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Pines in the snow

pine branch in snow

Pining for snow

eleven cities tour

1985: After 22 years of pining, at last it was there!

When I left the Netherlands in 1983 I could not remember when snow had last fallen or when the country had been bestowed with a winter harsh enough for the Eleven Cities tour to take place. As a youngster I had loved snow and ice-skating, but from my teens till my early twenties, winters were bland. Humid cold, stormy, rainy days, occasionally snow unworthy of mentioning and although I owned ice skates I didn’t have the need for them anymore. I do not remember any of those last winters hindering my cycling to work.

Down south

winter scene RSA

South Africa: yellowish-brown winter scene

Johannesburg, where I settled at the end of 1983, has a climate very different from the Netherlands. Dry winters and rainy summers down south. That first winter I was stunned and abhorred when everything turned brown and yellow and stayed that way for months. I was told that it snowed once every ten years in the city and that the last time had been in 1981. Hhmmm. Instead of loathing rain, I got to love it (Holland, like England, can be quite gloomy with many drizzly days in a row). You simply look out for it after six months of its absence while suffering the views of the scorched fields and parks, and you, as a new immigrant, start to look forward to it just as much as every other resident in the region.

To this day, more than ten years after leaving South Africa and having lived in the Netherlands for a whole year now, I love rain. But I love snow more. As a child I used to sit on my knees, leaning against the back of an easy chair, looking through the window and up into the millions of whirling snow flakes. Snow flakes seemed huge then!  Is it any wonder that the longer I lived down south the more I longed for a good old fashioned winter? Exactly thirteen months after I left Holland they were able to hold their first Eleven Cities tour in 22 years’ time. A friend sent me a beautiful publication of the event. I was immensely jealous and peeved! It was weird to see pictures of my country fellowmen tackling the frozen ‘tundra’ of Friesland while I enjoyed my second Jo’burg summer.

Holland is good to me

roe in snow

Unfortunately, not my own picture – had to nick it from the net

A year ago I arrived in a certain area because of three reasons. I had googled 1) house to rent, 2) pets allowed, and 3) wifi internet. It was miles away from my family and in a province I had visited once or twice during the summertime several decades earlier. I didn’t know that it would be colder here than at the North Sea coast. That geese and Whooper swans would be flying to and fro all day long. Roes running past me in the forest. A huge forest virtually on my doorstep, sand drifts not much further, as well as an old peat collection area, now protected. I just wanted to live somewhere safe with my pets and be spherically connected, so to speak. No, I would not have dreamt of asking for all those wonderful ‘things’ that I got. But then again, I knew then and know now, and have known for quite a while that Mother Nature loves me (and I’ve loved her right back). It’s as if she opened a treasure chest for me.

Pines in the snow

Here then, some (cell/mobile) pictures of my walk with Pantouf through a recent layer of snow (the second since early December).

Pines in snow

This way please!

Pine - exposed roots

Treerosion

Pine and dog

Old beauties

Pine broken branches

All shapes and sizes

Pine needles in snow

Snowy needles

detail pines in snow

Surprise! Detail of ‘Pine trees in snow’ by Maruyama Ōkyo – a well known painting

Pines and bench in snow

Still-life

Pine and dog in snow

Born to sniff

pine bark

Close enough?

pine pair

A fine pine pair – till death do us part

pine - angled

Is it tough being an old tree?

dog on path

Time to go home ~ that was fun!

During the last snowfall, the walking paths, pavements and roads seemed to hold too much warmth for the snow to accumulate on them (it had been exceptionally mild for a while).  So no slipping and sliding.  Therefore, the ideal snowfall.

snowflake

♫ ♪ Ponty perked me up ♫ ♪ ♫

The Gift of Time“Ponty!” I exclaimed earlier this evening, while working the raisins into the scone batter. “That’ll make a good P-post.” Momentarily taking my hands off the scones-in-the-making, I raised my hands and wiggled my hips to the tune of Jean-Luc Ponty’s ‘New Resolutions.’ It’s also my favourite album by him: The Gift Of Time.

