one yourself. one to which you flew across an ocean to another country. that's just weird. and it hurts more than you would think. you're even a little surprised yourself how callous and hurtful it seemed, even tho' you realize it probably wasn't meant that way.

but then there are those who have precisely the right words for you. warm words about how happy they were to have had the chance to meet him and how much they enjoyed that. and others who just hug you and ask the right questions. and that makes it ok. or as ok as it can be.

but you do wonder if it will ever really be ok.

and you also wonder why a picture of a church seemed right with this post when you're not even remotely religious. but church buildings provide the frame for the ceremonies of life...baptisms, weddings and funerals. and maybe there is something to that.

Friday, December 12, 2014

cross-processed dreams of summer

i got a bunch of films developed when i was in new york. i had waited way too long. but somehow in these dark, dreary, pre-solstice days, where we are awaiting a storm, it seems good to look back on these bright, cross-processed memories of summers past. and dream of summers to come.

hmm, i do wonder where that pentax camera is...

* * *

and speaking of weather. 
and winter.
there is this marvelous piece.
i'm so glad there are still people and places like this in the world.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

he was really something

i'm afraid i have to go on a bit more about my dad. it's just how it is right now.
this week there was a very well-written piece about my dad in the mitchell daily republic.
alas, after a few days where it was open, they've put the bulk of it behind the firewall,
but here's a capture of it:

he was really something. they don't really make them like that anymore.

Monday, December 08, 2014

sorrow hangs in the air

faded colors.
a bit tired.
once festive.
leaky roof.
past its prime.

laughter fills the air.
good fun among friends.
everyone knows everyone.
everyone knows me.
tho' i don't necessarily remember them.
such are the ways of the small town.

sorrow in the air.
or maybe it's just hanging over me.
perhaps these are the right surroundings.

a bit nostalgic.
with a bit of color left.
and light pouring in.
and a few stains on the ceiling.
but still there.
despite it all.

still finding a way.
to laugh.
to remember forgotten lines.
to stumble through.
and keep smiling.

even as sorrow hangs in the air.
ruffling the fringe of the crepe paper.
carried by light.
floating in the breeze.
hanging there.
for tears to come.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

mortality bites

20 years ago, drinking tea on a russian train.

today should have been dad's 81st birthday. i think some part of me still can't believe he's gone. i thought several times, i have to call and wish him happy birthday. i mentally calculated the time and then i realized he wouldn't be there on the other end. it's so strange that he's gone. he's just been there for 47 years. and although i was rubbish at calling or emailing often enough, i just knew he was there if i needed to ask him something or tell him a story. it's still so strange that he's not there anymore. i wonder if i'll ever get used to it?

i almost made a german chocolate cake (his favorite) in his honor today, but in the end, i didn't, because it feels too raw and i think it would have hurt more than it helped. and on this rainy, dreary, dark grey day, i didn't need more darkness. so i'm trying to think of the good times, like here, drinking tea on the train from moscow to kazan when dad came to visit me in russia in 1994. that was an awesome trip. we laughed and had adventures and tho' there was bickering at the end of the day because everyone's feet were tired from traipsing all over moscow, it was really pretty much only awesome. i'm glad to have the comfort of that and many other memories.

but i miss you today, dad. happy should-have-been birthday.

Friday, November 28, 2014

the last "bottom of the barrel" (including uncharacteristic capital letters)

From the Bottom of the Barrel - 26/11.2014 

Gulp. Deep breath. These are some very big shoes to fill. My dad bought the Platte Enterprise in 1965 and he’s written a weekly column in this very space for nearly 50 years. I’ve done the odd guest piece over the years, but this is the first one where I really feel I have to fill his shoes. Because those shoes are so sadly empty now. 

