Thursday, September 24, 2020

i wonder if cards can help me reopen my creativity?


i got this deck of intuiti cards from an ad i saw on instagram. they were developed by a student at a polytechnic in milan to open up creativity. they use tarot, numerology, design and gestalt psychology and should help with opening up one’s creativity. i thought it would be interesting to work with them to open up my stymied creativity.
the first exercise they recommend is to take the primary cards (they have roman numerals) and pick the one you like best and the one you like least and try to explain to yourself why you choose each one. they say to do it out loud, but i want to do it “out loud” here on the page.



this is the card that i chose as the one i like. i had laid them all out (there are 24 of these primary cards) and then, without thinking too much, i chose the one that spoke most to me in this moment. it would undoubtedly be a totally different card on a different day. but today, it was this card. what i like about it is that it is dark and deep, but the path is bright and clear. that dark blue opening down at the end may be dark and have eyes, but i don’t get a scary feeling from it. nor do i get any ominous feelings from the darkness of the forest. the yellow eyes glowing seem to me like lights in the darkness and i feel that when i get there, they will guide my way. it makes me think of autumn and the time of darkness that lies ahead of us. now, after more than 20 years of it, i’m not afraid of it or dreading it anymore, but looking forward. it’s only when we experience darkness that we can appreciate the light. and this darkness doesn’t feel ominous to me. it feels enveloping and mysterious in a good way. we never know what’s ahead and i feel like we shouldn’t. i get the feeling, looking at this card, with its forest of trees and dark blue opening with yellow eyes at the end, and bright orange path through a bed of deep green, like we may be walking through the darkness, but light lies ahead. 


this is the card that spoke to me in this moment today as the one i liked least. it has a dusty pink background, a blue oval with a green border and with a symbol made of shapes in the middle. they are intertwined and have that möbius unendingness to them. they are a long skinny diamond shape, a half circle, a circle and a triangle, all tangled up within each other. they look like one of those desktop puzzles where there’s a way to take them apart if you fiddle with them just right while you talk on the phone. 

i didn’t like it because in their closedness, they seem unwelcoming and so tangled up in their own thing, there’s no room to join them (they remind me a little bit of the danes). they poked at that terrible feeling that i get when i feel like i’m excluded or don’t belong. being closed off, kept away from the group, not welcome in the community. they also feel somehow like a ritualistic symbol used by a secret society, one that also is based on exclusion. and there are no openings, every way in is closed. the colors were also not appealing in their combination – kind of washed out and clashing a little bit, though not exactly clashing, because they’re too faded for that, but they aren’t in harmony. 

the intuiti booklet gives this explanation of the first card that i chose: 
XVIII: with eyes closed she goes down the dark winding stairs. one step after another, she perceives some changes in her body. at first she becomes narrow and starts to crawl like a baby, then her face gets longer and hair grows all over her body. she continues to go down, in the shape of a beast, in the darkness, and she hears the moans of desire, feels the burning hope, and sees the sparkle of terror. and she continues to go down, in the dark abyss of a dream that contains all the other dreams.

trust the irrational. you must feel, not see.

and the second card: 
XXI: she walks and dances, she devotes herself to the joy of life, she puts a cross step in her walk, and she spins on herself like that, without reason, just for the fun of seeing the colors of the world turning around her. And so that the world too realizes that she is turning within it.

it’s time to connect the dots. 

interesting how different the story the maker applies to them in relation to the story my mind told when it saw them. that seems pretty powerful and the fact that they’re each more or less opposite to how i experienced them is a very rich learning. it reminds me that there is always two sides to everything and those two sides can be diametrically opposed (i should have known that in light of the times we are living in). i also quite like the notion that i should trust the irrational – and i do think that’s not so far from my interpretation of the card that i liked on this day. it was a little bit irrational that i liked it since it seems a bit dark and ominous. And i only see the world in the second one now when i look at the blue background edged in green – it could have an elongated globe-like quality, but i still see it as excluding and not connecting the dots, despite that it’s intertwined. it may be intertwined, but it’s also very closed, so it’s a kind of self-contained and while they may be tangled, they aren’t really in dialogue with one another.

interesting. i’m looking forward to working further with these. i don't know if the exercise opened up my creativity, but i guess time will tell. at least it resulted in these words and that's something.

Friday, September 04, 2020

a modern take on the church fresco

there's a little church on the island of fyn that has stirred up big controversy. a local businessman commissioned a contemporary danish artist named jim lyngvild to do a modern take on the church fresco. lyngvild is a costume designer and photographer and designs elaborate costumes and then does traditional, very painterly setups with real people that he photographs in hyperreal HD. they look like they'll step out of the frame and when you look, you can almost hear them.


lysets engel (angel of light) - based upon john 1:1-5

"in the beginning was the word, and the word was with god, and the word was god. the same was in the beginning with god. all things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. in him was life; and the life was the light of men. and the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not."

i might also mention that lyngvild lives not far from this church in a viking-style longhouse and practices the viking religion known as asa. you can definitely see the influence of that in these modern frescos. i want to call them paintings, because they are extremely painterly, but they are photographs. he is not a fan of photoshop, so all of the details are meticulously set up and staged and not just photoshopped in afterwards. i have no idea where he got the lions, but they look a bit like they might be in a museum of natural history somewhere. he's the kind of guy with connections to get him access to staging a photoshoot such a place.




