Sometimes, it feels like I am already experiencing symptoms of an aging body and mind: I am getting more conservative, my back often hurts, recovery from sports takes longer, and suddenly I appreciate trees. And flowers. And birds.
In my younger days, I was convinced that birdwatching is boring; but it has grown on me. Birds are adorable. From the smallest goldcrest to the great bustard (hopefully I’ll see one someday), every type of bird is so unique and fascinating and there is so much to learn: about their behaviour, calls, appearance, and migration patterns. Depending on the employed definition, there are between 10,000 and 20,000 bird species on earth. In Scotland we saw at least 63, many of which I have never seen before. I was a real treat to experience the puffins, razorbills, and guillemots at the coast. On our last day alone we spotted a spoonbill, a barnowl, sedge warblers, and a gannet, none of which I had ever seen before.
But again, the climate is changing everything: The spoonbill populations are slowly shifting north due to the increasing temperature. We got told that it was only the second time that an individual was spotted at the small lake where we parked over night. It is estimated that 15% of all species might go extinct soon (in evolutionary timescales) because they cannot cope with the rapid changes of the climate. Around our hometown some bird populations even increase, but the majority declines. Especially endangered are those that breed on farming grounds because of the streamlined agriculture occupying large amounts of space, often with monocultures. On the bright side: At least around here there are also increasing amounts of ‘Blühstreifen’, strips of wild herbs and flowers that are incorporated into the conventional agriculture and run along all the fields of wheat and corn. And if it doesn’t work out for the birds, my personal contingency plan is to just see all 10,000 species soon enough.
Record temperature highs all around, forest fires all over Europe, and an advancing drought that threatens food and energy production – only a small glimpse of what will come.
So, instead of exposing ourselves to the constant stream of news, we enjoyed some of the beautiful nature nearby by hiking the P25 trail near Kleinalmerode. It’s one of the newest premium trails in Hesse and the closest one to our home. Normally, Kleinalmerode is known for its cherry blossom in late spring; but during this time of year we strolled through barley fields, found lots of insects scaling cornflowers, and observed bumblebees exploring the landscape of flowers. It also revived my passion for macro-photography and hopefully I’ll manage to use some more of these long Summer days to pursue photography.
A small selection of pictures taken on our way to and on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Dramatic weather made for some interesting skies during the middle of the day, but (near) constant rain spoiled the hiking and photography fun. Skye is beautiful; but so is the mainland. However, unlike the mainland Skye is flooded with tourists. So we agreed that this single visit is enough for us for now.
I’ve been bouldering a lot (on plastic) recently and it feels great to be back in form! But the last time climbing is a looooooong time ago. At least until last Sunday morning, when I finally managed to squeeze in a short climbing session with my long-time friend and climbing partner. Everything is different outside: Bad footholds, fragile sandstone, and being on a rope high above the last clipping point. Sometimes, a slight fear of falling creeps into the mind. Sometimes, even the good footholds seem tiny and slippery.
Basically, it’s the same as with my current work project: It feels a little insecure, but you keep pushing, little by little, one move at at time. Take a deep breath, do secure movements, calm down, climb high. And luckily, in climbing and in life, there are people who catch me if I fall. Thank you.
I’ve been at a scientific meeting recently and (again) was surprised of the disconnect that sometimes occurred between a speaker and the audience. If the listener (me) does not understand a complex subject that is explained, it is not solely on me! Don’t blame me that I could not follow your cluttered slides and your jumbled train of thought! Sure, sometimes I will be uninformed or not smart enough. But sometimes it is on you, dear speaker.
Explaining an easy concept complicatedly is easy. Explaining a complex concept concisely is artistry. And while I’ve set through many talks cluelessly, I admired the few speakers who mastered the art: The ones that make you feel clever just by listening. The ones that explain intricate science so well that you think you designed the experiments yourself. The ones that let you rediscover what they did and make it seem like what they are doing isn’t difficult after all.
Giving a good talk boils down to the same things that are important in photography: The subject needs to be clear. Leading lines are necessary to guide the viewer. Help them navigate the frame. Unimportant stuff is left out (and there is a lot of unimportant stuff). And everything left in has to support the main subject. Tell a story.
