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If only there were occasion for repose,
If only this long road had an end,
And in the track of a hundred thousand years, out of the heart of dust
Hope sprang again, like greenness

Omar Khayyám (1048-1131),  The Ruba’iyat

I came across this strophe from the Ruba’ iyat by Omar Khayyám  in a novel some years ago. It is so beautifully simple that it becomes simply beautiful. Words volatile like ether, almost hard to grasp.

I am thinking… If two souls connect deeply in this life, this reality, this dimension, will they not have to meet somewhere again?

In the heart of an atom, or the tail of a comet, will not an infinitesimal space of the immense universe contain them again?

Be it in a hundred thousand years…

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In memoriam

We are standing on a sloping rock. You are thin and tall. I am surprised that you can stand without support. Your body is  bare. Your skin has a beautiful glow. You are giving me directions. You know the way. The landscape is framed by two rocks. In front of us there is a deep, still and perfectly clear sea. The water is shimmering in turquoise and golden shades. At the bottom I can see a huge and shiny conch shell. You walk down the rock. I am following. You stagger a bit. You scare me. Your unsteady steps are sped up by the downward slope, but you do not fall. Instead, you silently disappear into the deep sea.

I know this is not an ordinary dream. As soon as I can, I take the train to visit you on a bright, late January day. Your cousin Karin joins us and we spend time together in the well-known living room.

A week ago, I take the same morning train to see you. Only now you are in a hospital bed. Again, I have arranged to come and see you with Karin.  It’s a Saturday. On the way to the hospital, Karin buys a bouquet of orange-yellow tulips.

You’re frail as a bird but so dear anyway. The Olympics show on TV. You can only hear of course. Your sight is blurry. You hush us when we speak louder than the commentators.

When Karin passes on greetings from a hundred year-old relative who wants to see you once you get well, you laugh and say that ours is a ”nice family“.

I dab your lips. You want to drink but can not swallow. You want to have “breakfast” but your breathing is becoming too difficult. I realise that your body has fulfilled its mission on earth.

I pat you on the hair, shoulder, knee. You are not an old man anymore, but a young child ready to be cradled by a nurturing embrace.

And so grandfather, you disappear between two trains. In a small hospital room, surrounded by a dear cousin, a granddaughter and three nurses. You’ve always enjoyed the company of women, haven’t you? The space around you is filled with love and care. The nurse who has been trying to keep you alive has tears in her eyes. I hug her because I am grateful that she is right here with you, with us.

Mom who visited you the day before was amazed by how you thanked the personnel that took care of you, even in that state of weakness and tiredness, when your body and mind must have been in protest. “That is something that I am taking with me” she said.

Yes, even in your last hours, you were patting the nurses tenderly on the shoulder when they were taking care of you.

What blows my mind is how easy you made ​​it for me. You let me accompany you to the brink of the water. Then you disappeared, in stillness and silence. Without ever being a burden to any of us. Everything I have ever done for you suddenly feels so small. Maybe you knew how much I have always feared this separation. Was this your providence? Maybe this is how the elders protect their younger kin for as long as they can.

We are walking together on a rocky hill. You are thin and tall. Your skin is bare as a baby’s. I am surprised that you can stand up without support.

You turn towards me to give me directions. You know the way, but where you’re going, I can not follow. Our paths diverge.

You take a few tentative steps. You scare me. Your unsteady steps are sped up by the downward slope, but you do not fall. Instead, you silently disappear into the deep cosmic ocean.

In silence and stillness.

Little I whom you used to lift up on the roof of a green Volvo, little I who could climb on you, was there.

I am forever grateful for all the love and respect you have shown me. I am so happy to have had you in my life for so long. For all the memories I can pass on. Memories of a jazz-loving family man, enthusiastic engineer, builder, inexperienced cook and steadfast life-companion.

Wonderful friend. Boy from Vallvik.


Thank you.


