Tuesday, December 30, 2003
what she thought was open is closed. what she perceived as transparent is opaque.
there is a downside to enlightenment.
she feels, much like the last person to grasp the punchline, utterly foolish and endlessly gullible.
she wonders how long she saw what wasn't really there, and didn't see what was.
Sunday, December 28, 2003
years ago, when i was working my way through college, and living in a delightful little flat on west moira street in belleville, ontario, i maintained dedicated correspondences with friends and aquaintances the world over.
and sometimes, taking my lunch break with colleagues in the cozy grill on front street, i would look up from my chips and gravy and see my regular postman rocking impatiently on his heels beside my booth.
"oh hi!" i would exclaim, " do i have mail?"
"a postcard," he would reply.
"from spain," he would add.
"oh?" (this was always the best bit.)
"from james and zenis. they're doing fine. they saw the hanging town of cuenca. oh, and the foldaway bullring at chinchon. they tried some drink called horchata. but they're having trouble with their rental car..."
"oh," i would smile, "bummer.."
"hmmm." and he'd be gone.
my companions would always be aghast at his presumption.
i relished his revelations: they were a perfect example of how exquisitely intimate the wide world could be, and how a few warm words from far away could brighten two persons' days at once.
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Monday, December 22, 2003
well, of course it didn't LAST: it hardly ever does.
it flurried around my office building (and elsewhere, too, undoubtedly) for mere minutes, and then melted into greyness, but suddenly - call me canadian - it felt a bit more like christmas.
Saturday, December 20, 2003
one story swells from a single splendid word that catches my fancy; another evolves from a phrase that sways me as i snap open my coffee-to-go on the early-morning train. still another sidles, fully-formed, through my near-dreams, nudging me awake, sending my sleepy hands reaching for light, and pen and paper.
and: although these bits and pieces veer between lucid and totally disjointed, time - and place - brings them, hesitantly, together.
sculpting and scraping and sanding before keyboard and monitor is the usual procedure, but sometimes, after a busy day in amsterdam, i pause in a favourite café and, surrounded by the sad and the familiar, my pen finds its own relentless way.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
the letters, scarlet on silver, on white, on russet brick, are plain but precise. they proclaim, soberly - as was his intention - pride of profession and respect for heritage; he nods his tidy head in approval.
then, almost as an afterthought, he adds one more word.
the hand that so deftly wields scissors and comb commits eight small letters to immortality, and the man is filled with the elation of an artist at his maiden exhibition, of an actor seeing his name in lights for the very first time.
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
"the universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper."
- eden philpotts
there is nothing like a ferocious curry to clear one's head.
there is nothing like a clamber over infinite hurdles to confirm priorities.
no matter that it hurt, or that there may have been an easier way:
what counts is the glorious blue of clarity attained, and the healing, and a triumphant arrival on tomorrow's doorstep.
Monday, December 15, 2003
Thursday, December 11, 2003
i visit, as part of my job, between ten and fifteen amsterdam hotels - the small one-and-two-star ones, mostly - per month, functioning as a kind of contact person, monitoring quality and dealing with complaints from both ends of our cooperative arrangement. i've seen accommodations that have made my brow furrow in dismay, and accommodations (like the one where this photo was taken) that have warmed my heart.
this sunday, i get to experience the luxury side of the hospitality business: a complementary (promotional thing) night-plus-breakfast at one of the best five-star hotels in the city, and one of my special favourites because of the 18th-century vicarage which has been left standing in the atrium lobby, and which houses a lovely beamed and fireplaced little bar.
a tiny vacation: i've been looking forward to it for weeks.
first, however, i need to shake this miserable flu.
Tuesday, December 9, 2003
Sunday, December 7, 2003
here, in this low land of water and windmills, boerenkool - or curly kale - ideally appears, mashed with potatoes, on people's dinner plates after the first night-frost: something to do with the chill improving the flavour.
but it's not only "farmer's cabbage" that is prepared in this way. all manner of vegetables meet the same fate: sauerkraut, winter carrots with onion, and, my favourite, raw chicory, shredded finely so that it warms through and wilts while stolidly stirring. add a bit of smoked sausage, or some bacon, or some cheese, and a traditional dutch winter meal can be presented, steaming, to those who love simple, hearty fare.
for all its deceptive plainness, though, this is not food for cooks in a hurry. i can whip up a thai curry in minutes, or quickly layer a lasagne that slides into the oven and gives me time to relax before dinner (and i do like to relax before dinner). "stamppot" (the name for these squashed spuds and veggies), on the other hand, means endless peeling and cutting and chopping and rinsing and stamping. it is HARD work.
but hey: i'm canadian. maybe one needs to be raised with this particular skill.
could be it's not in my genes.
enough on the subject. i have ten colleagues coming to dinner tomorrow.
i am not, needless to say, cooking cabbage.
