Monday, June 12, 2017

Prelapsarian Profusion:

My life has been one giant whirlwind throughout the last couple of… years. Without even realizing it, I have completely redefined who I am and how I conduct myself; how I carry myself and present myself, to the world at large. I like that. In many ways, this past two years has been a period of intense self-actualization. Much of this transformation has had to do with my studies, which began in 2014. As of September of this year, I will have a second master’s degree and think that that is pretty exciting. It’s also not everything. But I do value my education; mainly because no one can ever take it away from me. Shoes, cars, houses, jackets, and many other major purchases one can make are all… material. Coats go missing; houses repossessed; cars wrecked; shoes worn-out. But my education I will always have and that I will always treasure. Since I last wrote on this website of mine, I have been to the USA for about a month, and I returned home to Amsterdam. It was, as always, nice to be in the USA, and nice to see family; they get older as do I and as I live longer apart from them I miss them more, while also realizing even more, what I already knew when I first moved to Amsterdam: I cannot not live my life the way that I want to, because of the ways that it may affect other people. I cannot not live my life as I wish, because I do not wish to physically be separated from those I love–my immediate family. But the longer I live in Amsterdam and the longer I lived outside of the USA, the more I realize that I am, here in Amsterdam, surrounded by my family. The family I made for myself and the family that my husband and I have made together. My family is here, too. As I wrote last summer; I often ponder what the borders between myself and my significant other are, exactly. We’ll never be one, physically, yet we are united in life, and spirt. This year I will turn 32 and it seems like just a few weeks ago I was leaving the USA for this most wonderful city of Amsterdam, returning home. I’m Dutch now; I’m American still. Just as it was an internal shift to accept, assume, and create my own new Dutch identity, inside myself, when I became Dutch in 2014; I am now at a phase of my life in which I am fusing my Dutch and American identities. I speak Dutch at a quite advanced level. It’s not perfect; but it’s good. And on good days, it’s really good. (Note to any reader considering a move to Amsterdam: learn Dutch. It really is the secret key to the Netherlands, as I have written about before. Take the time–probably years, as learning never stops–and learn the Dutch language. It’s full of fun quirks that have made my thinking processes more nuanced and varied. And there are all kinds of emotions that I would have never been abel to give a name too, had I only been an English speaker.) Until September, my life will be so tangentially focussed, and full of rigorous thoughts, mainly about Frans Hals. Before I left for the USA, near to the end of April, I finished my very last class as a master’s student at the University of Amsterdam. The class was on Dutch Old Master drawings, which are gaining traction in popularity within the field of Dutch art history. (Oh yeah!) From it I’ve learned that I actually have a love of drawings alongside my love for Old Master paintings; though I can report that prints and etching are not as exciting, to my soul. While on the other side of the ocean I visited the National Gallery of Art in DC, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Taft Museum of Art and the main Art Museum, the last two both being in Cincinnati. My eyes drifted across the surfaces of many Dutch Golden Age paintings during my travels. It's nice to be able to see objects of Dutch cultural heritage, when outside Dutch borders; seeing them in the USA, made and always makes me miss Amsterdam, when away. When I came back to Amsterdam, I cycled and ran throughout the city; I sat next to its canals, reading, thinking; I meandered along its labyrinthine streets; I basked in the pure enjoyment of the city itself. Only this past weekend did I realize that the way that I perceive this finest of cities, is changing. My focus on Amsterdam’s architecture has been attenuated by my ever-increasing interest in the art that was once made, centuries ago, behind the walls–that is, inside the houses–lining Amsterdam’s canals. The way I see is less focussed on architecture, while still being grounded on a foundation of knowledge about buildings. I see cities in whole new ways. But I see most handsome architecture as I do a handsome painting; lasting. The way I look toward Amsterdam has changed over the nearly decade that I’ve lived here. The way I live, has changed too. I'm less frightened and anxious; less wobbly and unsure. I'm more assured and poised; fearless and at ease. I like these latter developments. Last year was there most stressful of my life. Like Hillary Rodham Clinton, I was living at my most extreme; exerting myself, my presence, and knowledge in exhausting ways. 2016 was the year of stress. And endings, unfortunately. And how interesting to now know, that when you are really stressed, you don’t even realize it and can’t even see it, until after that time period is over. So I’m enjoying the new found state of prelapsarian pleasure that I now find myself in, since the beginning of June. There is still a thesis to write before the first of September; but since I’m writing it on Frans Hals, again, that thesis is nothing I fear. Instead, it is one of the many, but also a central reason, for my newfound state of calm. You see, 2016 was, for me, a year of fragmentation; it mostly entailed me being in many places, seemingly all at once, parallel to a never ending to-do list of reading, classes, and presentations, all generated by my professors. With no more of that, there is nothing more to focus on as directed by others; no forced agendas; no chapter I must read, that I would rather not. I will, from this day onward, create my own agenda of my life. Freed from academic restraints that require physical presence, I have instead devoted the time since returning to the Netherlands to delving into the world of Frans Hals, and the many connoisseurs throughout the centuries that have helped to mythicize his name. Very unlike 2016, and the first half of 2017, for the first time, in a very long time, my mind is at ease; unclenched and relaxed; calm and quiet. If the last two years of my life have been nothing but constant motion, then the next two months of my life will be prelapsarian, in nature. Frans Hals, my bike, Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum library, many paintings, museums, books, and many moments spent lying along canals, pondering painters from centuries past, will pervade my summer 2017. With my life having been regulated to an academic calendar since 2014, only with the start of June 2017, did I regain the freedom to determine when and where my body will be. I'm coming back to life. Like many others, I am also coming back to life from the shock of the incredible tragedy of Hillary Rodham Clinton (who I voted for) not becoming the next President of the USA. From school, I’m healing from exhaustion; from politics, I’m healing from heartbreak. These two aspects of my life, combined, makes me feel as if it is only now, that I am finally saying goodbye, to 2016. So, hello, to summer 2017. And what a summer it will be: I have a new wardrobe that I've been working to amass over the past few years that reflects my interiority–which I'll wear as I experience life while thinking, seeing, experiencing, and conducting myself, in ways I would have never thought that I would. All in Amsterdam.