zondag 17 november 2013

Thoughts on a Gardening Sunday....


For this weekend the plan was,to plant red tulip bulbs on Bram's grave on Saturday and to do some heavy gardening in our garden on Sunday. 
Yes, I still feel it is "Our garden", and for the moment it is still difficult to write "My garden".
I have never been a real gardener myself. Bram was the one in our relation who always did the garden, and I was the one who enjoyed it. He was not a man with plans for the garden. In a way, that was more or less his attitude towards life in general. Not too much planning, and see what will happen. The funny thing is that in his work he was totally the opposite. His designs really needed planning, and he was good in that.

A few years ago it was time for me to step in. Bram had no more energy to do the work after his aneurysm operation. The garden had become a mess. Everything was over grown with weeds, and our little City garden behind our historic home really needed some work to be done.
I remember a bit chilly Autumn Monday when I started working. The day before I had baked a really tasty plum cake, and between work I sat outside drinking coffee and eating cake (and wearing a warm jumper).
There was a lot of work to be done, but late in the afternoon I had a dozen garbage bags full of garden waste. The garden was cleared and winter could arrive.
I guess from that moment I really got a feeling with our garden. Going to a garden center became a joy to do. And coming home with new plants and planting them was an exiting moment.

And so I did after Bram passed away last April. I went to the garden center. Bought soil, seeds and plants and on it went, as usual. But the excitement wasn't there as in the years before. It was difficult for me to choose all by myself. I managed I can say, and this summer the garden looked good, but I didn't enjoyed it as much as I used to do. 
The plan was to do the garden in the Autumn holiday, but I didn't do it.
Leaves fell down. Autumn started..the garden became messy..
And so did the pots in the window. I have neglected them totally, so no dahlia bulbs the coming spring...




But I told myself last week that I had to do the garden this weekend. The weather will turn colder the coming weeks, so no excuse anymore. 
There is work to be done Young Man...

I took my wellies...
Brought out the usual tools..



Took a deep breath..and off I went..
I cleared out everything first...soil appeared after taking away all the leaves..



I pruned the little plum tree..



Planted Bram's red tulip bulbs round the trunk of that tree.."Strong Love" is their name..
And while doing this Bram appeared in my mind. At those moments I miss him so much. No more talking about the garden. No more connection. I feel so sad at those moments. Sad and lost in sadness.
Since a few weeks I cry each day. Not huge amounts of tears. But I feel that I realize that he will never ever come back. Ofcourse I know that with my mind....but the feeling of loss can be so overwhelming at those moments. But this feeling goes by..and I continue with whatever I am doing.

So it was back to my garden..after the coffee break and a cry..

I had to cover the Gunnera with straw and plastic to save him from the winterfrost. Bram had bought that plant because he loved it to have a big item in the garden. Not very practical, because it needs a lot of water, while the garden is in the south direction, so very sunny. Usually it was me who splashed buckets of water on it each day durung a hot summer. But the result was a plant with Huge leaves and a joy to watch.




I did cut of a piece off today (sorry Bram), and wrapped it up as a round parcel.
In spring the leaves will have so much power that sometimes the stones are pushed away.



I planted a lot of bulbs. "Red Magic" tulips, daffodils and Hyacinths, which I bought at a garden center close to the graveyard some weeks ago. When I bought them I could hear that the young man came from the region where Bram was born. So I asked him where he came from. His answer was first..close to Den Helder..his second answer was..Breezand.
Breezand, the village Bram was born. The area full of tulip fields in which his whole family had been worked. Peeling bulbs, cutting off the flowers. Bram didn't like that place very much. The distance between the very rich bulb farmers and the poor workers.
At the end of the talk it turned out that the young man was living in the same street where Bram was born. 



We also have a "devils walking stick tree" in the garden. The birds love the little black berries, so I decided to prune the tree at the beginning of Spring. Bram got this tree as a gift for his birthday from dear friends Anja & Paul in October 1992, just after  started living in this house. So it is 21 years now.

I try to cover the back wall of the house with a Tuscan Jasmine I planted last year.
This year all goes well. It doesn't grow fast, but looks healthy


The back wall is partly from Medieval times, and is now partly covered with foliage from a climber which stands in my neighbours garden.. The leaves are getting yellow now and have started falling down.. 
My neighbor on the other side is growing a grape tree and we both hope that a part of the wall will be covered the coming years.