In 1984, a South African housemate put a cassette in my hands: “here, I think you will like it.” For several months two of Ponty’s early albums were played to death.  I didn’t like it, I adored it. Her American boyfriend was a fan. Very lucky me.

Altogether, over the years, I bought five albums by him and I went to see him live at the Montreal Jazz Festival. There he performed as one of the members of Trio! – what a show. Stanley Clarke, bass and Béla Fleck, banjo. I will never see a better performance by a musician, I am quite sure of that. He is a powerhouse and his interaction with Clarke was unforgettable.

Why he perked me up?

I was feeling maudlin this evening after Inessa Galante’s Ave Maria (Caccini) suddenly pulled one of my heart strings waaaaay too far out. The ¡thoing! got the waterworks going. I miss my son. Not his warm-hearted, easily approachable personality, because he didn’t have it, but maybe just because they pulled him out of me? I dunno, I only got one kid so I can’t speak from experience. I’ve been trying to accommodate this loss too (how many more times?) but I’m not good at it because I carry my heart on my sleeve. People like me don’t accommodate, we express. We resolve, we want to do something. Doing nothing is like being incarcerated, where you can’t do anything. But I can, and I want to, but I don’t know what. I’ve given it into the hands of the universe but of course I often feel the urge to get involved.

Came to chase the blues away

Tim Buckley

Tim Buckley

old photo

Heart Blues

As my youtube playlist carried on, Ponty was followed by Buckley who came to chase the blues away, which is normally heartwrenching, but now it was so serendipitous that I called “Thank you Baby, I knew I could count on you!” Is that what I do, talk to dead people who overdosed?

Damn good voice though.

EveningScone Delight

sconesNaturally, preparing scones is a kind of therapy and then I got to eat them too, yummie!  I thought I would quickly write a blog post about my perker upper but that never works, of course (quickly).  Still, I got another P in. 🙂

Best scones ever: an old ‘O’ recipe from the Harlem Tea Room.  I always make the raisin variety but add chopped apple or apricot as well.

Gonna have seconds now.  Thanks for listening.

I will be lonely this Christmas… NOT!

Where’s the P in all this, you may wonder?

In Pamela Anderson, that’s where.  If you’ve watched Borat you’ll understand.  If not, I can’t explain, that would spoil the movie. 🙂  But trust me, that’s where the P comes from.

I hate having to go alone!

Image from Sevensheaven.nl

Image from Sevensheaven.nl

That’s what a friend of mine said this weekend.  She hates Christmas because she has to drive alone, two hours, to her daughter to spend Christmas with her, the hubby and the cute little kids.  “I just hate being there alone too.”

Gee, how can you set yourself up for something like that?  By focusing on it, I think.  By focusing on what you don’t have.  A partner.  A lover.  A partner is not necessarily always a lover (god, don’t I know it!).  So people like my friend hate December because they focus on the fact that they’re alone, whereas they’re not really.  My sister’s the same.  Plenty of things to do and company to be with, but hates this time of year.  Both these women would prefer to have a steady, loving partner, which is what makes them hate the whole thing.  Is it just my imagination or are they wallowing in self-pity?

What you focus on, expands

I love being alone

But not all the time.  I like people too, just not as often as my sister and my friend.  I feel I am lucky in that.  I can happily potter around on my own for five days and then I may start to long for human company (I always have animal company, so I am never alone in that sense.  However, I’m well aware of the fact that they – nor my great love for nature – can sustain me when it comes to having a fulfilling, stimulating life).

It’s my Xmas and I rejoice if I want to

Alone if I want to

Feelin’ Good

I don’t make a fuss of not having company this time of year.  I could have had, twice over.  Some months ago my sister said this: “I’ll come and stay with you if you want me to.  I’ve been going to Paul for eight years for his Christmas Eve dinner with friends, but I’ll come to you if you want.”

Chris’almighty!  How’s that for an unsolicited sacrifice?  I passed.  I hate it with a passion if people do things for me because they take pity on me.

The Christmas company fallacy

Having company doesn’t mean you don’t feel lonely or downright awful.

What are you doing this Christmas?

People ask, don’t they?  They ask you whether you’re single or have a family, I suppose.  But if you are single and hate it as well as the time of year, that sure is one shitty question to be asked, I understand that.

