Monday, December 21, 2020

thank you, corona

it's the winter solstice. the longest, darkest day of the year, in what's been a long, dark year. 2020 has tried to kick our asses. and it has mostly succeeded. but, i’ll admit that as far as i’m concerned, it also has been pretty good to me. and i’ll also admit that it feels a little problematic of me to say that. but, honestly, it has. i started a new job two days before denmark shut down the first time and said that everyone who chould work at home should work at home. i’ll admit that i was a little freaked out on that friday. i had just returned from a long-planned holiday in barcelona that we didn’t cancel. we didn’t know then how bad the virus would become. we had planned the previous october to meet sabin in barcelona and have a family vacation. and we did it. husband did go home early, because it had rained all of february and the water table was high and leaking at an alarming rate into the pantry adjacent to our kitchen. but we had a wonderful holiday together and even after husband left, sabin and i enjoyed our time together. we had fabulous cocktails, we shopped and ate great food. it really couldn’t have been better. 
on that weird friday, two days into my job and with the virus hanging over all of us, it was windy and i stopped at the grocery store in the little town where i work. the wind blew the car door out of my hand as i got out and i was so distracted, i didn’t even notice that it hit the vehicle next to me. unfortunately, the girlfriend of the guy who owned the vehicle did notice and pointed out that my car door had rubbed the dirt off her door when i returned to my car. her hysterical boyfriend rode his bike over to talk to me. i stupidly and distractedly gave them my phone number and they actually reported to insurance that the dirt was rubbed off their door and convinced their friend to declare that the entire car needed repainting. which ended up on my insurance. but i digress. and it was all because i was distracted. and stupidly and unlike me, didn’t take a picture at the scene, so i couldn’t dispute it. i also stupidly let on that i spoke danish. that was dumb. and possibly 2020 getting the best of me. 

but it may have been the only place where it did. because even two days into my new job, i was already included in a big and business critical project. and we managed to do something utterly amazing that i’ve never seen any other company do so quickly. it was pretty amazing and even exhilarating to be part of. and that damn virus made it possible. it was the kind of project that would been hemmed and hawed about and made into smaller pilot projects over a two-year period and we did it in 10 days. thank you, corona. and it’s continued at the same level and pace ever since and i have been continually amazed at the talent of my collagues and the things we can do together. i don’t think this would have become so apparent to me so quickly without the virus. we may be building the plane as we fly it, but damn, we are flying it. thank you, corona. 

my child hasn’t had the ideal start to college that we would have wanted, but she has had a pretty good time and she joined a sorority and made a lot of friends and one of her good friends from high school has transferred to asu as well. and thanks to my privileged position as an american citizen who is a permanent resident of denmark, i could travel to arizona to help her move out of her apartment and into the dorm. with a pitstop at my own asu professor’s home. and even though corona was raging, we wore our masks, we got some essential help from an old bloggy friend who lives in arizona now and we drank quite a lot of coronas (the good kind) by the pool. it was honestly, a lovely summer. and we never tested positive for corona. 

and now, she’s been home for nearly a month and while the darkness and lack of sunshine has been difficult for her, it’s also been great to have her home. she argues with her father and makes him admit defeat. he has to recognize that he is defeated in his white male privilege by the strong women he has raised. and it’s good for him. we’ve had a corona scare this week. a good friend of sabin’s spent the weekend with us last weekend and then tested positive last tuesday. we’ve been tested and tested again and are still negative. we start to wonder if we have some strange immunity that we don’t deserve. but while we await the vaccine, we will take what we can get. and in the meantime, we will eat good food, laugh and play games together and we will appreciate more than we counted on of 2020. thank you, corona, for reminding us of what’s important.

Monday, December 07, 2020

missing my dad

i always use this picture on dad's birthday. he would have been 87 today. i miss him more acutely some days than others. during the mad election season that just passed, i wished nearly every day that i could talk to him about it. i wonder what he would make of the spray-tanned clown and his antics. i suspect he wouldn't be that surprised by it. and i also think he wouldn't have been as personally embarrassed by it as i have been for the past four years. maybe he even would have assured me that this too shall pass. i think i have needed to hear him say that. but alas, it hasn't been possible. and it never will be. and man do i miss him today. 

