Tag Archives: Spring

Drop

Robin was about to jump out of his nest, when his mother stepped on his tail.
“Did you smooth your feathers, Robin?”
“Yes, mom.”
“And will you promise to look after your sisters?”
“Moommm…” he moaned, while giving her a sad look.
“Robin and Robin hatched half a day later than you, so you have to act as the most responsible one.”
“But just I want to be with my friends!”
“Take them with you, I need to tidy up the nest and I have to gather worms for tonight, so they can’t stay here with me.”
Robin expressed a few more noises of disagreement, but was forced to accept his fate. What he really wanted was to be alone with his young palls, the brothers Robin and Robin. They would go fly audacious circles around the head of Mr. Vulpes, the fox. Robin, the younger of the two brothers almost got eaten yesterday when he flapped with his wrong wing at the wrong moment. He flew right between the jaws of the business-like killer, who was just too late with his snap. That was far more sensational than those boring games of search the caterpillar that his sisters always wanted to play. Still, he was glad he had the chance to stretch his wings after a long, cold night.

The trio flew towards the river, where Robin and Robin had their nest. Robin was slightly jealous of them. Their view over the river banks was far more interesting than the view out of his place. All day long the Robins could watch the motion of the water, or they could see the Otter family gather pieces of wood and place them carefully on their new dam. Sometimes they saw impressive ducks who crossed the river with their young ones, quacking about whatever is was they quacked about. Visitors thought that very entertaining.

When the young birds landed on the Robins’ nest, they each received a worm in their beak.
“They’re freshly caught” said Robin, the nest mother.
This worm had a fresher taste than the ones their mother fed them. Robin swallowed it at once.
“Let’s go” he said, visibly annoyed by the fact that he always had to wait for his sisters. They weren’t even halfway yet.
“Be patient, Robin,” said their mother “the girls are still eating. Didn’t your mom tell you to watch over them?”
“She did!” said Robin, her beak still full with squeezed worm making its final attempt to escape.
“Why did you bring your sisters?” whispered Robin.
“I had to, otherwise I couldn’t come.” answered Robin while he watched a toad take a plunge in the distance.
“Now we can’t play with Mr. Vulpes…”
“No. Maybe we can go for a swim…”
“Yes, that’s fun too.”
The boys waited a few more instants for the girls and got ready to take off.
“And don’t swim in the river, kids, the water is too high today.”
“Aww, mom, please…?” said her two sons at once.
“No, boys, it’s too dangerous. Why don’t you try to fetch some berries from the bushes?” Robin and Robin smiled at the thought of it.
“That’s boring…” said Robin.
“No it’s not, it’s very educative and you’ll practice several flight skills. Besides, you’re safer in the bushes. Now go. The Robins smoothed their feathers and went.

“Where shall we go?” asked Robin to one of the brothers while they left Robin and Robin at a distance. “I think we have to go look for a bush…” answered Robin sadly. “But I’d like to fly a little first” he added with a cheer “we’ve been sitting there all morning.” Down, they saw the Bunnies hop cautiously along a newly emerged pool, where they drank a sip.
“Wait”, yelled Robin, and he landed on a branch. “Let’s fly back and scare them with our shadows!”
“Then we should climb a little more so that we look bigger.” postulated Robin, who really liked the idea. They flapped up towards the sun. “The first one to make them run is the winner!” cried Robin as he steeply battled his way up against a southern zephyr. Below him, Robin made a swift turn to the left and projected a tiny shadow right besides the face of one of the rabbits. They stopped moving.

“Can we go on please?” asked one of Robins sisters from a lower branch. “I need to go to the bathroom.”
Robin could not answer because Robin was catching up with him, and he could not let that happen. He flapped him in the face and pushed him down, but dramatically changed his own direction in the process. He spiralled down sharply then found a thermal column and climbed a few branches higher, where he met Robin’s brother.