The following pictures do not follow these rules at all, but I hope my own talk did at least…
A brief list of some of the books I read during the last year, thanks to Fräulein Klitzeklein. The first draft of this post is already from last Winter but only now I came around to finishing it. It is mainly intended for myself: to remember which books I read, what they taught me and how they affected me, as well as what I wanted to take away.
Der Buchspazierer, by Carsten Henn
The mundane, the monotonous, the every day rhythm. This book is about those things. And how they are among the ones that matter most in life. It matters what you make out of it. It matters with whom you persevere through it. It’s the daily interactions with people around, however small they might be, that make it worth it. An easy-going story, yet scratching to the bones, about passion to detail, about finding unexpected friends, and about loyalty.
Der Gesang der Flusskrebse / Where the crawdads sing, by Delia Owens
This one invigorated my passion for nature and science as it elegantly intertwines both within a complicated story of a complicated life. It features a deep appreciation for the nature and its inhabitants. Never give up, stand up for yourself, and life can be unfair. I finished the second half in a single day, something that hasn’t happened for quite a while.
Die Bücherdiebin / The book thief, by Markus Zusak
I never would have picked this one up myself. All the more, I am fortunate that it got forced upon me: Probably the most impactful read for me so far. Deeply moving, cleverly narrated, a story of genuine humanity. Where heroes are inconspicuous, but never have been more important. Where the profound joy and all inexpressible horror of life cling to each other like there is no tomorrow. Where the smallest childhood memories become something larger than themselves. A story of innocence and trust, of apples and daunting terror, of the power of words and how they shape our world.
Zugvögel / Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy
Nobody is flawless: There is always good and bad, even though it can be difficult to perceive it. Do not judge others, especially if you cannot relate to their experiences. Sometimes they are more similar to you as you might think. Attaining redemption is a journey, as our life, without goals other than the ones we define ourselves. And no one is prepared for the abruptness of the end as it might arrive every second of your life.
Das Flüstern der Bäume / Greenwood, by Michael Christie
An entertaining novel narrated cleverly to blend a multitude of time frames to illustrate the larger picture of our society, our history, and our planet. Has a bit of everything, and thus, a bit of nothing.
Der Circle / The Circle, by Dave Eggers
Exhausting read and quite demanding. Balances on the uncomfortable gap between surreal fiction and actual reality that keeps bouncing in your head for quite a while after. A constant warning of where humanity currently is and which direction we might be heading in a digitized world, paired with deep-reaching questions about our individual purpose of life. About the phenomenal benefit and destructive power of data, as well as societies inability to grasp the impact of what they create.
Was man von hier aus sehen kann / What You Can See from Here, by Mariana Leky
A wonderful story of love, life, death, family, and nature from the eyes of a growing human. It charms with wonderful characters that are narrated so well that you’re sure you’ve met them in real life. And even after closing the book, they occupy your mind and keep lingering there with their struggles, their joy, and their words of wisdom. This book shows how to embrace triviality, how to cope with setbacks, and how a village community manages to navigate life.
Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Several of my friends read John Greens books during high school. I never did. Maybe I am pleased with this fact. It’s like listening to good music for the first time: It’s something special; you should find the right time and place and embrace it because it’s your only chance to experience it in this way. This book has power, no matter your age. It leaves marks.
The Fault in our Stars, by John Green
An absolute masterpiece. Utterly moving. Possibly life changing. Who would’ve thought that a romantic journey of high school students can be told with such intensity. An honest, melancholic, and moving experience. See also That which remains.
Umwege des Lebens / The Book of Two Ways, by Jodi Picoult
My first one from Jodi Picoult and presumably not the last one (and I am told there are way better ones). A potpourri of topics mingled into a love story in our contemporary world. By this, it aims to please many, which comes at the cost of some tiring sections. Besides exploring complicated relationships and lifelong dreams, it focuses around the process of dying.
The road's last bend, the world does end
right here. The sphere succumbs,
a lonesome spot remains.
Mountains looming, all consuming
The soul gets lost and tossed around
between the dunes and seagull sounds.
This place will stay when we decay,
mere joy engraved that does transcend
the end of our finite time.