Category Archives: De-ale vieţii

Quote of the day – On social support and healing

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“(…) safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives. (…) Social support is the most powerful protection against becoming overwhelmed by stress and trauma.

Social support is not the same as merely being in the presence of others. The critical issue is reciprocity: being truly heard and seen by the people around us, feeling that we are held in someone else’s mind and heart. For our physiology to calm down, heal, and grow we need a visceral feeling of safety. No doctor can write a prescription for friendship and love (…).

Isolating oneself into a narrowly defined victim group promotes a view of others as irrelevant at best and dangerous at worst, which eventually only leads to further alienation. Gangs, extremist political parties, and religious cults may provide solace, but they rarely foster the mental flexibility needed to be fully open to what life has to offer and as such cannot liberate their members from their traumas. Well-functioning people are able to accept individual differences and acknowledge the humanity of others.

Bessel van der Kolk – The Body Keeps The Score – Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma (Penguin Books, 2015)

Do we suffer from too little reciprocity? From too much selfishness? Is the hyper-individualistic lifestyle of autonomy at all cost, isolation, and “every man for himself” making us miserable and sick?

How many of us feel truly seen, heard and understood? How many feel forsaken? Trapped between anger and absence? How many of us self-medicate (or are medicated!) just to cover basic human needs like safety, forgiveness, acceptance and connection?

How many live a life without rapture, life as rupture, as opposed to the healing powers of love, kindness, joint experiences, of breathing, movement and touch… What does it take to feel agency, to overcome duress?

This book has been a revelation and I cannot recommend it warmly enough. You’ll understand your body and brain like never before.

The Levee

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a man, a dog and the pond at the bottom of the levee:

brown reeds, an egret and a few muted gulls, scattered.

winter lurking.


a man stopping, crouching, gazing into the distance,

holding on to that taut leash

for dear life.


his eyes across the water

weighed down

heavy

whole

with the solitude of the world.


in my headphones,

Adele belting out:

Remedy.

#creativewriting #poetry

Discoveries on Via Transilvanica

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Here comes the final act of my adventures through the ancestral hamlets of Cernei Mountains (S-W Romania) this summer, summarized in a travel article slated to appear on liternet.ro on October 11:

https://atelier.liternet.ro/articol/28115/Andreea-Sepi/Catunele-din-Muntii-Cernei-sau-cum-am-ajuns-sa-batem-Via-Transilvanica-fara-sa-stim.html

Only available in Romanian for the time being. But, hopefully, the pictures will speak for themselves. 🙂

Enjoy!

#creative #writing #travel #romania #viatransilvanica

What language do you dream in?

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The brain is a funny thing. And funny things happen when your brain goes on vacation. I consider myself bilingual (Romanian and English) and I’ve been living in Germany for more than 15 years now, but never would I have thought that the German language would end up infiltrating… my dreams!

My dreams, yes. For the first time ever, I had a dream in German while I was at home in Romania, which makes it even stranger. And that’s not all. Not only did I dream in German, but I dreamt a whole poem in Goethe’s language! It ruined my sleep, of course, because I was so in awe, I had to make sure I could remember it well enough to jot it down in the morning. I managed to, but – alas! – only the second stanza. The first stanza (up to “Die Schienen…”) is a later addition (which, needless to say, has cost me a lot more effort and a couple of visits to the online dictionary), but the rest is entirely the creation of my subconscious.

So, here it is, I hope you like it:

Auf den Schmalspurzug wartend

Es wird Nacht in den Tälern

und ich muss wieder los.

Ein letzter Blick zum Himmel:

rosarot, erstarrt –

dann der Abstieg,

eine Haltestelle

und ich, alleine in der Unermesslichkeit,

auf den Schmalspurzug wartend.

Die Schienen sind alt, alt und holprig

wie die alten Steinwege der Bauern.

Hinter dem Abendnebel, der Berg,

schneebedeckt,

rutscht in Abwesenheit.

Es ist spät.

Gott lässt sich nieder

auf der bettelnde Handfläche der Pinien.

Stille.

#poetry

Best of Romania 2021

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“It is said that some Bolsheviks, deeming that a love based on choice and exclusivity was only a prejudice infiltrated by the bourgeois spirit, tried to abolish it, treating love as an instinct, an instinct like all the others, falsely adorned hitherto with a passionate halo. (…)
The big mistake was that they thought love resides in free mating… But two individual people on a beach, where there is a clutter of hands and feet, think and feel themselves completely different from all the others (…).
Love is preference and, even possessed by an entire platoon, a woman cannot be prevented from preferring in her mind and smiling with her eyes, just as no one can restrain the pride of knowing yourself the object of someone’s preference or your tender gratitude for it. For if preference itself can be forbidden, the thought of preference escapes all obstruction. Love requires no more than this.”

