Above The Inland Sea V – Wine

Ravensburg is famous for a number of things, one of them being the publisher of games and children’s books that is named after the city. Ravensburger is very famous in Germany – all children probably know their logo, have played their games, have read their books. I am no exception. We went to see their beautiful new museum which shows how the company evolved and how games and books are made.

One game that is part of my childhood is the original Memory game from the late fifties. This is how it looked.

Another interesting museum, this one about the history of the town, is right across the street. I’ve never seen nor heard about these beautiful large medieval guild member wheels. They had the names of their members painted on them, complete with their emblems. This is a wheel for the wine grower’s guild.

On the next morning, the fog was very dense over the lake.

We took a round trip walk to a village called Baitenhausen. It was very warm, almost like summer (in October!). The orchards were full of apples, pears, and plums, and the leaves all around already wore their autumn colors.

Baitenhausen has a very nice pilgrimage church.

We always thought that the little angels sing all the time, but we found that some of them prefer to practise martial arts.

The view over the valley …

Back in Meersburg, we went to that wine restaurant with the terrace and the incredible view over the lake. We were reminded of Italy, maybe of Cinque Terre. Life was good.

When the evening came, the sky was burning …

Above The Inland Sea IV – Ice Cream

Many delights here. One was a beautifully clear night sky with the milky way overhead. Here is a 15 second exposure that gives an idea of the night view …

Next morning – it is warm enough to have a breakfast on the balcony. In early October!

A walk to a village east of Meersburg …

… where we found a really good ice cream place. Ice cream! in October!

We took the bus to Friedrichshafen, home of the Zeppelin (which could not fly today because there was too much wind) and to the very nice Zeppelin museum. We didn’t visit the museum this time because we had seen it the last time we were here, but we went to the cafe of the museum. They have Zeppelin cakes, a nice red-white striped canvas overhead which reflects nicely in the spoons, and beautiful 30s architecture.

A strange encounter at the bus stop …

Finishing the day with a visit to Überlingen …

We found a really good Pizza place in Überlingen. I actually took a photo of the Rucola-Parmigiano pizza (tasty and beautiful!) but I won’t show it here because you might think that we are busy eating all day. Which we are.

Above the Inland Sea III – Mountain

After seeing the mountain range across the lake from our appartement every day, we finally went there to take a closer look. The highest peak of this part of the Alps is the Säntis. We were conveniently taken up the mountain top by a cable car – the view was breathtaking. In the distance we could see Lake Constance …

Now and then, we could see mountain climbers in the snow, sometimes on top of dangerous looking cliffs. How happy I am that I don’t have to do that!

Sabine enjoying the view … (she had forgotten her sunglasses and had to wear old scratchy ones that we found in my car)

A trail was starting here … I took a few steps, imagining what it would be like … the snow was knee high, and very near that rope, there was the abyss … this kind of fun is clearly not for me.

Switzerland was the first country that invited refugees from Tibet when things got difficult there. Good to see a stupa here!

Going back down after a few hours in the sky …

oh, and on the way out we had this close encounter with an alternate reality …

Above the Inland Sea II – Water

I’ve been living near the Rhine for all my life but I never wondered where it came from. I learned now that the Rhine springs are located in several parts of Switzerland, that it is a large river already before it flows into Lake Constance, and that it flows through this lake and comes out at the other side. After that there are the famous Rhine falls near Schaffhausen in Switzerland. Both Sabine and me hadn’t seen this place yet although it is the second largest fall in Europe.

Lots of water, fast water. Visitors can stand on platforms very near the raging waters, or even on top of them, and there are boats that visit the rock in the middle of it. Standing near these amazing amounts of water is a humbling experience. The ground shakes.

Another tourist spot is a historic town called Stein am Rhein, not far from the falls. Lots of medieval houses here, and lots of tourists – I don’t want to know what this place is like in summer.

In tourist season, we would probably have queued to get a cake and a coffee like this. The cake was good, the coffee was so-so, but we sat near the Rhine and the view was wonderful.

A visit to a monastery …

Old keyboards … too bad I couldn’t try them …

Back home, waving up to our Zeppelin friend …

And a beautiful view of the alps – and to the Säntis, tomorrow’s travel destination.

Above The Inland Sea I – Zeppelin

We’re having a wonderful week at Lake Constance (Bodensee) in Southern Germany. The weather (after some very wet weeks) is unexpectedly wonderful, and the appartement that we rented is also quite wonderful – a large flat under the roof of an old villa. We like it so much we could easily move in. And it is not even expensive.

Day 1 – a little hike …

… seeing beautiful gardens – we have not nearly as many flowers in our garden at home because the climate there is much colder: We are hundreds of miles southwards of home here, and because of the large lake, winters are usually very mild, so mild that lots of wine grows around the lake.

