The Teeth of a Lion

The dandelions are still out and about in the lawn, in various guises.

via iguanamouth.tumblr.com

(More here, the second illustration is lovely.)

I know they were some of Caine’s favourites, so of course I stopped to take a few photos (did not see any dandy lions, though – sadly).

Bright yellow and sneaking around in the grass!

 

Pretending to be a star.

And on the subject of vague nostalgia, here is song I meant to share a while ago, from a new folk/fusion/? group of singers called Tautumeitas (“The Folk Girls”, although the term ‘tautumeitas’ is generally used as a collective term for unmarried women who are not kin). They have a few I will be sharing (love their stuff), I know Caine herself shared one a while ago. This song is called Sadziedāmi, and the chorus, in essence, says: Let us sing together, sisters, while we are still in one place – who knows where each of us shall be other years?

 

Epics

There are many epic stories out there – it seems people throughout the ages have been entertained by stories of improbable heroism, impossible deeds, romance, tragedy, magic, friendship, betrayal and the binary battle between good and evil. Latvians are no different, except our own epic poem, Lāčplēsis (Bearslayer) dates not from centuries or millennia ago, but from the end of the 19th century. The author, Andrejs Pumpurs, took liberties with folk stories and expanded a typical hero’s tale into a mythical legend of the pagan fight against christianization. Lāčplēsis’ origins are a matter of slight debate, as in some versions, he was born of a bear with the ears of a bear, and his ears were where his strength resided – in other versions, he was merely adopted by a bear and raised in the woods until a local king found him and took him in, or he wore a hat of bears’ ears, where he hid his strength. In any case, he meets his tragic end tumbling over a cliff into the river Daugava while fighting the crusading Black Knight, and, as always, it is said he will come again at a time of greatest need (so far, no sign – I guess that’s a good thing?).

What’s very interesting is that Lāčplēsis is very much a national symbol – the highest military honour one can receive is the Bearslayer medal (Lāčplēša ordenis), and he is trotted out for all kinds of events and by the most nationalistic political parties – who are, the vast majority, very right-leaning christian. How they reconcile a supremely pagan hero with their beliefs, I don’t know – especially one who lived a rather non-traditional life-style during one portion of the epic (the author borrowed ideas, and I find interesting the possible connection between bears and the etymology of Arthur). But there it is.

Anyway. The story was put into musical form (a ‘rock opera’) in the 1980s, to great acclaim. Every now and then, a new performance is prepared, and the next one is due in early November. As it happens, it will be a full choir-and-orchestra version (the best kind!) and my choir will be among those performing. It’s a melodramatic piece of music, the best kind to perform, full of deep texts about freedom and bravery and time running through fingers like sand and other major themes, and lots of opportunity to sing your heart out together with the string and brass sections (and the cymbals!). I expect it will be a wonderful experience.

Here’s a small sample, a medley of some of the main songs, from the vocal-symphonic music concert from 2013 (I hope the video starts at the 1.43:08 mark). I’m not going to translate all the words, just the four lines of the final section so you can have a small idea of the drama of the words:

It is not water that flows in the Daugava, it is time

It is not blood that flows in your veins, it is time

It is not a wave that washes over us, it is time

It is not the whirlpool that twists into rings, it is time

25. Vispārējo latviešu dziesmusvētku Vokāli simfoniskās mūzikas koncerts Rīgas arēnā

The short guy on the left has one of my favourite voices ever.

(The video contains the entire vocal-symphonic concert, which I recommend if you like classical music. If you listen to the very end, the very last song is conducted by, in my opinion, one of the most talented conductors out there. Before taking over at the National Opera, he was artistic director of my choir, and his style and interpretation have biased me against many another worthy conductor.)

Alchemy

Friendship is a strange sort of alchemy of character.

In other words, two distinct people can randomly come together and discover an incredible compatibility. Alternatively, they can be as compatible as oil and water.