Robin and Robin felt abandoned.
“I really need to go” said Robin, who was using most of her lower muscles to keep her excrements in.
“Why didn’t you go when we were at the Robins’?” asked her sister desperately.
“I don’t know. I was okay there…”

Higher up, Robin and the Robin brothers learned to their disappointment that their shadows were too weak to truly scare the rabbits on the forest floor.
“Maybe we should try to synchronize our flights so that we seem a bigger bird?” suggested Robin. His brother always respected him for his clever ideas.
“Sounds good” he answered, and he landed on a branch, followed by the other boys.
“Don’t sit so close to me!” snapped Robin to his brother, and he flew to the other side of the branch.
“No clue what that’s about…” whispered Robin to Robin. “Maybe his egg was too small”. Robin cheeped a jolly laughter.
“What?” asked Robin, irritated.
“Forget it.” Answered Robin.
“Okay, let’s make a plan. We should time it well, all fly at the same time, exactly over the Bunny family and our shadow should be as big as it can. One should fly higher, one in the middle and the final one low. The lower one should always look for the higher one, so the top one leads, but we should stay close. Who wants to go where?”
They agreed that Robin would take the higher course, Robin the middle one and Robin the lower. They would fly along the crossing of the Beech branches, where they expected a perfect cast of shadow upon the Bunnies’ faces, causing the anticipated shock.
“Okay, everybody know their course? Let’s fly at zero.”
“Three , two, one…”

A white spot appeared on the face of one of the Bunnies. The family hurried into a bush.
“Did you see that?” asked Robin, who forgot to give the starting signal.
“Yes”
“Wow…” said Robin. “Was that one of your sisters?”
“I think it was Robin” Robin answered.
“WOO-HOOO! That was AMAZING!”
Robin jumped of the branch and dove down to the girls, cheeping and screaming with enthusiasm. His brother and Robin followed his lead.
“That was soooo cool!” he exclaimed, in a final swoop towards the branch. “Who did that?” He hurt his claw when he landed, but ignored it.
Robins face was red.
“It was an accident…” explained her sister.
“It was brilliant!” answered Robin. “Right in its face! We couldn’t have aimed better!” The other two now also landed on the branch and backed up his enthusiasm. The girls found it hard to reason with them, but enjoyed the sudden wave of attention.
“You just invented a perfect game, girls!” exclaimed their brother. “Who else has to go? Let’s look for Mr. Vulpes.”
“Yes! Let’s find him where he was yesterday!”
The boys agreed and flew off, the girls followed. Robin slowed down to wait for Robin, with whom he now had more to discuss. Her brother was not sure if he enjoyed suddenly sharing his palls with his sisters, but when he remembered the look on the rabbit’s face he smiled internally.

Mr Vulpes was not there. The five landed on a branch.
“I didn’t know you were such an exiting girl, Robin” said Robin, who was still full of enthusiasm. “You’re baaaad… I’ll call you badass Robin.” She began to cry. “Stop teasing her!” Said her sister. “I wasn’t teasing, I mean it!”
“Please don’t tell my mom…” said Robin.
“I’d never tell her.” answered Robin. Nor would the others, right?”
“No. Promise” said Robin. “Brothers are here to protect their sisters.” added Robin. That calmed her down.
“Let’s go look for berries” said their sister. “Then you’ll all be able to poop more.” Now that she was in on the secret, she might as well use it against them.
“She’s right”. Said Robin, thinking he could use a bite after all that flapping. They flew towards a bush and disappeared from sight.

“How was your day?” asked Robin when the youngsters landed on the nest later that day.
“It was okay…” said the boys.
“It wasn’t too bad” said the girls.
But downstream, the snake, the badger, the fox, a rabbit and a colony of ants were of a different opinion.

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Spring Offering

We’re out on the street near the Metro Station of the Burgemeester de Vlugtlaan in Amsterdam. In a four-day session, artists Pau and Skount are working on a joint mural showing the Goddess of Spring and the Tree of Knowledge. Anna and Dianne, local residents and the facilitators of the Street Art Museum Amsterdam, come and go with nourishment, tools and information. Anna’s dog Pinky Bandita runs around, constantly on the lookout for fun, nourishment and her boss. Protective transparent foil donated by the Brandeis shop around the corner covers the pavement and blows in waves, releasing a light plastic sound. It’s a sunny day, but there’s a slight misty ambience among the trees behind us. “A little bit of dark on the top?” asks Skount. “Yes”, answers Pau. They pick up their three meter rollers and add a new tone to the turquoise that now covers most of the bricks.

A black golf drives out of the neighbourhood around the corner. In it sit two North African looking young men. The driver halts and opens the window. “So beautiful!” He calls out with a big smile. “Will there be birdies on it?” I translate it for Pau. “Yes, there will be birds. It’s my theme.” she answers. She seems a bit surprised. “Great!” he answers with delight. “I love birdies!”. He raises his thumb out of the window and hits the gas.

Not much later, a lady with an enormous shopping bag stops for a chat. She’s enthusiastic “I used to live here”, she says, “and I now observe a lot of changes in this neighbourhood. This is an enrichment! It used to be a bad place to live, but you can really see the improvements with initiatives such as these!”

“We now have a scaffolding!” announces Anna. We go pick it up at a shop a block away. We don’t need to pay rent, just a deposit. “Everything for the art” says the owner. With Anna’s input, the setting takes shape in an organic way.  The residents participate, exactly how she wants it. By doing this, she attracts the specific type of artistic talent she thinks is important to have around in the city.

Creating space
Anna passionately puts this work in a historical perspective. “Street art is a burp of Baroque” she says. Because artists such as Caravaggio, Velasquez and Rubens painted murals, Baroque can be seen as the first Western art style intended to invoke the “Wow” effect . It was overdone at the time, but society consumed it. Now, after four hundred years of digestion, it comes back up. But modern street art is also influenced by Art Nouveau, particularly in philosophy and by Art Deco in the execution. “If Baroque is an Indian takeaway dish, extremely strong, rich and heavy, then Art Deco is a goat cheese salad.”

Graffiti art as we know it, Anna explains, started in the fifties when three elements came together. First, with the upcoming of Rock ‘n Roll, there was the aspirational figure representing new ideals. Second, there was graphic design, that gained force with advertising. The third, very important element was the invention of aerosol spray in mass car production. The owner of a garage told a young boy to learn how to work with a spray can. He did, and got skilled in it. In the seventies, he got bored with that and started climbing trains to draw tags of his name on them. You can imagine the impact of seeing a train pass by with a creative representation of somebody’s name on it. In the eighties it became public, and graffiti artists from all over the world picked it up. Some claim that those who had the letter “S” in their name were appreciated more, because that was the hardest letter to write. It’s not straight. Artists refined their skill, then the industry picked up, and adapted the choice of materials. Todays Prada, for example, have invited seven street artists to help them design the 2014 line-up. One of them, Stinkfish has murals in our museum collection.

Keith Harring, J-M Basquet and Blek le Rat were pioneers in the movement. Punks used graffiti to protest against the emerging Disney culture. The sign of an eye in a circle was very popular. In those years, Amsterdam turned into an important centre for street art. Hugo Kaagman had an atelier specialized in stencil graffiti. Boris Tellegen, now also known as Delta, had studied industrial design engineering, but was attracted by art and his friends were graffiti writers at the Mr. Visserplein. He added 3D structures and layers to the flat letters that others drew. Today, he makes high-end art and wall installations out of recycled material. “He stayed true to his architecture” says Anna, “but changed the format. He keeps evolving, which is why he stays exiting”. She calls him the king of graffiti. “And he’s just a nice, modest person.”

Banksy came much later. He was smart. Banksy added anonymity and used it for publicity. He placed himself out of space. It was an unusual new way of presenting yourself, which intrigued the audience. “But he is driven by political messages, by narratives, not by art.” Anna is quite sure that Banksy is not an individual, but a media schooled collective. Nonetheless, this identity inspired others to move on.

“If we’d now go to the Spui, I could show you 36 different methods of expressing yourself.” says Anna. Progressive artists have moved to more sustainable materials for tagging such as chalk, crayons and tiles, which they use on places where nobody cleans. “The eloquence of the execution now plays a role in the art as well. Bastardilla, for example, paints a picture on the wall with glue, then throws up a cloud of glitter, and what remains is a beautiful sparkly painting. The exciting thing in this case is that cleaning companies, even those specialized in removing graffiti, don’t clean Basta’s sparkles.”

Anna has critique on some modern street art movements, that she calls “Piss and run”. “Our neighbourhood doesn’t need another smart writer who draws something on a mural, then leaves. It needs love and care”. That’s why she is setting up a public museum with the purpose to teach visitors about the background of street art, freedom in public space and the messages of the artists. “Our project gives the opportunity to make something bruised and damaged into something lively and colourful”. The ambition is to create a space that is available, interesting and engaging.

