Category: on the tree swing

On not being able to write

Ever since I founded the factory, I’ve always been busy doing something. Over the years there have been ups and downs, but no matter what else has happened in my life, I’ve been squirreling around my workshop. But the past few weeks have been so different. I’ve just been sitting around, watching youtube videos, scrolling through facebook, rearranging entries in my address book, running errands and finding reasons not to be at home. Occasionally I’ve given it another try, but I just end up staring at a blank screen for an indiscriminate amount of time. It feels like all the things I’m passionate about have been stuffed in a pretty little jar on the window sill, the lid screwed on tight. So what do you do, when you ain’t got no flow? I wish I had an easy answer to that question, some magical ingredient that you can sprinkle around like fairy dust and that will transform everything. But there isn’t. You just have to wait until the wind changes. But what if it won’t, you ask? What if it won’t change? That question I can answer. For as the wise Heraclites said, the only thing that is constant is change. So don’t despair, for nothing remains the same.

The spaces in between

To write one needs empty time. Vast open spaces so that your thoughts may arrive from far away places, like white gulls landing on the tranquil water of the sea after the waves have quieted down. Between two jobs, training, the people I love, news feeds to scroll down, old wounds and daily worries, I have found it difficult lately. I live a modest life in my little beach house, away from the busyness of the city, shopping centers, and smartphones – and yet I struggle sometimes. This morning, however, something changed. On a whim I swept my day clean of social obligations and headed out through the flower-filled meadows, taking the long route through the dunes to the sea. When I reached the beach, I looked down and noticed a clivers stuck to my sweatpants. Climbing up from my ankle to my knee like an ivy, clinging to me as we made our way over the warm sand towards the indigo horizon. As I watched her dancing in the wind, I realised that I need to keep trying. That it is up to me to create spaces, to keep still and listen as the world marches on. Because there are stories waiting to be told…

I always knew I was a hobbit

Or suspected it, at least. Ever since reading the first chapter of The Hobbit, in which Baggins is confronted with an unexpected party (making for the most awkward Wednesday he ever remembered), which is one of the funniest things I have ever read – mostly because it is exactly how I would react: head in hands, wondering what had happened and what was going to happen and wanting to hide behind the beer-barrels in the cellar and not come out again until they had all gone away… But it wasn’t until I went into the woods on a particularly gloomy day and wandered off by myself that I discovered that I have more in common with Baggins than I thought…

Kind of blue

It’s one of those cold misty afternoons, bare willow branches brushing softly against the grey cloudless sky. I am listening to One Sided Love Affair by Trespassers W serenading the city of Berlin: how she cries and how she laughs. It’s the kind of blue, undisturbed time that Cor Gout writes about in Korenblauw. As a sensitive soul, I love his beautifully composed, old-style stories, which take me beyond the crudeness of the world. Where a sympathetic weasel urges you to uncover the rites of your past as the hedgehog gingerly replies, while he puts up his quills, that some things are to be left unsaid (“Albino Spreeuw”). Where empty hours fill the space of your being with creativity, if you are patient enough to wait (“De Lege Tijd”). Where something can be both the case and not the case without leaving you unsettled (“Ja en Nee”). Where what you write isn’t just made up, where even fiction is about truth (“Schrijverschap”). Where little mice dance nose to nose on your raspberry-red Phoni recordplayer (Vian 1920-1959; illustrated by Hélène Penninga). I guess I’d better join them now!

Digging up paradise

Every once in a while you read a book that speaks to your heart. For me, Sarah Salway’s books always do. Her latest, Digging Up Paradise: Potatoes, People and Poetry in the Garden of England, is another gem. Salway takes us along on her visits to twenty-six public gardens in Kent. Together we find seashells, wildflowers, vegetable patches, magical trees, eccentric hedges, ancestral woods, the loveliest castle in the world… all the while, feeling the grass under our feet as we listen to ‘strawberry-shaped words’, peculiar tales and enchanted histories. Her poem “Night Grass” (about Doddington Place) is so beautiful, I want to hang it on my wall as a gatha that I can come back to again and again. And then there’s her “Letter to a Stranger”, which whispers to me like the wind: ‘not every day needs a destination, or to make sense’.