Friday, January 31, 2014

Three Olive Trees:

Three olive trees currently sit on my balcony, waiting for winter to soon be over. Their branches are sturdy; their leaves a deep hued green. Their tiny bodies need my nurturing, but that I can only do once the sunshine returns–when their bodies are again able to withstand pruning, so that they remain as healthy as possible. These tiny branches are only a piece of the souls of these three olive trees. Their bodies are their trunks, leaves, and branches. They too, will one day die. All three. I know that one day my own body will fail me; but that day is not today. I know that one day I won’t be able to gesticulate so fluidly; be able to float about so freely. But that day is also not today. And so until that day is here, I’ve recently decided, I will take care of my body as if it were sacred; very few things in my life are sacred. My body and I have never been very close friends, though we know one another intimately. Luckily this body of mine is in shape, young, and quite handsome–if I may say so myself. Self confidence I do not lack. Yet it is so insightful, when self confidence is mistakenly perceived as arrogance. As I grow, the lines in my forehead become more pronounced, my hands no longer look like the soft supple hands that I once knew during my childhood–when consciously aware of these situations, I am able to literally see the ways in which I have grown. Which is wonderful. All my life I have wanted to be ‘grown’, older, wiser, known by my contemporaries and yet stronger suited toward those older. My body and I have become one, recently–though it has been and will continue to be, a learning process of affection and desire. I’ve accepted that my body is mine, and that it needs me, as I need it. Yet until we depart ways upon my death–whenever that may be, I must maintain it; run it; feed it properly; bathe it; transport it; love it. And that’s the thing: my body is finite and yet my soul is not. The former Queen Wilhemina stated that, ’…earthly death [is] the beginning of eternal life.’ And as I grow older, I begin to think more and more each day, that she is right. There is nothing to fear; nothing to be shameful for; nothing to discourage me from waking each and every day, to begin with a new adventure. Free from the repetition of life; free from the constraints of any human emanated situations of stress; free from bodily limitations. And yet my body and I need one another to function today, tomorrow, and those still thereafter. While I may live forever, my body will not. And yet with each passing year I begin to understand the intimate inter-workings of our relationships: which nutrients and energy sources my body tolerates, anticipates, and requests; how much pressure to excerpt and how much to retain; with whom to be socially engaged and with whom not; when to barrel forward, and when to fall back. Each day anew here in Amsterdam is a fresh beginning; a new start. Certainly now that the January sun has disappeared and the February days of darkness have arrived–a new moon is even on the horizon tonight. The three olive trees currently sitting on my balcony eagerly anticipate spring. As they grow, so do I.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Undiscovered Amsterdam Oost:

Today–amidst gray skies, endless blankets of clouds, and low and stifled mid-winter sun–I cycled throughout Amsterdam Oost, which is the eastern side of this city. I meandered down streets and along bodies of water that I had previously only seen, yet had never before visited, on foot. I am astonished that I had previously never cycled down these streets–defined as those that compose Windrooskade–even though they are so near. They are tucked away off Amsterdam’s main paths of human circulation–train, bike, foot, and car–throughout this portion of the city. Industrial areas sprinkled with graffiti meet buildings designed and constructed in the 1980s; bright-and-bold dashes of color abut century old brick; waterside buildings have been retrofitted to house chic meeting-place cafés; gentrified streets connect it all.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dutch Art:

Today I cycled to the Rijksmuseum–which translates to 'state museum'. It contains a collection of magnificent art that traces the national narrative of the Netherlands. That I am able to glide through its halls during my daily swirls of activity excites me–quite a bit. The museum is powerful; the branding and signage of its visual language composed by Irma Boom; and the building itself now meticulously restored, after about a decade of closure that ended in 2013. Many aspects of seventeenth century Dutch still life paintings delight me; they send copious amounts of fluttering and magical butterflies up and throughout my soul. The said paintings are so often composed of overflowing bowls of fruits, timepieces, and sometimes even snails and other such critters–all often situated around, within, or alongside bountiful bouquets of exotic flowers that radiate their vivid hues across the canvases that they occupy. Dutch art, when viewed through the lens of European history, is fascinating. And the hinge that binds it to the Renaissance amplifies its intensity and importance; it propagated those ideals throughout Northern Europe during the early phases of the Little Ice Age. Paintings, fashion, porcelain, model ships...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Soestdijk Palace in Baarn, the Netherlands:

Situated in the municipality of Baarn, Soestdijk Palace was originally constructed in 1650, in some form, and was last inhabited by Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard; the previous monarch before Princess Beatrix, and her son, the reigning King Willem Alexander. Opened to the public in the early 2000s, the palace now sits empty on the edge of woods, which shielded its backside from prying eyes during its days of formal use. Its rear gardens, formerly hidden, are now public gardens; the estate now property of the state. I spent Saturday strolling through these woods, with Amanda, and her fluffy friend–Mylo–who wasn't permitted to enter these rear gardens. Soestdijk Palace=dog unfriendly, but totally adorable and–dare I say it–cute.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Winter in London, United Kingdom:

Having lived in Western Europe for about seven years, it's almost unfathomable that I had never visited the United Kingdom, and thus London, until this past December. Especially considering that it is one of the few places in Europe where the local population natively speaks English. What's even more bewildering is that London is not far from Amsterdam–at all. The flight from Amsterdam to the British Isles, was only about 45 minutes in total. So quick. Yet upon landing, and upon exiting the airport and heading toward London–the landscape seemed surprisingly familiar: trees hang heavy, their branches filled with the weight of so much water, which constantly surrounds their roots–Britain is just soggy as the Netherlands, when it comes to water. And most shrubs and flowers dotting the city and countryside can also be found in the Netherlands. However, London is not Amsterdam. The city's streets were alive with holiday cheer, and tourists and locals alike paraded down the city's sidewalks; some of those sidewalks saw stylish pedestrians passing over their pavements; while other city districts were still on their way to gentrification, and so the inhabitants' style was quite different. I enjoyed strolls through, and actively sought out, areas of the city that were still 'finding their way through the fog'–such as Bethnal Green. London is diverse, fully of energy, an everyone speaks–and all signs are written in–English. Yet the English language spoken in the UK's capital differs drastically from 'Continental English'–let's call it–and that of the English spoken in North America. I was delighted to speak Dutch upon returning to Amsterdam; visiting the British Isles made me realize how integrated into Dutch culture I truly am. I should never forget that I am a Dutch speaker, and that I am bilingual, these days. How fun. London: a confluence of ideas and cultures, and a much welcomed changed from those countries of the continent.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Isn't that the amazing thing about houses?:

'Days later… I told a friend, skilled in the art of fung shui, how overwhelmed I had felt by not being able to handle yet another thing gone wrong in my house. "It never ends," I complain. "It seems like constant breakdown."'

'Yes,' he agreed. 'Isn't that the amazing thing about houses? They're so alive.'

–Dominique Browning, Around the House and in the Garden, (2002), pp. 125

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Wednesday, January 8, 2014