Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Sunday, 17 April 2016

contemplating, continued

there is a flower bed here with a tiled footpath going around it, however soon after his arrival in our household Django decided he needed a shortcut and so there is now a bare stretch running through the bed; whenever there's someone at the gate he'll rush over his compacted mud highway and be able to get there just a fraction faster than he would have, had he been forced to go all-the-way-round the likes of us have to! 

Me  ‘OBK, can I ask you something?’
OBK  ‘Yes Saskia, of course you can.’
Me  ‘I’ve been thinking a lot since our talk yesterday and I was wondering, how come you are where you are, full of wisdom and contentment and me, I’m still searching?’

The OldBirdKing started chuckling, then his laughter became louder and louder and he almost fell over, joyful tears streaming down his face and once or twice he tried to answer but couldn’t. Finally after he had calmed down, he looked at me sideways, and as a smile crossed his face, he took a deep breath and said: ‘Maybe I am not the wise one after all, Saskia.’ With that he turned around, walked off and left me gaping in amazement, what the bloody hell happened here…..what does he mean…….

Saturday, 16 April 2016

stork snail OldBirdKing Marlon Williams

‘Yes, OldBirdKing.’
‘I have a favour to ask you.’
‘Anything OBK, your wish is my command.’
‘Okay, here goes; I was wondering of you wouldn’t mind taking notes?’
‘Huh? What notes?’
‘Why yes, of course I’ld be happy to, why me, if you don’t mind my asking?’
‘Well, to be perfectly honest I can’t myself, that is I can’t write, not using your alphabet, I read and write Birdspeak, not to be found on any laptop I know of, so if we could converse and you then write everything down in proper English……….what I want is for you to communicate my thoughts via your blog, which is in itself another favour. Which I should have asked first I guess.’
‘Oh my OBK, I would be honoured, absolutely…….I’m sure the readers such as there are, would be delighted and very interested in reading what you have to say. When shall we start?’
‘How ‘bout now? If you have time?’
‘For you OBK, always; I’ll just get my laptop, paper and pen and let’s get cracking. This is all rather exciting if you don’t  mind my saying so!’

And so the recording began; I’m no good at shorthand, at times I forgot to write, caught up as I was in his words and we had to go back to what had been said, other times I couldn’t quite grasp what he meant, exactly. Even though there was always room for me to ask questions it didn’t feel right when he was in a flow and I didn’t want to interrupt. So any misinterpretation in my notes is entirely on me.