grebet i ægteskabsbrud (the grip of adultery) - based on john 8:1-11

"they say unto him, master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?...woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? she said, no man, lord. and jesus said unto her, neither do i condemn thee: go, and sin no more."

my photos are just snapshots taken with my phone, but i think i found this particular of the photos to be the most powerful one. the woman holding an iPhone and filming is such a statement on modern stoning - or condemnation, or canceling, as it's come to be called. i also love the ambiguous and not-so-ambiguous genders in this photo. it's both an echo to the traditional fresco (which were also quite graphic in their way at times) and a very sharp look at today. that the woman jesus forgives is a lesbian makes it even better. the tattoos, the naked bodies, the clear viking influence make it even more powerful and thought-provoking. i stood in front of it a long time and even went back again for a second look.

opstandelsen (resurrection)- from john 20:1-18 

"...and they say unto her, woman, why weepest thou? she saith unto them, because they have taken away my lord, and i know not where they have laid him. ... jesus saith unto her, mary. she turned herself, and saith unto him, rabboni; which is to say, master."

more animals from that natural history museum. and i'd love to see the wings in person - lyngvild must have made them, as he designed and sewed all the costumes. for me, the animals signify an exoticism - they're not ordinary farm animals, but wild animals found in africa. 


nedtagelsen fra korset (removal from the cross) - from mark 15:37-40

"and Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. and the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. and when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, truly this man was the son of god. there were also women looking on afar off: among whom was mary magdalene, and mary the mother of james the less and of joses, and salome."

one of the giant works contains the chairman of the local church counsel and we think it's this one, though we couldn't really find confirmation of that. we think it's the younger man on the right side of jesus. and it's kind of ironic, because this summer, the church counsel voted not to put the works back up after their upcoming renovation. apparently some of the older members of the congregation and the church counsel were a bit offended by the nudity and the rawness and were provoked by the works. but perhaps it's not that surprising, as church counsels are not often known for being modern and forward-thinking. it's a shame, because the frescoes were attracting 1000+ visitors per week to the church in what's otherwise a forgotten corner of denmark and a sleepy little town.


moses & loven (moses and the commandments) - from exodus 20:4-5

"thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for i the lord thy god am a jealous god, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me..."

this was the only one based on the old testament. i especially love the golden bull's head. in denmark, it's a clear symbol of a butcher shop and they must have borrowed it from one for the photo. it also made me think of the logo of a steak restaurant that's in tivoli. there was something playful about that - it felt like an inside joke. it also felt a bit like some of the commandments might be about to be violated within the picture - bare breasts, heaped fruit, extravagant gold fabrics and furs. it's the 7 deadly sins waiting to happen. 

bebudelse af jesu fødsel (tidings of jesus' birth)- from luke 1:26-38 

"and the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with god. and, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name jesus."

the richness of the dress in this photo exuded luxury. that's not how i had thought of mary before. it also seems medieval, rather than biblical. i like that twist. i found myself thinking about the location where it was photographed - trying to remember which danish castle might have had such a room. i couldn't help but think of kronborg castle in helsingør - it's the hamlet castle, but i suppose that any castle from the area has such bricks and arches. what that has to do with the virgin birth, i don't know, but maybe it's not really about that anyway.


jesus on the cross

and the last photo, a striking jesus on the cross. he set it up on a beach in south fyn. awaiting the wind being just right. though how he got that dove to sit there like that, i have no idea. it does make me think that his supposed loathing of photoshop is more myth than truth. i find this one especially painterly. and i find it also to be the one that most pays homage to the tradition of christ on the cross and the bloodiness of it all. 


this painting is clearly not one of jim lyngvild's, but i thought it was amusing to include it, because it's such an old-fashioned contrast to the others on the walls and it made me think of the small-minded, conservative church counsel that voted not to keep his amazing works. don't they look a dour group?

Saturday, June 20, 2020

first steps towards danish citizenship


when the spray-tanned one became president, i vowed that i'd seek danish citizenship. as he sank lower and lower, i wondered what i was waiting for. i'm not sure what made me finally do it, but last autumn, i signed up (and paid some hefty fees) to take the danish citizenship test and the danish language test that i need to pass for citizenship. back when i got my permanent residence, you got it after 3 years and there were no tests involved. but times have changed. and that's fair. if you want to be a citizen, you should speak the language. and you should know the history and culture of the country. and it's perfectly understandable that you should have to prove it.

i took the citizenship test a couple of weeks ago and have officially passed it. this week, i took the written danish test and on monday, i'll do the oral exam. i'm reasonably certain that i did well on the written part and i'm ready for the exam on monday. i have to prepare a whopping 1 minute monologue and also answer some questions from the examiners. i can do both.

but these tests are only the beginning. after i have the results, i'll have to file my formal application and then wait for maybe two years while my case is handled and my eventual second citizenship is written into danish law. because that's how they do it - it becomes a law.

