As of late

The most charming, murderous cat is currently in my care. His name is Max, and he’s quite the creature. He shows affection by bringing me dead baby bunnies or leaving them for me in odd places. Sometimes I only find feet or other bits, and I have to clean up the blood in the carpet. Max sees nothing wrong with his morbid surprises, and while he is proud of himself and very handsome, I do think that his blood lust could be quieted if he wore a bell.

Max and I tend the garden every morning before it gets too hot. He sits on the plants I need to water and meows plaintively. I try to water the flora with one hand and pet him with the other, and I gently scold him as he sits on his owner’s naturalia. He gives me a look with his pale green eyes that says “Call the cops. I don’t give a fuck”, and therein certifies that he is the quintessential cat.

My days consist of caring for this garden, going for long swims, and drinking lots of coffee. I am trying to get back into writing and I delete most of what I write, which I know I shouldn’t do. I bake and cook and do the dishes, listening to Neil Young and lots of Fleetwood Mac. It is a Fleetwood Mac summer, and if you ask me why I won’t have a proper explanation, it just is.

Getting back into swimming feels incredible, and with every lap and breath I feel myself returning to my partially water-centric self. I am at heart a swimmer, a lover of bodies of water, and a participant in the currents and tides that I find. My favorite places on earth have rivers, streams, oceans. I have little fear of drowning and find the smell of chlorine alluring. and there is a meditative, problem-solving, peace that I achieve while doing laps that is poetic, more than I can express in words.

I went to a baseball game this week, where we drank overpriced beer, bemoaned our local team’s dismal loss, and overall enjoyed the summer evening as it cooled down. Local baseball games are saturated with Americana in the most delightful ways, and baseball is always a great way to spend an evening.

Tonight is the women’s World Cup game, USA vs. China, and I will be watching it with with enthusiasm. Watching high-caliber female athletes kick ass always feels awesome, and if America can pull this off, it would be glorious! I will not claim to be a die-hard fan of soccer but the stamina and strategy and kinship and borderline telekinesis the players have with one another are addicting to watch.

I hope summer or winter or whatever season it is where you are is wonderful. I hope you feel contentment. I mean to do a post on why I prefer contentment over happiness…regardless, may you have good warm fuzziness in your life and be doing something or multiple worthwhile things. Worthwhile is subjective so if it’s sitting on your couch for 14 hours, go for it.

Tschüß folks!

Mourning for the possibilities

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My mind is too restless, so I feed it books and swim laps at the pool and tend to gardens, hoping to quiet it for a moment.

I’m in the midst of reading the Dark Tower series and it’s like my mind is a thinny- omnipresent, noisy, slowly overwhelming everything.

Image credit/sources (sorry for the unknown ones, I hate not giving credit where credit is due): Valentino Haute Couture 2014/Unknown/Morris Graves- Bird Singing in the Moonlight/Unknown/Unknown/Unknown/Unknown/Twin Peaks/The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 16th century Gothic Arch/Unknown/Front panels of Hieronymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights triptych

Bruges

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Ah, Bruges.

Or, ahhhhh Bruges!

Bruges is the most adorable, fairy-tale like medieval city. It also becomes, during the day, a place packed to the gills with tourists, visitors, travelers, and generally large hordes of people. Slow moving people.

For me, Bruges was best at night and early in the day, before the buses and the hordes of people arrived. When I could walk in peace, with the quiet buzz from restaurants as background noise, I was able to bond with this town more. That might sound odd but it’s difficult to get the feel of a place when it’s packed to the gills. Emily and I spent one evening eating frozen yogurt and waffles, which was lovely.

One glorious escape came in the form of our trip to the Groeningemuseum, where I got my adrenaline going just thinking about seeing Hieronymous Bosch’s The Last Judgement triptych (three-paneled) piece. We went through every gallery, seeing gorgeous Flemish Madonnas and the most sensitive hands painted but I began to slightly panic. For me, seeing Bosch’s work in person is unlike anything else. I saw his Garden of Earthly Delights at El Prado in Madrid 6 years ago and cried a little for no real tangible reason. Seeing another beautiful triptych of his made me so excited, but alas- the piece is being restored and will not be up until 2016 (insert slew of sad expletives here). Regardless, I was able to see the creepiest devil ever (see above) and get a glimpse of another Bosch piece done by an apprentice of his. It was appropriately bizarre and a bit grotesque.