Friday, December 5, 2003
if she could, she would take a mighty breath and disperse them above and behind her, for this has been a year of upheaval and heartache.
and as she blows, she would wish inwardly: for the bareness to bestow purification and peace, and for the end to be a beginning - of growth and grace and future.
Thursday, December 4, 2003
Tuesday, December 2, 2003
this is not the rijksmuseum; it is amsterdam's wonderful central station, seen through the barricades guarding the current building activities.
it has the same true lines, the same elegant, solid-but-delicate embellishment, the same symmetric charisma, as that museum, and the dominicus church on the spuistraat (a true jewel) and the posthoorn church on the haarlemmerstraat: probably because they are all impressive creations of the architect p.j.h.cuypers.
we, at work, received a public relations communiqué yesterday: the rijksmuseum will close for a few weeks in december and then re-open in a limited space with 300 much-loved masterpieces on display. the renovations in the rest of the museum will be completed in 2008.
2008. two thousand and EIGHT.
in these days of fastfastfast, some things take much longer than one would expect, and very, very much longer than one would wish.
Friday, November 28, 2003
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
i have always been very much a "carpe diem" and "do unto others" person: two shiningly golden rules, to my way of thinking; but when i glance to the right of my monitor at work, i see, among my loved ones, two of the three other life-mottos that inspire, and reinforce me.
the first speaks for itself: "practise random kindness and senseless acts of beauty": one compelling sentence with the exquisite exuberance of what life should, and can, be.
the second - on the button - is loesje's "geniet nooit met mate" which translates, loosely, into: "never enjoy in moderation". these four words, in postcard form, identified my locker in the department store where i worked until a couple of years ago, and they've accompanied me onward. in the last few months, with things threatening to push me off track, they have reminded me to keep myself open to the pleasures there are despite.
the third? the third is scrolled in neon across the roof of a tall building in alkmaar. i haven't figured out exactly how to interpret it best, but when i do, i will take my tripod and my camera into the darkness and share it with you.
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
Monday, November 24, 2003
Sunday, November 23, 2003
Saturday, November 22, 2003
roommate A: "hey, man! we're outta tape!"
roommate B: "we got nails, yo. the game's starting!"
roommate A: "the paper's ripping! wait. oh, man. i am SO smart."
roommate B: "yeah right. bring the opener, will ya?"
roommate B: "and the peanuts."
Friday, November 21, 2003
"and then leaning on your window sill
he'll say one day you caused his will
to weaken with your love and warmth and shelter.."
- leonard cohen
she misses him.
she misses him immensely.
but should he stride her way at this very moment, golden and radiant, she would duck into a doorway, dodging his indifference, and, hidden, allow him to pass her by.
Thursday, November 20, 2003
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
tim horton's was a mainstay of my college days, but i had to kick THAT habit very quickly when i settled in holland.
nothing, but nothing, is open 24 hours a day here. no-one in this country seems to need cafeine and baked goods (or pizza or chinese food) at 4 a.m. - unbelievable, but true.
our coffee, though, is undeniably delicious, and, instead of donuts, we have the seasonal sustitute: oliebollen - golden, deep-fried-on-the-spot globes of light dough, plain or with currants, or ginger, or filled with custard, popped into a paper bag, and dusted with lots of icing sugar.
they are sinfully tasty, and very very fattening. i resist them whenever possible. but i do relent at new years, when the queues at the stalls are rows deep, them being traditional festive fare and all.
who am i to defy tradition?
and whatever are holidays for if not for nudging guilt aside, and simply enjoying?
it was a day of visible shins in amsterdam: more tartan than orange, and kilts as far as the eye could see.
now, who do you suppose is playing soccer against holland tomorrow?
*wish renée a safe trip: she's off to prague tomorrow..
*and over at lalaland: public numbers, and another view of an old clock... i am very pleased.
Sunday, November 16, 2003
"there are always flowers for those who want to see them."
i don't suppose matisse was talking about garden centres, exactly - well: i KNOW he wasn't - but they are a welcome diversion when, as sam so succinctly put it, our palette has reverted to greyscale for the rest of the season.
living colour as a stopgap: i absorb, aisle after aisle, a little brightness to bridge the winter's dark.
