Saturday, March 28, 2015

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Free Thinking:

One of the most beautiful things about my studies is that, indeed, as have changed my values, so have shifted my main heroes–my heroes of the moment, so to speak, most of which will stay with me forever, their influences being so strong. They’re all museum directors, or curators, painters from the past, or people who work in museums, or at universities, as well as all of the writers of the essays and books on art I’ve been reading throughout the past year. I’ve been voraciously reading such good writing lately, and much of it on art history. Some of my new heroes I’ve already met in person. And some remain across oceans, span generations, and others, I will never be able to meet, as they’re now silent, having passed centuries ago. I’m really grateful to be studying again; it feels wondrous to be in a classroom again; there, everyone is free, to free-form think; it’s encouraged, and no answer is ever wrong.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

To Brussels and Back:

At the moment I am on board a train, racing toward Amsterdam–after having spent the day at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, in Brussels. I’ve been trying to be deep with myself lately. Though, at times it seems my connection to my emotion, is worn thin. I’m not sure if it has to do with my studies, or my daily life. Or if I’m just always mentally unavailable, for the task. In the past months I’ve gazed into countless paintings; in Haarlem, Amsterdam, Manhattan–and now Brussels. I've learned in the past year, that there is so much emotion that runs throughout a great painting. And that a great painting really is, a world within itself.

So perhaps what it is, is that I’m staring at too many a torrid whirlpool of emotion, rendered in oil paint, which could perhaps drain my own. There are so merry companies, portraits, gardens, and landscapes that have met my eyes. And this influx of paintings into my life will only continue throughout the next months, as I venture to London, Madrid, and Cincinnati, and Toledo, all in search of Frans Hals and his brushwork within his family portraits. Never did I ever think that the seventeenth century would become such an important period of time to me; growing up in middle-America, the century was entirely foreign to me then. Boston has some relics from that time period. But I grew up no where near Boston.

As I do grow up, I’m remembering just how wondrous and joyful my childhood was. My parents were nearly always there for me, supportive by not pushy, encouraging but not doting. That childhood, I’m happy for. It’s shaped me.

Today at the museum in Brussels I met with restorers and curators, to discuss a painting that’s been in their collection, for decades. The painting wasn’t on display, as it was instead was being restored: ’behind the scenes of the museum.’ I was able to have a peek behind their curtain; it was a glimpse into what my future may hold. Though most all works of fine art in museums are priceless, they also have a very real, present day monetary value. And such values are: whatever someone will pay for a work.

As I march toward a new age, later this year, I’m realizing my own self worth, beyond monetary value: it cannot be measured, precisely because no such value, would or ever could equate to the value of me. It’s taken me some time to realize my true worth, which, is once again, not something that can be measured. I knew that very well before I arrived in Amsterdam.

As I age, I become more aware of time, and my limited amount of it. Why I am here, alive, in this little body of mine, with its well proportioned legs, brown-blonde hair, and gentle smile that can, when needed, become fierce? Perhaps that last word is what I’m learning about myself the most these days: I am one fierce person. Rarely do I show it, and rarely do people expect it. But more importantly, I’m learning, people can feel my fierceness lurking below. I’ve noticed I intimidate people, though that’s unintentional. Such perceivers of me are only intimidated by their own lack of self-confidence. What others think of me, is none of my business.

My fierceness comes out only when needed. But as opposed to being fierce–which is also exhausting–I’m much more suited to balance, and harmony; two traits that used to suffuse throughout my life. I’m making it my goal to recover my lost balance, harmony, and contemplation; they amplify my self worth. That is, when I do value myself. A swath of negative energy in my sphere of consciousness has asserted itself over me recently. The last time this happened was just over two years ago. Then, unlike now, I reflected upon the experience. Indeed I learned much from it, about how I functioned, in the world, then. This time, I know I function fabulously.

The values governing my life have shifted in the past two years. I hold my head higher. And I appreciate the bond of family, after having estranged myself from them upon my move here; I’m re-braiding myself back into their lives, after being out of their's, for so long. I find myself wanting to connect with others these days, rather than being solo. Concurrently, as I become more comfortable with the Dutch language, I become closer to my new family, the one I’ve braided myself into here; the family I’ve gained since marrying my husband. My values can’t be measured, with numbers. And the most important components in my life–smiles, hugs, laughs–don’t ever ask to be measured; why would they? How does one measure a smile or laugh?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Looking Forward to Spring:

Yesterday, after finishing my sandwich in the Rijksmuseum's garden, at some point I decided–only now realizing this–that there was a need to take off my scarf, and so I sat it on the bench next to me. I forgot to bring it along, when I arose from the bench, as I shimmied toward the museum entrance. My excitement and anticipation outside the main entry to the Rijksmuseum, is always so strong. The gardens were then being jostled through by a few landscapers, tearing out and cutting out old grow, to allow for the new to come through. Spring is just around the corner; the birds are singing again, and even some of the more seasonal, bulbous flowers, are getting into bloom. I'm even cycling these days too, now that my bike has been repaired–it is, however, still in need of a spring cleaning. The garden on my balcony continues its growth forward, too. Everything within it is now reaching toward the sun. There are so many big moments in my agenda, over the next few months of my life; and many will quite literally take me to different places, often in search of paintings. I look forward to these adventures that lie ahead. Brussels is first, next week. I mourned my loss yesterday; I'll replace it–I know that about myself. But what is it about things and the self? Things don't define me–they do help contribute to a sense of who I am, but that thing I lost–it wasn't me. I am me. And I look forward to spring.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Flevopark as Sanctuary:

