While preparing to receive a bunch of friends and look at the fireworks at midnight, I listen to the radio and the horrendous situation in the Gaza strip is on my mind.
I wish all of you a good and healthy year and for the Palestinians a peace now and livable state. Stop the blockade and the bombing... 60 years of conflict is too long. The UN Security council should act now and protect innocent children and civilians. Lets work for non violent cooperative futures for all.
Friends who had visited my desert hideaway and had enthusiastic stories to tell about the strange fauna in the bar, invited me to diner to share their experiences. Father and son are both journalists. They are loud and boisterous and the lady of the house holds her own in the spitfire discussions. These exchanges are fun. And the dog got fed well too. Is Obama right wing? Will he close Guantanamo? Sorrow and sadness about the horrendous situation in Gaza, the good plan of David Scheiner and Professor Kader, conflict resolution, the beauty of Antelope Canyon and Glen Dam, all was discussed...
Looking out of my window I see the hoarfrost on the roofs of the town, white reflecting the light of this brisk, beautiful day. A quiet day with the promise of friends near. It is the first time I post a picture of myself. A friend took this picture right after the last concert. What did she do to capture the feeling I had: glowing from the inside out, at home in the intimacy of the music and the atmosphere, at home in the words. Explore the music link, the only one I could find to two of the musicians where you actually listen to their magic, that brings love and light. You may have to click on welcome and the on the cd's....
Last weekend I tread on uncharted territory. A bunch of topnotch musicians: Jakke on Sitar, Michel on guitar, Sadig on the lute, Jean with alt clarinet and North African drums, Theo with drums and Peruvian flutes, Katelijn with her jaguar cello, and Joachim who was my first taste of overtones in voices going deep into body and mind, joined by Pieter and Kaja each in different tones and style. Not knowing anything about music I was privileged to be with them on stage in a series of living room concerts reading North American Indian contemporary poetry. Jean was my teacher and found the images and words on what to listen for as to when to start reading. Being there with them was a deep experience, in the music, in the time, in the now, but out of this world. The last picture shows Katelijn talking to the audience just before the start. After the performance she fed us with warm soup, homemade pies by her friends and warmth and friendship.
We gathered at my parents place for the marathon evening of the year. We get treated to a nice dinner, and have to wait till midnight for the presents. It is then my mothers prerogative to put the baby Jesus is the manger. They put up a nice tree. We sing, what I do can't be called singing in all honesty. We talk, eat and drink. This years innovation was a night walk through the woods. The lanterns I brought were too weak to avoid the potholes and puddles; the returning light not yet strong enough to help us out. It was an old fashioned night. The parents were happy although my mother doesn't know where she is. She said at a certain point 'I may have to leave'. That gave me a chill. But she has a good time when we are all gathered around the table. I wonder where she thinks she is... I hope she feels it is a warm and comfortable place. And yes the dark chocolate covered, orange marmalade filled hearts and the gingerbread got eaten.
One of my grandmothers was German. She was might gentle safe heaven in dark times. Christmas as a consequences carries her sounds and smells. Lebkuchen, the Braedele, the dark chocolate coated gingerbread hearts filled with orange marmalade, that one specific flavor of marzipan... Of course also the songs, the mulled wine. Not with the opulence of these days, but just enough to remember, to look forward and backward. In these dark times of conflicts and crisis, we should remember that the light has returned and that if we work for it peace, love and light, food for all, respect for all that is, is possible. With all my warmth I send love and light.
Antwerp=America was the commercial slogan of the Antwerp based Red Star Line which transported more than 2.000.000 European immigrants to Ellis Island. They attracted the East European migrants and refugees by offering an all inclusive trip: train ride plus boat fare. That was in the times the American dream was written all in capitals, whereas now, people still want to go to the States but the dream is jaded. Maybe Obama can turn that around. The human interest stories are nice, Irving Berlin was 5 when he made the trip... Coming out of the museum Het Steen the life city will steal your heart with the smells of mulled wine, Christmas cookies and such. The visit was concluded by a visit to a Chinese supermarket and a delicious, somewhat overabundant meal ordered in Mandarin by my buddy AJ. What you see is the tfu dish and the no longer flying pigeon.
