30 November, 2007

Salut NaBloPoMo 2007

The university research project I work in helps teachers and students (grade 1-13) the creative and constructive use of digital media for indoor and outdoor learning.

Yesterday, I worked with a 5th grade class. The learning material concerns identity and orientation. German high schools start in the 5th grade. That means the 4th graders are struggling for a position with 18- or 19-year-old seniors. As you can imagine, this is often an intimidating process.

The goal of the 5th grade project is, first, for the student to get to know their follow classmates better. Secondly, everyone should become better acquainted with the school as a whole and the surrounding neighbourhood in particular. Many of the students come from outlying areas.

The children are working on a “Who am I” collage. They use film, photos, drawings, and text to create an aesthetic biography (pedagogical term, don’t know if they use this in English). There is a long list of items they can/should choose from: place of birth, names (mother, father, siblings, house pet): favourite stuff (foods, friend, colour, pastime, sport): likes & dislikes.

Most of the information in the biographies is predictable: nearly all the girls favourite colour is pink: the boys favourite pastime is to play jump and run computer games.

I walk around the classroom glancing at their portraits. Jenny likes spaghetti. Robert hates doing homework. Gradually, I am lulled into the rosy-tainted world of their childhoods, their child-like enthusiasms, and their childish grievances.

Then I glance down at Darwin’s portrait: Likes: pizza, computer games, Dislikes: when people call me nigger or other bad names. My rosy-tainted glasses crack and then shatter. Inside, my heart cramps, and I wonder at the tragedy of these words, and the nonchalance with which Darwin writes them.

Darwin is not the only child confronting such realities on a day-to-day basis. Next to Jenny’s father’s name, she writes, “don’t know”. If you scratch ever so gently below the surface of various children’s lives, there are some heartrending facts there.

Even though I have reached an age where I should be accustomed to such things, I still don’t understand why any child should be called bad names because of the colour of his skin. Why can’t all children (at least) know the names of their fathers? It can’t be so difficult, can it?

All the best to those of you who have participated in NaBloPoMo this month. It has been fun to write for you and to read your entries as well. For those of you who randomly stumbled upon this blog, thank you for dropping by. I hope you will stay around a while longer.

29 November, 2007

Progress of Existence

window

... put like that, why should we ever struggle with time?

28 November, 2007

False Flattery

My virtual fortune cookie came up with a doozie this morning:

Rarely do great beauty and virtue dwell together as they do in you.”

Sigh, it’s been a while since a virtual random generator, let alone a stranger sitting next to me, shamelessly tried to flatter me.

When I was younger, yes, way-back-then, I was told no matter who the deliver of a compliment is, no matter how dubious the intent was the only proper way to respond to any compliment or flattering statement, is to look the person in the eyes and say, “Thank you.” That’s it. Not one single word more. Do not reject, dismiss, or concur. Do not try to second-guess why someone says something nice, “Thank you” is all that is required. So, that is exactly what I did after reading my virtual fortune cookie’s message.

It doesn’t matter that the message was not written personally for me. It doesn’t matter that it is not true. It doesn’t matter that I don’t even know the individual who wrote that message into the random generator program “Thank you” is what I said.

27 November, 2007

Sins and Secrets

One of the darkest sins in my extended family, as in most families, is the keeping of secrets. We remain silent about mean or evil deeds done by those who sit across the table from us at social gatherings. We ignore the fact that these acts occurred or do not admit the consequences of how these deeds affected others, or do not make the persons involved accountable. In doing so, we unwittingly give exoneration to the doers.

Equally we diminish the heroic struggles of those who chose to swim against social norms. We do not acknowledge who they are or what they did and thus allow their deep personal struggles to disappear from the slate of our family history. They are referred to as the black sheep in the family, or the “young mavericks”. The details of their rebellion are often withheld from us.

Family is family. Everything is family. Knowing the secrets, we know the shadows of human nature - our own individual humanity.

It is within our family circle that we discover our own values of right and wrong: not through teachings, but through direct experience. Our value system is derived from the lessons we learn, we learn through experiencing situations or studying personalities of people we know and not just by reading the words printed in books, or observing characters in films.

