28 August 2012

Phantom Limbs

Jetlag sort of creates a temporal phantom limb. After two days of complete sleep-deprivation, (we decided that not going to bed before our 6a.m. flight would increase the chance of actually managing to sleep on the plane rides – it wasn't the smartest thing we've ever come up with, to put it mildly) I fell into bed, eyes burning, brain laying hallucinations with the speed of a doped-up chicken with the mission of repopulating its entire species by itself, at 19h and slept like a very flat, wheezing rock. My nose was blocked due to the various assaults the plane rides and lack of sleep performed on my sinuses, and so, when I woke up at 4a.m., my mouth tasted like wet dog. I tossed and turned for an hour and sniffled my way into a superficial drowse, brought about more by the stubborn desire to sleep rather than actual tiredness; when I couldn't manage to pierce the membrane of wake, I finally jerked some activity back into my heavy limbs and got up. First order of business: find some acrylic paint to make one of the small cardboard boxes I have lying around look pretty. Yes, I have my priorities. When the paint was nowhere to be found, I gave up and brushed my teeth instead, which seemed to satisfy my desire to rub a tacky substance onto something with a brush.... – Well, I digress from the original point of this post: jetlag and phantom limbs. It is quite simply explained: when I woke up at 4a.m., the feeling sitting on my chest, keeping me from falling back asleep, was exactly that of waking up around 8 or 9p.m. after a late afternoon nap one knows one shouldn't have had but couldn't help but indulge in. It's not a feeling I usually get when I wake up in the middle of the night; sure, periods of insomnia abound in the realm of my sleep schedule, but the feeling I had very much relied on the notion that the sleep I'd just achieved was not real sleep, that it was a nap to practice for the actual sleep I was to have right now, but that I'd spoiled like one spoils one's appetite by eating candy before a meal (I do it anyway). Bored with my waking state and with a wiggly mind making up for the lethargy within my body, I decided to rein in my thoughts and focus on something easily controllable: numbers. So I counted back the hours and found that it was indeed 20:30 back in Washington, and that I had indeed just slept through the more sinful of nap times (rather than the more socially acceptable time bracket of 2-4p.m.).
Now, all there is to do is to wait for the phantom limb, that still imposes upon me the illusion I am sauntering about in the Pacific Northwest, to slowly fade away and reattach my mind to both the time zone and the climactic misfortune that is Great Britain.

Meanwhile, I will look forward to the discomfort I will feel at around noon, when my mind will be convinced it is 4a.m, Washington time, and scold me for not being in bed at that hour. 

26 August 2012

Leaving America

After 6 weeks, I'm leaving. Vacation's over, there's things to do in England and Luxembourg, and, over the past 3 years, my life has, without consulting me, developed the unspoken rule that I don't get to be exposed to sunlight for more than a couple of months a year. My emotional climate isn't thrilled by this at all. Either way, I'm leaving America and I already know I will miss it. Not unconditionally, but still. So bye, America, with your overuse of the AC and your endless refills of sodas, your ridiculously varied array of climates, your iconic accents that just kind of melt into each other in everyday people's speech; bye you strange country with stunning sights and rambling, below-the-belt politicians, you emblem of the free market in which even churches advertise their services. It was good walking, driving, and experiencing through you. 


Edit: This was meant to be posted earlier this week, but it just never seemed to happen. Either way, have some sleep-deprived rambling.