We lost my dad just after midnight on November 22, just a few weeks shy of his 81st birthday (it would have been December 7). I live in Denmark and I was entirely too far away when the news of his hospitalization came through. It took me way too long to get to McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls from my home in Denmark. I missed a lot. Friends and family came out of the woodwork and gathered at his bedside. And although I wasn’t here for all of the visits, we are so grateful for this - for your stories, for your laughter, and yes, for your tears. Because my dad, Ralph Nachtigal, meant a great deal to all of us. It was awe-inspiring to see how much he meant to so many.

Ralph wasn’t an easy person or a simple person - he could be hard on you (my rule growing up was “win or don’t come home”), he assessed the blame, his humor could be ironic and a bit harsh, he was unafraid of discussing politics and he had a competitive streak (and he would have hated how long this sentence is getting). He was an avid gambler and could place bets on everything from football to his next putt.  But, he was also probably the funniest person I ever knew. He could laugh about anything and make any situation, including being picked up by an FBI agent and taken for a little drive and a chat around Platte Lake, into a humorous anecdote, even while he admitted that he was completely crapping his pants at the time. He was ornery, but he had a heart of gold and I know he helped many more people than I even know, in ways of which I was never aware, through the years. 

He studied agricultural journalism at South Dakota State. While waiting for his assignment for Associated Press, the Enterprise came up for sale and he bought it, sealing his future in the little town where he had grown up. He’d been out to see the world in the Navy (coming close to, but not really that involved in the Korean War). He once hitchhiked from San Diego to Platte and those adventures were apparently enough for him, so after stints as a sports reporter at the Watertown Public Opinion and the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, he settled down again back home. 

He and Mom and their friends made a yearly winter pilgrimage to Las Vegas (that was, in retrospect, pretty dumb of them to leave their teenagers home alone, each with an empty house (hello, party for the last episode of M*A*S*H!)) that seemed to satisfy his wanderlust. He was content to do his part to make the small community where he grew up grow and thrive - and he wasn’t afraid to get involved, as a state legislator, chairman of the school board and then the later of the hospital board. He knew that if you want a little town to thrive, you have to get involved. 

He was a lifelong Democrat (one of about 12 in South Dakota, at last estimate). He always said that he hoped that one day he would have enough money to become a Republican. Alas, that didn’t happen. He served two terms in the South Dakota State Legislature (1976-79) and during that time, tacked an amendment onto a particularly absurd bill to make the fence post the state tree, to further underline the absurdity of the bill. It failed and the Black Hills Blue Spruce is still our state tree, but he made his point with humor. That was definitely a trademark. 

When I studied in Russia in 1994, he and Norm Huizenga came for a visit. We took the 13-hour train ride out to Kazan and back and explored Moscow and he met all of my friends. We stayed with a grand elderly lady fittingly called “Aunt Kate” in Moscow and we drank a bit too much vodka on a couple of occasions and generally had an awesome time in post-Soviet Russia. I heard him say, for the first time (and last) in my life, “get out there and buy something!” at a middle-of-the-night stop where workers from a crystal factory sold their wares somewhere between Moscow and Kazan.

I went on a Fulbright to Macedonia in 1997 and Dad and Monica came there for a visit as well. We toured ancient ruins in Macedonia and hung out in Greek tavernas eating octopus and drinking ouzo and the most fabulous cold Nescafé frappés. We laughed and laughed together amidst the ruins of ancient Thessaloniki. And although I don’t think he ever said so, at least not to me, I know he was proud of me and that Fulbright.

He and Monica had a couple of trips as well. When they left Macedonia, they explored the pubs of Vienna. And a year and a half ago, when they came to see us in Denmark, they went home via London, the beaches of Normandy and Paris. Monica even made him go to a Pink Martini concert at Royal Albert Hall in London. Pretty cool for a 79-year-old. And he was the kind of person who always had a song lyric for any occasion, so taking him to Pink Martini concert wasn’t really that far off.