( I am dedicating Eroll Garner’s “Full moon and empty arms” to you; forever associated with you. )

++++++++++

Till åminnelse

Vi står på en sluttande klippa. Du är smal och lång. Jag förundras över att du går utan stöd. Din kropp är bar och din hud har ett vackert lyster. Du förklarar åt vilket håll vi måste gå. Du kan vägen. Två klippor ramar in bilden. Framför oss öppnar sig ett hav. Vattnet är djupt, stilla och alldeles klart. Det skimrar i turkosa och gyllene skiftningar. På botten syns en stor blank trumpetsnäcka. Du går nedåt. Jag följer efter. Du vacklar lite. Dina steg är ostadiga. Jag får hjärtat i halsgropen. Du får fart i nedförsbacken, men du faller inte. Du försvinner ljudlöst in i det djupa havet.

 Jag vet att detta inte är en vanlig dröm. Så fort jag kan tar jag tåget för att hälsa på dig en ljus dag i januari. Din kusin Karin ansluter sig och vi umgås i sällskapsrummet.

 För en vecka sen tar jag samma morgontåg för att hälsa på dig. Men nu är du sjuk och ligger på en sjukhusbädd. Det är jag och Karin som råkar hälsa på nu igen. Det är en lördag. Karin köper med sig orangegula tulpaner på vägen.

 Du är nätt som en fågel men så fin ändå. OS går på TV. Du kan ju förstås bara höra. Synen är suddigt. Du hyschar till oss när vi överröstar sändningen.

 När Karin hälsar från en hundraårig släktning som vill titta in hos dig så snart du blir frisk skrattar du och säger att ”vi har en fin släkt”.

 Jag baddar dina läppar. Du vill dricka men kan inte svälja. Du vill ha ”frukost”, men din andning blir för svår. Jag inser att din kropp har gjort sitt på denna jord.

 Jag klappar dig på håret, axeln, knät. Du är inte en gammal man längre, utan ett litet barn som ska vaggas av en omhuldande famn.

 Och så morfar försvinner du mellan två tåg. I ett avhägnat utrymme, omgärdad av en kär kusin, en dotterdotter och tre sköterskor. Du har ju alltid gillat kvinnligt umgänge, eller hur? Rymden omkring dig är fylld av kärlek och omsorg. Sköterskan som har försökt hålla dig vid liv har tårar i ögonen. Jag omfamnar henne och är tacksam över att just hon är där med dig, med oss.

 Mamma som besökte dig dagen innan förbryllades över hur du tackade personalen när de tog hand om dig även när det var ansträngande för din trötta och sjuka kropp. ”Det är något jag tar med mig” , sa hon.

 Ja, in i det sista klappade du ömt sköterskorna på axeln när de pysslade om dig.

 Det jag förundras över är hur du gjorde det så lätt för mig. Du lät mig följa med dig till vattenbrynet. Sedan försvann du, ljudlöst och kravlöst. Utan att någonsin vara en börda för någon av oss. Det känns som om allt jag någonsin gjort för dig är så litet. Du kanske visste hur rädd jag alltid varit för detta avsked. Var detta din försyn? Det är kanske så de äldre beskyddar sina ”små” så länge de bara kan.

 Vi går tillsammans på en klippig backe. Du är smal och lång. Din hud är bar som ett barns. Jag förundras över att du kan stå upp utan stöd.

 Du vänder dig om mot mig som går bakom dig och förklarar åt vilket håll vi måste gå. Du kan vägen, men dit du ska kan jag inte följa med dig, här skiljs våra vägar åt.

 Du tar några trevande steg. Du vacklar lite. Jag får hjärtat i halsgropen. Du faller inte, men får fart i nedförsbacken och försvinner in i den kosmiska oceanen.

 Ljudlöst och stilla.

 Lilla jag som blev lyft upp på taket av en grön Volvo och som kunde klättra på dig var där.