It is nighttime, I am sprawled on the couch, and embedded in the majority of my muscles is a taut, biting pain. I try not to move too much, as even the weight of my near weightless laptop on my thighs generates discomfort. The source of all this soreness? A few days ago (yeah, I stay sore for a long time) I climbed a mountain. Mount Si. To get up there, you walk a 4-mile (6.5km) trail until you reach a drizzly, icy summit plateau with a stunning view of a fog-veiled valley surrounded by trees. By the time you get up there, you're grateful for the cold; most of the trail is pretty steep and rocky, and by the time you're 4000ft up in the air, your feet, legs and abs are burning. And then there's the way back down. All in all, that's 4 miles of climbing, being out of breath, and pouring sweat, a sandwichy lunch on a rock 4167ft up in the air, surrounded by mist, and 4 miles descent that shifts the weight to your knees and the balls of your feet, and you can feel the latter rubbing against the soles of your shoes so much you can almost see sparks.
During said descent, my mind, which had up until then been busy dealing with the physical strain and subsequent pain via meditation and the processing of the natural splendour that was surrounding us, was ready for a more introverted type of distraction. The pain in my knees made me think about my mother, who has been an avid jogger ever since she was my age, and her advice about taking care of one's joints, especially the knees, as the natural cushioning that makes movement comfortable in one's youth tends to decrease with age, to the point where even walking isn't fun anymore. My mum's knees are fine, as far as I am aware, yet the discomfort I felt in my own knees during the 2-hour-long descent, and even afterwards as I was unwinding in the car on the ride home, made me wonder what I had possibly already damaged in my own body at only 25, and what I could have done differently had I known, a few years back, how certain things affect me now.
In an attempt to get to know more about you, I suppose, some people ask you, if you had to choose one super power, which would you choose? Or, more popularly, if you had one wish, what would it be? Some people choose invisibility, or the power to control time. If asked, I would choose to travel back in time to visit my 17-year-old self, invisibly, and for a month only. Plus, there'd be a bunch of conditions applying to this time travel, because I can't ever do anything simply: on top of being invisible (to everyone but 17-year-old me), I would have to have the ability to "change" things about myself without changing the experiences that I will end up having. Convenient, right? Basically, that would mean that the only thing I have an impact on are things like the mental and emotional perspectives (and reactions) I have to what happens to me: I do want my 17-year-old self to go ahead and have the experiences I had, but I want her to be more apt at dealing with them. Really, what this inconsistent and somewhat contradictory wish boils down to is that I want to be able to give advice to my past self, comfort her, as well as ensure that she sees, in activities she will be tempted to give up at that age, the value I clearly missed at her age. For instance, I would like to tell her to keep working out, and to stretch. At 25, I can easily blame the more consistant than occasional stiffness and cracking of bones on my sedentary student lifestyle, but I wish I didn't have to. I would tell her that what others think of her matters very little, and that, in fact, they judge her much less than she thinks they do, and that, in the end, whether they do or not shouldn't affect the worth she ascribes to herself. Or that she should not try to stuff holes in this sense of self-worth with other people; others don't make for very good band-aids, at the very best, and especially at that age, they make for fickle and undependable ones. I'd tell her that it's ok to show her legs, and that even if hers seem so much less perfect than other girl's, it doesn't matter, that although she's scared of putting herself out there, out there isn't as scary as she thinks it is, and that it won't be once she tries it.
Maybe I've just always wanted to be on both sides of the advice-machine. To be the one giving it and receiving it at the same time. Now that I've managed to sound sufficiently dirty, let me explain: being an only child who's still oblivious about how to act like a real adult (the ones you see in movies), and who's baffled as to how she's 25 already 'cause on the inside, she feels like a teenager most days, I feel that giving advice often amounts to feeling like you're throwing all the deep, painful truths it took you years to figure out into someone else's face, wrapped in unremarkable, poorly chosen words, and it just doesn't stick. Plus, why should they get to take the steps of life faster than you did, why should they get to take a shortcut when it comes to making experiences? Oh good, throw some jealousy in there, why don't you. That's your only