Sunday, August 23, 2015

Making Two Halves Whole:

Summer arrived sometime around the end of June, without me even noticing it. So involved was I with my thesis. That’s all a blur now. And Frans Hals and all his fabulousness is no longer as present in my life as it was, at that time. Since then, I’ve giddied with excitement, on the days that the sun shines hard on the city, leaving few shadows, and a golden blanket of light over everything. The plants on my balcony are overflowing; efflorescing in ways not seen since they were first planted. After two years of mature growth, the bamboo and ivy that cocoon my balcony are turning the jungle-like lounge-space into a tropical rainforest–olive trees and herb garden included. When the sun shines these days, like today, it places a melodic hum high up in the city’s air, igniting the energy of its citizens, sending them flitting and frolicking about. Thousands of sailboats have currently descended upon Amsterdam, from near and afar, to celebrate the city’s historic relationship to the rest of the world through water, by way of sail ships; it’s appropriately called SAIL. The celebration entails something for everyone, unlike King’s Day or Gay Pride–both equally as electrifying in their ability to energize the city. SAIL connects people in ways the two former festivities do not, as its main attraction is the water, everywhere; the boats are so abound that it’s often difficult to even see the water of the IJ, due to the number of boats. Scintillating in its offerings, the celebration literally lit up the city in an amber glow; the lights from every boat twinkling as they reflected off the water, like a sparkling sequenced dress. Everyone seemed to create their own mini-party, wherever they wished. Wishing is something I’m good at these days, as I take time to sit back and submerse myself in my thoughts; about life, love, and growing older. As I age I become more aware of the time that I’ve already used, and the number of days of my life I’ve drained prematurely from it by way of drinking and smoking. Who knows when I may pass, but I do know that I as I grow older, I become more aware of what it is that I want to achieve, become, or be able to do, at a yet later stage in life, and not just tomorrow. So insightful was my study this past year; so many new faces entered my life; so many new concepts, theories, and dates and figures are now included in my personal bank of knowledge. It seemed as if, at the end of June, everything I said should have had a footnote next to it; imagine how easy it would be to explain to someone one’s thoughts, by walking them through it visually, with footnotes they could quickly access and instantly digest, to understand what the other means. Explanations or reasoning by use of text, with its linear, logical reasoning format, most often, trumps the visual. So how it is it that I can bring what I’m able to achieve verbally, to my writing–for here, or anywhere? 

The past three years of my life have felt so heavy; every moment seemed like a test for a larger purpose–the goal of which I was unaware of, and still remain uncertain as to. Marriage; new citizenship; an assertive mode of operation–countless arduous, yet enjoyable, tasks, that I successfully completed, knowing that they would–collectively–bring me closer to where I want to be. And where I want to be, is something I do not know. I only know the general location of where I’d like to soon find myself: and that is, surrounded by minds captivated by the paintings of the Dutch Golden Age. Happily I’ll be there next week, when university once again begins. Somehow, the idea of writing a second, longer, thesis, sounds totally exciting and fun. A shiny string of pearls has recently strung itself through my life. It's such a shiny strand of pearls, and I'm unsure, exactly, of how long the strand will, eventually, extend. I so anticipate studying the Dutch Golden Age, again. I understand the Dutch language nearly perfectly these days, and hope that these next two years upgrade me, up to a near native speaker language ability–I know I have it in me. Ik ben een Nederlander–after all. The new identities I have acquired over the past two years are plentiful. Yet, of all the aspects about myself that my studies have allowed me to probe, ponder, and reconsider while I discovered, is that I am perfectly fine, just the way I am, thank you very much. Never have I ever felt so embraced by my peers in academia as I do now, and never have I been so intensely engaged with it; Mr. Hals, his contemporaries, and their cities, customs and creations, and all other subjects that suspend me from real time, and allow me to time travel to the seventeenth century; they are my future. Perhaps, it could even be said, that my future lies in the past. I know that it does. Paintings are my favorite subject, next to gardens, and alongside history in general, with an emphasis on the European, that is. Never did I expect to live in Amsterdam; if someone had told me ten years ago that I’d be living here, I would have certainly questioned their motives. Me? No? But happy am I to be one of the, just under 800,000 people or so, that live within this fine city on the North Sea. It’s a privilege for me to live here; it’s expensive, tiny, and housing is short. Everyone wants to live here, which raises the premium on living costs. Most come, and stay for a year, or two. But these days my friends are those that stay, those that do not go. I made a very conscious effort in 2009 to seek out and stay around, people I was interested in, who were also interested in me–those dividends are now being paid, to myself. So many people have entered my life during the past year, indeed; yet simultaneously, almost 90% of those same people have left it, just like that. Will I ever see them again? I’m not sure. Does it devalue the conversions we had? Perhaps not. But what it has done, is make me aware of where I invest my energy–why have I put myself into any given situation? What are my intentions for being in the places and spaces I choose to visit. What I am I doing there? I am working toward a goal; but whose goals am I working toward? My own; or is that only the illusion? As I age, it becomes clearer to me where my heart, hands, and head all need to be. I'm taking control of my life, by controlling my reactions to my surroundings. Having grown up within a bucolic landscape, my hands are equally as important to me as my head. And I know that I’ll need to use both, as I go forward, in all that I do to feel satisfied from life–my life. While I’ve embraced the identity of intellectual, I still need and want to use, my hands, to create. For painting, for potting, and for penning prose. The past is my future, only, through the present; striding forward, that path becomes clearer, as I map out what it is that I want from the world, and life, in the next 10 years of my life. At 29, what will my next years bring? More than likely, much more than I expect.

