27 April 2016

Stormy, cold and wet. Outside on our quiet street, the kids from the primary school down the road are doing their cycling tests. Never mind the weather. It's all noisy chatter, bells and colourful raincoats as one after another cycles in lines and circles, practicing their turning and indicating and stopping skills under the supervision of an elderly police man, a couple of teachers and several mothers hiding under large umbrellas. I have been told that next, they will cycle on real streets with real traffic in long single file to the Italian ice cream parlour to celebrate their achievements with great cheer. This is the future.

25 April 2016

Sudden spring has been replaced by sudden winter - but we hope only briefly. While R hastily covered his vegetable beds with various elaborate sheets of plastic (it now looks like Christo was here), I said soothing words to the flowering lilac, which has been replanted to the left of the picture above. I think it will survive.
And now I am debating with my weaker self whether I will cycle to work, i.e. face nature in all its beauty and strength head on wrap myself in ill-fitting, leaking waterproof covers, or sit in the car listening to lovely music cursing and gnashing my teeth while looking for parking.

Ok, people die. Brilliant artists also die. It's sad, yes, but also a reminder. Life ends in death. Mine and yours and all others.
Malick Sidibe died earlier this month.

Janet Jackson once made a great video based on his photography. But I always hear this soundtrack here.

I think I will cycle. Life is too short to spend it sitting in a car.

19 April 2016

18 April 2016

And so, here we are. Sitting around the breakfast table with friends, home made bread, home made jam, coffee, a fat vase of tulips, the first strawberries, spring sunlight, reminiscing about our young and wild commune days, our children, the babies and toddlers now adults, talking about our aches and pains (knees and backs and ears and eyesight) and our fears of old age, illness, loneliness and dreadful old folks homes, when suddenly, we look at each other and all we need to do is smile. We have done communal living, home birth, we carried each others' babies when they were afraid of the dark, we should know how to do this. Of course.

16 April 2016

The Room in Which My First Child Slept

After a while I thought of it this way:
It was a town underneath a mountain
crowned by snow and every year a river
rushed through, enveloping the dusk
in a noise everyone knew signaled spring—
a small town, known for a kind of calico,
made there, strong and unglazed,
a makeshift of cotton in which the actual
unseparated husks still remained and
could be found if you looked behind
the coarse daisies and the red-billed bird
with swept-back wings always trying to
arrive safely on the inch or so of cotton it
might have occupied if anyone had offered it.
And if you ask me now what happened to it—
the town that is—the answer is of course
there was no town, it never actually
existed, and the calico, the glazed cotton
on which a bird never landed is not gone,
because it never was, never once, but then
how to explain that sometimes I can hear
the river in those first days of April, making
its way through the dusk, having learned
to speak the way I once spoke, saying
as if I didn’t love you,
as if I wouldn’t have died for you.

14 April 2016

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the human race.

H.G. Wells

My luck has come in again and I have been that adult on a bicycle for the last two weeks now. This is what it looks like every day when I have managed to survive 8 km of busy city traffic. This forest is my antidepressant. What you don't see - and why can I not take a picture on my phone that shows how steep it is? - is that right at the top here in this picture is where the first of two very steep hairpin bends begin.

Once I have managed these two tough bends, it gets easier and after about 4 km, it is all easy peasy level.

Right here at the t-junction I could turn left and cycle on through thick forest, vineyards and more forest for a couple of weeks, cross the Swiss Alps and the Pyrenees and eventually arrive in Santiago de Compostela because this small road is a branch of the Camino, the Jakobsweg. There was a time when we were seriously contemplating this trip. Well, maybe in another life time.

But here I turn right and go on for another 4 km through the most gorgeous lush forest, complete with small bridges and streams and very noisy birds, until I reach the university campus and my desk.

I started cycling when I was 5 years old. This bicycle here is actually a fancy electric bike. I have just completed 10,000 km on it (since 2011). It has saved me from a life of miserable chronic illness.

10 April 2016

The lawn is speckled with daisies and everywhere, forget-me-nots and lady's smock are sprouting out of the ground between the fancy tulips and sturdy pulsatilla. They're just weeds, complains R - but with a smile. He will not touch them until long after they are finished flowering. The fruit trees are slowly opening their blossoms. The wind has lost its edge. The garden is gentle and secret and beautiful all of a sudden. Spring is here.
All weekend my energy has been sputtering like a badly tuned engine and I mostly wandered from bed to sofa to armchair, crossing off things from my to-do list either because I actually managed to do them (bake rhubarb crumble, ironing) or because I've suddenly decided resigned that it doesn't matter (sort out tax files, clean fridge).
Meanwhile, R is digging and planting and moving entire sections of the garden to new locations and so on. I watch him fling that spade like a paper kite and I close my eyes with relief.
Last night when I reminded him of the time, he looked up from correcting exam papers and sighed, oh jeezus, they still haven't understood. I don't know how to teach this stuff any longer. Treating viruses with antibiotics! Why don't they listen in class.


07 April 2016

From Paul Salopek's article yesterday:

More than three years ago, while researching this long and very slow journey, I visited the remote Kenyan camp of the famed paleoanthropologist Meave Leakey. I recall setting out one morning for a nearby village.

“Is it within walking distance?” I stupidly asked Leakey.

She stared at me, astonished. “Everything is,” she replied.

(and if in doubt, I shall take my bicycle)

06 April 2016

Found this today on Beth's blog
Charles Bukowski was born a short distance away, it's a pleasant enough cycle along the river from where I am right now. 
One of these old towns dating back to the Romans and with a medieval fortress right in the middle.
It's pleasant and picturesque, I sat in one of the cafes eating Italian ice cream. But one New year's day we walked around in search of coffee and found only shut doors. These places are hell for teenagers. He would have hated it there, never mind the whole nazi thing which would have shaped his youth had the family remained in Germany.

No leaders, Please
by Charles Bukowski

Invent yourself and then reinvent yourself,
don’t swim in the same slough.
invent yourself and then reinvent yourself
stay out of the clutches of mediocrity.

Invent yourself and then reinvent yourself,
change your tone and shape so often that they can
categorize you.

Reinvigorate yourself and
accept what is
but only on the terms that you have invented
and reinvented.

be self-taught.

And reinvent your life because you must;
it is your life and
its history
and the present
belongs only to

04 April 2016

The paraphernalia of chronic illness surround me, rule my day, whether I am able to work and play or whether I am folding myself into blankets and soft cushions, there is a little box of medicines beside my bed that starts the day, there are excel sheets with lab data, folders of pathology reports, letters of discharge, certificates to show to the various agencies that finance my existence and so on.

Not a day without the effort to distinguish between being well and being ill but the boundaries are vague some mornings, I swing back and forth, almost violently at times, my mind wants one thing and my body dictates another.

Why do I continue to write this down, why this constant urge to find more words, another metaphor, a sharper description. Some times, all I want is spitting it out, in disgust and with anger. But on other days, I am simply driven by the need to document, to observe and to report, to myself, to the person I may be in weeks, months, years to come. To find a focus and not allow the impact to fade. 
The impact on body and mind. Before it all gets blurred and I should forget my healthy self completely. To let nothing stop me from being in love with my life. Being attentive, memorizing where I am today so that it all makes sense later. Because I forget easily how complete it all is despite the struggles and the sleepless nights, the exhausted evenings. There is no fight, no challenge, really. It may sound dramatic and impressive to some but no, I am simply alive, I am not fighting anything, there is nothing to win (or to lose). In all its difficulty, being ill has not really changed me, the way only I know myself. Maybe not yet, maybe it's too early. Maybe in the future. But today, I don't care.