Enjoying puddles: cycling in the sky

After many weeks of drought it has rained a lot.

Now we can enjoy clean skies, dramatic cloud scenery and rain puddles.

Probably the first time we enjoyed puddles we were young children and splashed in them with rubber boots, transforming a quiet surface into an ephemeral ornamental fountain.

Now, as a cyclist, there is a new way. There are thin puddles, a wet surface on asphalt that act as mirror and reflect the image of the sky and canopy leaves. When we pass over them riding a bicycle, during a brief lapse of time we have the feeling of pedalling in the sky, over clouds and trees. If the terrain is flat and we move without effort it is like flying.

So, on my way to work, I look for those puddles that allow me that kind of experience.

Rain puddles set sky tiles on the pavement, and while they do not dry out we have different lights, colours and shapes on it. Escher captured this wonderfully in his engraving of 1952.




Three gates to worlds of wonder

Do streets, news look boring, worn out? Three sites explore and recover the feeling of curiosity and wonderThe museum of Lost Wonder

Discover forgotten things in the world around us
Recover forgotten things in the world within you
Uncover forgotten things in this world at all


The Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society… to perpetuate the sensibilities and pursuits of the late Athanasius Kircher, SJ. Our interests extend to the wondrous, the curious, the singular, the esoteric, the arcane, and the sometimes hazy frontier between the plausible and the implausible. kircher


The Museum of DustProviding sanctuary for the misplaced, the forgotten and the misbegotten since 2006dust



Shoal of time

If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well
It were done quickly: if the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success; that but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all here,
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
We’ld jump the life to come.

shoal of timeNabokov and Bellow have compared life to a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. I’ve just found out that in Macbeth, I vii, Shakespeare compares it to bank of sand, a shoal of sand. The sea, as a symbol of infinite chaos, around a fragil and narrow sandbank upon we will start on all fours, then running happy, walking tired later, until we sink at the other shore. But, nevertheless we will be able to lay for a while, and look at the stars, eat a banana.



I’ve been wanting to go to Japan for a long time.

Last April I went there.
Fascinating, diverse … and not expensive.

Useful links for those going on their own.

Itinerary planning

Japan | Frommers.com, helps to establish priorities if your time is limited.

Japan Tourism website, with excellent PDF printable guides.

General Information.

Our itinerary (15 days): Tokyo, Nikko, Hakone, Takayama & Ogimachi, Okayama & Kurashiki, Hiroshima, Matsuyama, Imabari & Shimanami cycling, Takamatsu, Himeji, Koyasan, Osaka, Nara, Kyoto.


Jalpak The best flights I’ve found and they can get you the japan rail pass

You will need the timetable to plan your trips inside japan.

You won’t need this, but for rail lovers it contains pictures of all stations for all the lines.


Japaneseguesthouses.com : Traditional japaneses hotels aka Ryokans and Minshukus. I strongly recommend to spend some nights in one of them provided you can arrive early enough to take a bath before dinner (usually excellent) at 6. Reliable website.

http://www.japanhotel.net/ Comfort hotels at a very reasonable price. Reliable website.



For cycling lovers Shimanami route, 70 km between Honshu and Shikoku, bridges over the Sea connecting islands.

Kabuki Theater. Be brave and give it a try, what is as traditional as Noel Coward for japanese ears will be as advanced as the most vanguardist contemporary music like Ligeti or Boulez for yours.


Flights Barcelona – Japan: 700-900 €

two week Japan Rail Pass: 300 €

Accomodation: 60-100 € double room/night

Meals: 7-15 €



My one turn to live



My feeling was that you couldn’t be known thoroughly unless you found a way to communicate certain “incommunicables”-your private metaphysics. My way of approaching this was that before you were born you had never seen the life of this world. To grasp this mystery, the world, was the occult challenge. You came into a fully developed and articulated reality from nowhere, from nonbeing or primal oblivion. You had never seen life before. In the interval of light be tween the darkness in which you awaited first birth and then the darkness of death that would receive you, you must make what you could of reality, which was in a state of highly advanced develop ment. I had waited for millennia to see this. Then when I had learned to walk-in the kitchen-I was sent down into the street to inspect it more closely. One of my first impressions was of the huge utility-pole timbers that lined the street. They were beaver-colored, soft and rotted. On their crosspieces or multiple arms they carried many wires or cables in an endless falling relay, soaring, falling again and soaring. On the fixed sag and flow of the cables the spar rows sat, flew off, came back to rest. Along the sidewalks, the faded bricks revealed their original red at sunset. You rarely saw an auto mobile in those days. What you saw were hansom cabs, ice wagons, beer drays, and the huge horses that pulled them. I knew people by their faces-red, white, wrinkled, spotted, or smooth; smiling or violent or furious-their eyes, mouths, noses, voices, feet, and gestures. How they bent down to amuse or question or tease or af fectionately torment a small boy.

