Let me quote Marguerite Duras today: One does not find solitude, one creates it. Solitude creates itself. Alone, I created it here because I decided that I should be alone, that I would be in this house. I closed myself within it - I was afraid of course. And then I liked it, and the house became the place where I wrote...
It seems impossible that one of the stranger people in my life would take umbrage to being labeled weird by me. They would all wear the word as a title of nobility, knowing they are not run of the mill, not sheep. One used to call me everyday to tell his nightly conversations with god or the devil or his latest hallucination or fantasy. To me, he just tells me his life and what he told me was true to him. That is OK with me. The ones not certified crazy, certainly are no sheep believing what the president says, believing what the media print. Some are activists for change, impeachment of Cheney and the president, for peace, are quirky poets. A few have a very small carbon footprint and could be an example to all. They are all special and unique to me, because of their creativity, their open and questioning mind, their interest in culture and civilizations. I assume that none of them would think Bush made the right choice in his Middle East policy, being friends with strange regimes like in Pakistan and thinking they could be persuaded easily to become a democracy. The tragic events of the killing of the one opponent to the regime who could have won in a free and fair elections. sadly proves them right. I don't think my weird friends would ever trade their freedom for so called security guaranteed by a state, taking away our rights. That makes us all weird in the eyes of some. In the French revolution the word used was 'Canaille'. Yes, we are Canaille...
Christmas is a family affair. It entails good food, thoughtful presents, time together. My mother breaks my heart. She still knows who were are, is more loving, gives more hugs, but she can't understand why she is living in this house where she cannot find things... The house we all build together almost 30 years ago. My father, a stern man is redeeming himself by taking care of her and making it seem normal. She looks up to him now, because he knows were things are and how the world functions. He has become her anchor and her guide. The strange thing is that she can keep up a conversation, sometimes almost totally normal. Thanks to many weird friends who passed and pass through my life I have learned to enjoy the weird jumps of strange minds... Yet with my mother I fear her fate, and eventually mine. Quiet Rose lost her mother at 98 on Christmas day. She was deeply demented and is mourned as the lost and found mother and lost again mother... The person Rose has known all her life.
May the return of the light bring warmth and joy, an end to stupidity, an end to the occupation of Iraq. May it bring peace, the end of greed and consumerism, let's find real caring and justice. Think warm good thoughts: a merry Christmas to you all: Dr Scarpone, Vicky, J. , Branka, Chameleon, Spookie and Rockcastle, Mud, Dr Faust...
Nature has a way of turning something bad into something pretty. For days now we have had heavy mist, fog and frost. The dirt, the fine dust particles can't rise and the air is pretty bad to breathe. 90 Km is the maximum speed on the freeways in order not to aggravate the problem. Nature is cleaning the air for the weather gods who caused this inversion by putting a bit of moisture around each small dust particle and encapsulating it. By it's heaviness it falls as a fine powder snow, a dry drizzle snow, freezes on trees and on everything it can get to. The result is stunning. How pollution is turned into beauty and lightens the problem at the same time. Great job. If industry could come up with this kind of solutions to clean up their messes, the earth and the seas would be happier places. The last picture is what I saw this morning opening the curtains.
Before on this blog I have written about the human rights situation in China and how the Olympic games could be used to put some pressure on China to do better. Well, now I know that if I were Chinese I would be in real trouble. Let's use Guangxi-based dissident writer Wang Dejia who was arrested from his home in Guilin, in China’s southern Guangxi Province, on 13 December 2007 as an example. He was taken to the Quanzhou Chengbei police Station, where he was detained on suspicion of ‘inciting subversion of state power’. His family believes his detention is directly related to his articles published on-line on the Minzhu Luntan website, the link is for whom reads Chinese. He was also charged for ‘Illegal Possession of State Secrets' – an important Chinese Communist Party Invention that Persecutes Prisoners of Conscience. He wrote: ‘Handcuffed Olympics Will Bring Only Disasters to the People’, and ‘Yi Yuanlong Jailed for Two Years for Four articles; How Many Will I be Jailed For?’ His wife also reports that in October 2007 he met with U.S. Embassy officials to discuss human rights in China. I am concerned about the detention of writer Wang Dejia, and call for his immediate and unconditional release. China became a signatory in 1998 to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Imprisoning writers for their opinions is in breach with article 19 of this Covenant. Furthermore the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN is alarmed about reports that the health of prominent writer Zhang Jianhong (aka Li Hong) who's health is failing and not receiving appropriate treatment. International PEN is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of writer Zhang Jianhong. We must speak out, because they can't. Take action, contact the Chinese embassy wherever you are. By the way the air quality is still so bad that running a maraton might not be possible. May China be green and free one day.
