Tuesday, March 30, 2010

on the beach (bis)

i mislay time. sometimes a few minutes, sometimes an hour or two. sometimes, an entire day. i imagine that day slipping, unnoticed, out of my pocket in the early morning, and lying, discarded and forgotten, on the tiles of the bathroom floor, between the cracks on the staircase. and as it slips from my pocket, so my mind slips out of my body, unnoticed, and takes off on a journey of its own.

and it remains amazing to me, as well as a little sad, how effortlessly i can function without being present at all. i feed, i clean, i cycle to and from the playground, i mediate endless almost-collisions of will, i read books, i play games, i watch and care, i get out bikes, skates, art supplies, i fold endless origami animals, as required. all on automatic pilot. and where does my mind go? what does it have to show for a entire day of dreaming? i don't remember. was i riding bare-backed on a winged creature, saving unworthy pot-bellied princes? or was i sitting in a corner, hunched and nail-bitten, chewing on the slowly churning wheels of some private hell. i don't know. i wasn't there. neither here nor there.

what i do remember, vividly, is the moment of return. it was 18:20. the sun had just broken through the clouds and was drawing its trail of broken diamonds on the sea. the beach was deserted. my too-pale winter feet were turning pink from the freezing water. i took a deep breath. picked up a piece of blue glass. and just like that, something shifted, and life slid back, from a grainy black-and-white movie to its full-bodied sensual self.

( i hope someone found my lost day, i hope they picked it up, dusted it off. and went on to live it the way it yearned to be lived...)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

on the beach

things were starting to look distinctly corny around here. you know, the flowers, the bees, the blue skies and the smiling children... i feel the need to push your noses into some of life's authentic details. we got to the beach around 4 o'clock, and some of us wanted to go back as soon as we had arrived (if not earlier). i was carrying toini's toilet (we can't leave the house without it, since he won't use any public facilities and he considers relieving himself in the wild to be nothing short of barbaric), his rather heavy tonka bulldozer (obviously!!), his wallet, his lollipop from last week (which madelin had friendlily retrieved from behind the coat-rack), approximately two kilos of stones and broken bits of ceramic (i.e. the treasures we had found on the way), not to mention the ubiquitous carrots-apples-bananas-water-bottles and my big bulky camera.

having arrived, we unpacked the kite, and then promptly lost it, meaning that toini let it go, and isabelle stumbled after it, in complete panic. it was very windy. i hadn't even noticed because i was trying to photograph my own reflection in the sunglasses of my mummyfied (because frozen) best friend without getting any sand onto the camera (the hardships of the artistic life). when i saw the kite, it was flying way off in the distance, with no child attached to its lower end, and isabelle was a tiny spot on the horizon. i packed up the camera (no sand, no sand, no sand) and ran, remembering to smile flirtatiously at one of the handsome kite-surfers on the way (because it is spring after all), and trying to run in appropriately attractive fashion (very hard when running in deep sand with a hood on and one of your boots half unzipped due to the bulkiness of the pyjama pants that are rather unsuccessfully tucked into it (i know, i know, one shouldn't wear one's pyjama's on the beach in springtime, but they are black, and you can't really tell they are pyjama's, in fact i am not at all sure that they are pyjama's, maybe they used to be regular pants that i forgot to take off one night (that happens) (a lot), and thus they became pyjama's, but anyway, what's in a name?)), finally reached a completely hysterical and collapsed isabelle, spent some time sitting and hugging and making things a little better, while trying to wink at the kite-surfer with the back of my head (hood), and at the same time making grateful polite conversation with the friendly swedish lady who brought back the tangled but complete kite.

finally trekked back to find entire family of frozen friends ready to pack up and go (except toini who, having completely forgotten about the kite, was just starting to get warmed up with the tonka bulldozer and would not budge until he was bribed with a couple of pistacho nuts). the entire visit lasted approximately 32 minutes. but it looks darn good on the photographs, don't you think?

Friday, March 26, 2010


Robin is five years old. He is soft to touch, and a softie at heart. He lives at the very aptly named Stal Paradiso (with incredible thanks to Josh for finding it!), where he spends his days playing outside with his friends, strolling through the dunes in search of a cold buffet, dipping his hooves in the sea, and waiting for a visitor such as my girl. He is exactly what she was hoping to find one day.

