Friday, February 5, 2016

2 island skylines + 7 days of rain waiting

Yesterday the skies here in Lanzarote island looked like a light installation in mutlitple layers. I went for a longer drive, and it was so amazing both to see the different regions of the island, and this almost magic sky. Here's my favourite photo from the drive, with a curious sky line:

One more day, then the island time is coming to an end.... Back home, grey and rainy skies are waiting. The forecast actually is all-rainy for Germany: 7 days of rain in the next 7 days, and a storm on Monday. So every sun hour here is now double precious.

More skies from everywhere: skywatch friday

island reads: The Humans, Life Lessons, Zerotime, The Hive

One of the joys of being here is.. having time to read at the pool. I brought some books, and blogged about them here already: global reading Europe: a random scandal book + a bestselling runaway novella - but I also went with chance, and tried the hotel bookshelf.

The Humans
The two books in the photo above are from there - "The Humans" by Matt Haig is a book a friend recommended last year, and it's really a great read that I enjoyed a lot, both reflective and funny and, well, human. The first chapters take a bit to get used to, but then it's picking up. Here's a quote from the introduction, about humankind as perceived from an outside / alien perspective:
“Let's not forget The Things They Do To Make Themselves Happy That Actually Make Them Miserable. This is an infinite list. It includes - shopping, watching TV, taking the better job, getting the bigger house, writing a semi-autobiographical novel, educating their young, making their skin look mildly less old and harboring a vague desire to believe there might be a meaning to it all.”
Life Lessons
The second book is a revisit: I read Grimaud's notes on her journey through Europe some years ago, and it was great to revisit it. There's so much in it, reflections and  conversations on art, wildlife, travel, life... here's my note from the first read:
 "Helene Grimaud, a French pianist who now lives in the States, at some point decided she needs to spend some time alone, and went to Europe to reflect on her life and the way to take. I didn't know her, and was amazed to read that she is a star pianist who at home, has created a home for wolves. I just started to read into her book. It's touching, open, and you can feel her two sides: the cultural/musical side, and the longing/connection to the wild."

And two other books I read here, picked at home and brought here:

"Nullzeit" is a novel by the German author Juli Zeh, and happens to be set right here in Lanzarote. So it's one of those "You Are There - Reading"-occasions, bringing this unique fun of reading a book in the exact place that appears in the book. It's a kind of suspense / thriller story with several twists, told from two perspectives: an expat diving instructor in Lanzarote, and one of his guests. The term "Nullzeit" ("zerotime" refers to the depth you can dive and get back to surface without having to pause below for a decompress-stop). Here's a bit about Juli Zeh, from the English wiki page:
"Juli Zeh (born 30 June 1974 in Bonn) is a German writer. Zeh lived in Leipzig from 1995, and currently resides outside of Berlin. Zeh studied law in Passau and Leipzig, passing the Zweites Juristisches Staatsexamen - comparable equivalent to the U.S. bar exam - in 2003, and holds a doctorate in international law from Universität Saarbrücken. Her first book was Adler und Engel (translated into English as Eagles and Angels by Christine Slenczka), which won the 2002 Deutscher Bücherpreis for best debut novel."

The Hive
And I read a Spanish book, from Nobel Laureate Camilo José Cela: "The Hive". A book with an unusual concept, written in short scenes that touch a lot of different characters - in some ways, it is "The Humans" as seen through a kaleidoscope of moments:
"The Hive (Spanish: La Colmena) (also translated as The Beehive) is a novel written by the Spanish author first published in 1950. The novel is set in Madrid in 1943, after the end of the Spanish Civil War, and deals with the poverty and general unhappiness found in Spain by examining a multitude of fictional characters in varying levels of detail. It is notable in that it contains over 300 characters and is considered to be the most important novel written in post civil war Spain. Because of rigorous censorship Cela was unable to get La colmena published in his native Spain, and was instead forced to publish it in Buenos Aires."

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Lanzarote links + memories + 3 more days

One of the really nice things about being here are all the memories from previous journeys - driving down the roads brings back moments from the past. Here are some links and memories. The first is a parallel in time, as like back then, it's now 3 more days on the island, before it's time to pack bags.

"Three more days on the island. Back home, it's winter now: freezing temperatures, snowrain falling. Still a part of me starts to long for home, while another part would like to stay here another week, read some historic books about the place, about the life during the vulcanoe eruptions in the 17th century, about the people who arrived here, and went away again."
here's the whole post: journey to Lanzarote: time & 3 more days

and in contrast, notes from the start of a journey, which also include a memory itself:

"Everything is moving here, every single grain of sand. that's what i realized when i walked along the beach today, and stopped for a moment, to watch the wind move over the ground. and was stunned. for what i saw was the miniature of a dune desert, a lake of motion, a genesis of sand, following the direction the wind headed to. i touched one of the tiny dunes. where are you coming from, i wondered. how far did you travel already. the dune gave its answer by gliding on underneath my hand."
island time: going to Lanzarote, going back in time