God appeared very early to me. His hair was parted down the middle. I understood that we were related because he had made Adam in his own image, breathed life into him. My eldest brother also combed his hair in the same style. Between the senior brother and me there was another brother. Senior to all of us was our sister. Anyway … this was the world. I had never seen it before. Its first gift was the gift of itself. Objects gathered you to themselves and held you by a magnetic imperative that was simply there. It was a privilege to be permitted to see-to see, touch, hear. This would not have been impossible to describe to Ravelstein. But he would have answered dismissively that Rousseau had already covered the same turf in his Confessions or his Reveries of a Solitary Walker. I didn’t feel like having these first epistemological impressions anticipated or dismissed. For seventy-odd years I had seen reality under these same signs. I had the feeling, too, that I had to wait for thousands of years to see, hear, smell, and touch these mysterious phenomena- totake my turn in life before disappearing again when my time was up. I might have said to Ravelstein, “It was my one turn to live.” But he was too close to death to be spoken to in such terms and I had to surrender my wish to make myself fully known to him by describ ing my intimate metaphysics. Only a small number of special souls have ever found a way to receive such revelations.


A crack of light between two eternities of darkness

Vladimir NABOKOV

Speak, Memory

The craddle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for (at some forty-five hundred heartbeats an hour). I know, however, of a young chronophobiac who experienced something like panic when looking for the first time at homemade movies that had been taken a few weeks before his birth. He saw a world that was practically unchanged-the same house, the same people-and then realized that he did not exist there at all and that nobody mourned his absence. He caught a glimpse of his mother waving from an upstairs window, and that unfamiliar gesture disturbed him, as if it were some mysterious farewell. But what particularly frightened him was the sight of a brand-new baby carriage standing there on the porch, with the smug, an croaching air of a coffin; even that was empty, as if, in the reverse course of events, his very bones had disintegrated.

Such fancies are not foreign to young lives. Or, to put it otherwise, first and last things often tend to have an adolescent note-unless, possibly, they are directed by some venerable and rigid religion. Nature expects a full-grown man to accept the two black voids, fore and aft, as stolidly as he accepts the extraordinary visions in between. Imagination, the supreme delight of the immortal and the immature, should be limited. In order to enjoy life, we should not enjoy it too much.

I rebel against this state of affairs. I feel the urge to take my rebellion outside and picket nature. Over and over again, my mind has made colossal efforts to distinguish the faintest of personal glimmers in the impersonal darkness on both sides of my life. That this darkness is caused merely by the walls of time separating me and my bruised fists from the free world of timelessness is a belief I gladly share with the most gaudily painted savage. I have journeyed back in thought-with thought hopelessly tapering off as I went to remote regions where I groped for some secret outlet only to discover that the prison of time is spherical and without exits. Short of suicide, I have tried everything. I have doffed my identity in order to pass for a conventional spook and steal into realms that existed before I was conceived. I have mentally endured the degrading company of Victorian lady novelists and retired colonels who remembered having, in former lives, been slave; messengers on a Roman road or sages under the willows of, Lhasa. I have ransacked my oldest dreams for keys and clues; and let me say at once that I reject completely the vulgar, shabby, fundamentally medieval world of Freud, with its crankish quest for sexual symbols (something like searching for Baconian acrostics in Shakespeare’s works) and its bitter, little embryos spying, from their natural nooks, upon the love life of their parents.


Almond trees blossom

The TV set is back and alive. We can follow again the normal TV program schedule. Too many things not to be missed! Among them, and outside the sitting room,nature’s seasons program schedule. Its program listing features general rebirth in spring, alpine plants in summer, golden colours in autumn, that clean and tangential light in clear winter days and now, in early march, almond trees blossom.

We went to see them in Penedès vineyard’s, in Sant Sebastià dels Gorgs were we rode our bikes. The day a bit cloudy but providing an interesting light nevertheless. It must have been a cold winter because many trees were still waiting for blossom and it took some pedaling before we could make out, against a background of grey and green fields, the diffuse white clouds made out of the new flowers that, in coming near, become treetop structures and finally in close-up, fragrant pentagonal simetries.

We spent about an hour, looking for and comparing views, like if we were the privileged sole visitors of a museum whose pictures and sculptures lack labels and it were our job or play to guess who is the author, the school or style. O perhaps, rather than a museum with landscape paintings it is like a Noh theater play, in which the trees, players almost immobile during the whole act, burst in flower in the last scene?





