10 March 2023

Spring is coming very slowly, we had sleet, snow and rain so far, frosty nights, which are unusual for this corner of the world. There's not much of the obvious happening in the garden, even the daffodils are taking their time. Every morning, R looks out and wonders whether today is the day to put down the potatoes and then it rains and he postpones.

Instead, he has started tentative relationships with the jays, magpies and parakeets, hiding peanuts in various places to see how clever they are in finding them. And oh are they clever. I swear, the magpies just look at him thinking, that fool.





 

Jane Goodall observed members of a chimpanzee society in Tanzania approaching a rushing waterfall in a forest clearing. The apes fell into a swaying dance, threw rocks and swung across the waterfall’s spray on lianas. Afterward, some would sit on a boulder to watch the rushing water, seemingly in a state of deep contemplation.

(found here)

 

I have exactly 129 working days left after deducting public holidays and my holiday entitlement. I swear I will not count them. Just thought I will mention it once and for all.

Two more things I would like to share:

We are contemplating a visit to Amsterdam to see the Vermeer exhibition but ticket sales are tight and I am not in a place for a schedule right now, so this is sufficient for now, click here and enjoy.

Many years ago, this guy started a blog called Letters of Note. which has grown into books and very enjoyable public readings. Now he has started a new project, Diaries of Note, which is simply a wonderful idea.

 



 


28 February 2023

the exact opposite of control

It is now two months since my father decided to stay in bed and keep his eyes shut most of the time, sleeping, dozing, waking for brief moments. Sometimes, he seems to be aware of time and place, mostly not. He is calm. No medication.

Some researchers think that one of the reasons why humans have become thinking beings is because we have to make a lifelong effort to deny our mortality.

I read that from a psychological point of view, our dying begins as soon as we become aware that our death is imminent. As soon as this awareness determines our life.

I read about research where young people were asked to imagine their eventual death and most described it like a wind-up toy, you know one that runs and runs and runs, losing a critical function, a bit like a broken gearbox that forces it to stop working - a sudden death, unexpected, out of full health. But very few of us will die like that, because our body is too complex a machine for that.

Remember, our body is supported by more than 200 bones, more than 600 muscles perform our movements. When we are in a hurry, our heart beats more than a hundred times a minute, pumping blood with such pressure that we can hear it  ringing in our ears. Our brain, barely three pounds of tissue, generates our thoughts, actions, memories, dreams, sends impulses through our nerve cords at an incredible speed. We are made up of billions of critical components, some self-repairing at full speed, some duplicated again and again throughout life - we are more complex than a power station. Such a system rarely stops in one fell swoop. It happens gradually.

From 30 onwards, our heart loses strength. From 40, the muscles lose mass. From 50, the density of the bones diminishes. From 60, on average, a third of our teeth are missing. From 70, the brain in the skull has shrunk.

We wear ourselves out until we can't do it any further. Then the system falls apart. And even that is usually slow.

When we die in old age we can call ourselves lucky. We did not drown while fleeing. We were not taken in the dark of night and killed. We did not die during birth or shortly afterwards, not in war, not from a plague, terrible wounds, an infection, a mad shooter, none of the catastrophes that bring death elsewhere.

We may even be able to choose the place where we die, maybe safe at home, maybe in a hospital with specialist care and support. And above all, with luck, we can choose whose hands will close our eyes.

I read another research paper, how some dying people speak in pictures, like my father asking for his (non-existent) hunting jacket, organising catering for his birthday. The symbolic language of the dying they call it. 

My father drinks less and less. The doctors tell us that his body will slip into a state of dehydration that is natural in the last stages of dying. They tell us that his body is releasing neurotransmitters dulling any pain. They tell us that his skin still feels touch, that he can still hear us. But he is already so distant, like in another world, maybe he also sees and hears people we don't.

His breath is still regular, no sign of Cheyne-Stokes respiration as yet, but could be any day now, we are told. Or maybe another month. His skin is waxy pale.

I read another bit of research, about the last hours, how the activity of our brain begins to die down. Some researchers think that during this time our body floods our brain with serotonin and endorphins. The same hormones we experience when we fall in love, have sex, experience euphoria. I read of an experiment with anesthetized rats, in the seconds before they died, their brain waves flared up more than they did in life.

Maybe this is just a last gasp of a dying brain desperately trying to figure out what is happening or maybe it's a beautiful final firework sending us off.

But there's the problem with all the stuff I read, research on dying in the language of science is always etic, i.e. obtained by observation from the outside, never emic, i.e. based on descriptions from the dying person. (For more on emic and etic, click here.)

Whatever, dying is the exact opposite of control and I wonder if or when my father accepted this, whether as defeat or blessing.  Maybe he didn't need to. I'll never know.

Anyway, it could be weeks.

14 February 2023



“HyperNormalisation” is a word that was coined by Russian historian Alexei Yurchak, who was writing about what it was like to live in the last years of the Soviet Union. He described how in the 1980s everyone from the top to the bottom of Soviet society knew that it wasn’t working, knew that it was corrupt, knew that the bosses were looting the system, know that the politicians had no alternative vision. And they knew that the bosses knew that they knew that. Everyone knew it was fake, but because no one had any alternative vision for a different kind of society, they just accepted this sense of total fakeness as normal.  

 Adam Curtis

I think the same applies to climate change. After a long time of denial, which as we know was and still is funded by the fossil fuel industry, we have more or less accepted that science has got it right, that the burning of fossil fuels causes CO2 emissions which in turn result in climate heating and that to avert the devastating consequences of this, we humans must act now. As in NOW. But instead of decisive actions by governments (renewable energies in all areas of life, such as building, housing, transport, work, you name it) to implement the existing alternative visions and concrete plans for a different kind of society, we are presented with this fake message that individuals must reduce their carbon footprint (a concept designed by the fossil fuel industry) and that we must use less plastics and recycle our household waste and buy EVs to commute long distances and whatever tiny steps we are shamed into doing. And all this while the big corporations continue to make as much money as possible from fossil fuels.

Sometimes I think if sunshine (e.g. solar energy) would need to be mined/drilled and thus become a lucrative source of wealth to the few the same way that oil, coal and gas are, renewables would be the most wanted commodity on the planet. And we would not be where we are now.

We had what was hopefully the last night of frost. Although R talks alarmingly about The Polar Vortex.

