Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Late-November, the Amstel, and Amsterdam:

The Amstel is reassuring, as it streams through the city, dividing it as its waters glide. Always there, always flowing; the river is a source of constant in my life, which over the past year, has entailed more activity than I have ever experienced. I have flung my body all over this tiny country of mine, as well as throughout Europe. People I never expected to meet, are now my friends, acquaintances, and colleagues. The increase in activity owes itself to decisions that I chose to make–years ago. By choosing to continue to be a student, at least until mid-2017, I have also made my life more difficult than it need be. And for that reason, also more enriching then I could have ever anticipated. Next month marks the last month of my life that’s full of classes; quite literally having to be in many places in one week, has left me tired. I have been studying for a second MA since September 2015, and the end is near. On Monday in class, realizing that it would quite literally be one of my last, I spoke up and out, threading my opinions into the larger discussion. The act itself is not new to me–I most often speak my mind while in class. But Monday was different. I had imbued the act with more meaning than usual; the words I then spoke, were in Dutch. And so in the course of eight years, I have gone from an American, knowing no Dutch, to having become a Dutch citizen, specialized in seventeenth century Dutch paintings, and articulating my thoughts about the field in a university course, in Dutch. This past year, in addition to experiencing museums behind the scene, acquiring a wardrobe that leaves my options for dressing each day a highly enjoyable feat, and learning to believe in myself more than I ever knew capable–really believing I believe in myself, that is, and not just telling myself I do–I found my voice. I felt it arise; when it did, it felt great. It was myself rising, within myself. A feeling returned to me last week, in the same class that involved me speaking Dutch. After barnstorming academia in Amsterdam for the last three years… the feeling of jubiliant elatement has returned to me. My enthusiasm for my studies never actually ceased; more so, I finally felt comfortable in my own skin. The knowledge I have acquired during these past few years, will always remain with me. More than just investing in a new wardrobe, and an education I’ll always treasure–and more importantly, constantly be adding to as I age–these past few years have been a test of how much I really wanted, what I once thought I wanted. Now that I have it, I know that the choices I made years ago, which have made me who I am today, were not only the right choices–they were affirmations of choosing who I wanted to be. I have made myself into who I wanted to be.

But wait; I’m always excited of the future. More than leading me in a new direction, these past few years, have made me, happily, more myself.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Monday, August 29, 2016

Een Amsterdams Avondje:

There is so much to say, yet I'm not sure if I have the words to do so, at the moment, in English. Sunsets and sunrises in Amsterdam; I have been present for a few sunrises throughout the summer, without having slept the night before–staring across the undulating, rippling waters of the Amstel. So instead of writing away my feelings, as useful as it is, I've pushed them into a poem, written last night on my phone, once again staring out to the surface of the Amstel–gazing across, to the moon and its soft light. Confronting a flurry of choices, I'm, once again, unsure of which foot will lead, calling back to the one behind, as both stride forward to the future. I've been to Rome, and London twice, since I last wrote here; so many Old Master paintings I have seen, so many news faces, and places, I've experienced. I’ve, over the summer, fallen into the flow of London; its energy unfrantic, even inviting; its urbanity consuming. It's a metaphor for accepting myself in Europe. I am, actually, unlike as I wrote to myself in 2009, a European–a citizen of the former Republic. I’m more comfortable with me, than I’ve ever been before. And I'm, more then ever, sure of what I know, and, perhaps more importantly–what I do not. I’m building myself, and quickly–along the way–expanding my world while simultaneously accepting the guidance and mentorship, from those who keep extending, many clusters of their deep-olivine-hued, olive branches, who keep lifting me higher, in every way.

Wat is een Amsterdams avondje?
Een Amsterdamse middag? Een dag?
Wat, is een Amsterdamse ochtend?

Nu dat ik een Nederlander ben;
Mijn stadje, mokum, in m'n hart;
Wat is er, dat ik nog niet ervaart?
Wat zijn m'n grenzen? Met m'n, lichaam? Hoofd?
Wat is huwelijk; Wat is de grens, tussen hij, en mij?

