Hospital Waiting-Room Thoughts

Terre des hommes Exupery

This is one of my favorite books and its last pages had always impacted me greatly. Below I will post the English version of it. I know these lines by heart, however every time I read them, they are painful, as if I have stumbled upon them for the first time in my life. I am not suffering over them. I fall silent. If you read the last line with your heart you will feel that silence too.

This morning I was sitting at the hospital waiting-room. There were lots of kids with their parents. Nicely dressed and healthy looking kids. I was observing them, as they cuddled with their parents, as they watched cartoons, as they colored hospital coloring books. And I have faith that those kids will be taken care of. Maybe not all of them, but at least some, will read great books, will play creative games, will walk outside and observe people and life, will challenge themselves in the world outside of their house. They will think their own thoughts, speak their own words, create their own paths, they will help and inspire others. And there, in the hospital waiting-room, I thought that this was a pretty good progress that we as a society made in the past 50 years.

The thing that still worries me is the prevalence of the computer games over the on-the-street games, as well as the virtual world increasing dominance. I have nothing against the internet world. I think that the connectivity it offers us is amazing. It opens our generation the possibility to be in touch with others, to learn, to grow, to be independent and create our own value. It is great, as long as it remains the channel, not the final destination.
By that time it was my turn and I left the waiting-room and walked through the white door labeled as “Access A”.

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Here is the English version of the yellow boxed text from the image:

“I sat down face to face with one couple. Between the man and the woman a child had hollowed himself out a place and fallen asleep. He turned in his slumber, and in the dim lamplight I saw his face. What an adorable face! A golden fruit had been born of these two peasants. Forth from this sluggish scum had sprung this miracle of delight and grace. I bent over the smooth brow, over those mildly pouting lips, and I said to myself: This is a musician’s face. This is the child Mozart. This is a life full of beautiful promise. Little princes in legends are not different from this. Protected, sheltered, cultivated, what could not this child become? When by mutation a new rose is born in a garden, all the gardeners rejoice. They isolate the rose, tend it, foster it. But there is no gardener for men. This little Mozart will be shaped like the rest by the common stamping machine. This little Mozart will love shoddy music in the stench of night dives. This little Mozart is condemned.
I went back to my sleeping car. I said to myself: Their fate causes these people no suffering. It is not an impulse to charity that has upset me like this. I am not weeping over an eternally open wound. Those who carry the wound do not feel it. It is the human race and not the individual that is wounded here, is outraged here. I do not believe in pity. What torments me tonight is the gardener’s point of view. What torments me is not this poverty to which after all a man can accustom himself as easily as to sloth. Generations of Orientals live in filth and love it. What torments me is not the humps nor hollows nor the ugliness. It is the sight, a little bit in all these men, of Mozart murdered.

Only the Spirit, if it breathe upon the clay, can create Man.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Wind, Sand and Stars

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Spring, Shadows, Barcelona

Seeing the world in black & white today. When you do not have colors, you see the details. Made me think about business. In any given company absolutely everything valuable should be in black and white: the structure, the information, functioning, navigation. Color should not contain any information within the text, on the website, in the ad, in the store. All information should be in black and white, and color should be added as an emotional layer later on.

I like the world in black and white. Do we dream in color? I think not. I can’t remember colors from my past night’s dream. Maybe we dream in concepts.

Spring Barcelona 6

Spring Barcelona 7

Spring Barcelona 8

Spring Barcelona 9

On Spring

The spring began today. For me, that is. Today was the first day I saw the sharp shadows on the plaza. Yesterday I spent six hours working inside a cafe, because it was cold and raining, and I did not have an umbrella with me to walk home.

Today I noticed it was spring. This afternoon the sky was blue, the houses looked bright, and I sat with my laptop outside, getting tanned for the first time this year. Sunshine! I know it is spring when the shadows become sharp. I first see the shadow and then realize what object it belongs to. Living in terms of the spring shadows. Living outside.

Spring Barcelona 1

Spring Barcelona 2

Spring Barcelona 4

Spring Barcelona 5

Barcelona, March 25th 2013

The Easter Egg

Easter Egg

It happened a year ago. It was spring and we were boarding an airplane in Trondheim.

