How To Sharpen Pencils

Well, the end of last week was a pile-on of stuff, and even as I’m recovering, I have another work trip scheduled this week – that’s another two days of basic work productivity gone and done. At least I’m not going far this time, just down to Vilnius, and I don’t have to drive. I’m hoping my fellow travellers will let me nap in a corner. I’m just tired right now.

Anyhoo. The rat race is never-ending, as demonstrated by this video (the end was a real exercise in futility).

And you still get a song.

Spotlight Fever

It’s what they call stage fright here. What’s comforting is that I’ll be among a thousand other singers and no one will hear which notes I miss.

In other words, yes, it’s performance day. Here’s a fragment as performed during the Song and Dance Festival, this same soloist is performing the main role tonight. Not as good as the other guy, but he’ll do. The rest of the cast is also quite stellar; I’ll share my impressions after.

(Less comfortingly, I will not have the anonymity of these thousands of singers. But I think one among a thousand is okay, too.)

 

A small child plays in the crossroads,

Beneath the cart wheels, beneath the hooves,

Beneath the iron footprints.

 

A small child plays in the crossroads

Like time, sand runs through his fingers – 

It is our freedom, it is our life.

 

Call me louder, child,

Call me, I still hear – 

I still have a voice and words.

Call me, child!

 

Call me louder, child,

Call me, I still hear – 

I still have a voice and words.

But call me louder!

 

A small child plays in the crossroads

Like time, sand runs through his fingers – 

It is our freedom, it is our life.

 

 

Top of the World

Because the views were so epic, mountains for everyone! Most photos behind the cut, because… I seem to have the same affliction when handed a camera as several other people around here. Anyway, epic views being epic, the flight in (and then, out) was probably the most epic experience of the whole trip. Turbulence? Ya. Although I was told if the overhead compartments aren’t popping open, then I’ve had the easy trip. But what remains most about the flights in and out is that strange juxtaposition of feeling pretty terrified (understatement) yet reassured – the way the pilots handled the airplane through the turbulence was strangely comforting. Even with all the shaking and the bouncing, I never once had the feeling that things were actually out of control. And that is a powerful skill. I tip all my hats to the training and experience of those pilots.

Also I have included pictures of some fluffy horses between the epic views. Rather epic horses, actually – I can’t name the breed, but they were so beautiful, exactly my favourite in terms of size and general shape. Very beautiful horses.

Today’s musical selection is Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, because I wanted to capture the dread of flying in through turbulence like I have never had the privilege to experience before. And there was a bald mountain looming over everything. And since playing the piece in my second season with the Ottawa Youth Orchestra, I have a special attachment. This version is performed by the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra.

The bald mountain – I’ve forgotten its name, and I really shouldn’t, as all the mountains have names.
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Onwards for more mountain views!

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The Morning Was Made of Magnesium

That might be a slight exaggeration, but the sunshine through mist was certainly a treat for the eyes. Photos from one morning out in the country.

One photo from the bedroom window, just in case I missed the beauty by the time I got dressed.
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Down in the appleyard, an air of mystery was dominating the scene.
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The bees, though, were casting shadows.
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Apple season is over, but the spiders are still hopeful for a hearty meal.
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The morning was so wonderfully bright; the future is far more murky. Today of all days, I send my good wishes out to those of you at the electoral crossroads. My reservoir of hope isn’t empty yet, but the edge of despair is never far.

Abandoned Pieces of a Life

* I wonder if I should apologize for once again bringing up the rather weighty topic of death – late autumn and early winter seems to be a pensive time, and the dark nights and misty mornings are ideal for darkly wandering thoughts. Also, this season, until the solstice, is traditionally known as veļu laiks – “the time of spirits”, where the souls of dead ancestors are, for a while, released back into the world, to tread through the fog on familiar paths, and be welcomed into the household. In olden times, extra place settings would be set out, and foods left by the door to feed the hungry ghosts. This is not to say that there are no celebrations – there is at least one more harvest festival coming up soon, and the dark season is also rife with mummers and random visits in costume to one’s nearest neighbours. But one must also be wary out on the roads, especially after nightfall, so be kind to your ancestors and remember them well (the ones who deserve it, at least). In any case, the point of this ramble is that I feel affected and the lack of sunlight is very conducive to not only depressing thoughts, but also existential themes. Not everyone has to follow me, though. I promise I won’t haunt you about it.

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Macedonia 7 – Coming Down the Mountain

Back in Macedonia, having taken the ropeway to the top of the mountain, I decided to walk down – there’s a paved road, and I was told it only takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour. I suppose that’s 45 minutes if you don’t stop for photos along the way, which I did. A couple of times. It’s a nice walk with several gorgeous views and a lot of hairpin turns before the bottom, very quiet and isolated and, that time of year, with few people to meet along the way, except for the random cyclist coasting at speed. Along the way, which is the story I wanted to tell, I came upon a group of 5 or 6 inebriated young men. Not that there’s much to tell, because I did my best to walk past them without bringing undue attention to myself.