OldBirdKing  ‘Let’s start at the beginning which is usually a good place to start. You know I’m not the worrying type, however for quite some time I have become more and more aware that there are so many people who are unhappy. My worrying doesn’t help anyone. I do believe I have an answer and it would be selfish of me to withhold it. People who are unhappy don’t want to be and yet, they cannot snap out of it, they don’t know how. Being happy is not a goal in itself, although I do feel that whenever a person is happy they are far more capable of helping others (feel happy) as well. If we want to get to the root of the matter we have to realise why folks are unhappy. The way I see it, the main cause for a person’s unhappiness is he or she is not where they are.’
Me  ‘Aren’t where they are, what do you mean?’
OBK  ‘Put differently: in order to be happy you have to be where you are. On all levels: emotional, physical, mental and spiritual.’
Me ‘I’m afraid I don’t understand: aren’t we always where we are?’
OBK ‘You’ld think so, however, more often than is preferable we are not.’
Me  ‘How so?’
OBK ‘I will put to you some simple “for examples”: when you are eating are you just eating, or are you reading the newspaper as well? When you’re driving, are you just driving, or thinking about the conversation you’re about to have in the office? When listening to someone else, are you hearing their story or filling in the perceived gaps with your own thoughts? When joining the dog for a walk do you have your earplugs in, combining the walk with a good read, thereby missing your surroundings? ‘
Me  ‘Ah, I think I get it, but can’t you make more effective use of your time by combining activities?’
OBK  ‘Yes, of course you can. At the same time, pardon the pun, the feelings of unhappiness are often linked to feelings of stress, which is caused by doing too many things at once. As long as you don’t experience stress you can combine activities, but as soon as there is stress, which is different for each individual, my advice is not to. It’s a good way to train yourself at ‘being where you are’ . ‘
Me  ‘Okay, so once you’re aware you have feelings of unhappiness, or stress which is all too common these days, you know that you have to simplify your actions.’
OBK ‘ Exactly; focus on what you’re doing, be there in the moment. When kissing, kiss. When running, run.  When drawing draw. When planning, plan.’
Me ‘Once you are aware, you train yourself on focusing and once you’re used to engaging in this fashion you can maybe combine?’
OBK  ‘You’ve got it.’
Me ‘Is that it?’
OBK ‘Not quite.’
Me  ‘I thought so.’
OBK  ‘What I have been describing are daily matters, practicalities of organizing one’s life. There’s more to life than the mundane.’
Me  ‘?’
OBK ‘Underneath it all is the desire to feel happy at all times, we do not want to feel pain, hurt resulting in unhappiness. As described above we know it is often the case we’re not happy. The question we have to ask ourselves is: When you feel unhappy can you let yourself just feel it or are you too busy trying to fix it? And underneath this: what does it mean to be happy, can we define happiness?’
Me  ‘Can we?  I mean these are difficult questions OBK.’
OBK  ‘I know. Here I’m afraid there is no easy answer. Each person has their own stuff to deal with and getting to the bottom of what makes you happy and unhappy takes time and effort. And you have to want to make the effort. It’s not just wanting the end result, it’s going for it that counts. The effort is part of the result.’
Me  ‘whoa, slow down, I don’t follow you.’
OBK  ‘for instance, whenever someone says to you “it want to lose weight” what they actually mean is “I want to be slim” they’re not interested in the effort it takes to lose the weight, they want to be slim, thereby forgetting they have to do the hard work themselves. ‘
Me ‘Wanting the stroll without the sweat, bypassing the uphill hike.’
OBK ‘Ha ha, I like your metaphor, yes, that is what I mean.’
Me ‘How do we get from being where you are to the bottom of the underlying unhappiness?’
OBK ‘When you feel unhappy: stay there. Ask yourself why? why do I feel what I feel, where does this come from? Only if you let yourself experience the pain are you able to confront it. You are not this emotion. Neither emotion in fact is important.’
Me ‘Happiness and unhappiness are equal?’
OBK ‘Of course, neither are real, as in a true state of being. It is just that when you experience unhappiness it is something undesired, something you want to shun. When we experience happiness we hardly question it, as it is an enjoyable state of being.’
Me  ‘so, we should be looking at both emotions?’
OBK  ‘I believe so; it is only because we want to turn away from pain, that we want to feel happy at all times. However, pain and pleasure, sadness and happiness, positive and negative feelings are not reality. Reality is breathing in and out and walking and standing still and flying (in my case) running sleeping eating mating dying. We have come to accept that our brains tell us we have thoughts and ideas and emotions, perceptions influenced by our upbringing (nurture) and personal chemistry (nature). It is almost impossible to step outside of ourselves and view our Self impartially: a life worth living. A gift worth the while we’re here. All of it, the ups and downs. As it is so difficult to reach this state of being, which I guess is enlightenment, I would suggest to first try and embrace your pain, the unhappiness in order to attain a state of happiness, and then train yourself……..and one day or perhaps for one moment you will realize the fullness, the true reality, none of it matters.
Embracing one’s pain is therefore the first step to experiencing happiness which is itself just as transient as unhappiness, there is a level where neither exist: where you simply are.’
Me  ‘OBK, this is almost too much for me to get my head around.’

OBK ‘I understand, it is hard work, Saskia, we’ll take a break for now.’

Marlon Williams live at KEXP when I was a young girl

Saturday, 9 April 2016

mixed bag

you know Spring has arrived once the birds start building nests: here on top of the pumping station's chimney a stork* is busy; I was worried the station might actually start pumping and rang the waterschap to inform them of the new inhabitants, let's hope the stork family decide to stay

* the ooievaar is protected by law

today the weather is perfect for outdoor activity, last week on Saturday it was grey and grim and I went to the Kunsthal in Rotterdam to the exhibition 'the Museum of Everything' an extraordinarily moving experience: so many unrecognized artists with their incredibly personal stories expressed in unique taking was prohibited, alas. It's a travelling show so if it happens to come your way: go see and enjoy!

loving Everything this young man sings:
Marlon William's cover of Ewan Maccoll's 'The first time ever I saw your face'