and in these times, i've been thinking a lot about what a privilege it is, to have a citizenship that affords me a sought-after passport and voting rights, which i exercise to this day. and to be in a situation where i can seek a second citizenship in a country that's also a desirable citizenship - where there's a safety net and national health care and free education and where being a citizen gives you the ability to easily work anywhere in the european union. and when so many people are persecuted and stateless and have so many fewer privileges than i do, it somehow feels like a luxury that's unfair. and it surely has to do with the color of my skin. an unaccountable privilege, one i didn't ask for. but, if i'm honest, one i wouldn't trade away easily either. and so i'm jumping through the hoops, taking the tests, and doing my best to fulfill the requirements to acquire a second passport. and most importantly, voting rights where i live. right now, i have taxation without representation, and feeling not so good about that, after all, is a product of the citizenship i hold now - and will continue to hold, as denmark no longer makes you give it up.

but thoughts about fairness and privilege are on my mind as i go through this process. and i honestly don't know what i think, or where i stand, or what to do about it - to make it easier for others who might not have the privileges i do. i feel these are turbulent times, but also i see so many signs of hope. i honestly don't know what i can do to help, other than do my best to read and understand and learn and try to do better. i think voting is an important part of that, and i think our individual votes count. and i guess that's why i'm seeking danish citizenship.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

finding surprises in your own neighborhood


a most amazing experience today. one which proves that you can still discover something which will inspire you and make you think, within 20 minutes of your home, after a decade of living here. christina saw a program on DR this week, with gardener søren rye, who visited a place called skovsnogen, out near kibæk, where a guy has put up all sorts of art in the forest around his home over some years and it's open to the public to wander through, for only the price of a free-will offering. there is a huge variety of art, from things that look like maybe stalin ordered them, to the namesake skovsnogen, which is a winding wooden snake that's painted bright yellow and which you can crawl around inside, to a brick wall that spells out HATE and which was built in 2011, before trump made a wall of hate his trademark. it was so powerful to come upon this in the forest, to able to climb on it and walk through it.


another powerful work was what i would call the ildsjæl - a golden woman's head, where her hair was sticking upright, like a flame, atop a stylized fire pyramid. She had a peaceful, beatific look on her face, her eyes closed, not the least disturbed by her position the pyre. there was a bench where you could sit and look at her. The more you looked, the more you were affected by her peacefulness with her situation. There was something of the buddha over her, with that zen attitude over what was arguably her plight. but perhaps there was a message in it that it wasn't a plight at all, but freedom and a relief. some small boys came and exclaimed to their parents, "look, mom, it's a fire person - ildmenneske." that's exactly what she was. as we walked away to leave the experience to them, i remarked the she was an ildsjæl, and gave myself goosebumps.


i had moments where i wished we had the place to ourselves. there were many cars there, thanks to an appearance this week on DR, but once you were out, walking the trails, there was decent space between people. though at times, i wished we had more time there for ourselves. and i definitely wished that some of the whining kids that were there weren't there, which made me feel a little old and crabby. but, it was because it was such a striking, intense experience, and i wanted to savor it and that was difficult when there were people crowding up from behind.


there was a huge gong out the trees in one spot. we were recording it, and experiencing the reverberations, and a family came up behind us, chattering away. we definitely wished we'd had it to ourselves.


there were two uncanny figures which were in the vein of our exhibition last year. they were so striking the forest, and only slightly spoiled by an older couple with politiken glasses on, saying, "er det her virkelig kunst," (probably in more correct grammar than that) in a very snotty way. we felt a bit sorry for them with their snobbish view of the world, unable to give themselves over to the experience, needing to hold on to judgements in the face of a world that's changing and where those judgements may be falling away and the world becoming something else.


it will be interesting to see what kind of art arises out there, after corona. maybe christina and i should try to make some, as a reaction to this experience we are in. what would it look like? it would surely be uncanny in some sense. and surprising and unexpected. and it might be frightening and anxiety-causing, but it might also be a relief and somehow freeing.


it's so hard to know the affect this whole experience is going to have, when we are right in the middle of it. but to figure it out through art and in harmony with another artist or artists, and the landscape, could be the very best way to process it - in words and paint and things which hang from the trees.


one thing that was so interesting was that there weren't any artist names or names of the works anywhere visible in the forest, you had to just experience the works for yourself, figuring out what they said to you and only you, through your direct experience of them and the feelings that they gave to you, or the echoes they sounded of your lived experience - like a little hut up on stilts that made me think of Baba Yaga and which made Christina think about whether the hut or the nature around it came first. a thought-provoking experience for both of us, but a very different experience for each of us as well.


it also seemed like a place where you'd want to go on an artist's retreat. to sit in the brutalist shelter, light a fire and settle down to some writing. or to wander among the trees, capturing the sounds of the birds and wind and the leaves. or whether you'd want to record yourself reciting a poem you'd written, or a favorite poem in the amazing acoustics of the metal ball that's all alone, unexpectedly, in the middle of a field.

it definitely won't be my last visit.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

a magical secret chair


yesterday, i took a walk down around the lake after work. i needed to get outside and get some fresh air, so i donned my rubber boots and headed down there. i walked closer to the lake than usual, thinking that the mama swan was on a nest somewhere along the edge. i wanted to find her and see the nest. the papa swan was out on the lake and didn't flee as usual when he saw me. he actually seemed a bit aggressive, so maybe the nest was on our side of the lake and i was looking in the wrong spot. but, in looking, i happened upon an amazing handmade lounge chair. it was made of sticks and held together by fishing line. it looked like it had been there for a few years, so it wasn't newly constructed. i didn't try sitting in it, i just photographed it. but i might want to go out there and try it out. i wasn't sure it was strong enough to hold me anymore, but i will try it this weekend. i rather want to sit there and look out on the lake. it was quite idyllic and in such a peaceful spot. it felt a bit like happening upon a secret magic haven. if it's nice this weekend, i want to go down and feel the magic.

