Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Façades are such an interesting notion to explore: they offer up so much splendor–especially here in Amsterdam–that it's often all too easy to forget, or ignore, that these thin layers stealthily separate a city's streets from its interiors. My own façade is is being observed, by myself–this will continue. I like knowing what my façade looks like; it helps me to better understand the ways in which it can be perceived. Which only helps me to understand the ways in which I would like it to be perceived. Yet more importantly, as I age, I'm learning that it's what's underneath this façade, the one that I show to others, that matters most. How to convey that, externally? My style sense–and my feeling for fashion–was certainly elevated over the past few years. An act I consciously set into motion, and one that I enjoy having enacted. And so, my façade now has the ability to sparkle, when I'd like it to. More often than not, it merely shines. The degree of my façade's shimmer varies. And not because of my clothes–a superficial signifier only–and instead, because of my smile. I'm wearing my smile quite often these days, as I flit about the city and bask in its slow yet deeply satisfying march toward spring. Fashion really is about feeling, which circles back around to transform into attitude. My attitude, both in chic clothes and out, is changing. It has been for some time. What attitude?: the one the I posses toward myself, toward others, and toward my relationship with the universe and its infinite opportunities to connect. I'm listening to my heart and my head–aware of when one overshadows the other. What I'm learning is that I don't need to define an identity, in any way; everything is in a constant state of flux and flow, myself included–so should I crystalize? Similar to an elaborately ornate façade, whose appearance subtly changes over time–in accordance with age and the wear and tear of the weather, due to the budget and desires of its owners, and because of the changing aesthetic ideals of any given epoch–I'm reassessing and rebuilding my own façade, those of ex- and interior, through modes that leave the outcome impossible to now be seen.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Friday, April 25, 2014

Forever Spring:

‘There is no such thing as a Forever Garden. Be brave. Nurture fortitude. It is only in the act of creating, in the endless planting and feeding and watering, in the living and dying and living again that forever may be found.’

Dominique Browning, Slow Love (2011), pp. 229

The memoir that this epigram is plucked from I’ve read no less than four times–as it never ceases to delight me. As does the entire book. With each rereading, new sentences, words, and ideas that didn’t resonate with me the first time around, further spring from the pages, up and into my consciousness. My eyes, when directed, will become transfixed by the serif font that this book is set within, mulling over each page with an appetite that’s hungry for laughs that pack a punch happiness. This book makes me smile; it unfolds in a soothing rhythm, while it muses about the everyday, which it occasionally counterbalances with the profound.

My own life, which, at this moment, is also deeply engaged with my own garden, has been somewhat less insightful these past few months. Perhaps that’s why the pace of my writing has slipped. I’m in a state of confusion, that’s positive in the best possible way. Lately, rather than focussing my energy inward–something that I’m quite an expert at; what can I say, introversion is my thing–I’ve recently reversed my personality so that extroversion carries me throughout each of my days. Much of my time, like everyone else’s, is spent within my own mind; imagining, contemplating, assessing, dreaming.

I have an active fantasy life that’s overtly imaginative. I’d compare it to the theatrics of a musical–why shouldn’t life be a singing-dancing production, with people punctually stopping their every action to break out in coordinated song and dance? Life would be much more fun were that more often the case.

Perhaps that’s what I’m attempting to express: the musicals, so to speak, that constitute my own psychological swirl of thoughts, emotions, and ideas–I’m more often now sharing with others. I’m finding comfort in being part of groups, rather than resorting to an oh-so familiar solo-status. Again, what can I say–I like to be alone. Yet I’m learning that I don’t like to be alone always. My head is often so in the clouds that I must remind myself to engage with those around me. Whenever one human separates from a group of others–disengagement has occurred; the perceived experience of the other by those still huddled becomes that of disconnection. Ties have been severed, however momentarily. And so, with that said, I can also say that I’m now aware of myself more than ever. But am I engaged? Am I present? And in what ways does my energy mesh and merge with that of the others around me?

As I grow, I’m beginning to be able to see beyond the right now; a task that I’ve always immensely enjoyed–future tripping, that is. But suddenly it’s as if I’m able to see further; able to gain more ground; and able to see farther into my future than I ever have before.