*many of the submissions for the gimcracker blogiversary invitation have been posted. it was a definite challenge: my own photos tell me their own particular stories, sometimes even as i activate the shutter, but finding words that can do justice, as i have said, to someone else's artistry is another thing altogether. take a look. they are lovely.
Saturday, November 15, 2003
the face, caught in a split neon second between streetcar and night sidewalk, looks like his.
but she can't be sure.
the proud posture, the long legs pushing the pedals: they look like his too.
but she can't be sure.
the only certainty she has these days is sadness and indignation, and a bewilderment that numbs.
she stares inward, clenching. his capacity for inspiring tears should have relented months ago. she is working on recovery. she thinks she'll get there.
but she can't be sure.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
she has no idea when it is, but it must be morning: the wall behind her glows with promise.
she has no idea where she is, but she can see, over her shoulder, her yesterdays and her tomorrows soothingly reflected in the curves of hours.
she has no idea who she is – but she knows , blessed as she is with curiosity and compassion and a capacity for delight, that she has a right to be – wherever and whenever - whoever she happens to be.
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
today is remembrance day in many parts of the world.
but here in holland, at least in our bit, today is saint maarten's day, commemorating this revered person's hospitality to strangers.
i had no idea that the holiday even existed when, years ago, newly moved north, newly married, newly pregnant, i responded to the doorbell. standing outside was a little group of children, faces shiny and expectant, sporting home-made paper lanterns and plastic bags.
they burst into song.
i had absolutely NO idea what it all meant. when they finished, i thanked them kindly and closed the door.
minutes later, a neighbour scurried over, and explained, to my embarrassment and dismay, that i was supposed to have sweets ready to distribute - lots of sweets: i could expect at least a hundred tiny serenades as the evening progressed.
she kindly presented me with an hours worth of candy. when that was gone, i turned off all the lights and sat in the darkened living room, feeling guilty, listening to the shuffle of small feet and excited snatches of verse in the november night.
Monday, November 10, 2003
the bell rings.
reflecting, setting sorrow aside, she realises that she has done her best.
the game – mere and obscure – has been played. points have been tallied. sides have been taken. the scoreboard is invisible in the shadows.
what has she won, she wonders, or lost:
the jackpot? an eternal place in the wings?
it doesn't matter.
she played to take part, and not to prevail.
Sunday, November 9, 2003
Saturday, November 8, 2003
when you live in one city (like me: alkmaar) and work in another (like me: amsterdam), you spend a sizeable chunk of each day commuting.
and if you're a virgo (again: like me), you spend a good fraction of this travelling time simply waiting*.
i am typical of my star sign: i am punctual to a fault, and i would rather be twenty-nine minutes early than one minute late. i NEVER miss a bus; i NEVER miss a train, because i ALWAYS leave the house earlier than necessary.
i did the same on my very first day at this job. ahem. pardon me? i went a step further: i allowed myself a whole hour's leeway. and then my train ground to a miserable screeching halt in a meadow between alkmaar and heiloo and stood there for an hour and a half.
luckily for me, when i finally tumbled into the office, my new colleagues took one look at my flushed and dismayed face, and realised instinctively that it would probably never happen again.
rannie turingan's photozine is inspirational: each week a splendid photo and a collection of sources i always wish i'd discovered sooner.
Thursday, November 6, 2003
Tuesday, November 4, 2003
it is may.
they are friends.
they dance, for the first, for the last time.
the day has been conspiratorial, and they sway and shuffle on a single square meter, sequestered in the evening light.
the day's feathers and finery allow them an almost anonymous intimacy; indulgent affection lifts them above his youthful awkwardness and beyond her impossible expectations.
their distance, their silence, is warm, companiable, compatible:
three minutes and forty-one seconds long.
Sunday, November 2, 2003
Saturday, November 1, 2003
it's a saturday night, cold, balanced between - for me - two workdays, and i have (along with wishes for a superior weekend) just these few visual links to share:
*tracey has her new "26 things#2" list up. i can't wait. the themes are supple and irresistible and inspiring. old takes are allowed, i see, which is fine in a pinch, but i think i'll try and start afresh. i have this IDEA, you see....
*gimmy celebrates her first anniversary of words-and-images-shared with a different kind of challenge: compose a poem or a short story to accompany one of her amazing photographs. there is a prize. i, to be honest, can only hope to do her perceptions justice.
*emese's photos of the aftermath of the california fires are absolutely gripping, and melancholy.
*and my three favourite "neighbours to the south": what can i say? they are so GOOD. they produce honest beauty. they make me smile.
do visit. don't miss.