child, right there. But all of this would be different if it was yourself (your past self, rather) you gave the advice to, right? You'd be the mature (erm), grown-up (sigh) one, the one who's gone through the crap you go to in your late teens and early twenties, and who can tell you that in the end, it's not all that bad, even though it isn't good; that you're going to cry a lot, but that cooling your swollen eyes with ice cubes before you go to bed is a good way not to wake up with a tear-encrusted, puffed-up piggyface the next day and make it totally obvious to everyone you didn't get your share of peaceful sleep. You'd tell your past self all this, and the past self would be understandably worried, and then probably call you a pansy and vow never to turn into you. Except they would. Because that's part of the contract attached to my wish: everything needs to turn out the way it is now, except I would have taken more chances, experienced more things, learned more about myself and my hidden resilience, etc. Yes, conveniently incongruous, we've been through this.
And then there'd be me, 17 years of age, on the listening side. I'd get advice from someone older, who actually knows me and knows what's good for me because they are me. Win-win. Or maybe not, we'd have to ask 37-year-old me, but I don't have access to that person yet. Not that I'd want to. That being said, this side of the advice-machine (why did I make that word combo up? Oh well, I'm tired) is as precious to me as the other one, because this is the side that gets to put the advice to use. So does my present side, but how nice does it sound to be 17 again and go through life with the advice and support from an older you? Basically, to get to do some of it over? To be younger, more energetic (except for when I was lethargic by choice – my interpretation of goth), to face a future that is now my past and get to play around in it some more.
I suppose that's what I've wanted for a while, and what triggers a lot of my regret-related anxiety (not that I need to tell the world about that, but while I'm at it...); advice is meant to make the recipient's life easier, or to soothe whatever part of them is hurting at the time. At best, it forges intimacy between two people, as well as trust. I find that the more I start listening to other people, and even looking to them for guidance, (that's the tricky part about my wish: I didn't listen to people much as a teenager – low blows that somewhat affected my self-esteem aside – ... didn't make me too popular with teachers, as you might imagine. Good thing there's no such thing as time-travel, not to visit your past self, anyway.) the more I turn to people older than me. In my mind, this makes total sense: I used to take advice, say on how to take care of my skin, hair, diet, from people my age, sometimes younger. This was due mostly to the fact that I had no idea people over 30 dabbled in things like the internet. Good thing I was wrong. I figured, who better to tell you about what to look after in your youth so it functions smoothly throughout the years and accompanies you soundly into age than people who've been through what still expects you? Though my mother doesn't share some of my views on beauty and health, I still trust her whenever she tells me to take care of my knees, my posture, my skin, and to wear sunscreen. I find that, in general, I trust women older than me more, and seek their judgment more than that of girls my age.
Climbing up and down Mount Si and feeling exhausted most of the way, until the point where my knees hurt, made me feel like I shouldn't have given up dancing, or running, and like, if such a thing were possible, I'd like to tell my past self to keep at it for our common sake. Then again, maybe this is just yet another expression of the fact that I need something to bump me into the present, and that I what I have now is the only basis for the future I will have.
What is the point of this post? I'm not sure. It's a lot of self-exposing jabber, but maybe there will be some sense to it. Really, I just wanted to talk about climbing a mountain and how it put me up to date on the status of my body. It's not awful, it's not even bad, but it's not 17 anymore, and the fact I trust a 40-year-old woman telling me what part of my bodily structure to take extra care of more than a 19-year-old girl doing the same, is simply due to the (sobering) realisation that, though I'm not a 40-year-old woman, I will very probably be one some day, whereas I will never again be 19.
Apparently, mountains, whether you're chained to the top of them with an eagle whose recurring visits serve to feed on your liver, or whether you're infinitely pushing a boulder uphill just to watch it invariably roll back down, have a way of making you reflect on your condition. Ours may be to decay, but at least we're not alone in our suffering of it; knowing that everybody goes through what you go through may not be sufficient consolation, but at least we get to ask one another how we get through it. Pretentious enough? I think so. 

