In with the new …
“It will be the year of courage!” she announced. We were having a very late New Year’s breakfast, still in our pjs; uncombed hair, uncombed thoughts.
I liked the idea. “Here’s to that.”
When was the last time you felt courageous?
While jumping on your bed (even though you knew it might break and spit you out or eat you up)? While eating spicy food (even though you knew your mouth would burn and rebel for hours afterwards)? While rolling snowballs with your bare hands (even though it would make your fingers turn blue and go numb)?
I’d say there’s plenty to feel courageous about.
I’ve never had a slogan for a new year, so this is the first new thing of 2017.
… out with the old.
I do believe making mistakes is a necessary part of becoming a better person. That being said, I don’t like catching myself making the same mistake twice (let’s be honest: three times is more likely). So how about not making old mistakes anymore?
How about: “Don’t fool me twice.”
I’m sure there are enough new mistakes waiting just around the corner.
Inspired by the weather and today’s Daily Prompt.
Pt I: the status quo (aka: is it time to build an arch yet?)
Jack’s been occupying my iPod for about two weeks now. For some reason, his lyrics and his ukulele are the only things that keep my spirits (relatively) high as I constantly keep my head as low as possible, trying to duck out of the rain and into the hood of my rain jacket.
The entire May’s been a huge fraud in terms of the weather. If you ask me, this year’s May wouldn’t even pass for a third-rate April any other year – but of course, no one asks me; in the end, I just have to put up with it and mutter to myself in discontent.
In a crazy attempt to be less cynical and more optimistic in general, I’ve also been trying to adopt Jack’s attitude: The world has its ways to quite us down, the world has its ways, to quiet us down comes the rain, down comes our spirits again; but down comes the strength, to lift us up and then… Sounds good, doesn’t it? Naturally, in theory this is much easier than in practice.
Pt II – a very short short story, (kind of) based on real events, I swear! (aka it’s definitely time to build an arch now, jeez …)
Are you gonna dress up? She asked; I think, it’s too cold. I thought about it for a second, imagining myself wedged into a way too tight black dress, freezing my ass off, and my spirits made a loud clattering noise as they hit the floor. I probably won’t, I said.
Not only had winter apparently decided to stop by for a surprise visit in late May, the entire afternoon had been nothing but a blurry drizzle – although a look into the sky did promise a change in weather soon: it looked like the evening might well end in a sudden downpour, followed by thunder and lightning. It was definitely the best time for an outside activity (especially, when it’s not suitable to show up in your hiking gear but to make matters worse, you’re supposed to look nice).
We met at the foot of the bridge; both bundled up in (roughly estimated) fifty layers of clothing, each armed with an additional raincoat and umbrella. We might have looked like the Morton Salt twins – if we’d been more chipper.
We made our way to the rest of the group: they’d already sat down at one of the tables that were set out under a huge gazebo-like tent. We ordered two glasses of beer and two huge entrees (vegetarian, because I am and, thankfully she’s great and doesn’t mind) – might as well treat ourselves, we thought.
Just like most of the restaurants of the area, they brought half the things we ordered sprinkled with diced, fried bacon on top (or a similar extra-vegetarian treat). The beer was good, though, so we ordered a second round, hoping the rain would eventually stop.
It never did, of course.
Pt III – some pictures instead of more words (aka I’m gonna shut up about the rain now, promise).
188 days and nothing has changed except for the colors – they’ve gotten deeper and darker.
It’s so early, you can’t even call it morning yet. I fumble about in the darkness trying to make my way from bedroom to kitchen without bumping into any sharp-edged pieces of furniture or slipping on and/or tripping over one of the not so well placed power cords.
The kitchen is kind of small but has a big window on one side that really makes you forget just how small it is. I open it and breathe in the cool morning air. I love the fall: the colors, the smell, Halloween, pumpkin soup – a breath of: candy apples, the first hints of chimney smoke, another deep breath: colorsthesmellcandyapplesjackolanterns. I gaze out the window for a while as I’m waiting for the water in the tea kettle to boil.
I hardly ever catch a sunrise in the morning. Today, however, I’m standing in the kitchen to watch the sky change color from a misty gray to a freakishly bright orange that sort of reminds me of Cheetos and also of pumpkin soup and Halloween (it’s mid-October already), sort of, and of a t-shirt you used to wear back when it was still summer and warm outside, sort of.
Roses are red, violets are blue, it says. But these days roses come in all sorts of different colors (ranging from yellow to universe black, striped, polka-dotted, leopard, zebra, whatever) and once September’s passed, flowers don’t have any color anymore. Not really, they freeze, that’s all, it’s not a secret. Roses are red, violets are blue. Blue and tacky.
