We are programmed for migration,
always returning to our home –
from east to west and back again.

You ride the North Atlantic gyre,
pilgrim soul, the final journey:
your earthly remains in my pocket.

Orphaned, I release a handful
of ashes into Baltic waters.

 

 

Giessie and Tjaktje – Contemplation and Desire

In the Sámi calender, Giessie, the summer lasts only about a month – and is an invitation to slow down. In most western cultures, we don’t necessarily associate true summer with contemplation. My childhood memories revolve around swimming in the neighborhood public pool, practicing my diving, and working on my tan. It was vacation time: time for the two-week family holiday at the beach, for hanging out in the yard, for barbecues, for reading under a tree until dark.

This past summer, my father passed away. The weeks immediately following were far too busy to slow down, no room in my schedule or in my heart for contemplation. Fortunately, we were blessed with a long Indian Summer, so I was able to satisfy my need for contemplation.

Now finally my spirit seems to be in sync with the Sámi people’s calendar again. Tjaktje – the season of desire – is the season of the raindeer rut. The days narrow in ever-expanding darkness, leaving only a sliver of daylight above the horizon. In the USA, we celebrate the end of this season with arguably the most important of family feasts: Thanksgiving. This year will be the first without my father. Gratitude is difficult during mourning – at times, grief can be overwhelming. But I take it one step at a time. I’m thankful for the release his death undoubtedly was. I’m thankful for the harvest, real and metaphorical. I gather, sift, and store the memories, what I know of my father’s life.

Meanwhile, the apples silently perfume the cellar with their scent. I plant flower bulbs for the coming spring. I gather mushrooms, sloe plums, walnuts, rosehips. And beneath the cold ground under my feet, I can still feel my desire – what I want to do, make, create – in the face of time’s relentless passage. I can feel my will to carry on. And I will carry on.

 

Ephemera

The Samí’s early summer, Gijrragiessie, begins around the summer solstice and lasts only a few weeks, not even a month. Then, true summer – Giessie – begins, lasting until the end of August. But the truth is, hereabouts, on the Swabian Alb, summer’s already well underway. The garden roses are flourishing: a rambler planted only a few years ago, heavy with magenta blossoms, has finally reached the other side of the arcing trellis installed for that purpose. The wheat fields shimmer silvery dun, as though sheathed in moonlight. The barley fields tend toward pinkish-beige. If I were to paint them today, I would reach for flesh tones. I recently discovered a sprawling stand of rare Turk’s cap lilies in the beechwoods nearby: jewels the color of faded rose madder, freckled with dusky pink, each blossom no bigger than a plum.

Although so much delights the eye, this solstice makes me deeply melancholy. Something in me can’t quite grasp the year’s turning, the certainty that the days will grow shorter from now on, that this most joyful of seasons already contains the seeds of its own death. While I fully know this is a necessary cycle, I mourn in anticipation of the immutable decline, the ephemeral nature of summer’s beauties.

The word for what I am experiencing is anticipatory grief, the feeling of mourning an impending loss.

As always, my feelings are way ahead of me. But I trust in mother nature to lead the way, to show me where I must go to find the healing I crave, to cradle my soul.

 

 

Those who do not exist can make no demands.
– Nils-Aslak Valkeapää (alias Áilluhaš)

 

Gijrra: The Season of Returning

Gijrra, the Sámi people’s word for the current season, is translated as “true spring.” Up north, reindeer calves are born in May, taking their first faltering steps; the lengthening days melt the ice, swelling streams and rivers; and vast flocks of migratory birds arrive. I have no idea if spring comes slow or fast in Sámi country, but here on the Swabian Alb, this year spring sure is in a hurry. The larks came late, but thanks to April’s warm temperatures, everything seems to be blossoming simultaneously. For a painter, it’s a challenge to capture the glories of orchards abloom, while at the same time lilacs burst into flower alongside tardy sloe plums and those vanilla-and-strawberry-ice-cream-colored tulips I brought from Amsterdam last November. I’m so distracted while driving that sometimes I need to stop, park the car, and get out my mobile phone to photograph what enchants me. It’s the quickest form of note-taking I know of – and every time I load the photos on my computer, I’m seized by impatience to throw myself into a new body of work.

