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Living Here and Now

Sometimes, on my way home, I watch mothers with their young children. Obviously they have fetched them from kindergarten, and now both are on their way home, or on their way to the next supermarket. Mom looks on her watch. You can see that she’s got a certain schedule in her mind (“must get food for dinner. Dinner must be ready at 7pm, otherwise hungry husband gets angry”). Little boy or girl is lagging behind and stops. A little dog has caught his attention, and he squats down to pat it. Mom has discovered that her child is not with her anymore, turns around and grabs her boy.

The little boy is making noises at the dog, and the dog is obviously enjoying his attention. The boy doesn’t want to go away. Here is a sweet little dog, swishing its tail, even throwing itself on its back in order to be patted on its tummy.

His mom is not stone-hearted. She notices the way her boy is acting – carefully patting the dog, making calming noises, and is proud of him. But she’s got that schedule in her head and wants to keep to it. So she says “Come on, we’ve got to go, daddy is waiting at home and wants to have his dinner”. No reaction. Her boy doesn’t care about the future. He’s focused on the here and now.

Here my story ends. We adults have our schedules. We go from A to Z in order to reach the office, the bus, to do the shopping, to meet someone at a certain time. We don’t want to get lost in the here and now. But I think that is something we should learn from children: to get distracted  – to get distracted by the song of a bird, by the color of a flower, the tail-swishing of a dog.

This is a contribution to Robert Hruzek’s Group Writing Project “What I learned from Children” over at Middlezone Musings.

Great Expectations

Sitting room. In the middle of the room is a table covered with a white tablecloth and set with three wine glasses. Three chairs are arranged around the table. Then three people enter the room: a plump woman in her 50ies, a man at the same age with broad shoulders and a young man about 25 years old, with longish brown hair. Whereas the couple is clad in rather formal clothes, the young man is wearing washed out jeans and a t-shirt. The young man is their son, who has applied for fine arts at the university. He got “the letter” from it. The parents invited him in their house to hear the latest news.

Woman: Pete, just sit here at your usual place, please. And Mike, can you bring the wine bottle please, the one I bought today at the supermarket?

Woman and son sit down. The man goes into the kitchen. The woman is rather excited, rubs her hands, takes up her wine glass and puts it down again, tries to smooth the table cloth. The son is staring at the table. The man comes back with a big wine bottle, reading the label.

Man: reads Char-donn-ay. Never heard that name before.

Woman: It is a French wine. My friend Glenda told me that it is a very nice one. She’s got some experience with wine, you know.

Man: You can say that! opens the bottle with some difficulty. There it is! pours the wine into the three glasses.

Woman: raises her glass Well, to the future student of the Fine Arts!

Son: looks up, cleans his throat Well, wait a moment, Mom.

Woman: puts her glass down Being accepted at the university is a reason to drink to, Pete. You are such a modest person. You’ve ever been. Do you remember, Mike, when he’s got that letter from his teacher, telling us what a great artist we have in the familiy. He didn’t want to talk about it, our Pete, didn’t he?

Man: uh-uh.

Woman: And now he’s got that letter of acceptance from the university and doesn’t want us to drink to it! You know, I told Glenda yesterday, that we are so proud of having an artist in our family. And a student! The first one of the family! He won’t have to earn his money by selling cars to arrogant customers, like our Wayne has to do.

Man: There’s nothing bad with selling cars. His boss says he’s one of the best salesmen he ever had.

Woman: looks at the man and he won’t have to earn his money by putting bricks upon bricks each day!

Man: staring angryly at the woman and what’s wrong about that? We’re pretty well off with the wage I am carrying home every month! But I know you’ve  always wanted someone more educated! Someone in a business suit!

Son: Mom and Dad, please!

Woman: You’re right, Pete. Your father and I won’t quarrel on such a wonderful day, won’t we, Mike! I am so exited! When are you to begin your studies?

Son: To tell you the truth, Mom and Dad…

Woman and Man: Yes, Son?

Son: Not this year.

Woman: not this year? What does that mean? Next year, then?

Son: No. He gets off his chair. Well, I can as well tell you all about it. They told me that they could not accept me. No artistic potential what so ever. Should not try again. I am no artist, Ma! Never will be! runs out of the room.