I listen to the blackbirds belting out their mating songs before sunrise. One early February when S was maybe 12 or 13, she had to identify the number of blackbirds mating and mark the area on a map as part of a biology project and while her science teacher father blissfully ignored her efforts (not my school etc.), her mother, i.e. me, would sit with a tape deck and a map next to a very sleepy girl by the window, sipping tea, nudging her on. I don't think the project was very successful but I found out a good bit about blackbirds. I hope she did too.

This is the river on a very frosty morning.

And this is a lovely song.


05 February 2023

awe

 

A long long time ago when I was living in paradise, where life was hard and beautiful, hard because money was tight and apart from lots of communal goodwill and a very well stocked public library, there was little in terms of the service and the commodities we, living in consumerism, take for granted, took for granted even back then, and beautiful because of the colours, smells, sights, feels of the rain forest, the Indian ocean, the fruit on the trees around our little tin-roofed house, the slowly meandering tortoises in the yards and the call of the flying foxes in the night,  I found myself on one of these morning digging my bare toes into the fine coral sand of a path coming down from the old wooden house behind me, the sea lapping a short distance in front of me, a tree lined road to my left and a group of massive coco-de-mer palm trees to my right.

I was waiting for a bus and without a timetable this always involved a degree of luck or long stretches of contemplation and discovery. Often, I would take off my shoes and trace complicated patterns into the sand with my toes. Occasionally, people would join me waiting, always impeccably dressed, smiling at my bare feet and greeting me shyly. 

I could hear the birds in the trees to my left, the rooster from the house behind me, a group of children playing in the surf in front of me and the wind swishing through the palm fronds to my right.

A few weeks earlier I had met an Irish nun. I didn't know she was a nun, we met at the hospital where I had been visiting a sick neighbour for a while, she was a nurse. Hearing her Irish accent, we got talking and often shared a cup of tea and stories of fun and grief and loss, as you do when you find yourself in company with a strangely familiar voice or face in a place far from home. And one day she told me about her daily prayer, said she wanted me to say it with her. Now, my inner arrogant voice initially cringed and my smile was forced. But in the end she smiled back and said, that wasn't too difficult, dear, wasn't it?

May it be beautiful below me. May it be beautiful above me. May it be beautiful to the right of me. May it be beautiful to the left of me. May it be beautiful behind me. May it be beautiful in front of me. May it be beautiful around me. I am restored in beauty.

I know now that it's her version of the Navajo prayer but at the time, there was no internet to inform me. I just called it the nun's prayer and I have been whispering it on many occasions ever since, whenever, wherever I have been waiting, for a bus, a train, a medical appointment, a drip to empty itself into my veins, a delayed visitor to arrive, a sleepless night to end, a day to begin. It always brings me back to a place, which is not the exact place of the day, but a conglomeration of places from paradise where at the time, I have often stood and waited.



A few days ago, I was listening to a podcast with psychologist Dacher Keltner speaking about his research on awe and the vagus nerve and how science can show (via cortisol/stress hormone levels, functional MRI imaging etc.) the way experiences of awe influence our emotional state and the first thing that came to mind was this memory, of these places, of the Irish nun's prayer, the heat of that morning, the sounds, the feeling of sand between my toes. 

If I should put into words the feeling that I experience when I remember that exact moment and the way the nun's prayer is connected to it, my first response would always be awe. And this despite the fact that it's neither outstanding scenic beauty, nor drama, nor religious or transformative event, but memories of a fairly ordinary daily experience some 30 years ago.

To listen to the podcast click here. To read about the research in a long interview, click here. If you need to see scientific publications on the subject, click here.

And BTW, you may have heard of the story where a father asked his daughter to stop using two words that drove him mad and before he could proceed, the daughter said, "Awesome Dad, what words, like, do you have in mind?"


01 February 2023

Imbolc

First: Thank you all so much for your kind and thoughtful comments!

Today is Imbolc/St Brigid’s day. We are half-way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Today, the light takes over. When I left for work the birds were singing and the sunrise was almost there. It felt so very hopeful. 

In Ireland this day is now a public holiday, the first Irish public holiday named after a woman, to mark the beginning of spring and the Celtic New Year. 

I have posted this many times before on or around this day. Many traditions are observed on this day, both here and in Ireland. 

My Irish mother in law would go to mass and bring back a St. Brigid's cross, freshly blessed, and put it inside above the front door to prevent any of the bad spirits entering. It definitely worked, that or her dogs.

Today, her heathen son stands by the kitchen window watching the birds, convinced that they are more active because of St. Brigid. Seriously, I ask. Come one, he laughs, you know what I mean. The light, of course.

My mother, a dedicated atheist and scientist, would light candles on this day, which is known as Maria Lichtmess (Mary's feast of light) in Franconia. 

The Celts, of course, celebrated in style, with bonfires, dancing and dipping of their hands into wells. It's raining now, not so sure about a little bonfire later on, but we've dipped our hands into the rain water barrel and we did some dancing at breakfast.

Anyway, isn't it just the most hopeful day in the year. 

 



All nature has a feeling: woods, fields, brooks

Are life eternal: and in silence they

Speak happiness beyond the reach of books;

There's nothing mortal in them; their decay

Is the green life of change; to pass away

And come again in blooms revivified.

Its birth was heaven, eternal is its stay,

And with the sun and moon shall still abide

Beneath their day and night and heaven wide.

John Clare

1793-1864

28 January 2023

. . . this is real, this is here, and here is where I am


There is loss and there is only loss, which means that life is what we make of loss, which is an impossible task, to make something of loss, so life must simply be how we live, and continue to live, amidst the unthinkably unmakeable. It is, every day, so deeply humbling to take each and every breath. If I don’t hold onto that, I know I will let it go. 
Devin  Kelly

Sometimes, usually in the early hours before sunrise, when I am awake but not quite yet fully there, I wonder whether the almost daily painful abdominal cramps that have been bothering me for some time now are somehow related to my father slowly dying four hundred kilometers away. But then I think, no, he's not that important in my life. I am not going to be at a loss, grief will be minimal. And in any case, if he starts having an impact on my health now, in his final stretch, what about all the years earlier? Obviously, I could connect it all to him at a stretch. Or to my mother, just to be fair, spreading the blame evenly. But I know it won't stick. I will not deny that illness is connected to how we feel, what stress we face and that we know little about the myriad causes of what affects our physical and mental well being. But anxiety has never been a strong case with me, I think I don't have the imagination for it. I am too plain, too absorbed in worry. 