Now we may never know what really happened with the Ole Horn Incident (it got him kicked off as Editor of the Collegian) or that time his legislative roommates got caught temporarily appropriating saddles from a tack store late at night (he swore his innocence in both until the bitter end and probably he even was innocent). But, I do know this, it was a privilege to have him for a father. He showed me that there was a world out there and that I should go explore it. He raised me to be confident and unafraid, but to remember my roots. I am privileged to have had him for a father and I hope that you all feel privileged to have called him a friend. He will be missed. Sorely missed.

I know there are many other stories to tell and that Dad’s friends in the Platte area meant the world to him, and we heard many of them on Monday evening at the Lake Platte Golf Club. A big thank you to everyone who came and told their stories! I know that you all will miss him as much as we do. There is a big, gaping hole in our hearts right now that no one else can ever fill. Ralph Nachtigal was really something - larger than life, full of life, truly one-of-a-kind. This little corner of the world is forever changed by his having been in it. 


As Dad wanted his body to be donated to the University of South Dakota Medical School, there will be a memorial service in lieu of a funeral at 3 p.m. on Saturday, November 29 at the Platte Community Building. We ask that instead of flowers, you make a donation to the Platte Health Center Avera in his name.*

*originally i suggested that folks contribute to the Ready for Hillary campaign, but since there are only a handful of Democrats in SD, i changed that. tho' it does make me chuckle to think of all those R(h)INOS (Republicans In Name Only) contributing to Hillary....

Monday, November 17, 2014

telling stories, weaving meaning and figuring out why the danes are so darn happy

my computer has been acting up for more than a week now, which is why i've been so absent again. this weekend, i gave it a thorough vacuuming, upgraded my smc fan control and it seems to be behaving like its old self again. i made sure it's backing up, as i do fear it's on its last legs. it's been a good iMac and it has served me very well. i hope to get some more time out of it, but i guess we'll see. computers aren't made to last forever, after all and those shiny new iMacs look pretty cool.

i'm down with my first flu of the season. i've got a headache that won't quit, a low grade fever and aches in all of my muscles. it really rather fits with the grey, dreary weather we've been having and if one must be sick, it may as well be in these dark, rainy days. there's no better time to curl up in bed with a book and a cat or to listen to the serial podcast again from the beginning. (seriously, if you're not listening to serial, you're really missing out, there's even a reddit where people are discussing it endlessly obsessively.)

serial feels to me like it's somehow reviving storytelling or retrieving it from the trite hollywood ending kind of storytelling that we've become so accustomed to. and i know that serial isn't the only place where a great story is being told slowly...there are spoken word festivals and other great story events/podcasts (like the moth), but it's such a sensation that it feels like it's moving us in a good new direction with stories. something sort of akin to the slow food movement, slowing down and enjoying the process, whether it's of a story or a dish.

apropos stories, at drink & draw on saturday evening, we got to talking about that whole thing with the danes being the happiest people on earth. and we talked about ways of drawing out people's happiness stories, since we did agree that all that happiness isn't necessarily visible to the naked eye. and i think that maybe investigating the happiness and talking to a whole lot of people, in a kind of a slow storytelling way ala serial just might be the ticket.  slowly gathering all of those individual happinesses of different colors and gathering (weaving?) them in a whole carpet of happiness (i had to make that photo go with this post in the end) sounds like a pretty good idea for a project, doesn't it?

kerosene: which one(s) to buy?

the house of kerosene is a niche perfumery based in detroit. i got a box of samples to try in order to figure out which one(s) to buy.

