I have recently realized that I love being read to. Currently, I listen every evening to one chapter of Tracy Chevalier’s novel “The Lady and the Unicorn”. Don’t misunderstand me; there is nothing better then the solitary action of curling up with a good book, getting lost in time and space. But – the experience of closing your eyes, shutting the outside world out and just getting consumed by the story as it is presented to you by someone else is not something to dismiss. This brings back the recollection of my childhood, when I fell asleep to the voice of my father, as he read to us from the book “The fairytales under the veil”. Or our teacher in preschool, reading from a favourite book in the afternoons. Never was the class so quiet and still as then. A similar experience can be gained by listening to the radio, or audio books. I recall - before the existence of cable TV with hundreds channels - then there were the Sunday afternoon radio shows that so often captured my attention and my imagination. As the sound kept transmitting into the aether, being the only source of input, I found it so relaxing and incredibly exciting to envision the story streaming from a small radio. It is exactly like that today, when I have someone reading to me. Although perhaps it is slightly more personal and intimate, when only one particular person is sharing this experience. I simply close my eyes and enjoy the visual performance that plays out in my mind, imagery derived from a talented writers words, which a familiar, soothing voice, conveys to me.
This weekend I have been introduced for the first time to a new dish. My very generous visitor from Ireland brought me something called white and black pudding. When he told me about it at first, I though he was talking about some sort of a desert. Like a vanilla-chocolate pudding. Imagine my surprise when this pudding turned out to be a meat dish. Although similar to some of the meat I have been served as a child when growing up in Eastern Europe, this was still a very new experience to me. I was told that you either prefer the black or the white and that it is usually served with rashes, eggs, sausages, beans and toast as a traditional English or Irish breakfast. Well, it seems that I prefer the black pudding. Additionally I have to say that now I have found yet another Irish addiction.
In recent years, I have observed strange phenomena in nature. I see spring bushes blooming in the fall. Perhaps this is a natural occurrence, but I have not noticed this until perhaps a few years ago. Rosebushes have fruits and flowers at the same time (as seen on picture taken in the end of September) and my hedge is in full bloom, although its flowering season is in May-June. Well, I do not mind, it is beautiful to see flowers, when the leaves are about to fall and the days are getting shorter and colder. Maybe nature, just like me, simply refuses to acknowledge that autumn is here.
The nights are getting colder and this morning there was frost on the grass outside. For some reason this brought back a childhood memory. When I was about 7 years old, for a short time, I used to live outside Prague in a very small town. A village, one would rather say. It was a very carefree time and I remember it very fondly. No troubles, no worries. Only the joys of childhood. I was very happy. I attended a small school and remember being out in the nature a lot. Both during the school hours and "after school", we would be outside, in the incredibly beautiful landscape which surrounded the small town. Rolling hills, woods, fields. This was in the early 70's during the hights of the communist era, but I knew nothing of that, nor did it worry me. I felt free. There is one significant memory I have from this time. Or rather, from the school. The only source of heat in our small classroom was a big, chunky metal oven, where the fire was kept going the whole day during the winter. Therefore it was not at all unusual for the teacher to ask any of us to "...please put another log on the fire..." during a lesson. It was not strange to me at all then. But considering the way (and where) I live now, this memory will remain a curiosity lasting a lifetime.
I think it must be wonderful to be a child today. All the technology around us, the access to computers, cellular phones, DVD's. Having the whole world at your fingertips and growing up with not even knowing otherwise. My first memory of seeing a computer was when I was about 15 years old. We had a computer room in school. The machines there were big and chunky and only the "nerdy" boys knew what they were all about or had any interest in them. I wouldn’t touch the things and was totally indifferent to this technology. My first experience of actually using a computer came much later, when I was at the university. I used it to type up one of my graduate projects and considered it more a typewriter than anything else. I don’t recall much, only that the screen was black, the text was orange and it was a DOS system (I think?). I remember those big "floppies", with a hole in the middle that we saved all our work onto. Ok, it seem I really did not know much, and I really did not. My first real interest in computers came much later, when I moved to the US: I got exposed to something new and beautiful. To the Macintosh from Apple. I knew what it was, as I have briefly seen a commercial for it in a cinema once. But never seen one in real life until then. And my life with computers was never the same from now on. My relationship with Apple started with a little black and white Macintosh Classic, which I soon updated to a Colored Classic II. I stayed true to the Apple throughout the 90s, when their market share was low, or non-existent and it was difficult to even get decent software at times. I owned both Macintosh LC and Mac IIsi until the advances of Internet and the very successful come back of Mac that started with the introduction of iMac and iBook, in all the psychedelic colors, in the late 90's. Today my laptop is my best friend and I sometimes have to remind myself how incredibly fast everything has changed, when I am sitting outside surfing the net via a wireless connection. If someone would have told me when I was 15 how important this small technological miracle would be to me one day, I would have never believed it.
