Sunday, January 15, 2017

sky alchemy, Antarctica, You-Are-There-Reading, or: I open my arms to the romance of it all



Between the dark of night
And the white of snow:
The sky alchemy of winter sunrise

So far, January has been "real winter" here in the South of Germany, with snow on an almost daily basis. And there were some bright nights, with full moon and with Venus showing. Seems January is supposed to bring some interesting sky constellations. Here's a link from National Geographic: "Starstruck – 6 Great Sky Events in January"

The winter feeling made me go and browse my shelves, looking for a fitting book. That's how I arrived at "Skating to Antarctica" by Jenny Diski - it was one of the books I ordered while I was reading through all continents. In the end, I read another book for Antarctica, and since then, "Skating" is waiting. Now I started it as it felt fitting for this winter. And it was such a good surprise find, both the author, and the book.

I didn’t know about Jenny Diski. Turns out, she had a fascinating life: she had a troubled childhood, followed by stays in a psychiatric hospital in her youth, due to depression. But she had the luck that one of her classmates was the son of Doris Lessing, who recognized her early talent and supported her in an extraordinary way, offering to live in her house when she was a teenager.

The book "Skating to Antarctica" is a memoir with two focus points: her youth, and the difficult relationship with her mother - and a journey to a place that comforts her in its simple whiteness: Antarctica.



Here’s a quote from her, about the longing that inspired the journey:

But given that depression happened to me, and I did have support, I found it was possible after a time, to achieve a kind of joy totally disconnected from the world. I wanted to be unavailable and in that place without the pain. I still want it. It is coloured white and filled with a singing silence. It is an endless ice-rink. It is Antarctica.” ― Jenny Diski

The book itself, despite the topics, has a rather humorous touch and is rather connected to the details of the world. Diski herself looked for fitting reads, too, on her journey. Here's a paragraph I read today, it made me smile:
I was beguiled by the sea and so much of it; snow and ice and white places in abeyance for the time being. An hour or so later, I returned to my bunk, got under the thin duvet and watched the sky outside my porthole for a bit, before opening the copy of Moby Dick I had brought with me on the grounds that now, if ever, was the time to overcome my aversion to nautical literatur. By the third page I was thrumming with pleasure at the energy and freedom of Melville's writing.
These reflections made me a) remember the first line of Moby Dick, ("Call me Ishmael") and consider reading the start of Moby Dick, and b) think of the essay on reading which is about reading book in the very place the book is set: "You-Are-There Reading", Anne Fadiman called this.

And as a side-effect of all this, it seems I am back now to book-blogging...

The other Antarctica book
The other Antarctica book I read back then for the continent challenge? That was "Icebound" by Jerri Nielsen, also a memoir, about a winter in the South Pole station. And to continue this book domino: Icebound includes an You-Are-There Reading moment, too:
"The pole station has an own small library, and it includes the books of the first Antarctica expeditions. And so "Ice Bound" transcends from the present to the past of the pole, to the first explorers, and the power of the word, the way it can share experiences and bring comfort. The quote in the video is expressing a lot in just a few sentences: "When I was feeling my worst, Big would sit up next to me at night reading passages from Endurance... The story of Shakletone's struggle in 1915 to survive and keep his crew alive touched me deeply and comforted me. He was the explorer who best understood the wild, seductive lure of Antarctica. "I have ideals," he said," and far away, in my own white South, I open my arms to the romance of it all.""
Here's the link to the blog post about "Icebound".

Moby Dick
And in case you feel like reading into Moby Dick now: there's an online version, here's the start of it: "Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation." - Moby Dick chapter 1

Links
More skies... skywatch friday
More about Jenny Diski at Wiki: Jenny Diski




Saturday, January 7, 2017

snow sky poetry moments, or: what I want in my life is..



"On the last day of the year, who better than Mary Oliver to inspire us?" - a friend of mine wrote, and posted a part from her poem "The Ponds"

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled—
to cast aside the weight of facts...


Since then, the reading and sharing of poetry continued - one of my favs from this new year poetry stream is M.S. Merwin's "To the New Year",

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

Beyond those established poems, there also is the memory of the tiny poems / notes of moments, written last year in January. It's a good thing, to take time to note a small moment each day, and note it down - to be more attentive and aware of all those moments that make a day.