Monday, May 11, 2020

living well in the time of corona


apparently, the prolific slavoj zizek has already published a book about the pandemic, entitled, appropriately enough, Pandemic! i haven't read it, being currently stuck in an endless mrs. pollifax loop, but the article where i read about it quotes zizek as saying, “we need a catastrophe to be able to rethink the very basic features of the society in which we live” and apparently goes on to inquire into what it means to live well. apparently, this is that catastrophe and perhaps some good will come of it after all, if it really does cause us to use this pause to rethink what it means to live well.

i find so much of what i'm reading and hearing to be so negative and dark. and i have to admit that i haven't really experienced it that way myself. perhaps i've been lucky not to know anyone who has had the dreaded virus. or perhaps i live a place that has handled it well and sensibly and so i don't really know anyone who has lost their job (some are on leave with pay, yes, but they expect to return to work in june and i've had one colleague already called back early because we were so busy). i was nervous at the beginning, since i was just starting a new job then, but things are already picking up for our company and it's been nothing but one big exciting project since the day i started.

perhaps it's because i'm fortunate to live out in the countryside, where i haven't felt trapped inside. when i've had to make a grocery store run, shelves are stocked and people are largely practicing social distancing (it comes easy to the danes). i don't have any sense of panic at the store, so the segment on the washington post's podcast about that last week just sounded artificial and contrived to me.

we've actually spent more time with family both in person and virtually during the pandemic than we have in years. several visits from husband's girls and then his sister and her family, who came to enjoy the wide-open spaces and good food. there were friday night drinks with the family in sweden via zoom that we'd never have done without the pandemic. we facetime regularly with sabs in arizona, so even that hasn't been so bad, though her being so far away has been the biggest source of worry to me in this whole thing.

so what does it mean to live well? i've been very busy with work, so i haven't really felt like the pace of life has slowed down, but in some ways it has. it's been nice not to have to get up early, decide what to wear, rush out the door, drive 45 minutes and then sit in the office all day. i have spent entirely too many hours sitting at my computer, mostly in my pajamas, without makeup, but it has on the whole worked really well. we do have the technology to do our jobs from home.  and it turns out that i also have the necessary discipline. and i think having that mutual trust in your colleagues - that they're working hard and also that they're depending on you to do so too, even though you're not sitting together, that is part of having a good quality of life. and let's face it, our work is a big part of our lives, so when work is good, a good chunk of life is good.

and outside of that, it's been great to be at home, hanging with the cats, being able to take a walk around the garden when i really need a breath of fresh air, to be home to let the chickens out and gather the eggs and water in the greenhouse. i learned a new route to walk around the lake and discovered a beautiful hidden place where there's a bend in the creek i never knew about. i've also taken the back roads when going places, exploring small roads and stopping to take photos as spring has come on, enjoying that i don't necessarily have to hurry up to be somewhere at a particular time.

i've made good food and i've also had some days where i didn't feel like cooking and so i didn't and we ate digestives and brie and had a cup of tea for dinner. this time has helped me let go of expectations and all the musts and have tos. and i've discovered that life can have another pace and there can be room to write 750 words a day, and work a whole lot, and cook, and laugh and snuggle with hollister, and get my hands dirty in the garden, and make 15 liters of rhubarb cordial that future me will thank me for. and get a good night's sleep. and spend less and just BE more. and i have to say that i have a hard time seeing the downside in all that.

* * *

i've got news for you, it's not just the workers at mcdonald's in denmark that pity america these days.

* * *

so nice to get another perspective on this whole thing...
don't shoot the messenger, a podcast from the daily maverick in south africa

* * *

speaking of living well (in a fairy tale?), read this beautiful thing from the paris review.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

eddies in the space-time continuum


i found an old ring in a box today, one that i hadn't been able to find for some years. i even swear i'd looked in that box already, several times, but today, there it was. it's the black hills gold ring with the marquise cut diamond. the ring was my mom's and the diamond a remnant of my first, mistaken engagement. i would occasionally have pangs of sadness that i had lost it, but apparently i only mislaid it. for about a decade or so. i hardly ever wear gold jewelry anymore, but i'm glad i finally found it. the other ring is my mom's engagement and wedding ring. when i found the lost one, i went digging in a more recent jewelry bowl, looking for mom's ring. they kind of fit together, but also don't. but it was in a way that was pleasing to me today. i think it's part of the always surprising grief process. i even put them back on after my shower. i just need to be wearing them right now. for some reason unknown even to myself. they make me feel close to mom in a way that i seem to need right now. which is perhaps why that ring showed up today in that box that i swear i had looked in before. perhaps it was there today because i needed it to be. when things like that happen, i always think of arthur dent, stuck on that planet where he perfected the sandwich made of some strange beasts that periodically ran through, slipping between worlds on some eddy in the space-time continuum. today, an eddy brought the ring back to the box where it belonged. just at the moment i needed it.