To give name to the misdeeds or misadventures of family members, plants seeds in the garden of life’s lesson. Sometimes these seeds grow into lessons of forgiveness and compassion. We only have to live in an environment where freedom of speech encourages discussion about what family members think, do, or dream of doing.

The irony is, even though it is cowardly to keep secrets, it takes very little strength of character just to tell the truth. All you have to do is speak up.

26 November, 2007

Santa’s Robins

Charlotte wrote the following as a comment to a previous post:

Ever since the visit of an Irish friend two years ago, we have Santa's robins who keep an eye on behaviour our children. We have learnt to be very cautious around a robin.”

I’m oddly fascinated about and in abhorrence of all the possible acts of misuses these Santa’s robins might seduce parents into committing. Can you just imagine a Terrible Two refusing to get dressed in the morning, or a Ferocious Four screaming and yelling throughout the house saying he will not clean up his room? All you would have to do is place one of the Santa’s robins on the table in front of the child, and given them a knowing nod. Oh, gosh, that is too much power for any parent of misbehaving children to have at their near reach.

My mother had a whammy device to instill instant fear and trepidation in her three darling (devilish) daughters. It was the stove’s TIMER. Whenever we were taking too long to eat up our dinner (children ate at different times as their parents then), she would say, “I am putting on the TIMER”. Dadada doom. That was it. The TIMER was on and who knew what would happen if it went off!

The only thing we were certain of was, if the TIMER ever did go off then the disciplinary consequences would be more horrible, more menacing than our worse imaginings. And since our imaginings were rather dreadful, none of us was willing to tempt fate.

Year’s later, as an adult, I asked my mother about the TIMER and what punishment she would have inflicted upon us. She had no idea. She never mentioned what the punishment would be; yet that was what made it so horrible. She admitted to me that she would slip into the kitchen and advance the timer, for she lived equally in fear and trepidation of it going off.

25 November, 2007

Peeking Thomasina

Christmas was probably the most important holiday in our home during my childhood. My mother would start weeks beforehand to go out shopping for gifts. She would hide the wrapped presents in her and my father’s clothes’ closet and under their bed.

When she came back from a shopping spree, she’d close their bedroom door while she was wrapping the presents. If we stood outside the door, we could hear the paper rustling. My mother would get annoyed if she came out of her room and found us standing there.

I must confess that I was a professional (obsessive) present-peeker. While my mother was off foraging the shopping malls for more presents, I developed various refined techniques to peel off the scotch tape without damaging the paper and peek inside to see what was within those presents she had already wrapped. I would put the presents back in their original form and position in the closet with a thief’s cunning and precision.

The first year that I discovered my innate scotch-tape-peeling talents, I opened all the presents: mine as well as the rest of the family. This resulted in a Very Flat feeling of celebration on Christmas Day morning because I knew the content of all my gifts even before I was handed the packages.

From the next Christmas on, I only looked at other people’s presents and revelled in the fact that “I know what you’re getting, but I am not telling you!” Not that I would have actually taunted my siblings with this knowledge. Oh no, not me!

24 November, 2007

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Busy day today... my mother-in-law is moving into the small bachelor apartment across the hall from our apartment. A huge pot of chili con carne simmers in the kitchen. Coffee and tea are brewing.

Fortunately, the sun shines and her numerous son-in-laws (she has six daughters) and sons are all in good humour.

Last night, after she pickup the keys for the apartment, she placed salt, pasta, water, and rice on the windowsill. Apparently, this Italian ritual guarantees a happy home. It is important that these gifts are in the home as it stands empty, in wait for the move to come. Isn't that a good idea?

23 November, 2007

Good Behaviour

My children might not have been angels, or perfect children when they were younger, but they were, in my modest estimation, good children. They were not mean, malicious, or cruel. They did not steal or lie (or, at least I never caught them at it). They were the type of young children other children liked to play with and the parents of other children like them as well. This is why the story my daughter told me last night about her first chocolate Advent calendar threw me for a loop.

Apparently, when she was six, I bought her her first chocolate Advent calendar. Previously she had the traditional paper calendars with drawings behind every window.

When she went to open up the first window, there was only an empty space behind the window. No chocolate was to be had.