Ah/oh Bruges.

Artis and Hortus: Places of flora, fauna, and fawning.

Emily and I walked over a mile to both of these places, the Artis Zoo and the Hortus Botanicus, located in the Plantage part of Amsterdam. I didn’t take too many photographs of the critters that proliferated at the zoo, as there is still some feeling that it’s not right to keep animals in artificial environments like that.

However, the butterfly garden at the Artis was magnificent. It was hot, humid, and replete with fluttering insects. Fruit trays were laid out for the butterflies to feast upon. Many of the butterflies would land on each other before figuring out that their companions weren’t, in fact, food. Oops.

The Insectarium held some beautiful specimens, including the beautiful brown and white mantis! It reminded me of the lovely, if beautifully intimidating ghost mantis a friend of mine is rearing.

The Hortus Botanicus holds over 400 years of history, and thousands upon thousands of plants! Probably my favorite was finding out that there is a tree literally covered in spines, called the silk floss tree. I had to research a bit about it because Nature is so insane, and found out that it grows in tropical and sub-tropical Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay. The spines hold water so it’s drought resistant, and it can get over 80 feet tall. All I can think is holy kapow. Also, where can I get one and bring it here to dry Montana?

I walked around the Hortus, where the light came in through the leaves of various trees and plants in the most gorgeous, vivid shades of green, yellow, and brown. The cactus greenhouse was full of desert species, and I stumbled upon several enormous varieties of aloe plants, large enough that I could almost take a nap on one of the leaves and wrap myself in others. They had endangered species of palm trees, ancient varieties of plants they were preserving, and I couldn’t stop reading the labels.

The Hortus also  had the neatest addition ever- an apiary! I meandered on a path and heard the familiar buzz of bees. Ever since I helped my friend Julia with her honey harvest (blog post here) I have fallen in love with the efficient and beautiful lives that bees live. Sure enough, the apiary was busy! Signs warned visitors about the bees, but they went about their business without bothering a soul, merely pollinating and making food for themselves in their fantastical, algorithmic ways.

I could go on and on about all the naturalia but I’ll leave you with a litany of photographs instead. Hasta luego!

Rijksmuseum

Before I get serious let me tell you about my favorite thing in all of Art History: Annunciation scenes.

Gabriel comes to the Virgin Mary in these scenes to tell her that she is to carry God’s child. She’s supposed to be honored, humble, maybe somewhat intimidated by the idea, but she ultimately is supposed to be very accepting of this, as it is her destiny. Artists were supposed to make all of this clear, as most folks back then couldn’t read and their education came from visual depictions..

In theory, that is.

The reality is that a large number of Annunciation scenes have gained notoriety because Mary looks, frankly, pissed. At best, ambivalent. The Annunciation above in ivory that I’ve posted is pretty great: Mary looks to be to be a bit out of it, ultimately either not listening to Gabriel or just like, “Get this over with dude, I don’t really feel like incubating God’s child atm, thanks.”

I personally find this sort of thing hilarious. Simone Martini painted the best one in 1333, which I posted below:

Mary is downright displeased in this one, and I don’t blame her. If I were just living my life, doing my thing, and some angel showed up telling me I had no choice, that I was going to be impregnated by God to carry a child that would ultimately be sacrificed because people are sinning awful things, I’d give a FULL pass. Nope/nein/nyet/non.

Anyway, the Rijksmuseum provided other awesome things beyond just slightly hilarious Annunciation scenes. I got to revel in Dutch still lifes, which I studied for awhile, and thoroughly love. Skulls proliferate in the museum, as the Dutch and Flemish had a love for reminders of death that was simply wonderful. There was an incredibly creepy painting of some gutted and skinned political brothers that I really enjoyed but I will pass on posting here. The Dutch are all about reminders not to do things- don’t be overtly sexual, don’t be too ostentatious with your money, don’t be a corrupt member of government, don’t forget you’re going to die, don’t drink too much, etc., and frankly I would have gotten tired of all these reminders but I was lucky enough to not live back then regardless.

The Rijksmuseum overall has a fantastic collection. It wasn’t overwhelming, it was really interestingly organized, and I loved meandering through it all and taking in more pieces of history.