Tag Archives: artist

Aerials at Crathes Enchanted Castle

26 Nov

 

University started back up with a bang. 3 months ago, I was in Peru with plenty of time to blog, structure Qayqa and social-medialise.  Since my return to Aberdeen, however, I’ve been living a demanding, well-structured life full of exercise and aerials. I teach 4 times a week.

 

Mondays, 7-9 pm:  Acrobatics at the University of Aberdeen

Tuesdays, 7-9 pm:  Flexibility class for working professionals at Studio 202

Thursdays, 6-9 pm:  Aerial Silks & Trapeze for students at Studio 202

Fridays, 7-9 pm:  Aerial Silks & Trapeze for working professionals at Studio 202

 

I’ve had a few people tell me they stumbled over this blog when they were looking up aerial classes in Aberdeen, and either accidentally bump into me at Studio 202 and make the connection later; or write me and join my classes. So if you’re out there, eager to start aerials or have a good stretch, this is my routine. Come to my classes!

Last week, however, all my classes went on hold because the Circus Society had been booked by Crathes Enchanted Castle to perform for 5 days – and I had been booked with them, on my aerial silks for the very first time in Scotland.

4 performances a night… for 5 days… In November.

I agreed to this in July, when I couldn’t imagine what “cold” felt like. By October, I was terrified. I woke up the morning of the performance at 6am, genuinely scared. I went to an Outdoor Adventure Clothing store and paid a ridiculously high price for thermal underwear.

I’ll philosophise about the Role of the Cold in my life in a bit, but first I would like to show you some pictures of the event. Here are a few I took, but I also strongly encourage you to visit the website of the event’s official photographer, Martin Parker, here. He has some stunning photographs of the castle and its grounds all magically lit up, like this:

Crathes Castle. Photograph by Martin Parker

Crathes Castle. Photograph by Martin Parker

Crathes Castle Grounds. Photograph by Martin Parker.

Crathes Castle Grounds. Photograph by Martin Parker.

Meanwhile, here are a few I took of our team on the first night. Missing only is a picture of Sandra, but you’ll find her in Martin Parker’s collection.

Big Man Barnaby

Big Man Barny

Hannah firebreathing while Emma hoola-hooped

Hannah firebreathing while Emma hoola-hooped

Emma's Mysterious Frolicking Creature, anything from Gollum to... a goat

Emma’s Mysterious Frolicking Creature, anything from Gollum to… a goat

the view to my office

where I danced

My area had Talking Trees, who discussed one another’s growth spurts, the fashion of the audience, and spiderwebs. This was the first time I didn’t have music for my performance, but the conversation of trees instead. It was a challenge. I spent the first 2 days fighting for music, but by the end of the 2nd day, friends assured me that not having music added a somewhat mystical value to my performance. I remembered that a lot of circus performances have begun to take place in total silence, and I accepted the challenge.

did get feedback that it would have been even more surreal had the trees stopped talking entirely while I performed. Personally, I have to agree. Total silence would have been nice. But towards the end of 5 days, I barely even heard them anymore.

I’ll let YOU decide, dear ayllu, and tell me what you think. Here is a video of my performance amongst slight raindrops, courtesy of My Special Man:

There’s a brilliant anecdote to this video.

This evening was was the very first time my man saw me perform live on the silks, so afterwards, I ran to hug him and hear all about it. I was so eager to hear his thoughts. “Did I scare you, in the end?” I asked excitedly, “When I dropped suddenly, did I scare you?”

“Oh, I knew you were always in control,” he bluffed.

“Seriously?” I was so annoyed with myself. “I didn’t scare you?”

“Well, the truth is…” he slowly began to admit, “I kinda missed the drop…”

“What? Why? What were you doing?”

You see, in the seconds before my final drop, my proud boyfriend had turned his back in order to take a selfie with his aerial girlfriend. . .

. . .When suddenly, the crowd shouted in surprise, and he turned, wondering: What? What did I miss??? 

The Selfie

The Selfie

This performance was not only my very first aerial performance in Scotland… It is also my goodbye to my red silks. Over the last 5 years, we’ve worked so well together: in short films, hanging from a 10 meter crane, teaching my very first students in Aberdeen how to fly… They are well over their retirement age and have certainly lost a lot of elasticity. Silks are usually used for 2-3 years; mine are over 5 years old. It is time to say goodbye to my darlings.

