Getting back outside

IMG_3960

Deep into the fantastic autumn we were promised, and now that the Oktoberfest is finally behind us we can get onto the real heart of the season.

For mid October we’re having a genuine heatwave in Munich. It’s too late to call it Indian Summer, I believe. It’s warm and gorgeous in the daytime and not much cooler at night: it’s an Autumn Wonderland.

There has been leaf kicking, as well as plenty of conversations about how this is the best time of year. I wouldn’t bother getting into a discussion about it if you disagree. If you prefer summertime, you’re simply on the other team.

Winter? Well, that way of thinking has its place. I’m always up for a long dog walk in the snow, and huddling up in front of a fire is an exquisite pastime. Everything’s in a sort of hibernation, which appeals to my desire to ruminate and reconsider all of the things.

What about springtime you ask. Hmmm, you could probably make a case for that most tempestuous of seasons. I’d even entertain your arguments to be clear, whereas I’d ignore whatever the summer and winter folk had to say.

Nevertheless, I still find my mind wandering back to the fall. When you know everything’s dying, but it’s so beautiful while it’s doing it. The feeling that this moment in time is so precious and so fleeting – it reminds me to savour the now.

In the back of my mind I know the long, dark nights are just round the corner. Impatient and grumpy travellers on public transport we’ve got to look forward to and the once white snow getting increasingly dirtier and mushier. We’re not there yet, but it’s definitely coming. Encroaching upon our cheery last gasp of warm wind.

Don’t get me wrong. Aside from writing about it here, I’m not thinking much about the cold. Too busy revelling in the red and then yellow and then golden leaves. Even scrawling it here is keeping me from getting back outside.

Ushering them out the door: don’t tell a Scot what to do

IMG_0722.JPG

Have been chatting with the Scots in my circle of friends, and it looks like they’re going to go with Independence. This has been building for a while…apparently the whole ‘We’d rather govern ourselves‘ thing isn’t a new concept up north.

The curious thing is that not so long ago I agreed with the pundits who seemed to believe that at the last minute those more inclined to tradition would scurry back over to the side of staying in the UK. It seemed only practical.

What happened exactly? Between then and now?

Well, it seems the folk responsible for convincing the Scottish to vote to stay in the UK have chosen a rather curious tactic. The Better Together campaign are employing a mix of scare tactics and condescending rhetoric that’s supposed to freak out Scottish voters.

Just in the last few days, the news has been a mix of:

Well, if you vote for Independence, you can’t continue using the Pound Sterling as your currency.

Oh, and joining the EU isn’t going to be as easy as you think.

And anyway, hasn’t it always been better when we’ve all stayed together.

Behave now and vote for the security that we’ve been providing you all along.

With just the right amount of fear mongering and condescension, it seems the people who wanted to keep Scotland in the fold have instead ushered them out the door.

Simply staring out the window

 

Staring out the window one day long ago in Hamburg

Staring out the window one day long ago in Hamburg

Stumbling round the web today, I happened upon a New York Times article that was talking about how our brains work. The whole thing is worth reading, so I’ll link to it here:

Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain

However, you don’t need to read the whole thing to get what I thought was the best part. Never hurts if you can slide the word stick-to-itiveness into a sentence…here, enjoy:

This two-part attentional system is one of the crowning achievements of the human brain, and the focus it enables allowed us to harness fire, build the pyramids, discover penicillin and decode the entire human genome. Those projects required some plain old-fashioned stick-to-itiveness.

But the insight that led to them probably came from the daydreaming mode. This brain state, marked by the flow of connections among disparate ideas and thoughts, is responsible for our moments of greatest creativity and insight, when we’re able to solve problems that previously seemed unsolvable. You might be going for a walk or grocery shopping or doing something that doesn’t require sustained attention and suddenly — boom — the answer to a problem that had been vexing you suddenly appears. This is the mind-wandering mode, making connections among things that we didn’t previously see as connected.

Did you read that? Daydreaming mode. That’s the best mode. I excel at that one.

Have had some long meandering conversations this summer with some of my favourite people, and quite an unlucky few have difficulty with down time. Time when they don’t actually have to be doing something. It’s a topic I find myself coming back to again and again.

Writing and playing music and teaching are all things that I enjoy. They bring me untold pleasure, and I shine when I’m in my element. Yet, if there’s one thing I’m exceptionally good at, it’s idling. Doing as little as possible.

You don’t put much value in such a thing? Yes, I suppose I get that. Probably not going to change your mind on this one, anyway, which is why I was so thrilled to see the above-mentioned article. Don’t take my word for it.

The creative answers that make the breakthroughs? They don’t necessarily come when you buckle down and try harder. They just might materialise while walking the dogs or catching a street car. Or the one of the best scenarios for daydreaming?

Simply staring out the window.

Go ahead and try it. You’ll be glad you did.

 

German words and not talking opera

IMG_1395

She looks somehow optimistic, doesn’t she? What’s that she’s holding in her hand anyway?

You know, it can be a bit odd when you tell someone you like living in Germany. The person cocks his head, and either says it outright or visibly thinks, ‘But you could live in Spain or Italy…or anywhere. Why Germany?’

Then you admit that you actually enjoy speaking the German language…oh, and that you genuinely like the people.

The person you’re talking to cannot fathom that last bit. It is simply unfathomable.

Germans are boring. Everyone knows that (they’re not boring, but stereotypes are persistent). Actually, some Germans are painfully dull. However, I’ve met some Brits and dare I say even more Americans who’ve got the personality of drying paint. Every culture has its share of the socially inept. The comically uncurious.