 Jag är dig evigt tacksam för all kärlek och respekt. Jag är så glad över att ha fått ha dig så länge i mitt liv. För alla de minnen som jag kan föra vidare. Minnen av en jazzälskande och familjekär man, entusiastisk ingenjör, hemmafixare, oerfaren kock och trofast livspartner.

Fina vän. Pojke från Vallvik.

Tack.

(Jag tillägnar dig Eroll Garners ”Full moon and empty arms”. För alltid förknippad med dig. )

What do you think of St. Valentine’s day?

I am personally in favour of any occasion to celebrate something positive, so I like it if I can only be spared  the corny white and red teddy bears and other gift-item paraphernalia.

 If you would go on a meta-date, who would be your Valentine? Who would be that person that you associate with the idea of love? Love in the broader sense…

I would pick my grandfather. A big love from the time when I  literally had to look up to people. Which  of course did not mean that grown-ups would automatically earn my respect and appreciation.

The heart is free and cannot be owned. Not even that of a small child.

Grandfather has been something of a key-note speaker when it comes to love. Setting the tone.  A strong personality. Expressive. He loved his wife. He loved his children and grand-children. He loved his career. Everybody around him would know that.

I sincerely think that my grandfather has always loved his life and lived it as the best life he could ever have been given.  I don’t think that even  the wealthiest persons on earth are as happy and unwaveringly convinced about their lives as my grandfather has always been of his.

He and my grandmother are an example of how love and marriage can stay together and be long-lasting.

I grew up separated from half of my family, so love has been this feeling sometimes blown out of proportion. I have experienced the bigness of it from when my body was almost too small to contain it.

Love can elevate you, but also hurt you deeply.

What I have learned  is that one needs to actively seek and encourage the soft and constructive qualities of love. Love in its mundane forms. Peeks are good, but so is walkable terrain. Relationships are all about investment. We choose the raw-material and it is up to us to shape the final product.

More and more I tend to think that epic love is not necessarily and per se good. Good love on the other hand, does not need to be epic. But it has to be sought for, found, nourished and maintained.

Sometimes it is difficult to  let go and intentionally do nothing.

At least for me it is. I sometimes feel a Promethean impatience spreading out to my limbs when I am in the corpse pose (see yoga). Only corpses are not supposed to protest…

Relaxing is easier when somebody else sets the rules, I have realised.  In a led class it is easy-peasy. Confinement brings freedom.

However, when you practice on your own, there is no external authority to guide  you anymore.

What I tell myself though is that, regardless of how many asanas I squeeze into, what I try to be, my daily practice, if I only manage to  lay down for ten minutes with the intention of relaxing, I have achieved something.

Those ten minutes so to say, have an intrinsic value. A reason for being that is independent of what comes before, or after.

undercoverI use a rectangular pilow as a support for the spine, two blocks and a fleece blanket for my head. And a strap around the hips and feet for the triangle pose. Then a thick woolen blanket as a buffer between me and  my impatience.

I set the timer on ten minutes. There is no escape. No action. No movement necessary other than that of the breath, which in the end is effortless.

Do you know the zen joke, “Don’t just do something, stand there“? Well, that is more or less my mantra:

Don’t even think of doing something, just lay there”.

My father was born as Greece was exiting a world-wide conflict and entering into a civil war.

Life was tough and scarcity was a fact. People living in the countryside though, were somewhat better off. My grandfather, a tall and proud wood merchant, did his best to supply his family with enough food. He also made sure that his youngest son, my father, got  his, generous, share of sesame halva.

Tahini, sugar, a dash of soapwort and craftsmanship is what it takes to make a good halva. Vanilla, cocoa or peanut-flavoured. My grand-father would buy 6.5 kg tins filled to the brim with nutty sweetness.  Old days’ family packs.

