26 November 2009

Impa and the desert (2)

In which Impa thinks herself Sleeping Beauty and keeps the scorpions at bay

Sleeping underneath the stars rather appealed to me. I'd had a few incoherent thoughts on scorpions beforehand, but had dismissed them. We were to have faith in the cosmos. It would know just what to do with scorpions. And so I went looking for a place to sleep. How do you go about that in the desert? Let's see. Several thousand kilometres of space that way and several thousand the other way. That wasn't really a criterium, then. Were there other people near I didn't want to be sleeping next to? Because in the wide expanse of the desert you wouldn't want to end up next to a snorer. Typically. I saw the last rays of a torch reflect off the rocks in the distance, and then dissapear. There was no one near.

I looked up and looked down again immediately.

One billion countless four hunderd trillion stars were making my head spin slightly. I decided to lie down first, so I wouldn't be found in the sand next to my sleeping bag the next morning, suffering from hypothermia and grunting with happiness.

I chose a spot in a bowl worn away high up in the chalk rocks. The Bedouin camp stood on the sand plains at the foot of the hill. The fire had almost gone out, the camels were dark shapes quietly ruminating in the distance.

I spread my bed, fished my bright pink socks from my bag (there's no reason why we shouldn't make life in the desert as wonderful as possible) and got into my sleeping bag. It had a hood that left only my face bare, especially designed so you didn't have to miss a single breeze when sleeping underneath the stars in the dark. And just as I was ready to surrender to the starry sky I pictured those smooth, black venomous stings again. I felt cracks between my face and the hood of the sleeping bag that were positively gaping - from the perspective of scorpions, that is. (I'm very good at putting myself in their shoes.) Cracks scorpions would come dawdling through at leisure, looking for warm, dark holes and bright pink sleeping socks. (You can't fool a scorpion.)

I decided to take strict measures. If the cosmos had my best interest at heart, they would certainly understand if I handled the limitations of nature and science somewhat casually. I decided to install a forcefield. If they did it in Sci Fi films, I could do it too. I imagined lying there on my hill with a gigantic, glass dome over me. If a scorpion came pattering along unsuspectingly, it would hit the glass dome head on. All scorpions would then clear off happily to look for pink sleeping socks in warm sleeping bags elsewhere. In exchange, I promised the cosmos I wouldn't kill any animals in a panic. It would make me extra peaceful, loved by man and animal alike. Knowing the cosmos, they would rather take to my proposal.

It was done accordingly. I slept a deep sleep, completely scorpionfree, and emerged from my sleeping bag the next morning with two pink socks and a deep sense of happiness.

During the meditation at sunrise, a bird came to sit on my knee.
(image not by Impa but by Disney, obviously)

25 November 2009

Impa and the desert (1)

In which Impa says goodbye to the dust but keeps the desert with her

I lower my body into the tub. My skin wears the desert dust; there's sand in my hair. As the water encloses me, I hesitate. My hair is stiff as string, twined by the desert wind for a week. 'A threefold cord is not quickly broken.' I'm reluctant to wash out the dust and the sand, to let go of the last tangible bit of desert. As I sink into the water deeper and deeper, I feel my hair starting to float and wave through the water. I feel my ears fill up and close my eyes. 

As soon as my face is submerged and I return the desert dust to the elements, I feel I'm in a different place. The water encloses me the way the sun did. The whirl caresses me the way the wind did. The water carries the softness of the dust, the same mild caress as the endless light and space of the desert.

Taking a bath is different with the new senses the Sahara desert gave me. With my heart still so wide open and surrender still so close at hand. And then I realise that I can simply let the desert go, there, in that warm water, because it is all around me. Because my senses can drink in silence, space, movement, stream and light anywhere. 

'Everything is just right the way it is. The people you will meet, will be the right ones, at the right time. The things that will happen, will be the right things, at the right moment. Things come and go as they do, and what's past, is past.'

The next morning my love and I walk along the river in Nijmegen. I feel the wind on my face and hear the sounds of the city waking up. The traffic, the ships. And underneath the noises I can hear, very clearly and very friendly; the silence. 

24 November 2009

Impa and the little man on the stairs

Halfway up the stairs lives a little man. He sits there and giggles. I'm not sure if he's really sitting: he might be floating or being present or being spread out across the walls and the ceiling. I'm not exactely sure how that works with little men like him. But he lives on the stairs and he hurts you. And then giggles about it. With shiny little eyes.

When you walk up the stairs, he gives you a little push to make you bump your head into the low ceiling. When you walk down the stairs, he makes you slip on your socks so you bounce down a couple of steps on your heels. And when you are really careful walking up and down the stairs because you won't be had, he makes sure you scratch your own face while talking or stab yourself in the eye with something you're carrying. 