Therapy
This way, Anna and Dianne have attracted Pau and Skount, who are each painting their new work on a side of the wall. I climb on the scaffolding and sit next to Pau. It’s no problem if I join her, she says, because she draws lines slowly. During our conversation, we have to climb down and up several times, either to reposition the scaffolding, or because Pau wants to have a chat with the passers-by. She takes a picture of those who allow it and writes down their e-mail addresses. She’ll place the pictures on her site and will send them the link, making the inhabitants part it.

Therapy
Thanks, Dianne, for the picture!

For Pau, this is a beginning of a long-term art project called “PROJECT WALLFLOWERS”, which, starting this year, she’ll perform in some countries in Europe and in Tunisia. “The people are wallflowers” she says. “They are coloured dots on a big grey wall”. Her paintings are the bridge by which she connects with the people, her chance to communicate with the world she travels in. “As a kickoff, this wall is very important to me because I’m trying to figure out how to merge different things”.

“Painting is my therapy.” She explains “I enjoy being outside and painting these huge walls. It’s soul food, meditation. I’m really excited that people like it.” The painting she is working on depicts Freya, the Nordic Goddess of spring, fertility, love and nature. She sometimes leads the Walküren (Valkyries), who join wars to take the most brave warriors back to heaven. “I’m intrigued by myths, and find that a lot of things start with the feminine” says Pau. She emphasizes that on a wall, she doesn’t want to limit herself to a specific idea or the idealization of a gender. “I’m not a female, I’m just Pau. The funny thing is that Pau is a guy’s name in Spain, where Skount is from.”

Pau was born in Chile but as a young child she had to flee abruptly with her family. She now regularly visits it for longer periods of time. “The culture of Latin America is very connected to the earth and nature.” Pau likes the fact that on that continent there is not one dominant theory on how life as we know it originated. Stories differ according to people’s location and tradition. “My life is a patchwork”, she says. “I am looking for who I really am. Not in a scientific way, but more in a spiritual way. I’m looking for my way to get in peace with it. When I started this work, I tried to find out which was my patch. But every time I travel, I discover that this new place also is an aspect of me. We are not just a passport, we are everything.” Myths and traditions help her to get in touch with herself. “Old mythologies are our base, we should try to keep them alive”.

Pau tries to be a good professional and a good artist, but perhaps more than anything, she tries to find beauty in every day things. “I hope to inspire people to be conscious of the life around.” She describes a difference between when she is working in her atelier on her own and when she is out on the streets. “The atelier is more intimate, more personal. I open myself in a deeper way. But walls are more interactive, more open, I want people to be part of them. It’s the moment to learn from others.” For Pau, one way of working can not exist without the other.

I ask why birds are such an important theme for her. She answers that the bird is the free spirit. On her paintings, birds come out of the head of the figures . She uses the hair, with which the birds are entangled, as a sign of transcendence. It enables the perceiver to see the whole picture. You are free to go wherever you want, if only through your imagination. “Birds are the companions of my characters. They live in symbiosis with them. I grew up with birds; there always were artisanal bird statues in my house. I collect them now. My atelier is filled with them. Some people see me as ‘the crazy lady with the birds’. It has to do with a yearning to see things from a different perspective, where there are no borders.”

Dropping the mask
Skount is drawing the Tree of Knowledge, named Yggdrasil, also originating from Nordic mythology. He has previously made many murals with references to Greek mythology, the fascination of which he got during his time in Greece. “I like to take myths from the past, and compare them to what is happening now.” he says. “Those old stories are usually about us.” When Pau was invited and she said she was going to do Freya, Skount studied some Nordic tales to match his piece with her part of the mural. He read about Yggdrasil and instantly appreciated the character.

Skount at work

Yggdrasil, according to Skount, represents the astral tree. It has three roots: one into the well of knowledge, one into the world of death, and one into spring water. That last one attracts Skount particularly now that the new season is making its entrance. He thinks it’s the time when all old things end and new things start simultaneously. “It is the season where death starts to grow up again.” It is totally different from for example the winter. For him, spring is the most powerful season of the year. “This mural is a spring offer for the Street Art Museum Amsterdam. It is the start of a new, larger project with neighbours, and it also preludes the start of a new project between Anna and me, with more murals coming up in the neighbourhood.”