This short story is about the first situation, about someone I met at the beginning of summer through work. See, in the interests of improving Europe in general and participating globally, we have developed a partnership with Macedonia. The Macedonian team was visiting beginning of June, and I was invited to come along to a few social events due to my superior English (someone’s afraid to practice). Anyway, I met a new friend, quite unexpectedly. Me, the self-proclaimed pinnacle of anti-sociability. She was the interpreter, I was the language specialist, and we found strange but welcome common ground. During conversation, she discovered my art hobby, mostly through the series of small cat pictures I did for the lab going on two years ago (they hang on the walls in the new lab, I’m quite proud!) and was the first person to actually offer money for my art, specifically – for a reproduction of one of the pieces. She said the cat looked like an alchemist, and I like that naming. I had to overcome a few hang-ups about people paying for my art, as I’m used to creating randomly, as gifts, but she has insisted, and in this case I have come to the conclusion that it would be impolite to refuse, plus I’m very flattered. And from the alchemy theme, I altered the background and overall theme of the piece. Anyway, this is finished piece, slightly larger than the original (the wonders of technology!), and in a different colour scheme:

Alchemist cat!

I have titled it “The Alchemist”, and it is still small, about 15cm x 20cm. I rather like it. Next week I travel to Macedonia for the week and will have the opportunity to hand it over in person.

Anyway, as social as I can be (and it turns out I like putting on The Face and shmoozing at conferences, because there’s a lot of interesting people out there – minus a few creeps, but the biological sphere seems pretty balanced where I’ve hung out, so they are rather few), I am prone to bouts of something resembling depression and, as mentioned, being very anti-social. I like my alone time, a lot. I like dark music, I like melodrama, I like unhappy endings, never mind that I’ve managed rather well with my own life and situation. I’m always afraid that, once people discover what I’m really like, they won’t like me. So as contrast, here is Coheed and Cambria’s (we’ll be seeing more of this group) Dark Side of Me, a song that speaks to me on the unrevealed side of me. Oddly enough, it’s music like this that makes me feel better and can get me out of a funk.

(And check out dude’s hair, I went to their concert way back when and one of the distinctive things I remember is that mass of hair emerging out of the fog during the opening song.)

Turn of the Season

We went from 28 degrees on Saturday to single digits (and low 10s) since Sunday, plus accompanying heavy cloud cover, gusting winds and hail. I think it’s safe to say that autumn has arrived.

A few photos:

The same train station a couple of weeks later – note flaming reds and oranges right where the morning sun touches the leaves.

The walnut waving in the wind. Despite the light-coloured sky, it was quite dark when I got home, but I liked the melancholy feel.

So, here’s a song. Hawksley Workman is a Canadian artist with a nice feel for imagery. He only has the one major hit that I know of (<i>Anger as Beauty</i>), but I’ve always enjoyed his ode to autumn on an emotional level. Indeed, autumn is here.

This Is Just to Say…

Hello!

First of all, I am honoured to become a co-author together with voyager, Giliell and Charly, and most especially honoured to be doing it from this platform, Affinity. I know Caine asked me a couple of times to join the team and I dithered, and I am sad that I didn’t take the opportunity then. In any case, I hope to continue a fine tradition of diversity and random interesting stuff.

Most of you are familiar with my comments and probably have some idea of where I’m coming from, but just to recap: I am an ex-patriated Canadian re-patriated to Latvia (long story which will come out in bits and pieces), I work in the forensics field (nothing particularly gross), I have three kids, two cats, one dog and a husband, and all the assorted issues that come with co-ordinating life with several people. I am a martial arts practitioner – which sounds fancy until I tell you that I’ve only been doing tae kwon do for a year and a half or so, and also an amateur musician (classically trained in piano and violin, but a returning chorister as well). Most of these things, in some combination or another, will be my chosen topics. I hope to focus on the culture that I know (so expect a lot of Latvian music and arts), music (suggestions welcome) and, if I feel brave enough, bad poetry.

I’m glad to be here, and as much as I miss Caine and her distinctive voice, I’m happy we’re all here to carry on, because what else is there?

So, to start things off on a suitably impressive note, here’s a shortened video of a grand event that occurs once every five years – the final concert of the Latvian Song and Dance Festival, specifically the folk dancing concert. In July 2018, more than 18 000 (not a typo, so about 1% of the Latvian population) got together and performed in the soccer arena, making shapes and dancing their hearts out. If anyone wants to watch the extended version, I’m sure you can find a link, but the camera work was atrocious – the whole point is to view things from above. Seeing it in under a minute – wonderful. Here’s the high note to kick things off: