Saturday, April 26, 2014

Trying out the sticks

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My brother gave me my first hiking sticks last week and I pumped off into Beaulieu and the New Forest in blustery squally weather today to give them a try.  There’s a rhythm that’s required to master the whole thing, not dissimilar from skiing.  Okay, I wasn’t great at skiing,  but they were a help when slipping on muddy slopes and sinking along the marshes.  DSC05453

They are also handy when being attacked by wild donkeys…

(Note: No donkeys were injured in making this photo)

It was a good ramble: there were a fair number of people out and the sheep’s milk ice cream was fresh.  The changing light meant lots of interesting ways to try to construct new compositions (the photography book also a gift).

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The watery moors outside of town were low and windswept, ponds reflecting the the changing skies and emerging brush.  Grazing horses dotted the landscape; the silence was blissful.  The diversion into the woods turned into an extended meander south across the landscape: drive a little, walk a little, click a little.

And eat /drink a little when an interesting café appeared. 

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Uit Maastricht naar Poole

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Its been summery in the Netherlands all week, clear mornings and afternoon thundershowers.  I joined friends along the riverfront terraces, enjoying the breaks in the warm sun with talks and coffees.  We ruminated about the past; we plotted futures.  How do I improve the business, which country has the best visa rules: where would you vacation, buy a house, bring together family, enjoy the culture, share time with friends?

It’s about time; it’s about place. 

It feels funny (and kind if nice) to be taking that long view again.  Maybe it comes with time. having a bit more stability and the 60th behind me.  Maybe it comes with quiet places, gazing into early mists flowing across the low landscapes at sunrise.

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She was alone in Arles for a reason, a reason she was still in the process of formulating.  It was in France that she had found liberation, license, and pleasure. And, at 62, she returned to come to terms, finally, with her European legacy, and her American future, determined to erect new alters to old gods.  Food and pleasure, style and good living, love, taste, and even decadence: She was suddenly keenly aware of the need to make sense of the old mythologies, the too easy seductions of nostalgia.   Barr, Provence 1970.

‘a time for taking stock.  I listened to her tale unfold in the  audiobook, reflecting, as I sped across Belgium towards Calais.  Life has, in important ways, started to come together again.  After 2013, I don’t take that good fortune lightly.

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There’s still too much rushing about, I reflected, watching rain beat against the ferry windows.  But I hold time in each day for reading essays, house routines, rambling conversations, leisure excursions.  Weekends hold more ambitious explorations, whether Moroccan cooking (Chicken Sofrito, below, was an experiment in tumeric vs.saffron) or dinghy sailing classes.

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While I know lots about sailing, I don’t (yet) know much about small boats.  The instructors are putting together bridge sessions so that I can learn how to shift weight in response to the wind, how to handle sails and right a tipped boat, gaining confidence in the hull and courage about getting immersed in the icy waters of Poole Harbour (they promise to  provide wet suits).

I pause in Basingstoke for lunch, a get-together.  The bakery has the largest crème horns I’ve ever seen: they look like pillows.  I opt for (somewhat) healthier pizza and a longform essay:

A cornerstone of art and fashion is that some people believe what they see and others see what they believe. Tangier, filled with the latter, is a world of tainted wonder.

Expatriate entrepreneur life feels much the same now: I am one who can see the things that I want to believe in.  Europe is filled with creative possibilities for composing socially and individually significant dreams and means to achieve them.  Where are wonderful people of all types 

The ‘tainted wonder’ is also true, perhaps unavoidable.  Alongside remarkable experiences, life’s delivered some harsh rebukes. Occasionally, like the faint smell of burnt smoke and bitter aftertaste of turmeric in my Sofrito, I;m reminded of the consequences to becoming isolated, self-absorbed, stressed, careless, or neglectful.  I watch it carefully; friends keep track.

DSC05530You can’t confuse a happy retreat with a lifelong reality, I’ve debated this with friends in Maastricht and Dorset.  Yet I remain a stubborn romantic, despite the turmeric.  ‘Perhaps even moreso now, seeing both a larger life and a more intimate life.  The dream is real: I catch it in glimpses during walks and in conversation. 

Place, time, success, relationships.

My shared coffee-bar conversations, in the sun and along the rivers, NL and UK, friends and colleagues, are never about whether we’ll all get there.

Only about when, how, and where.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Picturing a spring evening

DSC05369 (1300x975)It’s a warm evening in het oude centrum, Maastricht’s old center.  ‘meetings have successfully concluded, and I’ve enjoyed a good dinner with a fellow Fellow from Corporate.  The lights are coming on against the darkening twilight: it’s a quiet time or a walk around the city and a reflective think about reading and conversations before calling it a night.

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Philosophically speaking, If we try to be a good person, can we genuinely become better, or must we always be a flawed person who believes (or worse, pretends) they are good?

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Is hope pernicious?  Critchley advises facing hard facts with determined courage rather than soft hope. That’s a bleak outlook, though. I’d prefer pragmatic idealism, believing in success at work and intimacy in relationships, hoping for and believing in the Dream.

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DSC05359 (1300x975)Seppala suggests that people can’t be open in social relationships without also becoming vulnerable, accepting the risk of abandonment or betrayal in exchange  for honesty and trust.  Is it also possible to say ‘you cannot hurt me’ if you are that exposed?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Monday–Maastricht

DSC05290 (1300x974)‘An easy drive back to the Netherlands for a few day’s work away from phones and meetings.  The Eurotunnel was dirt cheap mid-holiday, speeding the journey to Calais, and traffic was light around London and Brussels.  As a result, I was tucked in before midnight and up early to finish a revision of a paper and to finalize the business mailings.

Easter is a four-day holiday in Europe, extending from Good Friday through Easter Monday.  The weather is warm and sunny most of the day in the Netherlands, only giving way to light rain in the afternoons.  The stores are all shut, so I took an early-morning walk along the river and through town.  Except for the occasional religious procession, Maastricht was mine.

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DSC05344 (970x1300)Café’s filled by mid-afternoon and boats filled the slips – I finished my revisions and a few calls to the US before similarly calling it a day.  There are a few big jobs that have to be completed this week, several consequential appointments, but for the most part I’m looking forward to re-establishing a work- and home-routine, balans en grenzen, that (like my container gardens) have taken a beating with recent travel.