25 August 2012


Some of us, insincerity runs through like bad blood, its ink sinking into our veins, indelible scripts that cover our skin from below, marks invisible to most but screaming out at us that this is what we are. Insincerity, for some of us, is not a choice, it is not a cluster of words spat out to confuse, diffuse, or to protect ourselves, it is a sense of who we are no matter the accuracy of what we say. Insincerity, for us that are this way, is the standart by which we judge our words, our actions, it is the inevitable backdrop of the selves we display to the outside world, it is in our bruises and our laughter, in our opinions, kisses, and passions. Some of us cannot let go of the fear, the inadequacy we brand ourselves with, we deal with it by dealing false cards, not to others but to ourselves, we pick up the fool and laugh sadly and say "this is who I am there is no escaping it", then we hold the liar to our faces and shake our head with a furrow between the brows, because, though his nose, cheeks, and eyes are nothing like ours, the mouth of the fool looks identical to ours in the way it moves, and we accept this because no-one could scrape this conviction from our mind, no-one could, because we take their compliments and criticisms of who we taught them that we are and we say "but how should they know any better, I have lied to them since we first spoke". Our friendships put up with us out of ignorance, because we have fooled them like masters, like magicians on a stage, we have stuck our fists between their open jaws, pulled out a flapping dove and said "look here, how free you are, how free to choose my friendship, how free to choose to give me love". We stick the same hand into our mouth and pull out a dripping string of lies, tissues of them, knotted together interminably, and we observe what we are convinced is not ourselves. These are not our words, they couldn't be, they are not inside me anymore, they must be wrong, corrupted, they must be false. We hold our drenched string of lies and drag it behind us through the dust while others hold our shoulders and laugh and say "I like you just the way you are". 

23 August 2012

Too Bright on Earth

Sometimes, you are walking, or driving, during the day, and all of a sudden it strikes you that today, daylight won't do. The feeling in your gut, the sounds that hit your eardrum, all make little sense in daylight. Today, you need daylight to give way to night. This need is an aesthetic one. You are not goth, and you are not hungover. Still, the light feels foreign to your pupils, and your senses are adjusted to a nighttime that isn't there. Phantom nighttime, like a limb that should be shading your eyes but doesn't. It is strange you should be in this mood, considering the time you spent all winter sitting by the window, wishing for sunlight, yearning for the heat of summer. Yet now that the sun is digging into your senses, all you want is nighttime to manifest itself in its iconic colours; dark blue and yellow streetlights to replace the golden rays of the sun. And your thoughts are set to music filled with draughts, the tinny, isolated sounds of a trumpet, dark blue and wire bristles brushing against drums. Think Night on Earth (soundtrack), the "Mood" segments. You want the brightness to go away, you want your face to be lit only partially by the kind of light that hides more than it reveals. You want the people around you reduced to shadows, lonesome and brushing past you like ghosts. You want to float solitarily in this backdrop, content in the somnolence it exudes, lost in thought with an empty stare in your eyes while the trumpet breathes velvet into your neck. 

20 August 2012

The Unlikely Topic of Guns

Earlier this week, I did something I never thought I would do. I shot a gun.
Keep your pants on, it was under supervision. By a marine. And I didn't have to aim this gun at a person, because I was on a shooting range, with targets made out of discarded election signs, and a handful of gun-aficionados with an impressive panoply of gear and gun-related accessories, not unlike that of D&D players. A fascinating display of firearm-nerdiness, in other words. Kind reminder that I am, in fact, still in America.

