Saturday, October 12, 2019

dear autumn

dear autumn,

you and i used to have such a great relationship. you used to bring with you the promise of a new semester, the excitement of all of the new books to be read from a fresh syllabus, the comfort of a new university sweatshirt and the impending trip to the seminary co-op bookstore. when i close my eyes, i can hear the crunch of leaves, feel the crispness of your air in my nose. i'm enveloped by the memory of a new brown suede coat wrapped around me as i walk down 57th street and turn on woodlawn, so i can pass by the classic lines of frank lloyd wright's robie house as i head for campus. the golden sunshine is stunning on the red and orange leaves, making the day look warmer than it actually is.

these days, autumn, you fill me with a bit more dread. there's no new semester beginning, there's just the impending darkness of winter ahead. short, often grey days and relentless rain, wind sweeping in off the distant north sea to the west, the trees denuded before they even have a chance to change to glorious jewel tones.

autumn, you give way too easily to the darkness of winter in these latitudes, and that's why you fill me with dread. please be kind this year, with a few glorious golden days to look back on when the darkness comes.

your old friend,

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

zen koan inspiration

the friend i stayed with in arizona had a small collection of amazing little zen koan 'zines from the 70s. they were done by paul reps. on the front, it says you can send away for a bag with all six for $3. they were so amazing, i had to photograph them.  i had vaguely heard of zen koans, but never worked with them, what with my inability to meditate properly and all. i can see the attraction - an enigmatic phrase to ponder in silence, what could be better?  i have a couple that have always stuck with me, though they are not official buddhist zen koans, i think they have a koanesque quality. one is a quote from the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy: "reality is frequently inaccurate." and from my favorite 20th century russian author, andrei bitov, "unreality is a condition of life." funny, i think they're related. maybe when i try the 15 minutes of meditation tomorrow morning (for the sake of my brain), i'll ponder those. i also feel inspired by paul reps' art, to dig out a typewriter, work with them and a little bit of payne's grey. do you have a personal zen koan (maybe you didn't even know it was one) you ponder when you have a moment of stillness?

morning rituals

i read this morning that 15 minutes of meditation a day can have a great effect on the brain. and i'm thinking, i want my 50ish-year-old brain to operate like a 25-year-old one, as far as the functioning of the old grey matter is concerned. i don't recall searching for words at 25, so yes, bring that on. and it got me thinking about my morning ritual. it mostly consists of picking up my phone to see what madness the spray-tanned buffoon came up with overnight. i normally watch colbert and trevor to get their take on it - i find it hard to take it directly, i need it filtered through intelligent humor. then i turn off my sleep cycle app. then i get up, pretty much making the bed as i get out of it. i'm a bed maker, i think it's the one small ritual that sets the tone for your day. if you leave a neatly-made bed, there's a good chance of less chaos in the day that stretches ahead, even if the cats come along and lay on it during the day, leaving little hollows here and there. our cat bob won't lie on the bed unless it's made and if it's not, he'll come along and stare disdainfully until you make it. and i always make the bed.

next, i make a cup of tea. if it's the weekend, i'll make a pot, or rather husband makes a pot and brings me the first cup of tea in bed. that's a ritual that i love. but things sort of fizzle out from there. i sit down in front of the computer, checking mails, reading articles and blogs, fiddling around on pinterest, maybe writing a blog post like this one. mostly wasting time, if i'm honest. lately, i have australian master chef playing in the background, so i'm also half pondering what's for dinner later in the day (hmm, can i get squid somewhere nearby?).

i'm not sure any of these rituals are helping my brain very much, nor are they getting me regular exercise or making me more organized or helping me figure out what's next.

and speaking of my quest to figure out what's next, i've undertaken a major clearing out in our "box room," where we stashed all the boxes of books and stuff we didn't have room/shelves for when we moved here nearly a decade ago. i'm ruthlessly tossing lots of things that we haven't missed, but admittedly i probably should be even more ruthless about it. i'm hoping having that room more organized will create space in my brain for better habits that move me forward. so i guess i'd better get cracking. but first, maybe 15 minutes of meditation?

