Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Roaming the land of my kin - the birthplace of my dear mother and the issuer of half of my passports - has proven to be a delight. With nothing substantially pressing to do, other than take in the beauty of Germany in the throws of a white Christmas, I have been occupying myself with reading by the wood stove, exploring the ancient family barn, and wandering through pretty little snow-capped villages.

More importantly however, I have been spending time with my family. It’s been a year since the whole troop has been together and it’s been an absolute joy exploring old haunts, doing regular sibling things like movies and walks and flinging snowmen off of bridges, and taking part in breakfasts that in their proportions would ideally feed one or many small nations. Typically dear old dad is sent out at the crack of dawn and comes back with freshly baked bread from the village baker (right after he puts on the coffee, that is) – just in time for the rest of us to unfurl ourselves from our dreams and featherbeds. Bless the man, he is a champion.

We got to visit the famous Nunberger Weihnachts Markt – a Christmas market that far exceeded any expectation that my tropical born mind could fathom. It was a glorious maze of stalls filled to the brim with fruit and grilling bratwursts and straw stars and candles and chocolate hearts. People thronged, the choir sang and candied nuts in paper cones were tucked into. My favorite German cousin joined us in our ventures and it was a pleasant little catch-up over hot chocolate and cream.

Magnificent cathedrals have been visited, long ambles through the valley have been taken, much snow and ice has been shoveled (I am anticipating coming home with the ability to lift a truck) as well as singing around the traditional advents cranz or wreath in respectable harmony...and there’s a degree of deliciousness in knowing there is more to come. Just like the snow. It can't seem to get enough.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

On Haroun and Dinner Parties.

A few weeks ago, our gracious friends Marissa (masterful cook and photographer exraodinair) and Nelly (chef de cuisine and traveler of the high seas) had a wit and wisdom dinner party where we got to enjoy each other's company, partake in the worlds best apple torte and listen to a host of wit and wisdom that was as inspiring as it was pleasurable.

I read from a novel called "Haroun and the Sea of Stories", a book that is, in a word, delicious, and in three, full of learning. I was spurred on to re-read it - and curled up in front of the wood stove in my Grandma's deutche family room seemed like the perfect way to do it.
And so I give you one of my favorite pages.
* * *
“So pick a bird,” the Water Genie commanded. “Any bird.”
This was puzzling. “The only bird around here is a wooden peacock,” Haroun pointed out, reasonably enough. Iff gave a snort of disgust. “A person may choose what he cannot see,” he said, as if explaining something very obvious to a very foolish individual. “A person may mention a bird’s name even if the creature is not present and correct: crow, quail, hummingbird, bulbul, mynah, parrot, kite. A person may even select a flying creature of his own invention, for example winged horse, flying turtle, airborne whale, space serpent, aeromouse. To give a thing a name, a label, a handle; to rescue it from anonymity, to pluck it out of the Place of Namelessness, in short to identify it – well, that’s a way of bringing the said thing into being. Or in this case, the said bird or Imaginary Flying Organism.”
“That may be true where you come from,” Haroun argued. “But in these parts stricter rules apply.”
“In these parts,” rejoined blue-bearded Iff, “I am having my time wasted by a Disconnector Thief who will not trust in what he can’t see. How much have you seen, eh, Theiflet? Africa, have you seen it? No? Then is it truly there? And submarines? Huh? Also hailstones, baseballs, pagodas? Gold-mines? Kangaroos, Mount Fujiyama, the North Pole? And the past, did it happen? And the future, will it come? Believe in your own eyes and you’ll get into a lot of trouble, hot water, a mess.”
* * *

To believe without seeing is faith. Difficult, perhaps, but does it not give us a scope for adventure and knowledge that would otherwise be out of reach?

Friday, December 17, 2010

On my journal cover.

A few months ago I stood in front of a tastefully decorated little stationary shop and realized two minutes too late that shops of this caliber are my absolute downfall. I hovered in front of the big glass window for a good five minutes before pretty paper, little glass vases and colorful hardcovers won out over logic altogether...and I emerged, a triumphant new journal in hand (as well as a breakfast book telling me a hundred and one ways to make a scone).

The cover of my journal looks something like this:

I like swirls, I think, because they go against anything that is square. They overlap, they go against the grain and they somehow make me think of continuity...the one-thing-leads-to-another concept. I have seen so many good things come out of taking leaps of faith, being spontaneous, seemingly hum-drum act of kindness and doing what one loves, that it is hard not to be a fan of this concept.

Sometimes however, bad things happen. The beauty of faith? That in Christ, good always prevails. In Christ a swirl can always be stopped and one can begin again. It all creates the spectacular perfect mess that one sees on the cover in question - the pockets filled with teals, evergreens, magentas, oranges and purples. And that is what we are - beautiful, perfect messes. With pages ready to be filled with God's plan.

Cue slightly over-used, yet undeniably on-track metaphor of handing over the life-pen to Christ as author. You know it.

And so the metaphor continues. Sometimes swirls are broken because I choose to take the pen back. Nothing like the feel of a smooth pen in a hand that enjoys control, enjoys knowing everything there is to know about a situation or the next step. I imagine that God's pen is one of those pens that writes fluidly and elegantly and not too thickly, without a scratch or a break. It is probably gel. Because I smear every time I try and write with it.

But then his goodness inevitably intervenes and I give it back - even though it's sometimes hard to admit he is the better, wittier writer of the two.

And so the perfect mess continues, growing more intricate and more beautiful with every twist of the pen.