The last few years, while I was stubbornly single, my standard answer has been (at my most matter-of-fact best): I’ll be cooking a chutney.  Ain’t even lying.   I like cooking a few chutneys this time of year because it’s a good time for gifting them and I have enough for many months to come.  I’m no loner, but I’m also not one for imposed tradition.  I shared supper with friends last week and in a few weeks’ time I’ll be hosting a dinner party.  When I want to.

There’s always the net

These days, net-literate people never, ever have to be lonely.  There are always like-minded people who spend hours on the net those days because almost everyone else is busy with (mandatory) Xmas do’s.  Chat, play a game, always something interactive to do.  If all else fails, one could always write a blog post. 🙂

Help others get what you want

To those who really can’t face the ‘aloneness’ around Xmas time, I’d suggest they spend time with someone who is also lonely.   Perhaps as a volunteer.  There are so many elderly and/or handicapped people out there who would welcome company.

It’s not even his real birthday

For what it’s worth, Christmas is celebrated on December 25/26 because it used to be the date of the pagans’ winter celebrations to spruce up the darkness.  As new religions traditionally steal/stole dates for celebrations from old religions or philosophies, that is why those dates were chosen to celebrate J.C.’s birthday (a.k.a. indoctrination/manipulation).

Celebrate the light!

If you’re in the northern hemisphere, each day is now getting a little more daylight all the way up to 21st June.  If you’re in the southern hemisphere, heck, your days are long already.  Reasons enough to celebrate.  Take care, be good, have fun.

Christmas light

Poetry ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay ~              

Savage Beauty

poetess Millay

About poetry I can be very brief, and atypically, I will be in this post.

I know very little about it and it will likely be that way for the rest of my life.  However, I was once completely smitten by the memory of Edna St. Vincent Millay.  In 1996, on the Microsoft Bookshelf CD with quotations, she grabbed my attention with a poem that was quoted in a few movies (such as A river runs through it).

First Fig

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!

It was apparently short enough to make me read it, I’d burned the candle at both ends myself many times, and when someone told me she was known as a cheeky poetess, I wanted to know more.

Gotcha!

So my journey began.  I read a lot of her poetry, first online and later in books.  Especially the biography Savage Beauty cast a spell on me.  I was in love, in lust, with a long deceased person.  I visited Camden, Maine, Poughkeepsie, New York, and last, Steepletop (her farm) in New York and that’s where the spell was broken.  Poof! in one go, she released me.  She apparently had this effect on both men and women when she was alive, and undoubtedly let them go at the drop of a hat also.  The biographer did a really good job!

Untitled

Sometimes, oh, often, indeed, in the midst of ugly adversity, beautiful
Memories return.
You awake in wonder, you awake at half-past four,
Wondering what wonder is in store.
You reach for your clothes in the dark and pull them on, you
have no time
Even to wash your face, you have to climb Megunticook.

You run through the sleeping town; you do not arouse
Even a dog, you are so young and so light on your feet.
What a way to live, what a way…
No breakfast, not even hungry. An apple, though,
In the pocket.
And the only people you meet are store-windows.

The path up the mountain is stony and in places steep,
And here it is really dark — wonderful, wonderful,
Wonderful — the smell of bark
And rotten leaves and dew! And nobody awake
In all the world but you! —
Who lie on a high cliff until your elbow ache,
To see the sun come up over Penobscot Bay.

Only two

There are only two poets that have wooed me.  Millay is one and Whitman is the other (click on the first image of the Camino plaque – Song of the Open Road).

Millay

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Of Pot & Potheads

Pot, Cannabis, Marihuana, Marijuana, Weed, Ganja, Dagga, Grass, Laughing Lawn, Hashish

Pothead

When I conceived the idea for a P-blog last month, this word was the first one I thought of.  I don’t know why because I never hear it, nor use it.  I even thought then that it was a mere swearword, like idiot.  But wiktionary told me otherwise:

(derogatory slang) A person who smokes cannabis frequently, to excess.

