The Hope of Spring – Part II

May 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

As I wrote in an earlier post, in these northern latitudes spring comes late. It starts out very timidly with a few flowers here and there which suddenly start popping up all over when they realize that the warmth is here to stay. Usually there are just anemones, snowdrops and coltsfoot. They are the ones that are strong enough to make it through a slight layer of snow or a chilly night. I like to think of them as the trailblazers.

However, if you go out for a walk in the woods now, just a couple of weeks later, you can´t decide where to focus your view. There is such an explosion of flowers that is difficult to decide which one is prettier. Adorning the trees, on the ground, close to the streams, nature is hurrying to bloom. The anemones, snowdrops and coltsfoot have drown in an emerging sea of blades and grass, and many other flowers are taking their place. In the area where i live, the indisputable queen of the woods is the lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis). Although it has not blossomed yet, leafy stems creating large colonies have conquered the underground forest and very soon we´ll have their precious bells enthralling us with their scent!

Lily of the Valley

 

The Imagination of Children

May 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

Three years ago my partner underwent proton radiation on his right eye to destroy a malignant tumor. He lost the vision of this eye and, over time, this dead eye is shrinking and is being sort of absorbed into the body. Yet he has no cancer. Although this story sounds a bit dramatic it is not, and the point is not to turn it into one. I´m telling it because the other day our daughter – 6 years old- was looking intently into this disappearing eye and made a comment: Does this mean (the shrinking eye) that from now on you are going to be able to see inside of your body? Sooo cool!!

Is it not this a fantastic conclusion?

 

Black-and-White Photography

May 19, 2013 § 1 Comment

I like black-and-white photos. In many occasions color is too distracting. Yet the absence of color lets you focus in the essentials like shapes, composition, shadows and lights. The interplay between black, grey and white can be as rich and nuanced as you wish. It can bring drama to a scene or it can enhance a sense of serenity.

A black-and-white photo is not one missing color, but one created without color. There are many master photographers that have specialized in monochrome pictures, probable one of the best is Sebastiao Salgado. Although some people have criticized his latest turn to environmental and nature photography after having documented for more than three decades the conflicts and miseries of the world, whatever you think of him take a look at his website for a review of the unlimited possibilities of photography in its monochromatic version.

P.S. I was asked by a friend whether in our lives color is also too distracting, too domineering? Whether the present time is characterized by an ever expanding need to “color” everything and to focus only on rainbows and not appreciate enough the depth provided by just black,white and grey?

 

Norway´s National Day

May 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

May 17th is the national day of Norway and unlike in many other countries it is a day dedicated to the children. In Venezuela, where i grew up (as well as in many places around the globe), the national day is celebrated with military parades, politicians discourses on the importance of sovereignty or whatever the local issue at hand, and in general, it is an opportunity to take the day off and enjoy the beach, mountain or just plainly relax.

Norway is a bit different. People dress up with the national costumes (or try their best clothes), spring clean their houses, prepare special meals and lots of cakes, and wake up early to attend the local parade and school activities. Children are the focus of attention as they lead the parade (organized by their schools) and traditionally it is the day where they  are allowed eat as much ice cream and hot dogs as they want. Schools and parents prepare raffles, games and sell cakes and food to collect funds. As the weather in Norway is quite unreliable, people start speculating in advance whether that day it´s going to rain or not, how cold it´s going to be compared with previous year and where in the country is going to be warmest (not that it matters much because anyway everyone will try to attend the parade and the activities afterwards rain or not). The whole 17th of May deal is quite a different twist from the usually quite boring military exhibition.

However, complaints have shown up in the newspapers lately about people dropping the 17th of May festivities in order to travel or go to the mountains and not participating in their local parades. In the school that my daughter attends some parents have also mentioned this … Maybe some people are bored of the same activity year after year. Yet, I think that the majority are still quite patriotic in this sense. As a foreigner i do see it as a charming and special way to celebrate your independence. After all is it not the independence of the country the way to provide a different future for the new generations?

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P.S. If you are interested in the subject of how countries celebrate their national days, particularly in Norway, you may want to check this book  “Symbols of Nations and Nationalism: Celebrating Nationhood”

Banality

May 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

“In my opinion banality remains the whole diagnostic criterion of the crisis within our era” Gohar Homayounpour (Doing Psychoanalysis in Tehran).

When you watch television (specially news sections and reality shows), read the newspapers or surf through the internet, is it not banality the common denominator? what about when you talk to people? your friends? family? the man next door? the woman at the supermarket? is it banality the common denominator as well? or sometimes yes, sometimes not? is it not banality more pronounced through the media (social, electronic or whatever)? I agree that banality is poignant within our era but I´m not so sure where it´s coming from.

Ornamental Sewers

May 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Walking around the streets and eventually looking down at your feet, is it not incredible to discover these cast-iron ornamental sewer casings and weave stories about their possible meanings?

Trondheim  Oslo

P.S. The photo to the left was taken in Trondheim (Norway)  while the one to the left in Oslo

On Sandor Marai

May 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

I like very much the books of Hungarian writer Sandor Marai. I encountered him relatively late, I believe some 3 years ago, but after been highly recommended by a friend i decided to explore his books. First I bought  “Portraits of a Marriage“, which in my Spanish version is titled, interestingly enough, “The Fair Woman(La Mujer Justa). I loved the book, the way the story is told and above all, I was fascinated by Marai´s uncanny ability to recreate the most intimate corners of people´s minds.

After this successful reading I decided to buy a second book, the one that in Spanish is titled “The Last Encounter”(El Ultimo Encuentro) and which i believe has not been edited in English. Again I was not disappointed, another superbly told story of a very special friendship. And then,  spurred by my enthusiasm, I decided to buy yet another book. However, this time i decided, for a change, to buy a book in English since i was curious about how his stories were translated. I bought “Esther´s Inheritance” and i was perplexed. Certainly this could not be the same Sandor Marai i was so ravenous about. The characters were constructed  so flatly, the story seemed almost predictable (not that this is an adjective that can describe his other books at all), i did not finish the book. What had happened? I could say that this book perhaps was not his best?? or that the translation was not so successful?? or that maybe the Hungarian language translates better in Spanish than in English?? I can´t say, I would have to read the Spanish version and then compare. Maybe I´ll do that, but then again I did not like the book …