And at the wooden fence between the 2 terraces is a Hedera growing. They grow so fast, so heavy cutting was really necessary.



I ended up with a big pile of leaves and branches..


There are the last colored leaves at the vine on the wall of the shed, where I put my bicycle...


The outcome of a day's work in the garden are a few big bags full of garden waste



On Wednesday I hope to finish everything and the waiting for Spring can begin.

It is strange. I have always loved Autumn and Winter, but now I don't like it that the days are getting shorter and the nights longer. Going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark. I can't wait for the days when the light comes back and when the tulips will blossom on his grave and in my garden.

Coming home in an empty house is every day a strange moment. No one to share, no one to talk to, and now one to laugh with. I am not a person for living my life alone.
When I met Bram my loneliness disappeared. Now the loneliness is back, but in a different way. I have grown older and had life experience sofar at my age of 55. But it is still difficult to cope with. 
In my youth I was a lonely boy, and sometimes this lonely boy knocks again at my door. When I open the door, the only thing I can do is cry. He is part of me too, and I know him well.


P.S. 
Last Friday I went to a little concert in a local bookstore.
Johanneke ter Stege sang a beautiful song: Before you go to sleep, and I had to think of Bram before he went to sleep..


zaterdag 16 november 2013

The Black Chapter...A Shocking Exhibition...

While I was in Amsterdam last Sunday, I also visited ScheepvaartMuseum which tells the Maritime history of the Netherlands. 
Situated close to Central Station, it was just a small walk to go there. I had never been there and I think Bram hasn't been there either during his life. (but He would have loved it, I thought after my visit)

It was built in 1656 as 's Lands Zeemagazijn (the Arsenal), so over 350 years old, and it has been the museum's home since 1973. Very impressive and it exudes history.
More info about the building can be read HERE.


It has been renovated and had a grand opening in 2011. One of the most spectacular part is the roof which covers the whole courtyard and gives beautiful shadows when the sun shines.



It is a very modern museum and after coffee and "appeltaart", I did the tour.
Very modern and spectacular at some points.


You hear sea-waves...while passing beautiful objects.
There is a book which shows you a 17th Century sailing trip from The Netherlands to The East..

You turn the pages and you can follow the trip..while a voice every now and than brings you in the perfect mood..


There is a room filled with comfortable chairs and Photo-albums on tables in front of you. Like staying on a luxury liner. But when you press the button on the chair..the story which matches the album is been told to you. And you dream of sailing on that ship and visiting ports and unknown places.


But what was the reason to go there....
It all had started with book I read when I was a young boy, and which borrowed from the Library, and which I have read over and over again. I never had it myself, but a few years ago I bought a used copy at the local library here in Deventer

The title of the book is:
"De scheepsjongens van Bontekoe" .



Situated in the 17th Century (28th  of December,1618)it tells the story of a group of  3 young boys named: Hajo, Rolf and Padde who take a job as cabin boys on a big Dutch Sea vessel under the name: "Nieu-Hoorn". The Captain is Willem Ijsbrantsz. Bontekoe.
They set sail from the isle of Texel to Batavia (Indonesia).




There is adventure, exploring, excitement and the book ends with the scene that Hajo comes back home to meet his mother (she is a widower) and he falls down and cries. It is also known as: The book with the sob, and I must confess that every time I come to that part I always start sobbing too. Guess there is still a little boy in me.



When I read it now I notice the attitude to inhabitants from other countries is not always correct. Nowadays it might be seen as racism, or feeling superior above other races. I know it was the attitude in those days..
As a child I never had those thoughts. I was just sailing with them and just loved that book....

But there is a connection with the book and a rather shocking exhibition in the museum with the title: "The Black Chapter".


It is an exhibition about the slave trade and it tells the dramatic story of the slave ship named "the Leusden".
The Leusden was involved in a major disaster on the River Maroni (or Marowijne) in Suriname in 1738. The ship was never found.

You enter the exhibition and arrive at the hold of the ship or lower deck.
Image 700 people. Women, Men and children, who were meant to be slaves.
Living there, sleeping there for Months. This drawing shows it. It must have been a Nightmare for all of them.


