On disappearing while observing

At the last concert I attended as audience member, I happened to think about my love for observing. I loved to be for once in the audience instead of on the stage; to have the privilege to be still, to receive music without the need to interact with the musicians, except by clapping and cheering after each piece. The moment I loved most was after the concert when I stood near the stage, looking at the drummers packing up their gear: concentrated, efficient, relaxed after the show. I didn’t feel the need to interact with them, it would have been an interruption, even if I approached the stage with the wish to greet one of them. After a while he noticed me and walked over for a quick greeting, then had to come back to his instruments. I felt like a birdwatcher, briefly approached by a curious bird. I then wondered how I could ask (or even pretend) attention and recognition, when I feel so blessed as I get little or none of it. Maybe it’s because this is how I make sure to get sincere attention, instead of artificially-induced positive feedback.

I thought that attending a concert is one of the many setups where I am not the centre of attention, and not even an active participant in a communication. I felt the same positive sensations when I was observing wildlife during my university studies, and I realise that it was the strongest reason for me to enter the wildlife management field: this ability to disappear from the eyes of the animals, while working behind the scenes for their well-being. Well, sometimes they did notice me, like “Gina”, a female red deer rescue, who loved human attention, especially when it came in form of food 🙂

La Gina

I felt a similar heartfelt call when I met Maria Montessori’s concept of observation and her way of enabling children to learn by themselves, by stimulating their curiosity rather than actively keeping their attention on activities designed by myself. Even my friends sometimes make me the wonderful present of their spontaneous life, free from interactions with me. With my closest friends I notice that we have communication phases and observation phases, and we found our way to stay near each other with the possibility, but without the obligation, to interact. I feel it is a true mark of respectful closeness.

I have even experimented this mindset by standing near an intersection for several traffic light cycles. For ten minutes, the traffic lights lost for me the usual meaning of “Wait! Walk!” and my attention moved to the approaching cars, bikes and pedestrians. I watched how impatient each of them was, how some people scanned the surroundings while waiting and others kept their attention on the traffic lights; how some children on bikes negotiated the intersection with careful attention; how few people noticed me while others didn’t. At the orchestra’s rehearsals, it happens that I have significant gaps in my notes, or I plainly have nothing to play for a whole piece: wonderful! Time to disappear and observe! Time to watch other musicians and better understand which parts are hard for each instrument; time to better hear each one of them in the sum of sounds; time to enjoy their concentrated faces.

I sometimes think there is something odd in my fascination for this kind of disappearance. At the same time I find very healthy to practice invisibility and experience the world without being the centre of it, at least for a little while.

Any of you made similar experiences? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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November sun

Yesterday was the sunniest day of the last three weeks. The yellow of the few leaves still left on the trees made a nice contrast with the blue sky.

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I gladly basked in the sun while waiting for my train… and I wasn’t the only one:

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I came home and baked my best bread ever, #42. I made a single cut, deeper than usual, and the crust opened nicely around it. I let the upper heat on for ten minutes more, and the crust came out deliciously crispy. It’s the fourth time I follow this recipe, I think I won’t get it wrong anymore!

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Happy November everyone 🙂

 

Flying – the dream and the routine

For a long time, humanity only dreamed of flying. I had the chance to grow up in a time where flying was possible, even if only as a luxury, and later witnessed the popularisation of flying. I definitely enjoy the current convenience of taking a plane to quickly crunch a few thousands kilometers and visit friends and family with much less planning than for a earth-bound trip, but I have been brought to think that the fascination of flying is pretty much gone.

Guido on the plane at Schönefeld

As a passenger, I’m sad to have only minimal contact with the pilots. I consider that flying a plane remains a challenging task, no matter how much technology increasingly assists it. I barely get to know their names, for sure not before boarding the plane. When I see the crew of a plane, in uniform, walking with their luggage in the airport halls or on the tarmac, I get a sudden feeling of sympathy and respect, but what I see is that most people nearby barely take notice. When I fly, I try to guess the pilots’ actions at takeoff and landing. These moments are for me interesting and unique, and I give them all my attention. I love to see the flaps being moved one by one during taxing or right before takeoff, it makes me imagine the plane as a huge bird who checks if all its feathers are OK before flight. And videos like this one, recorded during storm Xavier, make me remember how all flying machines, including the larger ones, are at the mercy of bad weather conditions, and only a great combination of pilot’s skills and equipment solidity can ensure safe flights. I shiver every time I notice how the whole plane bends under the wind gusts and dangerously bounces on the runway.