Casually looking out, left of my small desk, I recognize the art museum, with its bronze chariots on the roof. I recognize it because I know the building and start thinking about some of of the things I saw there. Besides Rubens and Flemish Primitive masters I saw a beautiful collection, well displayed of Japanese art and probably what touched me most was a few paintings in Klein's typical blue among a whole bunch of modern painters. That blue still resounds in me, it was my first contact with a truly monochrome canvas. I still can't explain the depth of that blue, the immateriality of it, the challenge of it having no function at all. I also saw later one of his blue sponges. By then he had used everything turning it into his trademarked blue... This are my blue thoughts tonight. Sweat multicolored dream to all of you.
Listening to an older poet and his sharp, crisp observations, the voice reading his latest published poetry, is a gift. The poetry breathes the melancholy of an older man in images like the dreg of wine, yet he confuses reality by letting reality end with a poem. Most neo-realist poets brought reality into their poems, be it an object or a person, but he closes reality in, ending with the poem so that we are free again to create, invent, live our own separate reality, so that we can live a poetic life. Imagination prevails and we ourselves reinvent who we are. Thanks to his words the anguish that befalls us is alleviated without renouncing to think. Unassuming, with his beautiful diction and gentle voice, oozing culture, he is a Noble price candidate with class who travels on a Sunday morning to read for about two hundred people. Cees Nooteboom has been translated into English. Run to the library, order one of his travel books and travel with him or get some of his poetry. If you want to read a novel Rituals has been translated and has been one of my favorites.
People had predicted I might be lonelier when living in town, thinking it might be snobbish where I live now. Well I have to admit I saw two mink coats but also lots of Eastern European Orthodox Hasidim Jews, Armenians, Muslim girls with flapping headscarfs in the winter storm on a bicycle... and lots of other dogs. The dog walkers tend to talk to each other, but also total strangers have asked whether they could pet my dogs. There are a few rather posh antique shops, for the pleasure of your eyes. A few nice bakeries, a grocery shop where you can walk in with your dogs and buy the international press and other essentials. It is half an hour's walk to the grandest station of Europe where you can take the Thallys (fast train) to Amsterdam and Paris. The church across the street chimes the hours during the day, and the market on Saturday and Sunday is famed in this part of the world. My place still needs painting, drapes to keep the winter out and shifting around of paintings and books, and probably also the kitchen utensils, but haven't got around to heavyduty cooking yet, just stews and pasta's. There is a study - guestroom with a view...
Christmas has become big in tourism industry, so cities compete with lavish Christmas markets and Christmas decorations. Being on the road I was charmed, so I share some of the views and if you drop in, also the big amounts of specialty cookies I bought. The good thing was no musac or jinglebells in the streets, just the voices of people, the music of buskers and the bells of the Salvation Army volunteers. The shopping carts of the homeless stand with their wheels in the water of the the last weeks incessant rains and getting over the granite and sandy banks rushing to their far away destiny in the North Sea.
I am closing the Rwanda chapter for now with joyful images of powerful dancers. Hutu and Tutsi dancing together: elongated and shorter elegance, birdlike movements, mighty hunters, the heartbeat of a continent comes closer in watching them. At the end they descended into the hall where we standing or gently shaking our booty. Standing as a wallflower with my camera I still got picked out and enjoyed a five step with one of the dancers. It helped I had done a few round dances with some Cherokee friends... I want to be optimistic that the people in Rwanda will have good and peaceful futures.