The End

I wrote this piece because I wanted to try something I’ve never done before – writing a kind of screenplay. I don’t know anything about writing screenplays, I must admit. I just have a vague and amateurish idea how to write it. I can only publish it on my blog because I know that you, the community of my blog, are kind and capable of tolerating such an attack on any standards of writing. I promise: I won’t do it again!

This is a contribution to Mission(ImPossible) over at Joanna Young’s blog “Confident Writing”.


What I learned from the Death of my Bonsai

Bonsai. Photo: Ulla Hennig

Bonsai. Photo: Ulla Hennig

One of my colleagues and friends owns a Bonsai shop. You know what Bonsais are – those little trees, planted in decorative basins. Some of them are only for your garden, but some of them – so it is said – can be happy inside your flat.

Last September Melanie (that’s her name) gave to me one bonsai as birthday present. She told me how to water it, where to put it. I chose a place for it, and it was the first thing in the morning for me to look at it. I must add that my experience with plants up to that time consisted in dealing with cut flowers. I liked to arrange them in a vase, carefully cut them, and I usually managed to have them quite a long time. So I thought I would be able to care for my Bonsai.

Well, after some weeks, my Bonsai was not feeling very well anymore. It changed its leaves to a first yellowish and then brownish color. I told Melanie about the state the poor plant was in and she mentioned the possibility of it having not enough light. So I put it on my window sill.

September had changed into October at that time, and it had become cold outside. So the heating was on, and the heating was – you might know it already – under the window sill. Poor Bonsai now got light, but also the heat rising from below. It clearly did not like that, and it showed by throwing away slowly but continuously more or less all of its leaves.

Of course I tried to find out what I could do – more water? Less water? Removing the dried branches? Nothing helped, and in the middle of November my Bonsai had decided to die  (I had the impression it really wanted to go, somehow). I was left with the feeling of having killed it and I felt rather bad for quite a time.

What did I learn?

  • There is a difference between looking at plants and enjoying them in their surroundings and having them in your own flat.
  • There is a difference between the handling of cut flowers and bonsais. Having a “green thumb” for the first doesn’t mean you’ve got one for the latter.
  • If I wanted some green plants in my flat I should try hydroponics first before experimenting with something so difficult like Bonsais.

This post is a contribution to the August Group Writing Project “What I learned from the Plant World” organised by Robert Hruzek over at http://www.middlezonemusings.com.

Walking back from the Mountaintop Or: The Powers of Nature

High up in the mountains. Photo: Ulla Hennig

High up in the mountains. Photo: Ulla Hennig

It is great to be in the mountains when the weather is fine: The air is pure, the sky is blue, the grass is green, you feel the sun on your face while you are happily walking up that path. Just a few more steps, and then there you are, on the top of that mountain. You didn’t have to climb, just walk, but nevertheless you are proud of having reached the summit. Far down on one side you can see the little village where you departed from a few hours ago. Just straight in front of you, far away, too, are the really high mountains, majestic towers of stone and ice. And you are standing in the middle of all that beauty, being a part of it.

Then the blue sky is not so blue anymore.  Clouds are rushing in. It is time to go back. The path is full of pebbles, and you have to be careful. You look back over your shoulder in order to see how much time you have got for getting home without being washed away. Then you stop looking back – it takes too much time. The clouds are now in front of you, too. Dark clouds they are, and it is getting colder, and there’s a strong wind blowing.

The first drops are falling, and then the rain comes down. It is not that slight steady rain you know from the city. It’s like standing under a waterfall, and after half an hour you are wet through. Okay, you say, I can get dry again after the next two hours, and you continue walking down that pebbly path, trying not to slide.

Then you see the lightning. And you hear the thunder. You know how dangerous it is to be in the mountains during a thunderstorm. There have been people struck by lightning. It is getting darker and darker. Rain has changed into hail now. You are on your own, desperately looking for some place to hide. You’ve got the funny feeling that you don’t belong, that you are not made for this kind of nature.

The thunder and lightning have stopped. You are cold, your skin is hurting from the rain and the hail, but you see the first neat little houses of that village you came from, and you haven’t seen anything more welcoming in your whole life. You feel a bit proud of having made it in the end, but you are feeling very, very humble as well. That walk back from the mountaintop taught you the powers of nature.

This is  a post contributing to Robert Hruzek’s Group writing project “What I learned from a Mountaintop Experience” over at middlezonemusings.com.

