Here Be Dragons

Tomorrow is the Diada de Sant Jordi who is famous for killing a dragon and traditionally it is celebrated here in Catalunya with books. It is also the memorial day for Miguel de Cervantes, he died on that day in 1616, a year after the second part of his Don Quichote was published. Unesco designated the 23d of April as World Book Day.

“When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote 

It often feels like fighting against windmills, being a writer and artist in this world. But I can’t imagine anything that makes more sense. Today seems to be a good day to launch my Patreon page. It is exciting but also scary: asking people for support because you think you can give them something meaningful in return.

I won’t fight the dragon. I’ll invite it to come and live with me. If you want to help me feed it, take a look at my Patreon page.

“How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.”
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

(Of course: you most support me by just reading what I write. Thank yoy for that! And any comments on or questions about my Patreon page are very welcome. For now it just has the basic information, more content will be added)

Seeing things

I was inside behind my computer when I heard fast footsteps, many of them. It sounded like people on the run. No other sounds, just running. When it didn’t stop I went out on my balcony. A stream of people, most of them in bright yellow shirts were running through the streets. Not on the run. On a run. I watched them for a bit and suddenly a man in an old fire fighter costume ran by, a shiny helmet on his head and an oxygen tank tied on his back. I thought he had dressed himself up, just like the Elvis whom I saw running a marathon a few weeks ago. But then there was another man dressed up like a fire fighter. And two more. And another eight.

They weren’t dressed up. They were actual fire fighters. When I got back to my computer I read this 10 km run is called La Cursa de Bombers de Barcelona. Today was the 20th edition. According to tradition, four firemen form a relay team and each member of the team runs 2.5 km in full fire fighting gear which weighs almost 20 kg. They compete against other firemen teams to win the coveted Fireman’s team prize called 'Premio Especial al Bombero Equipado.'

It is interesting how you see what you think you see. And hear what you think you hear. You perceive what you know already. I thought I saw a man dressed funnily until I spend some more time watching. Like yesterday, when at the beach I saw hundreds of similarly shaped transparant plastic objects, some of them bright blue, until I looked better and realised they were sea creatures. And when the beach cleaners were whispering the word “Medusa” I thought they were talking about a huge jellyfish species with long tentacles, resembling the head of Medusa, the mythological creature because that is the only medusa I know. But medusa is the word for any jellyfish in Spanish and Catalan.

We perceive things with our senses but then we interpret them with what we know, which is often limited. Or we just don’t take enough time sensing, hearing, watching, before we come to a conclusion. It can go both ways though. It can lead to wrong conclusions that don’t do justice to what was actually happening or they can lead to confusion and broadening our knowledge of things. Only when we take the time to wonder if our first conclusion was right though. Taking time and the willingness to question your thoughts are essential.

When most of the runners were gone and a thin stream of people having more difficulties to keep up to speed was still occupying the steet, a group of serious looking men appeared on the steet corner. They weren’t there to cheer up the crowd. They talked on their phones and seemed to be waiting for something. They didn’t seem to be business men or regular tourists. Most of them were dressed in black. The odd thing was that one of them had a balloon tied to his arm. Over his head a shiny horse with wings was floating in the air. “Pegasus” I thought. The winged horse that was the love child of Poseidon and Medusa. He sprang from Medusa’s blood when Perseus decapitated her. He rode into heaven and subjected himself to Zeus, who instructed him to bring lightning and thunder from Olympos.

The men left, the horse flew off. The last runners passed. The road is open to the usual traffic again. People walk their dogs. All is back to normal, so to say. But the magic is still out there. If you know it, you will see it.


To recreate (in) nature

There was a lot of driftwood and small bright blue objects with white and transparent skeletons were scattered across the wet sand. There was so much of it, all similarly shaped, and their colour seemed so out of place that I thought they were trashed plastic objects at first but when I looked closer I realised they were sea creatures I had never seen before. By-the-wind sailors I read later, small brothers of the Portuguese man-o war but not so venomous. They have a small stiff sail that catches the wind and propels them over the surface of the sea. Out here on the sand the blue looked unnatural but in the water it was the perfect camouflage. There were big jellyfish as well, wonderful purple species. I skooped the ones that seemed like they might still be alive back in the water. It was beautiful to see the beach in its wild state.

I sat down on the sand and looked out over the water. A small van parked a few meters behind me and a man and a woman came out, wearing bright green and yellow working clothes. They carried big rakes and started removing all what was natural, they only left the stones untouched. It was a lot of work. They put the driftwood and jellyfish in big plastic bags.

“Medusas” I heard them say to a couple that had just arrived. The man who was in his swimming trunks pointed at the water in which I had just returned a number of jellyfish. “I saw them” he said. “Don’t swim there” the cleaners said, and the man cursed before he put his t-shirt back on.

