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.