Freedom

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Night was falling in the coppice-wood

Each strand of light threadbare and bluish

Thinned out into mystery

The path darkened, populated by shadows

The clock in the church tower struck

The hour of the owls

Something shrieked in the distance

And a human shape approached on a bike

I clutched my umbrella with sweaty palms

My pulse quickened

Fear

Terror

Excitement

A frightening moment all my own

Seductive, scary

A flirt with danger

An out-of-body experience

A de-individuation

Dilating, not shrinking

Expecting to turn into a leaf or a slug to escape it all

Or to simply sit still and dissolve into a breath or a breeze

But then there you were

My phone lighting up with your number

Asking if I was OK

The man on the bike pedaled on

And I was left alone to settle into the peace

And the exhilaration.

#poetry #creative #writing

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

I feed on the unspoken

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You call it this, I call it that,

the thingness of a thing is beyond

our babbles

labels come and go

what is truly real is quiet and dark

its depths crushing and warm and full of moisture

like the savage mouth

of an intractable lover.

Like love, the world

may be screamed, sighed,

sucked, suckled, and moaned,

but never

told.

#poetry #creativewriting

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 die Abwesenheit.

Es ist spät.

Gott lässt sich nieder

auf der bettelnde Handfläche der Pinien.

Stille.

#poetry

Short prose in Romanian on Liternet.ro

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Dear friends,

Romanian online publisher Liternet.ro has graciously accepted to publish my latest short prose (a travel-cum-anthropological report of sorts) in their Atelier section. The three pieces of this feature will appear on Monday, Thursday and Saturday and can be found here:

A big thank you to Razvan Penescu, founder and coordinator of Liternet.ro!

In case you’re curious what else I’ve been writing and publishing on Liternet over the years, have a look here:

https://www.liternet.ro/autor/1035/Andreea-Sepi.html

(spoiler alert: it’s all in Romanian).

I hope you like it.

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

Quote of the day

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“Uniformity in the opinions expressed by teachers is not only not to be sought, but is, if possible, to be avoided, since diversity of opinion among preceptors is essential to any sound education. No man can pass as educated who has heard only one side on questions as to which the public is divided. One of the most important things to teach in educational establishments of a democracy is the power of weighing arguments, and the open mind which is prepared in advance to accept whichever side appears the more reasonable.”

Bertrand Russel (philosopher and Nobel Prize winner) – in an essay called “Freedom and the Colleges”, 1940.

#education #pluralism #freedom #opinion

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…)

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.