I think this was a more than worthy farewell.

During the performance, knowing that this will be the last time we work together, I became aware of how much I trust them. How I reach for them without looking, because I know they are where my hands expect them to be. Before every performance, I touch them gently, look up at their securing point and whisper Please take care of me. We’ll do this together. And they’ve never let me fall.

This is the most beautiful, heart-stopping view to me.

Photo 20-11-2014 00 44 06

Here are a few more images from the nights at Crathes Enchanted Castle:

Photo 21-11-2014 23 15 56

my favourite by Elsie Liontou

 

And favourites by Martin Parker:

copyright Martin Parker

copyright Martin Parker Photography

copyright Martin Parker

copyright Martin Parker Photography

copyright Martin Parker

copyright Martin Parker Photography

Now I wasn’t too delighted at performing in the cold. If anything, most aspects of my life in Scotland revolve around The Art Of Not Feeling Cold. I arrived in Scotland complete with a UV light therapy gadget. My man has nicknamed me “the Firefighter” because of my winter fashion.

Other girls and me

The cold usually makes me very bad-tempered, unhappy and generally super bitchy.

Photo 21-11-2014 13 31 13

And if you’re wondering where I’m getting all these pictures from, check out this great page: 27 Things Girls Who Are Always Cold Know To Be True. Story of my life.

So I find it interesting that the one time I perform on the aerial silks in Scotland, it’s in the dead of winter. Barefoot. Or that the one time I decide to go to university, it’s in the north of Scotland. Etc etc ad infinitum.

You have to admit that Life really is throwing almost a lot of the things at me which I happen to despise the most. And yet, I’m enjoying my time in Scotland so much.

Life, in its Infinite Wisdom, is throwing the things at me that will challenge me the most. And thanks to that, I am learning.

Learning how to stay warm for 5 days and not get sick afterwards.

Finally buying thermal underwear so I don’t freeze.

Finding the strength within me to suck it up and perform barefoot.

Maybe living in a country that has four seasons (my main complaint) isn’t so bad for the value of the lessons I’m learning. Because after the 3rd night of performing, when it was windy and freezing, I heard myself say on the 4th night: “8 degrees? Wow, it’s warm!”

This is how we change.

Or maybe Life just has a sadistic sense of humour and loves picking on me. I prefer to believe the former!

Yes We Can!

We Can Do It!

Dear ayllu, in 2 weeks, we university students have our winter exams. After this, we’re away on our Christmas break and I will be able to blog more and tell you all about Qayqa. I skyped with Mark today, who is in Cologne, also performing, and we quickly discussed the last bits and pieces. I’ll keep you informed on the process.

Finally, I would like to leave you with a short clip I shot just for you, for this blog. I’ll explain: for 5 long nights, opera music was put in an endless 5-hour-long loop to accompany the hoola hoop fire performances. Pleasant as it was, it didn’t take very long to exhaust everyone’s eardrums. I once did the entire walk through the Enchanted Forest, looking at the lit-up trees, hearing the bizarre and spooky sound effects, and I commented to the sound technician: “If you took LSD then walked through that forest, it would the trip of your life!”

He joked back: “Then maybe on the last night we should have a rave!”

On the last night, after the audience had left, the gates had closed and everyone was taking down their stuff, he put on delicious trance beats that fit remarkably well to the projections on the castle. I just had to film it.

So here it is, from me to you, sending you love from Scotland.

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It’s Been 6 Months – How Are We Feeling About That?

20 Mar
all the crossroads

all the crossroads

It will soon be half a year since I moved to Scotland to study at Aberdeen University. Shortly before I packed up and left, my crowdfunding project to finance the publication of my first novel was completed – successfully – and that time was, in a nutshell: overloaded. Most of the time I felt exhausted. Honestly, I just wanted the crowdfunding project to go away. And I felt terrible about that because I knew that a lot of people are passionate about my book; passionate about helping it to be published. Still, it felt like a load I couldn’t quite carry at the time, and we almost didn’t make it. But somehow we did. And then I left for Scotland.

