A drift of fragrant petals, a bench, a quiet invitation to unwind, and let go. Escape
This is a Ukrainian woman working in the doorway of a cottage, in the open air museum called Peragova, in Kyiv. She’s probably a pensioner, and supplements her meager income by working at the museum and selling her crafts. The photo makes me think of work ethics and habits.
I grew up in the midwest in a small rural community in central Minnesota. My father often worked two jobs and built the house we lived in with his own two hands. He later supplemented his income by spending long hours out in the “shop” building beautiful cabinets for other people. It was work he loved, and he could make wood do almost anything. It just seemed to blossom into his vision of what it should be. But I know it took skill and experience to create the beautiful work he produced.
As a Midwestern American (and I know this is true of many Americans) I was brought up to work hard. To do your best, and give your employer an honest days work for an honest day’s pay. I was also taught there was no excuse for not working. And by his example, I learned that you didn’t take off sick days, unless you had NO other choice, and sometimes even let accrued vacation days disappear.
Years later, I moved to Europe; central Europe. (Trust me, I’ve been shown the map countless times, it’s central Europe, NOT Eastern Europe.) The work ethic here is different. (This is a blanket statement and like all blanket statements there are exceptions, these are simply my observations.)
1. You are NOT your job.
I have met people who do some of the most mundane and tedious of jobs: The lady that takes your money at the toilet, the waiter in a small cafe, a butcher, bus ticket collector, conductress on a train. And each of them didn’t see themselves as *that*. If they were striving for *more* it was more ways to make their off hours more interesting. For them, that’s where the real person was. In the off hours.
2. Vacations are to be taken seriously
The Europeans I know take their off time very seriously. They plan for it. They save for it. They have defined what it is they want from their off time. Some are very athletic and go off hiking, or skiing, or biking long trails. Others are very into history or architecture and plan their holidays based on these themes. And others simply find a place to tune out the world. They often vacation with groups, family and friend. And they don’t talk work! They talk thoughts, fashion, books, art, politics all those things that we have “politically corrected” from our conversations.
3.Do your job well, but remember, it isn’t your life, it’s the means with which you support yourself.
My European friends don’t take work home with them. (again, in general) They know the work will be there tomorrow and they will take another crack at it. They feel life is way too short, and you spend *enough* of it working. A mentor once told me the same thing, sort of. Told me I had to take time for me or there wouldn’t be any “me” to give to the students with whom I work.
4. Everyone needs regular holidays.
I just have to laugh as we North Americans complain about “there’s another holiday?!?!” And the happy answer is “yes!” And they gather in the parks and the squares and celebrate what ever day it is. Usually with chocolate, flowers and vodka. A tour guide I hired in Poland told me “You Americans work too hard. You never see what’s around you.”
He may have had a point.
What do you think? What’s your work ethic? Your work habit?
Two darling companions on the steps to the beach in Odessa, Ukraine. 2013
My little scotty girl, Maggie Mae, is sick. She has a tick borne disease called Babesia canine. The doctor diagnosed it today. She had to endure five injections and was violently ill on the way back, and afterward. I was so hysterical the *vet* gave ME a sedative.
This is a photo I took recently of the man I call my “darling companion”. I call him that because “partner” sounds like we’re in business; boyfriend sounds like we’re in high school; friend doesn’t convey the depth of feelings I have for the man; significant other is simply too trite. It’s a dilemma for those of use over 22 to come up with a meaningful title for that person in our life that means so much. What do you call your, um, “darling companion”.
It comes from a song by that same name, originally done by a group called “The Lovin’ Spoonful”. You can hear the tune, here:
But there are *two* darling companions in this photo: the man, and the dog. The song says “let me be your champion, you can depend on me” and that’s how I have to be for the little dog in order to get her through this. And that’s how the man is for me. He’s someone I can depend on. I guess this is just my way to say, “Thank you”.
I hope you all have someone in your life that can take your hand and walk you through the difficult times, a darling companion.
As predicted half my class was gone today. But we had a lovely day in spite of it. As I was handed this bouquet that had been put together by three little girls, one from Germany, one from Ukraine, and one from Korea, I thought about the simple gifts we are given daily. How people touch our lives in a myriad of ways every day. And again I thought about the “lessons” that are right there before us, if only we could open our eyes to see.
These three children started the year not knowing each others language. But the human need to communicate, to belong, to make a statement, naturally pushed them forward into learning the common language at our school, which is English, and today they worked together to create a bouquet. They didn’t care about the politics, or what church the other went to, or about how they were *different* from one another. They worked together to create something for someone who they feel is important in their lives. I am fortunate to be that person.
I read a story that said the Inuit measured a person’s wealth by the circle of people that cared for them. By how they were viewed by the people of their clan. Using that measure, today, I am a very wealthy woman.
Who says you’ll never be rich by being a teacher!
I love pansies. I love them so much that I have one tattooed on my ankle! I love the shape of them, the colors, their sweet pansy faces. I love to press them in books, with full intention of using them on a card, or making a picture with them, only to find them years later, fragile and faded.
Sometimes I think we do that to ourselves. Put ourselves between the pages of the book of our imagined lives. And we stay there, too long, not acting on what we dream, or want, until we become fragile and faded. A desiccated remnant of a dream nearly forgotten.