After a few miles of hiking, a coffee is obligatory …

… feeding the hungry ghosts …

In the harbour, a very unusual combination of racing car, speedboat, and slide …

We saw our old friend Zeppi again. Since we were here in 2003, taking a wonderful (but unfortunately very expensive) flight with the Zeppelin around Lake Constance, this wonderful vehicle (we think of him being a very kind very large dog-like being for some reason) was asking when we would come back. Of course he spotted us beneath him, and waved down to us … of course he couldn’t really wave very wildly because he had to take care of his passengers.

Walking through colorful autumn forests …

Looking down on the lake through rows of wine …

Fruits from the huge cedar tree in front of our house …

and the view from our little balcony …

Inhabitants of the village trying to make the lives of us tourists even more colorful …

16th Century Goosebumps

Amazing how many nice photos can be shot in 3 days. We spent this weekend in Zeeland, a coastal province of the Netherlands, mostly staying in or near Middelburg, Domburg, and Veere. At this time of the year, this part of the Netherlands is full of German tourists because of the school vacation. We went there even though it was somewhat crowded because it was probably our last chance for this year to go there, and the weather was not bad.

And we managed to meet all of our targets during this weekend: 1) lie on the beach, 2) take walks on the beach, 3) swim in the North Sea, 4) have coffee and apple pie in one of the cafes on the beach, 5) eat Dutch pancakes, 6) buy Dutch food (especially various kinds of chocolate and licorice) and Indonesian Kretek cigarettes which are hard to find in Germany.

On Sunday, we went to Veere for the second time because the Grote Kerk was open to the public – this church amazed me because it was so huge and looked so unusual (a fire destroyed most of it in the 17th century – it never was really completed). The church isn’t used for religious purposes anymore but mostly as a culture space (usually for modern art exhibitions and classical/jazz music). While we were there, we had the privilege to watch a rehearsal of Graindelavoix, a Belgian choir which sang 16th century music (Missa de Sancta Maria Magdalena, by Nicolas Champion).

      Tous Nobles Cueurs
I found that this music moved me deeply. It gave me a kind of continuous stream of goosebumps at times, something which I hardly get from music these days. Buying a CD of this stuff was the first thing that I did when I got back home.

We also climbed the tower of the church and got this nice view.

A last walk on the beach under dark clouds, a last coffee. When the first rain drops began to fall, we decided to return home. With a large box full of trophies.

20 New Friends

3 days in Switzerland, giving a ColdFusion training for three developers of a Zug based company. The training was a mixed affair – the participants weren’t beginners at all but a beginner course had been booked. On the 3rd day they were all researching on their own which is much more fun than being taught. Too bad I didn’t get most of their conversation – “Swiss German” is very different from German.

Zug is not far from Zürich, a smaller town but also very rich and multicultural – I liked the place a lot. And then, they have the wonderful lake, the mountains … and the weather was just perfect. Too bad I only had two evenings for myself.

I spent the first evening walking through the old town and hanging out with the other tourists …

On the second evening, I took the cable car up the mountain right behind Zug, armed with a map for a 1-2 hour roundtrip hike that one of my ColdFusion colleagues had kindly given to me. I was rewarded with breathtaking vistas and a beautiful landscape to walk through. Wonderful!

On a meadow on top of the mountain I met a herd of twenty cows with bells – here’s what they sounded like:

The cows came towards me after a few minutes and surrounded me, clearly interested in my digital recorder. Or maybe they wanted to be close to me. I liked them and they liked me. When I turned around and continued my walk, they all followed me for a few minutes.

On the next evening, I got into a plane and flew home again … after a very nice mini vacation (although of course I had spent most of the day in an office building, looking at a computer screen and talking about programming). I’ll be back in July when I’ll do a second course.

Spätzle-Country 7: The Village That Disappeared

Two hikes today, on the last day of our Swabian Albs vacation. It was still very hot, and it is still quite warm now while I type this, sitting on the balcony of our temporary home at 9:30 in the evening. Wonderful! I love summer.

We first hiked in an area that used to be a military training ground for many years since the late 19th century. It was expanded in 1938 – and a complete village had to be abandoned, its inhabitants had to be relocated. Today, the area is a nature reserve but you are not allowed to leave the marked paths because explosive or other dangerous material might lie around.

The church and the little schoolhouse are the only buildings left of the abandoned village – all buildings were destroyed. The church was severely damaged and was later rebuilt by former villagers. An impressive place, and a monument to several different sides of what we humans are.

A painting shows how large the village was before it had to be abandoned, and got destroyed. Amazing what people do.

The little village church with a damaged roof … it looks new and shiny today.

Inhabitants of the village.

We left this area which had mostly paths with no shadow at all, and drove to a narrow valley with a little stream. Much cooler here, much better to walk.

At the end of our hike, we rested for a while beside the little stream. The sun was very very hot. The water looked very very clean. Very tempting to jump right in !! but as Sabine found out quickly, the water was extremely cold – too cold to take more than a short dip.

This is COLD !!!

Half an hour later we had a gorgeous strawberry milk shake and a coffee in the very good cafe that belongs to our hotel. These cookies looked so tempting that I gave in and bought a large box for us and another one for our dear neighbours who took care of our plants at home.