Now I didn't know my American guest could translate Santa Claus seamlessly into St Niklaas, surprising me with all the right ingredients. Then in the afternoon, the parents had homemade 'speculoos' and more tangerines and chocolate figurines. I must have been a good girl this year because obviously Sint doesn't bring presents to naughty kids. I like to keep traditions up, it is a way of marking the passing of time. It brings anticipation and a bit of reflection upon the why and whats. Sint Niklaas came from Spain, and the black young Piet was a servant watching out on top of the roof for the bad guys while inside alchemy was studied and conducted. If unwanted guest came, the kid would trow a bit of gunpowder in the chimney thus allerting the Sint inside. He got black from sliding down the chimney. Of course the Sint saved a bunch of kids by putting them in his big bag and carrying them out of harms way. So Spain causes the sweets to oranges, marzipan, tangerines, chocolate figurines and gingerbread for wich you need the spices from elsewhere. The kids are supposed to sing the special songs wich we did wholeheartedly.
Birthed from Scorched Hearts Women respond to War was compiled and edited by MariJo Moore. She produced an important, powerful book. 54 women from all over he world have sent in their words, their feelings, their insights, their stories. Some give courage, some are heart wrenching, some are wise. Reading the book I learned about old, historic violence beginning with Medusa and the daughters of Celtic Boudica. We learn about massacres and forgotten people, the plight of indigenous peoples in the USA and in the rest of the world. The chronology then brings WW I and WW II, Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq, followed by the protesters and peace workers. I am moved, humbled by the creativity and life lessons of these women. I like the historic fiction by MariJo Moore writing about Creek War and the Indian boy Andrew Jackson took home. MariJo imagines the mother’s tale about her lost boy’s life. Great. Then another important piece is by Rebecca Bevins Faery about Vietnam and the repackaging now of Nam as a tourist destination. She was married to a soldier in that war and was a peace activist. It deeply resounded in me as it was my first confrontation with war and as a consequence peace work. I should mention Laura Tohe’s testimony about her brother. Molly Mc Glennen writes about Native American women’s poetry and the reinterpretation of war: insightful and moving. We need to understand creative expression as sacred and to acknowledge the continuum among the speaker, writer, reader, listener, creative spirit and the word. Doing so, your writing will have political implications. Your love flowing out can change the world.
In my one but last post I mentioned Zargana. He has now been handed an additional fourteen-year prison term on 27 November 2008, added to the 45 year sentence served against him a week earlier as part of a major judicial crackdown on dissent. This brings his total sentence to fifty-nine years. He is among a number of leading dissidents to have been convicted in recent days in special courts held inside Insein prison for their peaceful opposition activities, many to staggeringly harsh sentences similar to those against Zargana. International PEN condemns these sentences, and demands the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Myanmar in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, protecting the right to freedom of expression. His oppositions consisted of making people laugh by uncanny imitations of the generals of Myanmar. What he shouldn't have done at all was helping the people with his own private money, selling his cellphone to feed people, to bring the water. That he a private citizen did what the government wasn't doing was the real cause for this unjust treatment that he now receives. He has to be freed and go on writing and making people happy. Of course dictatorships abhor happiness.
Dr Scarpone send me following very inspiring Thanksgiving thought: I came to a realization this morning that I though I'd share with you...and I sincerely hope the same is true for you. I spent the past hour wandering around in a light rain, appreciating the view and my humble home, and when I came back in I noticed my lottery ticket hanging on the shelf. And I laughed. Because there's nothing I need that I don't have. There's not even anything I want that I can't get, or can't do. I'd really be hard pressed to figure out what to do with a hundred million dollars, or even a million dollars. It would, in a way, become a burden, to think of something useful to do with it. It would distract from what I'm doing, which is enjoying thinking, and learning. The conclusion I've come to is that I'm content, but interested. I'm satisfied, but curious as to what comes next, and welcoming it without even knowing what it may be. I think that's a pleasant way to start a Thanksgiving morning. And just like Christmas, every day should be Thanksgiving. I am still learning...