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

cheap thrills

 thanks to careful planning by my superiors due to the introduction of a new telephone system, there were way too many of us in the customer service department today and as I noticed weather was improving after a grey, dull morning and I will be doing overtime tomorrow anyway, I asked and was granted permission to leave early, two hours in actual fact; so, there I was driving back home feeling chuffed with myself and extra time on my hands, the world smiled at me and afforded me several fortuitous treats

number 1. on the radio on my way home an interview with young fashion designer Aniela Hoytink, who together with the University of Utrecht is researching and experimenting with creating fabric from mold, the roots to be precise: mycellium, it's called MycoTEX. I probably would not have heard this particular news, not today at any rate; it is quite fascinating: a completely eco-friendly textile, f.e. feel you've outworn your jumper, toss it in the garden and it becomes instant compost! Or if you're attached to it, grow a patch, stick it on and overnight the hole has disappeared. Be sure to check out the website
 number 2. enough time for a long walk with Django: always a pleasure

 number 3. first one home gets to read the evening news paper first, together with a mug of strong earl grey in the sun making the outdoor retreat even more perfect!

number 4. time to admire the tulips: my lazy gardner's trick, dig in a couple of bulbs, forget about them and hey presto, a few months later: colour 
(unless a certain black dog gets to them first and chews off the petals, in that case make sure you plant a lot of them)

Monday, 28 March 2016

long weekend

the house northface;
last weekend the lads and I did a bit of wood chopping and sawing and we
built storage from bits and bobs

 this easter weekend, in our optimism and desire to make the most of the extra hour we decided to eat our evening meal al fresco, hence our eldest built a fire in the firepit, where he treated us to a wonderful dinner: marinated goose filet, fried onions and sliced new potatoes; it was all rather yummy and we sat in relative peace, when all of a sudden a windy, rainy storm was upon us and amid much giggling and running back and forth, we ended up at the kitchen table and managed to continue eating whilst the eldest stood cooking indoors! it was a veritable moveable feast

some of the ingredients that went into the marinade

today, Monday, the sun shone and shone and brought such delight, bringing absolute definition to all the blocks of colour and adding an extra dimension to the whole; can I say I fell in love with the cloth hanging there? yes, I guess so

almost all of it is now two layers thick and most of those layers have been stitched together with my beloved running stitch; houses, a boat, the river, stuff is happening in this cloth

the dots are knots

left and right of the cloth you can see how much it resembles our actual mosaic-life

connected to all of the above in ways that defy my attempts at description, on the left my grandad Axel Knudsen, he was an engineer and manager of all of the lighthouses, an important and responsible job in Denmark as there are miles and miles of coastline; life without sea and water nearby, unimaginable   

Friday, 25 March 2016

in memoriam, here's to joy and authenticity

Little did I know that one day I would be contemplating the death and more importantly the life of one of the greatest football players in the world. Alas today I find myself doing exactly that as yesterday March 24 2016 Johan Cruijff passed away at the  age of 68.

I was shocked and saddened by the news. Despite not being a great football fan, I felt a sense of loss, the end of an era....he was/is an icon and as such had been part of my life in ways I had hardly been aware of. When abroad, once you have mentioned you’re Dutch sooner or later his name would pop up in the conversation, and you would feel oddly proud you share the same nationality.

At home, not only did he bring us countless moments of joy thanks to his seemingly effortless moves on the pitch, his numerous, at times unintelligible, expressions have enriched the Dutch language for decades to come. Several of his phrases have found their way into our Dikke van Dale, the definitive dictionary of the Dutch language.

To quote just a couple, starting with the one everybody in Holland knows and uses regularly:

‘Elk nadeel heb zijn voordeel’  ’ Every disadvantage have it’s advantage.’

This one has me in stitches:  ‘Er is maar één moment om op tijd te komen, ben je er niet dan ben je te laat of te vroeg.’   ‘There’s only one moment you can arrive on time, if you’re not there, you are either too late or too early.’

‘Als ik zou willen dat je het snapte had ik het beter uitgelegd.’ ‘If I had wanted you to understand it, I would have explained it better.’

As insightful as a buddhist line:  ‘Je gaat het pas zien als je het doorhebt.’ ‘You can only see it once you understand it.’

‘Je wordt beter door slechter te worden’ ‘You become better by becoming worse.

His grammar was often incorrect, or to put it differently, he was completely authentic and as famous as he was, remained true to who he was. In doing so, he has also taught me staying true to one’s self is the only way to go.

If I had to explain in just once sentence why he moved me so much, it would have to be: he brought us joy; in a world where there is always so much sadness, being able to offer others joy and therefore comfort, is, as far as I’m concerned, the most important thing you can do for one another.