Spätzle-Country 6: Blue Velvet

The Grosse Lauter river valley was one of the most beautiful little valleys I’ve ever seen, mostly because of the apparently intact ecosystem and the variety of plants and animals. We walked along the river for a while but we couldn’t go very far because it was very hot and the path had almost no shadows …

The thing that mesmerized me most was the blue damselfly population. These beautiful insects lived along the shores of that little river, dancing in the sunlight, and apparently not afraid of us. We have never seen anything like this. There are various kinds of dragonflies even back home in our garden but not these ones, and not as many. I spent a considerable time trying to take photos of their dance. A difficult task. Sabine was very patient with me. Making a little video (see below) was somewhat easier.

We made a little detour and took a look at the Zwiefalten Abbey – we’ve been to the Schöntal Abbey a week ago, it is a place that I know well. I thought Schöntal was an excessively decorated baroque church, but it was dwarfed by what we saw in Zwiefalten. Incredible, and even though I don’t particularly like baroque churches, it was quite impressive. I made a couple of dozen photos from one position – maybe I can turn it into a 3D photo later.

Spätzle-Country 5: Two Conferences

We spent most of the day yesterday in Tübingen, a beautiful university town that we both hadn’t visited before … mostly walking around the old town, having a coffee or two and an icecream. (The icecream was especially good.)

Most of the Tübingen postcards show the romantic view from the Eberhard bridge, and this blog entry is no exception. Students sitting on the wall above the Neckar bridge, boats loaded with tourists being punted around like in Venice, the yellow Hölderlin tower where the famous poet lived in the early 19th century.

And then it began to rain (earlier than forecasted) and we had to sit under an umbrella of a street cafe. I had found a copy of Attar‘s Conference of the Birds in a little bookshop, and read a little while we waited for the rain to stop.

Later in the evening, we met our friends Niele and Günther for dinner. We hadn’t met for six years and it was wonderful to see them again, in a restaurant overlooking many miles of the Swabian landscape. Here’s two photos of us and them – no, not the gorillas, we’re at the bottom of the page 🙂

Niele and Günther are currently busy preparing the logistics of a large Java Developer conference. After this they’ll return to their regular job of running a successful web design business. I might do a little Flex application for them – we’ll see. I want to learn Flex but it is difficult to learn something as complex as that without a project. This might be the chance.

Spätzle-Country 4: Cheese Mats

Today’s hike: a round trip of about 12 km through a beautiful summer landscape in the Swabian Alps, with forests, meadows, steep cliffs and spectacular views.

Our destination for the hiking round trip was the Hohenneuffen Castle, a fortress ruin on top of a mountain in the Swabian Alps, just a few miles north of our temporary home. We could see it from the first vista point, up on the hill, looking like a huge rock, still far away …

We found a couple of plants on the way that I had never seen before, such as these … our biologist friends Niele & Günther (who we will meet tomorrow) probably know them …

The castle is nearer already …

On top of a hillside, a surprise find: a small pond, a biotope, full of water lilies and other plants …

… more unknown plants, and lots of them! the meadows were full of flowers, but for some reason (the long cold winter, I guess) not many bees or butterflies.

Halfway to the castle, we found a little meadow with large rocks on the edge of a cliff … we could sit on a rock above the abyss, hundreds of meters above the valley … I did not exactly feel very comfortable there but the view was spectacular!

This small place is often used as a launch pad for paragliders … two young men with paraglider equipment were there, waiting for better wind conditions … the thought of jumping into that abyss, hanging just on a thin kite, makes me dizzy – I could never do that in a hundred years. But then, friends of mine do it and tell me how wonderful it is …

Half an hour later, we finally reached the castle. Usually, this place is full of tourists, but it was Monday, and we were almost the only visitors. The restaurant was closed but there was a little shop with a very friendly man who sold us coffee, and gave us some recommendations for more walks we could take.

The view from the castle was even more spectacular, and with a thick stone wall between us and the abyss, we felt a little more comfortable and could enjoy the view more …

Of course this castle has a long history of wars and cruelties … underneath the castle, the casemates (a word that in German sounds a bit like “cheese mats”) were dark, wet, and eerie caves … I don’t want to know how much suffering has taken place here …

Back towards where we had parked the car … a summer landscape.

We got sunburned and we came home quite exhausted … but this was a good day.

Spätzle-Country 3: The Blue Pot

On this quiet sunny Sunday morning we drove through a wonderful green summer landscape to the town of Blaubeuren. We wanted to take a look at the famous Blautopf, an unusual pond that is the spring for the Blau river. The pond is small but more than 20 metres deep, contains strikingly turquoise water, and leads to a large system of underground caves.

