The grays of clouds heavy with water, lead, pines gray to dove gray has been the main color outside of my 12th floor perch. The verdigris of aged coper roofs are just a touch brighter. Walking the city there are gray shiny slick cobblestones, dark puddles, reflections of sky on earth. Some women are impervious to the weather, their hair always smooth, their shoes never muddy... Mine are, my hair frizzes in the moist air. Dogs smell of wet dog. Plants seem happy, the city ivy climbs up with new young shoots, the magnolia and prunus flower and cherry trees bloom. The yellow berberis gives off a sweet evening smell on a city corner. I wonder how to attract birds at my balcony. I would love the blackbird to sing to the world from there or when the swallows arrive have them build their mudnest there. Crows and seagulls, different types of city pigeons is what I see most in this wettest month since 1833 when they started to monitor the incidents and fluctuating fickleness of the weather.
Today two funerals I would have liked to go to: one of dear sweet brave young Nicole, one of the party animals watching the fireworks on New Year's night with all of us on my balcony. The other one, possibly the best poet ever in Dutch... But a near full fletched migraine gave me a day of rest and streams of silence. Once my eyes focused again I started reading a tender thoughtful book by Wannes overcoming his ordeal and learning from it.Life is good. Tomorrow will come.
The dutch title is De Overgave by Arthur Japin, as far as I know the novel is not yet translated. The story starts when a group of Comanche Indians raids the fort of Family Parker. It is Granny who tells the story: children and grandchildren are abducted or killed. Some she finds, but they are lost anyway because of having grown op in Comanche culture, or because of what they suffered. Finally her grandson finds her: Quanah Parker. The story is about the search and hope and love that never stops, nor diminishes. It is also about hate and racisms. Obama Barrack’s speech about race made me think again about the book. Also Obama’s white grandmother had hate and racism in her and yet she accepted him… and thus he accepts her. Racism is a historic fact. I knew an old saddle maker, George Parker related to Quanah Parker and wonder whether one day we’ll really know what we are and who we are. In the wave structure of matter we are all matter and all equal. Some of us are more fun to be with than others, but that is just a matter of taste or bad taste, whatever the case may be. Maybe the question is will we ever know that we are.
Met Labyrint van de waan schreef Mieke de Loof een intelligente historische triller/roman. De feiten spelen zich af rond 1913, maar die feiten en sommige historische personages zet zij moeiteloos naar haar hand, zoals dat in fictie kan. Het is duidelijk dat ze gedegen onderzoek deed ter voorbereiding van deze thriller: de juiste naam voor meubelstukken en voorwerpen, met als detail soms de maker erbij vermeld. Ze kent duidelijk het terrein en de gebouwen, heeft de kerk bezocht waarin een deel van het verhaal zich afspeelt. Het lijkt dus allemaal heel echt en authentiek, ook de verzonnen figuren dank zij haar goede psychologische inzicht. Via die voorwerpen en namen van spijzen en dranken creëert zij vaak de sfeer van verfijning en luxe die in het sanatorium heerst waar de bedienden uiteraard geruisloos hun taak vervullen. Je zou Labyrint van de waan ook een filosofische spionageroman kunnen noemen waarin niets is wat het lijkt. Haar opleiding sociologie en filosofie dient haar goed in dit boek. Als er grote moeilijkheden opduiken, opent zij een uitweg met mooie levenswijsheden die heel natuurlijk deel van de tekst uitmaken. Het verhaal is een strijd tussen goed en kwaad, tussen de modernisten en de fundamentalisten uit het katholicisme van die tijd. Je merkt aan de voorwerpen en het gedrag wie in welke categorie thuis hoort. De fundi’s wensen gehoorzaamheid, nederigheid en traditie ten aanzien van de autoriteit van de kerk. Zij vinden de Wiener Werkstätte en dergelijke maar niets. De modernisten zijn gevoelig en ja ze delen mijn smaak... Ik hou van haar commentaar op teksten, boeken, schrijvers en taal... en van de wel gekozen citaten van het erudiete gezelschap dat ze ten tonele voert. Ondanks alles draait deze thriller om macht en geld en loyauteit. Er zijn een aantal leuke parallelle constructies in de verhouding tussen twee verschillende leerlingen en hun meester. De meesters roken havanna’s, de leerlingen zijn niet-rokers... Wat ik geestig vind, bijna als running gag, is het commentaar op de Belgische figuur Alfons Jonckx. Le petit Belge, die altijd wat wordt onderschat. Hij is verstandig, wil er bij horen, is gretig in het genieten van luxe en het werven van fondsen. Door zijn gebrek aan ‘aristocratie’ valt hij echter geregeld door de mand. Mieke de Loof maakt met dit boek komaf met het idee dat spannende boeken niet literair kunnen zijn. Je leest er mooie paragrafen in over liefde, eenzaamheid en het verstrijken van de tijd. Bewust vertel ik niets over de inhoud. Het vernuftige verhaal moeten jullie zelf ontrafelen. Een aanrader waarmee je aangename uurtjes kan doorbrengen.