Camil Petrescu – Patul lui Procust (The Bed of Procrustes), 1946

#viatransilvanica #banatulmontan #cernadomoglednationalpark #timisoara #romania #august2021 #travel

Children saying scary things

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My daughter (10), elated that she got into the class she wanted and avoided the all-girls class: ‘All-girls classes suck!’

Me, naively: ‘Why?’

My studious 10-year-old: ‘Because they’d be all prissy and there’d be no boys to fall in love with.’

Ladies and gentlemen, the main purpose of public schooling, right there… in case there was ever any doubt.

(And I say this sarcastically, of course, because when the knowledge content has been thinned out and dumbed down beyond recognition, what else is left but socialization…)

The Angler

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He didn’t mind the waiting. In fact, that was the best part. He was there for the wait.

He did have qualms about impaling the worms, though. That much is true. But he’d shrug it off: ‘If I don’t get them, someone else will. Some other animal. Not my fault they were born to be food.’ He’d run the hook through them with great care, covering the whole length of it. With a grand, yet by now mechanical gesture, he’d unleash his reel, let the nylon fly gracefully through the air, lower the lure into the water and wait. He’d settle into his small foldable chair, hunched shoulders, hat pushed back, and wait. Occasionally he would yank the rod, reel it in a bit. Once in a while he’d rub the bristles on his neck or pass his palm pensively across the stubble on his face. And while waiting, he’d take a deep breath, then another. He absolutely loved it.

Some people hate fishing, he thought. They get competitive about it. And then they can’t stand the wait. But that’s where they get it all wrong. You set a target, a goal, and pretty soon it takes over. It runs you. It prods you. You become its instrument. Why put yourself under pressure? Fishing is precisely about taking it in stride. Take it as it comes. And if it doesn’t, then just have yourself a few quiet hours staring at the water. That was why he was there, anyway. No clocks, no schedules, no expectations. No emotional blackmail either. Just pure pleasure. No fish ever came out desperately pleading, ‘You promised to marry me, I’m pregnant!’.

No voices. The fish are all quiet. Here it was just him and the water and the lure bobbing on the surface of it and his thoughts free to glide along. Life on mute, the way he liked it. As mute as fish.

He did throw most of them back in. He kept just enough to justify his hobby, bring something home to the wife. The ones he kept he never watched. He hated to see them suffocate, gasping for air. They reminded him too much of himself. Too much of the hook he’d bitten into: a family, kids, the responsibilities of it all. Sometimes he could tell he’d caught something, but he’d just let them play around in the river a little bit longer with that hook in their mouth, give them the illusion they were still free. Give them a chance to free themselves. If they’d bitten too deep, if they were too damaged, he’d keep them, put them out of their misery, make them into food. If not, he’d simply release them back, with a lesson learned. Can fish learn?

He could, but by now it was too late. He had his little escapades, his early weekend mornings out of the house, all by himself. He enjoyed it all: the river bank, the water flowing, the solitude, the wait. He’d gotten used to telling everybody he was going away to catch some fish. But he knew he was not there for the catching. He knew. He was there for the wait.

The wait. That illusion of freedom, that suspended moment when anything might still happen. Man, fish, earth, water. Cells, the lot of them. Molecules. Life feeding upon itself.

Podge and his book from the sky – A fable

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Once upon a time there was a badger. We’ll call him Podge, because that’s what his friends called him. Podge was an intrepid and adamant little badger and he liked to roam the neighborhood at length, looking for fellow creatures to pester – or to snack on.

On one of his nocturnal foraging trips, Podge went a little further than usual and pretty soon came across an animal he had never seen before. An animal so different from himself.

‘What a strange animal… !’ Podge thought and drew closer. ‘Too large to eat and very funny-looking.’

In fact, this animal was so bizarre that, in the dark, Podge couldn’t really tell which end was the head.

‘Hi,’ he said. ‘My name is Podge and I’m a badger. What are you?’

At first there was no answer, so he tried again.

‘Hi,’ he repeated. ‘My name is Podge and I’m a badger. What are you?’

The strange animal stirred.

‘Why are you talking to my tail?’

‘Oh, sorry,’ Podge said and came trotting around to the other end.

And indeed, upon closer inspection, he was now able to make out a long, thin snout and a pair of ears.

‘I have never seen an animal like you. What are you, exactly?’ Podge asked.

‘What do you mean? I am me. I am who I am. Do you want to be friends?’

‘I guess, but… what are you?’ he insisted.

‘I don’t understand. Why do I have to be something in particular?’

