Winter child

(Lyrics to an unfinished work for voices)

Winter Child

Dah, dah, dah
Muse, muse, music
Liss, liss, listen
Win, win, winter

Darkness, light
In the beginning

Let there be light

Midwinter, midwife, virgin
Chilly winter night

Bells ringing

Star is shining
all night long

Angels singing
Gloria, gloria, gloria

Logos, the Word, a child
In the beginning

A Winter child
in the world was born

from Word to World

Christ is born tonight
from eternity into time

(copyright: Maria Ljungdahl (Sweden) 2006)

New poem


There is a moment every year
on the night before Christmas Eve –
after I have written and sent the last message
to the distant, the remembered, not present,
and the last Christmas cards have arrived.
I have finished the rounds,
to give and collect the presents.

There is a moment of emptiness, then –
as I look at the mess in the kitchen,
after I have sent that most heartfelt greeting
out in the cold, to faraway homes –
when I have no more reason to post anything online,
and I close the door for all except the close family
until the holy day has passed,
and I allow myself to wonder:
how are they? has anything changed?
will they remember me?

where, and when, and why –
and who – have we been, these few days?

If I happen to make it in time –
the time for candles and carols, for food and gifts –
this is how it will be on Christmas Eve:

There will be a clean table in the kitchen,
with a clean, mangled linen cloth,
red, blue, white or natural in colour,
and on the blue sideboard –
clad in bright red cotton print
with tiny flowers, fir and pear trees,
partridges, deer and holly,
I have put the holiday plates and bowls,
the gaudy, gold-rimmed Santa set of china.

The living-room is guarded by a glimmering fake fir,
which is guarded by a black and lively cat,
whom I have to watch,
so he won’t climb and fell the fir tree,
or try to bite the lights –
or pick a fight with all the lovely garlands!

In many windows are electric Advent lights,
but in the garden, I think nothing here will shine at all.
Of course the neighbours have those garden chains
with tiny lamps in every bush and tree,
and welcome many relatives and friends
with flaming fire and guiding torches in the snow.
I think my visitors will be very few this year…

So maybe I will have a few spare moments;
a minute, or an hour – maybe two,
when I will think of you, and wonder –
without the stress and noise
from some conflicting modes of celebration,
without confusion, and quite sane
but with some little sadness left
from such uncertainty and weakness that I sense –
well, hear my thoughts:
what do you want? what do you need?
what did you hope for,
and what did you get this year?

To write these things down gave me guilty feelings.
Why count just what one gets? Why ask about it?
Is this in fact my own sad point of view: what can I gain?

Surely we are told, that Christmas means to give?
Should I then preach unselfishness to you instead,
as if you are like a little selfish child
who takes the right to love and property for granted
and does not see what others need?

Is it more appropriate to ask:
what did you do for others, now, this very year?
did you give out in abundance; offered freely?
did you give them anything at all –
the poor, the hungry, prisoners, and patients?

No! As I trust you, and your love for others,
I must never ask if you have done enough.
Yes! Sure. You give. You give for nothing.
And so do I. We do. It is called love.

Love is not a business with a binding contract,
not a competition with fair rules,
and not a fun game with one single winner.

Love is not an art, or an abstraction –
it is just the best that we can do!

Merry Christmas – to all of you!

4 December 2006.
Maria Ljungdahl.

Paintings (länkar till Marias målningar)

I have decided to put links to all my finished paintings and other pictures (and a couple of quilts) in the same message, so they will be easier to find again.

Här finns länkar till alla de sidor där mina färdiga (eller nästan färdiga) målningar och andra bilder (och några lapptäcken) presenteras.

My Way (Motiv från Eckerö)
Arbetsrum (studio)
Work-in-progress (styrman)
Quilt (lapptäcke)
Tango: Orfeus & Ofelia
Portrait (Motiv från ytterskärgården)


When I am not reading the newspaper, other music blogs, music discussions or web pages I have looked up to understand something, while listening to Beethoven’s Ninth or some songs by Steely Dan or a cd with Anne Sofie von Otter, I am sometimes writing arrangements of Christmas music, looking at music composed by my friends, or reading a page or two of serious fiction or theory, but when I am not doing this – or watching the snow that fell yesterday – I have these paintings to work on. The Red Road is almost finished now. The abstract maritime landscape with the beams of light is just a sketch to a larger painting I will make some day. The simplified little copy of Enguerrand Charonton’s The Coronation of Mary (original from 1454) is what it is – a naive exercise. Here is a detail of the original:

Rilke translations: autumn poem 2


Herr, es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren lass die Winde los.

