Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Sauntering in of September:

September rolls into town tomorrow, and brings with it the annual initiation of autumn. Watching, feeling, and experiencing the clicks of the seasonal changes of Amsterdam are, when combined, a joyous delight. So pronounced are the transitions from each month to the next; supple buds dot trees along the canals during spring–still leaving visible the façades of seventeenth century gabled houses; moving further along the calendar, summer sees a richer green emerge on the city's trees–the whimsy of the centuries old façades behind, no longer able to be seen; autumn ushers in a fusion of predominantly golden colored hues, augmented by burnt yellows and browns, as every canopy of each tree in the city–with some enacting on the emergence of their autumnal colors faster than others–dwindle from the height of their mature, warm weathered state. It's around this time of each year, that the city’s vegetation enters into a sort of dormancy. Occurring simultaneously to the slowing pace of the city’s movement, is the slowing of the energy within it. The tourists have left for their usual retreat, leaving trams less full, terraces with available tables, and large patches of grass–just waiting to be claimed–throughout the city's parks. Amsterdam is entering autumn, hindering its celebratory stance toward summer. Patches of yellows and oranges can now be found along the boulevard-like thoroughfares and within these luscious parks; and luckily, perhaps, no red hues have yet to emerge. Red is the true sign of the world's turning toward winter, toward darkness. Ready for this next season I am. This summer has been one string of hurdles and highlights. For the first half July, I rested at home, or in the park, with family or with friends, taking time often to shoot photos of the city, all the while always finding time to read, drink, or eat on the comfort of my enormous and elevated urban-balcony. This past summer, with its calm and hard choices, was filled with self-discovery, and self-emergence. Since last September, I've been asking myself, often, who is it that I am, so that I can do it on purpose. Today, the day before autumn's annual entry, I sit on my balcony, basking in the warm setting Sunday sun, which weakens and dips below the horizon a bit earlier, with each passing day. Happily, this elevated urban balcony is nothing more and everything beyond an extension of my home’s interior; it supports me when I support it. The love that I give to my balcony's garden, is directly reflected in its lusciousness. Softness, welcomes. Always here, it’s when I dote and dwindle in the garden, that it truly, and gracefully comes alive–it's at its finest when I lavish my attention on it. It's then that it struts stiffly for onlookers in all directions, at its best and out to impress. Yet there were times this past summer when–so consumed by and within my own thoughts and doings–that the garden saw less of me, and more of the city. Only after the torrential rains, which have plagued Amsterdam since August began, finally stopped last week, that the garden and I have reunited; pruning, trimming, and watering; saying hello to the living creatures that depend on me for their survival; a symbiosis of transitionally, deep-rooted, and amplified natural beauty. My garden, at its best, is a visual delight–a feast. Handsomely, an elongated wall of ivy streams down around one edge of the garden–allowing one to submerse themselves within it; the city below detectable only by sound. But now that the rain has stopped and the sun, once again, now repeatedly shines, I make it a point to run throughout Amsterdam's streets, and up over its infinite bridges, as often as I can–mostly on weekends and in the mornings––knowing that a chill will, very soon, descend upon North Holland. And so it's with pleasure that I inhale the last energy of this fleeting, expanding summer. During my lounging at the beginning on July, I finally turned the last page of a mighty tome I've been reading on and off, for about the last four years: The Embarrassment of Riches. It’s an investigation into Dutch society during its Golden Age, and it’s one of those books that anyone wanting to study the art of that period must–and into that category I do now fit–most certainly must have read. This September, giddily I now announce, marks the onset of my academic study of Dutch Art at the University of Amsterdam; transformative this upcoming year is guaranteed to be. The aforementioned monster of a book–about the cultural world I now find myself within–I happened to finish while sitting in my garden; indeed, the garden is always there, or here, for me. It has, this year, matured beyond all expectations, and in doing so, continues to offer to me, a place of tranquility. In only a few more weeks I'll become Dutch, taking an oath to the King and the Kingdom. I chose to naturalize; I chose to become Dutch. Choosing between hard choices that are on a par allows one to become the author of their own life. Becoming Dutch was a choice I will always put my agency behind: I'm for the Netherlands; I'm for the EU; and I'm for the art of this fabulous country. As the sun begins its ephemeral daily descent, I realize how often it is that I sink myself within, and am drunken by, the sensuous, tactile splendor of my tiny garden. Yet, it’s only when I venture down to the city below, that I'm able to connect and engage with others, with people–to see and be seen. While cocooning myself is something I excel at, I’m learning that being vulnerable does indeed connect me to others–and that it also allows me to more easily empathize with them, and they with me. But, I've come to know, that it’s not only about more. It’s that we're more connected. How to connect with others? Is one way through art? Since last September, I've been pushing my life in one direction: toward the beauty of art. In doing so, I’ve simultaneously enacted a rapturous and endless accumulation and absorption of its academic history. As I age, my many cultural interests seem to be refining, here in Europe. Have I finally begun to create my own way? Knowing who I am and doing it on purpose allows me to shapeshift in appearance and purpose. I know that putting my agency behind art, words, and the ways in which they can be combined, is my future. I know it. And so sauntering into September, I welcome the soon to occur explosion of autumnal hues. In some odd way, the dawn of autumn also welcomes a new me; the me who’s chosen to use their life to illuminate art–something that’s, indeed, infinitely much larger than me.