The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. -John Stuart Mill, philosopher and economist (1806-1873) Anna Achmatova was born in 1889 in Bolsjoj Fontan near Odessa. She died in 1966 in Domodedovo near Moscow. Under Stalin she couldn’t publish during 18 years. She lost the people around her and died in solitude. The Chinese Zheng Yichun, born in 1959, was convicted to seven years for undermining the state authority. Primo Levi witnessed the hell of Auschwitz and always wrote about ‘evil’ in its many forms. Maung Thura, aka Zargana from Myanmar is a comic who makes his people laugh. Strong in political satire he was recently punished for helping out with his personal money the people hit by the flood. Reason to round him and others up and put them in jail. Rodolfo Walsh (1927-1977) was an Argentinian writer. In 1957 he became famous with 'Operacion Masacre', faction avant la lettre, felt to undermine the state.. Faray Bayrakdar Syrian born in 1951, spent almost 15 years in different jails in his country because he wrote for more democracy in his country. Painter poet Breyten Breytenbach was born in 1939 in the Cape Province. He became an ardent opponent of Apartheid. He married his Vietnamese wife although it was forbidden and when he returned to South Africa he was betrayed and ended up in prison for seven and a half years.
In my daughters words after the facts: I came home on an overfull train and saw a small seat behind the buggy of a Jewish family with four kids. The lady made some formula for the tiny baby and I messed with my papers. Upon arrival at my stop we all got out of train. Two young guys followed us and shouted: 'Judenhunde'! I was shaken and had a surge of adrenaline. I turned around barely a few centimeter from them and said: what did you say, now you have to deal with this blonde. Look in my beautiful blue eyes. Nobody intervened, nobody said anything although there were a lot of people and all had heard it. Then the train was leaving and the guys (one sporting a Were Di badge) went back on the train. The family walked slow with the kids in tow and so I met up with them. The Lady said 'thank you' and I apologized for the unconscionable attitude of these guys. That poor family. It was the first time I heard a thing like that, but i wonder how often had they to hear things like that. I didn't know that was still possible...
I am proud of my daughter's reaction and wonder about the risks of fearlessness. She did the right thing!
Our Writers in Prison Committee of the local Pen-center did well. 12 writers choose 12 different authors and read some of their writings. The totally was moving and strong. The poetry read was thoughtful and stirring. Putting writers in prison or exiling them or killing them is an age old way of dealing with disturbing thoughts or feelings. We read poets from Myanmar, Nigeria, Tibet, Malawi, the USA, South-Africa, China, Argentina, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey... here you see the MC of the evening, three writers waiting their turn on the podium and the front row with the defiant dozen readers who try to remind all of us that writers still are punished for their disconcerting thoughts. By the way we had a fine crowd listening.
As a present to myself, and in order to minimize my ecological footprint, I got a lightweight Brompton. It looks cool is sturdy and weighs about 20 pounds, just under 10 kilo. The practice run, after years of walking and driving, was fun. A heavy duty convinced cyclist in front and my daughter seemingly protecting her toddler from the dangerous traffic. I was astonished that after just a few minutes I felt at ease again on cycle and had good fun, wearing myself out. Then I cycled with Spookie who made me aware of the pitfall and then I started to do short runs on my own, braving the city traffic. And yes I got saddle sore and still need a bit more practice in the folding. No it is not me you see...
My laptop was out for a few days. I had a lot to write about but it won't happen now. I just want to write about November 10 when two people whose work was with me during the course of my life passed away: Miriam Makeba and Wannes Van de Velde. Wannes was a singer songwriter, painter, writer, flamenco player, a good person, a thinker, a joyful man who loved the city where I live. He also carried anger for what the authorities did to our city. Her personified the spirit of rebelliousness in a kind way to me. Miriam Makeba was the icon of the anti-apartheid struggle. Ages ago, in order that my daughter's father wouldn't have to do his military service, we wanted to emigrate to South Africa, since we knew some people working with the ANC. We dutifully filled out all papers and got as a reply: No thank you, you are not welcome since we don't think you could adapt to the system in place. Actually I should have kept that letter because that was a badge of honor. Miriam Makeba showed the way of non-violent resistance to a hateful regime. Both brought thoughtfulness, joy, resolve and beauty to my life.