He does those things because he thinks you take yourself too seriously. Because you work so hard and try to make life as pleasant as possible for yourself and others. Because you worry about the environment, great suffering and the energy system of all things in general. He also considers those things very important but he also knows you have to take a step back once in a while. Or maybe he thinks there's another perspective inside of you that needs to be shaken loose. That's when he hurts you and then laughs about it. 

And when you look around, outraged, you see him sitting on the stairs, chuckling. With gleaming little eyes. It distracts you from the greater scheme of things for a while and brings you firmly back into your body. And then you can continue. Upstairs, where the moon shines through the window, or downstairs, where the dishwasher purrs. 

You rub the sore spot, shake your head, feel the pain and laugh at yourself. As you walk on, you also laugh at the little man on the stairs. 

And then you kick his behind. 

3 November 2009

Impa says tweet

Were you tired of Impa's garden yet? You weren't? Would you mind if I shared this bluetit with you, then? I have many more of those, and with great tits and red breasts too. It's a coming and going like nothing else.

My sweetheart took the photograph. He's the undisputed master of tits, photography-wise. 

27 October 2009

Impa and the beautiful things

Impa Googled "beautiful things are good for the soul" and got only seven hits. Which is simply not on. Beautiful things ARE good for the soul, and it would be nice if our fellow Googlers could be reminded of it more often.  

Tomorrow I'll be hanging precious photo frames and paintings on the walls of my new home with a borrowed drill that comes with two pairs of strong arms and good company, also to be put to good use in the garden. The photos get their own piece of wall back in my new living space after years of storage in a box. I'll be able to sit down between the walls and smile - for that's what I just keep doing in this house - and feel that beautiful things really are good for the soul.

It works the other way around, too. Things that are good for the soul are beautiful too. Take holding a tiny little boy for hours. Let's say it's a boy of about two weeks old, wearing a green hat, who sleeps, yawns, frowns, grabs my finger in his sleep and smells wonderful. (My sweetheart says that smell is especially designed to intoxicate women: well, it works.) Holding that little boy helps the whole energy system ground, straight into the earth with those roots until the whole thing is firmly back in place. If that isn't good for the soul, I don't know what is, and I'll be damned if that little boy today wasn't the most beautiful creature I've ever seen. 

PS. Cats that glance around whistling a tune, meanwhile pulling your cake from your plate with one little paw because you can't do anything what with two arms full of sleeping newborn, are not good for the soul.
PS. PS. Although I can see the beauty in that too, really. The whiskerfaced bastard.

25 October 2009

Sleep, Impa, sleep

Impa wants to write about the small, white room with the big, white bed. The room a white lamp has been picked out for and where a dark brown shelf will be put up over the white blanket chest. The room where the most treasured stones and the most beautiful flowers will be laid on the shelf and where pink branches will be painted on the walls that will stretch out at night, in the slumber that makes everything possible, waving quietly to the woman sleeping underneath and rustling to her in her dreams; ever on, safely, go on, go ahead, go. Dream. 

Where, outside the window, the branches of the vine come curling over the edge of the windowsill, high above the garden, opposite the butterfly tree, right where the birds first start singing in the morning. 

For there, in the little white room with the big white bed, someone wakes up every morning with a smile on her face. 

But maybe the little room can't be written about. Maybe it can only be captured in that smile.
So soft.
So bright.
So calm.

21 October 2009

19 October 2009

How Impa met Tobi

The first time Tobi gave someone a brilliant idea, he wasn't even a week old. He didn't think it had taken him a lot of effort, which was true. Giving people good ideas came naturally to him, slumbering in his little bed. But after all, that is often how it works with owners of a great talent: they themselves find it all rather obvious. They can see things changing in the lives of people around them who find new points of view, but they don't feel the sense of inner inspiration it plants in people's hearts. 

After meeting Tobi-who-wasn't-even-a-week-old, Impa went home and thought: Why, little Tobi. What a brilliant idea. What a solution, what a shining light on a lingering problem. And yet so simple.

A hot water bottle in bed.


14 October 2009

13 October 2009

Impa just asked a question

'When you walk into the Blokker shop in Groningen, they hold the door open for you. First, they give you a little tour so you know where to find everything, and then they ask you if you'd like a cup of tea or coffee and if you have any questions.'
'Seriously?' Friend M. and Friend A. asked, all surprised. 
'No', I said.  Ofcourse not. 'But I did ask a question in the Blokker store the other day.'
Friend M. and Friend A. looked up from their breakfast in shock.

I'd walked up to a member of the Blokker staff as you do, slightly huddled, arms shielding your face. I asked the lady where I could find rolls of shelf paper, but before I could apologise for coming to buy something, she suddenly put down what she was doing. She looked at me thoughtfully and then pointed her finger. I didn't dare look at what she pointed at and made sure I kept her face in full view. 'There,' she said. 'Turn right after the shelf with bathroom items and you'll walk straight up to them.' She looked at me expectingly. I didn't know what to do. What was going on here? Was this a diversionary tactic? Had she warned the manager by pushing an invisible button? Or had she just ruthlessly sent me the wrong way with a smile on her face? Why didn't she look tired, bored or indignant? After all, she worked in the Blokker store and I'd just asked her a question. 