The beautiful old Blaubeuren Abbey is very near the Blautopf. Amazing buildings, but the weather was almost a little bit too good for us – it had gotten really hot by now …

… we decided to drive back to our temporary home in Bad Urach, get some food and coffee, and then take a walk there. That turned out to be a good idea. It was a little cooler in the forest, and the waterfall up the hill gave us some additional cooling. What a nice landscape, how lush! there are much more flowers in the meadows here than at home in the Bergisches Land …

Spätzle-Country 2: Golden Wein

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of Germany’s main tourist spots – most parts of the beautiful medieval town are well preserved, and walking its streets almost feels like being on a time travel … but of course there are many other tourists, most of them from the US and Japan. We were lucky to come here immediately before the main season hits the place and buses spill their tourist freight all over the streets, turning the quiet medieval atmosphere into a permanent rush hour. Sabine had been here as a girl and still remembers how terrible it was then … we were relieved to see that it was not quite as bad … and we could still enjoy the beautiful surroundings above the Tauber river, the quiet little side streets, and the amazing medieval houses.

One of the local specialities is called “snowballs” – they look much tastier than they actually taste.

Looking down on a wet day from the city walls into the lush river valley …

Because it was rainy on the second day, and walking around the town wasn’t as much fun as it could have been, we drove to a historical building museum in the nearby Bad Windsheim, seeing how people used to live in various parts of Germany hundreds of years ago.

A beautiful medieval carved ceiling in a wine bar …

Rothenburg’s city hall on the next day. The sun was shining, finally! A good day for sightseeing, and climbing the spire … we really needed nerves of steel for this because it was very steep. But the view was breathtaking!

Most advertisements were in German, English, Japanese … or some mixture of the above.

Warmer Apfelstrudel mit Vanillesoße …

Albrecht Dürer lived not far from here …

Next stop was Dinkelsbühl, another medieval town, not quite as mass touristic but really nice too …

Spätzle-Country 1: back in Schöntal

A walk along the Jagst river …

Monastery garden

Beautiful old houses and castles

Strange creatures in pharmacy stores that look like a museum

Caves where strange folks are hanging out

Beautiful chapels

The monastery cathedral from one of the two walks we took today. Sabine knew this place only from my photos and is here for the first time. She quickly fell in love with the place, and already thinks about when to come back.

Through wonderful forests

and through fields … summer already

I loved this house

Light in another chapel

Corrosion and nice colors

Original inhabitants

One of the main ingredients of our holidays everytime

In the deep forest, beautiful flowers

Looking back

An apple a day

The monastery yards from outside

Cold May

Unusually cold and wet, this May 13th, and it’s been like that for several days, and it will be like that for some more days. (9°Celsius is 48° Fahrenheit)

Today is Ascension Day (I can’t help imagining Jesus with a jetpack on his back, roaring off into the clouds) – anyway, I haven’t taken a walk for days and today is a good day for that, at least it doesn’t rain at the moment.

Incredible to watch the plants grow ! The Bergisches Land is one of the rainiest areas in Germany. The soil is heavy and not good for crops of any kind, so agriculture is usually limited to keeping cattle. We don’t have as many flowers as the more fertile regions in Germany but … there are some if one looks closely. I started in our own garden …

The meadows have already grown up high … the dandelion season seems to be mostly over.

I love walking through the forest on the hill opposite of our house … the birds were singing, and I didn’t meet anyone else … except for some deer.

Lion Tooth Morning

On this quiet sunny 1st of May morning, before breakfast, I took a long walk alone (Sabine is away in Brussels, seeing an old girlfriend). It is a holiday and people are still asleep – many have spent an extended evening partying, drinking lots of beer, and stealing birches. They have a
strange custom here in Germany, and I think especially here in the Rhine area – young men gather to cut birch trees, decorate them with colorful ribbons, and set them up in front of the houses of young women; part of the fun is that other young men try to steal these birch trees in the night.

The meadows were colored bright yellow with millions of dandelions (called “Lion’s Teeth” here for some reason), interspersed with the subtle pink of cuckoo flowers … and all the birds were singing.

At one point, a song thrush sang its loud and exquisite song very near to me for a minute or two. I love those thrush songs a lot (as readers of this blog might remember) – they are somewhat similar to nightingale songs but they use more repetitions, so for most of the complex fast short patterns they sing, there is a good chance to hear them several times.

Listening to a song thrush from so near was quite an experience. The beauty was a bit overwhelming – it seemed to blast through my heart like a very loud and uplifting rock concert.

How wonderful to be able to walk through this beauty, to feel the touch of the sacred … then my path led me into the village again and there was something even more overwhelming: the smell of fresh coffee coming from the houses where people were getting up … oh yes: breakfast!!!

Beautiful Ruins

Another beautiful spring Saturday. We drove an hour northeast of here to the town of Essen, this year’s European Capital of Culture in the Ruhr Basin. This area of Germany has long been an important industrial center of Europe, thanks to large coal deposits. Coal and steel industry are still alive here today but in decline – cheaper coal from China is one of the main reasons.

The Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex (official website / wikipedia) has closed down in the 80s and has since become a World Cultural Heritage site – it is now home to a cultural center with several important museums, and it hosts many kinds of cultural events.

