On Where People Live

For I had a discussion yesterday… and that discussion centered itself around the question of what would the place have to be so that I would want to live there. It is in itself an interesting question, and not quite how we posed it in our conversation, but that is probably how I tried to answer it.

Now, there were two points: my friend said that the sea, or the ocean, whichever one we specify, is important. It has to be there. There is no other way. I said that a river would do. There is no need for my mind to witness the torrents of the sea while it could be the small turbulences of a river that could give me all the comforts that my mind could want.

The argument here was that the other person thought that the wilderness of the sea was something that was important in itself. That this was the important part to her, and that she longed for it where she presently lived. I can see that, and yet I cannot. The sea is everywhere, and if it is in your soul, it will be there a thousand miles from the coast. And I think that might be the worst part about it — it is there and it can be sensed, but not touched. Not smelt. Nor felt.

But me? Why did I say what I did? I think it is that I would much prefer to have a small garden by a quietly flowing river. It would give so much more opportunity to think. It is not that I don’t want the sea, but I can live with the sea being further away. It is there. It won’t go anywhere. What I want from where I live is a water that doesn’t move as fast, a water that would allow itself to be shaped into a garden of peace and tranquility. And if that is not possible, then a gently sloping river through my lands will do just fine.

But probably, in my mind’s eye, I see something much like one of those gardens where the stones are arranged in a set order and water flows around them. And where one can sit down and close the eyes that otherwise need to see things. For in my garden, seeing would be a hindrance to experiencing beauty.

Which is probably why I would not want the sea to be in my garden but rather a short walk away. I can stand the walk if I want to see the sea and talk to the waves, but I don’t think I would kindly take to them talking to me when I would prefer to listen to quiet sounds of running water…

Chiaroscuro

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

1
: pictorial representation in terms of light and shade without regard to color
2
a : the arrangement or treatment of light and dark parts in a pictorial work of art
b : the interplay or contrast of dissimilar qualities (as of mood or character)
3
: a 16th century woodcut technique involving the use of several blocks to print different tones of the same color; also : a print made by this technique
4
: the interplay of light and shadow on or as if on a surface
5
: the quality of being veiled or partly in shadow

For some reason, I really like the sound of this word. Why? I can’t really put my hand to it, but the sound of it when one says the word — it is ethereal. Otherworldly.

Now, I have to admit that I have not heard it used once in everyday conversations, and I have seen it in literature for only a handful of times with the majority of these being in one novel (that I have reread). However, every time I read/listen as it goes by, I feel that the word has a personality. Mind you, if it was a person, it would probably be a bit too pretentious — but as a word I would really like to know it better. I would like to use it… but not too much.

For the etymologically inclined, it would seem that the root of the word is Italian — the words chiaro and oscuro, light and dark. Maybe that Romance heritage is what gives the word some charm in an English sentence, although it could be something else.

It could also be that if I knew what made me like this word so much, I would not like it any more. So I shall let this mystery be, at least for today…

Snow in Norwich

Though I like Norwich quite a bit no matter what the season, snow makes this city shine. I wonder why this is so, though one possibility would be that since snow is seen here relatively little, the few moments (days) when people can actually appreciate it are very noticeable and the effect of “Oh, look, snow! Far different from July!” on every building is still noteworthy.

No matter how the actual thought arises, my point remains: snow makes Norwich, although generally a very nice city, even better.

I would say something else or add anything to this thought, but there really is nothing of substance. Aside from maybe asking: What would your city/town/village look like if snow covered the streets and buildings?

Of Watching ‘The Hobbit’

‘The Hobbit’, made into a wonderful movie by Peter Jackson, has been out for a while now. I have not yet taken myself to the cinemas to watch it. And this, rather interestingly, has managed to surprise a few people — and I admit it, it surprises me as well, when I think about it. But I have my reasons.

‘The Hobbit’ is a book I really enjoy. It might not be amongst the top top favourites that I have, but it is not far off either — and that has something to do with it.

I already have seen a movie of ‘The Hobbit’ — with every book that I read, as my eyes go past the words on the paper (or screen, I guess), my mind creates an image. And that image is my own creation, it might not be something anyone else would like, but it is an important part of the story that I have read. If I were to watch a movie made by someone else, what would happen to these pictures in my own mind?

That is the reason I have not yet seen Peter Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit’, and while I really want to see it — I won’t. At least not immediately. Maybe tomorrow. There’s always tomorrow. Tomorrow might be a better day for ruining the composition that my mind has drawn, and I might have reasons for doing so. But until I feel compelled to do so, I shall abstain.

Moons and Ships

Of all that there is out there, I guess that the sea brings to my mind the most trivial (and yet the most important) questions.

I managed to spend a good few hours on the bridge today, and most of it was spent looking out at the sea while it was getting darker. It is certainly a most impressive sight, and it was made better today by the relatively cloudless sky.

The sight itself? The moon’s rising light reflecting on the clouds above nightfall.

It was quite amazing indeed.

And the interesting thoughts? How many ships have passed by any of these places we are at in the entire history of the world? And how many places here have never been sailed upon? [Would the water feel any different…]

Concepts of Beauty and Elegance

I also thought it might be worth to introduce a few concepts of beauty and elegance, just so it would be possible to spend a fraction of that time (that time that we spend doing nothing, or maybe… maybe, not doing nothing, but say, looking out of the window at the clouds passing by) understanding what makes that cloud, passing by, worth looking at.

