Monday, June 30, 2014

Friday, June 27, 2014

Before It's Gone:

The older I become, the more connected I realize that I truly am: to both the Earth as well as to others. Over the past week, many events have happened within my life that have enabled me to 'touch' those untouched by me before; those who I had not previously connected with. New people keep piling into my life, and I like new people; they are my 'weak ties': friends of friends, and their friends. The new needs friends. This packet of people, is full of my people; they are my future. I have not been able to see around the corners of my life–metaphorically speaking, here–for some time now. In fact, I've never been able to see what's just around the corner. But I've always known what I would like to see around corners–quite clearly, too. This morning I had breakfast with Amanda; an always welcomed affair. She made me realize that I am, indeed, pushing my life into the direction I would like to go, toward who I think I'd like to be next… Except I've had copious amounts of time to think my current life situation through, so it's no longer a matter of thinking who I would like to be next–I'm certain of my future shape. Molding myself into that shape will be an elongated process, and luckily the Rijksmuseum has so readily offered to facilitate this process, so far. Rather than looking toward the future, I'm enjoying the right now. And the arrival of summer. As Dominique Browning so often reminds me, with a sentence from her memoir, that I often recite to myself whenever my mind begins to stray: '…it's about knowing what you've got, before it's gone.'

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Rijksmuseum Research Library:

Tucked deep away within the Rijksmuseum is its very own Research Library; a gorgeous relic from the nineteenth century that's since been restored for the erudition of all. Wrought iron and wood are abound within its confines, and sunlight streams through the windows high above the reading room below. When meandering through the museum, this library is often overlooked by visitors. Those who do take the time to appreciate this eccentric splendor from a century now past are presented with a transcending spiral staircase in the corner–which winds its way up toward all levels of the book stacks, themselves overflowing with invaluable information on the world's art, carefully cultivated throughout the ages.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

New Perspectives:

The familiar is present within my life in Amsterdam. And yet I must remember to remind myself that the familiar, now, was once not. Life is all about perspective, and the ways in which one chooses to perceive. There are some days, such as today, when something within the city's air transports me back to my first few weeks in Amsterdam, six years ago. Hopelessly lost deep within this city, in every possible sense of the word, I was determined at that time to make it mine. With a knowledge of about, oh, two words of Dutch, a bike that had seen better days, and a new wardrobe that I had only a few weeks before purchased in the USA (whose efficacy in buttressing my transfiguration into a full-fledged European upon arrival I never questioned), I arrived. That wardrobe was supposed to, in my mind, allow me to blend in while still not truly belonging to this new place I chose to call my new home; it wrapped me with a chameleon-like skin, which allowed me to adapt to the social situations of varying intensity that I was then immersing myself within. It was perplexing, confusing, exciting, unfamiliar, and (as this blog has allowed me to capture) full of ephemeral emotions. It's rare that such moments, like those of today, trigger such intense bursts of Amsterdam déjà vu, and I specify, as I must also not forget that I have a history before Amsterdam–a good one, too. Yet when these familiar-inducing moments do present themselves, I savor them with the utmost delight. Sometimes, when I cycle through the Oud Zuid, near Olympiaplein, a certain tree–which I have yet to designate–disperses a scent that spills throughout the whole of that neighborhood; it's one of the most distinctive scents of Amsterdam and it also reminds me of my first year in the city–as the Oud Zuid was where I then lived. Just this afternoon, I consciously noticed another, new scent, encircling the rear garden of the Rijksmuseum. This scent–whose source I also have yet to find–is different than that of the Oud Zuid's, yet unique it is. This multitude of scents, sights, sounds; they're everywhere. And they all affect my perception and experience, which are–I should remind myself–only two ways of taking note of the world around me. Yet both amplify its pleasures, and, it would seem, also weave themselves into my memories. And so words, or conversations, constitute only one way of remembering the past. And as I go forward, in Amsterdam and in life, I'm beginning to see the world from a new perspective. Not a forced perspective, and not a foreshortened component of a larger perspective, but instead an entirely new way of looking. Even though the Rijksmuseum and I have seen more of one another than I could have ever anticipated, and even though countless books, lectures, and literature have enriched my many experiences while there, I could have never anticipated the seminal impact that the content housed within its structure–which could also be called its 'insistence' (thank you, Esther Pasztory and Gertrude Stein)–would have on my life. Today and yesterday, while visiting the Rijksmuseum, I took note of a series of sculptures and mobiles–by Alexander Calder–that are now being installed in its foyer and throughout its gardens. Even though I had seen this garden countless times before, it now presented me with something new; an intervention within and around the museum has changed the ways in which it can now be perceived. Only today did I realize what it is I've been doing, exactly, since September of last year: I'm teaching myself to see the world, and its 'art', from a whole new perspective.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