Earlier today, a stink bug that overwintered in one of the flower pots on the window sill beside my desk walked onto the monitor and I picked it up with a tissue, crushed it in the course of it and then flushed it down the toilet. Bad bad karma, my inner voice tells me, look what you've done, you killed the bug unnecessarily. You could have released it into the garden. But it's below zero outside, it would have died anyway. So? At least you would've given it a chance. A chance? I should have keep it inside, somewhere safe, the basement maybe. but what about the stink? Isn't it released when you crush the shell and what if it's toxic, is there some trace of it on your fingers. Etc.

Today, I got up really early because I cannot handle cycling to work at sub-zero temperatures. My hands go numb, no matter how efficient the windproof, arctic tested felt lined gloves and it takes ages to get some feeling back. The car parking spaces for staff are limited at the moment because of road works at the campus and it's first come first serve. On the way, driving as one of the thousands in our dark cars I got myself into a fit imagining that everybody must have had the same idea and that I would have to spend ages cruising around the area trying to find semi legal parking to the point that I even contemplated turning around and calling in sick. In the end of course there was lots of space and I was one of the first to arrive. 

Also, two days ago, I fainted when I got in from the cold. I have fainted before and in comparison, this was a teeny tiny mini faint but one nevertheless because I found myself on the bottom of the hall stairs and had no idea how I got there and why my keys and mittens were on the hall floor. My previous faints were more dramatic swooshing affairs, once I knocked down a small chest of drawers while going down, another time I vomited in full flight so to speak (I was pregnant), once I was actually driving or rather waiting at a traffic light but luckily, it was a quiet side street and when I came to, no cars were honking behind me.

It's not half as hilarious as I try to pretend. I am due for a check-up next week.

When I sat with my father on Sunday, he said these sentences in between sleeping:

    A selection of refreshments has been ordered from the kitchen.

    Please accept my sincere apology for this late reply.

    Get me my hunting jacket and the new shoes. 

None of it made sense, obviously. He never had a hunting jacket, he never apologised to me for anything. But I repeat them in my head, like a silent mantra with a hidden message.

     

    



23 January 2023

Yesterday, I held my father's face in both my hands and looked into his eyes. His pupils were like tiny black pinheads, not really focusing on anything. Do you recognise me? I asked. He nodded and said my name loud and clear before closing his eyes and falling asleep again. He sleeps almost all the time now. 

I never held his face like that ever before, like you would hold a child's face. 

It was his 94th birthday.

On the way back, the train carriage was crowded with soccer fans on their way to some important match and I watched them rehearsing their chants, putting their team's jerseys over their hoodies, having a beer or three. I imagined how my father would have been amused. But then, he would never have gone by train anywhere he could drive. But soccer, anytime.

The Franconian countryside was covered in snow.




20 January 2023

Music is love

After reading of David Crosby's death, I started to hum Teach Your Children but R quickly interrupted, no, that's a Graham Nash song. Credit where credit is due.

So instead, Music Is Love, remember. We are all getting older. I almost picked Eight Miles High (he co-wrote that song, yes) but decided no, probably not appropriate, liver transplant and so on.



15 January 2023

In defense of the man who has become the kitchen god in our house, I should add that he has been cooking and baking since we met. In fact, he knew a lot more about it than I did at the time and without him, I probably would never have mastered the skill of baking bread or making yogurt or fermenting all sorts of vegetables - and grapes, which he turns into wine.

The jam making is just a follow-up from growing masses of soft fruit in the garden which clog up the freezer, which needs to provide space for the overload of Brussel sprouts we are currently harvesting. Tiny, sugary, soft lumps. 

This year is my retirement year - my last official day at work will be 31st of October but depending on accrued overtime and holiday entitlements, I think I'll check out early September. I have just made an online appointment with HR to apply for my meagre pension.

Anyway, another Sunday. I have by now recovered from reverse jet lag, I think. East is the beast and west is best, as the saying goes but I think we sort of went northwest and depending on where you start, could also have been doing a massive planetary somersault. Apart from working for money, I have done very little. Yet.

Watching: Live Stream from the waterhole in the Namibian desert, very soothing. 

Reading: Did Ye Hear Mammy Died by Seamas O'Reilly Foster by the wonderful Claire Keegan and now Akin by Emma Donoghue. 

Other than that, lots of sleeping. Bear with me. It's a big step from there to here.


Seatoun morning





08 January 2023

Sunday morning life on mars

It's sunny outside, I can see how dirty the kitchen windows are. I know it looks worse in winter with the sun coming in at a different angle (lower? higher?) and anyway, what do I care. I have neither the energy nor the willpower to clean windows. 

Instead, there is R to watch. He is making jam. Since he retired from teaching science, the kitchen has slowly turned into one of his places of action. There now are a variety of fancy gadgets such as complicated mandolin slicers, variously shaped thermometers, frighteningly accurate scales, hot-water tongs, steaming baskets, grill attachments that look like spare car parts and research facility-grade timers. with alarm sounds you really need to get used to.

It's all very meticulous, weighing and stirring and putting a plate into the freezer. Wait. What's that for? Obviously, that's standard, how else could one determine whether the jam has set if not by putting a measured spoonful on a plate that has come straight out of the freezer. Anyway, with precision and detail, he ends up with a neat row of filled jars, now lidded and upside down on the window sill. 

All I have to do is watch and praise. And while this is happening, we are listening to Sunday Miscellany, our Sunday morning radio program, the one we have been listening on and off wherever possible for the past 40+ years. R starts to grin while Conall Hamill reads his memory of finding out about David Bowie as a teenage boy sent to the summer camp to learn Irish. And we both cheer when he describes how his life was changed listening to the sacred mysteries of Hunky Dory every night for three weeks. 

We have different memories of this song and where we were when we heard it first but we totally understand.  And I'll never need make jam again, I know that much.

(You can listen to it here: https://www.rte.ie/radio/radio1/clips/22192988/)



01 January 2023

2023

 

The effort of imagination is to turn the boundary into a horizon. The boundary says, here and no further. The horizon says, welcome.
Barry Lopez

 

Let us lose our cool. Let us think of the billions of people who will come after us and lose our cool.

The apocalypse is the wrong story to tell about climate change. It’s self-serving, exploitative, clickbait rhetoric that paralyzes us with fear and excuses any action. It's so easy to blather on about collapse. Pick up some climate predictions, read them at a moment when you're not feeling well, cobble together some horror news, there's your apocalypse. But really, it's just lazy to put something like that out in the world. You take what you already perceive around you and extrapolate it into the future. That's so convenient because you don't have to change anything. Yes I get it. Looking into the future and not just seeing darkness is not easy. Imagining something new is fucking difficult. But the impulse to act never comes from staying calm. It comes from emotion. From excitement. From hope and from love. There is a great deal of work to do, and as climate change continues there will be even more. 

