Spring Joy #30

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Sure, puppy love is sweet, but what say you about some cormorant love? 🙂 These two were so sweet with their PDA. I don’t know much about cormorants, so I was impressed with how affectionate they were. But I was spying from afar and then I cropped, cropped, cropped, which explains the quality of these photos. Still, I wanted to share these sweet moments with you.

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Spring Joy #27

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Lots of adorable hedgehogs in the nearby park this year… 🙂 I was lucky enough to see five different ones out and about during an evening walk. But it was dark and they were constantly on the move, so not many chances of decent shots… The flash seemed to make them freeze, but as you can notice, one of them is trying to hide behind the other, so I think it frightens them. That’s why I chose not to overdo it. 

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Spring Joy

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Spring 2020, a time of fear, death and lockdown, was also a time of understanding the value of something as simple as freedom of movement. Perched on my windowsill, I photographed birds, trees and flowers, wishing I could be out there, walk in a park or on a beach, go for a hike, the way I had done countless times before. Once I learned what it felt like to no longer have it, I promised myself to no longer take that sort of pleasure for granted in the future.

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Spring 2022 is also a time of fear, death and freedom appreciation, albeit of a different kind. It’s shaking us to the core, yet again making us question our values and actions. Or at least so it should… although we, humans, seem to have repeatedly failed to learn our lesson.

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Once again, it’s time for coping mechanisms to kick in. I don’t know about you, but I refuse to ignore or deny the harsh reality; at the same time, I’m also trying to keep that small promise I made myself back in 2020, because I do need to find something uplifting to just keep me going, and not going crazy.

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In an attempt to put a smile on your faces and mine, hoping to bring you some joy, I’m going to share some images I’ve captured while trying to escape my own thoughts this spring. Nature’s beauty and innocence can still provide such a soothing refuge… I hope you enjoy them.

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Stay safe, everyone! And instead to endeavouring to return to a kind of “normal” which is exactly the root of our problems, maybe we could learn from our past mistakes.

 

 

Fallen Beauty or What A Difference A Week Makes

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A week used to feel like “forever”, “forever” ago… As a child or teenager, having to be away from my friends for a week or so seemed like a terribly long separation, the end of which was nowhere in sight. A week apart from an adolescent love felt like cruel and unusual punishment, something that might very well be the end of the world. On the other hand, a one week vacation or trip with my friends and/or boyfriend was heaven, the kind of thing that could keep me going for months before and after.

A week could radically and irreparably alter one’s existence and anyone saying it was nothing, it would go by in an instant, was a fool. I was sure of it.

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Now… a week is nothing. It goes by in an instant. I can put up with many uncomfortable situations for a week – that’s just life. I can go by without seeing someone I love for much longer than a week. In fact, after doing long distance for a few years and getting used to it, a week apart can be a much needed break (shhh, don’t tell anyone I said that). And when it comes to time off, a week flies by unnoticed and even if it’s better than nothing, it’s far from enough.

Then… the world becomes what it is today… pandemic… war nearby… and a week suddenly becomes very relevant again. Of course a person’s life can turn upside down in an instant, not to mention a week, but at this point it’s once more painfully clear what a difference a week makes.

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I was so pleased to see this old tree about to bloom a couple of weeks ago. There was something uplifting about it. Spring and nature had once again provided a reprieve from the maddening everyday life.

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A week and a windstorm later, the sight was less uplifting. The blossom was gorgeous. And the tree was dead.

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Several obvious analogies came to mind while photographing the old tree one last time, generally about how deceiving and unreliable appearances can be. “Rotten to the core” kept popping into my mind, probably because of the week’s events and personal experiences.

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Now, however, going through these photos… all I can think is, what a difference a week makes…

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Have a good weekend, everybody, as good as it can be under the circumstances… Make the best of it! Who knows what windstorm is lurking around the corner…

So We Can Still Be Humane – We Are Not Our Leaders

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A little girl turning 7 gets a surprise birthday party in the refugee camp in Siret, a Romanian border town. In the freezing cold March evening there’s cake, balloons, presents and strangers singing Happy Birthday in English, a language the Ukrainian girl most likely doesn’t understand. But judging by the huge innocent smile on her face, she probably understands the feeling behind it. Hopefully she stops being afraid for an instant. Hopefully she forgets the cruel reality and for a moment, she enjoys her birthday, the way any child should.

Of course, part of it was a PR exercise, considering that a certain Ministry posted the video on their Facebook page. But as far as this one is concerned, I couldn’t care less, not as long as these people get the help and support they need. For all I care, take action and do what needs to be done to help during such a crisis and you can boast about it all you want.

A week ago, when this insanity started, out local authorities and politicians, were – of course – unprepared and taken by surprise, in spite of having claimed, days earlier, that they were ready. But average people and NGOs rallied on the spot, so those fleeing to save their lives received the help they needed and deserved. Supplies were gathered and offered to people needing them; transportation and shelter were also being organised, by the same simple, ordinary people, who managed to get the job done, in spite of lacking proper coordination.

I won’t deny it, I was surprised. The pandemic hasn’t exactly strengthened my faith in human kind in general or in the reaction of my own nation in particular. Fortunately, we didn’t f*** this one up. And by we I mean we, the ordinary people. Days later, the authorities finally started to catch up, in their own way… including politicians having their pictures taken next to piles of supplies in the gathering of which they had no merit. That, however, was no surprise. It was only disgusting and revolting, the way they usually are.