Friend A. and Friend M. looked at me breathlessly. I had stepped into the Blokker store in my new city on my own.  I was even braver than they thought.

It turns out it's not the Blokker. In the end, there's also Blokker staff who don't think you're pulling a foul trick by asking then something. Who are prepared to talk to you and offer help. Who are friendly. Yes, that's right. Friendly.

But then... Could it have been Utrecht? The city I've loved living in for so long, where you only shop at Blokker when you have an extremely low sense of self esteem and a sickly urge to have it confirmed? To be snapped at or simply ignored?

After breakfast, Friend M. came tripping through the kitchen dressed in a big towel and jumped into the shower. Friend A. cleared the breakfast table. I did the dishes. In the shower, we heard Friend M. coo she was having such a good time (because that's what she does, when she's having a good time). All three of us sang along to Bishop Allen while thinking of the Blokker and how wonders will never cease. 

11 October 2009

Impa and the apple turnovers

Maz left Impa's new garden with her arms full of apples. She held up the hem of her tunic like an oldfashioned little housekeeper, put the large, green apples in there and  supported the heavy bulge in the fabric with one arm. Someone held the door open for her and as she walked away, I could hear her say something about apple sauce and apple turnovers.

And behold: Impapple turnovers!

7 October 2009

2 October 2009

Inside, though, you are

Impa heard a man on local radio. His voice croaked with old age. 'Lonely, lonely... I find that a very difficult word. I would never say that. I might say' - he continued in the Groningen dialect - 'It don't work so well. As a Groninger, you don't do that, you don't want that. But inside, though, you do. Inside you are. But you'll never say it out loud. And that's that.'

Ten years ago, a drug dealer used to live in Impa's new house. Neighbour P. told me people were coming to the door all night long and tramps slept in the garden shed. In the end, the house was vacated by the police and the drug dealer was evicted. All his possesions ended up on a heap in the garden. Among them were handwritten poems. 'After that, one of the sisters moved in,'  Neighbour P. said. 'One of the sisters?' I asked. We were in his garden, watching his chickens. 'Yes,' he said, 'the other sister moved in on my other side. They were calling to each other that the coffee was ready across my garden all day.' Neighbour P. had never spoken to the drug dealer when he still lived there until one night, when  he was playing cards with a friend, the doorbell rang at midnight. It was the drug dealer from nextdoor. He said: 'Today is my 50th birthday. Will you have a beer with me?'

There are no tramps in the garden house now. There are a lot of spiders there, but I'm not sure if they sleep there too. I wouln't get a second sleep with all those little legs. 

1 October 2009

30 September 2009

Impa's stuff and the van

(part two of Impa and her stuff)  
On the day of the move, we needed nothing short of a miracle and it presented itself in the shape of Friend M. She made her way through the boxes and furniture on the pavement and passed the moving troops who were looking from the van to the things and from the things to Impa with sweaty brows and questioning eyes. She got in the back of the van and spoke the liberating words: 'Here, let me. I'm good at this.' She took a good look at the furniture and the boxes, rolled up her sleeves, pointed at the big book cases and said: 'Those first.' The moving friends stirred. Hope glistened in their eyes. The book cases were lifted into the van. Friend M. stood in the back of the van like a general eyeing the battlefield. The moving troops dragged and lifted according to her precise instructions. She had them turn and shift furniture until every piece fit and for every hole an crack found a box or board to fill it. She didn't leave a single centimeter unused. And that is how the army of Impa's things was beaten under the command of Friend M. and the big, yellow doors of the van eventually fell shut.

I said goodbye to my friends at the old home in the old town. I started the motor of the big yellow van. The diesel engine roared and I rolled down the window. Friend A. stuck his head inside and said: 'I only realise just now. Just a few more minutes and you won't be living in Utrecht any more.' I nodded and swallowed. My sweetheart was sitting next to me in the van and put on a CD. I started to drive. The friends of the moving team started walking along with the driving van. They waved. I can't be absolutely sure, but I'd swear they were walking in slow motion. 

I drove to the end of the street.

I rounded the corner. 

I went.

29 September 2009

Impa and her stuff

The cupboards opened and an army of things came rolling out. It spread across the floor, in between my legs and around my feet and filed up in rows of a hundred. If you saw the things standing there, legs wide apart, immovable, you would've never believed they'd actually come out of the cupboards and drawers of my small flat. That once the cupboard doors had been able  to close; door handles down; keys turned in their locks. The things looked determined. I'd never be able to get them back behind closed doors, that much was clear.

