This blue marble

– and yet it spins


Leave a comment

In Utrecht

utrechtI thought I agreed to give a keynote talk in Copenhagen. It turned out to be in Utrecht. Glad I noticed it in time to book my flights. But I lost two days of work and I had to again travel to my absolute un-favorite country in Europe. After 15 years, I could barely recognize much of Utrecht. Perhaps it is just as good.

Fortunately, my hotel room was large enough to fit an entire dance floor. And there was a tub so squeaky clean I could not resist. Do you know what happens when you pour bath foam into a bubble bath? By surprise, I do now. Bubble overload.

(Utrecht, the Netherlands; June 2018)


Leave a comment

One country, two seas

dkbeachWith its brackish water, its smattering of islands between Finland and Sweden, and limited and slightly altered flora and fauna, the Baltic Sea is an inland sea and far from an ocean. Every seven years a huge saltwater swell pushes up the salinity gradient a notch, and slowly the rivers trickling down into the sea change it back towards sweet.

The animals and plants living in the Baltic Sea are the sturdiest, most adaptable ones that don’t mind the in-between conditions. Sweetwater perch and pike thrive in the sea. Seagulls and large cormorants don’t mind the smaller fish to eat. The herring has become a bonsai variant, called Baltic herring in English and something entirely different from herring in Swedish and Finnish.

Denmark is the gate to the Baltic Sea and its two coasts look like two separate worlds: its West coast (above) looks like any ocean shore, while its East coast (below) looks like a lake, which is what the Baltic Sea coast mostly resembles.

How convenient: if you live in Demark just pick your kind of seascape. dkbeach-2(Denmark, May 2018)


Leave a comment

Bridges across Denmark

storabaltSteaming across the Great Belt Bridge, I cannot help but think of how progressive and practical the Danes must be. And that they love bridges. There is the Øresund bridge (the one featured in the TV show; nearly 8 km long), the two Great Belt Bridges (each nearly 7 km long), the Storstrøm Bridge (over 3 km long), and 7 other bridges each spanning more than one kilometer in length.

Yes, it is difficult to get ship traffic through. Yes, some even collide with the bridges. But in the end they make people’s lives so much easier – and the content for a hit television show too, apparently.

(Store Bælt Bridge, Denmark; May 2018)


Leave a comment

What it takes to appease the divine

offeringTens of thousands of baby chickens died last night. Each Balinese house sacrificed one along with a bigger evening offering placed outside of the gate, by the road. Some houses had deemed pierced eggs to be enough, but most houses slaughtered a baby chicken. A holy man dressed in a white gown and turban squatted by the offerings at each house, making hand gestures and plucking fluff from the scared, cheeping chick and spreading it over the offering. Then he splashed holy water around. I did not see how the chickens met their fates but as I walked to yoga class this morning I had to dodge a tiny, dead, decapitated chicken by nearly every house.

I understood the ceremony was to pacify the gods after the earthquake. Unfortunately the lives of the poor innocent chicks were not sufficient, as we experienced another substantial quake today: M6.2 or 5.9 depending on who measured it, and Lombok was again the epicenter. The gods are obviously not content. My heart hurts for the scared baby chickens – as it also hurts for the 300+ people who were lost in the quake and the tens of thousands left homeless.

Balinese Hinduism is strongly influenced by animism and animal sacrifices are common. It is even in the name of this island: the word “bali” actually means animal sacrifice. Indonesia is a Muslim country and Muslim law does not allow animal sacrifices (or gambling for that matter) but here on Bali it is allowed as a way to keep people satisfied.  All sacrifices are linked to highly ritualistic practices, including one cockfight per year per temple (this is oftentimes not the case as cockfights and betting are a blooming practice for example in Ubud). Most of the times, smaller animals such as dogs and chickens are sacrificed, but sometimes the gravity of the situation calls for goats and even buffalo. The Balinese believe that animals sacrificed in the name of gods will be rewarded and reborn into a higher order of being as their way of departure from this life was sacred.

Once one has got to know the peaceful nature of the Balinese today, it is difficult to imagine that their ancestors were fierce tribal warriors, a little like the maoris of New Zealand. Sometimes even human blood was shed. Not always an enemy’s, either, as a successful cremation ceremony for the dead of the village would include nothing less than the sacrifice of a few women. Thankfully cremation was (and is) arranged only once every few years, and collectively for all deceased ones.

When it comes to life and death, Bali strips one to the core of the matter.

(Bali, Indonesia; August 2018)


Leave a comment

Walking the High Line

NYC-8In New York City, there was a train track that once felt important. And rightly so, as it was needed. Proudly it stretched its shiny steel tracks from the West into town, carrying loads and loads of freight trains every day between the city and a growing industrial area. Being ready for any kind of transportation was its sole purpose. For sixty years it felt necessary, and cared for.

Then, one morning just like any other morning, there were no more trains. No more light signals and no more buzz at the end station. Nobody showed up. Nobody showed up for such a long time that the shiny steel began to rust. Then nobody showed up to care for the always-ready, hard-working track. There were roads, you see. Alternate routes. Changes in urban planning. The poor track was not needed anymore. Nobody even needed the steel or the ground for anything, so people just forgot about it in a New York minute (snap).

Weed started to push through between the ballast and the wooden sleepers. Just a few curious herbs at first – followed by a bunch of others. And then, slowly, a sapling tree found itself growing in the middle of New York City, in a sky garden above the ground.

What to do with all that green in the middle of NYC? With campaigning and some luck, some spirited people converted it into a protected park. In doing so they did not uproot the tough little weeds and plants and trees, but kept much of the original flora. For kids growing up in the City it is inspiring to know that when Nature manages to push through, these are the plants and flowers and trees that grab foothold. And the old train track is proudly stretching itself again, covered in lush greenery.

I walked the High Line in its entirety: over 2 km of urban garden. If greenery is not incorporated into the original urban plan (like it wasn’t in most of NYC), creative rescue solutions like the High Line are probably the best second alternative. And I was happy to walk on the old rails and know they had a purpose once again – and this time hopefully for longer than just sixty years.NYC-6(New York City, USA; May 2018)