* * *

in these days of zoom meetings, what's on people's bookshelves?

* * *

whenever i had a break today, i read some of this old interview with murakami in the paris review. that made me happy. and made me want to write. and maybe even made me want to go for a run. but not so much that i did so.

* * *

there were a bunch of great quotes in the murakami article and i want to save some of them here, capital letters and all:

"When I start to write, I don’t have any plan at all. I just wait for the story to come. I don’t choose what kind of story it is or what’s going to happen. I just wait. " 

”I myself, as I’m writing, don’t know who did it. The readers and I are on the same ground. When I start to write a story, I don’t know the conclusion at all and I don’t know what’s going to happen next. If there is a murder case as the first thing, I don’t know who the killer is. I write the book because I would like to find out. If I know who the killer is, there’s no purpose to writing the story.” 

”When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long—six months to a year—requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.” 

”All human beings have a sickness in their minds. That space is a part of them. We have a sane part of our minds and an insane part. We negotiate between those two parts; that is my belief. I can see the insane part of my mind especially well when I’m writing—insane is not the right word. Unordinary, unreal. I have to go back to the real world, of course, and pick up the sane part. But if didn’t have the insane part, the sick part, I wouldn’t be here.” 

“…a sense of humor is a very stable thing. You have to be cool to be humorous. When you’re serious, you could be unstable; that’s the problem with seriousness. But when you’re humorous, you’re stable. But you can’t fight the war smiling.” 

”Experience itself is meaning.” – Murakami (i might have to have that one tattooed.)

kind of appropriate that, since the other phrase i'd like tattooed is from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "reality is frequently inaccurate." said by Ford Prefect, not Arthur Dent. and one more, from Bitov, "unreality is a condition of life." that's it, my next three tattoos.





Sunday, May 03, 2020

because the world needs more cat pictures







just some of the great pictures i've taken of bob and hollister recently with my new iPhone 11 pro. my favorite part of working from home is definitely hanging out all day with these guys. hollister gets in his soft instagram impulse purchase bed under my desk, purrs loudly for some minutes and then goes to sleep. it's so nice to have him nearby to keep me company.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

my media diet


stumbling upon the WITI (why is this interesting?) newsletter, i found myself reading the whole stack of their monday media diet entries. aside: what is it about substack, it seems like all the cool kids are writing there these days.

when i first saw the title "media diet" - i was like, YES, i could use one of those. but it's more general than that, it's more like what media do you feed yourself with these days, rather than which media are you cutting out of your life to save on mental calories.

i recently did the latter, not reading any news, not listening to my usual news podcasts (the daily, post reports and today, explained), not even watching trevor noah, colbert or seth meyers. all of the anxiety out there has not been good for my sleep, i can tell you and staying up on the news does not help. but it did help very much to give myself some distance from it for about a week to ten days. i slept and felt much better. but slowly, i've started reading and listening and watching it all again. but never right before bed. then, i'm reading a book. at the moment, i'm rereading all of the mrs. pollifax series. comfort reading. i highly recommend it.

and as for my media consumption, i've fallen in love with the peaceful, serene videos from chinese youtuber li ziqi. she cooks and farms and dyes indigo and weaves cloth and makes a soft cotton mattress from cotton she grew herself and she just knows how to do all of it so calmly and beautifully and cinematically. it's mesmerizing. the guardian wrote about her in january, but i only just discovered her through the wonderful reply all newsletter. watch her and feel your blood pressure come down to a manageable level.

i've been reading a lot of substack newsletters. like this one from sluggo mczipp, and drawing links and nisha chattel's internet totebag. they have all led me to music i didn't know, or interesting things to read or delicious recipes to make or made me think or made me laugh. i highly recommend either these or others like them (please let me know yours in the comments, like it's 2008) to distract from the global pandemic. it's good when not all the things you read are about the latest stupidity to exit the spray-tanned clown's mouth. there are still smart people in the world, doing and writing interesting things. it gives me hope.

also on my media diet is a real life subscription to the paris review. i so love their podcast that i subscribed not long ago in order to support their work. it's nice to go to the mailbox and find a physical, real paper magazine in your hands,  and then to sit in a favorite chair, turning the pages, reading poetry and just generally good, thought-provoking writing. i highly recommend. and i actually just start at the beginning and read it through to the end. preferably while sitting in a comfortable chair with a latte or a hot cup of tea at hand.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

notes to self :: corona edition

1. try not to be an asinine racist. even if you're frustrated. and tired. and shot through with the anxiety of the whole world, which because of some kind of connection to the whole (capital w) that pema chodron claims you should be thankful for, you are utterly in tune to. and which is actually freaking you the fuck out.

2. try not to sit at your desk all day, never getting up to pee or eat lunch, having one online meeting after another, recording some of them with camtasia because they're not really meetings, but software tests and then not really editing that much because there's no time and you really have to pee. try not to send evidence of your asinine racism to other people because you didn't edit the damn video and you have too many notifications turned on. and seriously, just refer to #1 and don't be an asinine racist in the first place. shame on you.

