18 June 2008

full, so full, in the brain

hello my dear blog readers.
i promise to write more soon.
i've had an exciting six days with two film-makers.
but after three weeks of academic delight, my brain is full.
i need to process and digest a bit before more writing.
but, in writing's stead, i offer yet another picture.

don't worry, it's not really the end of the world.
if you reach this point, go just a bit further, and you'll find the lovely sitting rock.
it's worth it.

12 June 2008

i love to goooo a wanderiiiiiiinngg...

Another day off! Huzzah! And it’s still sunny!

Josh and I decided to have adventures today. We trekked out to the gondolas to take a ride up the mountain (there are many, of course, and I’m sure this one had a specific name, but I don’t know that. I know it was one of many big mountains in the alps). The view, and experience, was insanely gorgeous and wonderful. I did get a little nervous — the gondola was really high (does the picture demonstrate this well?). But — totally worth it.

Once the ride stopped, we were greeted by this lovely wood carving.

Then, we started hiking. We went, up and up and up, for about an hour. I can’t even describe the views. I’ll send you to the full collection of pictures on my facebook page (I think you should be able to see them by just clicking on this link: pictures).

The air was noticeably thin; I’ve been slightly aware of this overall in Saas Fee, but only to the extent that it could just as well have been my imagination (not that I’m prone to over-thinking the physical or anything…). Here, I felt the strain. And we hiked at a pretty good pace (as I’m constitutional unable to walk slow) — for a while at least. Then I did in fact start slowing down. And maybe emitting a bit of a squeaking noise from my lungs (at least Josh told me that later, on the way down; apparently I freaked him out a little). Anyhow, I began to feel warn out, and decided to actually stop before I was completely done for (i.e. a moment of wiseness and clarity -- I'm definitely getting old). I'm often frustrated to find actual limits to my body, but I've also gotten better at accepting them (and not hurting myself). We reached a bit of a plateau with a large rock, perfect for sitting. And so I sat.

[this is me sitting. the other is my view from the sitting (before josh hiked up further)]

Josh continued up the mountain — all the way to the top! Quite impressive. Read his story on his own blog.

But let’s return to my sitting. As I begin this sentence, I know I’ll not do justice to the moment, not even come close to the experience. But I’ll try. I sat there, just looking. The clear sky, brisk breeze, and quietness surrounding me. Small noises — the clack of the hoofs of mountain goats (or something) on rock, the wind blowing through, occasionally another hiker passing by. But mostly, quiet. The surroundings dwarfed me, but I didn’t feel small. I felt — peace. I realized the extent of this rare, beautiful moment. I was sitting in the middle of huge mountains on a gorgeous day, here for an amazing academic experience where I spent my days contemplating the world from different perspectives; I will return to the states to start work on my dissertation, the culmination of these years of study, the point where I finally explode in my own ideas and expression; my family and friends are all relatively healthy and happy and in moments of their own stability; I read a really good email that morning. I felt the extent of my privilege — a life of my own building, where, for the most part, I really do what I want to do, following my passions and interests. I’ve overcome fears of leaving home, of change, and, even when still scary, I pretty much jump into new experiences (or push myself, at least). For one brilliant moment, every aspect of my life — professional, familial, personal, worldly, and otherwise — is peaceful, beautiful, and good.

In short, I am happy.

I do fear that that whole paragraph still can only sound trite or cliche, but that’s as close as I can get to the moment. So (Akua particularly, who asked for more of “me” in this blog) — there you go.

After about an hour or so, Josh returned from the peaks of the mountain, and we hiked and talked and laughed (and almost got lost a few times) for about two more hours — the rest of the way back down to town. I’m lucky to be here with such a great friend. Three weeks in close quarters with an other can be tricky, but I think we’ve done well, and I can’t begin to recount our amazing conversations, from the profound to the profane (and definitely the inane).

We made it back to the hotel in time for lunch, which we ate quickly and in relative silence. We were hungry and exhausted. We then retreated to our apartment for naps. Three hours later, we emerged for dinner and the end of the night.

Really, a spectacular day.

11 June 2008


More developed on Wednesday, but that last post needed to end as it did, especially as these developments were more social and entirely non-academic.
First, I offer this picture:

Yup, those are my feet on a tightrope, balancing about 2ft off the ground. Tres, one of the guys here brought a — um, tripline? I’ve lost the word — but a rope-ish line that he drew between two giant trees in the woods. I overheard Sophie talking about practicing on this line the previous afternoon, and slowly moved my way into the conversation. I’ve been attempting to be a bit more social and actually get to know the people here. If you know me well, you know that genuinely doing this takes me some time. I may look like Mom, but I continue to carry Dad’s constitution. In other words, I’ll smile and nod and be polite and academic and such, but making that next move to actually know someone usually takes strong effort and movement outside of my comfort zone. Occasionally it happens that I’m naturally really drawn to someone, but that is rare and quite special, and hasn’t really happened here yet.

