Portugal! I am in Portugal! It's mostly been Lisbon, and lordy, what a town, but I've made it north to Porto for a day or two before I head to the UK. I love it here - the tiles, I am all about the tiles. If it wasn't unbearably hot and sweaty, I'd be in near heaven. I've eaten so much good food, octopus especially, and last night, just after taking this picture, had the best cheese of my life at a small local place. Tabua Rasa make their own cheese and serve all kinds of strictly-Portugese delights and a very decent house wine.
I first read this Donika Kelly in the Sewanee Review, a literary journal I subscribed to last year because of their lovely poetry selection. It was the 'Fall Edition', which meant it came to me, across the world from Tennessee, in late-spring and sat on my dining table among some bank statements and sections from the Saturday paper for a month or so. I took it home to Adelaide on my summer break and read this poem at the beach house, when the days were long and salty and messages from Ian still gave me butterflies. It was a lovely find.
Self-Portrait as a Body, a Sea
I am a body of schooling,
a ball of fish, flashing
and many, in these early days
of feeling, of love.
When I learned,
hours ago, of fish songs
that swell like birdsong
in the morning,
how they foghorn or buzz
for food, or mates
or space, I thought,
now aren't I a humming thing?
Yes, you say,
a body of oceans
And the sea anemone in me,
growing on the wreckage
of an old ship -
can they grow that way,
I wonder, on an ending -
Still, this bright and tentacled
which reaches and filters
whatever it needs
from this strong current,
and the current too that carries
the sea cucumbers ,
the rough mammals,
the life, both vertebrate
even the batfish,
the black jewfish,
and the terapontid,
it all swells and breaks in me
like a chorus at dusk.
- Donika Kelly
I often listen to On Being episodes twice over. There is just so much there to take in, such depth and quality to it, and so much beauty. I love the way Christa Tippett is so gentle in her enquiry, but manages to get to the heart of it. She pulls at things and unpicks them, but is so full of compassion and respect. Hers is a true calling.
- Yesterday I listened to this episode with Maria Popova and Natalie Batalha half the morning. Cosmic Imagining, Civic Pondering - it's hard to put into words, but it changed the way I think about things. A beautiful mix of philosophy and science, the intrinsic link between concepts and communities. Science often feels daunting to me, the wide unknown, but of course that's the beauty of it. This discussion was a real joy.
'Besides our innate need to push frontiers and learn, and the joy — Carl Sagan’s “Understanding is a form of ecstasy” — I think understanding, knowledge, learning about the reality of our universe is a spiritual experience, in and of itself. I like to think that knowledge brings empathy.... I would contend that when we learn that the atoms that make up our cells were manufactured in the cores of stars, empathy grows, because you realize the connectedness not just of all humans, but of all humans and all living creatures, everything in our biosphere, our shared biosphere'
- I listened to this episode with Michael Longley last month, after I'd heard sad news. I was walking home and quietly wiping away tears as he recited The Ice Cream Man. Poetry is, to me, the most beautiful, often the saddest. It's a painting in words, a feeling in your heart from just a few lines. In The Vitality of Ordinary Things, Longley says 'If prose is a river, poetry is a fountain... In other words, poetry uses language in a way that’s free-flowing, and at the same time, shapely. And I do like the word shape. I like it too.
- Thinking about Hannah Arendt has rarely felt so appropriate. Duncan bought me one of her books a couple of years ago, and I keep coming back to it. This episode, with Lindsey Stonebridge, is called The Moral World in Dark Times; Hannah Arendt for Now and brings all her theories and politics into the light. There is a brilliant sense of exploration, of interrogating every part within our context politically, within our context personally. The way that she explores empathy, and our continued centring of ourselves as part of the problem felt striking to me:
Well, I think for her — she was critical of pity, and she wrote very famously in her On Revolution book that what she didn’t like about pity is it kept the power relationship. Other people’s suffering — the one who’s doing the pitying or the empathizing keeps the power... And what she says to do is not just to empathize, but to actually build blueprints, or worlds, or frames for understanding experience that is not ours, that cannot be incorporated into ours. So why I think it’s different from empathy or pity is, when you are imagining — because you’re imagining to be empathetic or to share suffering — you’re immediately incorporating that experience into a view of yourself and your own worldview.
What Arendt wanted was actually something a bit more radical than that, is to imagine something that’s not your world, that makes you feel uncomfortable. And that’s where the work has to start.
My last Sunday in Copenhagen. A sad thing to write - it's hard to believe these three months have all gone by. It feels like I just landed, and also like I've always been here. Time is strange that way.
I made a point to have a day of it, to do things right and soak it all up. So I started with breakfast at Atelier September (the best granola, and I do love their bowls of latte), then saw the HOME exhibition at the Danish Architecture Centre and danced around the Olafur Eliasson light installation, walked across to Islands Brygge for some lunch and a grapefruit spritzer, then threw myself into the harbour for a glorious swim. I love that right there, at the centre of town, just opposite the theatre and down from the library and in between a working harbour everyone strips down and bathes in the sparkling clean water. It really is the most amazing town, families and young people and oldies on bikes, everyone out and about and making the most of these long summer days.