Remember: small changes are phenomenal. It’s not just about impact, it’s about our soul, about living the best life we can in respect of each other and the life around us. Let's concentrate on that. Let's work for a society that is not based on individualism and competition, but on trust and care, a democracy that is not representative, but direct, an economy based not on extractivism but on cycles.

We have all the tools.


Rather than feel impotent and useless, you must come to terms with the fact that as a human being you are infinitely powerful, and take responsibility for this tremendous power. Even our smallest actions have potential for great change, positively or negatively, and the way in which we all conduct ourselves within the world means something. You are anything but impotent, you are, in fact, exquisitely and frighteningly dynamic, as are we all, and with all respect you have an obligation to stand up and take responsibility for that potential. It is your most ordinary and urgent duty.

Nick Cave 

 

Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.

Vaclav Havel

30 November 2022

in the windiest city of the world

Here I am crawling out of the jet-lag tunnel. The birds start early, intense and right on time for me. I had almost forgotten how ferocious the wind is in this city. Almost. And the lovely squeaky noise at the pedestrian crossings.

Then there`s the light and the strong coffee and the steep stairs and pathways up to my daughter's house. Awakening dormant muscles and taste buds.

I am busy busy busy being here. So much to see and do and feel and experience with my family.

Don't think I'll blog much in the coming weeks but I will read and if time allows, comment. For now, I just want to share this:

 

So hold your own 

Breathe deep on a freezing beach 

Taste the salt of friendship 

Notice the movement of a stranger 

Hold your own 

And let it be 

Catching

21 November 2022

May you be enough and don't want for more.


This morning early, I got the stitches removed from my forehead and since then I have tried to not look at the dent and the impressive upside down cross that could be a tattoo with a secret message for all I care. 

Things are a bit in a rush here as we are about to travel to far away places. Somewhere, sometime during the last two almost three years of lockdown and seclusion, I have lost some of my travel cool, so now I am nervous, double checking everything.  By this time tomorrow etc.

For now, I just want to highlight a few things that made me think, laugh or worry, in any case, stayed in my mind for a while (still).

Trying to make sense of the war in Ukraine, I watched this seven part documentary absolutely mesmerised and feeling foolishly ignorant and appalled and scared and amazed. It's by Adam Curtis, who is a most unique filmmaker, and it's really just a collection of footage from various reports over many years or as some critics said: like looking through a broken kaleidoscope. It will bring you outside your comfort zone but in a very worthwhile way. And you will understand a little bit, or maybe a lot more, who Putin really is and why he is the way he is.

On youtube, for parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 click here. For part 6, click here.

If you can access BBC iPlayer, you find all episodes there, just look for Traumazone and Adam Curtis. Watch the trailer on youtube.

 

In the coming week, we will cross many borders, departing and arriving in and from several far away countries, all at ease and in great comfort. We will hold up our maroon coloured EU passports and walk through open gates. Never once in my life was I denied entry anywhere in my many travels. 

Hospitality means the right of a stranger entering foreign territory to be treated without hostility. One may refuse to receive him, if it can be done without endangering his existence; however, so long as he conducts himself peaceably, he must notbe treated as an enemy.

(Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Essay 1795)

Hospitality according to Kant is a right, mind you, not an act of philanthropy. In this context, this story by Anna Badkhen, followed me long into the night. Click here to either read or listen.

 

And here, an inspiring young woman with a great laugh:

 

And finally, something to lift our hearts. 

17 November 2022

Our dreams are the deepest breath we draw


Our dreams are the deepest breath we draw

This is a line from a song by Irish singer Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin (Owen O'Canavan for all the non-Irish speakers like me).

Over the past four weeks I had three surgeries on my forehead, first to take a sample, then to take out a small tumor and then to take out more tumor after which the hole was stitched up. All in all, the tumor was the size of maybe a pea or a small bean according to the surgeon. There is still doubt as to what type of tumor, a tricky type I have been told, but most likely it's all out. Right now, the stitches are healing very well and hopefully will come out early next week. The hole has a diameter of a five Euro cent coin (22 mm) and this has been covered with skin stretched across and up/down my forehead. I now know what it feels like to have a face lift. Goodness, there are actually women who do this voluntarily?

Today when they changed the bandage, I looked in the mirror for the first time because the young nurse told me that it looks kind of Goth, like an upside down cross. And it does. Still all crusty and black and blue and red but I've been told it will all heal nicely. The nerves just below my hairline are all numb but I've been told that they will recover. 

A bit over a year ago, I had noticed a tiny hard lump on my forehead when I put cream on it. Being who I am I picked on it, absentmindedly mostly, and it started to bleed and I got mad for doing this and then it took ages to close up because it looked kind of deep and cratery. Then it healed up and was gone until it wasn't. And the whole circle started again, me picking and then bleeding and healing, I forget how many times. Also, slow healing of small nicks and cuts is a very common side effect of my immune suppression therapy. So, it took me a while to get myself to a doctor.

Except for two days when there was a steady stream of blood trickling down my face (excellent Halloween disguise!), I went to work and managed to pretend that all was hunky dory. But the nights, another story.

Anyway, almost all done for now. I have plans, starting next week, I am going places. Stay tuned.

And here is the song. 


04 November 2022

It's not about "the climate," it's not about "the environment," it's never been about that. It's about human survival on the planet. Why the heck is that so hard to understand?

01 November 2022

Sometimes there is stuff happening in life - or not happening - that makes any activity in social media seem false or difficult, even dishonest (to myself, because what do you know about my true existence) and basically too exhausting to write about. Stuff is happening, big stuff, too big.

Anyway, moving on to the more mundane issue of shopping, real shopping, not the virtual online kind. 

On Sundays, the majority of German households serves fresh bread rolls for breakfast. This is a ritual and the rolls must be fresh. Of course not every household partakes (ours does not, we are muesli people) but it's what happens for the majority. Now remember that in Germany, all shops are closed on Sundays (thanks to the labour unions and the churches). However, bakeries are allowed to open in the mornings, but only for rolls and there are always long queues of mostly yawning dads or kids with lists of how many and what kind for whom. Fresh bread rolls vary from region to region, have different names and shapes and flour mixes, are made with sourdough or yeast and are too numerous to list here. But this is a standard Sunday selection, the minimum variety any bakery will have on offer.