And then another thing, red and blue (and violet in the end): at first, you can’t really see anything at all, it starts off slightly red. It turns blue quickly – and it stays like that for a while. In the end, though, it changes to a deep dark shade of violet, like grape jelly or Kool-Aid, maybe. Until, eventually, it heals. Eventually. Hopefully.
He (Daniel) is so small, it’s almost funny but mostly, he’s quite amazing. His little hands, with the little fingers, and the webbing between the second and third that makes him even more amazing. His eyes, though, are the best part: they’re enormous and bright and ink blue or lead grey depending on the time of day (maybe because the way the light changes or maybe depending on his mood because that’s how it works with a ring someone bought me a long time ago on a fair).
While my sister holds him, though, they are completely closed: he is asleep, finally. My sister’s face is all red. She’s been holding him for a while, a tiny cherry pit pillow on top of the two of them to calm down his nervous stomach. Her husband’s been looking at them the entire time. He’s been an engineer for a couple of years now but he’s never created anything quite like that before. His face is all red too. Red as the toy fire truck in the corner of the room.
It’s dark out. It gets dark so early these days. There’s always one day at the end of September or beginning of October when it suddenly hits me: the days are getting shorter, at the end of the day there’s more darkness than light – you should stock up on candles.
Candles to brighten the room (in case you should forget to pay your electricity bill), candles to stick into a carved out pumpkin and candles to put on a cake: it’s my birthday in fall and since this year, it’s my nephew’s too. It also used to be my grandmother’s birthseason, until last year. I suppose, though, it still is – birthdays don’t expire (think of Christmas, but that’s for another season). I light a candle for her on the 11th (I stocked up) – it’s blue. Like the day. But I hold the candle as it’s burning and it’s warm in my hand and it, sort of, reminds me of summer when it wasn’t so cold out yet, sort of.
188 days and nothing has changed except for the colors – they’ve gotten deeper and darker.
Live and Learn
People say that little children have to learn how to talk while they are still so little – if they don’t, they might never be able to learn it at all. They will grow from quiet little children to quiet not so little adults. All the sounds they could have made, the words they could said, the inspiring speeches they could have given, all will be lost in the nirvana of the million and one things people never said but should have.
Then again, people say a lot (maybe silence is really golden).
Remember that one time: your mom got you this really pretty dress/cool shirt/insert whatever clothing item comes to mind. You thought it was great (because it was) and you wanted to wear it, all – the – time. But, of course, you weren’t allowed to. It was too pretty/cool/whatever. So you only wore it on special occasions (if you wore it at all) and then one day, on one of these special occasions (maybe Christmas, maybe some distant relative’s 75th birthday) you wanted to put it on – but it didn’t fit anymore. You’d grown out of it.
Then again, it might not have been so special if you would have worn it all the time (no, that’s bullsh**, it really was special, no matter what).
Live and Learn: it’s over
It’s never good to neglect something (a skill, an item, a person). Here’s what you’re going to get back: anger (if you’re lucky), or nothing at all (most likely). Something/someone only wants to play, be your friend, be with you – but you won’t let it and after a while it’s too much. It leaves you alone (it needs to let go) – play with yourself, stupid – screaming the f-word – I’m out.
I’m rollercoasterred, i’m feverish, like August. I will only let you in if you have a golden ticket. Don’t ask me when or where to get it. I don’t know. And even if I knew, I wouldn’t tell you because you know what? This is supposed to be special, it’s supposed to be a challenge and you have to deserve it. This is not unconditional, not from the start (not anymore) – Try it or play with yourself, stupid – fuck – I’m out.
Is it really over?
Live and Learn
What about trust?
Live and Learn: it’s over
Hope grows on clouds and if it wants to come down, it needs to rain. That’s its way to travel, it is a rule.
(Then again, that’s bullsh**, why doesn’t it just rain hope? Let it rain hope).
Generations and generations of girls (and guys who won’t admit it) have picked daisy petals and so am I. I’m not the one to break with traditions. I need something to hold on to when my inner voice and God aren’t responding. It’s not even spring, there aren’t any daisies anywhere. But it’s time for a break. It’s fall and the leaves are changing colors. I’m picking leaves off tree branches. I don’t know what else to do. I’m struggling to talk (silence isn’t golden, it simply shimmers when the light hits its surface on the right spot, just like tin foil or gum wrapper). Nothing fits anymore, everything that used to be so special sits in the trash (and needs to become less special, but that’s bullsh**, and I know it won’t). Play with yourself, stupid – fuck – I’m out (I’m not, maybe). What are
the my chances?