And while she is learning (about standing up for herself and being able to communicate what she wants to another being gently yet authoritatively, about how to clean hooves, and how to read a pony's ear-language) and falling in love, i am learning too (about how to clean hooves, and how to read a pony's ear-language, about the importance of looking until you find what is right, about the pleasure of silence interrupted only by chickens, doves, and horses), and falling in love again. with my little horse-girl. and her soft new friend.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

a tuesday in march

there was sunshine, and blue skies, and a warm sea-scented breeze. there were friends. there was the beach, and the light-house, and the dunes, and the garden, and the deserted park, and the mist over the fields in the early morning. there was playing and running, and jumping, and talking, and reading, and screaming, and laughing, and (sword-)fighting, and hugging, and hiding, and searching, and finding, and walking, and water-cycling, and singing, and tobogganing, and eating and drinking and sleeping, and kissing, and being read to, and sharing, and telling, and re-telling, and cleaning, and sitting, and swinging, and helping. there was ice-cream, and wine, and fries, and chocolate, and fruit, and salad. there were bare feet in the dew-covered grass, and bare legs hidden under skirts, and bare arms in pretty dresses, and bare heads under the sun....

oh, and there was spring too.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

self-portrait with migraine

floue, trempée jusqu'à l'os, un oeuillet en boutonnière
(we are off to the beach house for a few days, back on thursday, have a good week everyone)


they don't mind the rain, they don't mind the dark, they don't mind the dog poo, or the people cycling past them on their way home from work, they don't mind that the pasta is cold, they don't mind the cars parked right behind them, they don't mind that there is not a blade of grass or a tree in sight, they don't mind that the table is muddy, or that the chairs are wobbly...

...they don't mind anything really.

they are having their very first picnic of the year.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


a vaguely reassuring label
for an uncomfortable place

i know the bud will be a leaf
with a bit of luck
(or is it a flower?)
but the bud
what does it know?
its shape and feel
already altered
unrecognizable to itself
does it have ideas
on how to shed,
where to unfold?

does it fear?
does it trust?
does it hope
to be held gently
through its transformation?


i know i do

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


do you think
the dead animals in the museum
are dreaming of the spring outside?

Sunday, March 14, 2010


running its own Orient-Express
from Baku to Den Haag
(via Moscow, Warsaw, Paris and Eghezee)
with the help of a few good men met along the way

'What about Marie????' said Isabelle, pain and bewilderment in her voice. Therefore, without further ado, the last, almost forgotten, link in the chain:

Friday, March 12, 2010


a year ago or so, i plucked the courage to walk into the accordion store in our local shopping street and ask for a try-out lesson. an event which, despite its innocent appearance, ranks among the three most courageous acts of my life. since then much has happened, here and elsewhere, but the sheer exhilaration i experience whenever i pick up my shiny black friend remains astonishingly fresh and unchanged. playing the accordion has taught me many things i suspected but did not know for sure, as well as some things i did not even suspect.

among them, in the disorder:

- if for twenty years, you consistently dream of being friends/lovers/neighbours/pen-pals with an accordionist, chances are you are an accordionist

- making music together is exponentially nicer than making music alone

- it is possible to become extraordinarily close friends with someone simply by playing together the two voices of one song

- unschooling (i.e. only playing that which wants to be played and only when it wants to be played) is by far the most enjoyable and effective way to learn to play an instrument

- if i play all the A-minor songs my soul longs for, i won't have to live an A-minor life

and finally, the best discovery of all: an accordion is an extension (and expansion) of both the heart and the lungs. through it, my heart and my breath come together and sing.

(here is a small demonstration of my efforts http://www.badongo.com/audio/21236569. please to keep in mind that, all exhilaration aside, i remain a musically-challenged first-year student, so be gentle in your appraisal...)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

cardboard castle

cardboard boxes accumulate, in various corners of our house, waiting patiently to be turned into something amazing. many of them never do, but are eventually marched out with the trash, in a fit of household organization (that well-known urge to 'bring chaos under control, starting right now with this pile here'). sometimes, though, the stars are positioned just so, and a cardboard box turns into a castle (a ship, a theatre, a house, a doll,... ).

except it is not only a castle, it is also still a cardboard box. and will eventually be marched out with the trash. looking at the children playing with these today, it suddenly dawned on me: life is like that too. both an amazing castle and an old cardboard box on its way to the trash can. simultaneously. so that everything is both of the utmost importance and completely trivial. to hold both these thoughts in mind at once is an impossible balancing act. one to be attempted every morning, noon, evening and night. until i too, am marched out with the trash.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

a day at the zoo

(today we heard storks singing clicking love songs to each other while the trains rattled below)

i bet you didn't know there is a triangle of bermuda at the blijdorp zoo. how could you, since it disguises itself as the innocent T-crossing in front of the butterfly hot-house. i have in the past mislaid various entities there, from strollers to wallets. and today it happened again: i lost Toini. which is remarkable in itself, because he is one of those very well-adjusted ducklings who may seem to be going off by himself without paying me any attention, but in fact has me in his radar at all times.

and i lost him completely: one moment he was right there, trotting ahead of us, the next moment, he was gone. just gone. and i couldn't feel him anywhere either. he had just disappeared. it was terrifying. a full ten minutes i looked for him (although it only felt like ten days...), calling, running around, and making all those mad deals with the universe that only desperate lovers and desperate parents make. then we found him, cheerful and well. in the playground.

