Wednesday, August 24, 2005
The Japanese have their gravel gardens, with alters and massive lanterns hewn out of stone. They have a special wooden rake to make patterns in the gravel. The planting is sparse, and a lone contorted bonzai will be the focal point. The rustling of the bamboo leaves and the trickle of running water will be the meditative music they hear.
The English have their cottage gardens which are a riot of colour, hot red and cold blue, tall and short, foliage and flowers spikes. The cottage garden is seemingly not planned, a dozen different seed packets are mixed togeter in a big paper bag and shaken up, and then the seeds are scattered like confettii on the ground, and what comes up comes up, and whatever order there is... is glorious disorder, a profusion of colour, and a swirl of perfume from the leaves of the geranium that are disturbed by the brushing of a passing trouser leg.
You need to take time to observe plants. Time to study their growth, their movements, their colours and their scents. Plants have a calming influence on the soul... if you stop for and instant and observe them.
Take a walk outside. Out into nature. Find a comfortable spot to sit down and look at the scenery for 15 minutes. Do it on a black night in a thunderstorm when tree leaves are dancing with the raindrops. Do it in the middle of winter when the needles of the spruce trees are crystaline with hoare frost. Do it in the summer when the bees are buzzing with excitement, driven crazy by the warmth of the sun and the breaking buds of honeysuckle. Take a clover flower in your mouth and suck it, and know what the bees are excited about. In Spring take a birch branch between your fingertips and observe the newly emerging fresh green tender leaves.
Take some time out, from the business of life.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
He was a good mimic and had a vast repertoire of barking noises. One morning he entered our bedroom and looked wistfully out the window at the neighbours shaggy white Scottish terrier.
It barked up at him and he barked back. He barked in a female flirtatous Scottish terrier way, which infuriated the male dog down in the yard. He had a long barking conversation with this dog, and then out of the blue he remarked "If you shoved a pole up that dog's arse it would make a fine feather duster"
It is good if a father can make his children laugh but it is even better when children make their parents laugh. Laughing is all about listening, and giving your attention to another person. Laughter always involves inventiveness.
The best laughter is spontaneous. It does not come as the punchline of a joke, but instead is conjoured up on the spot, plucked out of thin air.
"It has been a quiet morning."
"Have you been wearing earplugs then?"
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Ahh the joys of being on the road and sleeping out in the open. There is nothing finer than to find some shelter if there is a mere whiff of rain in the air, for it is the very worst to be caught in the open in a thunderstorm. In northern Germany I found this wooden bus shelter and spent a pleasent night sleeping out in the forest.
When I was younger and the weather and the summer climate better and I was on the road hitch-hiking from Barcelona to Tangier, my eyes were always on the look out for a place to sleep. Beaches were the best because the sand was like a bed. It molded itself to the shape of your body. Beaches were generally free from creepy crawlies, and the breeze at night warm and calming. Except for the magnificent beach at Tangier which was deserted at night. We were told it would be foolhardy to even try to sleep rough in Morrocco... too dangerous. So mainly it was on the rooftops of hotels, with other people on the way to Marakesh via Casablanca.
The next best thing to sand was a Swiss hay stack, no such luck now-a-days since everything is done up in tight bales. Or the forest floor in Sweden if it was mossy. Other useful places were parks and graveyards or a flat roof if you could find it. The best flat roof I ever slept on was in Split former Yogoslavia where I slept on the roof of an aquarium. I was always on the lookout for structures that would give shelter. I slept under a bridge on a wild night on the way to Scotland, but it was always best to avoid shelters in urban districts and find them in the rural areas since your nights sleep was less likely to be disturbed.
The worst that can happen is to sleep through a mosquito attack and wake up in the morning like a leper with a face like a stocking filed with walnuts. It happened to me in Arles southern France and I immediately knew why van Gogh cut off his ear. He was driven crazy by mosquitos.
I have slept in winter in the Finnish forest in a paper bag used for keeping clothes in. The only concession I made for the dampness was that I put the paper bag inside a couple of black bin-liners. Those were the days of traveling light. A toothbrush in the breast pocket was all the luggage you needed. And you turned your underwear inside out and worn it back to front to get more milage out of it. The same applied for socks
Benches in a lay-by often make good beds since you are up off the ground. If you do get stuck in the forest and it is cold it is best to get some insulation by cutting down fir branches. But as I have gotten older I find it harder to sleep in uncomfortable places. Steel benches in a park now give me some trouble, as do plastic seats on the deck of a boat. Not because they are hard but because they are narrow. Bones are more brittle, less supple. There was a special technique of resting your head in your girlfriends lap while she rested her head in your lap, that made park bench sleeping more than bearable.
As the song so rightly says. Everybody needs a boosom for a pillow, and as in life the main things about sleeping in the open is that you have shelter, warmth and comfort.
Saturday, August 06, 2005
At 8:15 on August 6th 1945 the United States of America droped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima Japan. Three days later on the 9th of August they droped a second bomb on Nagasaki.
In his radio speech to the nation on August 9, President Truman called Hiroshima "a military base."
There is a world wide project called "The sudden morning" where people around the world take a picture near their home at 8:15 in the morning on August the 6th and then upload the picture to share it with the world.
The picture I took is of a couple of towers that my grandson Noa built in the playpark outside our house. He built them a few days ago, and I am amazed that they are still standing. He was playing a game that involved the two towers from "The Lord of the Rings", though he made continual slips of the tongue and refered to them as the "twin towers".
It would seem that death and destruction are hard=wired into the marrow of our bones, and that every generation has images of a mushroom cloud, a towering inferno, or a tidal wave, burnt into their retina. If there were some heavenly scales, and love and peace was weighed in the balance against war and hate, I wonder which side would weigh the heaviest? We spend so much time thinking about love, and so little time actually experiancing it.
At 8:15 I went out to take some pictures for "The Sudden Morning" project and suddenly the two towers/twin towers had come to symbolise Hiroshima and Nagasaki... still standing.
The thought occured to me that it is so much better to build than to destroy.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
Then she told her joke. A Finn goes into a shop to buy a new saw. He asks the salesman if the new saw will cut an trim 8 cubic meters a day, the salesman says no problem. He buys the saw and takes it to work.
A week later he returns to the shop and say the saw is no damn good. No matter how hard he worked he could only manage 7.5 cubic meters in a day.
The salesman says perhaps he was not using the saw properly, and that it was a question of technique. The salesman pulls the rip cord and starts up the chainsaw and the Finn jumps back in astonishment and exclaims
"What the hell is that noise?"
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Have you ever wondered about the beauty of nature? Jasper was in the forest and Maija handed him a wild strawberry and he tasted it and said enthusiastically. "This tastes just like yoghurt"
I took Elli and Noa to the allotments to dig up some potatoes and they were surprised to see that you dug potatoes out of the ground. "we thought you got them from supermarkets"
The germination of a seed, the growth of leaves, the breaking of a bud into a flower, the pollination of a flower, the development of a fruit. Nature is so ordered and one thing follows another.
We expect things to progress in a certain order and we are comforted by the stedfastness of nature, and we would sometimes hope for similar certainties in our own lives.
When our lives do not move in the expected directions it is then that we need moonbeams on the water, the setting sun laying down a path of gold, the water waiting to bathe our souls, the air a comfort and sooth.
Night swimming deserves a quiet night. To settle slowly into the water, to observe the ripples and colours. To have the dog tire of its barking and to lay its weary head down on its crossed paws and close its eyes in sleep. To be wraped in a warm towel and to stare at the remains of the day with a friend, and not have to utter a single word.
Night swimming deserves a quiet night, and a quiet soul.