Of course I always consider what I could have done differently. I love the concept of crowdfunding – but I don’t know if I could do it again.  Somehow I miss “the good old days” when Ani DiFranco toured the US in her car, playing gigs wherever they would let her and selling cassettes out of the boot of her car.

One day, I will own that car.

Now I’m looking towards the quickening tide rolling in. Next Saturday, I’ll board a plane and return to Germany for the first time in 6 months.

I have come to love my life in Scotland. Aberdeen Uni is ridiculously international; everyone is from all over the place and walking around campus you’ll easily hear anywhere from 5 – 10 languages being casually spoken. Last week, we were finally granted a hall for my aerial silks!!! That means that my acrobatics group has now divided into Acrobatics and Aerials!!! Last Thursday I gave my first aerial class since moving to Scotland… and trained properly for the first time in 5 months…!!!

teaching

I might have been the happiest girl in the world that day

I might have been the happiest girl in the world that day

Scotland, the country in itself, is magical, beautiful. Forgive me for saying this, but landscape-wise, it’s like a “little Peru”. Just check out these mountains…

Glen Coe

Glen Coe

A few road trips have convinced me that I Love Scotland. I really enjoy living in such a beautiful country with such mad, funny, kind people; and I do very much love my life here.

That is an understatement. I LOVE THIS COUNTRY!!!!!

Glen Coe as well

Glen Coe as well

And I’m starting to really like whiskey. (Also an understatement.)

Glenfiddich, yum

Glenfiddich, yum

There’s also been amazing music, such as the John Langan Band, who I saw last weekend –

John Langan Band at Tunnels

John Langan Band at Tunnels

– and who you simply must listen to here (and imagine the Highlands while you’re listening). When you listen to the first song, just skip the long “Oohhhh oohhhh” introduction, go to 0:29 seconds and enjoy.

“I ain’t got nothing but a guitar in my haaaaand…” 

(There’s that image again of Ani selling cassettes out of the boot of her car)

So it is with this sentiment of Life is Good that I’ll return to Germany and in a way, return to a life I once had – which, to be honest, I miss. I miss being a crazy artist who seeks to respond to everything life throws at her with artist replies. Of course I could still do that, but between university work and exploring Scotland, I have very little time for that. I’ve had very little time to write. I’ve collected ideas and found fascinating links between anthropology texts and Hispanic Studies facts to Qayqa and Munay. 

I still need to find a way to balance these two. But yes, I miss being an artist. And so, of course, my first stop in Germany will be Mark.

I haven’t seen my partner-in-crime in 6 months, but we’ve spoken a number of times over Skype and he’s told me of all the madness he’s been up to. When I’m back, we’ll discuss the illustrations and above all: their placement in Qayqa. He’ll kick my ass for not having finished Munay yet; he’ll probably inspire me to Get Writing, and I’ll probably complain that there’s no decent whiskey in Germany. It’s so strange to imagine I’ll be back soon. I love forward to it so much – and I fear it might make me question why I ever left the artist life.

Important to remember this:

University life is good to me; the studies are excellent. But I’m still an artist at heart, and it will be good to see it again in Germany, and during any holidays I’ll have in the future. I couldn’t continue the way I was living; I was starting to feel so empty. I needed to come to Scotland. The joy and satisfaction I feel here are enough to show me it was the right decision. My cup is starting to fill up again. Whatever tools I will gain from living here, I needed them. 

And then I’ll go back to being an artist. Hell yea.

I simply must leave you with my favourite song these days. The chorus touches me the most, please listen carefully. And this: “Tell all my friends that I’m bound for heaven. And if it ain’t so – you can’t blame me for living“. I like to think the singer sang this song with the knowledge that he would soon die of the consequences of his alcoholism; that if he could do it all again, he’d do it quite the same way.

If I could do it all again, I would do it quite the same way too. If a piano landed on my head any time soon, I know I will die happy. I’ve lived a damn good life so far, guys. I’d love to finish Munay before that piano lands, though. As I said: my anthropology readings have drawn some interesting parallels which I will incorporate into her.

So much inspiration. Hell yea.

The Traveling Writer

12 Sep

Where was I? Where were you?? 