(his version of the incident, as told to pappa upon our return: 'mama was heel verdrietig, ze riep 'waar is mijn klein kindje????' en ik wachte gewoon op haar bij de paal') ('pole???' what 'pole'??? it turned out he meant the little branch sticking out of the ground by his feet...)

having recovered from the shock in the sunshine-drenched hammock, i noticed a chill between my ears and realized i was no longer wearing my very favourite wooly hat. it had disappeared from my head while i was searching for Toini. and guess where i found it? that's right. in the bermuda triangle. waiting for me. cheerful and well. on a pole.

(the hat's version of this incident was unfortunately lost in the mists of inter-species communication)

Monday, March 08, 2010

8 march

For the brilliant, compassionate, beautiful and fragile women in my life, here is a poem by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (from her cd series The Creative Fire), which i have been meaning to write down. And may we all find our voices.

Ways to silence a woman

Say "we're saying the same thing, don't you see?"
Say "don't question, just have faith!"
Say "don't defy my authority! if you want to pass, do it the way i tell you!"
Say "your ideas are seductive!"
Say "your ideas are dangerous!"
Say "it's too disgusting! it's not done! it's too immature! not well thought out!"
Say "you're over-reacting!"
Say "you're being too emotional!"
Say "you're not making any sense!"
Say "i can't understand you when you're upset!"
Say "i can't listen when you're so angry!"
Say "you've missed the point!"
Say "well, really, we're talking about something else!"
Say "that's a wild idea!"
and then talk about something else.
Say "that's not practical!"
Say "that's grandiose!"
Say "no one will do it, believe it, or follow you!"
Say "no one will want it!"
Say "no one wants to listen to that!"
Say "it's a closed system, you can't change it!"
Say "they'll ignore you, they'll forget it, it's already been done! it's not time! it's not the right year! who do you think you are??? No one can predict the future!"
Say "i didn't have it any better than you, so stop whining!"
Say "i put up with it, so you'll have to too!"
Say "i've suffered for a long time and can't stand to hear you!"
Say "you're not ready!"
Say "i'll help you!" but then don't.
Say "i'll invite you!" but then don't.
Say "i'll pave the way!" but then destroy her message.
Say "i'll open the door!" and then shut it in her face.
Say "i'll help you if you write it the way i want you to!"
Say "we'll include you!" then forget to.
Say "we'll talk about it!" but never talk about it.
When you are confronted, make excuses:
Say you are tired, you are busy, you are overwhelmed.

To give her voice, just two words: tell me.

Sunday, March 07, 2010


i tend to forget about Amsterdam. that it exists. that it is only a train-ride away. that it holds powerful magic. there is a liveliness there, a brightness, a sense of freedom and possibility, of the truly unexpected being just about to happen... and then it happens too.

i woke up yesterday morning with a sore heart, a fuzzy head and a big lump in my throat, which i could neither swallow nor spit out, and which tasted like sadness. i have been missing my grand-father so badly. i didn't know what to do, but i knew i wanted to be alone, so i got dressed, packed my bag, and took a train. and as soon as i got out at Amsterdam central station, the city grabbed my hand, and twirled me, round and round: around the canals, around the markets, past the stalls, past the tiny side streets, past the still bare trees in the glaring sunlight, and the friendly crippled pigeons; twirled me and twirled me round and round. until it dropped me, just a little unexpectedly, like a leaf touching the ground at last, in front of the photography museum.

i went in, cold and tired, and there they were, Alexander Rodchenko's photographs of street life in the Moscow of the 1930's-1950's. the Moscow of my grand-father's youth. and there he was too, my friendly ghost, waiting for me by the door with a smirk on his face, taking my arm and walking me through the museum slowly, for he had much to tell. and there i was, for all the world the mad-woman i was always afraid of becoming, muttering to myself and laughing at jokes no-one heard, with tears running down my cheeks... so sad. and so happy too.

until the lump in my throat finally melted, and i was ready to go back, into the sunshine, a little less alone, a little less sad, a little less lost, and let the city twirl me some more, let it take me home.

magic. that was strong magic.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

spring poem


What to do with the itch that cannot be scratched? (a cyclic poem)

You can blow on it, gently
You can sit with it
Under it, over it, near it,
And watch it

You can dissect it

You can scream it out
You can sing it out
You can dance it out
You can walk it out
You can wear it out
You can stretch it out

You can talk it out
And talk it out again
And talk it out again

You can meditate on it
You can theorize it
You can try to understand it
You can resent it
You can love it
You can forget it

You can write a poem about it

You can try to scratch it
With a lost rainbow
With a blade of grass
With a willing soul
With another body

You can try to scratch it
And fail

You can write a poem about it

You can live with it
You can live in it
You can live it

They say you can live without it too
(but don’t believe everything they say)

And when all is said and done,
Closing your eyes to the dark
It will be right there
In the base of your throat
In the curve of your belly
In the hollow of your back

So what can you do with this itch that cannot be scratched?


You can blow on it, gently
You can sit with it,
Under it, over it, near it...

Thursday, March 04, 2010