Saturday, September 28, 2019

make do and mend

i've been looking since the beginning of the year for one of these, scouring antique stores and flea markets on two continents. it's a clever little darning tool and i saw them first on instagram, under the #visiblemending hashtag. it's like an itty bitty loom and enables you to weave a strong patch on your item of clothing that needs mending. i asked my friend who works at the local red cross charity shop to look out for one for me, but i finally managed to find this one myself. funnily enough, after searching high and low across denmark, and in arizona and south dakota, i found it in an esoteric little antique/junk shop about 12km from home. as i went up to pay, i showed the owner a picture of what i was looking for and he said, we have one and called his wife to help find it! and even better, they were having a sale, where if you spent more than 100kr, then your whole bill would be 50% off, so i got this little speedweve/stoppekonen for a mere 50kr (approx $7)! i've seen them on ebay for as high as 2000kr., so it was quite the steal! i was so delighted and excited, i hugged the woman who owned the shop.

they also had three beautiful darning mushrooms, which i snapped up as well for my collection. they were 5kr apiece, so i paid a mere 2.50kr after the discount. that's about 35 cents apiece!!  i'm building up a collection of all kinds of different darning eggs and mushrooms, in the hopes that i can start up a local group where we can do visible mending together on a saturday morning once a month. it's a small step, repairing the clothes you already own, but a step nonetheless.

my favorite one is on the left and i adore the one on the right as well. but the one in the middle - look how much it's been used! just imagine all of the things that have been darned and mended using it. i'm always wishing that i could tune in to hear the stories that vintage objects could tell. this well-loved, much-used darning mushroom, must be so full of stories. even though i can't access them, i feel happy that i can hold them here with my collection. maybe late one night, if i listen carefully, i'll hear all of the darning mushrooms whispering to one another in the tin and be able to hear their stories.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

bittersweet ending

i made a short journey yesterday in a truck. it's the last journey that "my" lego ship will ever make. after three long years, thousands of kilometers traveled on the wheels of the curtain-side trailer beneath her, she's going to be dismantled, her bricks going to a good cause. when she wasn't being pulled by a truck, she traveled by ferry and rail. she visited the far corners of europe, from istanbul and italy in the south, to estonia, latvia and lithuania in the east to norway in the north. she was seen by crowds of people on trafalgar square in london, in front of the european parliament in brussels and near the brandenburg gate in berlin. and i was with her pretty much the whole way. probably the crowd i remember best was on a glorious, sunny autumn day in klaipeda - there were balloons, music playing and children looking on in wonder. that was just over three years ago.

but even as i write this, she's being broken down. i don't have the heart to go down and witness it. the fans at the lego fan weekend in the little town of skærbæk will have the chance to buy her bricks that aren't glued, by the kilo, and some of the cars and one of the lifeboats will be auctioned for a good cause - fairy bricks - an organization that gives lego sets to children who are hospitalized. the bricks that are glued, which is about half of them, will be recycled by lego themselves, and turned back into lego bricks that will go into sets and have a new life with children all over the world. that makes me happy.

this is probably the project i'm most proud to have been part of in my working life. the seed of the idea was one i presented in my job interview and it became so much more in collaboration with the ideas of the amazing creative people i worked with. and it was such a privilege to see it come to fruition beyond my wildest dreams. so i feel sad that it's really truly over now, but so happy that the ending is such a worthy one that will bring joy to so many, who may not even know the source of the joy, but who will undoubtedly feel it. goodbye, jubilee, you were amazing.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

the view from sunday night

it was the kind of weekend that happens all too seldom. still, sunny days, not too warm, not too cold, just hours and hours of glorious sunshine. we spent as much time as we could outside. me, fighting with the lawnmower, which for some reason is puffing out billows of smoke. we briefly thought it was because we had accidentally put diesel in it, but it seems not. it's going to have to go to the lawnmower doctor if i can find one that can be trusted. when i couldn't mow, it meant i had more time to go for a long walk and to sit in the sunshine with a cold drink and a good book. i've just started salman rushdie's latest, quichotte. just a little ways in and i'm getting a humbert humbert vibe from the main character, though so far, he's exhibited no pedophile tendencies.

the elderberries have all been harvested and i got 8 bottles of dark, deep purple cordial. our blueberries are still producing and i'm not yet done picking them - they're all going into the freezer for smoothies, aside from the ones that i threw together with the last of the blackberries and made into a lovely, jammy dessert that i invented after reading this recipe and this one (sorry, you'll need a subscription to access those).

there was a harvest market at our local little historical museum and someone was selling the most beautiful baskets, so i had to have one - it's important to support local artists, and how could i resist with that hole-y stone attached on the side? paws mcgraw approved the purchase.

these autumn days feel slow and a bit lazy, i poke around in second hand stores,  finding treasures. i'm also gathering and preparing second hand textiles for the rug i'm going to weave for the kitchen. while i'm doing this, i'm still pondering what's next. i'm not sure what it is, but i'm starting to feel like i need to figure it out and i'm wondering a bit why i haven't. and feeling a little bit stuck that i don't even really know how to go about it in a more active way.

