Agent down

When I got the news, it was like a sliced fingertip. First there was nothing, no sensation at all. Then that hot, tingly feeling that’s the harbinger of pain – the deep breath before you realize you’ve cut yourself, deep. And then… pain and blood, hitting with full force.


We used to call you “our man in Berlin”. I don’t think you ever knew that. In hindsight, it’s almost too apt. You were undercover, off somewhere doing the impossible, and we watched from afar. Your absence was literal, but also figurative. You had your own Scorpio world, populated by phantoms and screams. We never really knew you. Maybe no one did.


Our few moments of real connection – Nick Drake, Recoil, And One, always there was a soundtrack to these moments – were unexpected bursts of sun in a gloomy cloudscape where our efforts at communication were, in your own words, exercises in estrangement.


And yet, even though we never really connected, it feels like a part of me is gone. How’s that for banal? But you once said it’s the banal stuff that counts, so I’m allowing myself a piece of clichéd emotion in your honour.

At one time, I even wanted to be you. I wanted that darkness, that mystery to be mine. Wanted my ordinariness to be excised. I was attracted, like you’re attracted to a sheer cliff. Like you toy with the idea of stepping into that nothingness beyond.


But your cliff was something else entirely. It was real in a way mine never was, and now you’ve taken that step. This new absence of yours is total, concrete, unquestionable. And I want to tell you. I want to call you and say, “You’ll never believe what happened – you died!” We’d laugh about it – about the obviousness, the improbableness of it all. About how I wrote it in a song fifteen years ago. About ravens and Poe and fate.

But I can’t tell you, and so it’s like you’ll never know. That you’re not here. We’re all here, everyone who knew you, and you’re not-here. As if you’ve taken the concept of leaving a party early to go home and listen to Kindertotenlieder to a whole new level.


And that’s how I choose to see it. That you left. That death took you with your consent. That you completed your mission and dropped your gun in the Havel.


As for us, we no longer have a man in Berlin.


These damn swans

Or should I say, “This damn telezoom that’s all I could afford and that’s NOT living up to any kind of expectations”?

Weeell, never mind. Photography is more than crispness (I’m told, but…). And it’s not the lens’s fault that I stubbornly left the ISO on 100. But oh, how I would have wished this one to be sharp!


But who knows, maybe in a while, I’ll even think these are quite nice, with that Constable vibe they’ve got going.




Morning fog

I got up early again, because I missed yesterday’s spectacular dawn with gravlax pink and gold shining through the bus window. But when I reached the hill where I’d planned to snap my pictures, I was just too foggy. Made for some atmospheric shots of the woods, though.


These are some interesting geese. They’ve been following the swans around the pond for weeks now. As soon as the swans move, so do the geese!


The sun finally rose over the misty hills. Here seen peeking at a sleeping lorry.



Fire in the darkness

This weekend was dull – weatherwise. The sky was constantly overcast, but it was warm and we went for a drive to look for mushrooms and photo subjects. I’m not sure I’m happy with the results, but at least you can see the impossible, fiery red colour of the autumn shrubbery against the leaden background.




A slight mist shrouded the faraway mountains. Here and there, individual trees had turned yellow, which made them stand out from their green brethren.




Lower down in the forest, whole areas had turned completely golden.


I don’t know what these dark red leaves are, but they were everywhere!


They look like something out of a fantasy movie. What would they be called? Fire-leaf? With medicinal or hallucinatory properties, perhaps…


In the evening, we made a real fire and stayed outside until it was pitch black.


The Ace of Wands

That feeling… I think all authors must know about it. You empty your glass and you’re convinced that you’ll never write another word, because what is there to write about? You’ve said everything you want to say already.

And then there’s this thing – a movie, a smell, a view, something someone says – and it gets stuck on your mind like an autumn leaf clinging to a wet fence. And as it sits there, just shining brightly against the dull grey of the wood, another kind of light begins to creep up on you.


It inches closer, slowly, whistling innocently… and then BAM! You’re bathed in the light of an inner dawn.


You have to write. You have to write this new character, this laugh, this landscape, this perspective. You’ve described a hundred different smiles in your other books, but this one is different, and it needs to be set on paper. Come hell or high water. Otherwise that light will burn you up from inside.

You’re in love, and you want to shout it out to the world.

And then it ebbs. Sooner or later, it ebbs and peters out, and you look at the smile or the view or the funny dialogue, and you just go “Meh”. Because it’s done now. You’ve spent your ink again, and poured that light onto your keyboard, and there’s nothing left. Not even a couple of mixed metaphors.

You have a result: a few twinkling phrases, or a whole fragile structure with a series of flimsy, glittering strands of story clinging to it… and now comes the work. The editing, the fleshing out, the careful crafting. In Tarot terms, the spark of inspiration from the Ace of Wands have chosen a direction, gathered the input it needs and celebrated the first stage of the journey. And now the battle begins, where things will not always be so bright.

But you’ve got your flimsy strands, and look at them: they might only be lichen, but they’re beautiful.


From the perspective of plants

In my photography, I tend to seek the perspective of the thing I’m photographing – more often than not, plants of different kinds. Or, you know, living organisms.

That is, how does this cone “see the world”? I know it hasn’t got eyes, but it lies there on the ground, and that defines its relation to the world. That’s where the light hits it, and that’s where it rests on a dead, lichen-covered twig.


Or this mushroom. From a human perspective, it hardly even exists, because it’s so small and so camouflaged by its bland beige colour. But from its own perspective, it’s at the centre of the world, and at this precise moment, the sun hits it straight in the “face”.


Last night when I lay crawling in the dirt to snap these pictures, it dawned on me that this is what I always do in the rest of my life as well. When someone I know picks up a book I’ve written, I need to skim through at least certain chapters just to see how they might read it – I read with their glasses on, so to speak. From their perspective.

And what’s worse, in discussions and arguments, I’m so prone to taking in what my opponent means that I lose sight of my own opinions. I’m caught off guard by the conviction with which they contradict me – as if blinded by their stronger aura.


And this is the only reason I’m dreading the defense of my dissertation. I know what I’ve done, I know the strengths and weaknesses in my studies, and I can reason around it in a fairly intelligent way. But if my opponent says something really smart and challenging (and she will, because she’s the smartest and most challenging person I’ve ever met), I might clam up. I might forget the whole point of my dissertation. I might even forget my own name.

And so I’ll babble instead. And sweat. 😀

What I need is a shield – something to stand between me and the other person’s perspective, so that I can look at it from a distance, assess it, and then respond in a calm fashion, like, you know, a completely normal person. Something to hoodwink their bright light somewhat.


Oh well. I’ll babble. Worse things have happened. And I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of my curse of seeing things from other people’s perspective. I’ll just have to accept that when the debates rage around me, I’ll be like a tree in a storm: tossed this way and that – but hopefully with my roots firmly in the ground so I can regain my bearings afterwards!