3. try to go outside. go for a walk. skip around the lawn. jump rope for half an hour. lie on a quilt under the big red maple tree and stare at the sky. whatever you do, just. go. outside. now. well, not now, now, because you should really be in bed.

4. get some sleep.

5. don't read all. the. news. and whatever you do, don't listen to it, because then you will hear that spray-tanned satan's voice. and this will not help with #4.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

corona time - things i love about working from home

this coronavirus and all of the attendant orders to stay at home and socially distance can wear a bit thin. i'll admit my ability to cope with the anxiety it causes very much goes up and down. just when i think i have it under control and am on an even keel, then a headline or a podcast or a conversation with my sister catches me off guard and the rollercoaster goes rushing down. dang, that was a lot of mixed metaphors. i'm finding that the very best thing for it is getting my sleep. in order to do that, i have to not read the entirety of the nytimes and wapo on my phone before i go to sleep. and today, i've been trying to think about the things i love about working from home.


  1. not having to decide what to wear in the morning - i can stay in comfy pajamas, throw on a sweater and scarf, maybe brush my hair and i'm good to go.

  2. the companionship of the cats. they come around for a treat or a little snuggle and a few minutes of purring and we all feel better.
  3. not having to put on makeup. just a little moisturizer is all i need.


  4. playing doorwoman to the cats. bob goes out in the morning, and wants in for his midday nap around 10-10:30, then out again around 4.


  5. stopping to make myself a latte. i heat milk in a pan and make two shots of espresso in my little top moka espresso maker. i froth the milk with a little wand from ikea until it's super frothy and lovely. while i'm standing there, hearing the steamy sounds of the coffee expelling into the cups and smelling the rich smell, i think about the little coffee roaster in trieste where i get my coffee. they send it to me now, but i think of being in their shop. and i think about sabin and how the espresso shouldn't sit for longer than ten seconds or it will go bitter, so i always have the frothed milk ready to pour it right in. i love the ritual of it. i love taking the small break it means to make it and i love thinking fondly of travels and my child while i do it.

  6. when i need a breath of fresh air, i just go out the back door, take a little walk around, talk to the outdoor kitties, maybe have a quick conversation with the hens (or chase them out of the back terrace, where the little weirdos love to come in and eat some cat food), and then go back to work.

  7. taking a little break for lunch - sitting down out in the new kitchen with a sandwich or some leftovers and a glass of cold milk and having a little break away from the computer (i'm not really good enough at this one).
i do find that i tend to skip breaks and sit hunched over my computer for far too long, but i'm trying, in making this list, to remind myself that it's ok to enjoy those small breaks during the day. and my work will be the better for it. 

* * *

this story of a bible that supposedly oozed oil in a small georgia town says so much about today. and i fear none of it is good.

Monday, March 16, 2020

comfort baking and other effects of the coronavirus


these are very strange times. companies asking everyone to work at home, restaurants and bars closed, public gatherings limited, libraries and other "non-essential" public services closed as well, at least here in denmark. i laughed when i first heard the term "social distancing" last week, thinking that the danes had perfected that long ago, so it would be nothing new around here. but it's not really the time for ironic laughter. the fact is, we owe it to those in our society who are immune compromised or in a high risk category in relation to the virus because of their age, to stay home and not risk exposing them the virus, should we be walking around with it, not knowing we even have it because we are asymptomatic.

just a few weeks ago, i was thinking that life had to go on more or less normally because living in fear is no way to live. so we went to barcelona as planned months ago, to meet up with the child and have a holiday together. i think if we'd known then what we know now, we would have canceled the trip. that said, i'm very glad to have had the time together. i'm glad to have seen the salvador dali museum in figueres, la sagrada familia, park güell and other gaudi buildings around barcelona, the maritime museum and the picasso museum. i'm glad to have found a super cute local bar, cuba de janiero,  that became our nightly hangout. i'm glad we ate ramen twice and tried the patatas bravas in every tapas place we went to and discovered the coolest healthy breakfast place and explored all those thrift shops. i guess if i had it to do over again, i'd still go. i wouldn't trade that time with husband and sabin for anything. it fits my lifelong ethos of "what are you gonna remember?"

none of us seems to be getting sick, so perhaps we were even lucky (knock on wood). spain too is on lockdown now, with curfews and closed restaurants and bars. i don't think barcelona is hit that hard as of yet, it's madrid and the canary islands that are fighting the battle, so perhaps we just chose the right destination. but denmark's borders are more or less closed now too, so we are lucky we got home as well.

and in the middle of all of this, i started a new job. late last week, when i started, there were no restrictions and social distancing had just been coined as a phrase, so i went to the office as planned. we had a team breakfast so i could meet everyone and i got a bouquet of flowers, which is always the tradition in denmark. and then, on friday, the word came down that we should work at home from monday and for the foreseeable future. that was a little bit weird, to have been in the company for two days and not even have everyone's names straight and have to be on my own at home.