Does anyone out there in Blog-land remember “May Baskets”? My mother and I used to make them from the pages of old wallpaper sample books. Then we’d go hang them on neighbor’s doors. Mom always enjoyed it, and would talk about her mother doing the same thing. It’s kind of like the old fashioned version of “Random Acts of Kindness”. I wonder what would happen today if we made paper baskets and filled them with daisies and pansies and hung them on people’s doorknobs?
Here’s hoping you reach for your dreams before they become lost in the pages of a forgotten book.
Don’t forget to visit my photography page at http://www.facebook.com/RuthAnnKarnowski
But I’m running out of spring ideas…you got any?
One thing that totally irritates me is forced intimacy. I don’t mean sexual intimacy, although forced sexual intimacy would be a whole different topic. What I’m talking about is the “hon”, “dear” and even “sis” or “sister” that people might claim. The whole idea that I might be your “sister” based on some shared interest or shared belief just boggles my mind. To me that word carries power, meaning. And to fling it about so casually, attaching it to people you’ve just met, is just ridiculous. So, I wrote this little piece. And since I had nothing else written, and I’m determined to write every day, I will share this bit of prose:
Are you my sister?
Have you held me in your arms at the side of a dirt road as my world crumbled into glittering pieces at my feet?
Have you heard the scream of utter despair that rose from somewhere deep in my wounded soul, and still held on?
Have you washed the stiff blood from my hair, fighting the tightening in your belly at the sight and the smell, but still, carefully, and with love, worked till the blood was gone?
Have you left home, and family, and husband to sit in an old rocker beside the couch where I lay, for three days, dead to the world, horrified, shocked, numb, and each of you in turn came, and sat, demanding nothing but that I walk through that pain, and emerge to your embrace on the other side?
Have you held my face in your hands and looked into my eyes and seen the pain and darkness there and not turned away?
Have you put raw wool into my hands, and shown me how to card, so that mindlessly I could pull and straighten the wool while the pain of such horrendous betrayal clawed at my heart and soul?
Have you danced with me in the woods, laughing and singing, and shared the cup in perfect love and perfect trust?
Truly, the women who answer yes to these questions are my sister. To call any other “sister” or to allow them to call me “sister” belittles what these women have done for me. It takes away from who they have been, and continue to be, in my life.
A sister is one who walks through the fire with you, knowing she too will be burned, but faces that pain, with quiet courage, and takes your hand, and steps into the flames.
Are you my sister?
And I’m listening to a twenty minute long version of “Whipping Post” by the Allman Brothers. It absolutely *still* blows me away. Talk about an amazing bunch of musicians. So, I was asked, if you could only save five CD’s which five would you save? Considering how important music is to me, I found that a difficult choice! But I have a few thoughts:,
1. Marc Cohn – his debut cd. I have purchased this CD multiple times. And simply can’t be without it. His understated but soulful voice and perfect musical choices simply grab me every time. I’ve heard this CD thousands of times, and each time it brings me joy. There’s the soaring, “Walking In Memphis” and “Silver Thunderbird” which always makes me think of my Dad. The happy rhythm of “29 Ways” and the heartfelt sentiment of “True Companion”. It just is an album with not one wrong note.
2. Beethoven’s 7th Symphony as done by the New York Philharmonic orchestra – This is my favorite Beethoven symphony and the second movement absolutely does me in every single time. I am left breathless by the complexity and beauty of this musical piece.
3. Ancient Muse: Loreena McKennit – It was a difficult choice, but knew I had to have one CD of hers. This one always takes me to far away places, and deep inner spaces. I love the purity of her vocals, and the musicianship is outstanding. We all need music that will take us to other places, and this is the CD that does it for me.
4. Gord’s Gold; Vol. 1 – Gordon Lightfoot – This is another album I’ve bought multiple times. While McKennit might be ethereal, Lightfoot is down to earth, homey. I love his imagery, the simply earthiness of his vocal style, and the slice of life pictures he paints of everyday people, and everyday life are kind, and forgiving, done with affection for we mere mortals who struggle through life. I sing along to “Did She Mention My Name” every time, and become wistful over past relationships. I feel the ache of a relationship that has withered, when I hear “If You Could Read My Mind” Each song crafted to bring us a slice of life.
5. Horowitz plays Chopin – by Vladimir Horowitz – I thought long and hard on this, and I had to go back to my favorite composer, Chopin, played by my favorite Chopin interpreter, Horowitz. Chopin compositions are deceptively simple, and so complex. I have never grown tired of them, and they move me in profound ways, And isn’t that what music is about?
So, there you have it. My five choices for CDs I’d preserve. What are yours?
Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? I do. This year, I have promised myself to: write more, read more, photograph more, dance more, and be healthier. Not too bad, huh? But here it is, nearly the end of January and I haven’t acted on any of them. So, this is step one. A bit of writing.
What should you know about me? Well, I’m just a woman who has had some pretty “interesting” times. I mean that in the sense of the Chinese proverb, or curse: “May you live in interesting times.”
I am bossed around on a daily basis by a darling Scottish Terror, named Maggie Mae.
I have some of the most amazing friends.
And I have a blog. Well, at least we’re starting, huh?
So, how’s your year going?