Some years ago, the parents of an Australian friend of our daughter were visiting Europe and as it happens with friends, siblings, cousins and parents of friends of our daughter, they accepted her invitation to come and stay with us (while daughter is in another far flung corner of the world issuing invitations). And obviously, we went into full hospitality mode incl. German Sunday morning breakfast rolls. For this purpose, I invited them to go to the bakery and join me in the queue.

We have three bakeries in easy walking distance and six more within a three kilometer radius from home. Our Australian visitors had been on a neighbourhood stroll with us the night before and expressed enthusiasm about a cycle trip along the river any day soon. But when we left the house to get the rolls, they walked straight to the car. Imagine their surprise when I suggested walking. They confessed that they always do all their food shopping by car, could not remember any other way, without driving and parking and getting a shopping trolley and filling and emptying and filling that trolley and so on, before driving it all back home.

Now, a bag full of bread rolls is nothing, real shopping is a bit more than that but I believe one of the greatest trick the car industry ever pulled was convincing the world they needed 1,500 kg of machinery to move 15 kg of stuff. Unfortunately, it seems people can only shop by car. That has always been the case. Shops apparently have only existed since there were cars. Haven't they just.

I could go on my high horse here and tell you that we use our bicycles and if need be our bike trailer to do our shopping but we are just two people who grow a lot of fruit and veg right here in our garden and our neighbourhood shopping is indeed in the neighbourhood, as are pharmacies, doctors, libraries, markets (super and farmers'). So, we are not average. Winters are not too hard, it doesn't rain too often, the winds are benign. 

We still have a car. It sits there all shiny and heavy, I occasionally use it on dark days to get to work and back. I think it is lonely.


09 October 2022

It's a slow exhausting slog, this recovery from pneumonia. This time, the impact of the immune suppression shot (a pen injection every two weeks on a Friday evening) is textbook obvious. It sets me one step back to the two steps I made toward getting better every time. Talk about the stuff of a rock and hard place etc.

My father is on the slow path of his systems shutting down. Kidney failure, beginning pneumonia, water in his lungs, imminent congestive heart failure. The way an old body will cease to work. He is comfortable and bored, the carers put him in his wheelchair and on good days, he is angry enough to shout for someone to push him around but mostly, he is just drowsily looking into the far distance. He is now confusing me with my sister-in-law and strange as it may sound, this feel liberating. The few times, I managed to talk to him on the phone, he was, Sabine? Sabine who? Out of sight, out of mind.

I am not allowed to visit while on antibiotics and I am debating whether I should in any case, finding excuses  listing my reasons why it makes sense to avoid the 4+ hour trip (each way). At least I am already the black sheep of the family, so this will not come as a shock to my siblings. I fully disappoint, as expected.

Other than that, there's a war to the east of us, coming closer, or so it seems. We have been following the BBC's Ukrainecast podcast, a mixture of explanation and personal testimony (also available on spotify, apple and many other platforms).

For dictators, freedom, an open society, the individual pursuit of happiness of people must never be successful. That is why Putin started this war, because dictators fear freedom. And that is why he must not win this war, because that would mean that dictators can attack freedom successfully again and again.

Human rights and democracy are an indispensable core of international relations, not luxury issues. They are not secondary or subordinate, they apply not only sometimes, not only when it costs nothing, when it burdens no one, but always. 

Totally unrelated musical interlude:

05 October 2022

metaphor

You let the logs burn long enough so they made a space between them. You gotta keep the fire new. Every piece of wood needs a companion to keep it burning. Now push them together. Not too much. They also need that air. Get them close, but not on top of each other. Just a light connection all the way along. Now you’ll see a row of even flames.

Louise Erdrich, The Sentence, last chapter

I cried reading the last chapter. I have never read a book that made me cry until now. I also whispered thank you when I closed it. Also not something I have ever done before. I didn't enjoy most of the book, found it hard to get into it but as with all of her novels, I eventually could not stop reading.

What do you get when you travel to the seaside, spend most of your time sleeping, but insist on walking on the beach on your last day? Pneumonia.

But wait, there's antibiotics and also, marriage, which means a man who bakes his secret recipe semolina strawberry crumble to cheer you up.

23 September 2022

self limiting viral infection

Last Friday, a week ago today, I sat down with a colleague for a short work thing, masked in our specially air filtered conference area of course, and I felt this annoying scratch in my throat and immediately my mind said, oh hello, long time no see. Next morning my voice was gone, something R found hilarious, initially. I took a test, no covid, and went back to bed. Things progressed from there and to cut a long story short, several more tests, incl. a negative PCR, confirmed that one of these pesky common and garden upper respiratory infection viruses has come for a lengthy visit. 

And it has been a noisy week. While I have no voice, still, I am barking the house down with coughing.  It has been such a long time since I had something like that. A self-limiting viral infection. 

There used to be time in my life when I would search for the cause, the source, the why and the why now and why me. But the last couple of years have shown that viruses really don't give a damn about our feelings, they take any opportunity out there and we are such great targets after all. Viruses, they just want to have fun. Or in other words, they want to survive too. So, I hibernated for the week, hid under the blankets and read, listened to audio books, watched Italian crime series, slept in between coughing fits, drank thyme tea with honey, ate some soup, and so on, as you do.

Anyway, on Sunday, I will wrap myself in warm layers, doze in the car for a few hours while R drives us to a cute little house with a thatched roof just below the big sand dunes in a village in North Holland and hopefully, I shall be able to make it up the stairs to the top of said dunes to let the sea air clear my head for the next couple of days. That's the plan.

This here is an ultrasound image of a fetus, aged somewhere between 32 and 36 weeks, after the mother had eaten kale.


And here, we see the same fetus after the mother ate some carrot.

This is what science can show us. If you want to read about the research, the how and the why and what these two food groups have to offer for the future of humankind and kale growers especially, klick here(Both images: FETAP (Fetal Taste Preferences) Study/Fetal and Neonatal Research Lab/Durham University/PA)

And here is a poem that tells us where we are in the bigger planetary picture, incl. viruses.

Islands

O for God’s sake
they are connected
underneath


They look at each other
across the glittering sea
some keep a low profile


Some are cliffs
The bathers think
islands are separate like them


Muriel Rukeyser

06 September 2022

. . . however carefully we live, we cannot escape the effects of ageing. We can only delay them, if we are lucky. Long life is not necessarily a good thing. Perhaps we should not seek it too desperately.