Relaaax, man…

Who came to mind instantly was Derrick, a pothead in the truest sense of the word.  In his fifties, happy-go-lucky with occasional bouts of depression, nature and animal lover, easy to be with, calling a spade a fucking spade.

He had permanently bloodshot eyes.  The only time when he was not smoking pot was when he had just returned from a week-long ayurvedic cleansing retreat.  He looked well.  Was clear-headed and frankly, a bit too serious and intense for my liking, because he was not stoned.  He swore he would never eat another piece of meat or smoke another joint in his life.  He felt SO great!  Holier-than-thou also.

I think his resolution barely survived a week.  I could tell when he accosted me on my way out of his property after a party one evening when he bashed my car, forcing me to open my window.  His pants were down and with a sheepish grin he said ‘Look what you’re getting if you stay the night.’  Ah, the pot, she is a potent temptress.  I laughed, rolled up the window and drove home.  True as Bob, as they say in South Africa.  The last thing I heard was that he was doing well, charming as ever, even twenty years later.  Because you don’t die of smoking pot if used responsibly.  See link #1 below.


True as Bob!

My own experience with pot was a memorable one.  I was 26 and it did not result in a lifetime of pot smoking.  Quite the contrary.  I never smoked it anyway, but I ate it.  Baked in a cake by my friend & housemate who didn’t have the foggiest how much of the stuff to put in, so she just guessed.  It may have been a bit strong, that space cake.

At first I thought that I was immune to it and decided it was a waste of money.  It was a Sunday evening and I had ironing to do!  After about an hour I looked at myself in the mirror while ironing and suddenly wondered ‘Who on earth does her ironing on a Sunday night?!’  It had begun.  I joined my friend in the living room where I got a case of the giggles, while she remained utterly unaffected by it (only to get violently ill the next morning, shame).

She sat in a comfy chair with her knees pulled up around which she held her arms.  In that composition I saw the following scenery (except that she missed a knee, of which shortcoming I informed her):

If you had another knee, they would be the three rondavels!

Gee whiz…

I hated not being able to come down.  Hours and hours later my head was still spinning.  Contrary to what you might have heard or experienced yourself, I did not get hungry.  I did not get horny either.  I just became a wet blanket.  🙂 I didn’t like the long-lasting effect: five hours later I still got dizzy when I tried to sleep.  Just as well.  I’m not keen on bloodshot eyes.

I remember all this as if it was yesterday, as well as the music playing in the background of my stonedness: 1) Pink Floyd and 2) Alan Parsons Project.  I was never able to dissociate the experience from 1) The great gig in the sky, and 2) Sirius


Coffee shops 

Not having lived in the Netherlands during the new coffee shop age, to me a coffee shop has always remained a place where you can sit on a terrace, drink coffee and watch people walk by.  And discuss them if you happen to be with someone.  To call a place like that a coffee shop in Holland would be a faux pas.  Say, if you agree to meet someone in a coffee shop, you are bound to smell a whole lotta pot.  Wikipedia may call it a Cannabis coffee shop, but that’s not what they’re called in Holland.  Just plain coffee shop.

Watch out: There are special regulations for foreign tourists.

For sale in Dutch coffee shops:


Dutch pot

Recently it came to my attention that Dutch marihuana is allegedly far more potent than the same stuff from other countries.  Be ware, brothers and sisters.

Cool runnings!

1. Can you die from weed?

2. 100 celebrities that smoke marijuana

Please note: When it comes to pot, I am like Switzerland.  Do what you like.  You can be for or against: either way, it’s your prerogative.  This is just my little, hopefully a little quirky account of pot (just because I write about anything that starts with a P, and being Dutch may have something to do with it – we are so casual about these things).  No debate or headbutting is condoned.  If you like to share your own (funny) story, please do leave a scribble (I may edit it).

Practice

Practice makes perfect.

I started this blog for practising blog making, something which I’ve never ventured into, in spite of fifteen long years of regular activity on the net and a big love for writing!

Actually, I was planning to make a website for my new & small enterprise, using WordPress.  I came across this during a google session.  It seemed an easier start than having to decide where to get a domain name, hosting, etc.

Why not practise a little on the sly?, I thought.  So here goes.

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