Friday, September 13, 2019

getting my flamingos in a row

i've been slow to get over my jetlag this time. i've been prolonging it by staying up late and sleeping in. days and days of dreary, ceaseless rain haven't helped. i've been curling up with elizabeth gilbert's city of girls, which i've now finished, so my excuses for inertia are running thin. the truth is, i don't really know what's next, so it's kind of hard to get started on it. but i really should be doing more to figure out what it is. but how to go about that? make lists? go for a walk? try to tune in to what my heart says? maybe just get on with actually doing something (perhaps tidying up that box room?) and letting it come to me. as always, i'm impatient, but i have to remember that you always just have to do the work. and sometimes doing the work means giving yourself a few days to do nothing at all. this summer has been a lot. and it's no wonder my flamingos aren't really in a line. well, they are in this picture, but less so in reality. and maybe that's ok for now.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

i made this :: a little viking inspired pot

i had this picture in my head - combining ceramics and the driftwood i like to collect - but i've had trouble finding the right bit of driftwood for the right ceramic bowl. this time, i took a small handful of sticks with me to my ceramics course and made the holes in my pot accordingly. i'm very pleased with how it turned out. tied on with a bit of black, waxed cord, it looks much as i imagined it would. of course, i couldn't resist decorating the pot with one of my favorite nordic petrogyphs (aka helleristninger). 

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the best analysis of the genesis of our reality television president that i've read.

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nigel poor's photography project at san quentin state prison
you may know her from the wonderful ear hustle podcast.

Friday, September 06, 2019

back at the computer again

appropriately out the front window of the car, since that's where i've spent so much time of late.
somewhere between payson and phoenix.

i didn't mean to disappear, but a fried battery on my laptop intervened. i'm home again, the laptop is on its way to the hospital and i'm back in front of my desktop computer. what a trip it was! i extended my stay by 10 days in order to get everything done. and it is all done. mom is buried, all the paperwork surrounding the estate is notarized and filed, a headstone is ordered, we drove about 2500 miles, found an apartment, bought everything for it and settled the child into her first home, got some new ink at black sails tattoo, ate a lot of great food, swam in a pool to cool off, enjoyed the arizona heat, and just generally made a whole lot of things happen. i'm pretty exhausted, but glad to be home with husband and the cats. it's been grey and rainy all day - about 12°C and 97% humidity, as opposed to 42°C  and 22% humidity in phoenix. it's all a bit of a shock to the system. i slept as if i were still in arizona, waking in the early afternoon our time. now it's headed towards 11 p.m. and i'm still not tired. i guess that's how it goes.

that said, my head is filled with plans - an exciting writing project, a job search, a local writing group starting up, plans for making part of the house airbnb-ready, including yet another new kitchen, tidying up in the box room (aka, having a major purge), a bit of sewing, some mending and a weaving project or two. in other words, it's a whole new season...of the year and of life.

what's on your agenda for the new season?

five things friday :: september 6

thing 1: landing at an airport (i’m looking at you, CPH) where the ground crew is on strike after 15 hours of traveling (two flights) is not to be recommended. it took ages to get a gate and even longer for the bags to come. if it weren’t for the #garrettspopcorn i bought in chicago, i might not have made it.

thing 2: it’s sobering when the find my friends app tells you that you are 8,658 km from your only child.

thing 3: you know she’s going to be fine because she’s amazing like that.

thing 4: the way that travel gives you time to ponder all sorts of ideas - writing projects, weaving projects, tidying projects, art projects, house projects.

thing 5: being ready for a new season - not only fall, but of life. 🎃

Friday, August 30, 2019

five things friday :: august 30

thing 1: the child moved into her new apartment today. her very first one. it was big. and wonderful. and a little bit scary (for her mother). they grow up, these people we make. and it’s rather awe inspiring to witness.

thing 2: you can talk all you want to your dead parents but they never listen. or answer. i suppose they think turnabout is fair play.

thing 3: heat takes a lot more out of you than you realize. stay hydrated. 💦

thing 4: we have a bit more road trip 🚗 ahead of us and despite all the driving so far, i’m looking forward to it. especially because i’m going to meet an old bloggy friend - @herthirdeye - in person for the first time!

thing 5: laundry never ends. just when you think it’s all done and you’re caught up, you realize those people are all. wearing. clothes. 😳 and even if they’re not, they probably just stepped out of the shower and so that towel will need to be washed! 😬

Friday, August 23, 2019

five things friday :: august 23

thing 1: experiences. i recommend them over things. though things can be nice too (hello there sparkly gold #uggs slippers). third #tattoo this year, all three with the best daughter. all three awesome experiences. can’t wait for the next one.