A friend whose husband is severely handicapped - he cannot stand since he has no force in his hips or lower limbs - was nearing exhaustion. She mused: What is the alternative, conversation is still as good as ever and we still sleep together in the same bed. Knowing what it means to be alone, untouched, I could see what she meant. She continued: It is harder now and takes some preparation to make love. And I have to do all the work. I am getting older too and the strain on legs and knees is getting worse. Yes, you have to be inventive to make it work and you also have to be really in the mood. So sometimes it is just the good old hand job for both of us... But then sleeping next to him, feeling the warmth of his body and knowing tomorrow will be another interesting day, I wouldn't want to miss it all. Now this friend is an excellent planner, has all the modern lifting equipment, special wheelchairs, can afford to pay a person when she leaves the house for a couple of hours and their love is based on intellectual curiosity and 'chaleur animale', the need for proximity. So she makes it work. Yes, she is strong and tired and describing the positions and proplems each of them poses, we had a good laugh and could deal with our different lives again.
I am still dazed, not daring to believe. I am relieved, the world sighed as if a load was taken of its shoulders. Yet that load is now on this young man's shoulders and on ours. We need to go on defending our values, try to bring good to world. We have to go on working for human rights, wildlife, climate, against poverty, for peace, for healthcare and for choice so that we and all other humans can live a full life. I am dazed, how must the President elect feel?
Today the judicial research police asked Bee and myself to look at pictures that fitted our description. I looked at the faces of these kids in their different attitudes. They looked into the camera challenging, sad, like a bully, indifferent. Their hairdos were elaborate, like for going out to a party, lots of wax and special waves, lots of piercings too... The longer I looked, the sadder I became. I asked the young officer how many kids would turn out to be alright. 'Many have enough after the first warning, but many return and show up time and time again', he replied. I said some have such winning smiles. So he showed me the picture again and it turns out he steals, does breaking and entry with violence and more. Some looked as if not knowing what was happening to them, others looking pleadingly.We were lucky we met with two non-violent thugs. I saw arrogant vulnerability in these mugshots and felt no anger but compassion. Arrogant vulnerability? Yes, Bee saw it too.
A bunch of peri- and post-menopausal girls had an nice evening out together: A delicious meal in good company and a beautiful authentic building, good service, perfect. After the meal three of us decided to walk to where Bee lives, Borg had left her car parked there and the plan was she would give me a ride home. So we walk down the late night streets, admiring the beautiful Floral Art buildings, crossing an open space to find Bee's street just the other side of a railroad bridge. There in a flash I see my friend Borg on her face, a guy pulling at her purse and she too dazed to let go or to pull back. Bee and I start making a lot of ruckus. I loudly telling the young white male to let her alone, to take his hands of her purse, to go away. Bee was louder than I and shouting also at the other big guy. Moving towards my friend, the young man lets go, Borg gets back on her feet, dripping with blood and Bee is shouting you: rotten bastards.... So, offended the small guy comes back and threatening stands in front her. The other guy taking off with her camera... Bee was steaming: this in her own town, in her own neighborhood. After some care at the hospital Borg decided just to drive home, and yes she did drop me off. Today, she is almost alright.
The old lady in the corner made it till sixteen. Now she is buried next to my black labrador. She was an intrepid traveler: enjoyed the desert, trips and snow.
Tootsie liked my musical friends: Robin Rowley's guitar case suited her just fine, Norris was a perfect lap when playing the dulcimer. And after the party there was a pillow fight between mother and daughter ;-).
Being a member of the ACLU, I get informed about their activities and once again, I am deeply convinced about the importance of their work. In order to protect A.A. a five year old American Indian. The Needville Independent School Districtin Texas punished him for practicing and expressing his families religious beliefs and heritage by wearing his hair in two long breads. The school rules prescribe short hair. A.A. Is suspended in isolation in school because his family refused that he stuff his long hair in the back of his shirt at school. This would cause the child discomfort and shame about his culture and heritage. Courts have held that the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution protect students' rights to dress in conformation with their religious beliefs. Texas' Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) provides additional protections. After so many centuries, we still haven'tt got it right. The child has been subjected to this treatment since September 3. Parents should not have to choose between public education and their heritage as American Indians. Remember: They were here first!
The publisher/poet Hannie Rouweler came up with the idea of bringing together 10 poets: 5 of the Flemish persuasion and 5 Dutch, 5 male and 5 female. Here she proudly shows Saturn over the Schelde. The Schelde is the proud river going through Antwerp.
We all read, were well taken care of with wine, coffee and pies and had a good time on a wonderful autumn day. Listening to the poets was a voyage of discovery. Some read thoughtful poetry, some seriously funny light verse... Food for body and soul. Pictures by Albert Hagenaars, reading here.