The Ruhr museum has many interesting exhibits about the history of this area – among them, of course, coal and other fascinating minerals and fossils. This collection alone is worth visiting this museum for anyone who loves fossils and natural history.


What must it feel like for the former coal workers to visit the place where they spent their working lives, now turned into a museum and place for entertainment and culture?

The part of the area that I liked most for some reason used to house a huge coking plant. It has the charme of ruins now that have turned into an alternative culture place. Oh how much I’d love to play some guitar livelooping or computer music there!

I’m sure I’ll come back to this place and spend some time there.

Hiking Again

Four months and two weeks after Sabine’s hip operation, we can do hikes again – thanks to modern medicine! Last weekend we walked six kilometers, this weekend we did nine … maybe twelve next time?

We had the most beautiful spring weather imaginable …

… and the sky was of a deeper blue than usual, with not a trace of vapor trails, thanks to a coughing volcano on Iceland!

Michael’s choice of ice cream …

and Sabine’s …

what an incredible Sunday!

Locus Amoenus

Pictures from an Easter saturday visit at Benrath Palace near Düsseldorf. Highlights were a guided tour through the 250 year old manor house, coffee and cakes in the awesome cafe, a visit to the European Garden Art museum, and a walk through the park down to the Rhine. The weather was mixed but mostly cooperative, and we had a great time.

The Back Country

coming home from my mother
she refuses to die … at 89
deep in dementia
her own world,
unable to speak …

coming home at noon, to the back country –
sit for half an hour in the sun
a poppy-seed cake and a coffee
a book of poems (The Back Country)
“the berry feast”

cool wind but sun,
spring around the corner
quiet Thursday noon
the neighbour cat sees me
comes down from the roof
and curls up on my lap


sparrows on the hedge
chirping cat alerts
we see you!
crow on the old apple tree
crows three, four times
too large to be bothered by cats

the book cover is faded
bought it when I was young
I am fading
but something that is beyond time
never ages


Meeting of the Spirits

through a world without horizon
steering the heavy car across small country roads and icy curves

towards another week delving into the depths of our souls
learning another chapter of the consciousness operating manual

then seeing dear old friends again, some of them after a year
too many hugs to give and take
feeling held and loved by a field of 120 people
so many unique lives … deaths, births
a talk and a quiet evening together

in the smaller group, a sense of:
we all have got our feet wet in this by now
a different sense of connectedness

“beyond the deepest abyss of fear, there is a peaceful dark pond”

the little pond behind my house in a clear night:
stars in the black water

spaciousness without self, without thoughts, without history, without purpose, without time, without meaning and yet, from there, the old self seems like a bad dream

“clear emptiness taking care of the entity,
black emptiness taking care of identity”

selfless spaciousness, a doorway –

a dialogue, a feedback loop of looking together at this deeper and deeper

looking at a favorite mechanism:
feeling lost when seemingly stuck in the old self
the habitual unconscious rejection of this feeling
makes “stuck” even more unmovable

after this,
through a large snow covered garden
darkness approaching
stopping now and then and looking inside: complete peace,
truly passing all understanding
a flock of crows circling the old church spires

feeling painfully insecure during a gestalt exercise
meeting an old place in me again that I prefer not to go to
feeling insecure, deficient, and small like a child among grownups
feeling abandoned

later: feeling not abandoned but loved and seen and mirrored
aliveness and beauty

a tiny reflection in the dark center of an eye
a star shining in black emptiness

the false and hollow personality shell
actually feels stable and self confident at times
a prison

a long exhausting walk alone in a snow landscape full of nothing
darker clouds over grey snow fields
walking uphill over uneven harsh snow

an unexpected sudden surge of unusual clarity and transparency
lucidity like in a lucid dream, but awake:
opening eyes – the world is there

there is an amazing crystal clear nothingness now inside, for hours
the slightest trace of wanting takes me out of it
the slightest trace of wanting it keeps it away
the slightest trace of wanting is suffering
but each thought and each wish can easily be seen at once in that emptiness, and be dropped

an hour in the bar with old friends with lots of laughter

during one exercise, a sudden clearly felt recognition of the falseness of this personality, the pathetic little ego identity with its fears, the faked self-confidence to cover up the fears.
it is even using essential experiences, after they have passed of course, as colorful new bricks in the brittle petty little ego structure wall.
telling friends about these experiences, making the little ego feel more special – maybe a little admired even? how pathetic, how sad to unconsciously feel compelled to do that.
writing about them in this blog – isn’t this also just for making the false self feel more special? just to get some narcissistic supplies?