Friday, November 07, 2014

MiN New York: and i'm officially a niche fragrance convert

if you've been reading this blog for some time, you know that i love perfume. i've always been a pretty mainstream perfume kind of girl and admittedly, most of my scents have been acquired through the years in the duty free shops of airports around the world. my sister has a good friend who is a scent aficionado and she has sent my sister to small, esoteric shops in paris after some amazing, exclusive scents. so it was no surprise on my recent trip to new york city, that monica had a couple of perfume places on her list. we lost quite a lot of one day of her stay (we won't say why, but a late show at a comedy club and a cheap bottle of wine on top of oysters and foie gras might have had something to do with it), so we chose to visit just one of them - MiN new york in soho.

just peeking in the window of this beautiful shop made me quiver with intimidation. if my sister hadn't been there, i don't think i'd have dared to go in on my own, thinking the experience and the prices would be far above me. i expressed a bit of that intimidation when i came into the dark, warm, richly scented interior, but the people in the shop very quickly put me at ease - one was the president of the company, an attractive guy with longish hair and a cool manner and the two sales girls, with their exotic accents and easygoing, totally not snobbish manner.  they quickly made us feel welcome and as if it was exactly our kind of place. i realized very quickly that i could get used to niche fragrances.

in addition to a lot of exciting niche scents from around the world, they have their own line of what they call scent stories. there are 11 chapters to their scent story book, each with their own personality and heady fragrance. we tried only three of them (your nose can't really take that many more) and we were also trying some of the kerosene scents (more about them in another post).

my sister fell in love with one called magic circus, which the folks a MiN describe as: "Turn of the century, a carnival travels at dusk. A scrumptious gourmand perfume. A splendid wonder swirling in enchantment. Candied nuts, cotton candy, caramel, sprinkled with pink peppercorns, bergamot, labdanum, geranium, patchouli, and woodchips." all of which rings scrumptiously true in the complexity of the scent. it smelled wonderful on her, but less so on me.  it was obvious that my sister needed the magic circus and she serendipitously got bottle number 72 (of 1000 - they only make 1000 of each of the scent stories per year), which is both the year of her birth and her lucky number. it was meant to be. i went away with samples of memento and barrel, as my skin chemistry can be temperamental with perfumes and so i need to see if they go bad on me over several hours (when that happens, it isn't good, believe me).

and in the end, tho' i had decided that i loved the barrel most, but was chickening out on going all the way back down to soho and spending $240 on myself, when my sister called and said, "can you get back to MiN by 6 and pick up your barrel, i've just ordered it for you." i couldn't believe it and told her not to buy me a christmas present for the next five years. but i also jumped on the subway and headed to MiN immediately. there was a film being made on the street right outside of MiN, so i didn't have quite the same slow, drawn-out experience i had when we had visited together, but that was ok, as i wasn't in the market for more scents right then anyway. i did grab a sample of barrel to send to my sister so she could test it out as well.

my bottle of barrel is #86 of 1000. as the MiN folks say of barrel, "Evident in the first sniff, a slight floral opening gives way to bold, beautiful notes that we taste in full-bodied dark spirits and wine. Peaty, smoky, smooth, and earthy, this is the scent of the selfless vessel that rest in halcyon, incubating the finest spirits throughout the years. A complex cocktail of spirits, spices, dirt, tannin, and woods: absinth, coriander, pink pepper, rum, myrrh, orange blossom, tuberose, oak, oak moss, leather, vanilla, patchouli, and vetiver." in other words, deep, dark heaven. and i would love to go back and try some of the other scent stories. i have a feeling my book of scents in nowhere near complete.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

moving (literally and metaphorically): a salon evening

on tuesday evening, i co-hosted a salon evening for the first time. it was in cooperation with our little local group of creatives - called creagive - and our local library, so it involved some of my favorite people. the theme was "moving" (at flytte (sig) in danish). we chose this theme because we recently had to move out of our local kulturhus so it can be renovated into a new library and creative space, so moving referred both to physically moving, but we also talked a lot about things which have moved us in a more metaphorical sense over the years.

how it went was that when people arrived, they got a little glass of fernet branca and a name tag with a symbol and a color on it. we had jazz playing and the locale was lit primarily with candle light and we had even burned a bit of lavender incense, in order to set the scene. the tables were set with various fun dips and snacks and a bowl of edamame. we wanted people to expand their horizons and move their boundaries a little bit, so we chose foods that they may not have tried (like edamame) and in combinations that they may not have tried - so dipping carrots in pesto and bread sticks in ajvar. the fernet branca was a bit too much of a leap for some and they immediately asked for a glass of wine instead. we allowed that and didn't push them.