“Bzem-bzem!” cried my two-year-old son, as we were the first in line to enter the aircraft. Bzem-bzem was his little Easter egg. He kept carrying it with him everywhere. He got it earlier that spring from his grandmother. When the Easter box from Russia arrived, it was full of nicely wrapped chocolates, stuffed bunnies and small toys. In the midst of that newly arrived Easter brightness my son saw a little wooden egg carefully wrapped in the soft tissue paper. He picked the egg and ran away, holding it tightly in his little hand. He did not know how to talk then, and he called it “bzem-bzem”, as the sound resembled the one that an egg makes when you brake it over the edge of a bowl. In the following weeks he did not let his Easter egg alone, not for a second. He ate with it, slept with it, took it with him on our walks and played with it. The egg lost its original shiny colors and a blue silk bow it came with. It became used to the little hands, little pockets and little boxes, where my son would put it. It received a lot of little kisses at night.

And now we have lost it. We were standing the first in the line to board our plane to Amsterdam, and my son cried “bzem-bzem!” and right away I got this hollow feeling of having lost something. He was playing with it at the airport cafeteria before we checked in, he must have left it there.

I asked the flight attendant, who was about to let us in to the plane, if I would have time to go to the cafeteria with my son to look for his toy. No, we did not have enough time. The plane was leaving in ten minutes and we were boarding. She was very sorry, she asked what kind of a toy it was.

“It is a small wooden egg, with its paint almost off. Not bigger than a real egg,” I told the lady in blue. I also told it to myself, to make sure I understand that it would be impossible to recover it.

“Where did he left it?”

“I think in the cafeteria before the check-in. Or may be in the play corner right after the check-in,” there were about forty tables in that cafeteria, full of people and carts and food. I handed our boarding passes to the lady and we walked to the plane.

We both liked flying. We looked through the small window at the people entering the plane, at the cars servicing other airplanes, and at the airport workers in their bright security vests. It was windy. The bluish mountains on the background and the wind. It was cold in Trondheim in May.

After a ten minutes delay the craft’s door was closed and the motors started to roar. The plane set into motion right away.

“I believe this is yours?” the flight attendant approached my son and handed him his Easter egg. “We called the cafeteria and they were able to find it. They sent a person directly to the plane to make sure it flies with you,” and she smiled at my son. I thanked her.

I pressed myself a little bit harder into the seat to keep calm. Somebody out there cared so much about something so small and unimportant. The painful seconds of silence, and a smile. I thanked the flight attendant again. The plane took off. My son was looking at the houses and cars, as those were becoming smaller and smaller under us. Then the mountains became small too. His little fingers holding tightly his wooden bzem-bzem.

Seven Words

I will walk on the grass
At night,
If there are no stars,
I might
Smile. Wildly. To Myself.

If the water is warm
Mildly,
If my feet feel the storm
Kindly,
I will laugh. Wondering,

If at least one flower
Opens
On a starless night.

Silently.
With a glowing shell in my hand
I will write
Seven words on the sand

Flower, grass, smell
Stars, storm,
Shell,
You.

Magically.

On Vulnerability

I have been listening to this song for the past days. I kept it open on my laptop, and every now and then, when my eyes got extremely tired from typing or reading, I would take a break and hit play.

I found myself walking on the street this morning and singing this song inside my head. And smile. Like an idiot. And be very vulnerable.

Our live makes us numb a lot of times. And numbness is a very comfortable feeling, it covers us with a sort of security blanket and protects us from the outside world. As human beings, we need it. We long for the assurance that nothing will hurt us out there. We need to know that we will be fine. The only way not to be rejected is not to give anything.

This need of security keeps us from telling how we really feel. It prevents us from being the first to say you matter, I love you, with my heart and soul I believe in this, I am passionate about what I do, I love poetry, I cry when I listen to this song, I need help, you are beautiful. This security prevents us from believing in others without expecting something in return. What if they do not reply? What if they say no? What if they do not even notice me? And a lot of times they will not. And it is fine. However, the strength of your love and your ability to see the light in others is what really matters.