She assumed this was because she hadn’t been a good girl. She didn’t tell me about it, because then I would know she had misbehaved. Isn’t that a sad thought?

She believed that Santa Claus didn’t put chocolate behind the calendar window, as a warning, “I know you’ve been bad!”

It took five or six days before she hit upon the window with all the fallen down chocolates in it. Then she thought she was being rewarded for good behaviour because she had given a boy in her class her recess snack the day before.

It took her years, and a few chocolate Advent calendars later, to discover that these calendars did not contain magical powers. She really believed them to be Santa Claus’ behaviour barometers.

22 November, 2007

The Last of the Outdoor Café Season

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I always thought that the locals in Luebeck were a hardy punch. They are out sitting on terraced cafés early in the spring until late autumn. When the weather is brisk, there are always portable gas heaters to make sitting outdoors somewhat pleasurable.

I always thought the locals here were hardy, that was before I went to Scotland. A few years ago, we went to Glasgow and north east Scotland on vacation. It was a cold early summer. They hadn't experienced any weather above 15 degrees C the whole year through. And it had, apparently, rained the whole time.

While we were in Glasgow, the rain went away. And, after a lot of persuasion from the gods, the sun shined a weak and pale face. It was still sweater and jacket cold though.

Did that stop the locals from dawning short sleeve t-shirts and spaghetti-string cocktail dresses? It was still 14 or 15 degrees C, but everyone was out in their open-toed sandals, the lightest of summer attire, the pubs and restaurants' doors stood open, and there was this general feeling of warmth and gaiety. Except in the winds and temperatures.

21 November, 2007

Friends Old And New

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There are often tentative gestures:
A smile, shared laughter, common interests.
That is, sometimes it is so. Other times,
Inspite of an unfavourable first impression,
Or life being busy, a chance encounter
Leads to friendship. Against all odds.
Or, who knows, maybe because the odds
Are stacked against us. For whatever
Is friendship but tenacious perseverance?

A battle against the sirens of
Eminent business deadlines, jealous lovers,
Small children’s constant demands,
Teenagers’ turbulent assertion for adulthood,
Grown children’s trip, stumbles, and falls,
Ailing parents ail, failing marriages…
Only the warm and loving gestures
Of enduring friendships show how truly
Blessed we are in living the life we do.

20 November, 2007

A Healthy And Happy Life

Today’s topic of meditation:

We all dream about living a healthy and happy life.

After being on this planet for fifty years, I know that the pursuit of health and balance is not rocket science. Nevertheless, I constantly flounder. I know about daily exercise, drinking lots of liquids, eating a balanced and diverse diet, the need for sleep, and how to avoid stress. In fact, I know a lot more of then that, yet, does this translate into concrete, consistent, irrefutable action? Alas, no, not really.

And when you think of it, the pursuit of happiness is, at best, a precarious goal. It could well be that, in our society we invest too much time and effort trying to obtain the unobtainable.

Even the definition of what happiness is, tends to be prickly. If you asked someone what is loyalty, respect, courage, perseverance… most likely, we’d all, more or less, agree to common-based meanings. Yet, happiness; it appears to mean something different to each and every individual.

Mornings like this morning, I wish I could find the wings to fly the course of this day as I believe it could be done. All’s I need is a bit of courage and perseverance, don’t you think?

19 November, 2007

German Culture vs. Chinese Culture vs. Canadian Culture

My teenage son sent me this link, which graphically highlights some of the differences between German (blue) and Chinese (red) cultures.

As many of you know, I’ve lived in Germany now for over twenty-five years. Just before I came to live in Germany, I went on a six-week trip to China. This was at a time when tourists were allowed in, but the government did not encourage interaction between tourists and locals. Since tourists were relatively new phenomena, many Chinese would just come up and touch us or talk to us. The trip truly changed my life’s horizon and, to this day, it was one of my five favourite trips.

I don’t know whether the points of the Chinese (red) culture are correct, but the German (blue) ones are spot on. Can any one say whether they think the Chinese ones are good?

Looking at the German points I realise that there are a few that I’ve adopted over the years.