00:18: It’s over –
the rain stopped, finally.
The night’s gotten too cold,
she shivers (it must be
aspen season already).
off water drops that
have collected beneath
the folds of her
many, many eyes.
The water drips down and
she breathes a sigh of
relief – a night breeze,
soft and sweet and a little bitter.
I think, it’s really over.
00:19: Clang –
broken glass or
No, it was the moon.
She fell off the sky.
She fell to pieces:
how beautifully they glimmer
as they drift in
a tiny puddle of dirt –
what an odd wishing well.
I light a cigarette
and make a wish.
00:20: Smoke fills the kitchen –
I don’t open a window.
I just don’t know how
to let go of things.
I let it fill the empty space
he left behind (along
with an empty promise:
revenant like a ghost or
maybe just a nightmare);
all the emptiness
of the walls, the sockets,
blue and quiet
00:21: Clang –
louder this time, almost violent.
I feel a breath
in my neck, a cough:
sour and stale.
I blink, splinters in my
shivering hands (it must be
aspen season already):
Your promise – it lies in pieces and
finally, I can even see it:
Tiny holes in the dark like
fresh cuts that won’t stop bleeding.
It’s sitting in the corner, gray and plump and it’s not likely to go away – the elephant in the room: “What’s so different?”
Once I’ve told people I’ve recently been in the Netherlands with one of my education classes in order to take a closer look at their system of public education, it’s – inevitably – the question everyone asks.
The answer, however, is not nearly as intuitive.
Yet, there is one word that’s been buzzing around in my head for a while. It jumped at me when I first set foot in one of the schools there and it’s stuck with me ever since: Openness.
First, openness in the most literal sense of the word. The classroom doors: open. The classroom walls: open (i. e. glass). The principal’s office: (mostly) open! The area around the school: open (no fence, no nothing).
Second, openness in a more metaphorical way: A (for me) surprising as well as pleasant candor. It seemed people were neither afraid to open their mouths nor to open their ears – for questions, answers, even (potential) criticism.
In very broad terms, I also noticed their openness for: cooperation (instead of the dog-eat-dog mentality that you will find frighteningly often among the teaching staff at German schools), color (arts & crafts style, but also multiculturalism; pluralism in a lot of ways – in thinking, teaching, learning), creativity (self-explanatory), and also unity (in the sense of support; yet, also in the sense of collectivity – which can be a good thing…yet, I think, it’s also the one thing that goes on my personal list of bad things I’ve noticed about their system).
Unity (one method).
An interesting idea: the method. No wait, this needs more emphasis: it’s the method. Because there’s just one – one method per school. For the teacher this basically means two things. One, less work (hooray!). Two, less latitude (womp womp…).
Here’s how it works: Each school decides on one method – i. e. one style of teaching (possibly focusing on Montessori pedagogy or Helen Parkhurst’s Dalton Plan concept). This also includes a range of textbooks for all different subjects as well as computer programs to go with their whiteboards. Everything’s well-matched – at least it should be.
It seems to be an entirely holistic approach (which ties in with most Dutch school’s aim: learning with head, heart and hand), and that is a very good thing. It doesn’t leave teachers on their own, trying to pick the few cherries out of a huge pile of teaching material and objectives, and that is most certainly a good thing.
Yet, it also seems very close-meshed. It definitely leaves less room to design a curriculum that matches your own as well as your students’ preferences. It’s like wearing another person’s outfit, trying not to feel silly.
Of course it’s possible that I simply missed the point. Still. This approach, to me, doesn’t include the openness I’ve encountered elsewhere.
That’s, of course, not an in-depth analysis, but more of my own, unfiltered gut-feeling spilled out. In general, looking at the schools in the Netherlands left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling – possibly, even with butterflies in my stomach, or as they say: lentekriebels. Maybe just because it’s Spring. However I think, it’s probably more than a short-lived fling…
I) January, 8 – in prose…
The New Year (capitalized, to show it’s genuine importance!) is already a week old by now and therefore slowly taking off all the holiday make-up and fancy clothing – a very un-magical moment. It’s always a moment that leaves me missing things: all the Christmas lights, the smell of cinnamon and the anticipation in the air. Because, of course, by that time I’ve already pushed aside the rush and grumpiness of the few days before Christmas, along with the exhaustion of the let’s-visit-the-entire-family-and-all-of-our-friends-in-less-than-24-hours-marathon (while, year after year, thinking: how sweet it would be to catch a ride on Santa’s sleigh). However, what is even worse is the feeling when there’s someone you can’t visit, for whatever reason. Then, the missing hits in early – an even less magical feeling. The least magical I can imagine.