This past weekend I spent much time on my balcony, refreshening the tiny garden that sits within it, in anticipation of spring. The sun shined all day this weekend, and only became more pronounced as it progressed. Yesterday I spent much time with my hands in dirt; it was nice. Saturday I showed a friend who lives just nearby, around the neighborhood here, and all of the wonderful things that fill its streets, like new shops, cafes, and ephemeral places–and then we wandered over to Flevopark, (which I usually run thorough) to walk together. The park was also the location that her dog–with us all day too–was able to run leashless, making friends with all the other surrounding leashless dogs. I do not have a dog, but did babysit one here in Amsterdam once–and they are cute, but much work indeed. Flevopark really is gorgeous, and the few paths that run through its thin swathes of mature trees, really do make it seem as if I'm somehow lost within some deep primaeval forest. Afterwards we waddled over to Drover’s Dog for a wine on their terrace, and then stumbled home. Serendipitous Saturdays like that one are welcomed. I was running around the city that morning, and passed her sitting in her windowsill smoking, as her house is situated along my running route, and I looked up when I passed her house, and there she was! I had also ran into two other people on that same run, just 10 and 20 minutes earlier. Amsterdam feels comfortingly intimate like that sometimes; such as when I run into no less than three people I know when running, and the last of them says, ‘Let’s go to Flevopark! I'll call you in an hour.’ It's good for the self to be recognized in public; to meet people one knows out of the expected contexts. What a difference nearly seven years makes. I speak Dutch everywhere these days; it just falls out of my mouth. Give me some cheese and mustard any day. I’ve taken to my newly certified Dutch-citizen identity stridently; it would be difficult to say that I wasn’t already an adherent believer in mustard and cheese, starting years earlier in fact. Yet I’ve also retained my American self too; in the process I’ve created something new–a new identity that I bring to 'Dutch' society. Just as all the people who are Dutch-(Something), and not just simply ‘Dutch’; we're inside outsiders. I’m part of the former, not the later. Yet most everyone I speak with seems to have no problem accepting me as just Dutch. My skin though is white. Why is that? Would it be the same if I were an African-American-Dutch citizen? I don’t know if I would have had such an easy time assimilating if I were. Yet perhaps I am wrong; though this subject I have just discussed in one of my classes, while standing in front of the Nation Slavery Monument in Oosterpark. Here we were, this tiny class of only a few, huddled next to this elongated statue, answering questioned posed about identity and race, and the Dutch colonial past and its current view in the minds of the country’s citizens, versus the same condition and its current state in the UK. These two post-colonial conditions–views toward and memory and heritage status of, the colonial past–are treated in very different way in each country. Here it’s largely ignored. I have quested this monument years ago, and why, for instance, it isn’t announced more prominently within the park; small thoughts such as that, concerning Dutch identity, have often crossed my mind. And there I was, five years later, in class, at the same monument, having questions such as those I had already asked myself years ago, posed to me now, by my professor. My life is beginning to make full circles. So many exciting events and occurrences are happening within it right now. Above all, I'm anticipating my trip to London, in just over three weeks. Hello, sunny springtime in the UK.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

La Fucina Italian, in the Indische Buurt:

On the edge of a busy intersection in the Indische Buurt, in Amsterdam East, lies La Fucina–a recently opened Italian food restaurant, which aims to become a gathering place and space within the neighborhood. Established in February 2015, the restaurant's energetic, enthusiastic, and always smiling owners are a couple from the Venice region of Italy; meaning that this is true Italian food, and quite unlike anything else to be found in this most dynamic of cities. Specializing in pizza and pasta, with an evolving selection of tempting sweet treats–such as cakes and tarts–the menu is handwritten, daily, on an oversized blackboard wall inside; outside on the sidewalk is a smaller blackboard, which announces what's on offer that day, too. Having dined at La Funcina many times within the past month, last week while there I conversed with Samantha, one of the two owners. During our chatter I learned that, indeed, everything is homemade, daily. And, that their pizza dough is made anywhere from a day to two days in advance of its baking; in this way, the dough can sufficiently rise. Which means that every bite is thick and chewy, but never 'heavy'. This is a place in which to dine with friends, or alone; last week I sat within this window, enjoying a solo snack, as I watched the world waltz by. And as the Indische Buurt morphs, transforms, and continues to reinvent itself and its role within the city, its main thoroughfare–Javastraat–reflects this flurry of activity: new venues seem to open along it, all the time. While all the recent additions to the neighborhood are welcomed, I welcome this new place the most. The next time you find yourself in the Indische Buurt, take a seat along this fabulously oversized street-facing window, grab a slice, and get lost in observation of the never-ending flow of sidewalk passersby.

Monday, March 2, 2015