* * * 

this ekphrasis on tiktok sums up the attraction perfectly. 

when you let a computer write a trend report

zoom be gettin' scary.

Friday, November 06, 2020

on the threshold

most of us take doors for granted. we pass through doorways tens of times each day, without reflection. the door is, however, a powerful feature of human mentality and life-practice. it controls access, provides a sense of security and privacy, and marks the boundary between differentiated spaces. the doorway is also the architectural element allowing passage from one space to the next. crossing the threshold means abandoning one space and entering another, a bodily practice recognized both in ritual and language as a transition between social roles or situations. doors and thresholds are thus closely linked with rites de passage, the word "liminality" itself stemming from Latin limen, "threshold." this does not imply that each and every crossing of a threshold constitutes a liminal ritual, but rather that passing through a doorway is an embodied, everyday experience prompting numerous social and metaphorical implications.

--marianne hem eriksen, university of oslo
in architecture, society, and ritual in viking age scandinavia
doors, dwellings, and domestic space

this week of waiting for the results of the election has me, once again, thinking about liminal space. we're (hopefully) on the threshold of something new - a return to normalcy (if that's possible) after the utter insanity of the trump years. and i'm looking forward to stepping through that door. 

but i fear that the door won't completely shut on these years because the fact is that there are a significant amount of people who actually agreed with the way he was running things and they voted for him a second time. they're apparently totally ok with the 97 million cases of corona and 235,000 deaths. they're ok with kids in cages and more than 500 children who can't be reunited with their parents due to the incompetence and cruelty of the trump administration. they're ok with a president who grabs women by the pussy. and who has spent $142,000,000 in taxpayer money golfing. and they're ok with leaving the paris climate accord and the iran nuclear agreement. and they're ok with the more than 20,000 lies. and the self-dealing and the nepotism. and the cozying up to dictators. and the humiliation on the world stage. and did i mention the lies? and the narcissism and the petulance and the twitter. there's just. so. much. i'm exhausted from it. and embarrassed by it. and tired of the way it's weakened my very foundation and made me ashamed to be american.

and i'm at my wits' end - with relatives and friends who support the monster. and it feels like some doors may need to close there. but on the other hand, that doesn't necessarily seem like the answer either. but they don't get a pass. they have to own what their choice means - that women lose the freedom to choose over their own bodies, and good friends who are legally married may have those marriages nullified by the conservative supreme court justices trump and his cronies in the senate rushed through. that people will lose their health insurance. that they don't mind children being put in cages. children in cage. just think about that. it's ok because your stocks did well? really?

but back to doors and thresholds. i think we are really standing on a threshold here. we just faced a choice between empathy and caring for our fellow humans and more division and further erosion of democratic ideals. and only by the slimmest of margins does it appear that we chose our fellow humans. what does that say? in this moment, while the whole world balances on the precipice with a global pandemic, that the choice wasn't clearer than that is astonishing. 

i hope we stride confidently through the door with our hearts open. i'll admit mine is pretty closed right now to those who have supported the spray-tanned narcissist and it will take a bit of work on my part to open it a little bit. and right now, i don't really know how that's going to happen.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

can we get a do-over on 2020?

for several years, i've bought arctic paper's lovely calendar. one year, i think it was 2018, i actually wrote a little snippet of my day in it every single day of that year, keeping a kind of diary, though it was mostly lists and trips and what i did that day, not anything deep or philosophical. still, it was the record of a busy life. i did write intentions for every week on the page for the week, which felt like a meaningful practice, even if i didn't always keep them. it featured beautiful paper that explored the changing light and colors throughout the year, so it had a kind of rainbow theme to it. the words at the beginning were a beautiful musing on time. "time is months, weeks, hours, minutes and seconds. time is seasons. seasons are light. light is a guide through time." it was so fitting for a calendar.

they work with different design schools around europe and have young people design the calendars and they're always printed on arctic paper's own beautiful papers. it's a pleasure to page through them and write in them. this year's was no different. it is a moon-themed agenda entitled "the day begins at midnight" and was designed by students from école estienne's graphic design and art direction students. i assume that's somewhere in france.