The actions that I set into motion last December have so far served me well during this new, even-number-ending year. Yet a year is only a year; its number a human creation, yet the year itself not. With each passing year in the Netherlands–real or imaginary–my eyes see new aspects of life that I previously overlooked, or was unable to see because I was, for instance, too focussed on seeing only what I wanted to within my field of vision. That happens when moving to a new country, alone, at the age of 22. But I’m no longer that young, and yet I am not yet aging, in any way, at a profound or accelerated rate. In this moment in time–the present–I am whole, I am conscious, and the spirit within me is beautiful–if only for the sole reason that it’s me–my spirit is forever and my body ephemeral; both engaged with the world around around me, the former in ways mostly unseen.

And so as the seasons slip, and the world turns toward spring on the continent of Europe, I can’t help but step back from my life, and marvel at it in delight. Never did I ever imagine that my feet would be wandering around this most ancient tract of land on this oh-so precious Earth. I’ve begun to be able to see Europe for what it is and what it isn’t, rather than seeing within it only what I wish to see. My projections have diminished, as have my projections of myself into other places or people, as my true self continues to emerge with a newfound freedom of spirit that makes every step I take, during each successive day, just a bit more pronounced. As the sun strengthens, my spirit is softening; my speech being weeded of aggression, anger, and any–now faint–traces of past resentment.

I’m becoming braver–a characteristic that I had for many years intuitively presumed to already be present. And it was. But its status has been–looking back while looking forward–accelerated over the past few years because of the ways in which my life has unfolded here in Amsterdam. I grew up over these past six years–profoundly–I can see that now.

And so I’m nurturing fortitude–breaking off from sedentary groups in order to osmose with those that gesticulate. I'm losing myself within the act of creating–an action that never ends. I’m pausing long enough to take delight in small healing moments–and letting them be very healing. Perhaps, just like my garden and its non-forever status, my life will also never be complete; like my garden, it occasionally will need to be refreshed, enlivened, loved. There will always be endless questioning, as I age.

My garden grows greener as Amsterdam leans toward spring. And I'm growing older alongside my garden. Each planting, feeding, and watering further draws my attention to the sun, and the moon, and the rotation of the Earth. It's beneath the welkin that I can feel–and feeling is oh so very important–that I am only a small spec within this wondrously complex treasure of a world. A romanticism for the natural world has overcome me; it's not that I'm not in awe of nature, I'm in awe of my connection to it.

As spring continues its emergence, so too do I.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Wisps of Wisteria, in the Plantage:

As spring continues its annual emergence, the vegetation that adorns Amsterdam is once again revealing its true colors. Draping down from balconies and nearby trees–from a height laboriously climbed over many years–is the wisteria of this city. Wisps of white and purple flowers front backdrops of golden yellows and greens. As April dwindles and May nears, the vibrancy of these colors strengthens. Amsterdam is, after months of dormancy, coming back into full bloom.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Naturally Transitioning Transparency:

The last of the trees outside are unfurling their leaves, as Amsterdam’s daylight hours have gradually increased over the past month. And it will continue to do so until around the end of September, or so. The seasons are changing; the sun staying up longer; the blue sky above filled with its gorgeous piles of spectacular sunlight-reflecting cumulous clouds. They radiate a brilliance composed of deep hues of persimmon and maroon, streaks of orange and gold. The trees of the city are all in different states. Where there is sunlight, there are blossoms. Where the sunlight stays for only a few hours of each day–as is often the case these days–the trees have no leaves yet; their deprivation of light caused by a row of townhouses, for instance, each massive–at least five stories tall. And thus some streets of the city are lined with luscious trees along one side, while its opposite edge might be barren–that’s just how the spring season seems to work in this city. It's slow; days are often still cold, the sky blanketed in a thick gray that never breaks, leaving no chance for a peek of a blue sky, or a ray of sun. Amsterdam can often be somber. And these days, though not few, balances out those during which the city shines–six months of this, six months of that.

