Sunday 31 May 2009

A Lazy Afternoon

Contrary to popular belief, I do not always and constantly have to DO something.
Just as often, I indulge in sweet laziness, as I have done for a good part of today.

The sun was up, my neighbours were being very noisy with what looked like dozens of house guests all over the place, and I had already done my running in the morning; so I grabbed a blanket, a bottle of water and my white bikini and went to the park.

There, I went unnoticed and unbothered, disappearing among the pretty yellow-and-white pattern of buttercups, daisies and clover.

Stretching out on my blanket, I took my glasses off and now the trees at the edge of the meadow were a heterogenous mass of various shades of green, ranging from what in German is known as "May green" to what I would use black paint for, if I were to paint the scene.
Even without my glasses, I could see that the branches were moving slightly in the breeze.

The sun and the gentle breeze felt caressing on my skin.
In the distance far above, I could hear the lazy drone of the small red and white Cessna I know quite well. A woodpecker was nearby, mixing what to my ears ranges very high on the scale of sounds I associate most with spring and early summer with the song of all the other birds. The humming and buzzing of insects and occasionally a child calling out to someone during a ball game.

I almost fell asleep.
It was peace.
And sometimes I need just that.

Friday 29 May 2009

How The Cat Lost Its Thumbs

Many years ago, long before people had iPhones and governments had come up with laws about the curvature of cucumbers, all animals lived in harmony under the benign reign of their king, the Lion.

Humans were considered equals, not feared, and cats still had thumbs.

Soon, the cats found that their clever little brains enabled them to make the other animals do things for them, things they themselves couldn't be bothered to do or found below their dignity.
So they started to order everybody around, humans included.

Most of the other animals were peaceful enough to not mind doing the odd job for someone else every now and then, but the cats became increasingly demanding and haughty at the same time, to the point that the other animals agreed between each other that this had to stop.

They sent a delegation of their oldest and wisest to humbly present their case to the Good King.

The Lion listened patiently, as was his habit, and then closed his eyes, resting his chin on his big soft paws."He's asleep," someone whispered.
"He's not, he is thinking," someone else replied, also whispering.

With a swish of tail and throwing back of his impressive mane, after an hour or so the Good King opened his eyes again and looked intently at the cat.

"What," he said in his deep, velvety voice (but those who knew him well could detect a faint growl underneath the velvet), "what do you suggest we do with you, Cat?"

The Cat blinked, and quickly licked its left shoulder.
Then it replied: "If the other animals find it beneath themselves to assist my kind, I am sure the humans won't object. Assign them as my servants, if you please."

And although it tried to stare into the Lion's eyes, it only managed to hold that majestic amber gaze for the fraction of a second before it had to look away, quickly licking its right shoulder.

"Humans!" the Good King now boomed (his voice could do that, you know, without sounding ridiculous or aggressive - just mighty).

The humans, who had of course also been invited to the gathering, shyly came forward.
"Do you wish to serve the Cat?"
A fast, nattering discussion broke out among the humans, making them sound very similar to the monkeys.
Then their leader stood in front of their group, cleared his throat and said: "We will. But the Cat has to be kind with us, keep us company and make us laugh."

"Conditions," the Lion growled, "that are not easy to fulfill."
Once again, he closed his eyes and rested his chin on his paws, and thought long and hard for an hour or two.

Finally, he rose.
"You," he pointed at the group of humans with one long, sharp talon, reminding everyone that he wasn't their King just because he had a beautiful mane and a velvety voice,
"will have the Cat as company, and the Cat will be kind with you and make you laugh, for as long as you will serve its needs."
The humans bowed their heads, looked at each other and nodded.

"And you," now the long sharp talon was directed at the Cat,
"will have your wish granted with the humans assigned as your servants - but from this moment on, your thumbs are gone, and gone forever."

The Cat could instantly feel that something about its paws was different, and true enough, the thumbs it had formerly had were gone.
It shrugged, thinking "so what? I have my servants, I don't need thumbs," and elegantly and nonchalantly, it slunk away from the gathering, the group of humans trailing behind.

- - -

Several thousands of years later, things have changed for the cat and its humans.

There are still those among the human race who are willingly serving the cats' every need and whim, but often, cats do not get their orders executed instantly, if at all.
But, whereas in the past they could still do everything by themselves, if they so wished, they can not do that anymore.