But at least we, the ordinary people, also have the freedom to speak our mind, to scream our rightful indignation to anyone willing to listen or post about it on the social media of our choice, without fear of persecution or retribution of any kind. We – well, most of us – are not our leaders, and we can make that clear.

Of course we, the ordinary people, have our own fucked up individuals too, who won’t fail to try and exploit those in need in order to secure financial gain for themselves. Amidst all those offering help – free help – to people in a desperate situation, there were those taking advantage and charging for their services… Fortunately, it seems that those were sad exceptions and not the rule.

From what I see, hear and read about, ordinary people all over the world share common thoughts and feelings about what Ukraine is going through. This, no doubt, has put pressure on certain mechanisms.

I won’t dwell on politicians and their actions for now… I will say this much, though… I can’t imagine any of our politicians, any of our “leaders” act the way the Ukrainian president is these days. As for our mayor… Ha! He’d probably institute a residential parking fee for tanks right before he flees town with the first private helicopter/plane available… that is, unless some “benevolent” dictator offered him a fortune in exchange for his services under a new regime.

So we can still be humane… let’s hope this lasts and the war does not.

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Business as Usual?…

A somewhat hysterical phone call from my mother woke me up… I was going to sleep in, I didn’t have anything planned for the morning. But the personalized ring tone made me jump out of bed, wide awake – whatever that unexpected call was about, it couldn’t be good. All it took was for me to turn on the TV on a news channel in order to find out what had happened… I could guess what she was trying to express, but I didn’t want to believe it was true, even if – as many others – I was expecting it to happen.

Leave it to my mother to make a war in Ukraine all about her… but somehow her personality flaws were irrelevant at the moment, no matter how annoying I found some of her remarks. I offered reassuring arguments and reasonable thinking, and managed to calm her down. However, I was quite surprised with my calm convincing tone… because I didn’t fully believe my own words.

What’s going on over there, with all of you? That’s what I was repeatedly asked by my mother, now an Italian citizen, living in Italy.

I, on the other hand, live in Romania, in a town on the Black Sea coast. Romania’s border with Ukraine is hundreds of kilometres long, part of it in the East, most of it in the North. Suddenly Odessa, also on the Black Sea coast, feels very close. Romania is a former communist country, but was not part of the USSR. Unlike Ukraine, we are a EU and NATO country; there’s a NATO base only a few kilometres away from my town. So while the war feels mind-numbingly close, there’s also a certain feeling of security. But…

But there’s so much history one cannot forget…

But…

My great-grandmother was born during WWI, my grandmother during WWII. My grandfather was a child during WWII. My great-grandfather was a prisoner of war in WWII. My Italian step-father’s grandfather also fought in WWII. My German step-mother’s parents fled their home in East Germany and moved to the western side not long before the Soviet Occupation. The Revolution in December 1989 (I was a child at the time) which put an end to the communist regime here, was nothing compared to what all those people had been through in WWI and WWII.

History becomes more than just a story confined to boring dusty books when you’ve known some of those people. The possibility of your own lifetime and experience becoming that sort of a page in future history books can be horrifying. The knowledge that people just like you are suddenly living it in the country “next door” in this day and age is at the same time surreal, heart-breaking and enraging.

I won’t deny that I find it difficult to structure my thoughts and feelings. All I can say is, I’m writing this not only to voice my anger, but to acknowledge this dreadful situation, to share my disapproval. I’m a pragmatic person, but it’s difficult to stay that way at the moment. While I can agree that avoiding WWIII is certainly the priority, I can’t help feeling that Ukraine and its people are no more than the sacrificed pawn in much bigger a game. Some of us, living in smaller, less significant EU/NATO countries can’t help wondering, who’s next, in spite of troops being deployed, of Article 5 and of political reassurance. Then we pull ourselves together, go to work, go about our daily life, thankful that we do have something to rely on. Business as usual.

Business as usual?

At the same time, thousands of Ukrainians have already arrived at our borders, some traveling further west, some finding shelter here, others having no idea what’s next for them. Over 10000 in one day… While our authorities are bragging about us being ready to receive refugees, the reality is, of course, different… NGOs and locals from border towns have rallied, trying to offer whatever help they can. A volunteer’s words stayed with me, “Of course I’m helping, it could’ve been us.” It probably would have been us as well, had we not been a NATO and EU country…. Like I said, my ideas aren’t exactly well structured…

A friend of mine was almost crying last night during a video call when we were talking about all the broken families, all the people fleeing their homes. She was applying for a passport for her little boy, just in case, she was telling me… I can’t deny that I have had that conversation too, the one about “what if… what if we’re next… are we leaving, and if so, where…” With family in Italy and Germany, at least there are options. So, even if there’s no reason to panic and pack our bags just yet, the reality cannot be denied. It can’t only be, business as usual…

I went on Twitter yesterday – I was curious, even if I rarely use it. People were still promoting their books, talking sports, posting cat photos; only a few of those I was following were talking about… it. Business as usual.

For some, that’s their livelihood; for some, what’s going on in Ukraine is very far away; for some, this is too harsh a reality to take in; for some, this is probably fake news. I can understand all that; and up to a point, I agree that we need to keep moving on with our lives, grateful that we still can do so. But can we not also find the strength to take a good cold look at reality and perhaps accept that the ramifications are much deeper than what happens to a nation that may or may not be nearby, deeper than what happens to our economies?

Is “business as usual” the best we can do?… I fear the answer to this one.

For now, I’ll leave you with some images of the Black Sea, taken in Romania and Bulgaria during calmer times… right now, holding on to hope for calmer times…

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