The judges are called inyangamugayo. They are 9 people elected by the village. the should be impartial and above reproach. The accusation is read out, then the accused speaks on his own behalf. Then the victim is called. This lady's husband was killed and dismembered. The townspeople who have to say something do so: elequently, to the point. if the defendant gives an illogical reply someone will point it out. Witnesses speak about the events, under the watchful eyes of the towns people. It seems to me that although the legal preconditions in our country are not fulfilled in this court that it is the way forward to find out what happened, and to come to a reinsertion in the community of the perpetrators of bad deeds. The great thing is that the country accepts this way of doing things and feels that justice will prevail this way. No lawyers, no tricks, but a hard confrontation. People go through their pain and loss and the defendant apologizes, asks for forgivenes. Most of the time it is granted. There was no judgment that day I witnessed this case. I thought the defendant was an overbearing, rude, not too intelligent man, a guy one has a hard time being impartial about. But one witness testified they were running away together in order not to be killed. Sad, hard powerful, and a nonviolent way of resolving festering conflicts. More power to the Gacaca system. The expectation is that all cases will be tried beginning next year. So people can move forward and live a better life.
This is pronounced: Ga like in garage, ca like cha cha cha, the dance. Notwithstanding the fun fun it is a serious subject. After the Rwanda genocide was over with over a million killed, 3.000.000 refugies more than a million people were accused of misdeed and crimes and incitement to hate. The judicial system had totally collapsed only 67 lawyers were left for the whole country. Five years later only about 7000 cases had been tried. It was obvious that in order to get back to a semblance of a cohesive and functioning community the process needed to be revved up. A consensus was found in going back to the traditional way of conflict resolution based on their oral tradition. The task of these courts is to bring out the truth, avoid impunity, and foster reconciliation. At the same time the Rwandans proved they could deal with their problems themselves. Here you see a Gacaca in session. More tomorrow.
Moving house. That's why the blog was silent. All went smooth: in a period of high winds and lashing rain we moved the stuff to the twelfth floor with an outside lift on a calm, clear day. Thank you universe. Also thanks to the helping hands and minds. Now I enjoy the view and the hear the wind howling. Looking out I am seeing 7 steeples of churches, clouds chasing each other in multi hued grays. The other side ( yes it is a corner flat) I see the rain hitting the window. Soon I'll go on with more Rwanda feelings and thoughts, since gweenix kind of asked for more Africa. Now there are the boxes of books to unpack, paintings leaning against the wall until they have found their spot and doors and shelves to be painted... Life is good.
Old machetes are everywhere: in young boy's hands, in old men's hands, in women's hands. The French and Chinese machetes where issued during the events because they were cheaper to use than rifles and guns for which one needs bullets. And 'who wants to spend a bulled on a cockroach?' the saying went. So the shock of seeing a machete made me wonder, did this one kill. Who's hand wielded it. Who responded to the prejudice and hate spewed by radio Mille Collines. Was the machete used in hate, in protection? What did the guy who just passed me do and does he love his children? Is he a strict father? I saw a women standing in her front door, holding the machete in front of her and squarely looking at the people in the cavalcade of official looking buses. How to read such an image... Was she saying you didn't do anything when we needed protection or why didn't you stop us before we all became killers and killed. Every one has been touched by the 100 days that started on April 7, 1994.
Lets teach tolerance, stop prejudice at its earliest beginning and lets talk and listen to each other. Ahimsa: let's not harm life. Let's not turn tools into weapons.