  • miyabi: aspects of beauty that only a highly refined taste could appreciate (the pale shades of dye in a garment, the fragile geometry of a dew-laden spider web, the delicate petal of a purple lotus, the texture of the paper of a lover’s letter, paly yellow clouds trailing over a crimson sunset)
  • en: beauty that was more obvious and sprightly
  • aware: a pleasant emotion evoked unexpectedly (what one feels when one sees a cherry blossom or an autumn maple)
  • yugen: the foreboding of aware (at a brilliant sunset one’s mind feels aware, but as the shadows deepen and night birds cry, one’s soul feels yugen)
  • shibui: the studied restraint that might be described as knowing when to stop (in a sense, the absence of all that is not essential; a sense of disciplined strength deliberately held in check to make what is done seem effortless; the absence of the ornate and the explicit in favor of the sober and the suggestive)

These were the main concepts that I have managed to identify thus far; I am sure that there are many many more, but I felt like they would deserve their place over here, so they are here.

 Full disclosure: Explanations of the terms from Thomas Hoover’s ‘Zen Culture’

So Far Away in Time

A few days ago I had the chance to say that time doesn’t matter. In the sense that it doesn’t matter whether something happens a few days earlier or later — if it is meant to happen, it will happen.

Why I came to say something like that? I was discussing (or rather, discussing is a term implying we actually spoke of the matter while we actually just touched it, lightly, not mentioned what it was but just *when* it was not) with a person (a person, not a friend, not something else, just someone I know) whether he had undone himself due to delaying.

“Time does not matter.”

I was convinced of that then.

And yesterday, I myself thought that time had destroyed me, stopped me. I contradicted, in my mind, something that I had been so very certain in just a short time ago.

And today, I woke up. I realized I had been wrong the second time, and right the first time. It is never time which is to be blamed, but how to use that time.

But what is it that makes people doubt themselves and their own beliefs? And will it happen again?

The River

A river is always going somewhere: where? Who knows… would the river itself want to know?

The fine morning we had today (by now, yesterday) allowed me to go to my destination using a rather roundabout way though it reintroduced me to the River Yare.  It was quite nice, and reminded me of past July’s (not the only thing today to remind of those: indeed, there were moments during the evening which did quite the same).

Don’t have much more to add except for a hope of updating more often and with more content. Until that time, a song and a picture. 🙂

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tadPEYwNOig]

Cities and Seasons

Autumn is in full bloom. Wait. Autumn in full bloom ? A contradiction… Oh well, autumn is at its best right now : no rain, no extreme warmth, this colder weather with clear skies and leafless trees. At night, the stars shine so very bright. “The wandering moon gleams under the clouds.”

The season looks good here; even better is the look of streets (the Avenues) compared to what they were. It truly is a beautiful place.

I saw a video of Tallinn a number of days ago, again in the full colours of autumn. It seems to me that any city which looks good in the summer or winter, shall also look wonderful in autumn.

I think I’ve once mentioned here my idea that to truly know any place a person needs to have seen it at all times; and that is most certainly true of Norwich for me. It is a lovely city and yet it manages to escape resembling anything else : it is not a Tallinn or Stockholm, or Pärnu or Barcelona. It is Norwich, no matter what.

Same is not true of Glasgow, and consequently not of Edinburgh either. Glasgow was Helsinki remade, especially the more central areas of it. Edinburgh. If Glasgow was Helsinki, then Edinburgh was Stockholm. A bit more regal and grand, but still in the same class.

Life on the Coast

Merede tuules on päikest ja liiva…

I was yesterday surprised when a person I know said that living by the sea had become disappointing/boring for him… and when I managed to think about it for a few seconds, I understood that that might be the only feeling that the average British coastline can give to a person on the average day.  The beaches I’ve been to have both been windy. Well, not both, I did climb down the wonderful hill in Slapton so I could theoretically say that I’ve been to four — Thurlestone/Buckland, Slapton Ley, Hunstanton, and Sea Palling/Happisburgh. Original count gave me three since I considered the Norfolk ones together — they did look rather similar. On all of these counts it was windy — given, Thurlestone was rather warm as well but that only seemed to exacerbate the wind… All of the rest can be summed up as windy and overcast (admittedly, the larger frequency of visits to the Slapton Ley one means that I was there during non-windy times as well).

However, that is nearly irrelevant — just wanted to demonstrate that I know little of the variety most definitely present around here. Nevertheless, I am well acquainted by now with the weather of the finest location in the United Kingdom — an average of two more hours of sunlight per week than the rest of this realm. And, if I picture any beach that I know of in such conditions as that claim suggests, I shudder. Living on one or near one would mean that seeing the sea at its worst is far easier than the opposite.

For some reason, the image of two long seawalls extending far into the sea side-by-side under an overcast — the one where you know that it will rain soon, and it would not surprise you in the least if thunder accompanied the rain — sky… not thoroughly overcast, if you turn around in the end of the seawall and look back at the land, you can see the sun far away. The knowledge remains, it will still rain. The best and worst of a city by the sea.

Added to that the sense of supervision, a look from above at the same place frozen in the darkness of the winter, the sun now in the height of its wintery ascent — the sea glistening under the light, a near-perfection if there can be something like that.

What remains to be described is the third option — a southern sea under a mild breeze that lets you know that the season of monsoons has not yet come or is past already. The sun slowly moving to hide beyond the horizon, with darkness crawling over the setting day. The branches of the palms and tropical trees swinging slowly in that evening wind.

There are other images present as well but I will leave them without a description. I have said what was the important part, and I do believe — the right mind-set will allow even a bleak day by the sea to be better than a fine day away from it. Agree to disagree,..