Live in love
And do your work;
make amends of your sorrows;
for just as the jasmine
releases and lets fall
its withered flowers,
let fall willfulness and hatred.
The Van Gogh museum was spectacular, truly astonishing, for both M and me. I learned from the exhibit more about how he changed his color palette and why, that one of his gifts was painting bright and happy when in the depths of despair, and about his self teaching melding with infrequent instruction from others. The exhibit was organized chronologically; highlighting how much he’d done is only about 10 years. It showed little about his personal life, the prostitute he lived with was absent, little was said about his illness and suicide. His brother Theo was prominent, dying 5 months after Van Gogh altho some 4 years younger. Then Theo’s wife, recognizing Van Gogh’s brilliance, publicized his work and inspired the admiration that was to come only after his death.
The Rembrandt house, near the city center, stands some 6 stories high, narrow and deep (this style because taxation was based on frontage), and is elegant and expensive. He bought it while at the height of his popularity but soon went bankrupt. He lost the house when he couldn’t pay the mortgage, most everything he owned was auctioned to pay his debts. He moved to a smaller rented house. M and I noted the small sleeping spaces, little cubicles with doors. Inquiring we learned that people slept sitting up, fearful that if prone blood would rush to their heads and damage them.
Rembrandt worked out of his house. His top floor, large and facing north for perfect year round light, was his studio. He also sold from his house—this may have been before galleries and agents—a small anteroom off the main entrance his atelier. He also sold paintings by others.
The bike ride we shared along the quay was thrilling and somewhat dangerous, especially when M pedaled. Unused to this form of bike—no shift, brake by back pedaling, fat tires, sitting upright—in addition to the myriad bicyclists, bike lanes and signs, both of us were already adrift in this new swirling sea. Adding a passenger shifted the balance and meant great care was needed to avoid crashing or falling. I delighted in touring her around the Nemo area (a huge new science museum for kids, shaped like a ship), flying by houseboats, along canals, over bridges. I invited her to try pedaling. At first this was a major problem but she prevailed thru her usual sprit of daring and adventure. I mentioned that folks might be shocked to see us, mainly because of the gender difference, female riding male, but also the age difference.
She treated me to an evening canal ride, 10 Euros. I bought tea for her, coffee for me. We rode sitting next to a group of noisy Indians or Pakistanis, and behind two Asian women. Lasting approximately 1 hour we explored the canals and old harbor in the constant drizzle. I opened the side window to photograph occasionally, realizing the shutter speed was too slow for sharp photos even at the highest ISO possible, 1600. I was tempted by the light to photo her again, as I always am, intrigued, drawn. But I desisted, pleased that earlier, while biking, she’d agreed to yet more photos, “but only from the side.” One of these photos, near a housing complex along the waterfront in early morning light, might be usable. Both here and at Mika and Jeop’s some camera or card flaw ruined batches of my photos. I only hope the problem is card and not camera or I’m sorely limited.
Amsterdam means water: canals, rivers, mist and fog, and deposits of sand and clay that form the base strata upon which the buildings rest. And this is fragile. Water levels are decreasing, wooden pilings are rotting, buildings are tipping. In addition, much of this region is lower than sea level. Water importance is a tradition among Hollanders, their land’s survival depends on effective control and use of water. Perhaps in response to this, one of the high-ranking royalty is now prominent in the hydrological field—sponsoring research, advocating sustainability, producing educational programs. Some say he is a model for others in governance.
Later—I’m writing this from Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv Israel at 3 AM, successfully having managed to squeeze thru tight security—if I’m not swamped by my main topic of the Palestine/Israel situation, I’ll finish writing and post photos about my last hours in Amsterdam—the Ann Frank House, the Dutch Resistance Museum, and sundry other topics. A rich experience indeed, and a good preparation for my main journey.