'One Life', was the event a friend and I attended in the Genocide Memorial in Kigali. The introduction made by the British NGO working for the prevention of genocide, Aegis Trust - meaning protection - was exemplary: using the local drama to show the working of intolerance in the world. It always starts with words and ideas and once it starts, genocide respects no one. It kills those who cannot fight back. How can one be sheltered From the prejudice of racism. Ives was little, just 5 years old. He should be 18 today, but there was nobody to protect him. And then all the broken lives of the survivors, raped, maimed, lost everything. Michel then 15, now 28, spoke about what happened to him: He lost 20 family members, couldn't bury his mother, the dogs ate part of her... He and two young sisters survived the events that started April 7, 1994. Now he feels he needs to testify. He studies sociology, works for the memorial and helps his sisters... After his sober words 'Sometime in April' a film by Raoul Peck was shown. Bone chilling, amazing, also in the little gestures of kindness that leaves one a bit of hope. What always starts all this killing everywhere is greed, arrogance and power and stupidity. Afterwards I was raw, filled, empty, overflowing and found myself in the dark tropical night on one of the thousand hills. Any mechanical repetitive sound flashed back to gunfire... The taxi driver was untypically silent with vacant eyes. We cannot imagine, never know what survivors go through. Yet we should not forget, we are all children of survivors, we are all survivors... So lets be gentle with each other...
Tourism helps beat poverty. There are jobs for the maintenance of the park, for for drivers, cooks, waiters, rangers, cleaners, guides. One person working can actually maintain a whole extended family. I liked the lush tropical plants and the giraffes are my favorite. The extra gift of a trip to a park is that you get to see what is outside the capital. We saw giraffes, zebras, baboons, velvet monkeys, impalas, antelope, hippopotamus, weaver birds, fish eagles and lots of greatly colored birds. The fields in the mountains are grand, I can recognize a banana field across the mountain in its special hue of greens. They cover the houses and make even the city look rural. That was the day of rest.
La petite saison des pluies is full of melancholy because arriving in a country where in 100 days a million plus people have been killed while the world stood by and watched, makes you think and try to understand. Rwanda, the country of the thousand hills could be a paradise. The weather is tropical but the hight makes it pleasant. The soil is fertile, all is extravagantly green. But it also is the most densely populated country of Africa where the medium income per year is 250 $. People are afraid, thirteen years later the events and the wounds they left are open and raw. Hundred thousands of women have been raped so HIV is rife and it becomes up close and personal when in the hotel you don't get a complementary mint on your pillow, but two packets of condoms. The mist over the hills is real, but I didn't go and disturb the Gorillas. Every nook and cranny, the smallest, steepest plot of land is planted: banana trees, corn, manioc, papaya, mango... During the genocide people were told that if they killed their Tutsi neighbor they could keep the land. And land is what the people wanted, needed to feed their family. Yet, there is beauty, gentleness and smiles, courage and lots of empty eyes. A lot of Women's cooperatives work together in networks and teach the women to manage their own small business, and provide health care and retroviral anti aids medication.
If you go to museums and safaris, you wouldn't notice the hardship but if you manage to talk to people, you will be moved at a deeper level.
If one thinks of visiting Africa one thinks safari and dances. I'll oblige with a few pictures of both. This group performs at a lot of official functions to honor foreign guests. The women show the daily gestures of their life with easy grace, the energy of the men is balm on a tired soul.
People and places we have never heard of, still are people and places that are part of our world and part of our human family. We still are responsible to act non-violently on their behalf and speak out. Today, think of all the writers in prison, all the writers who have been murdered, just for speaking out. This year alone already 33 writers that Writers in Prison Committee of Pen knows of have been ruthlessly silenced. Free speech is a human right. And so is the integrity of the person.
I'll be off line till the end of next week. I am on the road and probably will learn a lot.
And by the way: Free all writers, free also Leonard Peltier.
In one of the prettiest or at least most impressive streets of my town, an artist family holds a yearly literary salon. It is an honor to be invited because they manage to know and invite people who have read their work at Poetry International and other such places with a high degree of recognition. Seen the reading and explaining of how the work or collaboration between poets and graphic artists came about is done in their living room, everyone is very approachable and unpretentious so that real exchange is possible. Poetry was read in about six languages and then also some translations. Good food, good vibes, food for thought and the soul if we have one.
