Nothing happens these days. Like, nothing nothing.

A lot happens at work but that's the only thing I don't want to talk about. Other than that, it's so quiet it's getting spooky. I sort of glide from one day to the next, wondering how long this monotony will continue. In a sense I don't really mind. I'm the type who can easily put up with routine, I think 10 years in academia taught me that well enough - studying is mostly a dull monotonous work. Nothing glamorous. Even cum laude on the diploma doesn't make it more glamorous, contrary to what people might think. I should know. So unglamorous monotony is an old friend, we know each other well. Only on rare moments, late in the evening when I'm reading a book or listening to music or thinking about my people, I suddenly feel a rush of abstract fear, thinking, "Oh my, here I am, while the life is passing me by", not even knowing exactly what it is that passes me by or what I should do to grab it. Or whether this vague "life" is even something worth my running after and grabbing it.

Maybe I'm slightly autistic, go figure. I like when things are being done the way they always have. There's certain security in routine and familiarity. On my days off, I go to the same Indian restaurant and sit in the same corner by the window and read a book, and I love it. (As to the book, it was Knut Hamsun the last time - the book changes, the restaurant doesn't.) In the evenings, I like to go to gym to the same training and have the same trainer there. I like seeing the familiar face, and it makes me childishly giddy to be able to listen to familiar music and throw out all my work worries - which are numerous - for an hour. I keep listening to the same music. I keep thinking about the same people.

I almost broke out of the routine, having planned a trip to the UK in November. The recording time for the Biblios program was being negotiated, the service request for my preaching was already sent out. But then right before I was to book my tickets I remembered there's a concert in Tallinn I really need to attend in mid November, and that killed my plans. The concert, by the way, is my dad's. I need to be there for all the reasons in the world. So there is no UK for me this year, hopefully I'll make that trip after the New Year.    

On the other hand, it is so easy to see those times, those "nothing nothing happens" times as boring or even irrelevant. I'm so often living in some parallel reality in my head, either in the future or in the past. It's easy to be present when there's a lot of action and when adrenaline is running and you get to do something really exciting. But at times when nothing really happens I always have the temptation to disregard the present as worthless and go to some other time and other place in my mind. It's a good thing I happen to read a book right now where the author talks about the infinite value of the present moment. Frederick Buechner says: "Morning, afternoon, evening - the hours of the day, of any day, of your day and my day. The alphabet of grace. If there is a God who speaks anywhere, surely he speaks here: through waking up and working, through going going away and coming back again, through people you meet and books you read, through falling asleep in the dark." 

So it's a good excercise. To learn to appreciate such "nothing nothing" times. I try my best.


I shook hands with Arvo Pärt on Friday.

Let me try to put it in a context for you.

Arvo Pärt is an extraordinary composer. A genius. By statistics that is being collected by classical music event database, Bachtrack, A. P. is the world's most performed living composer for the sixth year in a row. I don't know how it's possible. And I don't know how you could beat that. The world's concert halls are full of his music. No, the world is full of his music. It was not long ago when I was watching a random Hollywood movie on a bus and just in the middle of the movie I hear one of his pieces on the soundtrack. He has received a number of honorary degrees from universities around the world, just last year he received one from Oxford University. He's absolutely incredible.

For Estonians, he is a national treasure.

Every year around the time of his birthday there's a music festival in Tallinn where his pieces are being played and sung. This year's festival started last week and culminates today, on his birthday (he turns 82 today). I decided to go and attend one of these concerts. So on Friday evening I went up to the Old Town and sat on a bench in front of the church where this concert was to take place, and as I was a little early and was waiting for a friend to arrive with our tickets, I saw a taxi pulling up to the church, and who came out... It was Arvo Pärt together with his wife Nora. I sat there, staring at him, and my heart started beating as if I was a teenager who had just seen Justin Bieber (sorry, that was a cheap comparison). There was this whoooosh-sound going through the crowd that were waiting to get inside the church. It's Arvo Pärt, it's Arvo Pärt, people whispered.

Once we got in the church, we were looking for seats as close to the musicians as possible and when we had found them I realised Arvo and Nora Pärt were basically sitting in front of us. And I thought, this might be the only time I see him. I've got to go and speak to him. So I did. He stood in the aisle so I picked up all my courage and I approached him and said, "Mister Pärt, may I say something to you?"