Yggdrasils branches are reaching into the air, which represents contact with something more spiritual. Some branches also reach out to Pau’s work, to symbolize the collaboration. “According to Nordic mythology, Yggdrasil is a tree, but I made him into a human. I think he is us. We are part of the story.” Skount explains that in spring not just flowers grow anew, our emotions do as well. Everything does, in fact. “Most painters have depicted Yggdrasil straight up. I deliberately painted him falling down to his back. Later he will rise again. Those are parts of the circle of life, often referred to in the stories about him.”

Skount has done several murals together with the Street Art Museum Amsterdam. “Anna is our chief, I’m just a helper. Neighbour involvement is important to us both. When you are outside and the neighbours talk to you, the mural starts changing.” He grins widely and holds his hands in the air, moving them as if to show how lines change direction, crawling out of his control. “They bring tea, some express they love it, others that they hate it, some even bring old paint and start painting along! I include some of the stories they tell me in the paintings. They become part of the mural that way.”

One of the symbols that return in Skounts murals is the starlike shape on the hand of Yggdrasil. When I ask, he explains it’s part of his Projections project about the psychological meaning of the word projection. “It is an alchemist symbol. It represents the thing I want to say in this project, but I don’t have it defined yet. I’m still working on it. It represents our inner colour.”

Skount grew up in the town of Almagro. Almagro is characterized by the yearly theatre festival. From early age he found it fascinating how people’s behaviour can change when all they do is to put up a mask. For a long time, masks have taken a central place on the faces of his mural characters. “Everyone wears a mask in the metaphysical sense.” He explains. “You never see people’s true faces immediately. Masks help you to be accepted in society. I am moving away from that theme and look for what is real in people.” So far, he has painted two murals with people without masks on. His first one, Inner Colour, represents the moment where a mask is dropped and the true colours come out. Now, with the death and rebirth represented by Yggdrasil the time starts in which he investigates that which is inside people. Our own myths.

Things keep moving on the street. People come and go, Anna and Dianne keep us up to date the latest announcements regarding journalists and politicians involved, painted cars drive by. Anna serves cookies. Together with the artists, she will keep colouring the walls of Nieuw-West. She gives tours for visitors to enjoy the paintings, accompanied by her animated and informative talks. Pau will soon go back to Germany, where she will continue making beautiful paintings indoors and outside. Skount will stay in Amsterdam for another while. He likes it here. This street adventure has been a beautiful experience to me. There is no better way to meet great people than witnessing them turn something abandoned into a piece of art.

Awards

It takes some guts for a birch to grow its first branch. So too for Benny. While our little seedling pulls all his courage from the ground, scents travel back and forth through the forest. Seraph the Oak, on the open space a bit ahead, has a message.

“Fellow trees from the forest, the tree awards are about the take place once again. It promises to become a match like no other: the winter was strong and spring has brought us a fair balance of rain and sun. The conditions were perfect for growth and development, so the quality of the top trees will be very high this year.”

Of course, the old oak himself did not benefit that much from the favourable weather. With his years, his growth is slow and constant. He does not compete in the tree awards: he won all awards there are to win hundreds of years ago. As the forests oldest, he now only prepares and presents the contest.

The trees of the forest are exited every year when Seraph spreads the competitor’s scent. Who will be chosen this year? Will the most beautiful tree be Margaret the Magnolia again? Some spread Wilbert the Willow stands a chance for his pose near the pond when sun sets. The most robust tree will go to one of the older oaks, but will it be William or Abraham?

Benny does not mind who wins what. He is growing his branch. Young though he is, he already found a spot on the south east where he receives a lot of sun. His parents are proud and constantly show off to the trees around. “When he’s older, he’ll win the prize of the most adapted tree” says his mom. “Yes, and that will help him grow better, and he will win the broadest tree prize”. Birches usually don’t go for the price for the most robust tree. They stand little chance against oaks and the exceptional baobab winner.

Slowly but steadily Benny pushes the top of his branch out of his trunk. At first, it hurts a little to his thin young bark but his inner urge persists and he keeps pushing. The branch wants to go down: it has no support. But Benny the Birch would like it to grow upwards. He turns it a little. And back. And up. It’s like a game with a pull to the ground. Not aware of the big events that are about to take place.

The Tree Awards have become the most important social event of the year. They take place from dawn till dusk when the day is longest in the open space in the middle of the forest. Trees can’t walk there of course, so they send chemical signs, which are received by Seraph the Oak, who then signals back the decision of the forest community. None of the trees in the forest know exactly how it works but it yields outcomes every year and trees don’t really care about objectivity.

