Winter Has Come

And nobody knows for how long!

This morning I left home about a half hour later than usual because I had to take the car in for pre-winter-season servicing, which is always a fun time of year, but that’s not the point.

The point is the wonderful clear winter morning light – compare the darkness with the photos from the train station a few weeks ago. I’m determined to get that same shot tomorrow, though I have no idea if it will be overcast darkness, or the wondrous pearly dawn we had today. In any case, here’s the backyard all snowy, and the subtly dramatic colouring of the sky, heralding a sunny winter’s day:

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There’s a bright light in the sky!
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This isn’t a theme with the moon again – but it’s interesting to see the same half moon at a different angle.
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And the song I wanted by this band, Fight the Feeling, could not be found by me on youtube, but here’s something appropriate in theme by The Music.

Imaginary Experiments in Transgenics

I have a colleague who has a pet horse and also a pet spider.

This is the card she got for her birthday:

I haven’t worked out the internal anatomy. That’s an issue for an actual geneticist, I’m just the conceptual artist!
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It’s a bit rushed because I totally forgot that I had to have it done for that day, but I had the idea all set up in my head. And mostly got it right.

Kosmoss

As somebody famous once said, we are the pale blue dot. From far enough away, invisible. Insignificant. Tiny. An isolated speck in an isolationist universe. In the cold mountain air, I found the stars had an extra sharpness at night. Humans can go so far in that darkness, but it is laughably close on the grand scale of galaxies. Here’s a peek into the great universe, as taken by me in Austria:

Our satellite, our companion.
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My favourite constellation, Orion. We call it the Hunter here, and I wonder if its variety of names is as diverse as that of the Big Dipper?
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But as much as I want to be just excited about another scientific and technological achievement, it’s hard to disconnect from the news today. Humans can be so selfish, and inconsiderate, and greedy, and destructive. Anyway, here’s Muriel Rukeyser back in 1968:

I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
The news would pour out of various devices
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
To let go the means, to wake.
I lived in the first century of these wars.

It appears to be the second century of these wars. And the universe goes on and will go on without us, because humans are just that important. I just wish we could be selfish enough to consider mutual survival.

Working Iron

I’ve noticed metalworking is a bit of a theme around here (thanks to Charly, kestrel and Marcus), and so it’s no coincidence that I discovered a new fantastic personality in the field of Women Blacksmiths:

Her name is Elizabeth Brim and she’s made her name forging and inflating playful, elegant, and unexpected objects out of iron, a decidedly indelicate material. Bourdain travels to her home in North Carolina to meet with the pearl-wearing master metalsmith, first as she meticulously fashions a flower and then as she spreads knowledge to her students at the Penland School of Crafts.

“I was brought to believe that I needed some man to take care of me and to pay the bills and to make sure the oil in my car was changed and my tires were good… and so I’m really proud that I was able to pay that house off by selling my work,” Brim says to Bourdain when they talk about the aftermath of a failed marriage. She’s just so, so great. Bourdain himself even says she’s the type of woman his own daughter will grow up to be.

The video at the link is her interview with the late Anthony Bourdain. It’s worth a watch, she seems such a fantastic character and I would love to spend a day with her, in her forge or elsewhere.

Loreena McKennitt has a nice song about a blacksmith, but he’s a two-timing, gaslighting liar, so here’s Ani DiFranco instead:

Bauska – Part 2

As promised, a quick visit to the old castle in Bauska! Basically it’s a small uneven field of stones surrounded by red brick walls. Its piece de resistance? The old tower still stands and has been fortified for climbing.

Now back in the day (the ’90s), they used the old ruin for an outdoor nighttime performance of Hamlet, and actors were placed on the crumbling walls, making entrances and exits in dramatic lighting (mostly open fire, what can I say) and apparently the show was really something else. Would love to have seen that, alas – I am left only with my imagination, as today’s many, many safety standards would prohibit even the attempt of something similar (and thank goodness for those standards).

Anyway, here’s the soundtrack, and enjoy the bricks!

A peek back to the ‘new’ castle. Watch out, there might be intruders approaching!
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I Answer Crip Dyke’s Question

A while ago, Crip Dyke had a question. I answer it here: the performance.

It’s potentially a limited-time offer (up to 7 days!), also it might be a country-limited offer, but it’s worth a shot. I recommend not trying to figure out the story-line, because even die-hard fans of the epic poem had a tough time figuring it out (due to the lack of actual stage action – it was more concert than theatre). It’s two hours of odd and epic music, but skip the first 7 minutes, it’s a boring intro of people talking. See if you can guess my three favourite manly soloists (all the female vocalists were awesome, but my especial favourite is the one who shows up in the silver dress).

I’m standing pretty much in the middle of the choir behind the stage, third row from the bottom. I don’t clap when everyone else is clapping (for anyone who makes it that far).