Thursday, October 30, 2003
the days, shortening, have shifted.
the morning harbour is once again washed in watery gold, and my evening homecoming is suddenly draped in darkness.
i'm undecided: do i prefer the light early? or late?
it's a moot point. in just weeks, dawn and dusk will be attempting an encounter somewhere in the early afternoon, and we will all be grateful for whatever winter brightness we can find.
*photoblogs.org has a whole new design, and a whole new ranking system: worth a visit, definitely, and compliments...
*and my exceptional daughter has got her new site up and running. it's lovely; i am PROUD. i always am.
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
"one may have a blazing hearth in one's soul and yet no one ever comes to sit by it. passersby see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on their way."
- vincent van gogh (1853 - 1890), dutch artist
next weekend in amsterdam is the much-anticipated "museumN8": all the major musea in the city open their doors to the public between seven o'clock on saturday evening and two o'clock on sunday morning. and all the thirty-seven participating institutions have scheduled unique happenings: tales of love and erotica in the allard pierson museum, otazu jewels and "star visits" in the museum van loon, berber/latin/rock/dance music in the bible museum, bollywood films in the vakbond museum, and a performance by the national ballet in the new church - to name just a few. historical trams and buses and canal boats transport ticket-holders from one delight to the next.
i have two tickets. and sunday off.
i am a lucky person indeed.
Monday, October 27, 2003
she sweeps and sweeps, the broom reluctant, the leaves uncooperative. she will have little peace until the faded and the fleeting have flown: her memories of their former glory are hindrance enough.
dry, they drift and dive. wet, they slap her feet like reprimands. futility shifts about her ankles. every brittle scrap of colour is a recollection of the green that was and the times that were.
the wind, as relentless as affection, suddenly swoops.
and she is back where she started.
Friday, October 24, 2003
my taste in clothing is unassuming and uncomplicated - black, jeans, black, and oh dear! what shall i wear today? black? - but i make up for that in the adornment i choose.
i love silver. i love semi-precious stones in the colours that nature has seen fit to bestow. i love glittery bits, dangly bits, bits with character. i don't like ostentatiousness, but i do like to shine. in a positive mood, i regard it as lily-gilding; in difficult times, the words "silk purse" come to mind.
eenvoud ("simplicity") is a silversmith's atelier on the prinsengracht in amsterdam. the tiny corner shop/workshop inspires my magpie tendencies: half a dozen glass cases overflowing with beautiful jewellery, hand-crafted and hand-chosen. i cannot pass by without dropping in; i cannot drop in without succumbing.
(and equally irresistible are these little works of art, which i stumbled upon last week on internet: amazing.)
i am too easily seduced, i know, but my fingers and my earlobes have never complained of neglect.
Thursday, October 23, 2003
sometimes - not often - i have nothing to say.
sometimes - having nothing to say - i do a wordsearch (love+air) for inspiration.
sometimes - like now - i get a result like this:
All millionaires love a baked apple.
- Ronald Firbank (1886 - 1926) US novelist.
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
oh. okay. that was fall, then.
only yesterday, REALLY, life was bare shoulders and strappy sandals; today it's woolly scarves and rosy cheeks.
blame it on environmental abuse, if you will, but i believe that the whole season simply refuses to waste its precious time on a place where leaves don't turn much more than a muddy brown, where there is no corn-on-the-cob, no bonfires, no hallowe'en and no thanksgiving.
apart from my family, autumn is the thing about canada that i miss the most.
Monday, October 20, 2003
Sunday, October 19, 2003
Thursday, October 16, 2003
she faces the grand transparency, and watches the wisps of blue and black and fading gold disperse and dissolve.
caught in the curves and imperfections of the glass, her likeness eludes her, and she asks herself which is more fragmented: herself or her uncertain reflection.
*theme thursday: windows
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
usually, when i have just one single day off, i throw myself dutifully into chores and household demands.
today, though, i nudged routine windward, and met up, at long last, with an old friend.
we spent a good while (i'd seen it already - twice - but he hadn't) strolling the "de aarde vanuit de hemel" exhibition; we lunched in dantzig, in glorious sunshine; we shared tales of the year flown by. he teased me until i kicked his shins.
the sky was blue. the air was crisp and sweet. and there were even some coloured leaves to convince me that fall was really here.
recalcitrance has its rewards.
Monday, October 13, 2003
Sunday, October 12, 2003
the demolition of the douaneloodsen began just days ago.
the westerdoksdijk looks decidedly desolate.
the artists and the free souls have been displaced; the vibrant wall-paintings have been reduced to rubble.
i wonder: is it any use taking on bureaucracy?
but i suppose: it is always worth a try.