What I said I didn't come up with on the spot. Actually, I've known for a long time what I would want to say to him, should I ever meet him. So I knew exactly. I said, "Sir, I wanted to thank you for your music. A couple of years ago when my mother died, I was unable to listen to music for some time. It was as if the world went dark and silent. And it was your music that was the first thing I could listen to again. It was your music that brought me back to the land of the living." And he just stood there, the most talented and humble man I've ever seen, and his eyes shone brightly. I could tell he was happy. And I was getting a little emotional too because it meant a world to me to be able to tell him this. So we spoke for a while - it was a rather awkward converstaion as he's not a very social person (which I already knew as I've watched several documentaries about his life) -, he asked me who I was and what I did, sounding genuinely interested, and in the end he wished me every blessing and he reached out his hand and shook mine. His hand was warm, as warm as his smile.

I sat there afterwards and listened to his Stabat Mater and Estonian Lullaby and one more of his pieces which I hadn't heard before, and I thought to myself: I could die in peace now.

Actually, no. There are two people I've desperately wanted to meet in my life. One was Arvo Pärt. That's done now. The other is my favourite writer, Frederick Buechner. But he's 91 and lives in the USA so the chances aren't good.

But even if I don't meet him, that's alright. I'll find him, once we're on the other side of Jordan. So it doesn't matter. All is well.

Happiest of birthdays, Arvo Pärt! Your music has changed lives. Mine, anyway.


The autumn has arrived and this time it's here to stay.

I don't mind at all.

I've never enjoyed autumns as in this part of the world they mean endless darkness and rain. But this year it's different and I can't quite figure out why. It might have to do with the fact that this spring was so terribly bad that every season which takes me further away from the spring is a gift and a relief. I don't know. But I really enjoy watching the leaves turn yellow, the rain, and the shortening of days. There is something soothing and calming about it.

The work rhythm is back to normal now which means endless meetings and piling obligations. There are executive board meetings and administrative committee meetings and departmental leaders meetings and meetings and meetings. Seminars to organise, materials to translate, lectures to prepare, sermons to preach, videos to shoot. Everyone's back to the office and everything's moving at top speed. If I manage to come out of this madness next spring without another burnout, I deserve a gold medal. Phew.

I had a thourough chech-up at the eye clinic this morning and the news wasn't good. It's a month now since the surgery and something in my eyes is not recovering as it should. I didn't understand everything they told me but I think it has to do with the lense in my eye not wanting to change its shape. Which, apparently, it should want to do. So the process which for some people takes literally four days has taken me four weeks and I'm still not there yet. They still smile and tell me to be patient but I was quite shaken when I left the clinic today. But as I have a day off today (because I've just been to Riga again and a day that starts at 5.30 a.m. and finishes at 11 p.m. does require a day of catching one's breath afterward) I decided the best I could do was to go to my favourite Indian restaurant and drown my worry into - or rather bury it under - a mountain of Indian food. It worked. And the fact that this restaurant has the coolest and best looking waiter in town also helped. I had a little chat with him and left, feeling much more optimistic. I also finished a book, sitting in the restaurant (being single and going out means usually a company of a good book) and when I thought that I have been able to finish two books and have had four gym evenings this past 1,5 weeks, then things could be much worse. Things are getting better, not just as fast and smoothly as I expected.

As to these two books, I've come back to Europe. I've read one by Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad and another by French historian Jean-Pierre Minaudier. The latter author has a strange hobby of collecting grammar books of different languages so the whole book - I'd translate the title as The Glory of Grammar - talks about how brilliant and weird different languages are. One might think it's a dusty and boring book but it actually is wonderfully witty and engaging. It reminded me again why I fell in love with linguistics in the first place. I have a feeling this one goes straight to my Top 5 list of books this year.

It looks like my neighbors have also settled into the autumn/winter life rhythm. Because I didn't see them much over the summer but now they're definitely back - the school year started last week. There's a lady and her teenage son - around 17 I would guess - living upstairs. Now, there isn't much of a sound isolation between two storeys so in the evenings, when I'm really quiet and pay attention, I can hear the music that the guy is listening to upstairs. He seems to have his room right above my bedroom. Poor isolation plus a teenager upstairs could be receipt of a disaster. But in this case it isn't and it still makes me wonder. I mean, he listens to Norah Jones and Sting, of all people! When we meet in the hallway, which barely ever happens, he always greets me most politely ("Be sure to be nice to elderly people," I'm sure that what's his mother has taught him) and when we happen to bump into each other at the front door, he always tells me he will lock the door himself and that I don't have to bother. I didn't know teenagers like this existed any more! So here's to autumn and to my lovely neighbors: Norah Jones, Carry On.

I have only one problem with this autumn. I don't have an umbrella big enough.


Some days feel like a desert and taste like sand.