The writers had separate briefing; a funny, seriously unruly lot we are... Once again we are made aware of the possible legal implications of holding up a poem against violence. News comes in that 5.000 police/soldiers are on alert in the neighborhood for what has been announced as a nonviolent action. In total we are about over a thousand bombspotters. The walk is beautiful in an old 'hollow road' used for long distance traveling on horses in the Middle ages and later. And soon police, their cars come from the front and the back of our little poetry parade. Their choppers and horses surround us. Our spokesperson reassures them that we do a literary walk for peace. The police: you won't leave the road? Answer: No. Then one police to another: They are intellectuals they won't bold through the fields... And we read and read and about 80/90 maybe more people listened and enjoyed the very diverse menu of succulent words. There was emotion, laughter a feel of togetherness, and a lot of mud. We hear that the police was rough on the people near the NATO base, certainly unreasonable force, undue retaliation. Nobody resisted arrest! My heart breaks. What can we do but match our voices to the roar of the chopper, hold up a poem, a thought, an image, laughter to save humanity from random death and collateral damage of wars for profit or power. Thanks, you who read and you who listened. Thanks for working for better futures for all new born babies of these days.
After the night of the equinox, when everywhere in the world darkness and light are even, and all people in the world have the same amount of light, we need to work for light and peace for all humanity. The bombspotters know that WMD, 20 nuclear warheads, can be found here at the NATO Headquarters and that plans for their use are plotted here. First, we all sign a declaration stating our identity and our intent to use only non-violent means in our action. We get a thorough briefing as to the legal implication of an administrative or a judicial arrest. Most of the over 600 activist will try to get over the 2,5 meter high razorsharp barbed wire fence and seal off NATO. Before our arrival, the first arrests have already been made: a person with roadmaps of the area, the people who were going to serve beer and coffee at the place of gathering of all nations, megaphones have been confiscated... That kind of stuff. Pretty soon we get the good news that 25 people have entered NATO, some of the young people from our group. Later in the day other groups, thanks to the rope ladders and carpets, made it over as well. In total almost 70 activists made it on to the military terrain. Over 500 people near the fence have been arrested and will be released probably sometime late tonight. They all carry a statement that they were under a moral obligation to take action in order to prevent a bigger crime. The people who in their civil disobedience action are arrested on the grounds of NATO will probably face a court case in one of the appeal courts. The statement we all carry contains a charge against NATO and the Belgian state for not living up to the Non Proliferation Treaty and accepting nuclear weapons on Belgian territory. The police used excessive force in the arrests, hurt some of the non-violent demonstrators. They used choppers and water canons on this cold windy day... Tomorrow you'll read about the Writers for Peace. In war always a father or a mother dies, always a child, a brother or a sister, always you and me. With nuclear weapons the collateral damage are civilians.
The weather is foul: hail, snow, northwestern storms and rain, around freezing and will be so tomorrow. The walk tomorrow will be around the terrain of NATO. Imagine muddy roads and the words of all the writers held up to politicians who are deaf, only hearing their self created storms. We will not be doing anything illegal unless reading poetry is against the law... Part 5: At this point when NATO is on the verge of reformulating its content and the reason for its existence, we want to advise our political leaders to end the illegal nuclear policy of the Alliance and to evaluate thoroughly means, goals, democratic control and the opportunity of NATO. For that political courage is needed. Does our present generation of politicians lack this courage? If yes, we have to give them that courage. We have to raise our voice. March 22, 2008 on and around the NATO Headquarters in Brussels the action NATO GAME OVER takes place. It is a civil disobedience action. Groups of free citizens will try to go on the NATO grounds and will seal gates, windows and doors. They do so because all the usual democratic means to end the NATO’s nuclear policy have been exhausted. We want to point to the importance of this kind of non-violent initiatives. Once sovereign states founded NATO in name of their populations. If citizens out of concern want to control NATO’s wheeling and dealing, then this points to their commitment. The Belgian authorities should not respond to this commitment by a show of force and police violence. Let us not sacrifice democracy and freedom as Iphigenia in order to win senseless wars. A military alliance, intervening worldwide, possessing nuclear weapons and willing to use a first strike, is a risk for world peace. Let us therefore start the debate whether the existence of NATO is indicated.