It was easy to return to this practice, especially as the first snow started to fall on Monday, giving the world a soft and special touch. And also nice to return to skywatch friday that way: with a light/snow photo.

So somehow, unplanned, this year started on a poetic sky tune.

Here are two of the tiny snow moments:

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and some additional links:

Poetry FoundationMary Oliver
Poetry International
poetry in this blog



Saturday, December 31, 2016

December reflections + 11 rules of being a human being


The new year 2017 is just some hours away. Still really happy about the #decemberreflections2016, and the way they brought back so many memoriesReflecting on 2016 also made me think about 2017. Here are some notes from this different December:

While browsing through the blog this week, I came across this thoughtful list. and as I sooner or later will forget about all this again, I thought I pull the post up again, as it also fits with the reflections:

11 Rules For Being A Human Being:

Rule 1: You will receive a body.
You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period this time around

Rule 2: You will learn lessons.You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant or stupid.

Rule 3: There are no mistakes, only lessons.
Growth is a process of trial and error: experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately “works”.

Rule 4: A lesson is repeated until learned.
A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can then go on to the next lesson.

Rule 5: Learning lessons does not end.
There is no part of Life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.

Rule 6: “There” is no better than “here”.
When your “there” has become a “here”, you will simply obtain another “there” that will again look better than “here”.

Rule 7: Others are merely mirrors of you.You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something you love or hate about yourself.

Rule 8: What you make of your life is up to you.
You have the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.

Rule 9: Your answers lie inside you.The answers to life’s questions lie inside you. All you need to do is look, listen and trust.

Rule 10: You will forget all this.

Rule 11: You can remember whenever you want.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

little prince + last christmas


Quiet moments: 

The new “Little Prince” film was on in TV. I recorded it to watch it in parts, so that it lasts longer. It’s really good, and I now started to read the book again. And the radio keeps playing "Last Christmas" and other songs from George Michael.


So somehow this Christmas now has this touch of sweet/sad nostalgia, of childhood stories and teenage songs brought back.

(inspired by the #decemberreflections2016)


Monday, December 26, 2016

Winter Medium Wind Memory



Winter: birds sailing in the winter air. Not sure how they make it through the frost nights, but there they are. Wind in the trees, sounding like waves, like a tide of time, coming and going. Single brown leaves falling while the first white buds start to form. This circle of life, of seasons. Of spring summer fall winter.

Winter. It is one of the few words that stay the same in German and English: the winter. der Winter.

It was this tiny thought that brought back the memory of something I once wrote, a reflection on language and words, on translations and synonyms: Out of whack and out of step 

Which once was online, published in IdentityTheory Magazine. And now is up again, in Medium. The visual to go with it... is new. A play with words and winter.



Saturday, December 24, 2016

this year was..., and: 168 hours / week



This year was...
New and intense.
Colorful and difficult.
Sad and happy.

For me, it was a year of growth.
The year of recovering from chemo and all.
The year of finding my way into a new balance.
The year of good news and sad news from co-patients.

It altogether has been a year of reflection, and it fits that this December now turned into the month of #decemberreflections2016.

Reflecting on 2016 also made me think of 2017 - and today I came across a beautiful Ted talk that connects to it. The title of it is: "How to gain control of your free time." But it is touching a larger horizon, it's main focus is "how to build the lives we want in the time we've got.":



I copied the part that I want to try for myself, about building the life we want:

"So how do we do that? How do we treat our priorities as the equivalent of that broken water heater? Well, first we need to figure out what they are. I want to give you two strategies for thinking about this.

The first, on the professional side: I'm sure many people coming up to the end of the year are giving or getting annual performance reviews. You look back over your successes over the year, your "opportunities for growth." And this serves its purpose, but I find it's more effective to do this looking forward. So I want you to pretend it's the end of next year. You're giving yourself a performance review, and it has been an absolutely amazing year for you professionally. What three to five things did you do that made it so amazing? So you can write next year's performance review now.

And you can do this for your personal life, too. I'm sure many of you, like me, come December, get cards that contain these folded up sheets of colored paper, on which is written what is known as the family holiday letter. Bit of a wretched genre of literature, really.... But these letters serve a purpose, which is that they tell your friends and family what you did in your personal life that mattered to you over the year. So this year's kind of done, but I want you to pretend it's the end of next year, and it has been an absolutely amazing year for you and the people you care about. What three to five things did you do that made it so amazing?