You can't open a tin of cat food without thumbs.
You can't hold a brush properly without thumbs.
You can't clean a cat toilet without thumbs.
And there are many, many more things you can't do without thumbs, even if with your clever little brain you know exactly how these things are done.

Ever since the day they lost their thumbs, cats have secretly been thinking about how they could get them back.
They know a lot about us, and they know how most of the things we do are done, because they watch us, and they watch us closely.

So, the next time you are, say, changing a tyre on your car in the drive and your neighbour's cat is watching your every move, you know why it does that.
And when you hear a nightly chorus of cats on a balmy spring night, don't be fooled - these are not "love songs" or territorial marking, but a serious conference about how to get their thumbs back.

Monday 25 May 2009

Oh To Be a Lark!

After temperatures rising higher and higher over the past few days, it seems that today, we have had the hottest day of the year so far, at around 30 Celsius in the early afternoon.

Now, heat is something you will not hear me complain about - not on this blog, not anywhere else. Cold, yes, that is an entirely different matter, but heat - I thrive in it.
Remember the summer of 2003 which was quickly dubbed in the media as a "Jahrhundertsommer"? Well, I was happy!

Those past few days I enjoyed, and not only because I had a short working week of three days and a long weekend of four, but mainly because of said weather.

Sun and blue skies! Poppies on the fields and roses in the gardens; walking along scented hedgerows, listening to the indefatigable (albeit somewhat monotonous sounding) larks overhead, and to the much sweeter pealing of the blackbirds' songs - all this is so much more enjoyable during the one-hour walk from the small town where I work to the slightly bigger town where I live, instead of getting on the smelly, crowded train that takes, admittedly, just four minutes for the same purpose.

But on a day like this, only very few things would have managed to make me take the train.
Summer is just too preciously short here to be wasted.
And while I do indeed feel more energetic and generally more alive this time of the year than in winter, I wish I could be like the larks who seem never to tire for as long as the sun shines, always up there as high as they can, singing at the top of their lungs.

On the other hand, larks can neither read nor write, so I think I'll stick to being human, which has some other distinct advantages as well.

Saturday 16 May 2009

Cold Blood & Secrets

What - if there is any - is the relation between cold bloodedness and secrets?

Trying to find out for myself, I have been thinking about this and been doing some brewing (see lately.

From very early on as a child, I have loved secrets. My own secrets, that is. All kids love to discover, to find out about things and animals and people and places, so that is nothing special. Countless children's books aim at that, and most people still like a book or a film with a plot that keeps some things hidden from them until the end, many years after their childhood gave way to the turbulent teenage years and on to being adults.

Keeping something secret, no matter what it is, can add a certain thrill to life.
(I am by no means certain whether the term "thrill" actually fits what I am trying to describe here, but for lack of a better word, it will have to make do.)

In my case, as a child, those secrets consisted of things like knowing where my mum kept her diary, of hiding a glittery bit of paste jewellery in my dolls house wardrobe, of sneaking through a neighbour's garden at night to have a look at the goldfish in her pond without her knowing, and the like.

Later on, the secrets and the thrills became more elaborate, without ever being actually "bad" or dangerous. What mattered was simply that they were MY secrets.
Something only I knew about (or thought so, anyway).

Where does the cold blood come into this now?

Back at school, there were several incidents where I was accused of being as cold-blooded as a fish. While the other girls were ready to shed tears and show emotions that I simply did not feel when, for instance, we were about to go our separate ways for the six-week long summer holidays, I merely shrugged and went home after school like I would have done any other day throughout the year.

My own sister, who loves me to bits and vice versa, has once said that I am quite cold-blooded; she was referring to how I seemed to be totally unaffected when I ended my first marriage.
Ending my first marriage - or, rather, the reason for ending it - had a lot to do with secrets, namely with one that I chose to reveal at that stage.

Nowadays, I have secrets once again (like probably the majority of people, only that they call it privacy). Some of them completely innocuous, others a little less so.

Do they give me a bad conscience? No, they do not, and never have done.
I seem to be unable to feel those twangs of remorse that are often described by others when they have done something that is considered to be "not right".
And that, see, THAT is how my secrets are related to my cold-bloodedness.
Does it make sense? Have I managed to link the two aspects?
Actually, I am not entirely sure of it myself.