Anyhow, I weaseled my way into Sophie’s conversation and was invited to join the tightroping after lunch. So, I went. She and Tres were really good at this, and I watched for awhile. Then they asked if I wanted a turn. Now, again, you may know that I’m not known for my, hm, grace in physical movement. If there’s a hair on the rug, I’ll trip over it. Hell, I don’t even need the hair — I do that tripping-fake-running thing on pavement all the time. Almost every significant injury I’ve had has come from ridiculous circumstances, like breaking a finger by rolling a ball on the ground, or taking my dog outside. So, I was not optimistic. And I hate not being good at something. Combined? This activity included more risk than one might first anticipate. But I climbed up, and could stand straight while only barely touching the tree next to me. At various turns, both Tres and Sophie offered hands/shoulders for balance as I walked across, and generally I only needed them for that — a light touch and a small bit of balance. Okay, there were occasional desperate grasps at the help, but I never fell off. Actually, it was a tremendous experience, far more mental than physical (though strong abs help. yay sit-ups). This required focus, patience, and trust in my body. The moment I felt fear, I’d wobble, but if I trusted that my foot would find the rope in front of me, if I both held my body tightly and relaxed into the movement of the rope, I could negotiate the space. Lovely life metaphor, no? And more physical of a workout than just plain meditation. Thus, I recommend it highly.

So, now I think I’ve established five surprising areas of physical grace and ability:
tight-rope walking.
I still recommend being careful if you walk with me. Without music or intense concentration in the moment (instead of the zillion of other things in my head), I’m still likely to crash at any moment.

One last development of the day: I broke my dorky streak of not ever going to the bar and agreed to hang out with some peeps at night. Drank some wine, had some fun convo, and didn’t get home until 3:30am. Woot. The party was still going strong, but I was done. Overall, a good day.

art and war

We began this morning with Bracha by considering ourselves. We went around the room again saying our names and a few words about our dreams, goals, plans. This became a discussion of art and life, and then, more deeply, of wit(h)nessing through Bracha’s work at the Israel/Palestine border. With others, particularly mothers of soldiers, she helps — well, people. I’m looking for a more specific, descriptive term, but they are most simply people: Israelis and Palestinians moving around the border, trying to reach family, to find peace, to simply live without being beaten or killed. Bracha names her work as wit(h)nessing — she offers therapy, and/but also intervenes politically and completely on the ground, helping individuals work through systems, bearing witness to their sufferings and troubles, being with them in this act: not speaking for them, not using them as examples or political ploys, but attempting to really know them and represent, intervene, indeed wit(h)ness their lives.

During her sessions (and throughout other times), she creates in her notebooks -- not the standard therapist note-taking, but creations of art, drawing, words, concepts.

In the midst of discussion, attempting to encapsulate these scenarios, restarting her sentence a few times, struggling through languages and emotions, she eventually spit out, with traces of anger, sadness, resistance, acceptance, exhaustion and hope:
We live in a world that is just fucked up.
Here's a link to some of her work -- Brother's Photo.

10 June 2008

broaching the matrixial

Working personally with theorists continues to intrigue and surprise. One might have suspicions about how these people would be -- and one would not be entirely incorrect. But I'm constantly delighted by tehse characters and their intense individuality. And I've found each to also be warm, personal, and eager to interact outside of the classroom (mostly at meals, of course, but still -- it's cool, and certainly the fodder for stories I'll one day tell my children and students: "Well, when I had breakfast with Sylvere Lotringer..." "Ah yes, I once argued with DeLanda over this very issue...").

Bracha Ettinger is no exception to these theorists.

Tiny-framed, she appears in layers of black,
punctuated by ash-blonde hair and gold-framed glasses,
and gold sneakers.

She fluently speaks and writes (that I know of) -- Hebrew, French, English. She is a Lacanian feminist psychoanalyst (currently maintaining her private practice and volunteering in the West Bank), a writer/theorist, and an artist/painter. I feel mildly insufficient. She writes the matrisial -- an extension/addendum/correction/interaction to/with the work of Lacan (and in relation/opposition to Deleuze & Guattari). She works with pregnancy as an example/metaphor for ethical interaction as transubjectivity with stings of shared affect connecting us in severalities -- groups of a few who engage in/through matrixial spaces. We move thickly through her work -- she reads a few lines, breaks out to explain/complicate concepts, to elicit questions. In the Lacanian psychoanalytic tradition, her work is a labarynth of terminology -- matrixial gazes, borderspaces, encounter events; trans-inscription, -subjectivity, -formations; m/Other, wit(h)nessing, beside(d)ness, fascinance, subsubjectivity... And the notes are as spiralic as the theory. And/but the whole class is engaging intensely, making the experience far more experiential.

09 June 2008

sun and skirts

Sun! Health! Delight! The new week looks great already. So I wore a skirt. Here are pictures.

08 June 2008


Today, I am sick. I skipped the second half of morning classes, and didn’t attend the evening lecture (which worked well, since Wolfgang pulled me aside beforehand and asked me not to sit behind him because he feared my germs). Instead, I went home, wrote a bit for the blog, and watched German-dubbed American TV and a movie — Ashton Kucher and Amanda Peet in "A Lot Like Love." Turns out silly romantic comedies really don’t require translation (not a gigantic surprise).

Oh well. Here are more pictures of beauty (though we haven’t seen it in days — clouds are sitting directly on the mountains. I assume they’re still there, though).