Wat zijn grenzen?

Wie ben ik; wat wil ik zijn; wie zou ik worden? 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Friday, August 5, 2016

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Picnicking on a Bridge in the Jordaan:

The other day while sitting along the edge of a canal, in the Jordaan, three people that lived in a corner house, adjacent to a bridge, over the little trafficked, tiny canal, pulled out three chairs from their house, to the street. They sat them on the bridge, where they would shortly be used for a wine along with a picnic. Back inside their adorable house; I snapped an image of their setting, on the bridge, without them. That’s one of the most enjoyable aspects of the city of Amsterdam: if you look closely (with a zoom lens), there is so much to see; blink once, and often times, that same situation–as these three empty chairs, above a canal in the Jordaan–will then be gone. Savor moments that seem not to matter in the moment; they often, often upon reflection, are some of the moments in life, which seem to matter the most. When I pointed my lens back to bridge seconds later, the three chairs were occupied. It's the ephemeral moments in Amsterdam, that often leave me, beautifully breathless.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Friday, May 6, 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Friday, April 1, 2016

Paving New Amsterdam Streets:

Life gets more exciting each day, as my world takes a turn; suddenly everything has changed, again–new routines, friends, faces, conversations, and places. As spring emerges, Amsterdam has awoken, renewed and refreshed. The city’s flowers are being trimmed and streets are being repaved with new bricks, here and there–all in preparation for the new season, and the abundance of tourists that will only crescendo as the city ushers itself toward the summer months. The city is alive with a steady energy that’s only just beginning to hum, alongside the early season flowers, and tree buds in efflorescence. My thoughts are consumed between the histories of museum collecting (of paintings), the collaborations between two seventeenth century Dutch painters, paintings in general, the creation of frameworks, as for essays, alongside, thinking about all what there is to do. Luckily, the most difficult portion of my studies have now passed–meaning I have all my time to devote to these new faces, spaces, and places I’ve been immersing myself within. The ivy on my balcony has been replanted; nourished. Having taking a turn for this worse this past winter–new plants were added, new soil surrounding them, has again turned my balcony into a jungle–an elevated urban paradise. As I march forward I question who I want to be and how much I want to be it. How much am I willing to give up; to gamble upon; the risk; to take a chance; to have perseverance in making sure dreams are expanded, not shrunken? Who do I want to be as I enter my next decade; one more stone of my foundation set in place; with which foundation will I continue building upon? And if I one foundation no longer seems appropriate or sturdy to continue building upon, I will have to admit that. How much do I want to be, who I want to be? Is there a value that can be placed on the self? And, how can that self know, which self is the right self to work toward, to so become. Thing is, I know who I want to be, and will become. I value my future self; who I may want to be; and through hard choices will become.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Pontormo, Masaccio, and Ghirlandaio:

Throughout the past few months my mind and body have both been summersaulting in all directions, all over Amsterdam, and for about two weeks of that time, in Florence, Italy. This past week, however, I finalized my latest article for my last class, of my first semester. Choosing to study for a second master’s degree was such a wonderful idea. Every time that I go to class or find myself in yet another library–I smile and enjoy the moment happening. Often. More than learning to glaze bowls or cure AIDS, I am instead engaging with minds around me, who are, more than most, also interested in the same topics as me. In Florence I was among a group of just over ten other students; we spent all our days jotting from church to church; from painting to painting. A discussion, then dinner, wake-up: and do it all again. And while the art and architecture of the Renaissance is rather important–Pontormo, Masaccio, and Ghirlandaio I will not soon forget–the more comfortable setting for me within historical research, is that of Northern Europe. These past few months also entailed participating in my first university class, in Dutch; not that I’m fluent, but my time spent in Italy, where I spoke Dutch the whole time, certainly raised my abilities. Being Dutch, I’ve made it a point to this year speak it as often as possible. If I can take a class about seventeenth century Dutch print materials, as books and newspapers and pamphlets, then I can certainly speak Dutch, in daily life. That’s what I’m learning about Amsterdam and myself as I grow older, here; this city has had such an impact on my life and its direction, in ways I that I could not have predicted. Simultaneously, the city itself has changed so much since I first arrived: tiny urban reparations, new buildings and sometimes entire neighborhoods. Amsterdam is expanding, and rapidly.