"In the photo above, you can see Playa Blanca from the southern end of the settlement. Our bungalow belongs to the first patch of houses you see, with the palm trees in front. It's indeed "at the end of the island". .. To stay in a bungalow named by a writer reminded me of a this essay on books I read a while ago, about "You Are There - Reading" - the special joy and passion to read a book in a place that appears in the book. Like reading Homer's Odyssey in Greece, Henry David Thoreau's "Walden" in Walden, James Joyce's "Dubliners" or "Ulysses" in Dublin"
from our previous stay near the Lightouse:
a new place, you-are-there-reading, mermaids & "to simply live those moments"

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Augenblick, or: A Like

Time for some file browsing and revisiting: the new photofriday theme is "Eyes". Not an easy challenge, but a good one. It took me back to London, to that "Eye" moment in the British Museum.

From there, I moved to the curious world of homonyms, of sounding-alike words. Like: two and too. Or: I and eye. Or, if you add a dimension and cross language borders: eagle and Igel (the German hedgehog). Such different animals, but same name. And such joy, to revisit those words from back then:

A Like

“Sea,” he says.
Her eyes are closed, her toes curled into his. “She,” she answers.
He doesn’t get it.
She paints the words into the air: sea, see, sie.
“They are alike,” she explains, “sea and see. And in German, it would be understood as sie, which means: she.”
“Homonym,” he says.
Now she doesn’t get it.
“Different words, same pronunciation,” he explains. “Definition of homonym.”
“Probably the very same word in German,” she figures, and searches for more of them.
“I,” she says.
“Eye,” he answers,
“And in German: Ei. Egg.”
Outside, a bus drives by, honks.
“One more?”
“Easy,” she answers. "More. Is Moor in German: bog.”
“Okay,” he says. “Done.”
She beams. “That’s another one, actually.”
Dann. Then.”
“So then,” he says, his hand in her hair, and they both fall silent while their minds go hunting for more words that sound as alike as they feel that day.

Monday, February 1, 2016

tiny lost ladybug

A moment from yesterday: I walked along lava beach looking for seashells.. and noticed the vibrant red color in the corner of my eyes. Took a moment to understand that this really was a ladybug, which got lost in the wind and now sat in the midst of lava stones. So I postponed the shells and carried the ladybug to one of the few green spots - and taking a closer look, I saw several other ladybugs on the green twigs. So that is where they live here, on the beach.

It's amazing, all the animals that live on this island that looks desert-like on first glance. Some evenings ago, we saw something move on the walkway. "Leaf in the wind" was our first guess. But the leaf had a body, and stood motionless after we noticed it. Turned out, it was a hedgehog.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

global reading Europe: a random scandal book + a bestselling runaway novella (or: the joys of a telephone book box)

7 continents, 7 books, the next step: from the South Pole to ... Sweden and Germany

I started the 7 continents reading challenge well-planned in Antarctica, browsing books-from-Antarctica-lists and reading reviews. The book I picked was "Ice Bound" by Jerri Nielsen, I blogged about it here: global reading: Ice Bound (or: penguins, Antarctica, Endurance + how to count life)

For the next step, I tried a rather different, random approach: I went to our local telephone book box, and let myself be suprised by the books that were currently lined up there. I also brought some own reads in indirect exchange - and came home with thtree books.

The first is "Runaway Horse" by Martin Walser, who is a well-known author in Germany. But the real surprise was Carl Jonas Love Almqvist. I didn't know this author, and basically went with the cover, the note that it is a book about a journey, and the country of origin: Sweden. I haven't read a book from there so far, and with the Walser novella, this also neatly decided the next continent for the reading challenge: Europe.

So: the Almqvist book. Turns out, the book was originally published in 1839 in Sweden, and caused a scandal. The German edition I came across is a new edition, published in 2004. I guess Almqvist would have been thrilled to learn about the difference he made, and the still existing interest in his work - unfortunately, writing the book caused a downward spiral for himself, he lost his job,, even had to leave the country, and struggled ín exile. Here's more about him, and the book, from Wikipedia:
Carl Jonas Love Ludvig Almqvist (28 November 1793, Stockholm, Sweden – 26 September 1866, Bremen, Germany), was a romantic poet, early feminist, realist, composer, social critic, and traveller. "Sara Videbeck and the Chapel" is the English translation of Almqvist's most famous work, whose Swedish title is "Det går an" (lit. "It will do"). The novel is primarily an attack on lifelong marriage as an institution and the inability of women to become financially independent. The book's social tendency aroused lively debate and "det-går-an literature" became a concept. The controversy over the work, however, forced Almqvist out of his post as rector at the New Elementary School, Stockholm.
The book itself is a novella, and surprisingly vivid to read. It also is a reminder how much society and cultural norms changed in Europe in the last 150 years - and how books had an important role in that process. Almqvist himself was inspired by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose political philosophy influenced the Enlightenment in France and across Europe.