Here on the Swabian Alb, we have another weather phenomenon which one would do well not to ignore: the Ice Saints, a cold spell of several days roughly during the second week of May. The temperatures can spell disaster for impatient gardeners who put their potted plants outside beforehand.
In early summer – which the Sámis call “spring-summer” – their craftspeople are at their busiest, turning reindeer hides into dyed skins using willow and birch bark, which can be harvested easily during this time. In the Arctic, there is a similar cold spell during which snow may fall, flowers freeze, or the cloudberry crop be decimated.

I too feel the surge of productivity, but am aware of the need to pace myself, to let things grow and develop at their own intrinsic pace. Like any new skill, progress depends on failure, involving missteps, faltering. Everything is unfamiliar, and I must gather courage for what lies ahead, mustering a vision for the future.

Behold, my friends,
the spring is come;
the earth has gladly received
the sun’s embraces
and we shall soon see
the fruits of their love!
(– Sitting Bull, “Bjiejjie”)

Expectations

Although the same can’t be said for spring, my new studio in Gosbach is now ready to welcome me and whatever guests care to visit. It still feels very unfamiliar. And cold: the radiators respond only slowly. I spend ages hunting for a pocket rule, a pencil, a roll of masking tape. And where did I store that delicious stack of handmade paper I ordered from Gerard Paperworks in January? I have not yet truly taken possession of my new quarters. I visualize the paintings I’ll make. But I have not yet had the space of an undisturbed day in which to let something new unfold, take shape.

Since my last blog entry, it is still not spring yet. Chaos reigns. Take today: It snows. It rains. The sun comes out. A fool wind haunts the bare limbs of trees. And in the wink of an eye, a curtain of hail obscures the far fields, lying morosely rain-sodden, expectant, beneath the changeable sky. Or maybe it is I who am morose, rain-sodden, expectant. I find myself in a process of reinvention, shedding an identity that no longer jives with my needs. New tasks, new chores, new jobs necessitate reorganization, reorientation. I don’t quite know who I am yet, who I am going to be, what identity will be revealed when I shed the old skin entirely. Besides, I don’t know what to wear.

Change is relentless, abiding, stressful.

The other day, I stole an hour for a walk along the Swabian Alb escarpment near my home, with no other thought than to clear my head and pay my respects to March’s annual highlight: leucojum vernum. Although I slipped on wet stones and landed hard on my rear end in the mud, my tenacity was rewarded. The spring snowflakes surged down the hillsides in profusion, at their peak, their enchanting little bells glowing in pristine plumpness, dripping with rain. The village church chimed in, counting the eleventh hour. A gentle reminder of quotidian demands, and of how I have unlearned to wait. The day blooms, the season unfolds.

In that very moment, all I had to do was listen and look, drinking in March’s cup of purest joy.

 

Transition – Metamorphosis

Winter still prevails. A fleeting snow dusts the fields, muting color. Yet tiny green spears pierce the crusty ground. The first snowdrop in the garden portends Gijrradálvvie, what the Sami people of Europe’s far north call the season of awakening. Americans in the Northeast refer to it as mud season. An intense, if short, and particularly messy period of transition, metamorphosing into spring.

This perfectly describes my life over the past few months. Abruptly, unexpectedly, my landlord terminated the lease on my beautiful mill studio in Wiesensteig on the Fils, after just four years. A month later I’d found a new studio, only 3 kilometers downstream, in a pretty village called Gosbach. Over the last weeks I’ve been intensely busy renovating the new place and preparing the move. The new studio is half the size of the old one, so I’m confronted with the painful necessity of downsizing. A messy business, as it means culling, killing a few darlings.

