Street Wisdom

I have always been a touch rebellious, never liking to walk the paths that everyone knows. I am still not sure whether seeking out the untrodden paths is wisdom or foolishness. I guess it depends on where each path leads.

I see this graffiti frequently and every time, it makes me ask myself the question: Which would I choose, if forced to? I believe I would rather be free than safe.

Still, looking back, I wonder why I managed to be neither safe nor free?

I’ve mentioned before that I’m in my early forties, I think. Time to spread my wings and find both freedom and safety by discovering who I really am, and who I want to be.

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A table

I have rediscovered a craving for good food – real food, not the kind that has never seen the sun nor felt the rain. Amsterdam has a lovely eco market at the foot of the Noorderkerk, nestled amid old canals and narrow streets with old-fashioned cobblestones. It attracts the usual eco nuts, people so obsessed with eco that it has leached the joy from them, but there are also many people who simply love food and believe the best food is not just cooked but also grown, harvested and made with love.

It is a perfect Saturday morning passtime… A bottle of sweet olive oil that, when you close your eyes and breathe in deeply, still smells of the hills and trees it came from, a few onions in soft, papery skins and a perfect bulb of fragrant garlic. A beautiful bright orange pumpkin that makes you think of the sun. A generous helping of coriander and Italian herbs, some freshly ground salt and pepper. A couple of earthy potatoes and, if you like, a few sweet carrots, still covered in little chunks of the soil that nourished them.

I like to softly sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil before adding the pumpkin, potatoes and carrots, cut into hefty chunks. After letting the edges of the pumpkin soften in the oil, I add a generous measure of water and let everything cook on a low fire until tender. Blend and you’re done!

One night, when my children were in bed and my boyfriend was away for the evening, I felt like really, truly savouring my food for the first time in a long, long time. So I unwrapped a beautiful ball of soft goat’s cheese rolled in herbs and a cup of olives from the same olive grove that produces my favourite olive oil, added a few chunks of yeasty, chewey French bread (remind me to tell you where to buy the best bread in Amsterdam), a bottle of eco cider, all the bountiful harvest from my morning’s market ramble, and sat down to savour, in my opinion, some of the best things mother nature has to offer.

I could not resist taking a picture to remember the moment. Since I could not find my camera, I used my iPhone – not the best of pictures usually. However, as has happened before, the imperfectness of the picture adds a lovely vintage feel to match the mood of the moment…

The Birds

The Birds

As a newbie here on WordPress, I accidentally erased this entire post (on which I had been slaving for an hour, of course) before I could publish it.

Well, no use crying over spilled milk.

And sometimes the picture speaks louder than a thousand words…

Majestic

Majestic

It’s been at least four or five years since I saw him. In the Amsterdam metro station, with a lady following him in a wheelchair. A great big dusky hulk of a man wrapped in scarves, a huge coat, old fingerless gloves, big clunky old workman’s shoes, boots almost.

I still see his picture in my head. He wasn’t grey or brown by any means but all the colours he wore had faded, much like the man himself, so he was shrouded in dusky reds, greys, browns, blues and greens, or so I seem to remember. The scarf or hat on his hat was one of those bulky, knitted, floppy stripey things that are all the fashion today, but faded, faded away like the peeling paint on an old mansion.

Did he use to be a proud mansion of a man? It seems likely, as tall and broad as he was. He looked like a giant to me, that day. So he must have been.

But that day, he was an old, old, ancient elephant bull of a man, a beautiful, majestic son of the earth. Walking with two crutches, he swayed from side to side, taking slow, ponderous steps on that dirty tiled metro floor, swaying from side to side and slowly forward. His head, too, moved from side to side, his eyes on the ground. All he lacked was a trunk slowly swaying with the rhythm of his steps… He would have been at home on the African steppes and no elephant would have batted an eye at him, except to move out of the way in respect of his weary, worn hulk.