But back to the back: as I browsed the links for it, I saw that it is actually available online in a place that is the very counterpart of the telephone book box: the internet library archive. Which host hundred thousands of files. Here is the link to it in the archive: Sara Videbeck and The chapel.

Now I just broswed the archive a bit, and was both amazed by its size, and overwhelmed by it. That's what's so nice about the phone box: it is simple, with maybe 200 books on its shelves. It's a good place to find books you never heard about, and read outside one's usual comfort zone, without being overwhelmed by choice. Here's a photo:


I discovered the book phone box 2 years ago, and wrote a longer note on it which also includes a book encounter of the sweet kind: "but there are no princess books"

Reading Almqvist also reminded me of the "Readwomen"-initiative, and my own resolution to read more books written by female authors. So that's another good global-reading match: the Antarctica book is written by a woman, and is a memoir. The European books so are written by male authors - the second book is Martin Walser's "Runaway Horse". Here's more about Walser and the book, from Wiki:
Martin Walser (born 24 March 1927) is a German writer. He became famous for describing the conflicts his anti-heroes have in his novels and stories. In 1998 he was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in Frankfurt. His most important work is "Ein fliehendes Pferd" (English: A Runaway Horse), published 1978, which was both a commercial and critical success.

The book has an own story to it: Malser wrote it during a summer-holiday stay in Sylt, as a playful small work as he paused with the longer book he worked on. And it probably is both this playful touch and the parallel to his own character and stay there that added to its success: reading it, you wonder how much is fiction and how much is observing himself and the people he meets. Altogether, the book is about pretending - both between the partners in a marriage, and between "old friends" who happen to meet again. How much of the stories we share are truth, and how much is make-believe? It's a thought-provoking read, but for me, at some point the ongoing and growing pretention started to feel tiring, as it's only in the end that the truth is revealed - I guess personally I would have been interested to read more about how the characters deal with the end-of-pretend, both on their own and in the relation to the others. But then, it's a novella from start and concept, and leaving you with the open end and question is a skilfull turn, too.


The third book I picked brought a nice suprise, too: it's written by a German female author. And is set in Spain - which is where I am right now. I already started to read it, and will do a second half of the "Europe" reads later this week.

Reading Links 
Here are some additional links:

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Under this different sky

when i woke this morning, i remembered the weather forecast: storm warning. so the first thing i did was: look outside. and then i went and picked my camera, to catch this sky. turns out, so far the storm isn't crossing this region. the wind got stronger for a while, but then faded again.

i walked up to the reception, to check with them: the nice news is, we can stay in the appartment we have (that wasn't all sure). and they expected worse weather, too. "if that's the bad day that was announced, we are happy to take it," was the general mood.

i also looked for books, and picked 3 to read into. which lead to this moment:

The second line says: "Das Glück sich lebendig und frei zu fühlen..." - "The luck to feel alive and free.."

And I tried another short video, to catch the mood of this unexpected light day:

and here is the written version of the moment:

Under this different sky /
hours vibrating in 3 kinds of blue /
this luxury of light time

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

2 street scenes + a story crossing

It's one week now that we are here, on Lanzarote island. The weather is still good. In the next days, there might be some clouds, but also sun. And the internet is back! It was down since Monday evening, a reminder to take nothing for granted. So here's the next post, inspired by the current photofriday theme "Street Scenes".

The photo on top is my favourite street here, when it comes to street names: Avenida de los Volcanoes - Vulcanoe Avenue.

And from the files, another interesting street scene: Sokrates lives here.


Being offline had a good side effect, or maybe it was just a coincidence in time - but this morning I thought about one of my resolutions for this year, to revisit stories I have written. And an idea surfaced, one that is so simple that I wonder why I didn't think of it before:

Each week, I like the way the new photofriday theme makes me go and look for that theme, either in a new photo, or in my photo files. And following those themes, I might simply switch folder, and look for a fitting story. So the revisiting would have a fixed place and theme.

Here's the one for this week, for "Street Scene".

I still remember how that story happened, in winter, while driving and musing, and seeing those scenes along the way:


City Crossing  

Cars going. Cars coming. Cars whizzing through the night, in endless streams, forming a line of red leading inwards, a line of white leading outwards. On the side of a four lane road, a house with three towers and silver roof, fully alit, shining like an ufo that fell from the sky. The door, wide open. But no one there, at the door, in the rooms behind the countless windows. A life size still life.

In town, mazes of metal, of stone. Two yellow buses crossing on a bridge, in the very moment the traffic light underneath them turns green. Three trees on the left side, remnants of the time before asphalt. Prisoners of the city, they are. There is no way out for them, not to the left, not to the right. So they stand. Reaching for the sky with their black arms.

At the train station, a sign saying Agra. As if it was close. As if it wasn't two continents away. Between a media maxistore and a company called clockhouse: a plastic half moon, dangling in the air, accompanied by pink and green stars.

At a crossing, a woman in a long white coat. On the other side of the street, a guy in an orange jacket. Maybe their eyes will meet, for a moment, while they cross to the other side. Maybe we all met, somewhere, in between streets.