It’s early on Thanksgiving morning on this side of the world. The sky heavy with dew and fog dancing between bare-boned branches as my record player spins in my living room. It’s high time for me to attempt a catch up as I am nearly a year behind in logging my chronicles on the internet. The pandemic has done this, bent the speed of time and forced perception of events to be altered. Here nor there, life did in fact go on and this is the season of gratitude and reflection so buckle up because it has been a wild ride.
I arrived home from California in January 2021 and found myself standing in the midst of a full fledged lockdown in The Netherlands. Being a teacher this required some intensive creativity and flexibility in order to navigate the school year. We found ourselves teaching online, going hybrid and fully in person over the course of the year (spilling into this school year). It often felt like I was in a glass box that was filling with water screaming for help and people would stop, stare and then say well you know, everyone has it hard right now and then continue on their merry way. Others would look at us toss us a line, that we couldn’t reach and then say well shit, I tried not my fault they can’t reach the rope. But the water kept flowing in and we kept swimming backstroke but we were growing weary. However, we found some reprieve through weekend beach staycations, snow cays and pretending I was.an ice princess on frozen canals. It was intentional, if we put ourselves in the way of beauty things would get better. So we biked around tulip farms, marveled at the magnolias and sat in the sunshine whenever it made a guest appearance. We would make new recipes, fuck them up, and try again. We started to invite some friends over for game nights, euro vision parties and explorations of our towns. Anything we could do to create some sparkle, we did it.
As the blossoms and the bulbs were blooming, we made some pretty big decisions. We merged our two different apartments on opposite sides of the country, into a home of our very own. As soon as the papers were signed, some renovations began and we have slowly been piecing our home together ever so slowly. Somehow, we are here in November and are feeling very Dutch as we don’t have any type of window covering in our living room or dining area but when in Rome, am I right? But honestly, our little burrow is cozy, warm and more than I could have ever dreamed up plus it’s full of plants that I keep sneaking in from the local nurseries. Shhh, it’s fiiiine.
The spring faded into summer, though if you stayed in The Netherlands you really could have missed it. A Dutch summer can require an attire made of jeans and light jackets more often than not. However, I had some goals for my summer. I was going to begin to study Dutch and enrolled myself in a course from 9AM to 5PM for 10 days. I was infamous at this course for speaking German instead of Dutch. Which if you told ANYONE who was in any of my German classes in high school (which I took even though I was told constantly German would never help me) my classmates and teachers would be ASTOUNDED because well I was perhaps the worst German student ever (turns out that may have not been entirely true). I would come home from these Dutch courses with my head nearly ready to break open or fall off as there was a bit too much information constantly coming in and out of it. Around day 5 I was teary eyed and gasping for air on the couch because I was sure that I was once again the worst student in the class. Even now, five months later, some of the lessons are finally beginning to make some sense. But I will have you know that these words that used to sound so foreign are now sticking together and stringing some sensible sentences in place. So maybe my partner was right, I wasn’t the worst student in the class and though the struggle is real it is a painful but necessary part of the process.
A couple weeks slipped by after the Dutch course ended which allowed me to wrap up my Masters and then, I really just wanted to shake things up (language wise) and jetted off to Turkey where we finally found some sunshine and heat. I experienced what Turkish hospitality truly means, drank more tea than I thought possible, tasted new dishes and constantly consumed food for a solid three weeks. I wrapped myself in the salty waters of the Aegean Sea for hours on end, stayed in the sun until my skin turned pink (so like, 10 minutes) and remained constantly amazed at how calm a sea could be in comparison to The Pacific. Our hearts and bellies were full as we headed back to The Netherlands for the start of my school year with our suitcases filled to the brim and storing all the vitamin D our bodies could handle.
The start of the school year was rough for me personally on so many levels but also as I looked around, it seemed this rang true globally. For once in my career I was returning to work, and I still felt bloodied and bruised from the year before. Though this summer held magic, it wasn’t enough reprieve to heal from the strain of having to hold ourselves together for so long. To extend the metaphor from before, it was as if the glass broke, summer came provided some breathing room but then it was August and we were tossed into the ocean before we could catch our breath and everyone was asking What happened? Why can’t you swim anymore? You had time to rest… Sure the tide is high, waves are raging and the surroundings are new but like, you had summer... We are just oh so tired, and the liberation just isn’t in sight, yet.
But again, put yourself in the way of beauty. Make good things happen. See your best friend in love. Dance along the Dutch friendship circle long enough, they decide alright she’s okay. Pack your bags and go on a road trip. Marvel at Munich’s English Gardens, drink all the wine in the Alsace region of France, stop by in Luxembourg to see an old friend. Eat amazing Greek food and drink beer in Bruges. Book a trip to New York, cross your fingers it works out. Make orange vanilla pancakes, pumpkin pie and chai sugar cookies. Buy a plant. Dance in the living room. Be astounded by a new leaf, or a falling leaf or the crunch of the leaves below your feet. Put the record player on. Have a living room dance party. Slow dance with no music playing. Get stuck in the rain. Laugh about it. Leave work early. Put candles in your window. Count your blessings, count them twice. Be gentle with yourself.
Come back for more soon… because boy oh boy, have I been collecting stories.