This Christmas season, the missing did hit me quite early, it just snuck up on me behind my back and suddenly there it was, rearing its ugly head out of a pile of Christmas wrappings. It’s been living with me ever since. I don’t mean to complain, I’ve been wanting a roommate since I moved into a new apartment last summer (but I’d really prefer someone less sneaky, Santa must have gotten me wrong there…) leaving behind three roommates (a school, a city, a country) in the process – coming back to what I’d left behind a year earlier to find that I couldn’t have it all back, not the way it was. Of course, you never can – but, of course, you always hope.
I think, it might have been already then, that this idiotic thing moved in with me, hiding in my luggage – the little parasite. Or maybe, I brought it with me from my holiday visit to one of my beloved roommates a few days ago. Anyhow, I’m planning to kick it out soon. I think, it has to go with the decorations and the last bits of candy (ha! I ate the last cookie this morning!). It’s really a poor replacement for all I’ve left behind.
II) January, 8 – in poetry…
I know: it comes like breathing – unconsciously and delicate.
An inflating and deflating, rhythmical, in four-four time almost:
Say, is it dancing, can you feel your heart dancing?
You know, it’s the dance of death, or at least
the dance of coma – a deep delusional sleep:
you’re only imagining things, always.
It’s tiring, truly exhausting – and there’s nothing that can be done.
I’m afraid it’s not a mood, it doesn’t come and go like seasons do.
It’s a state, it’s something chronic – the diagnosis?
Well, it’s not yearning, it’s less dramatic; nothing emotional, I think.
It’s quiet like falling snow and just as cold and it
also muffles all the noise coming in from the world outside:
You must be missing
III), January, 8 – in song (thank you, Miss Madeline Ava)…
Cheers, we say –
to the New Year, and
let’s hope it will be better
than the last one,
crying tears (all in vain, always)
gritting our eyes
with ashes –
No more, we say
as the old year miserably
drowns at the bottom of
our wine glasses –
we don’t even try to save it.
We shoot the New Year
into the stars and say
that’s where we want to be:
Walking through the ashes
collecting our tears in a box
hiding it in a secret corner of the closet
(a secret corner of the heart).
Let’s build new bridges, we say.
But old acquaintances, they forget and
new year’s resolutions hit
the ground just one minute
after midnight, along with
the last of
Cheers, I say –
to an old acquaintance
that forgot, and I
wonder why (after all)
collected the ashes in a box
legs knee-deep in tears
walked right back onto
your last burning bridge
Cheers, I say
drinking the old year
from my glass of $3 wine.
Cheers, I say
looking for you
among the stars.
I have a confession to make.
I am a terrible materialist. There, I said it. I really can’t help it.
This realization didn’t actually strike me when all the glossy ads for toys, perfumes, jewelry and other fancy whatnots started popping up all over the place. Honestly, they don’t appeal to me at all – besides: I can never tell just what product is advertised by several semi-naked people giving me a possibly sexy/mysterious/earnest look. (You tell me. Please?) It wasn’t the beginning of the holiday season that got me. It was the beginning of a season, though – winter.
Here’s what happened: I’ve been digging up favorite scarves and sweaters from the depths of my closet (since it’s winter officially – whatever objections the actual weather might have to the meteorology here). Rummaging through all the wool and the occasional tassel, I found myself having sentimental feelings for the one or other… piece of clothing.
Okay. Possibly, it started even earlier than this: My favorite pair of jeans has been showing (severe) signs of weakness around the knees – which in turn has triggered me displaying severe signs of distress all in all. I hate parting with my favorite pair of jeans because first, I hate jeans shopping. I never find a pair that fits when I’m really in need of one – because semi-naked is never an option for me (I never advertise for anything anyway). Second, I grow sisterhood-of-the-traveling-pants-attached to my jeans. That is SUPER-attached. I wear them until they – quite literally – fall apart. Which is always somewhat awkward when the falling apart happens in public, but oh well: we all get our 15 minutes of fame, right Andy?
But back to the wool and tassels: I don’t have sentimental feelings for each piece of clothing I own. I don’t name them (yet). It’s that some pieces remind me of a person. Or of the place I got them at. Or the time when I bought them. (They’re little time-machines.) It’s that wearing that one sweater, that one scarf or my favorite jeans is like flipping through the pages of a diary. Which, for me, is awfully convenient because I’m terribly inconsistent when it comes to actually writing a diary. (This blog is probably the closest I have ever gotten and will ever get to it.)
So strictly speaking, I’m a memorabiliaist. Or possibly a mnemonicist. There, I said it. I still can’t help it.