‘Well, we’re all something. We all have to be something.’

‘Why?’

‘Just to know what we are. To know where we belong.’

‘ Well, I may not know what I am, but I still know who I am. I’m me. Isn’t that enough?’

‘But… but all the creatures in the world need to know what they are!’ Podge spluttered.

‘Why?’

‘I’m not exactly sure, but I am very pleased to know what I am and what everything around me is. I know what is food, friend, or foe. It’s easier to play with things when you know what they are.’

‘Hm,’ the other creature said incredulously and walked on, snout to the ground.

‘Aren’t you curious what I am?’

‘You’re someone who calls his friends thing names.’

But Podge didn’t hear.

‘I’m a badger,’ he pronounced proudly and confidently.

‘Says who?’

‘Everyone I know.’

‘Badger,’ muttered the creature. ‘That’s just a sound. It means nothing to me. But if you’re fond of this sound, so be it, you will be the Badger.’

‘And you? What are you?’

‘I already told you. I’m me. Why are you so obsessed with categories?’

Podge went home and found it extremely hard to fall asleep. It bothered him. He did not know where to place this creature he had met. And what should he call it? The following night he went back determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. He packed his sacred book and a flashlight. For hours on end he looked at the creature, looked at himself, then leafed back and forth through his book. It was morning already. The sun was up. He was getting tired. Finally, he exclaimed:

‘I know! I know what you are! You’re an aardvark!’ He was so relieved.

‘You think so?’

‘I know so!’

‘How do you know?’

‘Because my book says so, look!’ he said and pointed to a picture on a page that said “Aardvarks”.

‘And how does the book know I’m an aardvark? Maybe they just had to come up with a name and didn’t know any better.’

‘Oh, no, no, no. Not a chance. This book knows everything there is to know. It’s a magical book. And it’s always right.’

‘Really? How do you know that?’ the aardvark asked again.

‘Well, because this book came to us directly from the sky!’

‘No kidding…’

‘Yes, yes. I found it myself one morning on the forest floor. There was nobody else around, and it’s too heavy for our birds to carry. So, it must have fallen from the sky!’

‘Hm,’ the creature muttered again and tried to sniff out some ants.

‘You eat ants! Perfect, that’s perfect. You’re a good aardvark!’

‘How do you know I’m a good aardvark?’

‘Because that’s just what my book says you’re supposed to eat!’

‘I also eat cucumber,’ the aardvark replied.

‘Oh no, you really shouldn’t!’ Podge retorted with a worried look on his face.

‘Why not?’

‘Because my book says nothing about cucumbers. That means you’re probably not allowed to eat them. Oh boy, why do you have to eat cucumbers? What is wrong with you? It’s so unnatural.. You should eat termites!’

‘Hm,’ the aardvark said. ‘I had no idea there was something wrong with me until just now. But I do eat termites rather frequently,’ he apologized.

‘Oh, good!’

‘I’m curious,’ the aardvark inquired. ‘Do you always do what the book says?’

‘Oh yes, always!’

‘And what does your book say about badgers?’

‘A badger is a short-legged nocturnal omnivore,’ Podge read solemnly.

‘Nocturnal, huh? Then how come you are up and about after daybreak?’ the aardvark wanted to know.

Podge blushed, felt guilty and fell silent. He picked up his things and scurried home to sleep on it.

‘What a strange animal… !’ the aardvark thought. ‘He walks around at night with only one book and a tiny flashlight, yet claims to know what everything is…’

Things you can observe at 7 a.m.

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I watched blackbirds today.

I couldn’t sleep.

Early at dawn I watched a parent

feed her chick.

The older one was dark –

as burdens darken us;

the younger pale,

unknowing, made a fuss.

Peck, peck, they went

as their small beaks touched

From where I sat,

it looked as if they kissed.

And it occurred to me

that this is how you feed

the nerve to fly,

which I so sorely missed.

Wind in the tall grasses

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Today I will write about the wind in the tall grasses.

Lost, immaterial, like our souls,

Just a passage from one place to another.

Just air. Just breath.

Soft stalks undulating. It’s ballet. Beautiful submission.

Soothing choreography under a ruthless sun.

People pass by on their bicycles

Barely noticing.

Barely noticing the road leads nowhere.

Barely noticing they’re cycling in circles,

Like the seasons,

Inevitably ending up the same, just older. Drier.

Have you noticed how heavy our souls have become

And how they weigh on the landscape

Chased by this cruel big sky?

How hard the wind has to blow to still move them?

Two blades of grass standing tall,

Then bent by the gale. The caress of a green tassel.

Two blades touching each other for a second

Softly, until they don’t. Until they cut skin.