Some of the most beautiful moments that I'll observe, and often stop to revel within–and let be very healing–is the idea that only for the next few weeks, will the front façades of Amsterdam’s oh-so-charming architecture be visible. It's a beautiful idea; naturally transitioning transparency. Once all of the city’s trees are at the height of their annual growth apex–which will occur so rapidly and so soon–the houses that align this city’s majestic seventeenth century ring-canals, (whose gables represent some of the finest in the city) will no longer be so readily seen. And as spring begins to accelerate in Amsterdam, so too are its citizens, its parks, and its foliage; Amsterdam is alive with movement once again, as people flit about, their woolen-winter jackets tucked away for most days as the flowers, literally, begin to bloom. At the height of the transfer of spring to summer, a private-silence often falls over the city, its houses now hidden. The silence is most often only interjected by the sounds of laughter, bicycle bells, and music wafting up from stereos on the boats passing by on canals below–their passengers merrily inhaling a visual splendor: a gloriously enchanting backdrop that is Amsterdam’s 400 year old canals. Amsterdam’s gray days are morphing into those filled only with sun. As the world turns, its sunlight strengthens; I’m happy for this, as are all of the plants that I so lovingly nurtured through winter in the garden on my balcony. Spring has arrived.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

On the Streets of Prague:

Walking through the streets of Prague: a city whose wealth, power, and glory has all but risen and faded; the baroque façades and rooflines adorning its sumptuously ornate buildings find their roots in the eighteenth century; a time in which Amsterdam's fortunes subsided, while the those of kingdoms and territories in Central Europe, soared; soaring are the undulating silhouettes that form the borders of each of the city's grandiose buildings; mediaeval church towers abut expansive cobblestoned squares; pastel hued gables rightfully align, standing at astute attention even centuries after their genesis; spring's foliage was only beginning to unfurl–the city's streets canopied by their presence; the Charles Bridge, completed at the beginning of the fifteenth century, straddles the river Vltava, allowing the Lesser Town to fluidly interact with the Old Town, at the river's opposite edge; the bridge is adorned by no less than 30 baroque statues, whose full allegories and intentions are now only a faint memory, known only to their makers. Prague's enigma is its enchantment.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Villa Müller, in Prague, the Czech Republic:

I’m in Prague at the moment, and to my delight, the birds are chirping. They were chirping when I awoke this morning, too. There is something to be said about cities that straddle waterways–those on along rivers–as opposed those situated on oceans. Luckily, while here, I’ve been able to visit a treasured villa on the western edge of the city, which I’ve wanted to experience since I first knew of its existence: Villa Mülller, by the luminous Adolf Loos.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spring in Amsterdam:

Spring has officially arrived in Amsterdam, and what a welcome sight. The time change occurred this past weekend, and because of that, suddenly, when I wake up, there is light. And when I'm ready for bed, there is still light. Daylight really does have an impact on health and wellness; I can attest because I'm happier once the sun makes its annual return to Northern Europe–the city is always much cuter for it. Running through the city in the mornings, every other day, around 7:30 or so, has really brought some spectacular sunrises into my frame of sight. The ways in which the sun–that fierce and fiery orange-red ball–streaks the sky as it climbs toward its peak, is stunning; compounded by the soft sunlight of spring. As Amsterdam is quite far north on the globe, the angle from which I see the sun, is delicious. It makes the light that spills over the city each morning innocuously soft, yet also very direct. Spectacular are these sunrises. And because I'm streaking through the city–running–when they occur, they're even more enchanting because I'm moving as the sun moves too; we're in tandem. Spring has a way of invoking an almost magical transformation of character within this city's citizens; its arrival makes everyone happier. Scarves are now unraveled, winter-jackets are giving way to those of a lighter tone, and, this past weekend, I saw countless others in shorts and flip-flops: myself included. Now that the sun has returned I've made it a point to come out of my self-induced hibernation. I've been reading often lately, devouring essays and articles, books and digital publications. This is an ongoing process that will not quickly unfurl, hibernation that is; I've been nesting and cocooning since January; accumulating books and clothes, yet also knowledge that will be useful for my year ahead–which in my mind, hasn't even started. This year ahead will be about expansion for me, and I know this because I've set that action, into action; I'm excited. Yet until my expanse-enhancing journey fully takes flight, there is still much to experience, much to complete, and much to decide upon before going further. Amsterdam is my home, and I know that now. It feels like home; and feeling is oh so important. As the sun returns it would seem as if my thoughts are clarifying and my heart is once again communicating with my head. These two entities of mine seem to have at times been disconnected for much of this year. Floating forward with freedom of thought, simplification of my desires and needs, and ample amounts of sun, I welcome spring.