Somewhere far away music started. The first cruise boat appeared on the horizon. More people arrived, now safe from hurting their feet on a piece of wild nature. I picked up a small fragile sail the cleaners had overlooked and let the wind take me home.



He built himself a house,
his foundations,
his stones,
his walls,
his roof overhead,
his chimney and smoke,
his view from the window.

He made himself a garden,
his fence,
his thyme,
his earthworm,
his evening dew.

He cut out his bit of sky above.

And he wrapped the garden in the sky
and the house in the garden
and packed the lot in a handkerchief

and went off
lone as an arctic fox
through the cold
into the world.

- Miroslav Holub


The labyrinth

Tomas Tranströmer:

It happens rarely
that one of us really sees the other;

a person shows himself for an instant
as in a photograph but clearer
and in the background
something that is bigger than his shadow.

He's standing full-length before a mountain.
It's more a snail's shell than a mountain.
It's more a house than a snail's shell.
It's not a house but has many rooms.
It's indistinct but overwhelming.
He grows out of it, it out of him.
It's his life, it's his labyrinth.

(from: The Gallery)

Rebecca Solnit:

"Who hears you? To have something to say is one thing; to have someone who hears it is another. To be heard literally is to have the vibrations of the air travel through the labyrinth of the listener's ear to the mind, but more must unfold in that darkness. You choose to hear what corresponds to your desire, needs, and interests, and there are dangers in a world that corresponds too well, with curating your life into a mirror that reflects only the comfortable and familiar, and dangers in the opposite direction as well.

Listen Carefully.

To hear is to let the sound wander all the way through the labyrinth of your ear; to listen is to travel the other way to meet it. It's not passive but active, this listening. It's as though you retell each story, translate it into the language particular to you, fit it into your cosmology so you can understand and respond, and thereby it becomes part of you. To empathize is to reach out to meet the data that comes through the labyrinths of senses, to embrace it and incorporate it. To enter into, we say, as though another person's life was also a place you could travel to."

(from: The Faraway Nearby)

Almost five years ago, when I was in Sweden in a project about pilgrimage, working with snails, I wrote this:

The centre

Next to the cathedral in Lund they built a labyrinth. The priests use it to do labyrinth walks, every morning at 7.15, sometimes in the afternoon as well. After our presentation in the Visitor Centre we were invited to join the priests in a walk. It was the second time I walked the labyrinth.

The first time, a few weeks ago, was with pilgrim priest Anna. Before she entered it, she told us how she usually walked the labyrinth. She took a stone, carried it with her while walking and with every step she thought about something she was dealing with in her life, big things and small things, trying to let them go. In the centre she would leave her stone behind and with it all her worries.

The first time I walked the labyrinth my mind stopped the moment I took my first step. I didn’t think of anything. I just walked with an empty head. Even though I tried to bring things to mind I should concentrate on, nothing entered my head. Only when I stepped into the centre my brain started working again and I wondered how long I could stay in there. The second time the same thing happened. I just put one foot in front of the other. No thoughts. Nothing to struggle with. Emptiness. Until I reached the centre. And the moment the thoughts came back, I automatically stepped out of the labyrinth.

There was a man in our company who didn’t do the walk with us. He said he was too impatient to walk slowly through a labyrinth. He sat at the bench on the side and watched us. Afterwards he said that everybody had been looking so serious and troubled. “You were the only one smiling,” he told me.

I hadn’t realised it. And his words made me sad. And the sadness made me smile again.

It isn’t that difficult to get to the centre. But staying in the middle is the most difficult thing there is. A lifetime usually isn’t long enough to learn the skill. And there is nobody who can teach you how to do it. You can only be your own teacher.



On what promised to be the first really warm and sunny day of many more to come, I found a long rainjacket that looked like it was almost new and a red woolen winterdress, neatly folded, lying next to one of the garbage containers on my regular route to the sea. I once spent a summer in a Swedish forest where people were so busy preparing for winter that it was hanging over the warm season like a big shadow. Here it is different. When spring arrives, people remove the wet and cold days out of their daily lives. I picked them up.

I passed the landmark between beach and city that tells the sad story of men and women trying to cross the Mediterranean to find a safe place to live. The last time I passed it, it read 2018: 497. Today the number had changed. 2018: 498. A small difference. Only one. It is close to nothing. But this man or woman or boy or girl only had one life.

The sea was calm, the sun already up in the sky, the dogs were noisy and nosy. Some people have their regular place to sit on the beach, like I do. We recognised each other.