As time ticks, I see it for what it is. I’m trying, and learning that I’m quite adept at not leaning forward too, and not falling backward, too often. I’m balancing the past with the present in order to live in the moment–something I’ve never been very good at, except sparingly. And when those moments do arise, I feel like I'm floating, detached from everything. Staring into paintings–with most often 400 years old, or older–I’m more aware of what stays, and what doesn’t; what I do today that will affect others, and myself, tomorrow. The answer is very little; as hardly any of what I will do today will impact me tomorrow, on a larger scale. Yet, every stepping stone laid created possibilities for one step further, no matter how any path ends, and even if my path's ending is currently obscured by a bend. What's just around the corner? What it is that I want to use my time for, and with whom do I wish to spend it with? At any moment of the day, I could literally be doing anything I want to; do I want to do want I’m doing with my time, right now, of all things in the world that I could be doing? I’m pushing myself in the direction toward the minds that excite me. For so long I considered that the world of design would be my home; my corner of the professional world, where eccentricity is embraced, and the new is what’s expected–not an omnipresent Luddite. Perhaps what I mean to say, is that I’m more stable in my core; I know what I want from life and who I want to surround myself with, and what ideas I admire, that will allow me to connect to those I continue to admire? What more could I ask for? Half of me feels as if it’s standing in the right place, and the other half feels as if it’s on a path of its own, and somehow that half is leading the way. It shouldn't be. Did I even choose that path originally?; I did–and I continued to walk its path for sometime; because I knew it would be strenuously rewarding; but are the rewards it once offered still to be had? I now know that the answer is no. And so that path, which I still walk, will soon come to a close–I've chosen to take a detour from a bifurcation within it, leading in a direction that will allow me to continue to look down on the path I once walked, smile, contemplate, and continue knowing that there's more to discover ahead. And so, one day very soon, both my legs will find themselves on the same footing, standing beside one another. Yet, there’s no need for this to occur any time soon. I appreciate the now, and the here; I try to always remind myself that I must be thankful for what I have, before it’s gone. I know what I have and I appreciate it; but as Oprah has said, what if, ‘It doesn’t feel right?’ About four years ago, most of my heroes were graphic designers, or editors, or writers–many in fact still are. My bank of graphic design knowledge is so extensive, as for many years I thought that being an editor would be, my thing; my future; my specialty; my roadmap to procuring a place in the Condé Nast empire, in New York City. And indeed, it may still be. That ambition is still certainly present; but the world of paintings, and prints, has opened up a whole new world to me. I have learned that my architecture knowledge, and my graphic design history, give me an upper hand in seeing Old Master paintings in ways not seen by most others: graphically, and architecturally, which has allowed me to focus on both broad, formal passages of a given painter, as well as their more intimate details, such as their manner in which hands, drapery, and trees, were once painted. As in graphic design, and design more generally, I know my heroes personally, and they know me. What I seek to do, I most often achieve. And now I know what I want to achieve, and what I want, and will become–if only vaguely.