Alongside Alexanderkade:

The city of Amsterdam harbors a multitude of facets, and the connotations that each of its visitors and residents bring toward it, all vary tremendously. What each looks for within the city, they will indeed find: marijuana, alcohol, and prostitutes are all freely abound, as are delightful canal-side cafés, dark and dingy bars tucked away in tiny allies, lovely restaurants, stunning museums, alongside parks and palaces, all of which are inhabited by a multitude of constantly shuffling people. Kaleidoscopic in its offerings, the city really does have something of everything–a bit like Manhattan, but smaller. And so it would seem that the idea of Amsterdam, means something different, to everyone. This city presents to me, a treasure trove of places and spaces; yet it's only for a few months of the year that one of my favorite aspects of it, truly comes alive: sitting alongside any one of its oh-so-enticing canals, with my feet dangling over the edge, while watching the world pass by.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Appreciates & Anticipates:

The older I become, the more often I think about age, and being, and what it means to be me, right now, today. So often do I look toward the future, or the past. But as I know, and as I’ve more recently consciously thought: I’m more here, now, than ever before. But what happens one year from today, and what happens today that is of importance one year from now, are two very different concepts; one sticks, and the other does not. Often is it that I find myself dwelling on what may or will stick, and what will not. What is it that I do that makes a difference in my life, that of others, as well as the world at large. These are all very different enactments, yet they are all similarly aligned. What will provide substance to my life, exactly one year from today? Will anything I do, today, have relevance later? What matters and what doesn’t? Anticipation can be a potent weapon, and, or, gift. But how to use it? What to put off now for later? And what to draw attention to today, so that its presence or even residue is known or felt, so that its significance will later remain? These thoughts hold true for me for doubt, desire, friendship, and love.

It mystifies me to think that, for instance, as beautiful and joyous as my Grandma’s life is, I only entered into it when she was age 49. This is only a for instance. And so what impact do I have on others, and what impact do others have on me? As I age, I become more aware of my place within the world and into which spaces I would like to further nudge myself in the future. Who will yet come into my life?

Growing up in the Netherlands was a situation that I could have never predicted–granted there was indeed momentum on my part to make it happen; plane tickets for travels across oceans don't exactly just fall from the sky, I do recognize. But my being here–however it occurred and however it remains–I now see, is dependent on me, and absolutely no one else. No one has placed or will place me within the situations, and the organizations I inhabit, but me. I arrived into the world alone, though I did enter into it from another, quite literally. I’m not alone or independent–not literally or spiritually. My significant other means the world to me; yet I’m able to recognize that this person is not part of me me, literally and unfortunately–however much my love for him wished that were not to be. Having been at home alone for the past four days, I have been just that–alone. Periods of stillness does wonders for the thinking process, and this past weekend reaffirmed my conviction in just that–combined with feeling. Few revelations came from these few days–except, perhaps, that I’m much more confident and resolute than I have ever previously given myself credit for.

Living within the borders of two countries–with both also happening to be Great Powers, in the year 2014–which are separated by the Atlantic Ocean, has lent my outlook on my life, the globe, and the universe a whole new perspective, literally. Never would I have ever in the USA been able to glimpse back toward that country, as seen from afar, in order to distill its idiosyncrasies. Life in Amsterdam has allowed such a situation to occur within my life, and for this I am grateful. I now have a cultural fluency that is immeasurable in monetary value and invaluable to me. So much do I treasure being able to cast astray societal battles as frivolous, in both countries, and, perhaps, because when such a situation occurs–I now see–I was always able to retreat to the other, and dwell on how much more improved it is there, than here. No more. Yes, this back and forth is beginning to lose its truth as applied to my life. I’m no longer a fledgling Amsterdammer or European. No longer do I straddle two countries, one here and the other there; instead, today, I stealthily hover above both the Netherlands, and the USA.

