31 March 2011

and a bit more Rilke

Don't be too quick to draw conclusions from what happens to you; simply let it happen.

reading Rilke

We, however, are not prisoners. 
No traps or snares are set about us, and there is nothing which should intimidate or worry us. 
We are set down in life as in the element to which we best correspond, and over and above this we have through thousands of years of accommodation become so like this life, that when we hold still we are, through a happy mimicry, scarcely to be distinguished from all that surrounds us. 
We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. 
Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us; are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. 
And if only we arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful. 
How should we be able to forget those ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. 
Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.

(Wir aber sind nicht Gefangene. Nicht Fallen und Schlingen sind um uns aufgestellt, und es gibt nichts, was uns ängstigen oder quälen sollte. Wir sind ins Leben gesetzt, als in das Element, dem wir am meisten entsprechen, und wir sind überdies durch jahrtausendelange Anpassung diesem Leben so ähnlich geworden, daß wir, wenn wir stille halten, durch ein glückliches Mimikry von allem, was uns umgibt, kaum zu unterscheiden sind. Wir haben keinen Grund, gegen unsere Welt Mißtrauen zu haben, denn sie ist nicht gegen uns. Hat sie Schrecken, so sind es unsere Schrecken, hat sie Abgründe, so gehören diese Abgründe uns, sind Gefahren da, so müssen wir versuchen, sie zu lieben.
Und wenn wir nur unser Leben nach jenem Grundsatz einrichten, der uns rät, daß wir uns immer an das Schwere halten müssen, so wird das, welches uns jetzt noch als das Fremdeste erscheint, unser Vertrautestes und Treuestes werden. Wie sollten wir jener alten Mythen vergessen können, die am Anfange aller Völker stehen, der Mythen von den Drachen, die sich im äußersten Augenblick in Prinzessinnen verwandeln; vielleicht sind alle Drachen unseres Lebens Prinzessinnen, die nur darauf warten, uns einmal schön und mutig zu sehen.
Vielleicht ist alles Schreckliche im tiefsten Grunde das Hilflose, das von uns Hilfe will.)

28 March 2011

colonoscopy prep day

She told me to bear with unpleasant experiences and to just see what comes up and if possible to write down the first thing in my mind as I am bearing with it. So there. The first thing that comes up is that she told me to write down the first thing that comes up. And that my gums are bleeding a bit and that I am dreading the next litre of trylite which is due in two hours. And that by midday tomorrow all will be over and done.
I swear I'll never do this again.
But that is what I said the last time and actually, I have no choice. It's not as if I am doing this voluntarily. So, get a grip, and down with the next pot of herb tea to stop the gagging.

27 March 2011


R put down the spuds and there are now two neat long rows with the characteristic furrows to prove it.

26 March 2011


The entire affluence-based economic model of the postwar era [...] is based on the idea that cheap energy and rising material consumption are supposed to make us happier and happier. This is why nuclear power plants are now being built in areas that are highly active geologically, and why we consume as much oil in one year as was created in 5.3 million years. We are looting both the past and the future to feed the excess of the present. It's the dictatorship of the here and now.

HJ Schellnhuber

24 March 2011

old tapes

Morrissey - Every Day Is Like Sunday von jpdc11

When we lived in paradise we had about 60 cassette tapes of music, some we had brought ourselves, some we inherited from expats who left and some were presents from visitors or had arrived in the mail - eventually.  This song reminds me of an ordinary evening with a gang of kids messing about on the big hammock between the mango trees, dogs running around them and the kitchen noises of cooking dinner from the houses around us. Our neighbours suffered our musical tastes with polite smiles. The kids just danced to anything with rhythm.

23 March 2011

cherry blossom trees

On my way to work these days I take a small detour down a rather awkward narrow side street where oncoming traffic calls for skilled manouvers. But because this street is lined with cherry trees on both sides which are now in full bloom ranging from frothy white to the deepest pink I inch my way through it as often as possible.
A friend lives here with her husband and their three now almost grown sons. Her and his parents came from Greece during the time of the military junta
I remember the days after her second boy was born. She had asked her husband to take pictures of her during labour standing upright and fully naked and together we searched these pictures for any signs of how hard her body was at work. And all we could see was a beautiful strong woman with a touch of urgent madness in her eyes.
Some years ago her husband asked me to translate several German documents and articles into English for a business friend of his in Greece. He insisted that a contract was drawn up. It was a lot of work and there were many calls to and from Greece before all were happy with the outcome. But I was never paid. There followed lengthy explanations of various reasons for the delay, stories about bank drafts gone astray and commissions not approved and so on with promises of delicious Greek dinners, barrels of fresh olives, case loads of wine once the money had come through.
It never came through. It didn't matter, really. Maybe I should have offered to do this for free. So what, no hard feelings, I told them. Come on, I don't need this money. We are friends.
But no. When I meet her now, always by accident, we hug and laugh and quickly exchange the latest news about our children and our health and so on and then she tells me how her husband has just last week spoken to his business friend and that he can now guarantee that the payment will come next week, next month the latest. And I tell her that this is all water under the bridge and let's forget it. And so we laugh again and we promise each other to meet soon for the Greek dinner before we say good bye because we must dash. 
And when I occasionally see her husband in town he quickly changes to the other side or turns his head as he passes me.