but then telling the group about this clear recognition, these truths, led to a very strong authentic and present feeling
please don’t take me seriously – it is all just fake!
fakeness and falseness are the foundation of this person, but there is obviously something other underneath that is neither fake nor false nor brittle.
this something underneath doesn’t come from personality, thinking, history, and it cannot be influenced or misused.
they all come to tell me that they see what is underneath – apparently better than I see it myself

how strange to think that there is something there that is really true, independent of opinions!
“objective truth” –
philosophers cringe but they don’t know silence

standing by the snowy creek, she describes how she hears it with her whole body and how the water sounds are inside her.
this hasn’t happened to me yet although I think of myself as focused on hearing rather than seeing.
amazing what a wide range of experiences is possible and in how many ways perception gets deeper and more subtle
once one has begun giving up the personal identity and gets rooted in presence instead.

amazing how intense the feeling of freedom can get. what an incredible relief to be without oneself, even if just for a minute!

a warm happiness and feeling touched after successfully helping a friend who was in a dark fearful place for weeks to find trust and joy again

a bright blue sunny sky, what an unexpected gift
walking across the snow field,
there is a man (I know him) in the distance,
under the giant mistletoe covered trees,
alone, wearing headphones,
ecstatically dancing
I’m happy with him, this dot, this point,
from a distance,
forgetting his self for a while

a small amateur choir practising a medieval canon, unsure at first, later creating magic
oh to be in the presence of humans singing a beautiful song just to create beauty
so deeply human, so divine

later, feeling a little bit alone and uncertain, everybody busy or away
but then feeling a sudden joy and sense of adventure … grabbing the coat and going for an evening walk
the little path along the creek,
ice over the water,
snow on the branches
the path is suddenly so beautiful that my heart opens

ice cold blue evening slow steps in the deep snow along the river
the patterns of branches,
sharp silhouettes against the sunset sky
silence, standing still, listening
the old apple trees

the flock of crows circling the double spires of the old monastery cathedral

for how many centuries has this flock been circling the church, every morning, every evening?
the birds change, the flock stays
six o’clock church bells

the small groups meeting for “essential mirroring”
which turned out to be so loving, respecting, such a precious meeting
that it can’t be described without distorting it –
“birth of a diamond”
afterwards, meeting one from the group outside, a hug, a talk, still shattered and overwhelmed
i look up – over us the icy constellations, a giant red star, it can’t be Mars at this time of the year,
not this straight overhead –
Antares? Beteigeuze not far away –
then a sudden shooting star, dim and fast but unmistakably.
“a shooting star” “so wish for something”
all that i always wished for (personally) is already materializing, magically, and much more, so much more.
she looks up and sees a shooting star too – shouting with delight

in the morning, still dark outside – waking up with that “strange immobility” in body and brain
that K speaks about in his diary – I read a random page. how strange that the “symptoms” are similar
like the engines of the mothership are running idle in my belly
that huge citadel, floating low above ground, lit up like a million christmas trees
coming for support, silently waiting – it has always been there but I wasn’t aware of it – I wasn’t aware

inner doing of years has slowly to be unlearned
any movement of inner doing is distortion
who am I to want something else than what is? how absurd.
to learn that doing happens on its own – this is not for the mind to grasp

then, chirping birds, another Wednesday
typing before breakfast, a friend shuffling the chairs around on the old wooden floor
a woman from the monastery cleaning the floor
loading talk recordings for editing, then breakfast
a silent breakfast again – trying not to disturb “this”

and then forgetting the connection to being, and landing in the old self again
like having been at the gates of paradise, peeking in, and being forced to leave again.
the pain of this is excruciating.
looking coldly at this I see that I have become a presence junkie –
attached to the deep beauty and the “rightness” of these experiences of being simply myself.
an object relation maybe – nutrition and security: mother comes and feeds me – everything is good. mother leaves and I’m alone – I get afraid she’ll never come back.

so I wake up on the last day of the retreat, very early, can’t fall asleep again
and I feel so desperately normal, as on the day before.
like on a monday morning, it is raining, you have to go to work, nobody smiles at you, the world is grey and cold and depressing.

I stay with the pain and the hopelessness, what else can I do.

and then something remarkable happens – I have not the faintest idea how and why.
some tiny thought that I don’t notice, some subtle movement,
and all of that falls off again, just vanishes in an instant, like it has never been there.
no more fear, no more hopelessness, no more doubts – no thoughts,
and I’m home again.
this time there aren’t any unusual feelings or sensations at all,
it is completely unspectacular –
and it is this unspectacularness that feels so incredible.
i look again – it is still there, just simplicity – lovely simplicity.
i am so happy that I have to cry, so I lie there – a grown up man – in my bed in the early morning
crying in my pillow, so happy that I’m me, simply this, what a relief, what an overwhelming gratitude

this will probably pass again, and come back again.
is being born always so difficult?

“no thought or fanciful emotion could ever conjure up such a happening;
neither of them, in their wildest endeavour, could build up these happenings.
They are too immeasurably great, too immense in their strength and purity for thought or feeling; these have roots and they have none. They are not to be invited or held; thought-feeling can play every kind of clever and fanciful trick
but they cannot invent or contain the otherness. It is by itself and nothing can touch it”

law of the bridgeless bridge:
the abyss is endlessly deep. eventually
you find that bridge and cross the chasm –
then looking back, you realize that there never was a bridge
nor an abyss –
you were always beyond it

White Cone Of Wisdom

Lots of snow this winter – as always, a blessing and a curse. Salt is already sold out and it will probably stay cold for another few weeks. Hmm … too bad for Sabine who finally had her hip operation in early December, fortunately with good results so far, and will have to run around with crutches for another two months. No taking walks outside under these circumstances! Falling would be the last thing she could use now. She mostly copes surprisingly well with having to stay inside.