Of course, this was not possible – I don’t speak much Macedonian, but I’m pretty sure the things they yelled after me were not particularly polite. As soon as I’d turned the first bend with them out of sight, I took it upon myself to jog the next few turns, and carried a stack of prickles down my spine the rest of the way (more than half). At least they were going up the mountain.

In any case, I haven’t run through so many escape scenarios in my head for a long, long time. It was hard to go back to just enjoying the scenery and surrounding nature. But because I did enjoy it, you can, too.

 

Yellow flower.
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It was a sign.
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Nice paved roads.
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Some Really Fun Guys from Austria

As promised, I brought back some photos of Austrian mushrooms. These guys really know how to have fun. But first, a small scene setter (okay, two, because I couldn’t choose):

Couldn’t see much of the valley through the trees along the trail, and the sun was rather faint.
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And then there were the open spaces.
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Click through to the fun guys themselves:

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Some Really Fun Guys

Last weekend (or was it two weekends ago already?) the family and I had the opportunity to catch one of the last shining golden days of autumn, and we went out to the local nature reserve / park / artificial lake / walking trail. Thingy. It was well worth the effort, and along the way, I saw many fun guys having a great time in the damp moss beneath the pines. First, let me set the mood:

Gold everywhere.
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And then the party started…

This fun guy was having fuzzy feelings all over.
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This fun guy was just trying to blend in.
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This fun guy was lolling about in the needles.
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This fun guy was taking a break.
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This fun guy was moving up the social ladder.
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This fun guy was kind of alien, and I’m pretty sure – no fun guy at all!
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And a final lot of fun guys:

Macedonia 6 – This Place Rocks

Let me start off by saying that I miss rocks. I grew up on the Canadian shield, and granite outcroppings were a regular fixture of my childhood, along with mica-and-quartz hunting, breaking beaver dams and catching leeches in the pond.

And while I miss all of those things to greater or lesser degree, I wasn’t prepared for my own rather overly emotional response to seeing large pieces of rock (as in, cliffs and boulders you can stand on and not individual erratics but part of a mountain!). I went up the mountain in Macedonia expecting a nice view, but got a shoe full of quartz fragments (pocket, but nevertheless) and tears in my eyes. It was beautiful. Well, kind of dull and brown and grey, but beautiful.

And then! Coming down the mountain (I have a story about this but I will place it with some pleasant picture of flowers in a later post) I saw many more incredible rocky things that warmed the cockles of my heart. Behold.

This is actually the view that made me cry. Glorious, innit? ©rq, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

More after the break, but first, here’s your song.

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The Sun Rode Into the Sky

Saule Brauca Debesīs (see title for translation) is a neat little Latvian animation film coming out soon (November 15). It’s part of the ‘100 Films for 100 Years’ cycle going on this year, what with the centenary and all. I think it quite lovelily demonstrates the oddity that is Latvian animation and art – it’s got its own style that is distinctively, traditionally Latvian, and the story is taken from folklore: folk songs and folk story motifs are a heavy influence. I think it’s adorable. Here’s the trailer:

I don’t think you need too much of the language to get an idea of the plot.

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Life, Death and Love

In a weird sort of mood, I think it’s the mountains – there’s so much space, but simultaneously a sense of enclosement, because there’s a lot less sky than I’m used to. And I have a distinct feeling that they’re not real; I can’t reach out and touch them. Even taking a walk did no good. It’s surreal and beautiful, and yes, I took lots of pictures. Of mushrooms and faraway horses.

Anyway, this picture struck a chord:

I’m not sure who to credit, if anyone knows, please let me know!

So you get that picture and a song by Leonard Cohen.

One of his best, I think.

It’s Still Beautiful

Remember this?

It is now about four weeks later, and five shades darker:

I’ll take another photo in another couple of weeks, same time, same place.
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Also I have a small confession to make: since I received my Acceptance Ring from Lofty via Caine, I haven’t removed it for any significant amount of time. Lately, though, it was getting loose on my thumb, to the point where it would slip off (into my purse, a pocket, the floor of the car), but I have always been able to find it again. Soon after taking this photo, however, it slipped from my thumb and fell onto the tracks. I can see it, every time I wait for the train, and I’m trying to get up the guts to retrieve it (believe me, train traffic is not nearly so busy for this to be a truly life-endangering activity) – my thumb feels naked, and I’ve lost a fidget toy.

On the other hand, there’s a strange appeal to knowing the ring is just down there, a little piece of the world of Affinity, a little part of my everyday morning. So I think that, eventually, I will go after it – when the evenings get dark enough for people not to see me rooting around underneath the platform. In the meantime, a small gift from friends has melded with something larger.

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