Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Yellow House.

Today, for the first time, I visited the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.  I have been to the city enough times now that I really have no excuse for waiting so long.

Except that maybe it was worth the wait.

Today I saw, really saw- witnessed, studied, carefully calculated- a piece called "The Yellow House."

It is the kind of image that stays with you.  

At least with me.  

I've never really identified with Van Gogh- not really.  Give me Degas and his dancers.  Give me Sargent and all of his portrait subjects.  Give me Monet and his studies of women with umbrellas.  These, to me, were the men of their ages- they were the gifted ones.  The important ones.  The dancers are strong in their femininity; the subjects unusual in their individuality; the women powerful in the wind and the world.  The artists are great in their art.

Today Van Gogh was added to that list- for the mysticism of this homestead.

There is something about this piece, something so utterly captivating to me.  I keep a journal of every place that I travel- a literal scrap book of receipts, business cards, brochures, buttons- things I find on the street, things I know will remind me years and years later of the (mis)adventure's I've had.  It's a little silly and a little time consuming, but it's worth it for the future remembrances.  Anyway, I've been made fun of more than a few times over these journals, but every now and again I write something, some snippet of an experience, that I cannot replicate anywhere else:
I fell madly in love with one piece in particular: "The Yellow house" or "The Street."  It's so beautiful and haunting... like the image of a place I never knew I wanted to visit or live- a place in my memory that I've never been to or seen before today.  I want to see that place for real.  I want to stand where Van Gogh stood as he saw the house on the street corner and desired it.  I desire this place. 
And even though it's nothing now (the house suffered during World War II and was later demolished because it was so inhabitable), it's still something.  I look at this painting and the saturation in the yellow and blue of it engage me; the density of the brush strokes enliven me.  I look at this painting and will myself to disappear inside of it- so that I can breathe in the mustiness of an old French building; so that I can smell the fresh air and coffee and bread made by hand; so I can run my fingers along soft wooden tables and chairs; so that my memory can match my imagination.

And though I am heartbroken that I will never get to go there, it soothes me to know that it was there, for a time.  And forever, in that painting.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

That Kind of a Day.

At something like 10:00AM Central European Time, I had a text on my phone that said "Look at the News. There's been a bombing in Brussels."  At 10:14AM (or so), I had an email sitting in my inbox which said something similar to that.  My first response back was

"Oh shit."

To put this into some sort of temporal and geographical context, from Stavanger, Norway to Brussels, Belgium (as the crow flies) is something like 564 miles.  I've merrily driven more in a day.  Belgium is in the same time zone, it is on the same continent as my adopted home base.  That established, in two days I will fly to Amsterdam- also on the same continent and within the same time zone.  Amsterdam is, however, a lot closer to Brussels than Stavanger.  

I'm traveling soon to a place that is substantially closer to an act of terror than I currently am- within a tight timeline.  

So when the texts, emails, and random alerts came through, so did the reality check.  But not because I'm flying, or maybe not flying because of international air disruptions, or whatever.  But because of so many other small things.  Well, not all small.  My family is Belgian- I still have family living there and I myself have been there many times.  I have been through Brussels, my husband works for an organization that is headquartered there.  Brussels sort of seems like everyone's international backyard.  It is a place that I have a fondness for even though it's a little behind-the-scenes and a little run down.  Let me rephrase- it seems like everyone's slightly-less-than-savory Uncle's backyard. 

But today... today I scroll through Facebook, and there's little- if anything- posted about this bomb that was detonated in the Brussels' Zaventem Airport.  Or the one detonated in the Maelbeek subway station.  These bombs that killed dozens and injured hundreds.  Add to that the moment when some CNN talking-head referred to Brussels as a "rat's nest" of terrorism... and I'm a little more than a little distressed.  

And that's when I start to seethe.  Because in lieu of being able to physically help, I can anger for help- I can want for it with all the power in my insignificant being. 

Because everyone counts.  Everywhere counts.  

Someone I know brought up some statistic he saw today that ranked nations in terms of housing "known terrorists".  This was meant to be a rebuttal for my screaming tangent over the aforementioned "rat's nest" comment.  Apparently Belgium stood at the top... which I took (probably not what he was expecting) not necessarily  as a bad thing, but as an indication that Belgian authorities have apparently identified more terrorists living within their borders than some other nations.  I'm willing to bet that if all terrorists were "known terrorists", there would be a far more... umm...  (looking for the word, looking for the word, looking for the right word)... obvious distribution of top-ranking nations.  

Today has been that kind of a day.  The kind of a day that I have not had in a long time, not personally.  The kind of a day that flip-flops back and forth between anger, mistrust, disbelief, grief, and a different kind of anger.  It's been the kind of day when everything gets under my skin more than it should because everything counts. 

Every single thing counts. 

So for a heartbeat, hats off to Belgium.  Because they should be. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Haunting.

Sometimes I wake up and think of everything I have done wrong.

To be fair, in my mind, this ranges from breaking hearts (not terribly frequently) to indulging in ice cream after a day of doctors visits, frustration, confusion, and stagnation.  To me, everything I have done wrong narrates my life in my mind.  Everything I have done wrong has lodged itself in my brain enough so that new neural paths are hard pressed to forge.

To be fair again, my mind is not a friendly place.

Sometimes I think of everything I have done wrong and it reads like a litany of self abuse.

Today I'm thinking of the things I have done wrong in light of the things I didn't know I had done wrong until they went that way.  I'm thinking of the things I did that led, inexorably, from moment to another to another to another

To now.

Cryptic enough?

(And if you're reading this, The Bob, I did not forget the period.  I left that sentence hanging for a reason).

There is  delicate line between what we do right and what we do wrong- between right and wrong.

Sometimes I think about all the people who regret knowing me; the people who wish they wouldn't have known me.  Not that I'm vain or self-absorbed enough to think they are many.. but everyone has someone that they wish they had never met.

And for someone out there, that someone might be me.

It's not like I don't have those people.




Those people, the memories of who we were when we were with them, are strong ghosts.

They are the ghost that keep the company of all the ghosts of the things that I have done wrong.

And sometimes when I wake up, they haunt me.