If you're good at putting things away, you can afford to live in a small place. Not a centimetre of the shelves and drawers of my small one-room flat had remained unused and I'd made use of the shed with man-sized piles of things with deviating shapes precariously balancing on top of each other. I pulled my bicycle from in between the piles every day without them collapsing. 

Before my stuff had come out of my cupboards in files, I'd already subjected them to a strict selection that was to put an end to the worst excess. For every item, I asked The Three Questions 'Do I use it?', 'Do I think it's beautiful?' and 'Does it have sentimental value?'. Anything not living up to any of those three criteria got sent to friends, the charity shop or the tip, without mercy. The trip to that last one was a joint attempt with  Friend M. who helped me load up the small red car as full as possible without it collapsing on its small black tyres. 

And the rest?

The rest of the stuff got to come with me and on the day of the move was put outside by the team of friends that helped me move house. There it stood, spread out along the wall of the hallway and out the door of the building onto the street where the big yellow moving van was parked. We looked at the things and we looked at the van. We looked at the things again. Someone raised an eyebrow. Someone else shook his head, almost imperceptibly. Someone else sat down to have a sigaret and a cup of coffee first and I saw someone pull his moustache and spit on the pavement. We slowly got the feeling something might not be right with how the dimensions of the bus compared to those of the things. Or rather - no one dared say it out loud but let's be fair - that the things just might not fit in the van.


22 September 2009

Impa and Blog-Art

Impa was asked to take part in Blog-Art with the short videos on Impalinea. Blog-Art is an on-line podium for creative webloggers that'll see the first edition of an off-line event on 9 October 2009: a festival in theatre Theater aan het Spui in The Hague. Here, creative bloggers get the chance to show their work, meet each other and others and work together live.  It'll all be about blogs as a podium for art and the role of new media; there'll be presentations, lectures and forum discussions and you'll get the chance to see video art, photography, music, cabaret and poetry.

Curious? Visit the Blog-Art site for the programme or order your tickets at Theater aan het Spui. Organisation: Karin Ramaker and Marco Raaphorst.

11 September 2009

Impa and the police

I was walking on the hard shoulder along the A27 when the police stopped me. Several black cases and bulletproof vests were shifted in the back so I could take a seat. On a small screen in the front of the car I read my name, address and date of birth. For a moment I wondered if I was wanted, but then decided that if that were the case, I'd probably know what for. 

'Your car is parked on the verge down the road', one of the policemen said. He kept his cool sunglasses on for the time being, even though there was no sun. Ah, I thought. Of course. They checked my number plates. Too bad, really. This way I don't have to wonder if they're going to take one of those mug shots where I'll be holding a numbered sign beneath my chin and there'll be a striped background and I'll look into the camera defiantly because there's no way they'll ever break me.
'That's right,' I said. 'I've got a flat tyre.' 
'Then why are you walking along the verge here?' the other policeman asked.
'My phone was dead. I walked to the petrol station to call the Dutch AA.'

The policeman wearing the sunglasses said: 'Can't you put on a new tyre yourself?' I felt a surge of indignation, because I'm a young woman with a good pair of brains and a healthy body. Of course I can put on a tyre. But then I realised it's not his fault for not realising that straight away, about the good brains and the healthy body. Divine, okay, but you can never be sure about healthy.

'I've gladly been paying the Dutch AA about 80 Euro's a year for 10 years now, and for those 800 Euro's all together I'd be happy for them to come and change my tyre for me. Besides, it's a little dangerous out there, constable. What with all that traffic rushing by and those cars hooting. Because if those hooting cars get distracted by me just walking there, I wouldn't want to see them getting off course if I start changing flat tyres in high heels here as well.'
The policeman took off his sunglasses. Maybe he really liked high heels. Or maybe he thought I was saying very sensible things.

They drove me to my car. With a big detour, because you're not allowed to drive backwards on motorways. On the way there, we talked about the new Dutch police motto 'Waakzaam en Dienstbaar', after the American 'to Protect and Serve'. After all, even the police need to be mediagenic and you just can't go without a catchy motto.
'You're the first person to bring it up', the policeman without sunglasses said. He looked at me in his rearview mirror.
I said: That's just because I think you serve me so well, what with taking me to my car', and I smiled my sweetest possible smile. The policeman reached over to the glove compartment and took out a pair of sunglasses.

There was a big, yellow AA breakdown truck parked near my car. The man who stepped out, said there was no need to tow it. He would change the tyre on the spot. He asked where the spare tyre was. The AA man and both policemen looked at me questioningly. I looked over to my little, red car. It was crammed to the roof with stuff.
'Underneath the floor covering in the boot', I said. Both policemen took a step towards my car.
The policemen with the sunglasses asked: 'Do you mean underneath those stools, buckets, cleaning things, brooms, painting materials, tool box, bag with clothes, two laptops and all that garden furniture?'
I nodded. I thought he was saying very sensible things. 