The ship came from Afrika and was on it's way to Suriname. In the mouth of the Maroni the ship arrived on January 18, 1738  and got stuck on a sandbank.
The slaves were chained below deck, while water penetrated the ship. The Captain was afraid of a big uprising of the slaves ant they would be murdered by them. All entrances 
and "windows" were closed. No one could leave the ship except the Captain and his crew.
700 people drowned..A horrible massacre


There are 700 labels hanging. On each one is a name, and gender written.
Nr. 438 is a big Boy named Elmina and he was brought to the ship on June 28, 1737


I felt so sad for this boy..and it touched me deeply. 
Only one..699 more with names and gender. 
I don't know him of course, but I imagined him living with his family. Maybe in a little village in Africa. Playing with friends and relatives and than picked up to become a slave and died in this shameful accident.
The exhibition tells it all..the slave trade..step by step..

And I felt shame also. I know..I have nothing to do with this tragedy, but in a way I do. I am Dutch with a Dutch history. And this history is a black page and we are part of it.

I might read my favorite book of my youth again, but with a different view perhaps..

woensdag 13 november 2013

Van Gogh's Yarn Box....

Last Sunday afternoon Loret Karman organized a special tour in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. To tell you the truth...Van Gogh is not my favorite painter, but after this afternoon I have seen something very different in his paintings.


Imagine this:

You walk in the exhibition with little balls of hand dyed yarn round your fingers. 
8 women do the same, but only with different colored yarn balls.
Yes, I can hear you thinking: rather odd and what is the reason for doing this..

But let's start with the beginning.
Loret, who I never met in real (only virtual through Facebook) is dyeing her own yarns.
She is absolutely one of the few people I have met, who has a very good sense for colors  but she also is interested in the paintings by Van Gogh. One of the first questions she asked me (just after a Big Hug) was..do you like Van Gogh's work? After my answer (see above) she told me..you will see it from a totally different angle this afternoon..it will be an Experience.

It had all started with the find of a box in the museum. A red Chinese box, filed with little balls of yarn. And this box has belonged to that famous painter. It can be seen in the museum and it was kind of moving for me. 
Those little balls were used by him to get a good color-scheme for his paintings.

Imagine this man, winding little skeins -in various color-combinations- round his finger.. A bit more orange next to blue..or just a little..perhaps..pink and blue perhaps..no, not too much pink in the evening-sky....



Perhaps a strange idea, but Delacroix has also used this kind of method for his paintings.
Loret was so intrigued by this box, that she dyed a color-palette in exactly the same 
colors of the yarns in the box

.



 She showed some examples of how the colors worked in knitting. 



In a way you can knit your own Van Gogh, and hang it on the wall..



Or..wear a Van Gogh long Mitten on a cold winter's day...


If you look close at paintings, you can see that the paintings are miraculously built up.
Ans Loret has made little samples to show us.. What happens if you put more..or less orange in it..and this all after a selfportrait for the Master himself.


She showed some more examples of how paintings were built up. I loved the color-scheme above, knitted in little blocks after each other..I am now thinking of something similar to make a knitted tie for my self..I never wear a tie, but this is so tempting..



Or those ideas for a knitted jacket after a painting..I-cords round the lapels of that piece..


After the talk, we all had to go to the 2nd floor to see box in real and the newly discovered painting.
"Sunset at Monmajour, 1888, Private collection".
(sorry for the not so good picture because of the museum light and no flash ofcourse)

I ended up with little pieces of yarn in the colors of the sky..


And because we were with a group we shared little pieces of yarn form various Van Gogh series of the hand-dyed yarns by Loret.



(It was rather funny while were doing this, a visitor took a piece of yarn with her, while others were intrigued by what we were doing)


In a way you can say that all the colors above can be found in his paintings. (so there is a painting in those pieces of string...)

For me it was a mind-blowing experience..and it was great to hear the story told by Loret. She knows so much and has such a passion for her topic. And next to that she is a lovely person, and I felt very comfortable with her. 

If you can take this tour...Go, it is Wonderful and it will give you such a different view on the paintings by Van Gogh.

And..ofcourse...I couldn't resist to buy the Dutch Palette. 


Not a clue what to do with it. 
A tie perhaps...
Not that I wear a tie, but it would be the first tie knitted out of this yarn.
Last night I made a swatch (in linnen-stitch on needles 2,5)  from the palette I got last Sunday..


I see little colored blocks...and the name will be..
My Van Gogh Round My Neck Tie..

P.S.
Just found a little video in which Loret talks about her work.