This past Friday I went running through Flevopark; just a quick lap around its perimeter, before making my way back home. Short runs as these–totaling a max of 6K–are trips I used to regularly run. These days my running has given way idleness, as I’ve spent most of this summer, so far, on my terrace, or on other terraces throughout the city; sipping wine and singing along to the sounds of summer, my laughs swept away in the arid-humid wind. Summer is certainly here; yet autumn is so very nearby. Come this September, next week, I’ll begin school again; for the past few weeks I have wanted the weeks to breeze by; to be over. But I now realize now that I might as well have savored them, basking in the high summer sun. And so that mindset, I’ve carried with me throughout this past week, embracing the rest of August. My waiting (for my thesis’ final mark, and for school to start), alongside my continuous longing for the sunlight that cloaks the city in September; both dates are so near, yet beyond ability to now reach. I know I am young, but I’m not that young any more. I’ll be 30 in just a few months; I’ve learned more abut myself by living in Amsterdam than I could have every thought possible. And I’ll bring all that accumulated self-knowledge with me, to my 30s; a whole new decade of, what I hope will be decadent intellectual endeavors, delightful and infinite viewings of masterfully painted paintings, and quirky fashion that somehow fits, along with new, thick-framed, overtly large glasses (because those were never a trend to me, and instead only my style) which are set to be ready for me, in just over a week. Summer couldn’t have been more fabulous this year; and it will still be fabulous for a few more weeks. About four, to be exact. So rather than wishing that today was tomorrow, and tomorrow was the day after that; I’m learning to instead love the moment that surrounds me, and throw myself into the energy of the people I surround myself with, without reservation or hesitation, as I am often apt to do; to love summer; and to embrace the flows of energy that surround me, no matter if I wish I were elsewhere, intellectually, in spirit. My body and mind are connecting; I’m remerging the whole halves that I never intended to separate. That European life can be inhibiting–forcing one more into the mind, and less on the body, as its freedom of movement is quite literally restricted, at least in public–has been elucidated by the French writer and poet Andre Corboz, who lived for a long time in the USA. I'm learning I have a profound predilection for allowing myself to roll throughout my mind, connecting subjects and aspects of life most unnoticed.  I’m so observant; seeing others has allowed me to see me. As I stride toward 30, I’m learning my core is steady; I know who I am and still yet who I wish to be(come); I look out of my eyes as if I’ve experienced more life than most my age, as I have. 

The most of exciting of events happened last week–a string of pearls has fallen into my lap, and it has strung itself throughout my life ever since; since they're translucent, I'm not able to see through them. And they're just one chapter of a larger novel I’m writing for myself: my life. I have the feeling that whatever I plan now, will affect me for the next decade or so to come. The choices I make, and have made, matter; the choices I make now will matter even more. I’ve been somnambulistic over these past few weeks; but that’s suddenly over. I’m throwing myself into life; opening up to new people quickly; engaging in conversation even if I’ve already had other conversations about the topic before (‘So, how long have you lived in Amsterdam?’). There’s always something new to add to one’s self sculpted story, or myth: those which we create for ourselves, according to May Sarton. Rather than feeling as if I were on the edge of a diving board, paralyzed by a never-ending walk to the end of it; I now feel as if I’m jumping in that same pool repeatedly, and as often as possible. Summer is heartily green and welcoming this year; the city’s trees are now at their most luscious, at this moment, seeped in their deep hunterly hues, and still soggy before the cusp of autumn, at the end of September, when all of their leaves will be brown, upon which they’ll soon slowly saunter to the ground. Boats are everywhere in Amsterdam these days; with SAIL this past weekend; the waterways were the most crowed–especially the IJ-as I have ever seen in my entire time living here. The IJ was overflowing with people on boats; the people also paraded along the banks of the IJ, and along nearly every canal, staring out to the boaters, who often acknowledged them back. The whole atmosphere somehow felt very much like how I would imagine the Early Modern Period in Northern Europe to be, as the sea of people all strolled like zombies, staring out toward the shimmering reflections of light. So simplistic in its setting and ideas was the celebration–a gathering of sailboats and ships. As I engage more with this city beyond my usual favorite places and spaces, I’m making a conscious effort to experience new sides of it, expanding my social circle and, in the process, meeting all sort of new faces, that are, ushering me toward new ideas, and sometimes, I'm discovering, new possible pathways. Art history and the world of paintings has consumed me much more than I had imagined they would. I know that my future lies with Dutch painters and their works, and I must somehow merge the two halves that currently exist inside of me. Like a dual prong I have existed seance last September; a state I no longer wish to be. 

My mind is valuable, to me, though, I'm becoming more readily aware of its value to others, for all of the complex connections it tends to create; it is monetarily valuable to some, and (as I appreciate) to others not. I am learning to embrace my frantically-fast-paced mind, and body, and to use both to the best of my advantage. With one foot forward, one more degree, and one more now underway, I am more confident with who I am, who I want to be, and who it is that I want to surround myself with.