At the same time, something new wants to grow. Thus, half of me is in destruction mode; the other half, in reinvention mode. Half of me is grieving, the other half busily envisioning what’s to come. Packing up hundreds of framed works, throwing away what literally and metaphorically no longer “fits,” cleaning up every last trace of my presence versus the physical labor involved in renovating, repainting, reinstalling, and reimagining the new studio.

By March 1, I hope the metamorphosis will be complete. I look forward to welcoming you into my new Atelier + Galerie Glang, Unterdorfstraße 19, 73342 Bad Ditzenbach-Gosbach.

Website Manager: Leo Ebert-Glang

Programmer: Benjamin Rindt

 

Dálvvie – Winter, the season of caring

I am delighted to announce a long-held plan come true: the new edition of my website! New look, new contents, user-friendly (self-) maintenance – all this will motivate me, I hope, to regularly update. In any case, I have the best intentions.

A grateful thank you to Leo Ebert-Glang and Benjamin Rindt, who took on the design and programming. I hope these two will continue to support me for a while, until I’m able to maintain the website by myself.

Some years ago, I stumbled upon the Sami people’s division of the year into eight seasons. The vast majority of this indigenous population in northern Scandinavia earn their living raising raindeer. To me, the names of the seasons sound very poetic, clearly reflecting their deep connection with nature. Raindeer are only half-domesticated, following the migratory trails of their wild ancestors across impassable territory of forests and mountains. Early winter, for example, is called the season of migration, Tjakttjadálvvie. It is the season in which the raindeer begin their migrations in search of new feeding grounds. Dálvvie, deep winter, describes the period in which nature is dormant beneath a deep, protective snow cover. Late winter, Gijrradálvvie, between late February and late April, is the season of awakening.

Thus I imagine the upcoming winter months as a time of nurture. Nature shuts down, slumbering, renewing itself – to finally reawaken in spring, bursting with vitality and brimful of sap. Inspired by the eight Sami seasons, I plan to publish this blog eight times a year. What to expect? Stay tuned!

 

Books

GÖTTERTAGE

Fiktionale Monologe der Paula Modersohn-Becker

2017 Klöpfer & Meyer Verlag, Tübingen (Lyrik)

Offset print, hardcover, 96 pp. 18 €

ISBN 978-3-86351-459-4

(To order | Bestellungen: kloepfer-meyer.de)

WASSERLÄUFE | WATERWAYS

2017 Palimpsisters Press (bilingual art catalogue), Geislingen/Steige

Digital print, softcover, 15 €

(To order | Bestellungen: gabi.glang@gmail.com)

BALTIC BLUES

2015 Palimpsisters Press (bilingual art catalogue and poems), Geislingen/Steige

Digital print, hardcover, 25 €

(To order | Bestellungen: gabi.glang@gmail.com)

BLUE SILENCE ABOUNDS

Nocturnes in a Minor Key

2015 Palimpsisters Press (English poems), Geislingen/Steige

Digital print, hardcover, 20 €

(To order | Bestellungen: gabi.glang@gmail.com)

SEASONS OF SHARING

Kasen Renku in 5 languages (poems)

2014 Joyce Brinkman, Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda, Flor Aguilera, Catherine Aubelle, Gabriele Glang, Leapfrog Press, Fredonia, NY

Softcover, 12 €

(To order | Bestellungen: gabi.glang@gmail.com)

PALIMPSESTS | PALIMPSESTE | PALIMPSESTES

2013 Trilingual art catalogue with Catherine Aubelle (paintings and poems)

self-published, Geislingen/Steige

Offset print, hardcover, 40 €

(To order | Bestellungen: gabi.glang@gmail.com)

IN A CERTAIN PLACE

2000 SCOP Publications, Maryland (anthology, edited by Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda, Alice Marie Tarnowski) (To order: http://www.storie.it/english/issues/2/)

STARK NAKED ON A COLD IRISH MORNING

1990 SCOP Publications, Maryland (English poetry)

(out of print)

FREE STATE: A HARVEST OF MARYLAND POETS

1989 SCOP Publications, Maryland (anthology, edited by Gabriele Glang

(out of print)

Complete list of all published works in anthologies and other print media: Download