Germans are humourless (aside from slapstick – many Germans adore Mr Bean, after all – the German sense of humour is  utterly language dependent…you’ve got to know the parlance to get the jokes). They’ve got a sense of humour. Do some individuals take themselves too seriously? Well, sure. Of course. I avoid those. I seek out the ones who see the lighter side of life here. The ones who can laugh at themselves.

And finally? Germans are orderly rule followers. Well, this one’s kind of true. It is true. There are exceptions, but on the whole there is a social order here. People do what they’re expected. They break rules and sometimes they lie, but for the most part rules are there to be adhered to.

Is that so horrible?

It’s rather good for someone of my ilk (a bit whimsical) to live in a society where things are reliable. If a German tells you he’s going to do something, generally that something gets done. It’s sort of refreshing.

What got me thinking about all of this? Well, I read this very funny page by Ed M Wood:

My Favorite German Words, My Barber and I

Go ahead. Click on the link above. It’s not going to hurt you.

There’s so much in here I can relate to. The words he chooses are some of my favourite. The way he winds the story of him and his barber through the list of words? Yes, I like that, as well.

My friend Amy has one of those calendars where you learn a little bit of German everyday, and she regularly regales me with the more ridiculous things that the damned thing is trying to teach her. If you think Ed M Wood‘s article is funny, you should hear Amy arguing with her German calendar.

Here’s the one from yesterday:

 

Quatsch keine Opern!
(Translation: Be brief!)
Literally? “Don’t talk operas!”
I like that a lot. Don’t talk operas for goodness sake. Not bad advice.

 

shameless self promotion

IMG_1985

This photo says enough that it really doesn’t need any text…nevertheless, this isn’t a photo blog. Find the appropriate words below.

Was about to say that I hadn’t talked about turtles in a while, but I went back and looked at my earlier posts on this blog and there’s nothing turtle-related. Not a damned thing.

Which is a bit strange, because I’m really into turtles.

And?

There’s a beautiful human female riding atop the turtle. Not in some inappropriate and potentially embarrassing way, either. As a matter of fact, I doubt you could misinterpret this lady and her motives. As beautiful as she might be, everything about her seems pure.

Wait, what are you blathering on about lahikmajoe? Is there any method to your madness?

Well, sort of. In a roundabout way.

See, I’ve been doing quite a bit of freelance writing and editing lately, as well as translating and proofreading. It’s been a bit of a boon, to be honest, but the sad reality is that I haven’t had much time for the whimsical that I typically find myself writing here.

The curious thing is that a good deal of the work I get is from people who first come here to look at samples of my style. Or they find old posts from the teablog if they’ve been able to circumnavigate their way around the patio furniture nonsense, that is.

If that last reference is lost on you, take a look at patio design ideas, and you’re guaranteed to be on the same page with me at least once in the last 10 minutes.

If more people are coming here to assess my writing, wouldn’t it be logical to make the writing more serious? More commercially viable?

I’m not against commerce. I’m not above shameless self promotion.

The thing is: if I’m already generating some sort of interest by simply writing about whatever the hell I want, and this is a personal and rather miscellaneous blog to begin with, shouldn’t I keep doing what got me here?

What I’ve noticed recently is that the more I write for other people, the more essential it is that I persevere in entertaining myself hereabouts. A pristine woman and the turtle beneath her is as good a place to continue as I could imagine.

If a handful of you enjoy it? Well, that’s lagniappe.

 

why would I want to dwell on any of that?

IMG_2229

Light coming in on steps in the Durham Cathedral

It’s been seven years since my dad died, and I wish I had better words to express how incomprehensible that still is. All those things you say when someone who was suffering has passed have slowly subsided. I remember him in the most inopportune moments, but there he is.

The things I dig deep within me to say about him are likely going to always fall short. When I slow down enough to notice things like that light pouring into the stairwell in the photo above, I’m reminded that he touched so many lives partly because he knew how to shut up and listen.

He truly was quiet. So few words emanated from him that there was a noticeable hush in the room when people realised he wanted to say something. When I was rather young, I remember he had the saddest smile sometimes. I suppose one of his successes was that the melancholy in his grin appeared to have evaporated.  Over the years, it was as if he just didn’t have the time or energy to be maudlin anymore.

There was a soulful singer he introduced me to who sang about the depravity of humanity. Beautiful songs, but really quite dark. Years later, I asked him why he never listened to that artist anymore.

I just realised one day that his songs were really depressing,‘ he said. ‘There’s enough sadness in the world – why would I want to dwell on any of that?

Yes, why indeed.

 

 

 

slowed to a crawl

IMG_0365_2

Getting out of the sunlight

Because of a new job and other obligations, there hasn’t been much time for blogging lately. Nevertheless, I was going through photos of Seville recently and  was reminded of the above moment when I escaped the burning sunlight. If you’re wondering whether this place was as peaceful as it looks, the answer is yes.

My friends who live in Seville, with whom I stayed  on that trip, were visiting Munich earlier in the summer, and it was such a pleasure to show off my adopted hometown.  There were a few evenings, after I’d been in the office all day and they had been traipsing around taking in the sights, where we sat and watched the dusk fade to nighttime.

There were no particularly profound things said. We reminisced about earlier times and momentarily solved some of the world’s more complicated problems. As much as I love the other seasons, this seems to be something particular to summer. That feeling of expansiveness after a good meal.

Some of us at the table had had what seemed to have been the perfect amount to drink, while others picked at the cheese plate that was served in lieu of dessert. Time may not have stood still, but it certainly slowed to a crawl.

Nothing like a meal with old friends, is there?