07 August, 2016

Rainer Maria Rilke and Street Art

I went and talked to Joan in the studio he was working in today. The one portrait is nearly finished of a school child (my daughter) on her first day of school. 

The words above her silhouette are taken from my favourite poem from Rainer Maria Rilke, Ich lebe mein Leben in wachsenden Ringen. Here is a pretty good translation of the poem:

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I've been circling for thousands of years
and I still don't know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

~ Ranier Maria Rilke ~

The reason I chose those words is because I believe that all children and particularly my children have been the greatest blessing I have received in my life. So the answer to the question is "a great song" when it comes to what their presence means in my life.

06 August, 2016

Early morning battle

I have been participating in a wonderful street art project. The street artist, Joan Aguiló from Mallorca, is in Lübeck for two weeks trying to portrait the essence of this beautiful city by creating portraits of the local residents on walls throughout the city.

In the photo above he is making up a drawing of my daughter on her first day of school. His street art is often on paper, which he glues on walls. Weather and vandals influence the condition and length of stay of his street art.

This is the story behind the story of this photo.

Early morning battle

When I was a child, my sisters and I wore the clothes our mother chose for us to wear, especially when it came to special occasions. To my chagrin, my daughter had a different idea from the moment she was old enough to stand on her own feet and open up her cupboard door. She was the master of her wardrobe and the decider of her fashion statement. Every morning she and I entered into a battle over what she would wear that day. Her fashion choice was one of serendipity and did not take into account weather or practicality. It was a battle I nearly always lost because of her tenaciousness and our immediate need to get her dressed and out the door to her kindergarten. On the morning of her first school day ceremony, we had a battle of monumental proportions.

The evening before, we hung out two beautiful dresses she could choose from to wear on this special occasion. One dress was a red velvet sparkled with stars. The other one was a blue-and-white striped navy theme. You might be wondering, why two dresses?

This is because it was the only solution for getting my daughter and I out of the department store’s changing room without tears. My tears, not hers. She had been trying on dresses for two hours and her wide selection of possible dress choices had been painstakingly reduced to two, which was when the standstill occurred, thus leading to my buying both.

Dawn comes and we are all running around getting showered and shaved (my husband) and breakfast on the table. I call everyone to the table. Our son, my husband, and I sit down in our dazzling festive outfits and then my daughter comes into the room wearing her favorite old-and-should-have-been-long-ago-put-in-a-garbage-bin cotton leggings and t-shirt. I innocently tell her, she doesn’t have time to play, since we are due at the school in 45 minutes. I ask her to go and get her dress on. She says she wants to wear her leggings and not her dress.

What ensued was not a pretty scene. Lots of arguing back-and-forth. Lots of tears were shed. (My tears.) Lots of exasperation felt towards the other party not seeing reason. (Her exasperation towards me.) No willingness on either side to back down.

As the minutes ticked away and the point-of-no return was rapidly approaching, I made an executive decision and give her an ultimatum. Brandishing a large pair of scissors, I said she could wear her leggings, but if she did, I would cut through her dresses.

I know, not a proud moment. Pedagogically wrong. Complete loss of dignity. Relinquishment of all parental control.

She looked at my face, saw the resolve, turned around and went back to her bedroom.

Five minutes later she came back in the room wearing her beautiful red velvet dress sparkled with stars and walked to her new school with a happy skip in her step.

16 July, 2016

10 things I like to do when I am on my own...

  1. Read, currently:
    A Walk in the Woods (Bill Bryson), Was ich noch sagen wollte (Helmut Schmidt), Third Culture Kids (David C. Pollock), The Heart of Buddha's Teaching (Thich Nhat Hanh), Flying Solo: How To Go It Alone In Business (Rober Gerrish, Same Leader and Peter Crocker), Mistborn Trilogy (Brandon Sanderson), The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World (Daniel Yergin)
  2. Sit in a café, current local favourites:
    Vai Bistro, Kaffeewerk, KaffeehausQuartier, and actually a few more. Lübeck is a city filled with wonderful cafés. 
  3. Look at people:
    Best done while sitting in a café.
  4. Go to my strandkorb:Weather hasn't been so good this year to do this. Hopefully, things will change soon!
  5. Go for a long walk
  6. Work on the computer:
    Except I have been doing too much of this over the last months.
  7. Listen to podcasts, current favourites:
    Cortex, Hello Internet, Long Form, On Being, Invisibilia, La nature selon Boucar, Dharmaseed, Soundscapes with Stephen McCauley, Still Untitled, Writers and Company
  8. Travel
    As written last week, this has been a wirlwind time for travel, next I am off to sail with friends in the southern Danish islands.
  9. Go to see a movie:
    No time for that!
  10. Eat at a restaurant:
    Montreal, Amsterdam, and Addis were amazing places to wine and dine in.  

10 July, 2016

Culture shock

culture shock (noun)

the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.

DEFINITION of 'Culture Shock'

A feeling of uncertainty, confusion or anxiety that people experience when visiting, doing business in or living in a society that is different from their own. Culture shock can arise from a person's unfamiliarity with local customs, language and acceptable behavior, since norms can vary significantly across cultures.

Recently I did an amazing amount of travelling in (for me) a very short period of time. In seven weeks, I traveled to Amsterdam, Montreal (also Ste. Lucie and Warkworth), Addis Ababa, and Bielefeld and Kiel in Germany. The trips to Amsterdam and Montreal were working holidays. The trips to Addis, Bielefeld, and Kiel were work.

My travels took me from the idyllic surroundings of Ste. Lucie in the Laurentiens mountains north of Montreal. A week spent in nature. A week when I could mix working on my laptop with the pleasure of kayaking every day with the loons swimming right next to me; sitting still and listening to a symphony of frogs. A place where there was no human-made sounds to be heard.

And then in contrast, Addis Ababa… a city steeped in noise and busy-ness and chaos, like I have never experienced before. Admittedly, in the last 20 years or so, I have been mostly travelling in Europe and North America and the Caribbean. Working in Addis allowed me to meet some wonderful people and a new culture that was intensely interesting. (The first visit of many, hopefully.)

Amsterdam was visiting old friends in my most favourite city in the world. Warkworth was meeting new friends in, what seemed to me, a beautiful small town (village) setting from the past.

Even though all the trips went well and I had a fun time, I did experience what I can only describe as culture shock of sorts each time. I say culture shock of sorts because what I experienced was very different to that described in dictionaries. Mine appears on a physiological and sensory level.

My brain goes on overload trying to process the signals my senses are sending it. What is it that I am tasting, smelling, hearing, seeing and feeling (e.g. feeling cold the whole time in Addis because I didn’t bring enough warm clothing). There were numerous times when I questioned my old brain's ability to sort out all this information. Is this a problem a part of growing old?

In younger years, I seemed to be blissfully oblivious to this challenge. Now the first hours, days, or week spent in a new place is not just “getting over” jetlag or a general feeling of disorientation, but recognizing if and when my brain just doesn’t know how to process the information flow.

Why this is, is something I am going to meditate on these next few weeks. Thankfully, I can do this from the luxury and familiarity of my home.

27 May, 2016

Inspired by words

How I would love to be able to write words that have a rhythm both of bounding down of earth and escaping to the heavens.

19 May, 2016

We should have figured this out by now...

Ethically and practically we are at the moment in dark times.

I am trying to figure out a way to create an artistic project which brings stories forward about the experiences of the refugees and immigrants I know. Hearing their stories and befriending them has changed my heart greatly.

15 May, 2016

Meandering back

Drinking a cup of White Moon tea and listening to Soundscapes (fabulous BBC  podcast) all the while looking out at the passing landscape. My idea of happiness.

11 May, 2016

On my way to Amsterdam

Spring arrived last night. The East winds burst through the countryside and shook the budding leaves out of branches. The lilac hedges add bright contrast to the raps fields. I sit in "my" train speeding through the most magnificent landscape and blue skyscape joyously thinking about dinner tonight with dear friends in Amsterdam.

08 May, 2016

Photo/story II

Write the first thing that comes to mind when you see the following photo.

My grandfather’s garden bordered on a wide river near a dam. There were tall grasses on the river banks in his garden leading down. Water lilies carpeted the quiet shallow waters.

The lilies hide the painted turtles from the hot summer sun.

My sisters and I would lie still in the grass trying to sight the turtles. We’d search for their nostrils floating up on the surface of the water.

Occasionally a frog would go plop into the water and scare us with the noise.

17 April, 2016

Grandma's 90th birthday

(not actual postman)

This is a true story that happened to a client of mine...

Date: 14 days before grandma's 90th birthday
To-do: order a family photo album online (ETA 10 day's time), book plane tickets to Athens (where grandma lives)
What happened: confirmation of photo album order (ETA 10 day's time) to arrive at my office building, flights booked

Date: 4 days before flight
To-do: hopefully photo album arrives
What happened: no album

Date: 3 days before flight
To-do: hopefully photo album arrives
What happened: no album

Date: 2 days before flight
To-do: hopefully photo album arrives
What happened: no album

Date: 1 days before flight
To-do: hopefully photo album arrives
What happened: postman comes through the door of my office without package. I break out in tears and tell him about my Greek grandma's 90 birthday and pictures of her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren (who she has never seen). Postman slightly overwhelmed. Asks me when I am flying out tomorrow (12:00). Asks me for my home address.