This experience was offered to me as a favour so as to not only give me a proper introduction to shooting and the various instruments that accompany this task (it was also my first time being in the same room as a gun, to my knowledge at least – this was the hardest part for me) but also diversify my American experience: it allowed me to familiarize myself with what was (and to a great extent, still is) foreign and scary to me, I was explained the instrumental as well as sport-related side of guns, and we discussed the laws that surround them. Am I still scared? Yes, but about different things.
The first thing I noticed, which took some of my fears away, yet replaced them with others, is how hard it is to properly aim a gun. Though what I got to shoot was a pretty lightweight form of a rifle (my friend introduced it to me as "the gun my dad taught me to shoot on when I was 8"), I still got to hold, and shoot, a revolver. After two shots, I was done with the handgun variety though; heavy, hard to aim, and it did a lot of kicking. Not a pleasurable experience for me. But it also made me realise that just because someone decides to walk into a store and shoot the place up, it doesn't mean they are automatically a good shot. Not that that's much of a comfort, but what I gathered from this, albeit short, exposure to the world of firearms, is that the people who own them know that they are weapons to be taken seriously, and, more often than not, it seems they know that owning them comes at the condition of respecting, as well as knowing your weapon, i.e. abiding by the safety measures.
I'm definitely not saying owning a gun makes everyone a serious, responsible person by default, and that is partly where my remaining aversion to them comes from; however, I no longer sit in the swampy conviction that guns are inherently evil and whoever owns them is invariably missing the majority of their braincells and will end up killing us all. That being said, I still believe their possession should be restricted and that their proper handling should be taught mandatorily, much in the way I think car licences shouldn't be given out like candy (but that's a different story). Then again, I do not live in the US, and guns are not anywhere near as commonplace a phenomenon in Europe as they are here, (which explains why it's taken me 25 years and a trip across the Atlantic Ocean to get up close and personal with one) so I suppose in that respect, this shouldn't be my judgement to make. I'll make it anyway because this is my blog and I get to do whatever I want.

What about my experience in itself, you ask? In a sense, and totally unexpectedly, I somewhat enjoyed the experience. Yes, me, the person who works up a grump whenever people fan-boy/-girl over guns and shooting, who cannot comprehend the simultaneous execution of balancing on the back of a horse and aiming at a moving target, and who, every time a shooting in a public place makes the news, hides under her blanket for the next three days, moaning that humanity is slowly consuming itself. Speaking of shooting for sport, i.e. hunting: experiencing the difficulty of aiming a rifle from a sitting position at a perfectly still target 25ft. away gave me a whole new sense of respect for one of my friends who actually counts hunting among his hobbies.
That being said, I presume one of the reasons I liked shooting ("liking" includes the rifle experience, but not the revolver, who was way too fickle and kicky for my taste) has to do with the fact that I usually like things I don't completely suck at. Not bragging. I just expected myself to do so much worse than I did, and I hit the target pretty much every time... except for when I hit my friend's target instead. Yeah. They look alike from a distance and through a small black tube. I have excuses. I also have bad eyesight, which is one of the reasons I politely declined a friend's invitation to join him on his archery range a few years back; despite strict safety rules, I was afraid I might impale someone on accident. Good thing the shooting range didn't have anyone but us on it the first time I sat down with the rifle and thought "Oh god, it's going to jam and explode in my face."
But then I aimed and pulled the trigger (lightly, because I had no idea what was going to happen) and it wasn't as loud as it had seemed the first time my friends fired to show me what it looked like. With each round I increased the number of bullets I would shoot, and while the weapon still felt heavy against my shoulder, it became less scary. I started focussing more on aiming it properly, taking my time, rather than shooting to be done with it. And I started feeling like the pink, ankle-length, flowery dress I'd thrown on that morning in the mist of sleep, looked less out of place, less like a statement about my reluctance to be there in the first place, and more in tune with what was surrounding me (the range is beautiful, surrounded by those high, spiky evergreen trees that I will miss when I leave) and comfortable with the visual paradox. Or maybe I've seen too many films that juxtapose weapons and girly attributes in a search for the ultimate beacon of badassery. Whatever. The point is, I was offered to do something that wasn't me and I went through with it. Has it changed my opinion about guns? Somewhat, but only in the sense that my opinion about them was warped in the first place, to say the least, and this has only "normalised" it. Is it something I am now passionate about? Not really, but I understand the appeal. Am I going to do it again? I'm down to my last week in America before I hop on a looooong plane ride back to Europe, so... probably not. 