The policemen looked at each other, put their sunglasses in their breast pockets, and rolled up their sleeves. One by one, all my things were put on the verge along the A27. Bucket. Holdall. Table. Chair. Another chair. And another one. Laptops. Cleaning materials. Broom. Tool box. Painting things. When the car was empty, one of them sat down on a small, red stool on the hard shoulder. The other one stood at a suitable distance and played with his sunglasses. The AA man changed the tyre. (He had a magic inflatable jack.) When he was done, the first policeman got up and the second put away his sunglasses. One by one, they put all my things back in my car. I was starting to find it so enjoyable I was almost sorry they had to leave. Fortunately, the policeman who'd sat on the little red stool put everything in the right proportions again just in time by telling me if I didn't have a rear view mirror on the passenger's side, I was legally bound to have a free view through the rear window. So that actually I was liable to punishment. 'Obviously protecting too, then' I said, smiling. 

The AA man got back in his truck. He'd lead the way to the nearest garage, where I'd get my tyre fixed and call off the meeting where I was suppose to be that evening and I'd never make it to in time now.

The policemen got in their car. 
'Thanks, lads.'
They waved, smiled and drove off.

At my mum's, where I'd be staying that very last night before I got the key to my new house, there was spaghetti and beer. 

And that's how my move to the city Groningen started.

21 August 2009

And then the pizza was in the freezer

Turn on the oven. Take pizza out of box and out of plastic. Open door, put pizza in, close door. 

18 August 2009

Impa is starting to know this conversation really well

...Are you serious?
- Yeah. 
Have you got a boyfriend you're moving in with over there?
- No, I haven't. Why?
Were you offered a job there? 
- No.
But why are you moving, then?
- Why not? I've lived in Utrecht for 16 years. I want to move on, now. And over there, the air is clean. Less noise. More light. 
More light? 
- Yeah, that's something I feel inside. 
I see.
- Yeah.
- Its a very cool city. I came from there originally, that undoubtedly has something to do with it. 
But where are you going to live? 
- I'm buying a house there, at the moment. 
And what kind of work are you going to do? 
- What I've been doing for years, now. Working for myself. Making translations, text. Illustrations.  
Yes, ofcourse. 
- Yes.
I say. Thats pretty cool, that you're doing that. 
- Yeah, I'm really looking forward to it. 
And brave, too.
- I think so too, actually. 
- Yeah. 
Well, good luck, then. 
-Thank you. 
We'll miss you.
- Thanks to all of you, too. It's been great.
I say.

16 August 2009

Impa goes vroom

I was on the back of the bike wearing a helmet and thick leathers. It vibrated through my hands and in between my legs straight into my body. The wind from riding drove the day's heat away and I could imagine how he must be feeling, right in front of me, his hands on the handlebars and his head empty. I waved at sheep, for that is what I do. I saw donkeys and birds of prey. The landscape rolled by and I was slap bang in the middle of it. 

It's hard, strong and hot and yet a motorbike makes your hart light and your head quiet. I looked at the land and in my helmet heard someone sigh happily. 
On the dike along the Waal river I got an icelolly. 


13 August 2009

What Impa wanted to ask Him

Dear God. Moving house is really expensive. I'm glad I just heard the financing for my new house has been approved, so at least that's been taken care of. House hunting itself took quite a lot of time and time is money, as You know, and then I haven't even mentioned the added costs for moving, decorating and furnishing. Not that I'll totally splash out or anything, just wallpaint and curtains and stuff. Not that that's a problem because I'm very good at taking care of myself and I'm really looking forward to it, but I still wanted to ask for something. It's the Iittala Satumetsä mug. I held it in the shop yesterday and it's perfect. I'm totally smitten by it. (If you click on the image you get to see it a little better.) Dear God, I'm glad I asked. I hope it works out. I have to run now, because I have to be at the notary's. Thank you ever so much, Impa.

12 August 2009

Impa says goodbye (1)

How do you say goodbye to a city? Maybe by realising that you don't choose your local pub but that one day it suddenly earns the lable because of all the time you've been spending there all those years. By being aware that every street, every corner, every park and every tree houses a memory. By knowing which spots can hardly be replaced. By remembering well what living there was like.

Someone said they felt anonymous among people, but recognised by the city. 'I know these streets and they know me. I'm allowed to walk them.' 

But I'm not saying goodbye, really. I gratefully leave those 16 years in Utrecht for what they are. Me leaving to breathe, eat, live, sleep, work and love somewhere else doesn't change anything about the city or my time here and all the memories attached. For even if I'd stay, that past would remain unchanged. And the city itself will still be at hand. Arms remain spread for me here and beds made. 

If I'll actually miss the city remains to be seen. That I love it is a fact. 
It was good.