This is where I was:

1st Lap in white, 2nd Lap in light pink, 3rd Lap in magenta

1st Lap in white, 2nd Lap in light pink, 3rd Lap in magenta

Firstly, I was in Toulouse for the European Juggling Convention. Then I drove with a friend from Toulouse (over La Rochelle) to Brighton, to attend the Aerial Dance Festival there. I spent a few quiet days and not-so-quiet-nights in London with my best friend, then I flew to Carcassonne and travelled around with botanists I met at the EJC, ending up in Montpellier and catching a flight from there to Frankfurt-Hahn.

Before hitting the road I didn’t know how much I would be able to blog so I thought it best to advise everyone to follow my Tumblr account (rittisoncco.tumblr.com) If you want more pictures from my summer, feel free to check them out there!

Oooo it’s strange to be blogging after such a long pause. I feel a bit awkward. Sorry if my writing is bizarre: I need to get back into the flow!

My summer was truly beautiful, and I did it by planning absolutely nothing. I wanted the wind to take me. Following a beautiful invitation, the wind took me back to the south of France for ocean waves, melons, rivers and lakes and frommage de chevre. 

In Brighton we trained to a beautiful song. In Montpellier I jotted down a memory. If you like, listen to the song and then give my anecdote your eyes. It’s work-in-progress – or perhaps it’s as far as it will ever go. It’s an anecdote I wrote to remember, and the home for memories are diaries, short stories, and you.

Two Travelers Find Themselves In a City

photo 1Two travelers climbed out of the entanglements of the woods and found themselves among the soft French murmurs of the ocean city Montpellier. His hair fell in masses that mimicked the leaves in autumn and smelt of bonfires over which he had cooked dinners and boiled coffee. Her scalp was covered in sand, le sable, and her hair clumped into what would, with time, become dreadlocks formed by swimming in the Mediterranean Sea and in lakes.

photo 2

Their eyes still searched, accustomed by now to deciphering transparent jellyfish from choppy green water; deciphering which roads led to less people; which rocks could be climbed over and which would cut her left foot.

In this state, they found themselves abruptly in the center of Montpellier. They were trying to camouflage by wearing clothes of finer material, but their skin smelt of midnight washes, naked under the waning moon, and they knew they were tourists – not to this city, but to all cities. The only intimacy she felt necessary, she had come to find in the space between her face and her hair. They had peed in vineyards, on mountains, in showers. They had swum naked; they had argued in towns where no one knew their names.

Now they sat in a restaurant and ordered food.

the food that came looked something like this

the food that came

She crossed her legs beneath the glass table with finesse but she was thinking: I hope this city doesn’t grow much larger for it will come between us. I’m pretending, she knew. The woods they had lived in had demanded they expel everything but their core, and it had taken a while for her head to leave. She didn’t want her core to return to the entanglement of the woods, wrapped and hidden by leaves.

He looked as little as ease as she, but his movements were perfect: how he selected the wine, how he held the glass as he tasted his choice. She began a table conversation, but hesitantly.

As they ate, the conversation turned to judgement: how they were perceived on occasions. Feeling the city between them, she told her story in more direct, more revealing manner. She said things she normally would not have; not so quickly: I know they think I’m beautiful and I’ve been judged as having things made easier for me because of that. His smile grew as she gave him intimacy with her anecdote, and he set the wine glass down to hear her.

And they thought: Let’s get the hell away from this restaurant and back into the van.

photo 4

Let’s cook on its small gas stove that goes out if we leave the doors open. In the kitchen that sways whenever a car whizzes past. Let’s eat on stone slabs and scratch our skin from the latex of figs. I saw who she was when she learnt how to climb. I saw who he was when he swam in the ocean. 

I was seen in the woods. Take me back there, I want to be seen again. 

photo 3

Yes, I loved being away from civilization. I thought of you often and wondered if you were checking my blog, wondering where the hell I was. Traveling was beautiful, but it’s good to be back and blogging

I’ve been thinking about the future of the blog since I first toyed with the idea of going to uni. I came to the following conclusion: This has always been a blog about my writing, and as my writing will continue as long as I breathe, this blog will continue being about my writing.