Opinions (German (blue) vs. Chinese (red)):

chinesse-german-opinion

One being, that I’ve adopted the German way of just saying things straight. It gets me in trouble with my family all the time. I’ve learnt that opinions as being words. If I express my opinions honestly, clearly, and without qualifiers, then my opinions are just opinions.

I’ve been thinking about what some of the differences would be if this were a depiction of German and Canadian cultures, or German and American cultures. Here are a few that I’ve come up with:

The boss (German (blue) vs. Chinese (red)):
chinesse-german-boss
Canadian boss: the boss is the same size as the other employees, but a slightly different colour.

Sunday on city streets (German (blue) vs. Chinese (red)):
chinesse-german-sunday
Canadian Sunday in the city: some trees, people throwing Frisbees, and a dog or two.

Handling problems (German (blue) vs. Chinese (red)):
chinesse-german-problems
Canadians handling problems: I’d draw a pretty scenic picture to cover up the problem.

Parties (German (blue) vs. Chinese (red)):
chinesse-german-party
Canadian party: If I was to remember what parties were like when I was younger, people were always dancing.

Is there anything I missed? Can you suggest others?

18 November, 2007

Impermanence

The following is a Sunday Lecture that I’ve written for my children:

We should not be lulled into thinking there is a permanence or consistency in our bonds: in our family relationships. Instead, we should fight fiercely to assure that life is flowing through the veins of our kinship. We must strive to be alert to new nuances or shifts in sentiment.

It is not enough just to ponder why we were born into our families. As a matter of a fact, a friend of mine once advised me to erase the question “Why?” from my spiritual/emotional vocabulary. For the answer to “Why?” is fickle and forever changing.

Instead we should concentrate on the what, when, how, or where of our interpersonal relationships. We each have to ask what is happening, how do I contribute to the situation, when do I aggravate it, where are we when we are the happiest, etc.

Take each situation as a possible synopsis of the whole. Philosophise about the whole; peel away the layers of onionskins of personal and family dynamics. If we pose these questions, the answers might possibly illuminate the dark corridors or dead ends we have taken or take in our journey towards truth and clarity.

Don’t avoid conflicts, nor accept that certain problems never change, or believe it is better not to speak out when everyone is playing blind man’s bluff with our family’s dysfunctional elements. To do this, is practising a form of moral cowardliness: not wisdom.

This is my appeal to you, my children, “Speak up, speak out, stand tall, search fearlessly for your truth!”

17 November, 2007

16 November, 2007

The Danes Are So Smart

Living in northern Germany has its perks (no, we are not talking about the weather). One of which, is the close proximity to Denmark. Wonderful country, wonderful folk… I’ve known this for a while.

I didn’t know how smart they were, until a dear friend of mine explained the Danish words for grandma and grandpa:

  • farfar is father’s father
  • farmor is father’s mother
  • morfar is mother’s mother
  • mormor is mother’s mother

This way, every grandparent has his or her own distinct claim to a name. How smart is that?

Does anyone know if this is the case in any other language?

15 November, 2007

Holiday Motifs

The holiday season is coming up. I’ve made a few festive motifs for cards.
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If you like any of them and would like to make up Xmas cards with the motifs, just give a shout.
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I will make up the motifs to the right dimension and resolution that your online printing site requires and send the jpec files on to you.
xmas04.jpg
My experience with my mypix has been very positive, but that would only work for Europe.
xmas01.jpg
If you are from Canada or, the State, or Australia…
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You might want to try another online printing company. Hee!
xmas06.jpg
Though, now that I think of it, for those of you on the equator or below, interested in sunny holiday motifs, I’d whip up something for you as well.

14 November, 2007

Shrinking Timelines

My twelve-year-old daughter asks me what it is like to use a manual dial telephone. How does it work?

I did not realise that she has never actually seen such a phone. A family we know still uses this sort of phone because they are worried about the waves radiating out of the cordless models, but my daughter hasn’t seen their phone when visiting.

So, I explain how a manual dial works.
telephone_dial
She becomes all nostalgic, “It must have been so much fun to dial a phone, then hold the one receiver bit to your ear and the other to your mouth.”

Next she will be asking what it was like to crank up the phone… I realise that, for a twelve-year-old, timelines shrink to the moment right before they were born.