It also makes you very vulnerable. And vulnerability is beautiful. It is the only way to understand and appreciate others. It is the only way to give. And at times, it also makes you smile like an idiot…

I Didn’t Teach My Daughter To Read

First sentences Lorena read

At 4:30pm my son and me picked up Lorena from school. Well, it is a kindergarten actually, she is only five. All three of us went to a cafe for coffee and sandwiches. We usually do this twice a week when Lorena has her ballet classes in the evenings. We are sitting at the cafe and talking about her day, when she looks at my jacket laying on the chair next to her and clearly reads “Zara”. “How do you know it is from Zara?” I asked her. “I read it,” she replied. She continued, it says here, “Zara Basic”.

Being half shocked, half incredulous that she can read, I took the notebook where she was drawing and wrote her a word in Russian Миша. “Can you read it?” I asked her. She read it fine. Then I wrote a word in Spanish Bolso (bag). She read it too. I did not select different languages on purpose. I was completely under shock. The reason I was under shock, is because I never taught her how to read. Nobody did. I had a lot of pressure from my side of the family on that issue. According to my parents I was taught how to read by the age of four. And by the time I was five I was reading one hour per day by myself. Thus, everybody believed that I should dedicate time to show my five-and-a-half-year-old daughter how to read. I resisted it mainly for two reasons, first, because I tried, and both of us found it extremely boring. Lorena and I prefer to read story books, adventure books and classical poetry and literature, rather then A B C books, textbooks or reading-initiation books. The second reason was, because I did not want to push her into reading before she actively asks me for it. I was waiting for the day when she would come to me and say, “Mom, show me how to read.” However, even with those two good reasons I always felt guilty. I felt guilty that I did not teach my daughter how to read. Sometimes I would view my reasons as excuses, and then I would do some attempts to show her that skill. Failed. Failed. Failed.

So, there we were sitting at the cafe today. I decided to try it with the sentences. I still could not believe she actually can read. I wrote the first sentence that came to my mind Yo tengo un perro (I have a dog). And she read it. Good. The next sentence I wrote in English I have a cat. She read it too. With a perfect US pronunciation. Then, I wrote in Russian Я люблю балет (I love ballet). By now I was curious. Well, she read it too. I wrote another sentence in Spanish Yo tengo un hermano (I have a brother). With the same result. In my last attempt to show myself that I am dreaming, I wrote a sentence in French. Among the languages she speaks French is the one she is less fluent in. She only started speaking it last year. And I wrote, Je alle a l’ecole. Well… I guess I should say Voila, she read it too, with the correct French pronunciation.

While Lorena was in her ballet class I could not stop thinking about her reading. How did she learn? How come she can read in four languages when nobody showed her how? I asked her at the cafe if at the kindergarten they were taught how to read or if her grandma showed her how. She replied negatively. She told me they learnt all the letters at her school, but that they do not read words there. They do write simple words though, from what I know.

At the dinner I asked her how she learnt to read. “I thought,” she said. Her reply really caught my interest. “Though about what?” I asked. “Well, I thought that my name Lorena is not just a one letter, it has six letters L, O, R, E, N, and A. Then I looked at the Miro’s name, see, it has four letters M, I, R and O. It is not just one letter. So, each word has different letters, if you break the word down you get separate letters, if you sum up letters you get words. It is simple.” Now she totally got me. I would have never thought of such an explanation, sounds too simplistic. But sometimes child’s mind works differently from ours. I think that all the textbooks were written by the grownups, this is why it is so difficult for kids to learn how to read using those books, apart from the fact that those books at not exciting to read. Mine is just a one person’s opinion, but I think that in order to teach the child to read we need to read them exciting books. Read them often. Every day. Books that have love, passion, fear, emotions, laughs, tears, heros and villains, cavaliers and gentle ladies, princesses and dragoons. If the kids are interested in the magical world that the books can open for them, they will figure out their own ways to learn how to read. It sounds really simple, but I think this is all there is.