And so, once again this year, the day and the night are equally long. The fall equinox took place yesterday. This means that we are entering the fall season. From today, the days are going to get shorter and colder. Autumn can have a sort of a melancholic feeling to it, as it represent a certain end to the beauty and wealth of the summer season. Gone are the lazy, carefree and warm days. However, fall can also have a certain charm. All the brilliant, strong, warm colors everywhere as the foliage changes; the sweet taste of freshly picked, ripe apples; cold, revitalizing long walks on the beach just before sunsets; hot cup of tea or coffee in front of the fireplace in the evenings. Every season holds it's own magic, if one cares to look.
Hope is what gets us through and gives us strength to go on, even though we feel like giving up. Hope is what makes sense out of situations that seem impossible and unsolvable. As I am getting older, sorrows and losses are becoming a more obvious part of my life and the lives of people that are very dear to me. Therefore, my search and need for hope and the necessity to offer hope is stronger as well. Never have I seen hope depicted more powerfully than in the movie "Shawshank Redemption". The film stars Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne and Morgan Freeman as Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding, and portrays two inmates that become friends while spending over 20 years in prison together.
Here is one memorable quote (out of many) from this oscar nominated film:
Andy: That's the beauty of music. They can't get that from you... Haven't you ever felt that way about music? Red: I played a mean harmonica as a younger man. Lost interest in it though. Didn't make much sense in here. Andy: Here's where it makes the most sense. You need it so you don't forget. Red: Forget? Andy: Forget that... there are places in this world that aren't made out of stone. That there's something inside... that they can't get to, that they can't touch. That's yours. Red: What're you talking about? Andy: Hope.
When I was younger, I did not care much for Sundays. They could have been non-existent for all I cared. Being slightly worse than Mondays, they were the least favorite days of the week. These were the days when everything went very still and this was the end of the “oh so short!” weekend. For all those years I spend in school, this meant I had to do my homework and prepare for the week ahead. I remember having friends who did all their homeworks on Friday, which I found completely crazy and ridiculous. I was not going to spoil the best day of the week with school choirs! But, secretly I envied their determination. And I continued with my procrastination, saving mine for Sundays. So there I would be sitting half the day at my desk, doing algebra and geography, struggling, while the whole world seemed to be resting. By the time Sunday evening came, I felt tired and drained, not ready at all for what was ahead of me. But, then I grew older and homework became a thing of the past (very distant past at this point) and Sunday became the best day of the week. The stillness was suddenly very welcoming. Getting up early, knowing this day belongs to me only; being ahead of the world gave me a feeling of freshness and new beginnings. I have gotten up early enough in the past to watch the sunrise with freshly brewed coffee, while the whole world was still asleep. Or I could choose sleeping in late, staying in bed the whole day if I wanted to, as there was no longer any school waiting for me and only I was in control of this day. Additionally, in recent year, someone very dear to me became my companion, spending these laid back days with me, making them into a relaxing, soothing personal ritual. In his company I find strength to deal with the week ahead, making Sundays the days of the week I can no longer be without.
In 92 I bough a small book written by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., called "Life's Little Instruction Book". What a marvelous little read! Mr. Brown wrote this for his son, when he was about to leave for college. It is a collection of 511 "instructions" on how to live your life. I have read it many times and every time I do, I find something that suddenly makes sense to me, all over again, in a new way. I would like to list just a few instructions, once in a while, as this wonderful book can be of interest to everyone, not just kids leaving for college.
