28 May 2009

Impa, the tomatoes and the sun

The mailman brought Impa tomato seeds, once. The seeds have  - and this remains a miracle - sprouted and the sprouts have grown. They've become plants: small ones at first, then big ones. The first bunches of flowers have already appeared on their stems. They sit in big pots with long bamboo poles and have singlehandedly been tied to the poles with small bits of green garden string. After having given away some of the plants when they were still small (Something you should always be careful doing. Before you know it, you become one of those ladies always trying to force homemade craft on people. 'No thank you, aunty Beatrice, I don't want any knitted whatshammacallits. Yes, I know everyone says they're special.'), five plants remained to be sunbathed on the balcony. 

And yet, even only five big plants in five pots appeared to be a problem challenge. Before long, the balcony bench felt shoved aside. The roses sulked over having been moved to a spot in the shade.  Not to mention the 1.73 metres my body needs to be able to stretch out in the same sunshine as the tomatoes from top to toe for 15 minutes every once in a while.

More space had to be made, then.

And so I put two plant pots on the floor of the car in front of the passenger seat this morning. The bamboo poles stuck out diagonally and hit the roof, the plant's leaves and stems were folded over and across the seat, running the danger of snapping. I've never driven more carefully. 

I handed the plants over to a colleague from another department this morning. He smelt the fragrant leaves, spread his arms, gave me three big kisses, picked up the plants and carried them out of my room and into the corridor, where people turned and stared as he passed. 

I've got three left now. And as far as I'm concerned they can have a ball, tomatowise, on my balcony. As long as I can still fit next to them somewhere, with my 1.73 metre sun wish.

26 May 2009

Dreams Can Come True

Dreams Can Come True from Impa on Vimeo.

Impa and the girl at the hairdresser's

Impa's blog is no diary but today I just want to tell you how the girl at the hairdresser's really made my day this morning. When I was waiting, she offered me a cup of coffee that actually tasted good. She reminded me of my ex ex sister-in-law A., who is sweet. And when she washed my hair, at the local hairdresser's on a weekday morning I suddenly remembered how good it feels when someone massages your head with soft, strong fingers. And felt my whole body relax.
Too little sleep, being chased out of the house way too early by the workmen who have been renovating our building for months now, with no make-up on and a long, late day's work ahead of me. But she made the world seem a lot softer. And my hair too.

21 May 2009

Impa got an e-mail

'Right, I'm ready. I put on my holiday clothes and H. is coming to pick me up at 3.30 PM. An hour early so we'll have time to have some chips and a beer in the harbour. Oh, yes!!
I'll be back sunday evening but I'll get in touch as soon as possible. I'll text you or call you when the wind's blowing and you can hear the seagulls too. '

Good God, she sure knows how to put it.
*sigh...*

20 May 2009

Ageing and moving (2)

When we get back home - there were wardrobes to be bought for the new guest room - my grandmother is still asleep. She always lies down for an hour or two in the afternoon but usually only takes a short nap or dozes a little. This time, she's deeply asleep, exhausted from moving house. When people sleep, you see them in their relaxed form, in the softest possible way. That alone is very intimate. My grandmother is of small stature and seems even smaller now. So soft and far away in her sleep, so very human and right in the middle of an endlessly big single bed. My dad and his wife slip in quietly and stand at her bed. They smile. When I see them standing over the small figure in that bed, somethings opens up inside of me. I step back out of the bedroom backwards. My small grandmother in that bed is too great too look at.

When we left that afternoon, nan had just gone down to the central hall where music was being played. She'd heard you could sing along and was looking forward to that. She was sitting at a table, looking at the menu. Straight up, wearing lipstick. She's the oldest lady in the home and when I stood there, secretly watching her from the other side of the hall, my arms full of things I had to take with me and my car keys at the ready and saw her sitting at that table, she seemed ageless. She sat straight up and she was beautiful. She wasn't an old lady, she wasn't a former teacher or nurse or someone's mother or neighbour or wife. 

She was a woman and I saw her. 

16 May 2009

Ageing and moving

There's a birthday calendar in the toilet at my grandmother's. It features images of the village she used to live in, one for each month of the year. She was a teacher there. This was after the war, when she could finally marry my grandfather. Before the war, she was a trained psychiatric nurse. She raised three children. During all those years of work and care, she kept record of who was born and who celebrated their birthdays on her birthday calendars.

Over the past years, deaths have appeared on the calendar too. Many names have small crosses behind them, many dates a mention of deaths. That's what happens when you reach the age of 94. Everyone around you slowly dissapears until you're the last one and you've seen them all come and go. 

My nan's moved house this week. She left the house where she came to live with my granddad 18 years ago. Where she nursed him the last few years of his life, like she did with her mother when she was only a girl. Where granddad passed away and his portrait stood on top of the television, in between a small figure of an angel and a burning candle. Where I used to visit my nan.

She didn't want to move. We think she'll have a nicer social life now she's got more neighbours. She's got a very nice appartment: large, new, and with wonderful people working there in care. It's a comforting thought she'll be looked after because she is starting to be very forgetful.