Too much dying is going on, friends and the great poet Hugo Claus whose motto was 'Poetry, Love, Revolution'. So lets celebrate life and beauty and walk for disarmament. Part 4: In April 2008 an important NATO meeting is scheduled in Bucharest. The agenda foresees the elaboration of a new strategic concept. In a discussion paper NATO sketches the thrust of its new military strategy for the next decennium, in which also nuclear weapons play a role. The US wants that NATO evolves into a worldwide military alliance of likeminded states, while a democratic, efficient UN could be a much better instrument to promote world peace. Do the NATO policies or those of its members create new enemies or new threats? Of course that question isn’t even breached. If this concept is accepted, the chance for disarmament and détente in the world becomes very minute in the next decennium. NATO was formed almost 60 years ago to protect one’s territory. For years, during the cold war NATO and the Warsaw Pact kept each other in a precarious balance. By the dismantling of the Warsaw Pact and the fall of the Iron Curtain a new situation emerged. The original enemy of NATO is no longer and NATO together with the USA can go and look for its enemy wherever it wants. No other alliance keeps NATO in check. No other pact slows down its expansionist urge.
The personal is political. So you be counted: Warmongering profits no one, only the greedy bloodstained, polluting corporations who confuse rampant liberalism with democracy. We are part of the non-violent confrontation between what is and how the world should be. To make better lives for all of us, we need to work together, where ever we come from. Part 3: On NATO members territory there has hardly been outright war. That is true. Yet Europe was the pivotal for wars in other parts of the world. Recent figures prove this. American military personnel are stationed in European bases. 54 000 of them were deployed in Iraq. In 2006 two thirds of all in Europe stationed American military personnel was involved in missions in Afghanistan or Iraq. The American Army was deployed from Germany and Italy. The fighter planes took of from British bases and from airplane carriers in the Mediterranean. Without Europe the invasion of Iraq would have been impossible. Just as the ensuing occupation. Iraq was attacked because they were believed to have had weapons of mass destruction. Iran is threatened because they might produce them. In the meantime NATO holds 350 atomic weapons ready in Germany, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom and Turkey. According to international humanitarian rights these weapons are as illegal and forbidden as wherever else in the world. Why aren’t these weapons dismantled? This is a direct consequence of NATO membership. If a country is member of NATO it has to cooperate in operations any place outside of its own territory, by sending troops, offering infrastructure, or logistic support. What the population thinks is immaterial. NATO’s military strategy takes precedence. This unhealthy situation risks to become even graver.
Make a stand, we make a difference... You make a difference. Or at least lets act as if we do make a difference, then at least we do contribute to peace and conflict resolution in our non-violent way. Part 2: In many European countries a large part of the population doesn’t agree with the world leaders who chose to settle conflicts by war and military posturing. In Poland they don’t want an American rocket shield, no new bases in Italy, in Belgium no American nuclear weapons. But time and time again the aspirations of the population had to give way to the higher interests of NATO. Yet we cannot stand by idly and let it be. We ask ourselves: is NATO the right instrument to prevent the outbreak of war, armament increases and the spreading nuclear weapons. Does NATO really contribute to peace? In 1949, in the wake of the Second World War, 10 Western-European countries together with Canada and the United States formed a military alliance. They agreed to defend their territory together, if need be with nuclear weapons. Today NATO has been enlarged to the territory of the former Soviet Union. NATO looks with greedy eyes towards the Ukraine and Georgia in an attempt to fully cut off the old enemy Russia. NATO has drastically enlarged its competence. It deals no longer only with the defense of its own territory. NATO conducts military interventions all over the world. These interventions NATO considers even to be one of its core tasks.
Saturday, March 22, 2008: NATO Game Over. Writers for Peace will be reading poetry to the people in the demonstration. I love the absurdity of the idea to hold up a poem against a nuclear weapon's depot. But sometimes the absurd is a dire necessity. I will be there. The next few days I will be publishing parts of the platform text of the Writers for Peace. Part 1:
Stories forever have been the memory of mankind. Because of the Iliad and the Odyssey we never forgot one of the oldest wars of our civilization. Notwithstanding the fact that this war is part of European history, it was mainly fought out outside of our continent. That too we never forgot. Today’s situation isn’t different: Europe still wages wars, mainly outside of Europe. With the trick of the Trojan horse the Greeks managed to conquer Troy. Our Trojan horse is called Weapons of Mass destruction and War against Terror. Under this cover war has been waged for over five years in Afghanistan and Iraq, they hold Iran in their visor and Pakistan is drawn into an uncertain fate. The abduction of Helena out of Sparta was the beginning of a war of madness. The fall of the Twin Towers in New York became the sign for the United States to intervene worldwide with military force. Europe risks to be swept along in this endeavor by her mighty ally. This madness has to end.