it's really gorgeous and i love the words at the beginning, especially since i always consider myself a night person, not a morning one...(capital letters removed by me):

the day begins at midnight, when creativity knows no boundaries.
more than an aesthetically attractive calendar,
we wanted to design something that makes us challenge
our traditional perception of time and creativity.
by visually highlighting night-time in imagery
through its content, this agenda wants us to reconsider 
our notion of the day.

because extraordinary things happen in our minds at night.
we know our subconscious is active when we sleep.
and we know that some people need to relax simply
to get their ideas flowing. some even find that they are
more creative at night, whether asleep or awake
creativity knows no boundaries, not in place, nor in time.

but here, as we embark on the second to last month of 2020, which has already been pretty eventful, i find i must admit that i never used this calendar at all. i didn't write a single thing in it. it's still pristine and beautiful - blank and awaiting words or drawings or doodles, the recording of a life. and i didn't record a single word of this crazy, mad year. it's almost like this clean, beautiful calendar represents a pristine do-over of 2020, just waiting to happen. 2020, between the covers of this journal, is unblemished, unmarred by oafish, spray-tanned, clownish, embarrassing presidents, and deadly viruses, and killer hornets. it's full of potential trips to exotic places, new experiences and even scratched-down notes of wonderful meals made and eaten, friends seen, laughs laughed. in its very blankness, it's full of potential. potential for a do-over of this mad, terrible year. maybe that's what we most need right here and now. or maybe we just need this damn year to be over already. 

i'll order a new calendar from arctic paper when they release it in a few weeks. and let's cross our fingers that things get better in 2021.

Monday, November 02, 2020

on the eve of the election

i want to record this moment. to send the anxiety out through my fingers onto the page, both preserving it and dispelling it. i did what i could. i sent my vote, via DHL, just to be sure. i have proof of receipt and i voted for biden. he's a shoe in to win illinois, where i vote. i have also, demonstrating extraordinary foresight, produced a daughter who will vote in her first presidential election - in the potentially decisive state of arizona. her vote will really count and she's taking a whole gaggle of friends with her to the polls. i have done all i could.

i fervently hope that the biden-harris ticket wins and if the economist is right, they will. but whether trump and his merry band of trumpanzees will accept it or not is another story and that's probably what's causing the most anxiety for me. we just have no idea how the world will look when we wake up on wednesday. and will that child of mine in arizona be safe? there are an awful lot of guns in the hands of an awful lot of stupid people.

i hate that that thought even goes through my head. and i hope i don't regret putting it down here. i thought maybe getting it out would help dispel it. i hope it doesn't make it come true instead. not that i feel my words have that kind of power. 

i have to believe that there are more good people in the voting population who want something better - better than the lies and racism and the sexism and the xenophobia and the narcissism and the self-dealing and the nepotism (i could go on). people who want better for their children and their futures. i have to believe that most people are good and sensible and moral. because what kind of world will we live in if they're not?

i hope i can sleep tonight and stay busy tomorrow. luckily, i have loads of meetings, so i'm hoping to stay distracted. it's both a relief and difficult to be so far away. better get that application filed for danish citizenship. 

Friday, October 30, 2020

making the best of life in a global pandemic

everyone is talking these days about how covid has changed our lives and about how heavy that burden seems. in fact, reply all's latest episode talks about how this year is scientifically proven to be the saddest, most unhappy year. probably ever, or at least since these scientists started measuring happy/unhappy words on twitter. as if twitter is a happy place. 

but, i get it. it's hard with limited social contact, not much going out to eat or get drinks, not visiting family and friends and feeling awkward when you do, no halloween party, no concerts or movies and no yoga classes. we work a lot more from home and it can feel at times like the workday is just one endless long teams meeting. 

but i also find that there are good things about it. for one, the coffee is way better here at home. i order the beans from a little roaster in trieste, grind it myself and make two cups of espresso in a little mokka pot that i bought in venice (thinking consciously about that every single time), then pour that into plenty of warmed, frothed milk that i get from an organic dairy farmer nearby. 

and while i find myself sitting too long at the computer without getting up and sometimes forgetting to eat lunch, when i do eat lunch, i feel consciously grateful for the plates i had made by a local ceramics artist and to myself for making a really good omelette for dinner the other night and for there being leftovers. i don't feel that way about lunch at the office. at the office, i usually find myself thinking that they would being going into elimination if it were master chef. 