Nor does Benny as he carefully gives his first branch shape. He has no concept of an eye catching branch, he does as he feels fit. Grow a little. A branch. Left and right and back again. Into the sky he reaches. Happily stretching out his cells. Yes. He likes it. It is fun to grow.

“It is important that we grow” echo the scents through the air. “We should all be as close to the sky as we can. This is why we originally sowed the Tree Awards.” Over time, of course, they added some categories so that more trees would feel they could be part of the game, but the greatest tree award is without a doubt the most prestigious award in the forest. Some say that without these awards, trees soon forget to grow. There needs to be stimulation, or the forest might get lazy, which cannot be the Intention. Tree Awards are the summit of forest society. Its ultimate expression. The pride of our age. And be honest: where would we be without it?

Benny is about to grow a leaf on his branch. Leafs are quite different and they take a different effort to grow. Benny knows how. He’s done it before. You start with a little packed ball. In it, you grow little nerves, connecting all the parts of the ball. Main nerves and side nerves. It’s important that you grow them such that they don’t stick together. Once you feel secure about the nerves, you connect them with green tissue. Then, all that’s left to do is that you push. You pump fluids into the nerves and they’ll unroll into a leaf and you enjoy the light. Keep pushing and it’ll grow bigger. Benny likes to grow leafs. They make him feel good. He grows a few more.

Leafs are important in the Tree Awards. They show the quality of the tree that holds them. It is common knowledge among trees that leafs are vital for growth. With dark green leafs, more sugars are made and more energy can flow. But dark leafs get hotter than light leafs and they burn more easily. So there’s a risk involved, which makes the whole story even more exciting, particularly for adolescent trees. It wouldn’t be the first time that an audacious young one takes that little step too far and ends up with fiery leafburns.

That’s not Benny’s concern. His tiny leafs are always lighter than those of his older brothers and sisters. His parents are proud of anything he grows. If a leaf would grow too dark, his parents quickly grow a branch above, just to make sure he is ok. Benny doesn’t realize that.

Winners of the concourse receive a fair amount of nutrients. Other trees will transport it in their direction through their roots or drop some leafs when the wind blows towards them. Being winners, it is trusted that they’ll use them wisely.

Benny takes his joy in growing another root. Roots are funny because the ground is full of bugs who tickle from below. To grow a root, Benny has to pierce the soil and dig between their homes. The bugs don’t seem to mind that much, they simply move aside. Benny is happy about that because he likes bugs. When he’s big, he’d like to house some ants.

Dawn arrives. “Fellow trees of the forest,” Seraph’s scents set off a chain reaction among every Birch and Beech around. The hedges listen silently. Their competition does not take place till fall. “The Tree Awards have started. Please prepare yourself for the first vote”. Except repetition and amplification of Seraph’s words, the forest remains silent as can be. These words are always deeply respected; no tree dares to bring in anything now. Except Benny. He just hurt himself on a thistle’s thorn and now he’s crying for his mom. Mom strokes Benny with her branch. But she is not as soft and caring as usual. Never mind. She pushed the thistle away and Benny is free to play again.

To interpret the voices of the forest is a skill that requires hundreds of years to master. There are very few who can. You can imagine the great awareness needed to listen to all the trees in the forest at once. Those who have that awareness have great responsibility. Seraph is one of them. He has developed a sensitivity few can imagine. It’s as if a part of him is present at all spots at once. All trees of the forest feel him. That is why he is assigned this important task. Of course, he is not alone. Seraph relies on a network of older trees present all through the forest. Together, they quickly digest the messages of their surroundings and pulse the results back into the air.

Even at his age, Benny adds to this networking cloud of consciousness. Few take note of his infantile, unstructured expressions. His parents and grandparents perhaps, but barely, during the year’s most important event. Benny does not mind, especially now that a butterfly landed on his new branch. Benny is not that fond of butterflies. Flappy creatures he finds them. He doesn’t know yet how destructive their larvae can be. For the moment, this butterfly has no interest in Benny. He just flaps around, leaving Benny dizzy at the spot.