So much is there within me, the desire to create, to express, to move, to contemplate, to debate, to make. Humans have so much energy within them–think of all that food–yet so often are we unable to get that same energy out. Sometimes I wish I had a paintbrush with which to paint my life–not literally, but with wonder, and amazement, and happiness, and love. Humans are made to reproduce; not be happy. Any happiness we have we create ourselves, I have both read and, through myself, reaffirmed. It really is true. I create my own happiness and indeed, I’m quite good at that. Yet I notice that when my significant other is around, a piece of my lights up in a way that would never occur, should I be literally alone, as I recently was. So often do I light up myself, but rarely is the light within me radiated to my exterior; how is it that I can harness the energy within me to share and express my enthusiasm for any given subject? With my other, that’s easy–as ours is a language that both appreciates and anticipates, physically and intellectually. But how to express such wondrous light to others, beyond my significant other?

The strong sunlight makes everything gorgeous these days; I spend most of my mornings in the city, running through it. About four or five times a week I'll wake up, put on my running shoes, and head out and about and around all corners of the city, though most always east of the Amstel. Running past gables, over canals via bridges from the 1920s, as well as those of the 1990s; past flamingos at Artis, and past domes and other elements of architecture inspired by the ancients. Throughout most of this year, my bike has been out of service, trapped in the basement; I had its flat tire replaced only to have it go flat a few days later. This process repeated a few times until its original maker took it back, and then gave it back, with it having had a makeover in the meantime. It now has a glamorous shine; ting! Before the fix, the tram I had had been the best of friends. It’s reliable, affordable, and slightly chic–especially in the snow. But what the trams of this city do is cut off the world from just beyond their windows, to their passengers, with the world outside turning into a soundless live documentary with only the whispers of other passengers as its soundtrack. Cycling allows me to stop and smell the flowers–I enjoy passing under each branch, and up and over each bridge, with each pedal on these sunny spring days.

Amsterdam has been seeing more of me then, it would seem, in a vain attempt to reconnect with it as I come to cope with the fact that, while its vegetation and trees are still growing toward summer, the height of their growth is but a few weeks near. But summer feels so far away. But, soon summer will actually arrive, and then, the still supple leaves of ivy on my balcony will stem forward and harden into their largest of sizes for the year. Like the leaves, it would seem as if I’m preparing for a new season, a new start, a new beginning, and a new way in which to be in the world. Minus the hardening though; it's the opposite there: any rough edge that I may have had, is softening. So confident am I in my way forward, striding with such a charge while running–through the city’s streets, or through life–that I'm certain that the ways in which I’m incubating my thoughts, dreams, and goals all prove to be fruitful in countless ways, decades or years from today. I'm waltzing, in meticulously studied steps, toward the my vision of myself, both the self I would like to be, and the one I would like others to see.

To close, a poem from the Aztecs:

Remove trouble from your hearts, oh my friends
As I know, so do others:
only once do we live.
Let us in peace and pleasure spend our lives;
come, let us enjoy ourselves!...
Oh! that one could live forever!
Oh! that one never had to die!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Monday, June 9, 2014

Sunday, June 8, 2014

An Archaic Smile:

Here I sit, outside, on my balcony yet another time this year. It's my new favorite place in the city. Today the sun has been fully turned ‘on’, that is: the sun is shining and it’s shining bright! It’s as if the days have completely changed here in Amsterdam, and perhaps in more ways than one. This city has been cold and dreary throughout most of this year–there have been the occasional spouts of dry air and strong sun-shine, here and there; but for the most part the weather this year has been dismal, at best. Not so since last week; a tropical heat wave has hit the Netherlands, with the occasional short shower that passes in about an hour, just to cool things off, from time to time. All this had held true for about the past week. Though who knows where next week will take the country's, and the world’s, weather. It seems as if the days have changed in other ways as well, beyond their literal level of illumination.