thing 2: old friends. returning to exactly where you left off. cat love, it’s called. at least in my world. and it makes me happy.

thing 3: grief comes in its own time and in ways you hadn’t imagined. it’s best to just try to BE in it. but that’s hard. and i’m not sure i know how. just scratching at it a little bit is difficult and scary. and sometimes people should just get out of the way.

thing 4: stay hydrated. when it’s 115F/46C and 9% humidity, you dry out faster than you think.

thing 5: take an extra week.

with thanks to @lolovevetattoos for the photo. 😘

Sunday, August 11, 2019

in the liminal space

in a little over 24 hours, this will be the view! despite all of the traveling i've done over the years, i still get the good kind of butterflies when on the verge of a trip - i love the energy of an airport, filled with people who are going somewhere. people are generally in a good mood, either happy to be heading off on a trip or happy to be home again. there's an excitement in the air. sabin and i are headed for the US tomorrow afternoon. first, we have the sad occasion of my mother's funeral and then we have a long road trip to phoenix with a couple of stops to see friends along the way. although the funeral is somber event, i am looking forward to the closure i'm sure it will bring. we are planning music that mom would love and going to give her a good send-off. our bags are packed and we're ready to go. husband is taking us to the airport tomorrow, but before that, he's going to a job interview for an exciting position he really wants. i just did a video interview for a position that i'd really like to have. so, here on the verge of all this travel, it feels like so many great possibilities are opening up. it really feels like the beginning of a new chapter, even as we close the chapter on my mother's life. it's that liminal space - where everything feels fairly quivering with possibility - and the feeling is heightened by impending travel. it's been too long since i felt this way. it's nice.

Friday, August 09, 2019

five things friday :: early august edition

on instagram, there's this #fivethingsfriday thing and instead of typing it all out on my phone, at the mercy of autocorrect, i have decided to move it over here.

thing 1:  i had freya spayed this week. she has been our primary mama kitty for several years now, but i finally decided that there are enough kittens in the world and she has worked hard enough as a mama. it was time for her to relax. but i still feel a little wistful about it. she made lovely babies - including paws mcgraw, her sweet daughter who i have kept (see thing 2), and who also was spayed on monday. it's a fine line between enjoying kittens and becoming a crazy cat lady. i know i did the right thing, but it does feel a little bit bittersweet.

thing 2: paws mcgraw - she's everything you want in a cat - curious, funny, active, dexterous (she opens doors), snuggly, talkative and out to steal any stray pony tail holder you leave lying around (or tucked up safely inside a zipped pouch). i love her so much. she's not molly or frieda, she's all her own, but she's in the same category as they are. some cats are just special.

thing 3:  arizona. next week, sabin and i are flying to the US. we will spend the week in south dakota and then drive her new used car (a toyota, of course) to arizona so she can begin her gap year before starting at arizona state next year. i am both happy and anxious. it's the next step for her and her bravery in taking it is everything i hoped and prepared for as a parent, but it's also a really big step. but at least it means we get to visit arizona regularly! and i'm very much looking forward to our road trip.

thing 4:  the way things have of falling into place, even in a time of great change and flux and turmoil and even when they seem like they can't possibly fall into place. my inner fatalist presbyterian thinks it all happens exactly as it's supposed to, even though it doesn't always make sense initially or on the surface of things. so much goodness ahead.

thing 5:  pondering my next tattoo. we have an appointment in tempe at black sails with the lovely lolo. i'm getting a typewriter this time, with a bit of color - to remember mom by and to remind myself to write on a regular basis. 

just a little summer project

no summer is complete without husband engaging in a more or less major building project. we had long planned to build this building to shelter off the house a bit more from the road, which is quite close. it's also the first step towards being able to tear down the middle house, which is in quite bad shape.

husband did all this framing himself, building each of the sections over near his workshop and then we brought them over on the trailer and raised them (i helped with that bit).

there will be windows up high along the walls on both sides, but since we weren't sure we'd get them in before autumn winds and rain come along, he didn't cut the holes yet.

husband found a guy who rescues old doors from various places - these from a school somewhere. i even loved the color so much, i bought a can as close to it as i could get to paint the whole thing. i had talked about red or blue, but this green is perfect. we're going to have some vinyl stickers made for the windows, for a bit more privacy and with a groovy design of some sort - i'm thinking of incorporating our name, the house number and the nordic sun symbol.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