13 November, 2007

I Still Can’t say Goodbye

The autumn winds roar outside our living room window. We are nested down in our warm and safe home.

Yesterday, I was talking to a friend of mine about the times I was at sea with my father, when the weather was fierce and unwelcoming.

All those times, I felt willing to share my fate with my father: a lucky lucky fellow. We got through the storms (more or less in one piece) together. I miss him greatly when the weather roars like it does today.

Tommy Emmanuel singing, “I still can’t say goodbye” (written by Chet Atkins) captures this sentiment well. Most of the text is just too sentimental, but the essence, my inability to truly deeply say my farewell, holds true.

12 November, 2007

Oh! Praise to my Swim Ring

swimring3
Oh! Swim ring. Oh! Swim ring. What a wonderful thing you are. As a young girl with my swim wings and you, my dear swim ring, I was completely invincible. Unsinkable. I poodle-paddled my way around the pool in wonder and delight, or played catch-me-if-you-can with the waves on the beach.
swimring2
Later, I used you in all my fantastical acrobatic feats. I could jump through you feet first, headfirst, bum first, snap you with one arm… or just wear you as a crown. Oh! Swim ring, you marvellous thing.

11 November, 2007

Signs, Windows, And Window Shopping

My beloved city of Luebeck, Germany is a wonderful place to window shop. This city is a UNESCO city and thus has very strict restriction on public advertising; so that the oldness shines through.

In a manoeuvre to make retailer’s lives more difficult, the city charges rents from shopowners for hanging up signs. Many store owners etch signs onto their doors or windows to avoid these ridiculous fees. And, the window and door etchings add to the overall aesthetics of this city.

I’m not much of a shopper, but I do admire good window decoration, or shop sign.



This video is a homily to this city of wonderful shops.

10 November, 2007

Fun Time

Mage from Day Tripper put me onto this jigsaw puzzle site. With it you can make up a jigsaw for friends and family and send them in an email. It's a good alternative to sending e-cards.
Click to Mix and Solve
You can, if you are not so impatient or lacking in html code skills, embed the jigsaws into your blog. I’m leaving it up to you guys to figure it out. My puzzle went all over the place and I just didn’t like it.

Here are a few (1, 2, and 3) more jigsaws I made up for you entertainment. Hope you enjoy them. If you want me to make up another jigsaw with one of my collages, let me know. It’s easy as riding a bicycle.

09 November, 2007

Early Through the Finish Line

In the news this week, was a report that Germany will, in all likelihood, reach it’s Kyoto goal of 21% emission reduction this year: five years before the date agreed upon in 1990 Kyoto agreement. Yeah Germany!

Economic growth. Emission reduction. It is possible. What kind of statement might that give to American politicians who didn’t think necessary to participate in the agreement and seem reluctant to follow in the next one?

08 November, 2007

Sailing versus Cooking

There are a few professions that I would give an eyetooth for just to be able get a glimpse behind the scenes of the profession. Locomotive driver, crew on a European barge, stage designer, and, most particularly working in the kitchen of a fine restaurant.
diary_soundseeing
This week I am living out this later fantasy. I asked the chef at our favourite restaurant whether I could work in his kitchen for a week. He gave me this calculating look and then a quick nod of his head, and said I could work the preparation period (from three to six).

It has been a wonderful learning experience so far. I wish I could transform it all into some great story, but that is out of the range of my abilities. What I can say is that there are a lot of parallels between cooking in a restaurant and sailing in a regatta. Here are some of the parallels between sailing or sailors and working in a restaurant kitchen or chefs:

Most are males. (It turns out that I am the first female the chef has allowed in his kitchen.)

The guys are the right type of males: they can physically survive the rigors of working in the heat, in cramped spaces, under stressful conditions, and yet they have a fine, even sensual love for detail.

This reminds me of sailing when there is almost no wind and how the captain and crew coax every little breath of wind into the sails. There is something distinctly fine and sensitive about this, yet the guys also have the enormous strength needed to deal with gale winds.

They are very competitive. I get this underlying sensation that the guys are always trying to outdo each other.

They will compliment or recognise something well done, but such praise is hard earned and never lavishly spread. It can be expressed as a nod of the head or a grunt; and that is enough.

