Sunday, March 30, 2003
my oldest turns twenty-two today. i remember – birthdays inspire nostalgia – the tiny, perfect boy held aloft and then whisked off for further medical care. he was months premature, and on that spring day in the wilhelmina gasthuis in amsterdam, i enclosed him in my heart and promised myself that , whatever happened, his life would be filled with love and support.
decades, adolescence, lifetimes have passed. he is no longer small and delicate. he is adult, and talented, and sociable, and humourous.
every child is the greatest of gifts. a child who overcomes odds and flourishes as best he can is a blessing beyond measure.
Friday, March 28, 2003
Thursday, March 27, 2003
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
she should probably give him the benefit of the doubt.
perhaps the emotional push was well-meant, even slightly affectionate: to nudge her upright, to coax her back on so-called track.
his perception of her had always mystified her, so different it was to how she knew herself to be. he saw naïveté where she knew compassion; he saw confusion where she knew concern. he saw non-commitment where she knew open-mindedness. he regarded his own intensity as admirable, and hers as regrettable; it was the story of their acquaintance.
looking back, she realizes that maybe he had just needed to be unkind.
but, because she had already been standing tall, and because she had already been on a steady path, this shove has thrown her off-balance, and she finds herself momentarily listing and adrift.
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
martin bril writes a daily column for the volkskrant, one of holland’s leading daily newspapers.
his inspiration is diverse: politics, daily life in amsterdam and the provinces, the avril lavigne concert that he recently visited with his two young daughters. he writes as evocatively about the spui – which he observes from his favourite café (the view is the same as that which i and fellow-muse observe from OUR favourite café, just a few doors down) as he does about domestic disagreements, the war, the mellow song of the blackbird in the vicinity of his back garden. and every spring, without fail, he celebrates the onset of short-skirt weather.
his words are delightfully spare; his window onto the world is one that we all, on tiptoe, can appreciate. his creations are collages of life: quirky, complicated, but ultimately as simple and beautiful as life itself on a good day.
from the moment that my alarm clock disturbs my reverie, i look forward to the first page of the second section.
like milky tea and indelible lipstick, he is an unmissable part of my morning routine.
Friday, March 21, 2003
an inspirational search is what it all boiled down to: the words "transparent" and "curtain" and "airy". i scanned a hundred quotations, in vain...or almost in vain. suddenly this caught my eye:
"I can't see anythin, ter be glad about -- gettin, a pair of crutches when you wanted a doll!" . ./ "Goosey! Why, just be glad because you don,t need 'em! . . ."
Eleanor H. Porter (1868 - 1920) US novelist
"Pollyanna," Ch. 5, 1912.
i had no idea what it had to do with the theme i was researching, but it made me smile. it made me think not only of donna and her knee-progress, but of my college years, when i was affectionately accused of having the 'pollyanna syndrome'.
"Oh, yes, the game was to just find something about everything to be glad about -- not matter what twas."
i endured the good-natured teasing, because i knew - and still know - that this is one of the major truths of life.
the greengrocer facing the clock on the bridge clears his throat impatiently.
“YES?” he croaks.
he addresses even a solitary customer as if the queue were out the door.
she takes her time.
“pineapple then?” he fidgets.
she usually buys pineapple, but it is not looking particularly appetizing today.
“no”, she responds. “not pineapple, it’s not at its best.”
“maybe you should visit an optometrist,” retorts the greengrocer, wiping his nose on his sleeve.
she straightens, and looks him in the eye, while one corner of her mouth curls uncontrollably upward.
“excuse me?", she asks.
“ there’s nothing wrong with that pineapple. i just chopped it.”
“ and you probably chopped it very capably. perhaps the whole pineapple was inferior. i’ll have the tomatoes, please, with the…”
“it’s about time we had a war!”
“excuse me?” she asks again. the humour of the situation is quickly eluding her.
“in times of war, people learn to appreciate what they have!” he snorts.