4 a.m. storms

i was awakened by the rain just before 4 a.m. it's been raining a lot in recent days, but the sun also breaks through and it's nice for a short while, luring you outdoors, only to be chased inside again by another deluge. changeable, unpredictable, much like life. it would be easier to cope with if i was better at going back to sleep when it wakes me. night before last, there was rain, thunder and lightning - husband even got up and unplugged the router, since we've lost it to lightning before. funnily enough, that night, i didn't hear a thing and slept right through. when i wake, i have a bad habit of looking at my phone. these days, it's filled with distressing news about mass shootings and the racist, bigoted president who inspires them. and one article just leads to another and suddenly an hour has gone by. it's hard to go back to sleep after reading about all that. it can feel so hopeless, this downward spiral we seem to be in. and my worries about my gorgeous child choosing to go live there among all those guns seem especially acute at 4 in the morning. no wonder i can't get back to sleep.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

gratitude, selfcare, purpose

i just saw this on linkedin - one of those posts by some or other coach, asking you to say what the first three words you spotted are. mine were gratitude, selfcare and  purpose.  and it struck me that maybe there was more to it than just a random trick of the eye. i think those words have been the words of my summer - perhaps selfcare most of all, as i've gently tried to give myself time to think. but i've also been very grateful for the chance to try something completely new, stretching my body and yes, even my brain, in new directions, while i give myself time to once again find my purpose. i'm also grateful that i've had the time to devote to this selfcare. when i glanced at the graphic again after uploading it here, strength and breakthrough were the words that popped out. i don't know that i'm feeling particularly strong, and nor have i had any great breakthrough, but i'll be looking for those on the horizon.

which words do you see?

the only way out is through

i can feel that i'm out of practice at this. i sat down at the computer to write after some surprise overnight guests (the best kind) left this morning and nothing really wanted to come out my fingers. it didn't help that our internet at home was iffy after being unplugged in the night during a lightning storm. instead of fiddling around and troubleshooting it, i headed for the library, but it's hot here and that's not helping the flow of ideas. i never used to lack ideas to write about, but my writing muscle has clearly atrophied. i was thinking that a way out of it would be to muse on a single topic or word, along the lines of john green's anthropocene reviewed podcast, where he rates two random things on a 5-point scale. but i can't even think of a word to muse upon. i think i've bottled up my words and thoughts for so long that they've formed a kind of cork that needs to be removed and it feels like i've misplaced my corkscrew. maybe just expressing all of this will help me remember where i left it. in the meantime, i recommend that you seek more exciting corners of the internet until i find my groove again.

Monday, August 05, 2019

a fresh start

i spent most of july on a freight ferry. now, i've been on freight ferries before, usually with a film crew in tow, but this time was different. this time, i was a member of the crew. lowest on the totem pole - but i finally got that elusive title that i'd never had - stewardess. or the very elevated "ship owner's assistant," that they tried to upgrade the title to at some point along the way. but that doesn't hide that the job consists of cleaning cabins and helping in the mess with dishes and such.

you might be thinking, "are you completely crazy? why would you do a job like that?" but, i can tell you that it was so good for me. after the past few tumultuous months, realizing the new job i took in january wasn't at all what they promised and that the guy at the helm was quite likely a ruthless psychopath, add to that my mother's death, and my only child's impending move to arizona, i needed to do something completely different. something where the only thing that mattered was the routine and where i wouldn't get embroiled in any foolish office politics. to be a place where i'd have plenty of time to think, listen to podcasts and stare out at the sea and maybe write a bit and find my way back to myself. and so, for two weeks, i sailed between gothenburg and ghent with a stop once a week in norway and then the final week, we sailed between gothenburg and immingham on the humber river in the uk, also with the stop in brevik. and just look at the fjord up to brevik, it's stunning:

i fell into the rhythms of the journey. up at 6, working until 1 or 1:30, a break until 4, then working again until 7 or so. long days, but i went to bed tired from physical work that somehow seems more honest than the kind of tired you get from sitting in front of a computer all day or gossiping with colleagues around the coffee machine. when the weather was fine, i sat out on the top deck during my breaks, reading a book or writing. i wrote a daily diary entry while i was on board and it felt good to be writing regularly again, even if it much of it was boring drivel. it's something i want to get back to and there's no reason not to do it right here.

i was heartened by a recent post on exactly this over topic on pret a voyager. a blog is the perfect place to do daily writing, and even though blogging has changed dramatically over the years, i was always doing this primarily for me anyway. i just somehow let it slip away from me and i got out of the habit. and when i really think about it, i miss figuring out what i think about the world through blogging. so i'm going to make a daily practice again. starting right here and now.