There is a clear hierarchy of who is to do what when. You do what you are told and try not to ask any questions. If there is a lull, then the chef or sous chef just might give you the chance to do something different. The moment things get serious, you are back to your proper job.

If the team works well together then everyone is moving quickly and smoothly. There is no bumping of elbows, not shuffling back-and-forth. You can tell the person who doesn’t quite fit because, no matter the size of his stature, they take up too much space.

There is an economy of space and movement practiced all the time. You don’t spread out your wares. You don’t travel through from the front of the kitchen to the back without something in your hands in both directions.

So that is what I have learnt so far. Here are few things I’ve learnt that are really surprising to me:

All the guys smoke. (Not in the kitchen, but one step beyond the doorway.)

They don’t use many (any) spices other than salt and pepper and next to no herbs, unless they are fresh. The only explanation I can think of is that it seems as if the food’s flavour should be brought out and not coated. Does anyone know if this is the case in other restaurants?

I couldn’t possibly stand the physical rigors of the job. After four hours I am pooped. It is impossible to imagine how people do manage to work ten to twelve hours a day.

This has been like a dream come true. Next I’ll have to do is figure out a way to work on a barge…

07 November, 2007

Creating Personalized Mini Cards

I just made up a selection of motifs to use as gift tags. There is an online printing company, moo, which makes fabulous mini cards. They can be used as business cards, bookmarks, or gift tags.
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The resulting product is just wonderful: 100 mini cards with as many motifs as you want, with great colours, good quality of cardboard, nice to handle, impossible to bend.

The cards are small (7 cm x 2.8 cm). In my first order, I printed my motifs on one side and my name and email address on the other. For the gift tags, I will leave the back blank.

Over the years I've printed, collected, and thrown out a wide collection of business cards. To be perfectly honest, I really don't like the things. The moo mini cards seem a good alternative. Now, when I meet someone and want to give them some of my personal information or set a date for an appointment, I just scribble the information on the back of one of these mini cards.
lilalia_moo73
Last week, two acquaintances asked me to make up some motifs for their business. One fellow is a blacksmith, and he wants to leave the cards with his customers on the horse farms he works on. (Horses' hoofs have to be cut back and shoed every six weeks or so.)
lilalia_moo72
The other person makes and sells Waldorf dolls. She sells them at Christmas markets and now she has decided to sell her mini cards as gift tags.

Gosh, this is getting long winded& All that I really wanted to say was, if any of you would like to make up gift tags for yourselves and you do not have motifs, feel free to use my selection.

Please tell me if you do because it would be nice to know.

06 November, 2007

Tornado Anna

Anna woke up this morning in a very bad mood. She remembers a big brown caterpillar, three small spiders, and a monkey scrubbing her face with a smelly old cloth. “That was a bad dream,” says Anna.

Her stomach is grumbling. “My tummy is saying, I’m hungry!” says Anna.

Anna opens the door to her parents’ bedroom. She pulls herself up onto the bed. “Daddy!” she cries, “I’m hungry!” She climbs up onto his back. “I want something to eat!”

Daddy mumbles “Good morning” to his pillow. “I’ll be right there,” he tells Anna. “Let’s let Mommy sleep in this morning.”

Mommy mumbles “Good morning” to her pillow, and adds, “Mmmm. Thanks, dear.”
anna_collage01
If you wish to read more of this story that I wrote and illustrated, click here.

05 November, 2007

Chocolate Delight

A friend of mine owns and runs the most excellent chocolate shop called, Armaro. Before I met Birgit, I didn’t know that the best chocolate, like wine, is not to be bought in exclusive department stores, but rather, in shops like hers.

Many of the best chocolatiers, even those who have been making chocolate for generations, only produce as much as they can guarantee their quality. They cannot supply large orders; rather they seek excellence over quantity. They are true artisans.
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I’ve spent the weekend making up some possible chocolate motifs for cards for the shop. I’ve worked hard, but I am not so happy with the results. I was hoping to make something that smelled and tasted of chocolate, coffee, and cacao.

If any of the collages does this for you, I’d really appreciate a comment.