Date: 0 days before flight
To-do: given up on photo album arriving
What happened: Postman arrives in his private car (it is his day off) with package. He had gone early morning to central sorting warehouse and found package and drove to our home to deliver it to me. I break out in tears and give him a hug. Postman slightly overwhelmed.

09 April, 2016

Photo/story I

Write the first thing that comes to mind when you see the the following photo.

cc Anders Lejczak

A businessman
With thinning blond hair,
Grey beard, and sporting a pair of
Stylish metal-rimmed glasses,
Stands on the edge
Of the subway platform
And stares down
The tunnel wondering if
His tango partner’s new dance shoes
Are going to give her blisters.

26 March, 2016

Gesture of kindness

A good friend of mine told me this story recently and I thought it would be good to share it with you during Easter weekend.

It was a Friday afternoon and Aalia received the news that she didn't get the job she had interviewed for the week before. Crestfallen, she walked through the city aimlessly trying to find some ray of hope in her heart. None.

Eventually, she goes into her local grocery store to buy some food for the weekend. As she stands in the checkout line, she notices, but doesn't really notice, the young man in front of her looking at her.

The man goes through the check out and selects a bouquet of tulips from the display at the cashier counter and pays for his goods. After he has packed everything into his backpack, he turns to Aalia and gifts her the bouquet of tulips with the words, "A little sunshine for you".  

15 March, 2016

Perfect design

What is your favorite perfectly designed household device or tool? Explain why.

Cable tie is the perfect tool. It is the shark of home repair. It‘s design has not changed since its inception.  Thing that I have used a cable tie for:
  • Hanging curtains
  • Temporarily repairing a muffler in my car
  • Fixing my bra
  • For sealing heavy duty garbage bags during a move
  • Building a cardboard fort for our children

13 March, 2016

Meeting one of my heroes

Managed to go to one of my favourite museums in Hamburg to see an exhibit of one of my favourite artists (heroes). It was fun meeting him, if only through his work hanging on the walls. Christoph Niemann has wit, talent, and an amazing capacity, through his art, to make people stop and think and usually laugh.

 If you are in need of a lift out of the winter doldrums, or you know someone who needs cheering up. Buy one of his books and enjoy the beauty of the Every Day.

The exhibit is really small, but there are a few benches to sit on and spend time with his work. Yesterday, I did just that and then I started watching the faces of the serious museum goers light up and become soft with laughter as they walked around. Such a good way to spend an hour on a cold grey Saturday afternoon.

10 March, 2016

What do you see?

This exercise is also from Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist journal. Just draw six circles and write down what you see.

Then the same procedure with six triangles.

27 February, 2016

1 + 1 = 3

This exercise is from Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist journal. You must list or name two objects that add together to make something completely new (e.g. flickr + video = youtube).

19 February, 2016

To children who know their parents

Recent conversation with my son...

Him: "I went to see the movie "The Revenant" this week".
Me: "What did you think? Is this the film for which Leonardo DiCaprio will finally win an Oscar?"
Him: "It wasn't bad. Just thought that if there is ever a film you don't want to see, it is this one."
Me: "Too suspenseful?"
Him: "Not really, it is just one of those "No Chance In Hell" films you really don't like. There wasn't one moment when you think... this might turn our all right."

I was touched by the conversation... how well he knows me, how well he makes it funny to have a mother who is chicken to see a movie without hope.

Who tip jar would be filled first?

This exercise is from Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist journal.

The idea is to name two persons from somewhat comparable backgrounds or professions.

Then put their names on a label of tip jars.

Which jar do you think you tip in?

Which of the jars do you think would fill first?

07 February, 2016

My heros

This exercise is from Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist journal. There were empty picture frames and I filled them up with four of my heroes.

Josephine Baker: multi-talented, multi-lingual, fiercely courageous, and magnificently curious

Jane Austen: fundamentally comic, historically significant, and phenomenal storyteller

Mary Magdalene: historically ambivalent, Apostle to the Apostles, and loyal companion

Hildegard von Bingen: hardly know what to say about her because the largeness of her life cannot be contained. For those of you who do not know her... she was a Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, and polymath. She is considered to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany.

04 February, 2016

Like being in the middle of an ad

Early this morning as I was getting ready to meditate, I looked out our living room window and there was this delivery truck shinning light out into the dark street. It was like being in the middle of a advertisement.