1. Compliment three people every day. 2 Watch a sunrise at least once a year. 3. Remember other people’s birthday. 4. Have a firm handshake. 5 Look people in the eye. 6. Say "thank you" a lot. 7. Say "please" a lot. 8. Plant flowers every spring. 9. Drive inexpensive car, but own the best house you can afford. 10. Drink champagne for no reason at all.
In Sweden, “gardening therapy” has been used with success for many years. People suffering from depressions or other illnesses of the mind, spend weeks or months outside the cities, on manors or farms, tending to the gardens and green houses. I myself love being in the garden, caring for my plants, bushes and flowers in colourful pots. Truly, there is nothing more tranquil or soothing. To plant something and to watch it grow and thrive, becoming beautiful and strong, gives me incredible satisfaction. I grew up in apartments and although my mother kept plants all over the place, it never interested me much. My parents bought their first house when neither my sister nor me lived at home anymore. The little patch of land they had with their first house, they managed to make into an exquisite garden, full of lush plants and flowers. This avid interested was highly contagious and today, I have my own green corner that brings me happiness, gives me time to relax and soothes all my senses. Furthermore, I get continuous compliments from everyone, commenting on the beauty of my plants. I am always asked what my secret is, how do I manage to get my plants looking so lovely. And I am more than happy to share that secret with anyone who asks. As it is indeed very easy; you just give your plants or flowers regularly water, food, sun or no sun, depending on what they desire and most of all, your love and care. And they will give you years, perhaps decades of happiness back. It is indeed not much different then dealing with people.
My absolute favorite painting is "The Meeting on Turret Stairs", by Sir Fredrick William Burton. A large reproduction of this painting on canvas was recently given to me as a gift by a very special man. I have placed it in my bedroom, so it is the last thing I see before I close my eyes. And the first thing I see in the morning, when I awake. Receiving this gift, made me re-evaluate my sentiments about another famous work of art, "The Kiss" by Gustav Klimt. It is beautiful, golden and evocative. Depicting a man and a woman in a tender, sensual embrace, resulting in a covert kiss. This masterpiece has been greatly studied and interpreted by various experts. However, I feel that, as with any art, gazing at an image is a very personal and private experience. The effect is diverse and very individual. Additionally, perhaps one might even discover something new about a piece, as time goes by. I have seen The Kiss many times before. I actually even recall a reproduction of it hanging in my parents home. It never had any particular effect on me. But recent developments in my life have made me see the painting with completely new eyes. It evokes emotions and impressions I only now began to recognize. I have finally found my personal understanding of this exquisite work of art. Eventually, I think Klimt might have had his own justification as to why he created this stunning piece. One, that no man or woman in the world will ever elucidate. And perhaps therein lies its allure.
From the 1997 movie "Contact", directed by Robert Zemecki, adapted from the novel by Carl Sagan, starring, among others, Jodie Foster as "Ellie Arroway" and Matthew McConaughey as "Palmer Joss".
Ellie challenges Palmer to prove the existence of God, when he in turn asks her a question: Palmer Joss: Did you love your father? Ellie Arroway: What? Palmer Joss: Your dad. Did you love him? Ellie Arroway: Yes, very much. Palmer Joss: Prove it.
This weekend I was sorting through some old photographs and I found a picture of the car I drove the first two years of my stay in the US. A 77 Ford Thunderbird, bright red with white leather seats. I got to borrow it from my good friends. I couldn't sleep the night before I was to drive it for the first time. I have had my driving license at that time for barely a year, during which I was not driving at all and on top of everything, I was used to drive small cars in Europe. This one was huge and scary. But it became quickly my very best friend, a friend with a personality and attitude. It was a true art to manage parking it. The seat belts did not work, the windshield washers only sometimes, and if you slowed down below a certain speed, the car engine would quit and the car could no longer be controlled as the steering wheel was locked. I once got stuck this way in an intersection and almost hit a lamppost. In the end I had to refill the oil every week and finally I realized it was time to trade it for a newer model. But man, no one but me sitting in the Thunderbird could leave the modern cars behind in the dust when the traffic lights turned green! I barely touched the gas pedal and it flew on its way! I recall how strange it was to have the transmission at the wheel and the hand brake and long beam lights were activated by pedals in the floor. It had no air-condition, which was a very trying obstacle to overcome in the very hot and humid summers of the southeast. But I managed to drive it safely for almost two years and even made a long trip to Florida before it was retired back to my friends driveway for good.