21 March 2011

too beautiful to be posted only once (well twice and now three times)

Today is one of those days where I feel a bit lot like one of those ancient gadgets they used on ships to stay on course. Obviously I know next to nothing about ships. But I have this image of an elaborate and beautiful wooden box with a glass window revealing various complicated looking dials inside and a couple of handles and screws on all the outsides that need to be adjusted steadily and with great care to hold the most delicate compass needle in one of the dials in place.
It requires enormous concentration and one lapse will send the whole ship rolling to one side and there are crashing noises and bells going off and stuff like that.

Needless to say that I am not doing a good job here and so I am just glad I didn't have to save the world today because I was just too preoccupied with being miserable all day.

While totally miraculously, the lilac is about to flower. Just like that.

19 March 2011

full moon music


Let pity, then, be a kind of pain in the case of an apparent destructive or painful harm of one not deserving to encounter it, which one might expect oneself, or one of one's own, to suffer, and this when it seems near, said Aristotle

Lessing wrote, we are prompted by the fear that a similar fate may befall us; thus fear is pity transferred to ourselves.

and Schopenhauer said that we are moved by the suffering of others because we can imagine that we ourselves may suffer the same, that it can also happen to us and that in the fate of the ones who suffer we see the fate of all mankind and thus our own. And so, when we feel pity for those who suffer, we really feel pity for ourselves.

Some man, an expat working in Japan, mentioned on the news, the endless news, today how horrible it is when you go to a supermarket and almost all the shelves are empty. He said, for a moment I was afraid I might starve.

I don't know what to make of this. No, I want to say, you will not starve. You are living in a technically highly developed country and eventually your supermarket shelves will be full again. You will put money on the counter and get food in exchange and you will never have to find out what subsistence really is. And then I think to myself, aaargh you arrogant woman on your high horse, get lost. This man is scared to death by what has happened to him. Give him a break.

18 March 2011

from the wise man

Dear friends in Japan,

As we contemplate the great number of people who have died in this tragedy, we may feel very strongly that we ourselves, in some part or manner, also have died.

The pain of one part of humankind is the pain of the whole of humankind. And the human species and the planet Earth are one body. What happens to one part of the body happens to the whole body.

An event such as this reminds us of the impermanent nature of our lives. It helps us remember that what's most important is to love each other, to be there for each other, and to treasure each moment we have that we are alive. This is the best that we can do for those who have died: we can live in such a way that they continue, beautifully, in us.

August 1968

Nightime, I am woken by voices and creep downstairs. My parents are sitting on the low wicker sofa in the little holiday home on the Danish coast. There is something wrong about their postures, huddled forward, hands clenched, tears on my mother's face as they listen to the voice on the radio. A male voice, a man somewhere in a radio station cubicle, maybe with a steaming mug of tea or coffee next to the piece of paper he reads from about Prague and demonstrations and Russian tanks and uprising and bloodshed and more and more words that make my mother cry out, while my father tries to comfort her: they won't come here, now, now, don't worrry, we are all safe.

I climb into my sister's bed and we cannot make sense of this. The next morning, after breakfast  we are off to collect shells on the beach, my parents hiding behind their sunglasses reliving their war time traumas in the midst of this perfectly ordinary family outing. Two young vulnerable people trying, all the time trying their best to move on.

17 March 2011

a thought while watching the news on TV

But where the danger is, grows the saving power also. 
(wo die Gefahr wächst, wächst das Rettende auch)

Friedrich Hölderlin
Patrick's day can be just that little bit too oirish but what the heck I love this country so it's a day for cherishing it and all my ties with it and tons of memories.
This song is really all about the one delicious fabulous rainy August day we were hitchhiking to Roonagh Quay to catch the ferry to Clare Island, home of the magnificent pirate queen Grace O 'Malley.

Oh, the water
Hope it don’t rain all day

And it stoned me to my soul

Stoned me just like jelly roll
And it stoned me
And it stoned me to my soul
Stoned me just like goin’ home
And it stoned me

Then the rain let up and the sun came up

And we were gettin’ dry
Almost let a pick-up truck nearly pass us by
So we jumped right in and the driver grinned
And he dropped us up the road

13 March 2011

quick reminder

Sicily is wonderful. Fact.
Here you are on the road north and above Monreale, before you get lost in endless little hillside forest villages growing into suburbs and before you know it you are spat out onto the streets of Palermo where the rules of the road are interpreted differently - to put it mildly - and you soon turn into a tiger behind the wheel.

12 March 2011

that's how it was

He was always the first up. (Not just because of his job. He was and is an early riser. When he comes to visit these days, I can hear him shuffling around way before daybreak.)