04 November, 2007

Autumn Colours

Cynthia over at A Life Profound made up an autumnal drawing for her Circle Journal Swap group. The wonderful drawing includes a poem by Rilke and some autumn colours.

This autumn collage I made a few days ago also contains these colours. The two pieces could almost be part of a set.
stairs
It is strange how normally, perhaps photographically, we often choose the brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows as autumn colours. Yet, when we depict the autumn of our inner being, the autumn of our life, the subtle tones emerge.

03 November, 2007

Dinghy Story #2

My daughter, son, and I went on my parent’s boat for a second time in 2001. My father had died the year before and, John, a friend of my parents was skippering the boat for my mother. The children got along well with him. My son would sit up on the navigation table and watch John navigate. John and my daughter would spend hours playing Uno while everyone else’s noses were buried in books.

Late one afternoon, John took the two children over to an island near where we were anchored. We were in a safe channel between the mainland and a small island. There was a strong current flowing through the channel, making rowing or swimming impossible.

Off they went on their adventure. My mother went down to her aft cabin for a read. I lay down on the starboard bunk in the main cabin for a little snooze.

A long while later I hear some cries for help coming from outside. I look out the window to a funny sight: John rowing furiously and the children sitting still in a rapidly deflating dinghy. (Some oyster shells had cut razor-fine slits into the dinghy).

Instead of running to their rescue, by throwing them a line (or something!), I took my camera and shot a photo. Needless to say, John was startled with my complete lack of she-bear instincts.

Though we did manage to get everyone on board without getting his or her feet wet. And, we pulled the dingy on deck before the outboard motor sank below the water surface.

02 November, 2007

Dinghy Story #1

The first time my daughter, son, and I went on my parent's boat on the west coast of Canada, my daughter must have been about three or four years old and my son seven or eight. It was the summer after my mother had completed her radiation therapy. We were conscientious about giving my mother as much Quiet Time as possible, which was not always easy considering the ages of the children.

Dingy

One afternoon, after we had anchored for the night, my father tied the dinghy with a long line to the boat and gave the children permission to row around in the dingy. The moment the children set off, we adults went back into the main cabin and settled down into our long familiar routines: my father poured himself a drink and started to work on his laptop: I made a cup of tea and settled down to a good heart-to-heart talk with my mother.

We were so intent in our preoccupations that we did not hear the screams coming from outside. Even though it took us a while for the childrens cries of distress to reach our consciousness, the moment they did, we were out of the cabin and running to the stern of the boat in milliseconds. There we saw my daughter in the water, valiantly holding on to the side of the dinghy, while her brother desperately tried to get her back into the dinghy. (Note: they both had life vests on).

I did a Baryshnikov leap from the boat into the dingy, scooped my daughter up on the way over and pulled the dinghy closer to the boat before anyone could say boo. My mother immediately took my daughter down to the aft cabin for a hot shower (the Pacific Ocean is cold!). My father comforted my son. I went and got my daughter a set of dry cuddly clothes.

Five minutes after the incident, my father was back on his computer, the children were sitting in the main cabin watching their allotted hour of cartoons (a wonderful collection of Mickey Mouse), and my mother and I were discussing what we were going to make for dinner.

My daughter was allotted extra Brownie Points because she was the first one in the family that summer, including the older grandchildren, who had braved the cold Pacific waters. Albeit involuntarily.

01 November, 2007

Let's Rock And Roll

Last year I participated in NaBloPoMo. It is part creative writing event, blogging mania, and a fun competition (yes, there are gifts to win) all wrapped in one.

The NaBloPoMo challenge asks bloggers to write a blog post every day this month. As a returnee, I want to share with all the newbies some advice about how to survive and find your writing wings and soar in the next weeks:


View this month as an opportunity to write stories that have never come to (virtual) paper and share them with an appreciative audience.

Pay attention to the mundane day-to-day occurrences in your life and make them come alive to your readers. The participators/readers are from every corner of the earth: your normal is their exotic.

Spend time reading other NaBloPoMo blogs and commenting. The feeling of camaraderie is infectious, and even, at times, inspirational.

If you stumble upon a good post or blog, share it with others.



That’s it. Good luck to (us) you all!