13 August 2012

Uprooting Practice

Some of us make everything we undertake or experience into a quest for ourselves. Our selves. When doing something, we wonder "Is this me? Is this who I want to be, in the end? Does it fit the person that I am?" And although, for some of these things, the answer is 'no', we find ourselves doing them anyway, out of necessity, out of a sense of duty, or because we can't say 'no', we can only feel it. What we keep holding on to, however, is the notion that there is something that we are, intrinsically, that there is something we are meant for: some of us "must" be writers, or musicians, or "must" turn everything into a competition that will yield confirmation of our superiority as individuals.
One thing that seems common to these existential aspirations is the idea of context; that there is a specific context in which I, the real "I", the person I really am, deep down, can flourish, that there is an ideal soil for me to stick my roots into and grow without constraint. This context can be spatial (a particular climate, or socio-cultural environment), or temporal ("I wish I'd been alive during the sixties, it all seemed so much easier..."), or even mental (personally, being me is quite enjoyable on some days, less so on others); whatever the nature of the context, it is usually reminiscent of a theme much mulled over in the arts as well as in philosophy: homecoming, or rather, finding your "homeland".
While this is usually treated as a question of personal development ("finding oneself"), or, more poetically speaking, as an existential odyssey, looking into it in the light of a search for one's actual homeland, i.e. the geographical context in which one feels the most at home, carries with it some interesting questions.

When it comes to "birthplace vs. homeland", there seem to be two distinct categories people fall into: the ones who run to their native country, and the ones who run from it.
The former may equate their birthplace with their homeland, and vow to spend their life there, either because they have travelled widely and found that nothing agrees with them as well as the first place they called "home", or because they have never experienced a particular drive to leave the nest and explore whatever other lifestyles the world's geography holds, simply because they are content and fulfilled with the life their homeland allows them to lead. Other people may run to their roots, their "original" homeland, and away from their actual birthplace, because they associate with this move a purity, a shedding of the chaos and cluster of experiences their current habitat has encrusted them with; this yearning to unite with one's roots is often of a genealogical nature, but sometimes these roots have nothing to do with one's ancestors or one's heritage, sometimes they are generated by an individual's idea of who they are, and, indeed, some people will be self-proclaimed Spaniards even though their family has been composed of nothing but Swedes for at least five generations. This is where we find the seam between those who run to and those who run from: some will consider their native country an environment that does not agree with them, and will find ways of making themselves expatriates. My own country is, so to speak, "empty with" such expats, all of whom have found their country of choice in Germany, England, the US, etc. Whatever the situation, it seems it always involves a to as well as a from; we are drawn to what we have, or away from it and to something else.

And then there are those of us stuck in the middle, so to speak. Who neither run from nor to, because from isn't so bad, and to isn't yet determined. Those, who know they need to find their "somewhere", but that are still looking, still testing soil after soil with their roots in hand.
Maybe we just haven't found what agrees with us yet, or we are confused by the fact that everything agrees with us up to a point; that every soil is livable, inhabitable, but just not perfect. Every soil has flaws, everywhere has people that are too loud, political notions that are questionable, a climate that has "too much of the same" several months a year. On the flip side, these same places have opportunities and people one enjoys, culture and nature one wouldn't want to miss out on.
As for me, I am still testing the waters in this little part of the US, just like I did everywhere else I've lived for a while; imagining myself living here for good, pros and cons, most of them more visceral than rational, coming to the same conclusion I've come to everywhere else, abroad as well as in my native country: it's nice, but not perfect. Which leaves me with a kind of homeland-ADD, though I still want to experience a sense of belonging, of being at peace with my surroundings. After all, that is what they teach you in kindergarden: every shape has a slot it fits into. But as soon as I've lived somewhere for a while, I'm ready for something new. The problem with this is that, obligations to my studies and friends aside, I want it to be new but not too different. Also, I am essentially a sedentary person; I just don't want to be sedentary in the same environment all the time. Ideally, the environment would take a hint from the cyclical format of the world and change around me like the seasons. But it doesn't. So what will it be? Endless searching and migrating, despite my physical and mental discomfort during travels? Or making due with what I have? The older I get, the more I lean towards making due with what I have; however, as I still feel entitled to searching (not having hit 30), I reserve the right to hold casting calls for the country I will end up calling my home until I finally decide to grow the hell up and settle down. But, let's be honest, whatever home I choose, it will most likely end up as a balancing act between borders. And this balancing act will probably be the ultimate "return to the roots": I was raised that way.