on the tables, we had a little sticker that matched the different symbols we had chosen (a martini glass, a tree, a house and a heart), so that you went to the table that had your symbol in the first round. this way, people wouldn't just sit with the people they came with, but would mix and mingle a bit. 17 people came, so we had three groups of 4 and one group of 5. for the second round, we switched places and you had to go to the table that matched the color from your name tag. this way, we mixed things up a bit.

we had prepared some conversation-starting questions for each of the rounds - 5 for each and we gave a half an hour for each session. both times, we extended by 5-10 minutes, because people weren't done discussing. as we had pitched it as an art salon, we linked some of our discussion questions to art. the first round questions were: "which artist has moved you the most?" "which place did you most recently move from?" "how many times have you moved in your life?" "which country would you like to move to?" and "how old were you when you moved away from home?"

to warm everyone up for the questions, two of us told short stories related to moving. i told the story of the time i touched matisse's goldfish painting at the pushkin museum in moscow. there was, in those days (20 years ago!), no security and there was also no glass on the painting, so i touched the actual surface of the paint that matisse himself brushed to canvas. it was a defining moment for me in relation to art - and the first time i felt a personal relationship with an artwork. my co-host told a tale of moving rather spontaneously to paris to work and study painting in her youth. she found an art teacher through an ad and was ushered into a funny little apartment by a funny little man and ended up studying with him for a long time. our stories and our questions really opened everyone up and we had a lively discussion, people remembering their first apartments away from home or all of the places they had lived along the way. it was actually quite difficult to stop the discussion and take a break before the second round.

our second round started with a wonderful poem that at the base of it was about being human and fickle and never satisfied and ever searching for spirituality and love and companionship. the poet herself presented it and it set a fantastic stage for the second round where we had come up with some deeper questions: "what advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?" "what moves you most? travel? people? thoughts? work? experiences?" "what stops you from moving?" "what was the first artwork that meant something to you?" and we had a selection of different artworks, from danish artist kvium to picasso to malevich, which we asked, "does this work move you?" what was interesting was, at least with the groups i was with, the first round, which i had seen as easier, more superficial questions, was much livelier and people were more engaged and actually dug a bit deeper than it seemed with the second round. but it was also perhaps the group dynamic of the second round. it was also great, but it didn't feel as deep. that was interesting because we thought the second round questions were deeper and more philosophical.

we will be doing another salon in february. in celebration of 100 years of danish women having the vote, we have given it a wonder woman theme (i might have had something to do with that). we want to discuss the pressures on women today to be wonder woman - having the perfect career, children, home and life. are we all wonder woman? or should we be? and who expects it of us? what are our super powers? these questions and more will be discussed next time.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

double exposure project: two cameras, two continents, two views of the world, one roll of film

i am ashamed to say that back in 2011, the wonderful marinik and i exchanged a roll of film. i'm ashamed to say it because although i put it in my camera almost upon receipt of it, i didn't develop it until a couple of weeks ago when i was in new york. life intervened, film developing places became scarce and untrustworthy and so i sat on that film for ages. ages developed into years. i think 4 of them, to be exact. but oh my, was it worth the wait. there is a special kind of serendipitous magic that happens in these double exposure projects. you load the film into your camera, having no idea what has already been done with that film. and while not every photo is magical, some of them are. and it makes you want to do it again.

so if any of you would like to exchange a roll of 35mm film that you've sent through your camera with me (be careful when you rewind, because i'll need that tail to be exposed so i can put it through my camera too), just let me know in the comments. we're going to do this again. this is the kind of magic we need in our lives. and by we i mean me. but i also mean you. let's co-create something, baby.