“i’m sure they do. with the cucumber and feta, please.”
“my pineapple is as fresh as can be.”
“i’m sure it is. could I have a fork please?”
“some people,” he barks, and slides an exorbitant sum into the till.
the bell rings as she shuts the door behind her. the clock on the eenhoornsluis reads twelve twenty-three.
her lunch break is almost over.
she strolls peacefully officeward.
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Sunday, March 16, 2003
of course it was traumatic. it was a threshold i stumbled over, objecting loudly. life begins..? in hindsight, it did. and the next frontier, that halfway-to-attainable-with-blessings-birthday, had me truly trembling, short-sighted as i can sometimes be.
this particular momentous decade is a quarter gone. each day is a gift. no-one, alas, knows what tomorrow will bring, but i am grateful to have had so many yesterdays.
she dreamed the betrayal before it actually happened. tossing and twisting under a distant blanket, she veered through the nightmare, wishing for escape, for morning. like all dreams, this one careened surreally from the extraordinary to the implausible, seeming all the while like life’s simple routine.
in her unconscious limbo, she found herself among friends left behind weeks ago. that relationships neglected could peel and flake and fade, she knew. but surely loving maintenance could overcome the eroding effects of absence? young alliances always feel as though they will last forever.
she awoke feeling drained and puzzled, vaguely remembering: the faces - his, and hers, and theirs, eyes averted - and the questions uneasily avoided.
later, when she called the faraway number for reassurance, and heard the hesitance in the voices a lifetime removed, she knew that no amount of long-distance care could stop the deterioration.
and she hung up, irrefutably on her own.
Friday, March 14, 2003
alkmaar is a tourist attraction cum laude. we residents learn to avoid the city centre on high-season fridays: the cheese market brings coachloads of visitors and a sense of displacement in one's own hometown. the main street resounds with exclamations in every language except dutch.
but now, in this long approach to spring, the cobblestoned streets are deliciously empty. and, on a chilly sunday afternoon, we walk softly in order to hear the echoes from the gables and the hourly carillon from the tower of the weighing house.
Monday, March 10, 2003
hopes were raised heaven-high at the end of february. tables and chairs were pulled onto sidewalks, coats and jackets unbuttoned, faces tilted to the unexpected sun. this week we’re wrapping ourselves in scarves and gloves again, and shivering. a little more patience is required: declining winter is stepping slowly and almost invisibly –at the level of the snowdrops and crocuses – aside, and spring is pressing upward.
Saturday, March 8, 2003
we work, side by side, five days a week, with pleasure. and regularly - once a month? - we stroll and cycle to the very best café in amsterdam. we sip rosé. we admire the view. we nibble, we discuss life and love and the not-so-distant future. we acknowledge, tongue in cheek, the uniqueness of our dialogue: after several glasses of glowing pink wine, all inspiration seems unparalleled. though it may mean a mad dash for the last train home, or bread & water for a week, each encounter, every single time, is something to look forward to..
Friday, March 7, 2003
Monday, March 3, 2003
the view from the roof terrace was pure urban amsterdam: russet brick, tall windows, walled gardens. but a glance backward presented an unexpected perspective* - more particular to prague, or burano, or county kerry than to this dignified neighbourhood a stone's throw from the zoo.
*thanks to jake at redscreen for the fake-lomo tutorial...toned down here, but supplying unlimited inspiration.
Saturday, March 1, 2003
we've just completed two saturdays of mental stimulation, physical challenge and renewed insights: otherwise known as sales motivation training. we enjoyed. we redefined boundaries. we exchanged ideas, we met challenges head-on, we debated the good, the bad and the ugly. we progressed, and mostly we simply relished each others company, as we tend to do anyhow.
but, every now and then, with a glance out the window into the magic forest at zeist, the old grade-school-classroom feeling returned: what are we doing inside? isn't it time for recess, teacher?
are we there yet?