SCALED_3_800_600_800_565_595_420_29056_file.pic.1972.6435484376604

There’s quite a bit to say, but I should mention that the upcoming Kulturnacht on Saturday, 14th September, will be my “last” performance in Germany this year – since I am moving to Scotland in 9 days…

There was a MISTAKE in the official PROGRAM BROCHURE: I START AT 8pm. I’ll probably be reading until 11 pm / midnight, depending on the audience / feedback. I will do my utmost to limit myself to 20 minutes, but I’m feeling quite liberal about the night. I’m taking the guitar, I’ll experiment a bit with poetry, Qayqa, and stuff, and if you show me that you want a performance to go on for longer: I will.

Friedrich Glorian will not be performing with me, as he has engagements elsewhere. I am, ofcourse, very sad to not be collaborating with him on Saturday (I was especially looking forward to our rehearsals!!! I had the impression that they would be great fun) but when he spoke to me about his other engagement, I understood and support his decision 100%. You have to go where your art takes you.

I’m really just letting the Kulturnacht 2013 surprise me. I have a few ideas, and ofcourse I’m slightly nervous (it’ll get stronger as Saturday approaches), but all in all, I just want to focus on feeling comfortable.

On the road and since I’ve returned, I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of artist – and wondering if I really have what it takes. I took this year 2012 / 2013 to focus on my writing, and I found that I wasn’t necessarily more productive than if I hadn’t taken a year off to write. I usually wrote the most when I had to leave the following morning, because the pressure of departure was on me.

The winter was hard. I asked myself often if I really have what it takes to be an artist, a productive creator. I see other artists around me who have been doing this for years, and I admire their enthusiasm and energy so much. It’s such a rollercoaster ride; how the HELL do other people do it?!

I met up with very good friends of mine: filmmakers. They made this film:

It premiered at the Berlinale and was a great success. Since then, the filmmaking company they founded, Kunststoff, has been thriving. They can live comfortably off their work, and we spent a very interesting evening comparing our lives as freelancers, artists, creators.

And I heard my words coming out of their mouths: “It’s a rollercoaster ride. If it weren’t so damn emotional, it’d be alright, but we’re not machines… Sometimes everything is so overwhelming and there no one who can help you with your problem because you’re doing something new, something no one has ever done before, so there’s no one to tell you how to do things. You have to find the solution yourself. It’s beautiful – but it’s exhausting – but it’s beautiful.”

A few days later in Ulm, I went to the Roxy to see the band Okta Logue in concert. Mark and I had stumbled over them accidentally in Darmstadt, and now they finally made it to Ulm… Back in Darmstadt we saw them give an interview and present their music video, which was…

They were in Ulm to present their new album Tales Of Transit City which was stunning, really really stunning. With the first strum of the guitar, the audience of Ulm closed their eyes and swayed. I went to the bar for another beer and from the distance, I could feel Okta Logue cast their spell over the crowd. I walked back into the cloud and felt bewitched. It was a beautiful, beautiful concert, and if you ever have the opportunity to see them live, please don’t miss it.

Here is another song I quite like:

After a magical concert, I fell into a long and interesting discussion with the guitarist and drummer about the nature of being an artist. They mentioned not being too pleased with the gig because they were tired, etc, and we discussed the automatisms we fall into while we perform.

“I know that during this particular sentence, I usually do this hand gesture, so I do it. Even when I don’t feel it, I do it,” I said.

The guitarist nodded quickly: “I know this is usually my pose, so I take it, but I don’t feel it. I start thinking too much, and that’s when I make mistakes. Then it’s oh no, one mistake, and the insecurities pour in so I make a second mistake. Then it’s 2:0 mistakes against me. It’s an internal battle no one else sees while I am onstage.”

photo 2

I recounted: “I gave a reading once that I wasn’t pleased with and yet the audience gave me great feedback that night. But I was somehow saddened that I had missed out on a beautiful experience that they had all shared with one another. I was there, yes, but I had missed the feeling the night had for them.” They nodded understandingly.

“That’s how it is,” we agreed. “It’s a damn emotional rollercoaster ride.”

photo 3

Okta Logue is in the middle of a tour throughout Germany and in October they’ll hit the States for 3 weeks. I told them (and I’ll keep saying it) that I wish them every success because they truly deserve it. Their music is divine. Please visit their page here: http://oktalogue.com/wordpress/  and go to their concerts and buy their vinyls and t-shirts. Talk to them afterwards if you can. It’s rare to find people you can fall immediately have deep, meaningful conversations with; but you can with them.