9 August 2009

Impa drives her sweetheart to the horizon

... and he takes pictures that she loves.

7 August 2009

Impa tweaks lying down

Three glorious, long, sunny, slow, contented days. That's how long this year's summer holiday lasted. Last year, I adopted the holy resolution-and-mending-of-my-ways not to abstain from the sweet balm to the soul of Vlieland for more than three months in a row, which turned out to be a good combination with this year's Glorious Three-day Holiday. 

It was rather crowded on Vlieland, but you can't blame all those other people. It's a comforting thought that at least in October or February I have the Wadden Sea wind all to myself. And crowded though it was, it was also blue, blue, blue, with a daily plunge into the North Sea. Sea gulls turn out to be able to coo, jellyfish swarm. The bottles of beer were cool. We had mussel meals. A packet of holiday cigarettes. A picknick at sunset. There were Vlieland friends. A brisk bit of cycling. Live music. 

But most of all: lying down. I've really tweaked the art of lying down on Vlieland this time. I haven't reached pure perfection yet, but I'll just keep coming back to practice. For the time being, especially lying on air beds came along by leaps and bounds. Lying on the grass, on the beach and in the dunes have improved considerably too, but lying in tents especially is much to my satisfaction.

I took my new love on my Glorious Three-day Holiday and can proudly assure you that he passed  the test. He loves vlieland, it loves him and he's welcome back.  

So we can work on lying in tents some more.

30 July 2009

Impa had a nice wednesday

If they ever ask me: 'Grandmother, do you remember when you decided you wanted to marry granddad some day?' I'll nod and say: 'When he was standing at the stove stripped to the waist and said: 'Why don't I make you a chocolate pancake?'

24 July 2009

Of a son and his father

Days with my Father. Beautiful and moving, by Philip Toledano.
There's more Toledano magic. (Seen at Maz' blog)

15 July 2009

Impa and the proportions

In the centre of my storm of much work, irregular hours, an unexpected love that tempts me with all its softness, house hunting, an entrance exam, gathering documents, signing papers, many kilometres on the motorway, it slowly dawning on me that journeys do not only go somewhere but depart from somewhere too, sleep deficit and many small dances of joy, I was suddenly hit by the indomitability of the greater perspective. It walked in with a round belly and big breasts and her smile didn't just come from her face but radiated from every fibre in her body. Now I understood, now, for the first time, I saw for myself the glowing that pregnant women are said to do. It comes from deep within and gives them the kind of beauty that can't be cosmetic and must be some kind of divine secret. Friend H. was always made of light, but seemed to walk on it too, now. Friend K. has just given birth to her daughter. Friend M. carries a healthy son and Friend C. just heard they won't be able to have children. It turns every life around passionately or heartbreakingly and yet in the bigger perspective is still the most normal thing in the world. Loving, giving birth, dying.
Caring, feeding, letting go.

Breasts, belly, taut skin.

She sat next to me with the heaviness and calm of a pregnant woman and let me put my hand on her belly. All my energy so close to that new being. I tried to give my hand a softness, to keep it clean, but I didn't get the chance. Something inside that belly moved and in a quick shift of reality, the whole world and everything around it concentrated underneath my hand for a brief moment. And expanded again, first to its original proportions and then far beyond it.

The oldest truth lies in the belly of a pregnant woman.

6 July 2009

Impa dreams

'Do you know what I dreamt?' I ask him at five in the morning. As if he's been lying there for hours, waiting to hear it. Between sitting up straight between the white sheets and  stumbling through the bedroom door to go to the toilet, across his body in the bed and three steps towards the door, I pour out a flood of dreams, one story seamlessly merging into the other. With a little violence, a little confusion, a few strange people, burst water pipes and tomatoe soup. And did it have a rabbit too? He doesn't move a muscle. 'Good story', he mumbles.

After I have long gone back to sleep (galloping more chaos, always on, ever more), he lies awake for hours. 
His bed is too restless. 

I know.

I'm sorry.

Just hold me. After all: you never know.

Impa's knapsack

Moving house to far away feels very cinematic. I see myself laying a bundle of things on a large cloth in a small, old house. I look around me. My eyes travel across all the things I leave behind. I'll only bring what is part of me now. I nod, tie the four corners of the cloth together  and hang the bundle from a long stick. I put the stick on my left shoulder. I close my hand around the end of it tightly. I walk to door of the little house and stop at the threshold. I look back, smile, and raise my hand. 'Bye, house.' Then I pull the door closed behind me, straighten my back, smile and step onto the path. It runs away from the viewer, to the front and the right. It's flanked by tall, waving grass. The horizon lies far off, the backlight is strong. I walk. Before long, I see myself getting smaller in the distance. 