In the evenings, the extended family would gather for a simple meal. Oftentimes, it would consist of herbal tea and hard bread accompanied by olives, cheese, halva, or raisin-spread.

tea&halva2014. I make myself some mountain and dittany tea, spiced with cinnamon bark. I reverently unfold the cellophane wrapped around a tender piece of sesame & honey halva, bought at one of my favourite markets of Thessaloniki…

It is aromatic and frail. Crumbly and sticky. As I sip the tea and take small spoonfuls of halva, I piggy-back on my father’s childhood memory and let the evening calmness wash over me.

halva&teaThe word Rastoni, idleness, pops up in my mind. The kind of inertia usually associated with the limb-paralysing heat of a summer afternoon, when the sound of crickets cuts through the air like was it made of hot custard.

But my rastoni is not ignited by mediterranean sun-beams. It is evoked by a grainy sweet, inextricably associated with the debute of Lent and precocious spring awakenings.

Rastoni as in a lapse of effortless recollection; a mental cubicle big enough to  accommodate a memory and a projection that transport me from a present of winter and darkness to a nearing future of  blossoms, clear skies, and fresh winds of change. I am idling away some fragments of time that already belong to the past, licking my fingers as they helplessly pass me by. 

I recently read Haruki Murakami’s “What  I talk about when I talk about running“, an autobiographic tale of a serial marathon-runner and world-renowned author.

The unparalleled bliss that comes somewhere after 50 minutes of running, when the pulse is in resonance with the cosmic heart-beat and endorphins perform somersaults in the air above your head  is an indisputable fact.

I ran a semi-marathon once and every time the season of longer and brighter days kicks in, I am somehow compelled to start running.

However, my most constant an unquestionable relationship is that to walking. As a general rule, wherever my feet can  take me, I will go.  The more I think of it, the more I realise what an intrinsic part of my life it has always  been.  I grew up in a car-less family. From going to school and running errands to recreation and holidays,  walking was a very natural part of our daily life and it is still something that connects me to my kin.

walking

During my university years, I managed to wear out several pairs of pants. One by one they would succumb to friction and the kilometres traveled on foot. Funnily enough, my shoes resisted much better.

I was a mean walker. I am still fast, but used to be even faster. I always walked with determination and speed.  Walking duels with fellow pedestrians were not uncommon. My competitors would most of the time be male. Consciously or unconsciously they would  speed up as I  threatened to overtake them. And most  often I did.

Remove walking from my everyday routine and I am frustrated. While in India a couple of years ago, it took me a week to figure out how to cross the street in one piece. I was heavily walking-deprived by then. Once I had mustered the courage to challenge my way over the zebra crossing, I could breath out and reclaim normality.

Walking does definitively not sound as spectacular or sexy as running. It is a form of low-intensity exercise though, which probably matches my personality quite well. Intensity mellowed down by constancy and endurance.

Walking also perfectly reflects a favourite oxymoron, σπεῦδε βραδέως, which more or less translates into “rush slowly”. For me this is how intensity, focus and intention all come together gracefully.

I do not need to walk for miles to fetch water; nor did I ever have to cross mountainous terrain to go to school. I don’t need to walk to the nearest village to go to the doctor. However, I don’t only walk for the mere sake of walking. It is in many ways an instrumental element of my life, embedded into my activities. It is like a useful relationship of give and take that I nurture. What I invest in it returns to me in increments of well-being.

When I am outside walking, surrounded by people, nature or urban landscapes, I am in a realm where opposites meet and through some kind of fast-paced magic,  manage to coexist in harmony creating functional beauty.

For all of those reasons, and many more, I walk. And as I keep on walking, I learn how to balance discipline with joy, inertia with activity, relaxation with focus. I hope that walking will continue being a source of enjoyment and learning for many more healthy years to come.

sofiawise

Clockwise, otherwise & likewise

The Chick on a Pea

Clockwise, otherwise & likewise

Buttercupgoeswest

Buttercup is a newborn and we are taking her on a 5000 KM journey from Ahmedabad to Kanyakumari

Sadness Theory

Music with passion for the environment

zee pause café

taking a moment, having a coffee, writing down some thoughts