So my insecurities questioning “am I real artist?” are the echo we all share. I’ve written all my life, and I love performing. But for how long will the doubts echo? Will we ever be sure of ourselves as artists? – or is the point of confidence also the point of arrogance?

I know I need the freedom to travel and to write as I see fit. There are many people with many very good ideas about how I should continue my career, and they would all be right, except that I have other plans… Just as Basti said about being a filmmaker: you hit a problem and no one can solve it for you because no one’s ever been here before. It’s the same with every other choice in the artist life: no one has ever been here before, so I will do things my way. I know I’ll doubt and fight and love, but as long as my words reach you, I think I am doing alright. 

Find the way you need to live.

I leave you with an interesting conversation I had yesterday with Manfred Eichhorn, owner of the Eichhorn Buchladen where I’ll be reading at the Kulturnacht. Before I hit the road, I gave him the Qayqa manuscript for critique, and over a cup of jasmine tea, he gave me excellent feedback with direction.

And he said:

“You and your novel are inseparable. When you read it, there’s magic. But what happens when you’re not around to read it? Can your words stand on their own? In order to do so, they still need some work.

I also have doubts about your character: why is he a man? He doesn’t always sound or act like a man. If you are so inseparable from your book, why not make the main character a woman? You, perhaps? That will help your reader dive quicker in the world you are creating. Damian is very feminine, and that’s sometimes a problem because I didn’t always believe him.

Either you change Damian into a woman… Or keep the third-person narrative structure and stop speaking from his perspective.”

I have been asking myself ever since: why do I love that Damian is a man? Given the choices Manfred Eichhorn proposed, I would immediately choose to stay true to the third-person narrative and (sad as I find it) eliminate all first-person recounts. Because I love Damian is a man. I cannot turn him into a woman.

But: why not?

Why not…?

See you at the Kulturnacht… Or on the blog.

last night, experimenting different tunes for my poetry

last night, experimenting different tunes for my poetry

I will blog again before Scotland.

Identity

11 Jul

Identity 101:  The Olga Bar Book Club

We hit the Olga Bar with our books one Friday night. The boys thought I was crazy for inciting it but I explained that we were about to found the Olga Bar Book Club. They argued that you couldn’t read at the bar on a Friday night. I retorted that we might not have to.

I took Keith Richards’ Life, Mark was in the company of Helge Schneider’s Globus Dei and Hendrik laid J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye onto the table. We ordered our beers and shouted at each other in the din.

Soon, the drunks began to bother us. They targeted me, the woman in the crowd, saying they had amphetamines in the toilet. What! No thank you! But the drunks weren’t about to take no for an answer. One of them grabbed my arm and tried to pull me in what he drunkenly thought was the direction of the toilet.

I picked Keith Richards’ book up and slapped it in the drunk’s face. “YOU SEE THIS BOOK? I WROTE THIS BOOK. I’M KEITH FUCKING RICHARDS AND YOU CAN’T PLAY THE GUITAR!” This confused the drunk. Although he was standing, he somehow missed a step and tipped over.

The next drunk was trying to haggle a seat at the table, offering to tell us his trials and tribulations. I demanded, “Can you even play the guitar? I’m Keith Richards. I didn’t take shit from Brian Jones and I’m not going to take shit from you.”

Mark was liking the Olga Bar Book Club. He shook his long, curly hair free of his hat and draped it over his eyes. “I’m Kurt Cobain.” He leaned over the table in a hanging stagger and croaked mournfully: “I’m on a plain, I can’t complain…”

The drunk wasn’t taking more of this. “You guys are nuts! If this chick is Keith Richards and you’re Kurt Cobain, then I want to be Bill Murray.”

“Whatever, man. I’m Keith Richards and none of you cats can play these licks!”

Hendrik turned to Keith Richards and Kurt Cobain with wide eyes and said in a slow and sovereign manner, “I am the young David Bowie. I can remember standing by the wall.

Kurt smiled at him. “I can’t complain!”

“That’s cool, Bowie, but you can’t play the guitar like I can,” Keith said.

