Saturday, December 31, 2011

How Many New Years Can You Celebrate?

A Happy New Year to you all!

Two of the Eight Immortals,
wishing you a long and happy
A lucky charm for wealth
There is a reason to celebrate New Year in most every season. Spring is the time for Asian traditions; the Chinese celebrate the second new moon after the winter solstice as their new year which will be on January 23rd, 2012. The Tibetans prefer the 3rd new moon, exept when they have a calendar shift. Cambodia chose the 14-16 of April to celebrate their beginning of the year. The Buddha statues are rinsed with clear water, signifying the purification of mind. In summer, no culture seems to see a reason for a change of years, at least I haven't heard of any.
Autumn seems to be a good time to begin something new. The harvest is in the barn, the Jewish tradition celebrates a new beginning.
Our new year might be based on an old European tradition of beginning the year with the return of the light: Winter solstice. The early Christian Bishops who saw their belief confronted with older pagan tradition decided to transfer the old holidays into Christian ritual. So they defined the return of the light as the birth of Christ, and the new year -- instead of a celebration of the Roman god Janus -- onto an in-cident one week after Christmas. Happy Circumcision of Jesus!
Resolutions? I never take resolutions on December 31. There is a test for them: Do they work at any time of the year? If not, they will certainly not work at this random time of year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Painting and Collecting

"Copper Mine", size approx. letter
Some bits of my color pencil collection
 Colour pencil on black cardboard works fine and is not as dangerous as gouache when being used in the living room. You might remember: I started embroidery and quilting to have something to do while my husband watches tv in the evening. We need to be together during the few hours of day when he is at home. -- My collection of color pencils is much larger, but I am ashamed to show the whole bunch. Stash collectors... Well, I'd probably not collect things that cannot be transformed into something else.
Painted Diary, Gouache
At night, I carry on with my gouache paintings. I use a small book -- about half letter size -- to create a painted diary with comments. 
The Black Waters of Loch Ness
African Dance
Merry Xmas, Mr Vassily!
Happy Boomerangs

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thinking of Christmas

(Caution: Filling's hot. This posting may contain sensitive thoughts and offensive ideas)

We bought small Xmas presents this year.
And we are not going to surprise one another.

My parents-in-law are, as we called it, a "mixed couple", a catholic and a protestant. My husband was raised catholic, but his scepticism goes far beyond. My father was a protestant vicar, I am a buddhist. My husband has a strange sense of humor, recently when I saw a light flying that probably was a distant helicopter, I said: "Look -- a UFO!" -- And his reply was: "Can't be, they don't fly on Shabbat."
The common base for us to celebrate?
If it was presents, in order to escape the religious quest, we'd be stuck in the material trap. Moreover, my p-i-l were not really happy with my husband's choice of a wife. I'm their guarantee that they are not having grandchildren. Hooray. Yet, they invite me for Xmas, as they have done for years now.
They know that J wouldn't go without me.
That's love! I love my husband, he loves me AND his parents. I love them and they love me -- in a strange way. With all the basic components for a conflict, we'll have a holiday in harmony. I know we will. We always make it. I cut back my urge to debate controversies. My p-i-l stop letting me feel I was the wrong choice ("she's nice as a person, but...").
Peace on Earth! Sometimes, it is a bit of work. But it works.

I wish you all very happy Holidays, whatever you celebrate, with whom and under whatever circumstances!

Monday, December 12, 2011

This Year's Berlin Trip

The train is approaching Berlin's central station
Berlin, near the central station
J and I spend a weekend in Berlin every December to celebrate our cousin's Birthday. Some parts of Berlin look really somber in this light, but as a Berlin weekend means a lot of walking and riding on suburban trains, I was rather glad that temperatures were above freezing point. In some parts, Berlin looks as if the war had ended 10 years ago, not 56.

Noon in Spandau (looks like evening, doesn't it?)
We reached the city at noon -- you wouldn't believe it if you see the Spandau picture left.
After all, we are on the same latitude as James Bay, Canada.

These old houses have double windows
"Israeru'no Miyage dessu"
 I gave an angel to H, our host's wife. It was made by Yael in Israel, and H who comes from Japan was enchanted by the angel's naive charms and bright smile. So here's the guardian of a huge flat in a 1900 house in Berlin's quiet suburb Friedenau which means "Meadow of Piece". You can see H in a pic below, drinking hot wine punch.

A star on top of each tent
A Berlin Xmas Tree
And off we went to the Xmas market on "Gendarmenmarkt" ("Police Square") which is a lovely ensemble of 18th century churches and other buildings. The buildings were heavily damaged during WWII, but have been perfectly reconstructed. The entrances are guarded by "Gens dArmes" in historical costumes.
J seems to be listening to a sad story
Here, we had "Gluehwein" -- hot wine punch --, and I had an egg punch which I found pretty strong. My husband gives a funny glance, but he is not shocked, just listening to the conversation. You can imagine how noisy the crowd was.
Smoking Gun
And I caught my husband smoking a cigarillo which he does once a year (or 2 onces, maybe), but never at home. He pretends to have a bad conscience, as you see.
There was a stage on the market where young girls performed a ballet with the music of Caikovsky's "Nutcracker", it was quite enchanting, but much too crowded to get closer. So I shot this picture with a zoom in very dim light, holding my camera above people's heads. Berlin is having a large number of emigrants from Russia (mostly Jewish), so there is some culture worth mentioning establishing again.

"Nutcracker" ballet

The market was so crowded that I did not even have a chance to see the shops -- or rather: I almost panicked, honestly. I made an appointment with my friends to meet me in a near café and fled from the crowd. There was a queue of 200 yards length, people waiting to get in, so it was getting even worse.

Brunch with a lot of kids
Next morning, we had a brunch with friends and kids, also Japanese friends of H, then J and I started for another item on our agenda, modern art.
"Berlinische Galerie" -- Museum of Modern Art
We took another suburban train to visit a museum by the old-fashioned name "Berlinische Galerie". After all these walks (and Berlin stations often don't have escalators!) we were done and tired, got back to our hosts to pick our luggage, had a good-bye tea, and they saw us to the station.

Some of you have requested to publish a video of my ukulele play, but I haven't got the technical means. I'm working on it.

P.S. A technical hint. I switched off the light box for my blog which can be done under "settings" -- in case you don't like it either.