As hurricane Ike made landfall in Texas this weekend, causing extreme devastation and menace, I got reminded of my own experiences when it comes to these raging storms. I have been confronted by two hurricanes in my life, when living in the US. One of them was hurricane Fran, that hit the coast of North Carolina in 1996 and even caused significant damage further inland, where I lived at that time. I remember how frighten I was, wondering whether the roof of my second story appartment will suddenly take off or if the windows will shatter. I was scared, mostly as I knew what a total devastation a hurricane can cause. This because just a year prior, I was literaly in the eye of hurricane Marilyn. What started as a wonderful vacation on St Thomas, one of the three US Virgin island, ended with days of terror and fright exactly 13 years ago today. The hurricane was already formed on the day of our departure, September the 13th, but its heading was more westward and it was no threat at that point to the islands. However, this scenario quickly changed and before we knew it, we were stuck in a beautiful, first class resort experiencing mother nature at its worst. It was one of the longest nights in my life. I was honestly worried whether we will make it. But even worse was the aftermath. Not just seeing concrete buildings being ripped to pieces, 90% of houses missing roofs and large heavy ships being thrown around far inland like toys, but also our extraordinary reaction to the shock and the stress of the situation. I have heard that under shock, the body rejects the severity of the situation as a protection mechanism. We honestly considered continuing our holiday and kept driving aimlessly around the island on debris littered roads to find an undamaged hotel. But all we found was a devastation I never seen before or since. Yes, we even asked at the almost non-existing front desk whether they had any excursions we could attend. The hotel concierge looked at us confused and with disbelieve. Finally on the 4th day after the storm hit, we were airlifted by the US army and evacuated to Puerto Rico, where we spend 2 wonderful weeks. I never managed to visit St Thomas again.
In Scandinavia, the summers are very short. The weather is a lottery and most Scandinavians leave the country for the Mediterranean during their holidays. No one wants to take the chance on being stuck at home while it pours outside. There is usually a heat wave arriving from the southeast, at one point during the summer months, and if the pressures around position themselves correctly, we can get two weeks filled with warm days and long cool white nights at the worse, or 4 weeks of "perfect" summer at the best. And the best happens only once every 3-4 years. There is one thing though that is always the same, when it comes to the Scandinavian summers. The white nights. When the nights are the shortest, the sun rises at 3:00 am and sets first almost at midnight. Sometimes, if I stay up late, I can watch the sunset and the sunrise at the same time. On average, there is about 10 hour light difference between winter and summer. So, you can imagine how dreadful the winters are. Well,the season of white nights ended about a month ago and already the days are about 4 h shorter. But this weekend the weather was beautiful. Although a very fresh easterly wind was blowing, my terrace is facing west and I could enjoy two wonderful, cool and fresh very late summer or early autumn days outside, doing some gardening and enjoying the last rays of the warm sun. In the evening, I watched a magnificent sunset, lit up my fireplace for the first time this season and enjoyed a glass of red vine, purchased earlier this summer in a small vineyard in Provance, with good friends. Life is only as good as one makes it.
I love chocolate. Any kind; dark, milk, with hazelnuts or dry fruit. But my favorite is by far white chocolate. The experts claim that using the term "chocolate" in this case is not correct, as white chocolate doesn't contain chocolate liquor. Well, I couldn't care less, to me it is a chocolate nevertheless. And it so happens, that I am the luckiest white chocolate lover in the world. I get a continuous supply of chocolate bars. Every Saturday, as by magic, in my mailbox there is a package wrapped in a brown paper, stating my name in a neat hand writing. It makes my Saturdays. And I allow myself to fully enjoy this clandestine pleasure, with hot dark coffee, every Saturday afternoon. A few hours of true happiness.