the past few days, i've been happy to be working at home, because on tuesday when i got home, husband said there was a kitten yowling out in the big barn and i needed to rescue it. the poor little thing had its eyes all stuck shut and it was very distressed, cold and hungry. i brought it in, gently washed its eyes with warm water, put some aquaphor on them to soothe them and ran to the grocery store for cat milk until i could get to the vet the next day to get proper kitten milk replacer. i concluded that the kitten was a little older than i thought, as it has pretty good teeth and within about 36 hours, it was a different, lively, lovely little kitten that was ready for his first photoshoot. he does need to eat every few hours and i have to mix milk replacer for him and give him some soft food, which i also got at the vet. he's doing very well. i think his mama is a young wild thing that comes for food and i tried to give him back to her, but she wasn't having it. it's late in the season and i think she doesn't really know what to do. but anyway, thanks to corona, i'm here for him.

i've had a really sore throat for a few days and i'm coughing. i haven't gotten tested, but i don't have a fever and i can still taste things, so i think it's just an ordinary cold. though how, with all the hand washing and hand sanitizer, one can still get a cold is beyond me. one part of me just wants to get the damn virus and get it over with.  

another positive is that this damn virus makes my work life really exciting. we have the exhilaration of quickly bringing solutions together as the situation changes in various countries - like france's new lockdown (probably to be closely followed by one in belgium), we're moving quickly to help our stores there, adjusting their black friday campaigns and making them able to meet with customers online. it's seriously really exciting and makes me appreciate working with talented and hard-working colleagues. 

denmark finally instituted mask requirements in public places - like grocery stores and the library and such. they had required them on public transport and in restaurants and bars (until you're seated at your table) some weeks ago. i'm a little tired of hearing people moan about the mask requirement, questioning its effectiveness. and only thinking of themselves. as i see it, using a mask is something we do for one another. i was happy to wear a mask this week, since i had a sore throat and i didn't want to give it to anyone. i don't do it for me, i do it for my fellow humans. 

another thing i did for my fellow humans is that i voted. and sent it via DHL to be sure it got there. i have proof of delivery. and boy, will i be glad when this election is over. 

how are you coping these days?

* * *

 acedia - that thing we're all feeling now.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

looking for the elusive red thread

we got together in our local creative group on sunday and made small "flexigon" books together, inspired by places that mean something to us. because i love the little museum down in randbøldal, where i go to weaving every other wednesday, i wanted to make that the focus of my little foldable book. i selected some photos that i'd taken there, as well as a photo of the runner for my kitchen that i wove there at the museum. many of the photos i chose were of that work in progress and the one in the middle is of the new runner that i just started last saturday. what i wanted to ponder in my little book was the magic of the place. because it really is a magical place. 

and what came out was something else entirely. i began to think about the way that we trace red threads of meaning through our lives. or the way that we probably should do that and don't always do so. and my little book became a kind of meditation on that. perhaps because i have used red strips cloth in my rug, or because i often struggle to figure out whether there is a cohesive meaning to my life. it can feel like i'm really just bumbling along. 

but it's strange that wasn't what i sat down to create. i wanted to create a little book that expressed the magic i feel in the air when i'm at the museum. it's a really special place. it makes me feel calm and centered and present. i feel it immediately when i step out of my car, my shoulders relax and i breathe deeply. it's in a little valley, on the curve of a creek, nestled down in the trees. part of the magic is the group of women which gathers there, especially the leader of that group, who is a lovely, spry, can-do woman who makes things happen. she's a big part of the magic. but the place itself has something special as well. maybe it's on just the right vortex, or just the way it's placed, there on the creek, nestled at the base of a tree-covered hill, is perfect. and i wanted to try to capture that in my little book, but instead, it ended as a search for a red thread. 

i guess i unconsciously chose that myself when i chose the pictures that i did. i have many other pictures that capture the magic, but the ones i chose were nearly all of my own weaving and in that way, i guess i did control the direction it took, even if it maybe felt like i didn't. i guess i'm just looking for that elusive red thread.

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 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.