This morning, I shovelled some snow while it was still dark. It had snowed in the night and Sabine’s taxi was about to come to collect her and drive her to her rehab.

After she was gone, I looked out of the living room window. Dawn was coming and everything was blue and grey and very quiet. The world looked extremely delicate and fragile for a moment. After that, it continued to be simply very beautiful.

We prefer the summer but winter has its own magic. A friend from Melbourne expressed her envy on seeing the photo of me shovelling snow – apparently they never get snow there in winter except on the mountaintops. We feel very privileged to live in a place that has a wide variety of climates over the year.


Y2K9 was why we had come to the west coast in the first place:
Rick Walker (who keeps pointing out how much my MY2K project had inspired him to move towards abstract electronica) had invited me for years to come to his annual livelooping festival, and this year was the first time that I felt up to it.

One reason that I felt I could do it this time was that I had finally replaced the heavy guitar rig full of hardware effects I had been using for years by a notebook – good for international flights. I also took my small midified Hohner G2 guitar, an instrument that can easily be taken as hand luggage and tucked into a plane’s overhead compartment.

The notebook contains a complex Plogue Bidule setup that is capable of doing infinitely more than my old hardware effects could – it is a maze of VST plugins, VST instruments, loopers, and realtime samplers, infinitely reconfigurable and versatile, and it opens many musical doors for me although I’m still a long way from understanding Bidule, and also, a long way from mastering this setup.

One additional musical difficulty that I had created for myself was that I insisted to improvise everything – as on my previous solo livelooping concerts, I played no compositions (although sometimes compositions suddenly found their way into the improvisations). This has its pros and cons. It needs a certain amount of openness from the audience – people who expect “pieces” will inevitably be disappointed.

What usually happens, and happened this time too, is that I start out only from a rough idea for the beginning, and then some kind of flow finds its own way, often in surprising ways, sometimes boring, sometimes interesting. One thing that sometimes seems to happen, and it happened this time too, is that I try certain things along the way, and fail – then I’m disappointed and frustrated, but because the audience doesn’t know what I was trying, they often like the result anyway.

I was flattered that Rick had featured me in his “headliners” list for the festival, and scheduled me for no less than 3 gigs on 3 subsequent days.

On the first night, we met for the “Best of the Y2K9 International Live Looping Festival” concert in the Anno Domini Gallery in San Jose. Except for Atlanta based kalimba wizard Kevin Spears, all of us had come from abroad (from Germany, Australia, Barbados, UK, Belgium) and were somewhat excited to play in the USA for the first time.

It was a very nice evening – although we did not have many people (maybe 25) in the audience, there were up to 200 people listening and watching the show over the internet. Nat Grant from Melbourne created a very soft and subtle texture of material sounds from percussion and plastic foil, Julia Kotowski from Cologne played her charming “Entertainment for the Braindead” songs, David Cooper Orton presented wonderful guitar compositions, Sjaak Overgaauw led us into quiet ambient sound worlds, Andre Donowa played very relaxed caribbean guitar music, and Kevin Spears made us all tap our feet with his irresistable, and technically astounding, kalimba grooves.

I drove home with Nat, Julia, and Kevin in my car, eventually discovering that our fuel was low – and there was no way to get new fuel in the middle of the night in the mountains between San Jose and Santa Cruz. We made it safely to Santa Cruz though – thanks so much to my guardian angel who protected us on the quite dangerous highway 17.

The next night, Rick had scheduled me for the “Experimental Side of the Y2K9 Looping Festival”, a concert in the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco which holds regular new music concerts curated by Matt Davignon. I’ve known Matt for years as a very creative musician and regular contributor to Chain Tape Collective projects – it was very nice to finally meet him in person.

I must admit that it was quite exciting for me to drive into the breathtaking night skyline of San Francisco, with Rick and Nat in my car, to give a concert there. This wonderful city is a mythical place, both beautiful (as Sabine and me saw it a few days ago) and dark and even a bit creepy – but then I’m probably simply not used to this place at night.

The gallery was a wonderful concert space. Matt did his drum machine soundscapes, Nat and Rick created surprising music with percussion instruments and various materials, and Thomas Dimuzio played breathtakingly beautiful synthesizer music – like something straight from Blade Runner, but abstract. I would have loved to get a recording of this but he had forgotten to record it!

I did 25 minutes of, as Georgina Brett put it, “severely electro-acoustic LIVE music” – a continuous stream of sound events from the guitar and from various mysterious little devices that made the audience lean forward, trying to see what they were 🙂 The music was not something that is easy to listen to afterwards, but I think it was an enjoyable concert live – big fun for me to play really noise oriented at times, maybe I should do more of this?