Recently I watched (again, for the millionth time) my favorite movie of all times: Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet from 1968. He was the first director to be true to the classical tale by casting actors that were close to the age described in the epic Shakespeare story. Juliet was played by fifteen year old Olivia Hussey and Romeo by Leonard Whiting, who was seventeen years old. I saw it as a teenager for the first time, as it was part of our English curriculum. I was captivated from the start. To this day it remains an incredible masterpiece and to me the best adaptation of this tragic story, depicting love and foremost the bittersweet time of falling in love. It is superior in the casting, in directing, in regards to the visual effects, the costumes and the language. The director took a risk by casting two unexperienced, very young actors in the main roles, but it worked out wonderfully, giving the movie a sense of authenticity. Olivia Hussey, who is one of my favorite actresses, later enjoyed success on the big screen and TV screen. Among my favorites are "Ivanhoe" (1982) and the miniseries "Jesus of Nazareth" (1977).
I live in a white washed, Spanish inspired brick house on top of a hill, with a breathtaking view of the city below. In fact, when arriving by car after the fall of darkness, it feels as if one is approaching the city by plane for landing. I have two roommates. One permanent resident, "the number one house cat". His name is Samson. Well, that was the name I gave him shortly after he arrived to live with me as a 9 week old kitten. He was so very tiny and I couldn't sleep for weeks worrying about him. He grew up to be a perfect companion, a very calm and smart cat, who waits for me at the door as soon as he hears my car pulling up in the driveway. But now the name Samson is not used that much, as he has been given the name "Batcat".
Some people believe that Apocalypse will take place tomorrow at 9:00 CET. Why? Well, this has to do with an experiment that will be performed at exactly that time in a large circular tunnel (27km) under the ground on the Swiss-French border. At the CERN. What exactly will happen in this tunnel, I can not precisely explain, as I am no nuclear physicist, only a biochemist. But as far as I understand, the tunnel functions as a particle accelator, also called "Large Hadron Collider". Tomorrow at 9 am (CET) it will be fired up and small nano particles will be accelated in the tunnel, to the speed of light to colide with eachother. Chances are, that small "black holes" will be formed. Anyone even slightly interested in astronomy, physics or science fiction knows what black holes are all about. They are places in space, usually left behind by collapsed stars, that have incredible gravitational pull and will consume anything that will come their way. Hence, if these are created tomorrow morning in the tunnel, this means the Earth will disappear. Well, I really do not believe this will happen (I think). But it made me consider one interesting philosophical question "What would you do, if you had only one day left to live?" How would you use it? Would it be enough to do what you needed to do? Have you lived your life to the full? Do you have any regrets? After considering this for a while, I decided that today I am off my diet, I will do only what makes me happy and I will make sure to tell my friends, family and other people close to me how much they mean to me. Just in case.
When I was leaving Europe to live in the States about 16 years ago, my sister gave me three "magic" stones as a parting gift. I carry them with me to this day on every trip and they are always in my handbag as a good luck charm. The three semi precious stones are (left to right); amethyst, citrine and yellow jasper. They were ment for luck and protection. I was not aware then how affected she was by my departure. My little sister used to look up to me, we were very close and she was loosing her best friend and a confidant. This loss for me was not less significant, but was at that time overtaken by the extreme excitement of an adventure ahead of me. Actually, little did I know, that after I left that January, we would never live in the same city - actually not in the same country - ever again.
This is the door of my refrigerator. I collect magnets. They are actually souvenirs from my travels. It is very easy - magnets are sold in every souvenir shop all around the world. They are small and easy to travel home with. They are fun to look at and they are useful (not just for keeping postcards and notes up, but a few of them are easy accessible bottle openers) and having them on a refrigerator means I can look at them every day and remember all the places I have visited.