This is my neighbor. No more said except that he is an armchair traveler and philosopher. Reader of poetry and historical novels in which food plays a part. Intelligent and outspoken. Admirer of art. Don't judge this gentle soul by its cover... But then on the other hand, don't trespass. Picture by Quiet Thunder Redheart
As it happened I read The Road, by Corman McCarthy on the road in heavy weather, finishing it late at night in solitude at home. These are almost the ideal circumstances to read this dark tale of a post apocalyptic world. It is dark beyond darkness, the sun and moon can bring no light, ash covers everything in a burned America. It is a post-climate change, a post-nuclear war… Whatever, it doesn’t matter. Emptiness, bareness, fear of others, the bad guys who do eat humans since there is nothing else to eat and the good guys… well they break your heart. Stark and unsentimental McCarthy writes the fatigue, the caring of the father and the child, the tenderness, the categories of our moral compass shifted and some holding on to a course of goodness. The long Walk, the Trail of Tears, the Concentration camps all are precursors to the horrors that the pilgrims over the blackened roads of America have seen. Barren burned silence reigns. And the smallest incident is time and again a deep moral choice on how to survive without loosing the goodness in this world. It is a bleak but not hopeless future vision, a haunting, compelling read which makes me look at the world again, because in some regions this harrowing trek is already going on. Think Darfur, think East Congo… The Road is a masterpiece, read it in Borrowed time and a borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it. (page 138) Other quotes: P168: Being from a planet that no longer existed. The tales were suspect. He could not construct for the child’s pleasure the world he’d lost without the loss as well and he thought perhaps the child had known this better than he. P179: People were always getting ready for tomorrow. I didn’t believe in that. Tomorrow wasn’t getting ready for them. It didn’t even know they were there.
In my nomadic life a recurrent refuge are bookshops and this one in particular: The Bookworm run by two American fun and knowledgeable ladies. They fully participate in the local life sponsoring charity runs and such but they also register voters from the American expat community. The nice welcoming shop is like a candy store, a treasure trove. They also have an interesting second hand book section, so there are always surprises from the newest books to the classics…
They order books if you send an e-mail and then at the next stop in the Librarie Anglaise the goodies are waiting for you. Most of the reading notes on this blog stem from books from The Bookworm . Thanks girls, you make these regular stops happy occasions.
To see a legend performing life is a gift. There he stood: a black stage, black jeans, boots, his cleanest dirty black shirt, a sunburst guitar, a mike, a music stand for his harmonicas, some water and cleanex and one simple spotlight… He stood and played like a lone busker who had just walked in a café and managed to touch each of us present. It was a personal and intimate performance. He played some of his hits, Help me make it through the night, Me and Bobby Mc Gee, Lobos, Sunday Morning coming down… He talked about his friends the Highwaymen and honored other singers and people killed for their convictions. A pleasant surprise was that he gave us many of his political, anti-war songs… Heartwarming, moving. No doubt where he stands on the Iraq War. It was not a polished performance, he forgot the lyrics, played the wrong note, which he acknowledged and which made him real, not a slick plastic performance, but a real singer songwriter getting older and being on the road, touring again in a bus. ‘This old road’ is his latest very worthwhile cd. The nice old theater had strict photography rules so they gave this blogger permission to take a few pictures… Great, blogging seen as pat of the press corps. Wonderful, sweet evening full of memories and longing.
After almost a year I went back to yoga class today. A three hour long session concentrating on backward bends. Now I have never been good at bending over backwards. I will go out of way to please a friend, but not bend over backwards, not going against my grain. It was a hard class and I felt empty and calm afterwards, calm in the knowledge that I'll never be good at it, but that it is good for me and good for hernia. Now bending forward in submission isn't quite my thing either, so I guess I am far away from Zen or Nirwana. The Dahrma wheels turn and turn...
This picture is a bit over a year old. Here my two dogs still look feisty. One year, five/six years ago, they had once again changed the rules on me and I intended flying with them to Washington and then on to Europe. They had instated a heat embargo and I could not take them. A helpful lady checked all the rules and since I was working a few days 'somewhere high level' they labeled my dogs military dogs... I was actually wearing a mickey mouse cap. I don't think any of us look the part convincingly. Now the mama on the right hand side is 15 year and 5 months and is getting weak, very skinny, limping a bit, but usually still happy. I asked the vet if she was in pain. He said no she is ok. She'll let you know when she has had enough... Sad but I am grateful because they helped me through a few dark nights of melancholy. The little one is still double trouble and sweet.
Sunday morning, the main library and over two hundred of this cities finest and brightest showing up for a book presentation. I came for one the actors reading from the book and for Rondas who introduced the novel, brilliantly, pleasantly, funny and lucid. The mayor and the Minister of Transport was present and a lot of well known people, professors, photographers, writers most of them from the same party. Political party that is. I felt like I was crashing a party, knowing some of the people but also knowing full well that I was beyond marginal. Good place to be. This morning was a celebration of high culture, a secular mass, slightly alienating but exactly what the doctor prescribed in order not to have to go through my recurrent childhood feelings of Kris Kristofferson's Sunday Morning coming down...