I bought a takeaway rhubarb and gin drink from Kihoskh and packed my bags, packed away my books and clothes and life there in Vesterbro. What a damn joy, to have had such a long and near-perfect time of it. I hope I always remember how good it feels, being here and being on my own.
I've been wearing the same clothes for three months now. The same two pairs of shoes each day (Birks or Converse, if you don't count my Nikes) and mostly a few pants, shirts and the odd dress. All very plain - black, grey, denim, linen, some mustard trousers if I'm feeling daring. It's fine, and ideal for travels. But lordy if I am not bored of it all. Clothes I used to love and feel good in, I now put on and feel tired of.
I have bought a few things, but again, just stuff I can rotate and wear with what I already have. Nothing glorious, just easy. I am longing for new and interesting pieces, especially with a week in Portugal coming up. It's going to be a lot warmer and I'm not sure how well prepared I am.
These looks from Creatures of Comfort, one of my fave LA brands, are pleasing me right now.
A slow Sunday. I was up the coast with friends on Saturday night, playing boardgames and drinking summery wine outside till late in the evening. I was, at one point, crying nearly hysterically I was laughing so much. Old friends are the best, especially smart and cheeky ones.
I got the train back to Copenhagen after breakfast and spent most of the afternoon on the couch, reading and drinking beer. A walk to the local ramen spot was well worth it though, for this golden light.
Yesterday was a good one. Its mostly all been good, these last few months in Copenhagen, but there was something about yesterday that felt special.
I went to ARKEN in the morning with Leo, an early start, pastries on the train and a leafy walk from the station. We all had lunch at Torvehallerne Market, sitting outside, eating smorrebrod and drinking cheap French white and squinting in the sun. We bought gifts and made plans.
In the afternoon I stopped in at Kihoskh to buy a beer - a Mikeller for the walk home. Maybe I'm nostalgic because I have to leave soon, maybe it was the beer, but as I stopped at the front step to get my keys I had a moment to take it all in. How very happy I am. How lovely these late-summer days are, how lucky it is to have nothing on my hands but time and beauty, every building, every streetlight, every bike that goes by makes me smile. This town has my heart.
Nothing more to add to this ee cummings. It's everything - irregular and scattered perfection, what love in blossom feels like.
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near
your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose
or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands
- ee cummings
Back to it. Back to Copenhagen, back to myself. Waking early, meditation, yoga, coffee, morning pages, some Feist, all of the important stuff. Last night I listened to podcasts and cooked, so happy to be back in the kitchen. I scrubbed my face and put on a mask. Shaved my legs and found, after a week on the road, clean socks and a new book to read, all the things that make me happy. It's been sunny and I have all the windows and doors open.
I am easily pleased. A creature of habit, a creature of comfort.
Last month I went up to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, a gallery 45 minutes north of Copenhagen by train. It's in Humlebaek, right on the water looking across to Sweden. It is, I think, one of the nicest places in the world.
The original house, the stunning modern additions that weave above through the lawns and down under the hill, the sculpture garden, the surrounding woods, the pier into the clear blue water, and the collection - all of it amazing. A stunning mix of Danish favourites (Per Kirkeby, he's my guy) and modern art from around the world. There is an excellent Gabriele Munter retrospective on, and some very good Ed Ruscha works on paper. And a Yayoi Kusama infinity room is always a special thing.
But this time around, it was the Alberto Giacometti gallery that got me. I love that when you visit a gallery or walk into a room, there is always something that stands out. And it could be a different something on a different day. I like slowing down for it, just wandering and taking things in and finding which pieces speak to my mood or state of mind at the time. And last month, it was the Giacomettis.
I've seen some of his pieces before, but not this scale; as in, not this many, and none this imposing. My heart skipped as I walked down the long passage towards the new gallery, dappled light from the gardens drifting in, and to the left, long glass cabinets sunk into the wall with small sculptures, just hand-sized to start with. There was one bust that I stopped for, took in more closely than the others, her long neck and the pressed texture so elegant and natural.
From there, I took a stairway to the left, down to the main space. The timber of the railing cascades down the stairs to the red brick floors and the white brick walls and a huge expanse of windows and bright light. Outside is a lake, and the light reflects and bounces off the water, through the birch and willow leaves. Downstairs is another bust, a man, which I came to in profile. He is looking slightly upwards, strong but humble. There are two narrow towering figures, women, and all limbs. One's breasts are low and small, countered by her full hips, the other's legs are set apart, like she's mid-stride towards you. The sense of movement and purpose is quite astounding. On the other wall is a plinth with five figures, more women, their hands to their sides, motionless and reverent.
Under the stairs are rough drawings and preparations, sketches and shadows of figures that have been framed to balance out the sculptural work. And by the window, one enormous Andreas Gursky photograph. It is as if you don't just see the shade and wind moving across the water in the photograph, you feel it. The mottled light and refractions of the image reflect the lake outside, and more closely, the mottled texture of the sculptures.
There is such balance and perfection in this room that I was moved to tears. One thing to another, the works and the space, the interaction of light and texture, of detail and feeling, stillness and movement. It was stunning.