Good Advice

When I was a kid, it was customary to have a special kind of book (called “Poesiealbum”), empty at first, that was given to parents and teachers and school friends, and everyone wrote some sort of inspiration quote, small poem, or short text into it, meant as an advice for life. Is this a phenomenon specific for Germany or do other cultures have this as well?

I recently found my own Poesiealbum – apparently I got it in 1964 when I was ten. The first four pages were autographed by my parents and my grandparents (mother’s parents). Later, after some empty pages, they are followed by pages by two or three teachers and just two or three friends, but their quotes aren’t really interesting. I am surprised to what degree I can agree today with what my parents wrote, even if the whole thing seems pretentious, even kitschy to me today.


“Who relies on others will live in a shaky world. Who relies on himself, stands well”
This sentence, written (as I googled) by Paul Heyse, was actually my father’s own motto for life I think. He hated to be dependent on others. During most of his working life, he was the boss of a small print shop, and he managed to keep the family alive and fed.


“Don’t destroy your peace of mind by looking back, worrying about the past. Live in the present; enjoy the present”
This one, contributed by my mother, really surprised me – I googled it and it turned out to be by Henry David Thoreau. I don’t believe she was actually familiar with Thoreau’s work, she probably found it in some collection of dictums, but nonetheless a remarkable choice – the modern mystics such as Eckhart Tolle couldn’t have put it better (although there is far more to living in the moment than most people realize).


“Let yourself be guided – but not in your feeling and your thinking”
This one, suggested by my grandma (who had a rebellious spirit and raised her five children without religion), was originally written by Friedrich von Sallet, a German writer from the early 19th century who was critical of religion and the military. Not bad, grandma!



“Making others happy makes you happy”
Don’t remember much of my grandpa. And I don’t know who wrote this line – but the German wording can be found back into the mid-19th century, according to Google. Not sure what to think of this but I see the source of happiness somewhere else. Too bad I can’t discuss this with my grandpa! he died when I was a child.

What would I write in a boy’s Poesiealbum book? something like a motto of my life? What is that motto? I can’t seem to put it into words at the moment. The simple insight into reality can’t be put into words.

White Light


Charlotte Peters 1921 – 2012

THE UNIVERSE IS AN OCEAN OF WHITE LIGHT,
AND ON IT DANCE THE WAVES OF LIFE AND DEATH

 

It was no surprise to us that my mother left her body last Sunday – she was 91, had struggled with dementia for 10 years (since my father had died), and more and more severe health problems added to her suffering. Besides the obvious feelings of loss, we are glad that she finally made it, it must have felt like an enormous relief to her.

Sitting in the grass
on top of the hill
where I sat when my father had died.

Now both are gone
but both are inside of me,
father in the belly, mother in the heart

a quiet double presence of support
and strength and love
allowing sadness and joy to coexist.

What holds me, when I look closer,
actually extends to the horizon
and further than that.

The wind blows eternally
over the hill, bending the grass,
a few raindrops like kisses.

Yes, they are gone, and I’ll be gone
eventually, as will everyone else,
but that what is here will always be here

And always is now

Turquoise Coast 3: A Taste of the Orient

We also went to several cities during our Provence/Cote d’Azur vacation: Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, and Toulon. We actually went to Marseille twice because there was so much to see and do! Here are some of the things we saw … (and we came back in 2016 to see that the whole harbour area had been renovated and is now shiny and beautiful!)


Some of the architectural details … parts of them still very beautiful, other parts … I guess they were meant to be beautiful …

 









 
Finally, we sat down for a tasty mezze dish containing tabouleh and other treats …





 
The Game is a very serious thing …


 
Soaps are a big thing in the Provence … at least in tourist shops …


 
Taking a short break from the hot day in a cool church, with two women practising on a beautiful organ …


 
Various coffee places …






 
We found the oriental culture especially fascinating … the shops offer an overwhelming variety of oriental food … food and more. So many things I did not know! I thought I could spend weeks here, finding out about all these mysterious things in detail …






 
Toulon contains a military harbour … who would have thought that (at least on the advertisements) French torpedoes are dispatched by good looking young women wearing civilian clothes …



 
This ad promotes “shopping attitude” – yes, I’m sure even the inhabitants of these ugly buildings are more than happy to bring all their money into the expensive clothes shops …


Turquoise Coast 2: Underwater Concert

I’ve seen hundreds of concerts in my life, some of them rather unusual, but the most unusual of all definitely was Michel Redolfi‘s underwater concert that we had the pleasure to visit on a hot afternoon in May, in a modern indoor pool of a little town called Martigues, just west of Marseille.


Redolfi, born 1951, is an electronic avantgarde composer. Unlike many of his colleagues, he manages to create soundworlds that are utterly beautiful, adventurous, and fantastic, while never using any of the kitschy clichés that are often used by popular music composers. He has always created something that is entirely his own – a visionary, and one of my great musical heroes since I heard his first album back in the eighties.



He was also (as far as I know) the first composer who performed music underwater, starting this in California in the early eighties. Since then, he has conducted underwater concerts in pools, lakes, ocean shores, coral reefs. Real instruments (mostly metallophones) have been used but due to the physical properties of water, very few instruments can be used successfully under water, so most of Redolfi’s underwater concerts consist of electronic music transmitted via underwater speakers.


In Martigues, Redolfi was sitting beside the pool in front of his laptops, creating an ad-hoc mix of his own sounds for the 30-40 people floating in the warm water for an hour (foam tubes under feet and back helped us to float lying on our backs, with our ears in the water). A very relaxing experience!

All sounds could only be heard under water. The vibrations weren’t transmitted through the air into our ears, but somehow materialized directly in our bodies, heads, brains, minds – a very peculiar and unreal feeling, especially with this kind of dreamy and floating music.

I had the privilege to talk with Redolfi, asking questions about various aspects of his work, for half an hour after the evening concert. (I hope I’ll be able to use the interview for a radio feature later this year.) It was very heartwarming to talk to him, we have so much in common (because he influenced me so much, not the other way around) and we feel similar about so many things. We had met and talked before once during a concert in 1999 but we did not really know each other well. When we hugged after the interview though it felt like we were old friends.

A thorougly enjoyable event, and one of the highlights of our vacation in Southern France!

Turquoise Coast 1: Walking in Beauty

We spent a week or two in Bandol, a coast town at the Cote d’Azur east of Marseille. We took walks along the beautiful coast and in the countryside. Of course, lying on beaches, swimming, and coffees were also part of the program. (We also visited the cities – this will be another entry.)

Three days after we came back, my mother Charlotte died. This beautiful little sand building on one of Bandol’s beaches was signed and probably built by another Charlotte:

 
I love Crème de Marrons – something you don’t get often in Germany.

 
a French beauty on the beach … but wait, isn’t this …

 
The coastline is breathtaking!

















 
Why haven’t I been to France for so long? maybe because my knowledge of the French language is more or less limited to “café au lait”. But we found that being here is not difficult even if you don’t speak any French. Looking forward to the next time!