Thinking back to when the Jordaan was still my favorite place within the city, and when it was still all new to me; all that seems so far away, as the city and my life within it continue, and I view it, as having been around me, all along. With the ending of the first semester, my mind has left a ball and chain behind, in 2015, as I begin considering new thoughts, new ideas, and new subjects to explore in 2016. The Supper at Emmaus narrative has been thumping around in my mind since October; I was assigned the topic and threw it against Jan Steen’s depiction of the scene. Steen is a painter whose work spans many genres; biblical scenes I will leave  to others, perhaps, to study further in the future. Or so I have learned, since October, that iconographic research, is not my thing. Next subject to study: pearls, their material, and them within paintings, Frans Hals, and the history of collecting artworks, by institutions or individuals… These subjects make me quite excited, and I am happy that I am able to structure my life in such a way, that allows me to view my studies, and the year or so that I have left of it, from a meta-perspective: the courses I take allow for explorations of my interests. And that is so very different from an undergraduate experience. Now that the tumult of the first semester is over, the end, seems almost near. I do enjoy spending so much time in museums and libraries; I do however, also know, that my articles and essays on Jan Steen, Frans Hals, or collecting, will more than likely not be of significant, groundbreaking importance. Yet they are for me. And that, I am learning, as I keep learning more, is what matters. I am studying because I want to; because I am able; and because I chose to. More important for me to take away for my studies, is the massaging of my mind and its thinking, by the new people I’ve surrounded myself with so far, and all the new people that I just know that I'm about to soon meet, throughout this new year, called 2016.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Intoxicating World of Menno Kroon:

As I wrote three years ago, tucked away in Amsterdam Oud-Zuid, just south of Museumplein–and at that time just before the Rijksmuseum had reopened; entering Menno Kroon's intoxicating flower shop is an otherworldly experience that instantly transports the senses and soul to another dimension. There again today after nearly three years away (note to self; visit more often), a familiar face greeted me upon arrival, and artfully arranged the flowers that I had requested. While in preparation I idled my time amongst the blooms, vases, candles, and sumptuous scents that filled the shop, and my nose, with a delight that remains with me at this moment. Menno Kroon's shop; a seemingly infinite sensational delight I must more often experience.

Monday, January 18, 2016

On the Streets of Florence:

Walking through the streets of Florence: Beiges, browns, tans, and cremes (which are also, and not surprisingly, the tones of of coffee) define the color palette of this city on the Arno, between Rome and Milan. Even in winter, when the temperatures reach near 10-15C (a Dutch summer, practically), the city still intoxicates with its seemingly endless array of cultural heritage–treasures from the past, that are still present today; they lend to Florence, a sense of continuity: even if when walking through the city's streets the array of buildings, piazzas, and statues remains nameless, they delight the senses as the Italian sunshine streams around corners, on the edges of overhanging eaves, and on the faces of such statues. The Medici, so seminal to this city as they were, found the time to make their mark on it by way of their wealth, which they parlayed into the arts. Nearly everywhere, another church waits, and welcomes; another fresco–half destroyed, half conserved–presents itself; another trattoria or café calls out, encouraging the quick sipping of coffee in its confines–or, even on the street. Formality meets informality in Florence: rules are left unwritten, as in so many cultures, yet rarely do they seem to dictate. Instead, hands gesticulate with speech; commotion is hustled; and even so, simultaneously, a sense of serenity sweeps through the city, ribboning itself throughout ordered, chaotic, rigidly aligned, stone-paved streets. Pontormo, Masaccio, and Ghirlandaio are only a few of the names of whose works were before my eyes; Bronzino, Caravaggio, and Botticelli followed. What I took away, from my time in Florence, while walking through its city streets–is that no matter how distant in time something was made, and no matter how it may deemed by some, the presence of the past in the present, is one of the most reassuring notions to study, appreciate, and thus–contentedly contemplate.