Suddenly, I wonder why I have the perspective of those who stay behind. The answer is exactly the reason why I leave with a knapsack and not with large suitcases containing everything I own. Luxurious cases on wheels, with combination locks and soft lining full of pockets that store everything orderly and safely. With labels indicating my personal data and the exact time of planned departure and arrival. Suitcases transported by a specialised company guaranteeing that all will go according to schedule.

I have the perspective of those who stay behind because I can't see what is behind the horizon yet. The steps across that threshold and onto that path will be taken in the next few months. The build-up has already started, of course, goodbyes have been said, the anticipation is already bubbling inside. But I will only see the view from the path as I'm walking it. When with every step the next bit of perspective unfolds. When I feel the knapsack resting on my shoulder. Feel the grass on either side of the path brush my legs. See the little house behind me get smaller in the distance.

Impa and the river Waal

The river Waal flows to the North Sea, to the left, so to say, and I'm flowing to the north, so that would be more like the Wadden Sea. But still. That flowing of the Waal opens up a little door in my heart. It's so much water all at once. And on the quay in Nijmegen, when my feet are dangling high above it, a huge bridge on either side and the water far below me, I flow along with it. Quietly and steadily but unstoppably. And then I want further, bigger, more, to run, to dance, drink wine, play hide-and-seek and have a large, yellow, real excavator for my birthday.

I was standing on the Waal beach on the other side of the river, with my feet in the water. There were rocks I wanted to pick up everywhere en and the water just kept lapping, all around me, in my head, over my feet, along all my senses, on and on and on. Cool rocks, cold water.

I took off my clothes, sat in the cold water in the warm sunset in my underwear and thought: if I really feel now and stop thinking, if I let this moment run its course, I'll stay here forever. I'll become a rock or a wave and all I will have to do is shine and lap.

My love got up, walked towards me with his feet in the water and kissed my neck. The river Waal smiled its broadest smile. 


Impa in the rain

The raindrops were so big I could see them fall from the sky individually. When they hit the deep pools in the streets, they formed big, round bubbles that burst before I had the chance to really look at them. The bubbles were everywhere I looked. They were like little, jumping, round frogs in the water. 

Running from my car to the front door didn't work. Someone jumped in front of me laughing and kissed me until my hair streamed along my face and my clothes were drenched.

PS: It wasn't the man who stepped in front of me in the previous blog post.

Impa's men

His trousers reached way up over his waist. His chequered shirt was tucked in and his grey hair meticulously cut. He was old and he greeted me. I smiled at him and said hello back. He stopped. I took another step. He took a step to the side so he stood half in front of me. I stopped. Oh well, a little chat is the least of all the things people want from you.

'How do you do?' he asked. I saw two old teeth in the corners of his mouth. 'Very well, thank you', I said. 'And you? Are you going to do your shopping?' 'No, I'm going to get a box. My pendulum is broken. Do you know what that is, a pendulum?' 'A clock', I nodded. 'It'll probably be very expensive to have it repaired', he said. His voice was clear but kind and he looked at me piercingly. 'Do you have a boyfriend? Or are you married?' he asked. 'I have a boyfriend', I said. He looked very seriously. 'Because I'm looking for a girlfriend, you see.' I thought about how best to put this. 'But you're not really my age', I said, carefully. For a few moments, he looked at me as if he was trying to find out what I meant. Then his face relaxed. 'That's what they all say', he said. He laughed. I started to walk away. 'I'm going to take my groceries home, sir. Good luck with your pendulum.' He turned as I passed him and took a step after me. Then he raised his hand, turned around and trudged to the supermarket. 

So there, I'd said it. The boyfriend thing. Just like that, on a friday afternoon outside the supermarket. Because after all: making dates with someone you like so much you want to do a little dance every time you think of him, how long do you keep calling that 'making dates'?

26 June 2009

Impa rounds a corner

The road block men had blocked the road this morning. Understandably so, because it's their job. But somehow, it has a different effect on me when the road they block is the one I want to take to work. The work that was waiting for me alone, this glorious morning. But try and explain that to the road block men. Open window, hair flapping in the wind, arm waving frantically, hardly audible with 100 kilometres an hour because you are forced to take an exit you don't want to take way before you actually get to the road block men. And because they're at work imperturbably in huge floodlights with very large, yellow road block men machines.

So I kept driving and hoped everything would end well.  Which it did. Not straight away, but eventually.   

Eventually, things always end well.

15 June 2009

...and there's a rabbit on the table

The men in my life circle me. They're always there but dissapear into the corner of my eye sometimes. I get to touch some of them and can only look at others. I love them all. The Rabbit Man is travelling. The Swallow Man called to say he's be travelling later and that he'd come to see me. At work, we were sitting at a picknick table. High above the steep courtyard walls a single white cloud floated in the blue sky. Someone said it had the shape of a huge lop-eared rabbit. A few hours later, someone came up to me with a plastic rabbit for my birthday. That same night I dreamt of the Man Who Always Looks At the Creatures In the Clouds. He came, embraced me and left. When I woke up, he called me. He said he was going to travel and that he'd come to see me. On the same day as the Swallow Man. The Rabbit Man called and sang me a birthday song.