 

Identity 201:  The Old Lady at the Door

Our doorbell never rings before 11 am. Our friends know not to bother: we won’t be awake, and if we are, we won’t be responsive to human conversation. But on this day, the doorbell ringing urgently at 9 am made me curious. I slipped out of bed, found a shawl to wrap over my shoulders and opened the door cautiously.

An old lady stood in the landing, looking confused. She was shaking and crying. She said, “I don’t know where I am. I just don’t understand it, but I don’t know where I am!”

I ushered her into the apartment, saying soothingly, “We’ll find out, don’t you worry. Why don’t you sit down for a little bit, warm yourself with a nice cup of tea and relax? I’ll make you something delicious.”

I helped her sit down. She was terribly upset at the table: “I just don’t understand! Obviously somebody brought me here, but why would they leave me here on my own? Where am I anyways?”

I told her the address but she wanted to know the city. I told her and she exclaimed, “But I’m from Berlin! How did I get here?”

Mark joined us and calmed her with stories of his father’s life near Berlin, which cheered her up. “I find this all very confusing. How did I get here? You said we’re in Ulm? Somebody just left me here, but who would do such a thing? I don’t know anybody here! And how did I get in your apartment? You say I rang your doorbell?”

I suggested she empty her pockets, to see if there were any clues pointing to where she had come from. There was a small bottle from the pharmacy downstairs, which proved that she had been living in Ulm for at least a few months.

We asked if she had children. “O yes! I have a daughter and a son, but I can’t remember his name right now… O there’s something wrong with my mind! I never used to be this forgetful. I was once an accountant and you have to have a clear mind for that sort of profession! Ulm… Ulm-on-the-Danube… How did I get into your apartment?

Suddenly, a panicked shout filled the stairway: “MOTHER? MOTHER!” I ran out and called back, “She’s with us! She’s in our apartment.”

A large smile grew on the old lady’s face as she saw a young woman walking down the stairs towards us. “That’s my daughter! That’s my daughter!”

Our neighbor was ruffled, sleepy-eyed and still in her pajamas. She told her mother off for scaring her then turned to thank us. “I woke up, she had disappeared and the apartment door was wide open…! She has Alzheimer.”

I turned to Mark and said, “Who am I without my brain?” I’m the writer, I create worlds in my imagination and transport them onto paper. Who would be left if that is gone?

 

Identity 301:  The Artist

I was once asked: “Is it art or is it business?” I liked the question. I replied, “It goes hand in hand.”

You’re only as professional as you show yourself to be.

For example: Mark was running late for a meeting, so I walked into the office on my own, not wanting to keep these business men waiting. They showed me into their conference room and gave me a glass of water. They sat across the table in their suits, ties and wrinkled foreheads and looked at me through their glasses. I was in silver sandals and a polka dot shirt, and I felt ridiculous.

Mark and I always discuss beforehand what we’re going to say at meetings, and then he says it. I let Mark do the talking because these are his people. He knows how to say things so they are understood, gives them some good ol’ German humour and everyone goes home happy.

But he was running late and I had to get this gig on the road. I had to pull myself together. So I looked at these two men. They were watching me closely and I realised these are top cats. They’re used to looking down at people. But we’re on different ground here. I may have to impress you… but I’m an artist. You have to impress me too.

An artist. I suddenly wondered what Niki de Saint-Phalle would do.

Today everyone says, “That’s obviously a work of art, because it was done by Niki”, but I’m sure she was once as unsure as I am.

I may be young and inexperienced – but I’m a goddamn artist.

I walked out of the conference room in my silver sandals and polka dot shirt, with the two suits shaking my hand gratefully. “Thank you so much for such an enlightening meeting! We will support you in any way we can, so please let us know if you need anything.”

As a writer, I constantly forget who I am. I slip into the book I am writing and Mark doesn’t see me for days. Then the comedown, the dry work: accountancy, web management, bills, paperwork, fishing for new commissions. Balancing between such extremes, it’s no surprise we forget who we are.

Identity is a mystery. So know this: if you want to go forward, dig your toes into your heart. Feel the sand, hear the rumble of your heartbeat, and follow your gut. I’ve followed my gut all my life, and it’s taken me up some steep hills that I could have avoided, but I came down with the view in my eyes and a taste for the horizon. Following my gut instinct is who I am.

In the conference room that day, Niki de Saint-Phalle taught me this: your identity is formed by believing in yourself.