We accept that wrinkled skin comes with age but find it hard to accept that our inner selves, our brains, are subject to similar changes. These changes are called degenerative in the radiological reports, although all this alarming adjective means is just age-related. For most of us, as we age, our brains shrink steadily, and if we live long enough, they end up resembling shrivelled walnuts, floating in a sea of cerebrospinal fluid, confined within our skull. And yet we usually still feel that we are our true selves, albeit diminished, slow and forgetful. The problem is that our true self, our brain, has changed, and as we have changed with our brains, we have no way of knowing that we have changed.

Henry Marsh 


A hornet has come into the bedroom after sunset on several nights now. I am tempted to think it's my mother in her latest disguise. Every time so far, R has successfully chased it outside with his old squash racket. I am halfheartedly expecting another visit tonight.

My father looked at the photographs I brought him, the ones that I secretly call the beautiful pictures, and he pointed at each one of us and slowly said all our names, these are my children, he then announced, and, pointing at himself in one of the pictures, in a very formal voice added, this is their father. He no longer recognises grandchildren, let alone great grandchildren. 

 

 

When my nephew, my brother's middle son, came to visit him recently, he got confused with the likeness and believed there was an imposter or possibly a thief in the room. I asked him about that, I stayed very still and as soon as he had left, he told me, I checked my wallet but luckily all the money was still there. This, in fact, was the only complete sentence he produced during my visit. 

Most of the time, he dozed and when I asked him, what that feels like, he said, pleasant thoughts but nothing specific. He pointed to the door which meant we should leave. 

That evening, we had dinner with my siblings and their spouses. We had business to discuss and that we did but we also laughed. And at one point, my sister in law, innocently, I believe, blurted out to me, at least now that he doesn't talk any more, we don't have to listen to him going on and on about your never ending achievements and how you turn everything into gold.

Well, there you have it at last. What could I do but laugh it off and assure them all that no, I never accomplished a thing in my life.

On the long drive back home I got mad at the way R was driving and I believe I raised my voice.

We stopped in a sleepy village in Franconia for a stroll. It felt as if we were the only people alive.


 

We were both exhausted by the time we got home to our river and we took the ferry across in glorious evening sunlight.



27 August 2022

 

 


(read about Layli Long Soldier here)

My father is sinking deeper and deeper into some netherworld of dozing and mumbling. I have only the reports from my siblings and the odd picture they sent me. The latter quite frightening, a very old man unravelling, sunk low in his wheelchair, head forward almost on his chest, eyes closed, mouth in a bitter snarl. His waking times, so the reports, he apparently spends being angry, unwilling or unable to cooperate in whatever efforts of personal hygiene are provided to him, drinking and eating sparingly and only because of the threat of an iv feeding tube. Apparently, in one of his awake moments he ordered the nurse to leave him to die in dignity, whereupon she, while picking up the used tissues and cutlery and papers he, according to my sister, purposefully, drops here and there without any care, replied that to get there he first has to behave with dignity. Ha! As if he could!

I know I have to visit him, see if he recognises me, if I can reach him, meet my siblings, who have great hopes that I can talk some sense into him. I don't think my visit will make any difference. I am not expecting anything. But I wonder how he feels, maybe even helpless, lost, and a small part of me hopes that my presence, silly me of all people, could make a positive difference. This of course is a foolish thought. In the world of my father, I am just a daughter and a distant one at that.

When my brother cleared out my father's home, the drawers of his enormous desk, sometime last winter, he found a box of letters, written by quite a number of women, in German, French, Danish, Swedish, the languages of my father, love letters mostly. Adoring middle aged women he probably invited to the opera or an exhibition in Hamburg or Stockholm or Paris, a weekend in a fancy hotel. Imagine, my brother said with a chuckle, he had several lined up at the same time. 

When I visited my father earlier this year and asked about the other residents of the retirement home, he scoffed, old biddies, ugly as hell, and a couple of old forgetful posers.

And yet, I am scared. Not of his death, but that he may have already forgotten me. That he will look at me and see nothing, none of my glorious achievements, nothing to be proud of. Sixty-five years on, I am still hoping for his approval. Searching for whatever it is I can be thankful for.

22 August 2022

Vaxxed and never got infected (- so far)?

In a comment, Ellen asked me to find out some info as to why some people don't seem to get infected with the corona virus. Today, I spent some zoom time with a group of immunology postdocs and in the end I got the chance to ask them for the latest info. This is what they told and sent me.

To properly find out why some people don't get infected once and for all, you really need to do in vivo research and in vivo means with living people. In other words, you need volunteers and to do this, you must follow strict rules (information on ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects is here). This is not something that's easily done, well, maybe the Chinese do it but are not sharing.

I only know of one study which was done with volunteers, 34 volunteers in fact, who were administered virus particles and then tested regularly. Of these, 18 became infected, the rest not.

In several other observational studies, i.e. watching and following real patients, it was checked how often infected people go on to infect their immediate partners. Of 52 infected people, 26 passed on the virus - exactly half.

But these studies are too small to simply be transferred to society and no way can we deduce from them that about half of all people do not get infected.

However, they at least show that it is possible to not become infected despite close risk contact. And that's really interesting stuff.

So a variety of theories are being investigated and bear in mind, it's early days, let's not jump to conclusions but there's potential. (When I refer to the corona virus in the following explanations, I mean the current virus, SARS-CoV-2. There are many other corona viruses which have given us common colds in the past, these I call corona-like viruses.)

Theory 1: T-cell response. T-cells are white blood cells and play a major role in our immune system, they get their name from the thymus gland were they are formed. T-cells are responsible for our body's immune reaction. They have been investigated for quite some time, mostly regarding their role in cancer and MS and obviously in the last two years in relation to covid. It was found quite early on that some people infected with the corona virus appear to have a strong T-cell response, which means their T-cells reacted very quickly to the corona virus and possibly rendered it harmless before it could multiply to such an extent that symptoms appeared or tests turned out positive. The reason for a strong T-cell response can be genetically determined or due to previous infections, like colds triggered by previous corona-like viruses, providing some defence against infection. This is called cross-immunity. That does not automatically mean that past colds with corona-like viruses give you protection against this one, SARS-CoV-2. Not everyone seems to develop cross-immunity. 

Theory 2: Blood group. The connection between blood groups and the severity of a corona disease has been studied quite extensively by now, so there is lots of data to allow agreement that people with blood group A have a higher risk of a severe infection compared to blood group 0. Also, blood group incompatibility between two people could prevent one from infecting the other. Blood group incompatibility simply means that two people who have different blood groups, for example A and 0, have natural antibodies against each other's foreign blood group. And these antibodies we have against foreign blood groups sometimes also seem to be directed against the corona virus. But again, if your partner has 0 and you have A, that does not automatically mean you will not infect each other, because it is not yet clear when this happens and when it does not.