I add a few photos of the light-show as viewed from behind the stage during rehearsal.

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Macedonia 8 – All Creatures Great and Small

Nothing particularly unusual, just a small selection of Macedonian arthropods enjoying the end of summer / early autumn. There were so many more that I spent time just enjoying, including several other butterflies (in addition to the previous), various flying hymenopterans (including a wasp with a long narrow waist that I’d never seen before!), and my goodness the orthopterans – I swear I’ve gone down in grasshopper legend as a harbinger of doom because I’d wander through the grass, and they’d go fluttering off in all directions. The best part? They were all grey, brown, green on the outside, but in flight, those gentle camo colours exploded into bright reds, blues and yellows. Stunning.

Anyway, some insects:

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Bauska – Part 1

I have two posts for the town of Bauska – the castle of Bauska (you’ve seen the grand tree out front), actually: Old Bauska and New Bauska. Well, “New” Bauska, since the new castle still dates back to the 17th century, I think. Old Bauska is from the 15th century or so. Since WWII, when it was destroyed with the German retreat, both parts lay in ruins – reconstruction was begun in 2008, and as always, is done mostly by serious and seriously dedicated hobbyists. Strategically located on a peninsula between two rivers, it was geographically convenient for both defense and trade, and is now a wonderful place to spend an afternoon with overactive children, since the territory is perfect for some educational wandering, followed by rambunctious running around in the former park-slash-dendrarium.

We visited at the end of summer, and I was very pleasantly surprised by the tourist-friendly reconstruction – and even more, I was impressed by the craftsmanship that has gone into creating a historically informative experience.

But I think what stays in my memory the most is the amount of light these rooms get – a lot of movies with castles portray them as dark and smoky, with little natural light. Granted, this was summer, full sunlight, and nary a smoky torch to be found. In any case, have a look and bask in the light and craftsmanship of the new Bauska castle:

Courtyard, angle 1 – the brick towers in the background are the remnants of the old castle, saving that for part 2.
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Horses For Caine

(Or, When I Think About People. This is what happens.)

This share has been a long time coming, because it felt right to ask Rick’s permission to share – mostly I’m of the opinion that I’m allowed to share my own art, but I wanted to be sure this time. Thank you, Rick.

Back at the end of spring, I was finally ready to make some art for Caine, and I had it all figured out – but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do a companion piece for Rick, because while we, as readers, may not have seen much of him, he was certainly there for Caine and deserves more than general acknowledgement. I had him down as more of an Air person, but I double-checked, and Caine had no doubts – Water it is.

Caine, of course, is Fire.

Yes, the photo is bad quality, but it’s the one photo I took that makes any sense, and… I dunno, it works for me. Most of my art goes out into the wide world and I never see it again. I try to keep track, and maintain an archive, but I’m lazy like that and some of my favourite pieces have no record at all.

Both pieces are about A5 (half a Letter-sized piece of paper, for you NAmerikaners), done in acrylic, and both were inspired by incredible people. I’m glad to know that they arrived in time for Caine to see them.

They’re Rick’s horses as much as they are Caine’s horses.
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And no, there will not always be time. But sometimes there will be just enough.

I miss Caine.

I Had Plans

They didn’t include a break, but as it happens, ’tis the season.

Last y’all heard of me, I was becoming a star, and I expected to be back on track by now – turns out, two post-1am nights plus a workday plus a day of rogaining followed by a day of children’s tae kwondo tournaments isn’t exactly a recipe for recovery (after 22km and a record* 48 points in 4 hours on Saturday, I hope you believe me I was practically dead on my feet come Sunday, but parental duties meant I got to sit in a gym for most of the day, keeping a little person’s nerves calm)… and then there was the work trip to Vilnius, and then the centennial celebrations plus my mum’s birthday this weekend. That’s a long list of excuses, but there you have it, at my age, excuses is all you have. I’ll be back on track with a couple of more Macedonia posts (have to finish with those before the next trip comes up, and that, as it turns out, has come up a lot faster than expected, by request of the project leaders and I have two kinds of thoughts about that), I have at least one more post from Austria, and then a few randomly selected picture essays from the summer and early autumn.

In the meantime, please accept my apologies, some rather boring photos from the show (I am in the circle of light) and this lovely song by The Stars, which quite often reflects my ideas about life, planning, and my own expectations. I can write a script and set the scene as much as I want, but life provides its own twists and turns and cliffhanger endings. In other words, I am fine, and I apologize for not keeping up with the rest of you, especially with my forest raking. ‘Intermittent’ is my middle name.

  • A record for my team and I, since we’re not hardcore and we don’t run, we maintain a fast walk, preferably between 5  and 6 km per the hour, take breaks in picturesque locations, and collect as many points as we can. Previous high-scoring events have topped off at 43 or so.

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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