Green feminist non-violent pacifist with anarchist tendencies that is how I described myself on a ‘social network’ I flippantly filled out. Now a travel acquaintance wants to know what I mean. I think all decisions should be made at the lowest possible level and at the highest necessary level. Personal decisions about my life are mine, decisions about global warming and how to deal with it are local and global. You get the drift. All authority should be questioned and controlled: does a government respect civil liberties, do they fulfill the treaties signed or is it untrustworthy. If obeyed, the authority carried should be deserved. Respect has to be earned, is not a given coming with a job or function. In order to live together in a group or a society one should agree on the terms. If the terms have outlived the situation, a new negotiation about terms and conditions should be started. I am committed to non-violence, so we should talk, build confidence and trust, between individuals, groups and states. Diversity of knowledge, creativity, insight is seen as enriching and stimulating thought and exchange. Diversity=choice. Choice=freedom. With freedom we can responsibly choose to change. Change: yes we can!
The small Brussels Griffon in the back is 16 this month and if she were a human person she would be classified 'legally blind'. I am developing a whole new admiration for guide dogs: they have to anticipate every obstacle or possible pitfall, puddles that are too deep, steps, potholes, people, bicycles, you name it ... And now I have to learn how to do that for my Toots.
Random messages about art. The painting is to be found in a post office: Art doesn't speak until spoken to and art solves nothing...
The other sign is the name of a gallery now closed. That figures with such a name. In defense of art I must say that it helps us dream, react, externalize, internalize. To me it is like the consolation of a far away friend.
Capital punishment is wrong. Living by the rule of 'an eye for eye' to me is barbaric. Thousands are on death row in the US. 130 people have been released from death row because they were found to be innocent after new evidence came to light. The ACLU and the people signing the petitions, writing letters to their newspapers have just, at least for now save Troy Davis' life. He is more than probably innocent and without people demanding justice for this man he would have been executed. Just two hours before his scheduled execution the United States Supreme Court saved Troy Davis’s life. The hope is that they will now hear his case. To me it is not about guilt or grace, atonement or innocence, we just should not have capital punishment. Killing is killing also when a justice system orders it. Lets have a moratorium on the death sentence.
It is one Rom, the people are Roma, just as the Sinti they are are gypsies. There are 10 million Roma, living all over Europa. They are as the Sami a people without state. The Sami are spread over 4 countries: Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia. The Roma have to content with a lot of intolerance towards them even when they are citizens of the country they are living in, having the nationality of the state in which they live like Poland, Italy, Rumania, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro. It has been proposed in Italy that if a person from a non EU country comits a crime that if that person is illegal or irrgular his/her punishment would be aggragavted because the illegality would constitute an aggravating circumstance. That seems wrong. We are all equal and the law should be just and the same for all.
Here life is squeaky clean. The Rom gypsies are healthier, their feet are dry, the kids have a table and light and can do their homework.
There are house searches at night between 2 and 3. The kids wake up, are scared and cranky.
When asked whether they were happy the women acknowledged their better conditions but said they were like 'birds in a cage'. At midnight the gate is closed, if they need to go out early the have to ring and will be let out.
Cameras are every where. What is the balance between clean and free?
If you make it till 67, then you are old as Methuselah here in one of the nicest cities of Europe. The Roma people, specially the old, the young children and women in general have serious health problems. This shed without windows is home to a family with 10 kids: no windows, a leaking roof, no water, no electricity.
This is the kitchen outside on an open porch. In winter they bring in a home made stove to keep them minimally warm.
People work, this man was doing some metalwork and was not disturbed by the visitors, the press or the rain.
In their best suits in front of their best home. Give them back the water and electricity: they pay for their utilities. The 300 kids in the camp go to school but can't make their homework without light.
In my other life late summer is more like early autumn, nothing warm and Indian about it. Normalcy of work and paying the bills tries to settle in. Yet my desert wildness of tumbleweed and locoweed still lies in me.
It is the season of taking leave, friends are strewn into the four directions. Sometimes it may seem a road is closed but roads are also opening up... That is the way it. My friends of this side of my life, take care. Friends on the other side of my life, brace yourself, I am almost back. Dogs, it's walking time!