The main livelooping festival began on Friday evening with a concert of some of the headliners – Nat Grant with Rick Walker, Kevin Spears (the Paganini of the kalimba, as Rick put it very correctly), The Mermen guitarist Jim Thomas, and me, with each of us given 45 minutes. This was the only concert which saw me a bit nervous during the afternoon, but then I found myself very quiet and mostly present while I performed. Again, many things that I tried to do failed, but the audience didn’t know what I had been trying, and judging from the many positive feedbacks I got, at least parts of it must have been enjoyable. I felt especially flattered by a very positive website guestbook comment by the wonderful singer Lilli Lewis who I saw perform on the next day.

The two following days were like a livelooping sweat lodge – from noon to midnight, more than 50 livelooping artists played for half an hour each, performing on one half of the stage while on the other half the next artist quietly set up his gear. Many of the stylistically wildly diverse shows that I saw were amazing, some of them utterly wonderful. Among my favorites were Bill Walker on lapsteel guitar, David Cooper Orton on electric guitar, Mike Crain’s ambient-minimalist vibraphone music, and especially the songs of Lilli Lewis – her performance was almost a spiritual experience, many of us were in tears because it was so beautiful and full of heart.
Lilli’s CD is here in case you want to hear it.

At times during the days of the festival, just sitting and enjoying, I seemed to feel an intense field of love that surrounded the whole venue. It was an impersonal love, and definitely something beyond the love that Rick, and the many people who helped, obviously put into organizing this event. For some reason, the livelooper community is exceptionally friendly – there is no competition but rather an atmosphere of mutual support. It seemed to me that something that I would call the presence of love can materialize in a palpable way when many people gather in such an atmosphere, to work together and to share what means most to them – their music, their personal vision of beauty.

What a treat this festival was. We finally met on Monday morning for the traditional loopers brunch and had coffee and cakes with Rick, Chris, Michael Klobuchar, and Nat Grant the next day … then we had to say goodbye. Amazing how close one gets during just a few days, and how much we missed each other afterwards – it was not unlike a meditation retreat or a guitar craft week … special times where one is together in an intense way, and then leaves to return into ordinary every day life reality.

(thanks to George Wiltshire and David Cooper Orton for some of the Michael Peters photos)

(many festival photos are here)

Towards Y2K9 (16): Hungry in Paradise

Point Lobos is a little stretch of coast immediately south of Monterey, California. It was named after the the Spanish word for the sea lions (lobos marinos) that inhabit the place, among many other animals. During our first visit in 1997 I really fell in love with this place – I think it is one of the most amazing places on this planet I’ve seen so far. We came back during our week in Santa Cruz to see it again.

There is something about it that awakes the child in me. So much to see and find and explore – strange rock formations, colorful crabs, tidepools full of red seastars and green seaanemones, miniature beaches, driftwood and heaps of drying kelp. We had binoculars and could watch sea lions and sea otters and oyster catchers, and marvel at the slowly rising and falling kelp filled mountains of water out there that are probably full of wonders under the surface. I felt like I could easily spend a day here.

We soon found out that we had made the same mistake as during our first visit – we had forgotten to bring sunscreen, and more important, we had not brought any food. So after some hours of discovering, we found ourselves not only sunburned but also quite hungry, and there is no place where you can buy food. We had to leave although we only had seen a fraction of the place. But there was another exciting thing waiting for me: playing a set on the Y2K9 loopfestival that evening …

Towards Y2K9 (15): Good Times

Santa Cruz, hometown of “known sonic terrorist” (as a local newspaper wrote) and livelooping festival organizer Rick Walker, was our hometown for a week and the last stop on our 4 week northwest coast trip. We liked it a lot – so much that we really regret that we have to leave now (our flight will go tomorrow as I write this).

The main reason that I will miss Santa Cruz was the wonderful Y2K9 livelooping festival, a unique musical event – more about it in another blog post – and the people that I met during the festival – Rick of course and Chris and Bill and Nancy, and all the other loopers, old friends, new friends. Another reason was the mild, almost subtropical climate and the breathtaking coast that is famous among surfers and nature lovers.

Sabine wrote this about Santa Cruz:
Very young (or are we just getting old?) students everywhere, many homeless or dropped out people, a real downtown which is full of life until late resp early, at least at some evenings per week, with very nice shops, many cafés, a wonderful coastline, with rocks and spectacular waves crashing against them, changing and changing, seagulls, pelicans, flying in row and very low, even seaotters, barking sealions, two (!) little out of function lighthouses, a sandy beach with a lazy and joyful sunday afternoon atmosphere, people playing with their dogs, playing volleyball, children playing in the sand, wonderful late afternoon light …

I really hope there will be a chance for me to come back to Santa Cruz in the not too distant future … Rick has already invited me for Y2KX (in 2010) … hmmm …