A skein of geese flies over. The leader pulls them west, north-west, straight into the storm, the gale winds over sea. What motivates them: are they training for the geese Olympic 'flying against the wind'? Are they thrill seekers? Or do they have a vision of a faraway pole with gentle winters? Other skeins decide to follow them and it becomes quite a trek. Maybe they are all just lost, at a loss as to where to go, what to do. So they fly. And so do I.
Next to a bar two monks worked from Tuesday till Thursday night to create a mandala. Next to the noise and the high charged energy of a political world, was a heaven of meditation and tranquility. At the end, ceremoniously the sand painting is destroyed, effaced and the sand is distributed in tiny bags. It is beautiful and serene to watch the creation, to accept the ephemerity of things and to receive some of the sand on the top of one's head. Some of us were blessed with the reminder of tranquility, ahimsa and mindfulness. Buddhism as a path of life requires practice and rituals, reminding us of Dharma, the wheel of life and non-violence. These monks reminded us of the need of Tibet to be free so that this culture and teaching is not lost to the world. Free Tibet. Ahimsa.
Spookie is of two people trying kindly to give me a musical education. So I get to listen to lesser known, but good performers. Ensemble Cannamella is a group of recorders, dulcimer, lute, theorbe, clavichord and a traveling bell instrument. See the tiny instrument? That is the one. They also play the violin and my favorite of all times the viola da gamba. The music they chose was all by 17 century Flemish composers, or having stayed in the region for a while. The old folksong were sung by an excellent soprano. It was a light hearted evening about love and drinking wine in the pub and walking in gardens listening to the tweeting of birds and the calling of the cuckoo. All this in a recently renovated old church. Balm on a busy mind.
I have become a painter, strictly monochromatic, using different textures and shades of white. I have become a closet painter and might soon venture into some blacks and radiators... So my time between work and trying to get a flat done has been sparse and blogging to my chagrin has been neglected. The move to the eagle's nest with the stunning view is for the end of November or beginning of December depending on the availability of an outside lifts to hoist up to the 12th floor the stuff that doesn't fit in a small old elevator. When I asked one of the workers to help with getting the doors ready to paint since 'I couldn't get off some of the stuff', he replied, "Yes, now see, you are a woman, there is some difference yet..."
Cities that are married to water seem to be my favorites. It doesn’t matter whether sea or creek, an ocean, a lake or a stream, as long as it is natural water. In some cities water is a bridge, binding the elements together, walking on foot crisscross over water and land, all seems totally integrated. Sometimes a city is split by the stream: the left bank in Antwerp is not the city, and not comparable to the ‘Rive Gauche’ of the fashion houses in Paris. Cities where you hear the sea lions, the sea gulls are kept together by those sounds, when there is a sea eagle landing on a lake that too will bring about a sense of unity. All water seems give a respite, a rest of open, unused, uncluttered space even if it is a cozy bank along a canal or the distance to the next island mirrored in the water. In that sense the desert does the same for me: it asks for a closer look, yet some walks are just to far or too hot. And a flash flood will carry the sand to the sea… So all is one.
A young Jewish guide will teach you a lot about Prague's recent past. The jewish cimetary is charming, like many old grave yards are. Scrolls on a grave indicate learning and grapes and pine cones a multi layered, multifaceted person held in high esteem. The Spanish Synagogue is not build by the Sephardi Jews but by the eastern Ashkenazim. They build it in the Moorish, Spanish style and showed their opulence. The Pinkasova Synagogue is now an impressive memorial for the victims of the Nazi's. The 77.297 names are inscribed on the walls. It is a shock to find one's own last name there. There are 2000 Jews registered and practicing and about 5000 in total. 'There are no problems in Prague with Jews', said the guide, 'because you cannot see who is a Jew. We don't have an orthodox community here.' The old ghetto had been torn down under communism with the cooperation of the Jewish Council and the insalubrious place has been turned into the most expensive street of Prague: Paris street. The Guide said a generation of people is missing, since they never knew they were Jewish and she did point out there is a difference between being anti-Semite and anti-Zionist. The cultural life is vibrant , the arts are doing well and these synagogues are used as museums and as places of worship.