Edit: As my significant other mentioned upon reading this, the notion of "alright but not quite right", which is the stance this post seems to have taken in respect to the question of finding one's home, is somewhat reminiscent of Theodor Adorno's "kein richtiges Leben im falschen", or "no right life in falsehood." The idea that there is no fulfilled sense of belonging, and that the world, in its inadequacy and inherent deformity, does not fully accomodate our "shape", our concept of a "right" life, seems to adhere to the general atmosphere of Adorno's work with great persistence. In the end, it seems that any life lived is lived in compromise. 

02 August 2012


We went to the museum today, Seattle Art Museum, or Sam, as I was told to call it. I realised, upon stepping inside, into a vast grey hall with cars dangling from the ceiling, that something in my internal rhythm had just changed: my pace was slowing down, the humming in my ears was fading. This might have to do with the quality of the insulation used in the building process, but, as much as I appreciate a good soundproofing job, it doesn't instantly give my senses crispness, or my mind focus, and it doesn't make me feel at home even though I am about 5000 miles away from it. This may sound entirely too "esoteric" (incidentally, my "cousin-in-law's" favourite insult directed at everything that diverges from the math-o-logical course of his mind) to some of you, but I trace the source of this feeling, as well as its unshakeable connection with museums, back to my four years of living in Germany.
Indeed, the people I was connected to at that time, romantically or platonically, fuelled my, until then relatively aimless, love for art with their own drivenness to learn and experience, and we ended up visiting museums like other people go to bars, and chasing expositions like people chase rockstars, and the idea of spending afternoons walking through a museum became natural. Whatever we learned about the artists and their work, we learned from reading up on them and just plain staring at them, because we all agreed museum guides were too loud and generally talked too much anyway. We were pretty full of ourselves, but this is what we chose to take seriously.
When I lost touch with those people and moved away, museums once again became something I saw from the outside: I moved to a part of England that has few museums, along with little of most everything else; the weather sucked, which was doubly harsh after spending four years of my life in the sunniest city in Germany, I knew hardly anyone, trips seemed draining and pointless.
And so I went back to my old lifestyle, nay stumbled back into it, ("Wanna go to the art museum?" "Um, ok.") and discovered something that shook me into the state of mind I'd been expecting since I've put my dissertation behind me. Not only have I not forgotten how to behave around art, how to handle it, so to speak, but I have become more apt at understanding it. Yes, there is a way of behaving around art, there is a way to take it in, and I'm not talking hippie pass the doobie kind of way. If I can allow myself to slip back into the "esoteric" side of comparisons for a minute, I'll probably have to compare my dive back into art museums to going to church, not that I know what I'm talking about but bear with me: if you've gotten into the culture that comes with going to church, you will be able to go to pretty much any church (of the same denomination I guess) and feel "at home"; you will know where to sit, how to adjust your voice, what most things are for, when to speak, when to be silent, and who the person reading from the big book on the podium is.
A similar thing has happened to me with museums, apparently most noticeably with modern art museums: I know how to look at a piece of art, I know how long it will take me before its atmosphere starts creeping up on me, and, most importantly perhaps, I know that it will happen. I remember feeling awkward around certain pieces, getting too caught up in how long other people would stare at it, roughly, and the noise and movement around me. Basically, I feel at home, and I don't feel awkward. I feel like I know my way around (even without ever having been there) because I know what I want to get at. And when I get there, I feel like I understand what I am given. This is pretty much the newly acquired "focus"I was talking about earlier; sounds don't interfere with my immersion in whatever I am looking at as much anymore, I don't care in what manner other people in the room enjoy the same works of art I am feeling drawn to, and I feel entitled to whatever it evokes in me. One thing hasn't really changed, however, and that's the loudness of museum guides. Man, are they loud.