But what do we know? She was proud of still living on her own. It's a huge thing to have to uproot towards the end of your life and move to a new place. It's also hard to look forward to something if you don't have a clear picture of what it's going to be like. Besides, she herself doesn't always realise how forgetful she's starting to be. Eventually, she surrendered to our care. We moved her to her new home. She's on her way to her last bit of future, vulnerable and brave. I love her more than ever. 

Granddad's portrait is back on the television in her new home, the angel figure next to it. When I hang her birthday calendar on the wall in her new toilet, among the birthdays and deaths I read with 17 May: 'Boer zoekt vrouw'.* Underlined.

*Farmer Wants a Wife

14 May 2009

Impa has been lying on the grass


I have a new goal. I'm going to lie on the grass more often. It's not the only goal in my life, obviously, because I'd come to a bad end pretty soon if it were, but it is an important goal. It's one of those things That Never Get Done. While, really, things never either do or don't 'get done'. You simply choose differently. Strange really, when you think of how rewarding it is compared to how much effort it takes. A new world opens up to those who REALLY lie down in the grass with all their senses and no hurry. Tall grass waves and wiggles and short, green grass smells of football and childhood summers. Small flowers become big, the body relaxes, the mind becomes quiet and the whole world seems to come to a standstill. And perhaps the best thing about lying in the grass is the point of view. From a spot on the grass, one can only look up. Air and light come to meet you naturally.

7 May 2009

Moving house

Things happen to people when you tell them you're moving away. That you're packing your things, bringing your business in your laptop and leaving your well known surroundings to go and do something new somewhere else. Because you like change and it's time to move on, time for a new road. Because there's nothing here that can't be done somewhere else and because you'll carry with you what you don't want to lose anyway.
When people hear about how you change course and follow your heart, your inspiration, your needs, you can see them taking stock for themselves. For some, that taking stock adds up to some kind of "I may be a little jealous, but I'm proud of you too. And I'm happy for you. If I think about whether I'd want to change course now, the answer is 'No', for the time being. But it's inspiring to see it can be done, no matter how old you are, what kind of work you do, where you live, who your friends are".
That way, as a bonus, my new energy, my newly found air, my courage and inner peace contribute to their lives too.
For others, prematurely taking stock adds up to a completely different conclusion. They hear your story, see your joy, see how things are flowing again and feel, as the sum of their own inner balance sheet, that they're stuck. Or think they're stuck. Or maybe they know they're not actually stuck but can't act accordingly. Or maybe a departure was never the solution for where their shoe pinches but they can't find a fitting solution because they don't really dare to look at the pinch. And so everything stays the same. They see me leave on the horizon. Soft sparks of sunlight bounce off my knapsack. They sigh. Turn around. Sit down.

Impa would like you to listen to something beautiful

They played Paradiso, Amsterdam last night: Beirut. How happy live music can make me! That venue, a beer, a few friends. All my senses drinking in music. Into my eyes and ears, pounding in my chest, vibrating through my feet, round and round in my body untill it bubbles like a fountain and my muscles sway on their own, my mouth smiles on its own. And smiles.

6 May 2009

In Utrecht there's no end to the heaven that is the jumble sale

Impa to a nice man at the Lombok jumble sale on liberation day: "Do you have a tin opener?"
Nice man: "No, but I do have a scanner." -Points at a box full of cuddly toys- "Do you want a cuddle with that?" (Cuddle meaning both 'cuddly toy' and 'hug' in Dutch)
Impa to nice man: "A cuddle from you?"
Nice man looks confused. "You want a cuddle from me?"
Impa smiles her cutest smile. "Yes, please."
The nice man blushes and gives Impa a lovely, long hug with both arms and a smile.

And if it hadn't rained, Impa would've still been standing there.

2 May 2009

Impa's new mornings


It's decorated with small roses and it's oldfasioned Villeroy & Boch breakfast china. Sweet, sweet, sweet. I'm immediately transported by jubilant visions of myself at a long, wooden table in a kitchen bathed in light where early in the morning I boil an egg, poor black coffee and spread orange marmelade on a piece of toast. To make the dream complete, I add two purring cats and a rustling morning paper containing only good news. Although these are all things I don't usually get in the morning I'm absolutely sure: my new (old) breakfast china is the start of a whole new life. The morning sun will never set again, the blackbirds will never be silent.

I haggled over it ruthlessly at the jumble sale on Queen's Day. The lady who sold it to me let it go with a heavy heart. It had belonged to her grandmother. Only when the price was set, the sale made and I'd tucked my change away safely, did I dare show how pleased I was. I hoped it was at least of some comfort to her.

At home, it turned out grandmother's sugar was still in the pot.

Now, then: please do come for a rose cup of tea some morning. Let me know in advance if you'd like me to boil you an egg too. And could you bring two purring cats?

1 May 2009

Young starlings and a dog (2)

I'd like to link to an older piece about the tranquility of Martin Bril.

Ever zo quiet.