The plastic rabbit sits on the table and smiles.

Everything is one. It's making me dizzy.

Impa swerves her eyes

I'm reading an old blog. It's about pain. When I move my fingers to scroll to the end of how it rains, there's a loud tick in in the kitchen and my eyes suddenly swerve a little. A reality ripple. A dizziness of some kind but then locally, only in my eyes, a tiny fragment of rollercoaster simulation behind my brow.

It's raining outside and on my table - honestly - there's a rabbit. It came hopping along at work the previous day. It had heard it was my birthday.

Immediately, a message comes in from someone who knows exactly where my light switches are. The rain keeps ticking, the kitchen doesn't, the gravity evaporates.

Impa silences herself

Don't complain about politics if you don't vote.

I think it's a pretty good system; democracy. Agreeing that the majority decides. If you think it's no use voting, you don't have to take part. But then don't complain if you think the others don't get it right. What's more: there's nothing wrong with a few obligations coming with benefits like peace and security (relative concepts, I know, but in the Netherlands they're not so bad) and a system of healthcare and education we organise as best we can. Paying tax is one of those obligations, to make sure we can provide for that peace and security and that system of care and education together. Voting is another. Because we all agreed that we want to take all decisions together. You don't have to participate, but then don't moan about it either. Keep thinking along constructively but don't just sit there criticising others if you don't want to take part yourself.

Anyway: I no longer have the right to talk. I didn't vote last week, for the first time since I am of voting age. And it was my own stupid fault. I forgot *she flinches*. I had to do something that made me so nervous that, for the first time in my life, even voting completely slipped my mind. And with these European elections of all things, with their depressing outcome! I may only have a tiny vote in Europe, it's still one vote. And I would've loved to cast it.

I'm deeply embarrassed.


14 June 2009


Someone held up a shell and said: "This is you. See?" 
I looked.
"It's beautiful. Can you see? It gleams in the light. But it's not entirely smooth. It has some edges."
He looked thoughtful. 
"I did some thinking while I was away", he said. "I took it with me from the beach for you."
He put the shell into my hand.

I closed my fingers around it.
So this is me.
And that's all right. 

What a beautiful thing.

9 June 2009

He hopes she'll leave him

he hopes she'll leave him so he needs
no longer be scared he'll lose her

(click on the photograph to get the bigger picture)

8 June 2009

What is it with you and Vlieland?

One moment, then. Because every time I try to explain the whole thing, I get stuck. I start a story that keeps getting longer because I want to make sure you get it, a story about the wind mainly, the smells and the light, the drinking in the pubs and the falling asleep to the sound of the sea. Something about sand between your toes and salt on your skin. The simplicity of the days. Living according to your needs. Senses. About the Wadden Sea reflecting the light and how I'm absolutely sure I saw the dark fog smile at me in October. Walking a dog and driving across the sand plains in the west. Being alone until a warm light glows inside, grasping what I cannot reach in the real world with the white noise of daily life and the way things go. It would be a story that had cycle paths and village streets in it, long beaches, ice cream, beautiful conversations, curious people and beautiful men.

But that would be too long a story. Very incoherent. My gestures would keep getting broader, my eyes would glisten, I'd call out: 'Do you understand? Can't you feel it?' 

One moment, rather. Yesterday morning.

I step out of the tent, my body all warm, and I don't strip off my sleeping bag. In the dunes near the beach there's always the rustling of the wind, the grass and the sea. That layering make the rustling flow, makes it fine somehow. And once you hear that, dimensions appear in the other sounds too. Cuckoo in the edge of the forest to the right. Sea gull above. Pheasant in the dunes to the left. Jackdaw ahead, on my bicycle.

Outside the tent I sleep in, a chair is dug into the sand, storm-proof. It's still early. Most tents are closed yet. The sun is still low (last night's wine glasses cast long shadows) but the promising blue already colours the sky.

On the island the salty, damp air always turns my hair into ropy strings. It doesn't matter. People have never seen me wear high heels and make-up here. They've never seen me at work, on the train, on the motorway, in the world of making things look better and go higher. Here, they grew to love me because of my laughter, my glances and our conversations. Here, the days are reduced to simplicity and I, through the eyes of others, to myself.

A woman is standing nex to a tent in the distance. She waves at me and holds up a coffee cup. She's my mother. I wave to tell her I'll sit here a little while longer, in this sleeping bag on this little chair. Vlieland is the nicest place for being silent.

Next to me, a snail crawls deeper into the tall grass. The damp dissapears from the air while the sun climbs higher. 

I close my eyes. Monday. Chocolate roll, mountain bike, lying on the grass.