It is easy to get comfortable in my bubble, sleeping, eating, reading, watching a movie, and forget that I am flying over the Earth, over cities, mountains and lakes. I giggle when people eagerly scan the landscape from their window, then point to something, getting  suddenly excited for recognising a place they always see from the ground. Too bad that I notice that less and less often! I remember keeping my friend Madi awake for almost a whole 12-hour flight, especially when we passed over Iceland and Canada. During the longest and most magnificent sunset I ever saw, we flew over ice-bergs, broken pack, firm immaculate ice-shelves, sea, and sometimes, tiny as a toy, a cargo ship. How could we sleep when there was such a view?

Pack over Northern Canada

I smile when I see kids enjoying the flight as a proper adventure. I try to keep that view myself, and refuse to board a plane as unimpressed as I would board a bus. Humanity has always dreamed about flying! Commercial planes are offering me the most accessible pair of wings that I can currently get, let me keep celebrating it 🙂

Watercolour experiments: blending two colours

Yesterday evening I wanted to test the new watercolour paper I bought a while ago, and as I had limited time and no real subject in mind, I practiced the blending of two colours. I made different tests with more or less water, often too much water 🙂 and finished with a cloud and a horse.

My current difficulty with watercolour is to guess how much water I am using, therefore how diluted is the colour I’m using. Therefore I’m starting with simple, abstract forms instead of real objects. Comments and suggestions are always welcome!

On freedom and rules – the seaman, the writer and the drummer

I read this morning this post from Simone Perotti [IT], focused on the similarities between his experiences as writer and as seaman in the Mediterranean Sea. He finds that the sea is setting the rules, and the seaman has to submit to them if he wants to make safe progress on his route. The author is in a similar condition, in the vast sea of language. Fighting the rules of the sea would put the seaman in peril of his life; fighting the rules of language would make the author not understandable.

I liked that post. I felt no inferiority in his words, at least not an unhappy one. Obeying to the sea gives him clear goals and a reduced set of possible actions. This limited freedom has the positive, surprising aspect that it frees the mind from computing too many future scenarios. Isn’t it the case of many sports too? Or jobs? In most cases there is no complete freedom of choice. Still, lots of people are ready to accept the rules of a given activity and have a really great time practicing it. It makes me think of Jost Nickel‘s lesson on Drumeo, where he explains how he builds a new groove. He elaborated three rules, and sticks to them. He defines that “being creative through limitations”. Of course, he adds that you are always free to drop the rules when you realise that you explored all possibilities and you feel bored.

My final consideration is that freedom mentioned by Simone and Jost is not in the single actions themselves, but on a higher level: either the setting of the rules (for the drums), or even higher, the decision to do that activity instead of any other (for the seaman and the author, and the drummer too). When I think about my perception of freedom, I realised I focused on the obeying part and surely appeared more submissive than I would have liked to. I’m glad I read Simone’s post and realised the bigger picture.

 

Book recommendation: “Barfuß auf dem Sommerdeich” by Katja Just

I just finished reading this book. First of all, I’m quite proud of having been able to read it all without looking at the dictionary!

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I picked it up in my library, attracted by the wilderness and remoteness of the Halligen, small islands in the North Sea, near the coasts of Germany and Denmark. The story of the city-dweller who leaves the busy streets for a remote, natural environment invariably fascinates every human heart.

Katja Just’s journey from Munich to Hooge is however not so close to a dream. She had hard times, not only because of the trying living conditions on the island, but, according to my impression, the deeper cause was her approach to those hardships. She does an amazing journey of introspection and acceptance, of herself, of the life on Hooge, that is unique and brave. This makes me think that just following her example and move to Hooge myself would not necessarily be a good decision: my starting point and my mindset are different. Nevertheless, the lessons I wish to learn from her experience are:

  • observe, assuming that the information is out there and deserves to be noticed
  • learn more about myself through the analysis of my reactions – being honest and open, rather than intolerant to my weaknesses
  • be ready to stand for my ideas, firmly and politely

I hope there will be soon an English translation, so that more readers can have access to the book. I’ll update the post accordingly.

Until next time, good reads everyone!

Photobook #2: season and weather

I posted a while ago about my project of taking pictures of a particular tree, and I’m proud to have captured the change of colours during fall. Here are a few pictures from end September to end October. I was happy to capture different weather conditions, even fog (that I seldom see here) and a nice range of cloudiness and intensity of the sky. Stay tuned for the slow transformation into winter 🙂