When I was drinking my coffee later on and tried to finish a book, I got distracted by my neighbours’ conversation. They were speaking in a mix of English and Spanish. The man on the left was saying: “A mind with doubts will always have doubts. It is useless to try to convince a person who is like that.” The man on the right was talking louder and louder. They were discussing the use of having a discussion. They didn’t agree. The man on the left never raised his voice. The man on the right got more and more agitated.

I returned to my book, Patrick Leigh Fermor’s “A Time to keep Silence” and read “…. the rule of silence is absolute. A special deaf and dumb language for cases of necessity has been evolved and codified, and the entire lifetime of a laybrother, who does not participate in the singing of the offices, may pass without the uttering of a word beyond the confessional or his spiritual consultations with the Abbot … a mythical agendum in the duties of a monk is the digging of his own tomb, a few spadefuls a day.”

A friend joined me at the sunny terrace. She had been practising the bodhrán on the beach. It is also known as Deafening or Thundering drum.

I walked back. The small pink flowers on the square were withering, it looked sad. But the trees were still blooming and the shadows were beautiful.


The first day.

It is five years since I walked through the world naked. I was in Gent, Belgium, the 3d of April 2013, staying at the house of friends who were travelling. I was enroled in a Master Programme at the Bauhaus University in Weimar. I studied Media Art & Design after having studied Art in Public Space and New Artistic Strategies for a year. That day we had to present the projects we had been working on to our teachers. I wasn’t in Weimar. The presentation date had been changed a few times and as always, the students were supposed to do whatever their teachers were telling them. I had planned this trip according to their original planning and as always, I had tried to explain my point of view to them. I was only a student though and they knew better. They thought. I am not sure if I knew better. But I thought differently. And I still do.

I had been wearing a three piece suit for 108 days then. I started wearing it on December 16. I had embroidered a big QR code on the back of the jacket. Every day I made an embroidery on the inside of the suit. Sometimes they referred to something that had happened that day, in my own life or in the world. Sometimes it was a drawing, sometimes words. Sometimes I just started without knowing what would come out of it. Every day I posted two photos on my blog, one of me on that day, in my suit, doing whatever I was doing on that day. The second one showed the embroidery. The QR code on my back linked to the blog. The inside of the suit was invisible when I was wearing it and while the outside got dirtier and more worn out every day, the inside became more beautiful. I had no idea how long I was going to wear the suit. But one day I read this in Thoreau’s Walden and that shed some light on it:

“I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes. If there is not a new man, how can the new clothes be made to fit? If you have any enterprise before you, try it in your old clothes. All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be. Perhaps we should never procure a new suit, however ragged or dirty the old, until we have so conducted, so enterprised or sailed in some way, that we feel like new men in the old, and that to retain it would be like keeping new wine in old bottles.”

When I read that, I decided to wear the suit until I had reached that point. I had no idea what that meant or what I had to do to become a new woman. I just continued to go on walks every day and make an embroidery on the inside of my outside.
While I was in Gent I wrote my teachers that I wasn’t going to be present physically on the 3d of April but that I would be present online and had been continuously. They had never liked my project, they never liked any of my ideas and they didn’t like me doing things out in the world on my own that were sometimes connected to other art or social institutions. They also didn’t like it when I spoke up in class and had a different opinion than they had. I had left the Art in Public Space programme when my professor used the word “narrow-minded” to describe me, not once but three times, in a meeting about a group exhibition in Sarajevo with my fellow students. I know I have my limitations and you can call me stubborn but there is no use in trying to learn something from somebody who calls you narrow-minded to put you down, or to defend herself. If said once, maybe, but three times is too much. And there was only one professor in that programme so I did what I had to do. I left. I thought Media Art & Design would be different but it wasn’t really. The professors were busy with their own projects and weren’t interested in students whose ideas clashed with theirs somehow.

I don’t mind when somebody doesn’t understand my work or even thinks I am on the wrong path. At the Rietveld Academy, where I had done my BA, I spent many wonderful hours with my drawing teacher who openly admitted he didn’t get what I was working on but also said that maybe he wasn’t capable of understanding it. We respected each other and had many things to talk about that were influential for both our ways of working and we discussed philosophy and poetry and how daily life transforms our work. There was another teacher I was always a bit afraid to meet up with because he was very strict and didn’t like my work but he always made me wonder whether I thought he was right or if I believed in what I was doing anyway. He never told me what to do. I made sure I saw him regularly. One of my favorite teachers there once said that we are in the same boat, the students and the teachers and that for the moment the students are artists with less experience. And that teachers still have a lot to learn as well.