so, i began this post this morning, before my working-at-home day started, and now, i'm writing at the end of it. it absolutely flew by, filled with countless online meetings via skype and teams. i definitely did not have to worry that i wouldn't be included or have anything to do. i have been cast into the middle of a very exciting, business-critical project that's been put in motion due to the effect the coronavirus is having on trade. what a great way to jump into things with both feet and and not waste any time. i'm finding it very energizing and it's very encouraging to see how very skilled my new colleagues are at their jobs. i'm impressed and feel very much that i have landed in the right place, even though i'm not actually able to go there right now.

i've read that the coronavirus is having a big affect on CO2 levels and pollution in china and in italy, where things have been brought to a standstill. and i can see firsthand the affect its having on ways of doing business. i wonder if it's going to make us rethink the way we do all kinds of things? and i wonder if those new habits will stay with us - will we travel less? will we cook more at home? will we keep stockpiling toilet paper? will the danes continue to hoard yeast? will we continue to engage in comfort baking? so many questions. not the least of which is, how long is this going to go on?

* * *

tough times call for historical fiction, like daniel kehlmann's tyll

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

history is a matter of perspective


the angle taken by a museum is very often through the lens of where it's located. we went to the maritime museum in barcelona yesterday. since i'm currently writing about the long voyage from amsterdam to the cape in 1723, i'm very keen on learning i can about what ships and life on ships were like back then. i didn't exactly learn that at the maritime museum in barcelona.


it was a beautiful building, almost danish in its skillful combination of old and new architecture. the main feature was a 60-meter long replica of a galley, an oared warship, made to fight the ottomans in the mediterannean in the 1500s. those oarsmen were slaves and did not have a good life. the captain, however, did, with fine inlaid wood floors and art up in the quarters on the stern, from which he dictated the battle. it was elaborately decorated with both painting and carved reliefs. there was a medusa's head on the back, to strike terror in all who approached from the back. the figurehead was a beautiful carved neptune, riding a fish and covered in gold leaf, showing undoubted dominion over the sea.

it was a confusing exhibition, and hard to find the way through to see all of the exhibits. we finally did, but not in the right order of things and it did get a bit hazy as they leaped from those mediterranean incursions to trade with the americas. because they were focused on ships built in barcelona and the catalonian sailor in general, they skimmed over that whole thing with the spaniard columbus and his role in accidentally discovering the new world when he tried to find a new passage to india, undoubtedly because the spaniards couldn't keep up with the portugese and dutch on their well-established routes around the cape to the far east. (phew, that was a long sentence.)

there were displays about the trade with the new world and the goods that went back and forth - sugar, cotton, tobacco and yes, they even mentioned the slave trade. i think they handled it well. you stepped into a little room, where the walls were covered with official documents regarding the slave trade, and a whispered voice said that it was an ugly bit of history that no one really wished to talk about, but it needed to be done, and it was a dark time for humanity. those plantations in the american south could do with a bit of inspiration there.

and it all had me thinking, once again, about how history and how the story is told, is a matter of who is telling the story. maybe i need to head to amsterdam to hear their perspective, they must have a maritime museum there.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

flea market finds


i was thinking about how dependent on the location the items in a second hand store are. this bowl, which i saw at one of those flea market places, where individuals rent a shelf and put whatever they want there. it was in herning, which is arguably the middle of denmark. the tag on the bowl claimed it was french and it's true that it didn't look danish. if it hadn't had a big crack in it (not visible in this photo), i would have bought it, as i definitely felt it sparked joy.


i spotted this clarinet in the wonderful antique trove in scottsdale, az. i feel like i see a lot more instruments at antique places in the us. other than old pianos and organs, i just don't see that many musical instruments in the shops in denmark. i don't know if this is because less people play an instrument or because they keep them.


this red tray could easily have been denmark, but it was actually also at the antique trove in scottsdale. i'm kicking myself for not having bought it. it would have been awesome in my red kitchen.


this was definitely in the us. not that people didn't quilt in denmark, but patchwork quilts are also quite rare at the antique places here. you often see knitted and crocheted afghans, but very seldom do you run across any patchwork quilts. and especially not a yoyo quilt like this. that seems like it was very much an american style. i didn't buy this one, but i have one very similar that my great grandmother made. i hope it stays in the family and never finds its way into an antique place.


obviously, that lunchbox was spotted in the us. i ended up taking that tin toy bug home with me, so someday someone will probably find it in an antique place here in denmark and wonder how the heck that happened.


that yellow bowl is at an antique place in my hometown in south dakota. i love it so much, i've actually photographed it a couple of times. but it's $49, which isn't really so bad, but i always think it will take up too much space in my luggage or get broken along the journey, so i leave it behind, even if it definitely sparks joy in me.


this one is obviously very mid-mod danish. it was in the flea market in kolding. i am drawn to these designs, but i didn't buy this one. but it got me thinking about the whole question of the selection of goods available in a particular location. i'm definitely going to see what's in the second hand and antique shops of barcelona next week. i'll bet it's something completely different!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

i have the discipline to write 750 words a day


for 37 days in a row, i have written a minimum of 750 words on 750words.com. i do usually more or less stop when i hit 750, but it's not always exact, i tend to finish my thought. and that means that as of today, i've written 30,729 words, 19,582 of them have been in february. i began mid-january. it's been very good, re-establishing a daily writing habit. i'm not sure how it slipped away from me the way it did and i'm grateful to have it back. i am very motivated by the badges you can achieve on the site. these are the ones i've gotten so far. in a few more days, i'll have the turquoise horse as well, for finishing the monthly challenge. maybe it's easier to complete when that month is the shortest one, but i've signed up for march as well, so i intend to continue.