Befiehl den letzten Früchten, voll zu sein;
gib ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin, und jage
die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

Autumn Day

Lord: now is the day. Great were the summer hours.
Let all your shadows veil the sundial flowers,
and on the fields let all the winds blow free.

Command these last fruits to be full and ripe;
just grant the juice two days more on the south side.
To push the wine’s perfection you will hurry
the last sweet taste into the heavy grapes.

Those who are homeless will not build a house now.
Those who are lonely will not find a partner,
will sleepless wait, will read, write lengthy letters
and aimless walk the avenues and alleys,
impatient, restless, as the drifting leaves there.



Gud: nu är tid. Vår sommar räckte långt.
Låt dina skuggor skymma solurstiden,
och över bördig jord släpp stormen lös.

Befall de sista frukterna att mogna;
men ge dem ett par dagar till i solen,
en uppmaning att fulländas, du hetsar
så fram den sista sötmans tunga vin.

Är någon hemlös, skall han så förbli.
Är han allena, kommer det att vara.
Han vakar, läser, skriver brev på brev
och vankar i alléerna bland löven
så oroligt och planlöst som de far.

German original texts: Rainer Maria Rilke
Swedish and English interpretations: MaLj 2006

updated 12 November 2009: I just found the site with discussions of several versions in English.

Rilke translations: autumn poem 1


Die Blätter fallen, fallen wie von weit,
als welkten in den Himmeln ferne Gärten;
sie fallen mit verneinender Gebärde.

Und in den Nächten fällt die schwere Erde
aus allen Sternen in die Einsamkeit.

Wir alle fallen. Diese Hand da fällt.
Und sieh dir andre an: es ist in allen.

Und doch ist Einer, welcher dieses Fallen
unendlich sanft in seinen Händen hält.


The foliage falling drops as from afar,
as if some heavenly garden drops its foliage;
is falling slowly, with denying gestures.

And nightly hours falls the lonely Gaia
her heavy body drops down from the stars.

We are all falling. See, this hand will drop.
And watch the other one: this is in all things.

But still there is someone, who can hold the falling
and in his tender hands the fall will stop.


Nu löven singlar, singlar som från skyn,
likt himmelska planteringar förvissnar;
de faller med förnekande små gester.

Och under natten faller tunga jorden
ur stjärnehimlen i sin ensamhet.

Vi alla faller. Så faller denna hand.
Och se den andra här: det gäller alla.

Och ändå finns det en, som allt i detta fallet
oändligt ömt i sina händer bär.

German original texts: Rainer Maria Rilke
Swedish and English interpretations: MaLj 2006

Science and Human Values

“The discoveries of science, the works of art are explorations – more, are explosions, of a certain hidden likeness. The discoverer or the artist presents in them two aspects of nature and fuses them into one. This is the act of creation, in which an original thought is born, and it is the same act in original science and original art. But it is not therefore the monopoly of the man who wrote the poem or who made the discovery. On the contrary, I believe this view of the creative act to be right because it alone gives a meaning to the act of appreciation. The poem or the discovery exists in two moments of vision: the moment of appreciation as much as that of creation; for the appreciator must see the movement, wake to the echo which was started in the creation of the work.”

– Jacob Bronowski (1958)


“Most people shy at the very word “abstraction.” It suggests to them the incomprehensible, misleading, difficult, the great intellectual void of empty words. But as a matter of fact, abstract thinking is the quickest and most powerful kind of thinking, as even an elementary study of symbolic logic tends to show. The reason people are afraid of abstraction is simply that they do not know how to handle it. They have not learned to make correct abstractions, and therefore become lost among the empty forms, or worse yet, among the mere words for such forms, which they call “empty words” with an air of disgust. It is not the fault of abstraction that few people can really think abstractly, any more than it is the fault of mathematics that not many people are good mathematicians.”

– Susanne K Langer: An introduction to symbolic logic, Third edition. Chapter I: The study of forms, p 34. Dover, New York 1967.

End of summer 2006

Groucho is here seen arriving at “her” (his?) winter season home: the parking lot called the Twig Meadow, near the little horse stable at the outskirts of the village.