At night Lorena read a full ten-page book by herself. It was one long sentence on each page. And she did not finish the book. She left it on the page nine. I did not mind it at all. It was not about finishing the book. It was about the fact that she greatly enjoyed reading the first nine pages. Then she got tired and went to sleep. The book she selected was in Spanish. She told me it was the easiest language to read.

Barcelona, March 12th 2013

To Be A Mom Of A Boy

Miro in France

This morning making my son’s bed I thought about what it means to be a mom of a boy.

It means finding lots of trains and airplanes in his bed. I am still wondering how does he sleep with all these transportation devices. Exactly 3 trains and 11 airplanes.

It means feeding him breakfast while he circles in the kitchen with his tricycle. Almost a drive-through kind of thing.

It means inventing stories about tractor Mitia that only eats meatballs, but sometimes gets lost in the forest and has to live on the berries and mushrooms. A new story every meal.

It means hearing him debate with his sister that I am only his mom. He loves his sister, but he does not want to split his ownership of the mom. And then “my mom” pronounced in his sleep at midnight sound like the softest and kindest words somebody ever said to me.

It means fixing his broken railroads while he is at the daycare. I should be working in these productive hours, but I take 15 min to fix his railroads and the airport, so he gets excited when he comes home.

It means singing a song to him when he asks for it. Even if we are on a bus or in a cafe. Does not sound like a big deal, but if you ever hear me sing, you will know why I would not do it under any other circumstances in a public place.

It means not screaming when I see him standing on our dining table with a broom in his hand trying to hit an Ikea paper sphere lamp on the ceiling. It takes a breath to tell him, “Miro do not do it” and hug him and put him down on the floor.

It means letting him grow; Telling him medieval stories of cavaliers, princesses and noble men. I often find him fighting imaginary dragoons to defend mom or a princess. It means telling him about love through the story of The Little Prince.

It means to show him through love how to be independent. I love him as a mom, I love him because he is my son. And I will love him independently on who he becomes, what he does in his life or what he does not do in his life. This power of love will make him strong and independent, it will let him become whatever he choses to become. It will be with him for the rest of his life. It will be the base for his integrity, kindness, passion. And I believe that if I love him in this way, he will become all that. He will have the spirit of a Man.

Being a mom of a three-year old son is not about protecting, feeding or taking care of him. Really it is not, those are just tasks that anybody can do.  It is about giving him the freedom to grow into a Man. To show him that he is strong and passionate and gentle. To read him the lines that say that he is a part of the mankind and that his spirit is noble, not for himself, but for others. It is about passing him the love and light that will always be in his eyes, and that will make him act like a Man under any circumstances.

Being a mom of a boy means to be really thankful for everything he shows me in this world and within myself.

Barcelona, March 12th 2013

Over The Mountains Into The Other Land

Mistletoe

There are some places where it grows naturally. You drive and look up and see it. Mistletoe. You just have to stop and look at the sky. And it becomes about the light breeze that plays with your hair, about the winter air, about the small white flowers sprinkled at random around you. About the green grass under your feet, about the earth that has already became warm from the noon sun. It is about the smile. About your face smiling when you fully believe the story that is coming.

It is about how much you can become a part of this sky. How through the moments of pain you are able to fly higher. Pain heals. If you just let it heal and forget about it, you do not get closer to the magic of the stars. You cannot hear their tales. You had felt the pain in vain. You lost the opportunity to look up and to smile. When something hurts, think about the silence of the elders. Their faces are sunburned, their skin still holds the bitterness of their morning black coffee. And in the midst of the dark night, right before the dawn, the gaunt fingers of their rugged hands are knitting tightly the stories about the immense nobleness of the people of this land. If you follow their eyes they will show you the path. Barely moving their lips they will tell you that in the middle of the torment you have to raise above the clouds. Only flying high over the mountains you can see what is happening in the other land. Then you will understand.

If you listen long enough to the wind you will know where the mistletoe grows naturally. And may be it will tell you another story. This time a better one.  About the virtue and generosity of the people around you.

Barcelona, March 8th 2013