and speaking of march, instead of my usual stream-of-consciousness, in march i'm going to write 750 words a day on our novel. whether i write a snippet of the story, or a character sketch or just a description of a location or try to capture a feeling, it will move us closer to shaping our story. it's time to get all those ideas that have been swirling in my head, fed by various readings, observations, discussions and research onto the page. this story isn't going to write itself and now i've proven that i can write at least 750 words per day. that adds up. i will have at least 23,250 at the end of march and that is definitely something.

Monday, February 24, 2020

ghost ship

photo from the Irish Times article
i'm a bit obsessed with the story of the M/V Alta, a ghost ship that washed up on a remote shore in ireland after last weekend's storm dennis. it was unmanned and had been abandoned and floating derelict in the atlantic for 17 months. it's 77 meters long, built in 1976 and last registered to an unknown company under tanzanian flag. its last voyage was said to be from greece to haiti, which seems a strange route. it had some kind of irreparable engine failure somewhere off bermuda and the 10-person crew (i cannot find any info about the nationality of said crew) first had supplies air-lifted to them and then was rescued by the US coast guard ahead of an oncoming hurricane in september 2018. the owner was supposed to tow the ship somewhere for repairs, but it seems that never happened. there are rumors that it was being towed to guyana when it was hijacked and then left to drift again. none of the reports mention what cargo was onboard at its abandonment, nor have i been able to learn the nationalities of the crew. it's all very mysterious. the last sighting of the ship was by a british navy vessel at some undisclosed location last august-september (they're very cagey about precisely when and where). in a couple of the articles, it was mentioned that it was sighted off africa and spain (possibly out near the azores or canaries?) in recent months. it must have been caught in the gulf stream and carried north. another article i read suggested it went north along the US coast and then crossed the Atlantic from higher up.

the other night at the bar, an old maersk captain came in and i asked him what he thought about it. he immediately grinned and said, "it's the flying dutchman!" - the legendary ghost ship! he also said that such vessels are not at all unusual. some nefarious character picks up a ship for cheap, hauls one illicit cargo - drugs, weapons, supplies that are under embargo, etc. - and then abandons the ship. it would stand to reason that sailing between greece and haiti, it could have had some unusual cargo on board, as that doesn't seem like a normal trade route. but, i wonder what happened to that cargo? perhaps the reports of the ship being towed to guyana are actually a rendezvous with another ship that offloaded the cargo and sailed off with it, leaving the ship.

it seems strange that the owner is so hard to trace and strangely enough, an owner seems to have presented themselves to the irish authorities and was awaiting verification. that could be anyone, wanting a ship - that was my brother-in-law's first idea, that we should claim it and then we'd have a ship - a 44-year-old ship that had been abandoned and drifting for a year and a half. when i showed the maersk captain the picture, he said, it was a "russer" - at least built in russia, just by looking at it. i haven't read that, but it could be. none of the articles have talked about earlier names or owners through the years, but there must have been many. i just can't stop thinking about it. there must be more to the story. so many unanswered questions.

if it was a nefarious owner, wanting to use it for one illicit cargo, i imagine the crew was filipino and i wonder what their fate was - how did they get back home if the owner had abandoned them and the ship? and what about the cargo? they hadn't yet reached their destination when they broke down, so there had to be a cargo on board. i'm imagining all kinds of stories for this! maybe i need to work in such a storyline to our story. we have lumke's voyage in 1723 and a contemporary voyage - hmmm, how to connect them? or is this a whole new story? i was always fascinated by the kursk sinking as well and voraciously read everything about that back when it happened. if you told that story, you'd want them to be rescued though, as the ending there wasn't a good one for everyone on board. that was in putin's early days and he didn't handle that very well - he handled it like a KGB agent, not a leader.

but, back to the alta. what was it that broke down and couldn't be fixed? were there no spares on board, so the crew couldn't get it running again, or was it a cheap, third-rate crew that didn't have the know-how? the owner, wanting it for just the one voyage, didn't plan on needing to repair it. anyway, it's all very interesting and would be a story worth telling - even if i have to make up most of the details.

----

new information from marine traffic - it was panama flag, not tanzania. and there is a list of the names the ship has had...


very weird with a norwegian flag and name after the alta name...this story is so very curious.

wait! more from marine traffic: "She was also in the news in 1983 when she sank off Norway. Raised and repaired she continued trading." this story gets better and better!

Friday, February 21, 2020

another attempt at life drawing








these are from my second attempt at life drawing. as you can see, we had a female model the second time around. i found it harder than the first time. i had a lot more trouble letting go and freeing up my hand for the lines. kind of disconcerting that the best ones were the ones i did blind (not looking down at the paper) or mostly blind. that was the closest i came to letting go. i'm going to a yoga thing on sunday, so i'll miss this weekend's sunday morning life drawing session. looking at these results, maybe that's for the best.