Three Things I learned from my Community

The first thing I learned was that actually it was possible for me to gather some people around my blog. In the first weeks of my blogging I noticed some blogs with a lot of “regulars” coming back and commenting – and I thought – wow, that’s great, but I would never be able to attract such a lot of people with my blog. Well, about 100 posts later I know, that it was possible for me to have the same people not only dropping by but also leaving their comments. Of course, the number of my readership is still – well, let’s say – limited.

But, and that’s the second thing I learned, it is not always the number of visitors that counts, it’s the quality of their comments. Since the days I started blogging I’ve seen many blogs getting dozens of comments like “Great post”, or “get on with the good work”. Some of the commenters left their comments – so it seemed to me – only in order to get their blog addresses published.
In my case I am glad to have commenters contributing with quality content – a big kudos to all of them!

The third thing I learned is how important it is for someone like me who takes pictures, who paints, who writes, that means, who does some creative work, to get comments about those pieces of creativity. There is always the inner critic who says: “This photo is not good enough. You have no right to publish it.” Or “Stop taking pictures. They are no good at all.” Getting all these encouraging reactions gives me the power to fight my inner critic and to silence him (well, most of the time, that is). It gives me the power to try out new things. It did a lot for my personal development.

So let me raise my mug filled with fine ear grey tea to all my commenters – those, who commented in the past, those who are commenting now and those, who will comment in the future!

This is a contribution to the What I learned from Community group writing project at http://www.middlezonemusings.com.

Still Standing

She could not believe it.

She had come to the meeting, thinking that it would be easy. Most of her colleagues who would have to decide today, knew her. They knew, what kind of work she had been doing all over the years. She had been responsible for the monthly publication, which had been published regularly, every month, without delay, due to her committment.

And now? Nobody mentioned that. Nobody even mentioned her. Other people were nominated for the office, people with no experience.

She felt like running away, hiding in some secrete corner. “They don’t want you!” She could not think of something else. “They don’t want you!”

She slowly got up from her chair. Suddenly, the discussion stopped. People turned their heads towards her. She had their attention now. “What do you think you are doing?” When these words left her mouth she realized that she was not going to run away. She was going to fight. “I want you to talk about me. I have been doing this job for four years now, and I think that I did it well.” Ah, she felt much better now, though she noticed that her voice was trembling. They looked at her, some of them with a kind of guilty look on their faces. “But you know, I can pretty well do without that additional load of work. I can pretty well do without you!”

She could not believe that she had said this. Now she had got their full attention. Some of them definitely looked like pupils having just been reprehended by their teacher.

She moved towards the door. Then she turned round:  “I’m fed up with this discussion! If you don’t want me to do the job, I’ll just go and let you manage on your own!” “Come on, get back to your chair – we didn’t say we didn’t want you.” “Calm down, you know we need you!”

When she thought about the whole thing in the evening she knew that she had learnt one important thing: If you want something, you have to speak up. Don’t expect other people speaking for you!

This is a contribution to the “What you learn from Adversity” Group Writing Project over at Middlezonemusings.com.

Writing Lessons

The first thing I learned was that it was a proper decision to blog in English – which is not my native language. I did this after a period of blogging in two languages. I remember very well how I discussed this possibility with Joanna Young who gave me the advice to just try it out. I tried it out and, after a few blog posts, decided to change from Blogger to WordPress and to write in English. That was my first writing lesson: Writing is tightly tied to culture, and just translating a German blogpost into the English version simply won’t do it. I had to write in a completely different way.

The second thing I learned was that my English was accepted. I posted a lot of photos, and the writing that went with them was quite short. So the number of mistakes was limited by the number of words written. Still I was afraid of not being able to deliver. ‘The people coming to my blog encouraged me to continue with my blog posts, telling me not to bother about my language capacities.

The third thing I learned was that presenting my photos was a part of my blogging. I published a poem (in a sudden attack of audacity) and two very, very short stories. Again I got encouraging feedback and support. I published some pastel drawing which I had done a few years ago. Again I was afraid – would my “products” be good enough for the public? And again I got reactions which made me blush.

And that’s the last and most important thing I learned: To try out new things, to overcome my fear. The steps I had to do myself, but I needed and still need my various blogging friends in order to evaluate my steps, to get an orientation for the paths I will take. So: A big Thank you to Joanna Young, Robert Hruzek , Brad Shorr, Karen Swim, Rosa Say and Janice Cartier!

This is a contribution to Joanna Young’s group writing project: Writing Lessons