Exactly a week ago I attended a local medieval festival. It is the largest festival of its kind in Scandinavia and it took place in Horsens, a small town not far from where I live. The festival is held every year in the end of August. I am very intrigued by this time period and finally this year I had a chance to attend this event in a company of a man that flew all the way from Ireland just to take me there. Although I knew the festival has been held for over 10 years, I did not expect much. However, it turned out to be one of the best days of my life. This was a very well organized event with a magnitude of artists and performers from all over Europe. A true feast for all senses. Luckily, this year the 30th of August fell on one of the most beautiful "indian summer" days I can remember and the whole center of this small town was transformed into a medieval marked. It was a complete historical illusion in a setting with over 5000 attendants disguised as street musicians, knights, noblemen, craftsmen and traders, selling merchandise in hundreds of stands. There were horses and even the impressive wolfhounds. The air was filled with smoke from burning fires, insense and medieval music and song. One truly got a feeling of being back in time. We spend almost 4 hours walking up and down the streets, admiring all the goods for sale. It was difficult to choose from all the pottery, medieval clothing and jewelry. We finally settled on buying two clay mugs, perfect for drinking mead or beer from on a hot summer day. And finally a gift for me: a small pilgrimage token, made in an image of a true artifact discovered in 2004 on an archeological excavation in "Silkeborg", a small town nearby. Crafted in a form of a crucifix, it depicts a crowned Jesus and was found near an old moat, which once surrounded a small fort, dating back to 1385.
I reside in Denmark, but I was not born here. I grew up in Sweden, but I was not born there either. Until about a year ago my parents still lived in Sweden, and I used to drive all the way back to the southern part of the country to visit them. The 3 hour drive was quiet boring, except for two highlights. Crossing two colossal bridges. To those not familiar with the Danish geography, Denmark consists of over 400 named islands. The two largest one, Zealand and Funen are connected by a suspension bridge, so called "Great Belt Bridge", which is the 3d largest in the world. The link consist actually of a combination of a bridge and a tunnel. Likewise, in year 2000, Sweden was connected to Denmark when the "Oresund Bridge" was open to the public. This bridge is the worlds longest border crossing bridge, consisting of a combined bridge-tunnel as well. To travel across these structures is an experience I now greatly miss. It was never the same. Depending on the weather, one could have incredible views of the crashing ocean waves below when the skies were clear or feel as if suspended in the air, when the "sky" road was surrounded by fog. These are indeed genuine examples of outstanding craftmenship and superior modern engineering.
The moon mesmerizes me. My sun sign is "cancer" and according to astrology books, I am suppose to be influenced by this celestial object. And the gem of my sign is the moonstone. Already as a little girl I used to gaze at the white disk in the night sky until I fell asleep under its magical, cool glow. As an adult I became more intrigued by the existence of "The Dark side of the Moon". No, I am not talking about the Pink Floyd album. Well, the term is incorrect, although it is frequently used to describe what is called as "The Far side of the Moon". It is actually the other lunar hemisphere, which is never fully seen from the Earth. It was photographed first by a Russian space probe in 1959 and was later observed by astronauts aboard the Apollo 8, which orbited the moon in 1968. Interestingly, the far side looks quiet differently from "The Near side" we recognize. While the lunar image we are familiar with is full of white "deserts" and dark "seas", the other is smooth and almost entirely void of the dark areas. The moon, or rather its origin, is still an enigma. There are at least three different theories explaining its formation. The prevailing one is based on the theory of an impact between Earth and a small celestial body, causing a piece of the Earth being torn away and thrown into its orbit. Apart from all the scientific facts, the moon is source of enthrallment that has allured mankind for millennia and likely will do so until the end of time.
It seems that the whole world is blogging. My line of work encourages me to be curious by nature, therefore I decided to give this a shot. It feels a bit strange to write down my thoughts, opinions or experiences and share them with the world, I have to admit. I will probably regret this by tomorrow, but then again - I will try anything once. So please be kind to me, all you fellow bloggers out there.
I was born under the Tatra Mountains, to a Czech father and a Slovak mother. I grew up in Sweden and lived almost ten years in North Carolina.
More than a decade ago my line of work took me to Denmark, where I live today. My home, which I share with the man that holds my heart, lies in the northerly part of a Danish peninsula, in the proximity of endless, wide and pristine westbound sandy beaches, surrounded by the rough and untamed North Sea.
My writing is defined by reflections on my cosmopolitan past and my intriguing present. Ultimately I try to convey in words and images my personal thoughts and feelings about life itself, with all its magic, natural splendour and the beauty of simple pleasures.