Over the past three months or so, I have not been in my adored Amsterdam for perhaps half of those month’s weekends. This is fine, as my sense of separation anxiety is very developed and is therefore subsequently almost non-existent; my heart can pine and I can comfort it, because I’ve already done that before. And, Amsterdam should almost always be here when I return. What I was seeing instead, were the street of certain cities in Turkey, Scotland, France, and Norway–all of them harbored riches to explore. Seeing new surroundings with the same set of eyes is one of the best ways in which to open the mind–to new ways of doing and being–in my experience. When I’m in an unfamiliar landscape I stumble and tumble, never shivering or trembling about. That would have been the me of about 10 years ago on the streets of New York City; in my young 20s, confidence still forming, totally directionless yet chasing after the enticing and capricious flashes throughout that period of my life.

In less than 1,000 days I'll be 30, and my consciousness of that fact has worked wonders for my mind. It seems that time really does lend everything within one’s life perspective; to see things how they were, how they may have been, how they'll never be, and how they are now. What will I have to show for myself at the end of my 20s? What will my identity capital be? The first 10 years of a career has an in exorbitant amount of impact on income, says Meg Jay–and I am and will continue to do fine there–it's my fault should that ever not be the case. I'm determined, and determined to remain steadfast. But what will I bring to my 30s that’s not ephemeral, as money tends to be? What is it within me that’s of value 20 years from today? In an older post I proclaimed I wasn't interested in selfmyself, that was. But what I’m learning is that’s far from true. I'm learning to be conscious of myself, but not so much so that it stifles my personality or reactions to otherwise innocuous and delightfully engaging social situations. I’m learning that it’s ok to be stubborn, pragmatic; but that, simultaneously, those values can just as easily be pushed aside for others, should the need for such a situation ever occur. There’s no need to define or crystallize anything about myself now, or later, as everything is in a constants flux and flow.

Of the cities that I've seen strolled through lately, Edinburgh stunned me the most with its roughly refined charm, while oppositely Istanbul charmed me with its ancient sites and relics–some of those statues struck a chord deep within me. Most notably those with an Archaic ‘smile’; it just goes to show that for 1,000s of years now, humanity has been trying to make rocks (busts) smile, like humans–and that, in a very simple way, is very touching. It’s much easier to visualize antiquity and its daily life while looking at an artifact from antiquity while standing on the ancient soil of the Old World, in the Old World. Such an undertaking is clearly hard to do in Western Europe, and even more so, in the Midwest of the USA, for instance. Visiting Istanbul is key to understanding Western Art History; I'm happy that I've now been there and have seen the characteristics that make it so pivotal. Oppositely, up North, humble Oslo stunned me with its seductive yet rarely seen 25C sunny weather, which I enjoyed in the park with wine, and when not in the park, I flitted about through the mid-spring sun-drenched streets. Oslo is a handsome city situated at the end of a deep fjord, near Sweden; its sturdy streets and sidewalks are aligned with whimsical pastel hued wooden houses. Each is decorated with wonderfully exuberant ornament–so, in some neighborhoods, Oslo’s houses are a feast of vibrant color.

Back in Amsterdam, my balcony has taken precedent over almost anything else. Dry upon my return home last week, the ivy and grasses have been nurtured and restored back to optimal health, achieved with ample amounts of both water and love, with some new supports for the grasses here and there. That’s the thing about gardens; just like humans, they look fine if they're not made up, looking gorgeous and well tended. Yet they, like humans, look all the better for it if they are. A touch of glamour, it seems, never hurt anything: from a garden, to a house, to a human. The delights of an English garden are quite different than those of a French; one tidy and the other maintained at so that it straddles the border of tidy, and not. Like these plants on my balcony, whom occasionally need a bit of support from time to time, I too need support, it seems. And if I look around me, truly look around me–and over the past few months, flying away from and back to Amsterdam every other weekend, I've had plenty of opportunities to look down from above, back to my life below–I’m able to see that I'm surrounded by not only support, but also love. Ample amounts of both. Those who matter to me are those I keep close, and perhaps in the end they, then, number but only a select few; I'm relearning what I’ve already known for quite some time: that’s ok. Like my plants, which are growing steady toward the summer sun, which arrives June 21st, I too am preparing, growing, and strengthening for all that's to come this year.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