“Lunch ceremony, omelette-Zen”

What would be the “lunch ceremony” like?

Guests would get rid of sweat and dust before entering in the shade inside the cabin. A wooden table, not varnished. Some fresh water, and black olives. An equivalent of Sen Rikyu, the most famous of Tea masters, our “lunch master” could suggest that, in order to reach the highest refinement peak, guests would have been given the opportunity to choose a tomato from the orchard, a tomato in the precise point of the maturing process. The items, simple glasses and ceramic plates. If Hamada Shoji promoted a revival of Mashiko popular ceramics, someone could do the same “la Bisbal” products. Now the guests would go out to the garden while the host cooks an omelette with potato and onion. Of course, potato and onions must have been prepared before, its elaboration is slow. The omelette finished, the guests reenter. The host offers each one a helping and red wine to drink. If the orchard provides good lettuces a salad can be proposed.

The “Lunch Master” would remark that, in tasting the omelette, we must concentrate in its exact savour, the cooking point of the egg, which has to be as raw as possible while holding some consistency. Following Zen buddhism, we empty our minds of all desirem anxiety or obsessions and do concentrate, this time, not in breath or body position like in Zazen, but in the omelette experience, taste, temperature, texture, the diversity of components that form an unity, eggs, potato, onion; and some possible variants like spinach or marrow. The quick evolution of the temperature reminds us of how ephemeral wordly things are and the convenience of living the concrete present forgetting about the desires that may obsede us. It is odd that the catalan popular expression “omelette dreaming” means just the opposite: to believe that something desired is attainable although it can be impossible: “the one who is hungry dreams of omelettes”. The omelette-Zen buddhism of the “Lunch Ceremony” points to the contrary: Don’t think about omelettes if you can’t have them, and don’t about anything but the omelette when you are eating it.

The choice of olives, water, wine, ceramic items and last but no least the elaboration of the omelette constitute formidable esthetic challenges to be addressed by the “Lunch Ceremony” adept. It remains to study how could be adapted the tradition of the hanging scroll with a painting and a buddhist inscription. The format most usual here is oil painting which is not as suitable for a quick change. And latin characters will never match the expressiveness of xinese or japanese ideograms. We could start with a collection of watercolours, engravings or photos, related with the flow of seasons. The host would copy some suitable verses as caption in good calligraphy.

In the meanwhile, at leat I have already the right lettuce to begin with.

And I believe that somehow a nap should be added to the ritual. But still don’t know how.


Lettuce, Tea ceremony, Lunch Ceremony

A sunny winter morning. I’ve gathered a lettuce, roman variety, from the little orchard that I have in my terrace; long, shiny, elegant emerald green leaves. While I was preparing the salad I remembered a recent lecture by Benet Casablancas on Haydn. He analysed, bar by bar, the “suspense” effect when the predictable evolution of a phrase is interrupted by an unexpected intermission. How many precious details we miss in a superficial hearing! When listening to this passage again, how far the islamic anger for some cartoons seems to be! and how near and similar to that intolerance -boycott included- the spanish refusal to the catalan federal pretensions.

The salad is really fine. Is it because of the lettuce? the olive oil? perhaps because I am much more attentive like when listening to Haydn after the lecture? An Esthetics about salads? Why not? didn’t not the japanese create an Esthetics and even a kind of religion around Tea Ceremony?

Not long ago I reread Okakura Kakuzo’s “Book of Tea“. Tea ceremony, or how to transform an everyday act, like invite a guest and offer something to eat and drink, into an opportunity to worship beauty, to have in mind zen budism, sobriety, worship the imperfect and ephemeral, to formalize a rite of sensivity. Guests reach the Tea Room through a garden, in silence. They wash their hands to purify themselves and enter the room wich lacks any decoration but for the kakemono, a scroll with a painting and some buddist scriptures on it, specially chosen fot that occasion. Three meal courses are served and after that guests exit to the garden while the host prepares tea. The scroll is removed and flowers placed instead. Guests wash again and enter. Tea is served according a certain rite and using specific items, particularly a ceramic bowl. There are about thirteen items, all of them carefully chosen, each one an art work, which are examined and commented by the guests. After a some conversation another tea is served and they take leave.

I wonder what should be our culturally equivalent of the tea ceremony, here in Barcelona. Some theologian has said that eucharistic liturgy in the east should be carried with rice and tea instead of bread and wine. So, I guess that “tea ceremony” in the mediterraean area should be a kind of “early lunch ceremony”. Instead of the tea room in a japanese garden we would dispose a sort cabin in a neat orchard, white plastered walls, a cover out of cane. Nearby a pool and running water.