In the week before the 3d of April 2013 I finished some texts about my suit project. I posted daily. I had worked hard that semester. I was happy about the things I had been doing. But I worried about whether I would get my credits for this project. And I wanted to get my Master title in order to make my life easier in the future. As an artist, some doors open only if you’ve got the right papers. When I had arrived in Weimar I had thought about maybe teaching there in the future. Doing a PhD. I didn’t anymore. I didn’t really fit in that system.
On the 2d of April I thought about my absence in Weimar the next day. I wondered what would happen after I would return there. I realised I didn’t really care what my teachers would be telling me. And I realised I preferred having two unfinished Master Programmes because of not being suitable on my CV than just going through the motions to be a Master with a capital M.

Thoreau had spoken. The next day I took off my suit. Instead of a photo of me in my suit I posted a photo of me walking through Gent naked.

My project had been titled A Soft Armour all along. When I travelled to Amsterdam a few days later I met a tattoo artist in the train on his way home. I asked him if he could help me. Shortly afterwards he put those words on my left shoulder. When I gave a talk about my suit project a few months later somebody asked me why I had chosen to wear the suit for 108 days. When I explained it was because apparently that was the right amount of days she told me that a mala, a string of prayer beads used in meditation, has 108 beads. It is said that there are 108 stages on the journey of the human soul

I wear my soft armour every day. It is strong but vulnerable. I like it that way. It got some scratches here and there, some bruises. It failed me for a very long time after I made a tough walk from Barcelona to Paris, my third long solo walk. It still fails me when I want to do the things I dreamt of in the past. But it helps me to do other things instead. Create new dreams.

Some people think I didn’t get very far. I am 45. I don’t own anything more valuable than the computer I am typing this on. My bedroom and my livingroom and my workspace are one and the same room. I wear clothes I find on the street. Not because I can’t afford to buy new clothes but because I like to reuse and the things I find are beautiful and surprising. My accountant told me last week that although I had answered the question “Do you work more than 1250 hours as an artist/writer” with “yes”, he had changed it into “no” because I had earned very little money. I didn’t try to explain that there are weeks when I work 168 hours and that I am not always payed in money. I just told him that when I say “yes” it means “yes”.

I walked thousands of kilometers in the last five years. I met amazing people, some of them ashamed of their ordinary lives, others proud of what they achieved but unhappy, a lot of them wanting to live differently but not knowing how to do that. I walked thousands of kilometers only to get close to the point where I started. When I was a child and had learned to walk I made myself at home in the world with ease, without worrying. My safe places were clearings inbetween trees, hollows, flattened areas inbetween the tall grass, the arms of people I loved, my books. I built things. I grew things. I was happy with little.

Today I celebrate that it is five years since I walked through the world the way I came into it.

People who think I didn’t get far are right.

Today is the first day. Again.

(embroidery on day 108)

All images and texts about 108 days in a suit here: A Soft Armour



Since the first time I thought the word “Bar” next to the name of restaurant Andorra looked like a P, I can’t read it differently and in my mind the two r’s become one. I’ve been in this small box-like place a couple of times and pass it often but I’ve never seen anything catastrophic coming through the door there although for horse lovers who read the menu it might be a dark place. I had some enjoyable evenings in there but in the blue morning light and with the graffiti-covered shutter closed it does look like a life-size version of Pandora’s box.

Even though it is a holiday, or maybe because it is Easter Sunday, the streets are quieter than they normally are. It is hard to say if the people I pass here and there are early risers or didn’t get their sleep yet.

The blue moon - it is the second full moon this month - is hidden behind pink clouds. The sun will rise shortly.

And so it does. Captured by some tourists. Like I did when I was still inbetween being and not being here. I never liked the photos afterwards. Colours that are only beautiful when you see them in real. Light that becomes kitchy in 2D. Proof of something you don’t need proof of. The sun is only halfway through its life, it will probably do the same thing for another 5 billion x 365 times.

To weaken my argument I take a photo of the line between the sea and the sky without the sun in it. It is there every day as well, 24 hours a day even. Why take a photo of it? I don’t know. I’m intrigued by that line and how on the photo it becomes a proper line whereas in real it isn’t, only in my eyes.

The palm trees in front of the hospital have shedded more of their skin. The pieces look like wooden corsets, human-size. A while ago I took one home and tried it on. It fitted perfectly.

The stairs are covered in small wings. As are the squares and sidewalks. They are in the gutters and porches. Every day there are more of them. Seeds. I take some home every day. They pile up on my table. Old wings.

When I walk back home Andorra’s interior is lighted, I open the glass door, order a coffee and think about Pandora. According to Greek mythology she was the first human woman created by the gods, on the instructions of the god of the sea, Zeus. She was molded out of earth as part of the punishment of humanity for Prometheus’ theft of the secret of fire. The box wasn’t really a box but a jar (pithos) and when she opened it she released all evils of humanity, leaving only Hope inside once she closed it again.

New wings are groing. New seeds.