On the Streets of Bordeaux:

Walking through the streets of Bordeaux: a city nestled in Aquitaine, the official name of this southwest corner of France, which is separated from the Atlantic Ocean to its left by a dense sea of coniferous trees–the Landes Forest. An inland city at its finest, Bordeaux’s history began to accelerate during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the former the era of its Golden Age, when the power of the French Colonial Empire was at its greatest extent. The Garonne River snakes its way along the city; the Pont de pierre bridge spans it. Known the world over for its wines, those vines exist mostly in the countryside, nearby the château that surround the city; the city center is largely where the wine produced from those vines is largely consumed–if it isn't exported–and in endless volumes, too. Strolling almost anywhere, it’s hard not to find someone raising their glass yet again; clustered wine glasses endlessly chink on sidewalk cafés, bistros, and restaurants. Yet wine is not the only diamond set within the wonder that constitutes the offerings of Bordeaux; the city’s architecture is sumptuous and stoutly expresses the absolutist ideals of the eighteenth century, as they existed before the French Revolution. So stately is Bordeaux’s architecture that the Haussmannian renovations of Paris in the nineteenth century were–interestingly enough–modeled on this fine city to the south; the French government has even taken up residence in Bordeaux during its few moments of exile, from Paris. Tans and creams contrast with shades of grays and blacks, and all kinds of formations made from wrought iron; all this is set within a dense sprawl of finely aged and intimately interlocking streets, along the Garonne River, in the south of France.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Sunday, June 1, 2014

On the Streets of Edinburgh:

Walking through the streets of Edinburgh: a city whose color palette is a striking ensemble of tans, browns, creams, patina-greens, and various shades of blacks–with bits of bold-yet-stout color stashed here and there. The expected red phone booths really do dot the city's streets, and tiny pipes coalesce down the backs of the city's houses–so neatly aligned, they are. The city's sidewalks can be death traps if not paying attention to what's ahead; a drop off here, a never ending cascade of stairs there, a twirl and a twist of the road up ahead–which quickly becomes the road down below; chaotic, at times, can be this city's streets. Its original defensive walls date from around the twelfth century, and it's easy to feel as if scruffy looking warriors in loin cloths may run down into the city from its surroundings–from the Highlands. In other words: Edinburgh is seeping in layers of history. A stroll through the botanical gardens leads to sights of beauty and delight, while a walk or a sit within one of the city's numerous parks leads to further flower beds and seeing heads–people–to watch, also or instead. Yes, Edinburgh is a city for strolling, for people watching, and for being dapper within–in the New Town, that is; the portion of the city that was laid out in the eighteenth century. It was designed in such a way that the houses strung down its streets are lined up in such a way that they exemplify a 'typically Scottish' undertaking, that is: wonderful crescents and circular shaped and highly planned streets, so stately filled with the most glamorous of Scottish mansions that must house the city's established citizens, embassies, and other old money types. Sweeping in secession were these circular shaped areas of the city; they stunned with me with their representation of Enlightenment thinking, in combination with their Georgian grandeur. The Old Town, however, is more full of tourists, as that's where the Royal Mile is located, with the city's castle on one end and the Hollyrood Palace at its other. A self portrait by Rembrandt hangs in the Scottish National Gallery, as do many Dutch and Spanish seventeenth century paintings–my favorites. Complimenting the glory of the city's wealth of paintings, was and is the city's wealth of offerings for places and spaces in which to brunch. I revel in brunch. What I also highly appreciated was the city's liberal attitude, which is interestingly enough, I now see, juxtaposed against a very rigid and tightly aligned urban grid and patterning, which is subsequently reflected in the look and feel of the city's buildings. The old quite literally meets the new in Edinburgh, from the inside out–as, other than the Scottish Parliament Building, completed only a decade ago, modern architecture is hard to come by in the inner city, rightfully so; instead, interiors have been redone, façades have been and are being washed, cleaned, and scrubbed–some are still so covered in layers of–quite literally–centuries' worth of soot, so readily offered up by the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. Today, Edinburgh's citizen's keep their historic background fresh and maintained–they treasure their city, and its history, and its future.