Theory 3: Sex. More and more research is confirming sex-specific differences in susceptibility to the corona virus. Researchers see a connection with sex hormones such as estrogen and androgen. The current state of knowledge is that women are probably better protected against infections due to a more effective hormone-related immune response - and if they do become infected, they seem to be less prone to so-called systemic inflammation, meaning that most inflammation remains localised, i.e. to the nose or throat,  and can be kept in check by the body's immune response, whereas systemic inflammation is something the body is unable to contain without help, so it spreads to other areas.

Theory 4: Age. Our immune response changes throughout life and tends to weaken with age, regardless of sex. Older people often not only have a more severe disease as a result, but could also be more likely to get infected and have a longer recovery period.

Theory 5: Viral load. The viral load reflects how much virus an infected person has taken in. The viral load can be quite high in the throat or nose. It is generally assumed that high viral loads are also associated with being more infectious. But not every infected person sheds the same amount of virus. Studies of large corona outbreaks have shown that the virus was sometimes spread by only a few individuals who infected many others at once. And symptoms are not a measure of viral load, asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic but infected people have been shown to have high viral loads. So far, only the Ct value of the PCR test can give an approximate reflection of whether someone is infectious or not. (Ct stands for cycle threshold and it indicates how many cycles a PCR test must run in order to detect viral material. The more cycles are necessary, the less viral material is found in the sample.)

Important: These theories do not stand on their own, they play together and strengthen or weaken each other. If you have not been infected so far, you must not assume that you are fundamentally immune. The conditions can be different the next time there is a risk contact - and then infection can occur. Also, this virus is a tricky bastard. But then again, all viruses are.

I can provide a list of reference to published research for anybody who wants sources etc.


 



19 August 2022

I am done in. For the first time in two years I worked a full week at the campus, no home office. And because it has been - and still is - so hot, I started real early every day. The work was not different but there's the commute, 40 minutes each way. I managed to cycle most days, trying to dodge the heat by going the long way through the forest and racing through the bits of heavy traffic. 

The best part? Giving the finger to car drivers who act as if they own public streets, as if cars are somehow above cyclists in some imagined transport mode hierarchy, that is still a wonderfully liberating gesture. And cursing at the top of my voice, oh how I've missed doing that!

It was only for a week, subbing for a colleague in dire straits.

As much as I love watching this video, I cannot stop wondering how many people came away infected. Because whatever the current mood, the virus doesn’t “spread”. We spread it. We cough, sneeze, sing, shout and breathe it on each other. Without people, this virus would not have a chance.

 
 
My father recovered from his second covid infection (brought to him thanks to the lifting of mask and testing requirements for visitors to care homes in the federal state of Bavaria) which was just as mild as his pre-vaccine one but this one has left him confused, disoriented, often unable to speak and he is rapidly losing weight.

14 August 2022

Thousands have lived without love, not one without water (W.H. Auden)

Did you know, that there is more water in the clouds and vapour above us than in all the rivers and oceans on our planet at any given time? If only it would rain. I lived in Ireland for many years and took rain for granted. I watched the film mentioned above here last night, an inspiration.

Because nutrients cycle through the ocean (the process of organisms eating organisms is the cycling of nutrients through the ocean), the atoms of those people who were thrown overboard are out there in the ocean even today. They were eaten, organisms processed them, and those organisms were in turn eaten and processed, and the cycle continues. Around 90 to 95 percent of the tissues of things that are eaten in the water column get recycled.

The sodium of human blood . . . (has) a residence time (the amount of time it takes for a substance to enter the ocean and then leave the ocean) of 260 million years.

Daisy Hildyard (from an essay found here

About thirty years ago, a friend was lost at sea. To be correct, a possible friend was lost at sea. When this happened, we were still at the greeting and recognition state that is common when non-African (white) people meet in the tiny African island paradise we were living at the time. It was only a few weeks or maybe a month since he had arrived with his family, just as we did a few years earlier.

We were in the early stage of getting ready to leave for India, packing and selling stuff, when we got the news. It was evening, we were sharing a dinner with a group of friends when someone mentioned that the boat he had hired had not come in before sunset. What followed were harrowing days and evenings taking turns sitting with the family, making tea, cooking dinners nobody ate, distracting children with endless games of volleyball underneath the jacaranda trees.

It was months later when a merchant vessel picked up the empty boat a very long way north, past the Arabian Sea and the Horn of Africa. I often think of him, out there under the sun in a small boat on the vast Indian Ocean. How happy he was that day we spoke on the most beautiful beach, watching our kids diving in the surf. And I assured him that they all would just love their time here, that the three years of his contract would just fly, that he should cherish every day and so on. I meant it.

And I think of the over 3,000 migrants that died at sea on their way to Europe last year, the 17,000 who lost their lives in the Mediterranean since 2014.

Meanwhile, our rivers are drying out. The glaciers in the Alps are melting at a rate nobody seemed to think possible quite yet. I cycle along my river at around sunset when the temperature has dropped to 30C (85 F). There are still some barges going and ferries but only just and the trees are rapidly dropping their shriveled leaves.

Today, as last week, R joined in a human chain of 35 people collecting 1000 liters of river water in buckets to water the trees in a local park

 The covid patch in the garden looks miserable. But deep underneath the brittle and dry stalks, there is wild thyme and oregano, some small clover and plenty of other greens coming up. I imagine it only needs a bit of rain to see more growth.


And almost a month earlier than usual, we harvested the grapes. According to R's measurements with his hydrometer gadget, they could have stayed on a tiny bit longer for more sweetness but it was us vs. wasps. I fought their corner for about two days.








 


 


 


06 August 2022

 For me, this is an example of true social media. Also, Belgium cities are lovely.

02 August 2022

solutions, solutions, solutions

If you're worried that it's too late to do anything about climate change and we should all just give up, I have great news for you: that day is not coming in your lifetime. As long as you have breath in your body, you will have work to do.

Mary Annaïse Heglar

It's really hot again, the bits of lawn we have left between the flower beds and trees are brown and yellow. Lawn will recover first, I know that, but it looks and feels so bare and brittle. We water as little as possible, mostly with the newfangled drip feeding system R installed earlier this year. The insects love it and sit all along the route. In the morning and evening, when the birds have had their wash, the bees and wasps and all their friends as well as the very small number of butterflies come to the birdbath for a drink. The hedgehog shuffles along after dark to his water bowl. The upstairs bedroom windows are shaded by an almond tree which has been dropping its leaves for the past month but before the sun reaches that part of the house and while I have the windows open, birds sit in it and the robins and some young female blackbirds have started to have a quick look inside, even hopping on the inside window sill possibly for some cooler temps.