Wednesday 6 May 2009

"To Hug A Dolphin" - Continued

- - - This continuation to my original "To Hug A Dolphin" was not written by me, but I like the idea of the author and have his permission to post this here. - - -
It is also the continuation of the whole Dolphin story:

You cannot pronounce my name in my native tongue, the closest you could come to it is by calling me Jacob. I am a Wave Rider. Wave Riders are considered amongst the bravest of my people. We usually travel together in groups but there are times where I need to be alone, to collect my thoughts. Being a Wave Rider is hard work and sometimes I need a break from it.

It is during one of these times that I noticed this lone creature by the shore. I have seen their kind before. Some of them ride the waves too, but not like we can. Usually they travel in groups too but sometimes I see one travelling outside the group. I wonder if they’ve lost their way from the group or if they are collecting their thoughts too.

If I’m travelling with my group and I see one of these creatures I pretend not to see them. For amongst my people they are known as the Death Bringers. A stigma is attached to you if you befriend one of these creatures, you’re branded a Death Lover and the group banishes you. I know that they’re not all Death Bringers as I have heard the stories from some of the Death Lovers. I’ve heard tales of bravery, compassion and friendship.

My tasks can take me away from the shore for weeks at a time, while we go in search of food. The main part of my task is to protect the Gatherers from our mortal enemies, namely the Sharp Teeths. They may be big and deadly but they’re slower than us in close quarters. We have to make sure that we don’t get too overconfident when dealing with the Sharp Teeths, my friend Marcus reminded us of that deadly lesson last season.

I just got back from a hunt and I’m weary. I broke away from the group so that I could rest and recharge. I saw the lone creature, this time close to the shore. I saw it enter the water and head towards me. Its body language indicated that it wasn’t trying to be hostile, the creature was slightly tense but cautious in its movements. I know that these creatures are not agile in my environment so I moved closer. The Death Bringer wrapped its upper appendages around me to hold me but not bind me. It placed its face on top of my head. I knew that the stories were true, that they weren’t all Death Bringers. I released a shout of joy that seemed to please my new friend.

Saturday 2 May 2009

A Pattern Repeated?

Heavy and weighed down was how she felt that morning. The lightness and ready smile that had been with her for the past few months was gone, and as a result she had to make a conscious effort to sit upright instead of slumping in her chair as she went through her usual amount of emails and other online activities.

It had happened again. Yes, yet again.
And she thought of the pattern that had been repeated before, too many times before.

First, there had been S. from C. He had obviously been proud and pleased to be her first man. It was something that mattered to men of his provenance even more than to others, and inexperienced as she had been back then, as well as not having any self-confidence to speak of, it had only seemed natural to her to assume that this was how things were supposed to be in a relationship.
After only a few years, she had to wake up to the fact that she was not, and was never going to be, the most important thing in his life. That place was already taken, by something as banal as TV.

It made her look for attention and confirmation elsewhere, and she found both with D. from B., until he found someone who was closer and "available", as he put it.
After D., there was G., very young, very strong, 2 m tall and a waterball player, who immediately told his actual girlfriend what had happened, so consumed by guilt he was.

S. from W. knew all about her, because she made sure he was not going to start anything with her being under a wrong impression. To her own surprise, he was not put off by her confession, but was even ready to leave his home country and move in with her. A bigger and much less pleasant surprise was to find out that he was an alcoholic, and once again she had to accept the truth, that there was something else that mattered a lot more than herself.

Her self-confidence at an all-time low, she spent a magic night with A., who never made it a secret that he was already in a relationship. Well, so was she, but she still had not expected him to retreat so completely from her.

Another rejection on her ever-growing list, she gave up on the idea of ever finding someone to whom she would matter, and a short series of equally short relationships followed, both of which she started and ended in the full knowledge of their unsuitability.

Then, during a particularly difficult period at home, she was so angry and sad that she finally confided in a friend.

Their friendship grew closer by this, and her friend was of enormous help, not only in dealing with the current situation, but also in her finding her way to self-acceptance and self-confidence.

Until something happened that made her friend retreat.
And she feared the recurrence of the old pattern of rejection.

But then she tought again, and found that, this time, there was no relation to the former pattern. This was different.
It was not her, and not her fault.
She understood, and in spite of the heaviness she felt momentarily, she knew that she would feel well again, and maybe not lose her friend entirely.