And now, between the performance review and the family holiday letter, we have a list of six to ten goals we can work on in the next year.

And now we need to break these down into doable steps. And then -- this is key -- we treat our priorities as the equivalent of that broken water heater, by putting them into our schedules first. We do this by thinking through our weeks before we are in them.I find a really good time to do this is Friday afternoons. Friday afternoon is what an economist might call a "low opportunity cost" time. Most of us are not sitting there on Friday afternoons saying, "I am excited to make progress toward my personal and professional priorities right now." But we are willing to think about what those should be.

So take a little bit of time Friday afternoon, make yourself a three-category priority list: career, relationships, self. Making a three-category list reminds us that there should be something in all three categories. Career, we think about; relationships, self -- not so much. But anyway, just a short list, two to three items in each. Then look out over the whole of the next week, and see where you can plan them in.

Where you plan them in is up to you. I know this is going to be more complicated for some people than others. But I do think that the numbers I am about to tell you are empowering. There are 168 hours in a week. Twenty-four times seven is 168 hours. That is a lot of time. If you are working a full-time job, so 40 hours a week, sleeping eight hours a night, so 56 hours a week -- that leaves 72 hours for other things. That is a lot of time.

So we have plenty of time, which is great, because guess what? We don't even need that much time to do amazing things. But when most of us have bits of time, what do we do? Pull out the phone, right? But small moments can have great power. You can use your bits of time for bits of joy.

It's about looking at the whole of one's time and seeing where the good stuff can go. I truly believe this. There is time. Even if we are busy, we have time for what matters. And when we focus on what matters, we can build the lives we want in the time we've got."

Friday, December 23, 2016

that sparkle of chance


It's almost Christmas time. It should be a week of peace in the world. Instead, it's a week that started with another terrorist tragedy. It's painful to think of all those who went to that market to have a bit of christmas joy, and then find themselves trapped and hurt. 

It's what I thought of when I went to Stuttgart on Tuesday - but then, I didn't want to be trapped in that fear the terrorists want to spread. And so I walked the way I had in mind, the one that leads through the city, through streets full of x-mas decorations and music - and to the Chrismas market at the "Schlossplatz", the centre of the city.

That's also where the art museum is - they have an interesting theme for their current exhibition: “Zufall” – “Chance”. And the museum has lovely city views from the museum floors. The image above is a reflection photo, and the one below is from inside the exhibition:

The theme of chance, it touched me more than I expected. It made me remember the article I read earlier this year that compared different reason-of-death-risks, and the way we react to them. In Germany, the risk to die in a terror attack is lower than the one of flight accidents, which is about 1: 3.360.000. So statistically, we wouldn't need to worry. There are activities with much higher risks: driving a car: 1 : 20.200. And there is smoking: 1 : 260. But all this are just numbers. The art approach, the play with patterns and rules and with chance elements felt closer to the way life presents itself.

There’s more about it online, here: unexpected. And here’s my personal chance zen riddle moment, the 3 panels say: “Chance or art?” – “Chance doesn’t exist” – “You are here due to chance.”


It also made me think of that poem I wrote once about chance, which got published in Soundzine. Well, looking it up, it turns out the poem wasn't about chance, but about it's sister: luck.  

LUCK: 

good or bad fortune in life
caused by accident or chance

           in German: Glück
a word that is close to Lücke – “gap”

which points at the close scale
between good or bad luck

in the case of missing a bus,
or a look
or a realization
by a minute
on an everyday Thursday morning

and all the causes
and consequences
this gap between

your life as it is    //    your life as it almost would have been

/a  gap that you obviously never
will be fully able to grasp/

may encompass


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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Solstice! + Lines drawn..



Solstice. With Sun. And with memories of a collaborative winter solstice poem, from the past:

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Lines Drawn from Greening Winds

In early morning dreams I cleared mind and heart of old resentments
woke to Winter Solstice shortest day most magical night

This time of memory, of sketching a rough plan for the new year,
Of stepping out with you into the now


Gazing at full moon on snow, planning
time on pristine beaches...

Looking back, the path twists and slopes beyond a conclusive view
and trees quarrelling with wind cannot predict the turning ahead. 

What if there were only words to give at this dark time
what if we only craved light

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#decemberreflections