We are taking stock for a drought garden future, making lists of what will have to go, what will be replaced with what next year. 

My father has recovered from his second bout of covid and seemingly has decided to stay in bed from now on. He sounds quite content that way but some of my family are quite angry and find it selfish and lazy. Also, if it escalates it could seriously mess up the holiday travel plans of some. My family is so full of surprises.

Back to the reality: There is this fallacy that keeps on coming up. All that talk about how it's too late anyway, that humankind is doomed and people are just stupid and will not change their ways etc. etc. Usually, this is expressed with dramatic sadness and, especially by people of my age set, that tiny bit of relief because we are too old anyway and we know it all. 

I am so sick and tired of it. The way we paralyze ourselves with words because what the heck, giving up meat, flying, driving, all our lovely consumer rituals is much too hard.

So I ask myself: Who do I want to be in this world that is about to ruin itself? Do I want to be someone who carries on with a thousand excuses? Are my life's luxuries more important than my children? Do I want to live in constant and increasing contradiction to my values? - Or should I at least act as if I could contribute to a better future, regardless of whether that future actually happens?

Here is my to-do list, pick at least one that you can do. Sorry, it does not include recycling or plastic waste. It's based on the recommendations of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the intergovernmental body of the United Nations responsible for advancing knowledge on human-induced climate change):

  • Switch so renewable energy sources, even rural peasant farmers in Asia and Africa use solar panels.
  • Conserve and restore forests and ecosystems  (hint: gardens are ecosystems too).
  • Use (and if possible grow) climate-friendly food.
  • Eat much much less meat. In fact, a plant-based diet can save up to 50 percent of a person's greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Define happiness and satisfaction other than through faster, higher, further and ever more.
  • Have hope. Help each other. Love our planet.

This figure is from: IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (for personal, non-commercial usages, reproduction of limited number of figures or short excerpts of IPCC material is authorized free of charge and without formal written permission).

25 July 2022

a very old, old joy

Since it came to Earth, the water has been cycling through air, rocks, animals and plants. Each molecule has been on an incredible journey. When you feel alone, try to remember that at some point the water inside you would have been inside dinosaurs, or the ocean, or a polar ice-cap, or maybe a storm cloud over a faraway sea at a time when the sea was still nameless. Water crosses millennia and boundaries and borders.

Remember, we all have something in common, and that is the water that runs through us.

 Christy Lefteri (from: Songbirds, a novel 2021)


Since 2013, I have been following writer Paul Salopek walking the Out of Eden Walk, along the pathways of the first humans who migrated out of Africa spreading across the planet. He is currently in China and this is latest video.

 
Whether we like it or not, we are all walking together into a bottleneck new century, with the climate crisis upon us, with gigantic gaps in income, with rising tribalism across ideologies, we face a pretty difficult path ahead, a panorama of uncertainty. The walk teaches me this: That we stand a better chance of survival by walking together, by learning from each other, by listening to each other's ideas, and by pulling each other up as we move forward. There is a very old, old joy in this approach. Every new day on my trail, whether I wake up in a Buddhist temple or the hut of a Sichuan yak herder, the word that floats to mind always as I lace up my boots for another day is the same. It's yes.

Paul Salopek


17 July 2022

same old same old

Late this morning while we were cleaning up the breakfast stuff from the patio, R asked me why I was crying and I touched my face and yes, surprise, he was right. For a moment I was at a loss and then it hit me. I miss my child so badly, I said and then it was over, weird as it was. It is not as if she has suddenly vanished. I mean, she's been living far away for the best part of the last 15 years but we talk several times a week and as R says, she never shuts up, doesn't she.

Now I feel old. Actually, I am old. And ill. And a bit miserable. But other than that, it was a beautiful morning, clear skies, low humidity, bees and butterflies and birds, all the pleasant Sunday noises and so on. The extreme heat is supposedly going to hit us by tomorrow.

these beauties are flowering at last

So let's see. I've been sitting in a doctor's waiting room three, four, five times in recent weeks? I forget. Every visit was an example of careful attention, I have no complaints other than that I had to accept that, yes, this, these last couple of weeks of exhaustion and inflammations here and there and everywhere was a flare up and yes, steroids were called for. And people, cortisone is a miracle drug. If only it would not have all the side effects. The deal was for five days at high dosage and on day four, I was jubilant, no other word for it. Despite the stomach aches and the racing heart beat and the sleepless nights and the mood swings. Hence the tears, I think, but as of today I am coming down to normal grumpy me and keeping fingers crossed etc.

grapes ripening one month earlier than in recent years

When I am visibly unwell, English speaking people usually ask, what's wrong with you? And immediately, I could get all defensive and wish I could reply that there is nothing wrong with me, that - only - something went wrong with my immune system but that's it. 

I don't. I am polite and assume they didn't mean it, that social stigmatisation and - watch out: new terminology - ableism doesn't exist in my circle of friends.

(Ableism is defined as the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities, based on the belief that able-bodied people are superior. It is, at its core, rooted in the assumption that disabled people require fixing and, very importantly, defines people by their disability.)

The German terminology is somewhat different. Whether doctor or colleague, the question is: was fehlt dir? What are you missing/lacking? I feel looked after when I hear this. I do.

the covid patch gone mad

I know, believe me, that there are more important things in life than health. Of course, well-being is easier to achieve when there is no disease to worry about. To assume that health is the most important thing in life - this is an attitude only healthy people can afford. And I know that too well, I used to be one of them.

When you end up with a chronic illness, you figure it out, you must understand, eventually, that not life itself, but the conditions under which life takes shape are changed.

Or as one medical expert along the way told me ages ago, paraphrasing the words of Viktor Frankl: When you are faced with situations out of your control, you need to adapt to those circumstances. You need to find meaning in that situation. That is, to find what you can learn from it, and discover ways to carry you through.

apricot and cherry season, best of all

When I experience a flare up, I am lost at the very end of a seesaw, in the middle of which I try to balance most of the time. On the one side, the world of the healthy, with all the joys, banalities, tasks and adversities that life contains - all of which way out of reach. On the other side, the world of the sick, which is not necessarily darker overall, but in many ways very different. To achieve balance again and again and to figure out where I am right now, that is the skill - one that I will never fully master. 

Things can only get better.