He would pull up the blinds and give us a weather report complete with temperature and wind force estimates. When our replies were too mumbled, he would fold up the quilts so our feet  would stick out in the cold. 

There was always breakfast on the table. Hot tea. Milk. Fruit. He would already be invisible behind the newspaper. Do not disturb. Sometimes I remembered to make myself a sandwich for school. More often not.

The moment when he put down the newspaper and before he went up to the bathroom to shave was crucial. If you needed a signature or money for a school trip, if you wanted to try your chances for a bit of extra cash without a lengthy debate, permission for a late night, etc., now was the time. 

Waiting was not on the cards. When he was ready, you had better run, open the garage and the garden gate, close it when he had driven out, jump in the back and try to sleep for a while - or listen to the news programmes and soppy dancehall music on the car radio while he inched the car through the traffic jams or explored new short cuts. His mind on other things, already at work. At times he had to drop us some way off and we had to run for a bit to make it to school in time. Mostly he dropped us at the side gate stopping the traffic and there was never time for good byes.
I don't remember him ever setting a foot inside my school. Ever.

11 March 2011

ten minutes of perfection

Another visit to the dentist. While he taught me how to clean the various inflamed corners with a new fangled type of floss, the news on the radio were on reporting about a massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan. We both stopped, speechless, me with my mouth wide open and floss stuck underneath my tooth.

10 March 2011

gardening on the windowsill

the last amaryllis - in soft orange
the lemon tree recovering from the frost - looking good
the aloe vera almost getting ready to go out on the patio
three large branches of forsythia from Y's garden, cut this afternoon for me, almost flowering
and in the glass box where R starts his seeds:
ten little pots with sweet peas - they will be planted out in a few weeks
one small pot of basil - the first of many
one small pot of parsley - the first of many
a first lily shooting up from seed

ride the wave

I used to be a tough person. After 30+ hours of hard labour pains, I could handle any pain, I thought. Ride the wave until it is over. 
When we were living in paradise I lost a filling and eventually found this young Indian dentist and there we were, she in her gorgeous sari, me sitting on one of these ubiquitous white plastic chairs, shining the torch into my open mouth, while she drilled and sanded and whatnot without any anesthetics. We had a good laugh afterwards.

09 March 2011


I bet you can't do it, bet you don't know what it's about, says Jack C. with a hint of glee in his eyes. 
For months he has been checking me out, the weird foreign woman from the land of divorce and adultery and sin in general. All his life he has moved in the gentle circles of the likes of him and now that! She won't go to church, she happily lives in sin. And with his only son! 
He is forever testing me during his after dinner debates, playing his pope casettes when he has me stuck in his car and prayers, lots of prayers before and after meals. I am sure he prays for his son's soul at Sunday mass. And maybe also for mine.
But she won't budge. 
And, oh, have we started to enjoy each other's company? 
We have. We like each other a lot. 
But lent? The ashes, the rosaries? No. But 40 days of staying away from gluttony, from wanting and taking just because it's available, I will do that and: thanks, Jack, for the challenge.

08 March 2011

Gianmaria Testa

this is not begging

It probably says a lot about my self-esteem and whatever else, but I find it really hard to sort of stand up for myself right now. Not that it ever was easier but  somehow these situations didn't come up that often before, I suppose there was no need, maybe because I avoided them, maybe because I simply moved and worked and lived in an environment where I had found my place - I really don't want to analyse this any further.
Fact is, right now there are two big issues I have to fight for. Ah gosh, no, fighting is not the term. I have to do something about it because if I don't I am a right old shit and will no doubt wake up some night(s) furious with myself for not having done it. And then I will try to small talk it out of my conscience and pretend it's nothing and it will get digested the wrong way by my body and I'll get grey hair all of a sudden or a paralyzed arm or somesuch psychosomatic reaction. 
Ok Ok Ok
I just wrote my boss a benign pushy email without too much condescending waffle and just a hint of a threat explaining to him that I will be taking all my holiday entitlements due to me for the time I was out sick (seven weeks, thank you sweet German labour legislation) sort of now unless he hands over cash instead - which he is well able to. So, no, this is not begging.
Actually, I don't want to have seven weeks holidays right now. I just got back to work after 76 weeks of idleness. If I had the money and the energy and health, obviously I'd be off exploring etc. but as it stands, I'd rather be at work.
And the other thing is sitting here on my desk, pages and pages of forms to fill out for my application to get reduced earning capacity pension. The stuff they want to know just blows me: Where did you reside on July 1st 1990? Why do they need to know that??? If I tell them the truth - I suppose I  must - and write  
behind the huge old Banyan tree, east coast, main island, paradise ...
now what will they ask next?

06 March 2011

The ache inside my gums and teeth feels like a cold metallic lump. This is nothing, I try telling myself. This is superficial. Skin leasions and nerves picking up some signal. Harmless.

03 March 2011