“We will start today,” Seraphs clear and strong chemicals spread “with the golden bark award. Please place your vote about who you think deserves the award of creator of the most remarkable bark of the forest”. The award for the most respectable bark was introduced not so long ago by a community of cork trees, just down the hill. Cork trees adore the bark like no other and they would do anything to do part of it for the forest’s assembly of respected items. Soon after this introduction it turned out, unfortunately, that their view of the most respectable bark differed somewhat from the forest’s public opinion. No Cork tree ever won the award. “Trees and Treeesses, the vote was expressed”.  Even if this is not the most important award these words raise the tension enormously. The trees of the forest know that the awards have begun. “And this year’s winner of the golden bark is…” this is the most decisive moment of the awards for the Corks. “Quinten the Plane”.  A small cheer from a corner of the forest. “This years bark prize was based on Quintens exceptionally beautiful pattern”. Admitted, he’d been working hard to make his mosaic smooth as he could. Just down the hill, the cork community cries injustice. They voted for several trees in their community, none receives the prize. It’s not fair.

Till now, Benny the Birch had little a bark at all. Lately he had the idea of becoming a bit more woodier, so he did thicken somewhat around the edges. But his is far from the impressive white bark which his brother Jim the Birch brags about all the time. Jim secretly hoped for this prize. Benny had no clue, he enjoys growing one more leaf. That bark will come.

On the open spot, Seraph the Oak continues his careful process of interpreting. Wally the Walnut-tree goes nuts when he wins the golden nut. The golden flower goes to Maggie the Magnolia, with Edward the Elderblossom as a close second. Fanatic cheers and shouts alternate each other in a wavy sea of scents.

For the first time in his centuries old existence, Seraph grants the greatest tree award with a fundamental doubt. “Are these awards a good thing? Aren’t we needlessly benefitting the strong? Shouldn’t we be fertilizing the weak instead”. These thoughts usually occur to a queer tree in a dark corner of the forest. But Seraph has this thought and when a tree has a thought it cannot withhold it. So it is expressed.

The cheering ends abruptly, making space for a vast silence in the woods, interrupted only by some disrespectful birds. Noisy creatures they are.

This never happened before. Not from a tree of this status. Questioning our forests pride.

When he has to speech, Abraham Oak, winner of the golden tree, does not know what to say. Nor does any other tree of the forest. It remains silent.

Benny is about to grow his second branch. It will take guts.

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Politics

On the first day of spring, I sit inside. A part of me wants to stay involved with interesting developments in this country. This will is apparently stronger than the will to enjoy what I have been longing for for months. Or is it the will to get away? Anyway, I’m in a room in Arnhem, where tables are put concentrically. Here, I listen to the words of people who strive for politics from the heart. Take part in them.

Everybody I know who has read the political program of the Partij van Mens en Spirit, written in 2008, feels that this is the first good political party they know. It’s a beautiful set of plans and visions where freedom and the own responsibility are central. Today, we are here to take a first step in the renewal of this program because concrete points rapidly become old fashioned.

Lea is the chairwoman. I’ll have a thorough chat with her tonight, while we enjoy a glass of red wine together. She is a nice middle aged woman with experience in politics and she knows how to lead this small crowd. She listens attentively to the suggestions the public makes in the themes of education, healthcare and food production. Some people have quite peculiar opinions about life and how these themes should be arranged. Interesting experiences. Some lose the point. Lea gently steers them back.

My most burning question is simple: how can a political party be spiritual? Or: how can something spiritual take the form of something as a party? Isn’t politics about power? About poking each others’ eyes out? Leas answer is simple and clear. Politics is a community service. It should aid and facilitate the good existing initiatives in society. A good answer, I’d say. Connected, but with an identity. But this will not be the end of it. Strong as the ideals of this party may be, it’s spiritual approach is its ultimate fragility. I stay curious and will keep observing this from up close.

Yes and No

As I turn my face towards her, I know that something intense is about to happen. I hear myself say: ”So right now I am yes to you, and you are no to me.” The words come from deep and reach out deep while our eyes connect in a second of reciprokal gaze. Undivided by our dividedness.

2001. I am standing in the forest in the dark. A stage in front of us. Many liters of free beer. Marieke has the microphone and starts to sing. What a voice. By the end of the concert, I’ll be out of my mind. And I’ll stay in love with her for years.

“No!”.”No!”.”No!” So, would you like to become a donator? “No!”. While I say yes to almost everything, I’ve been hearing a lot of no’s in the past months. This job, that job, the house I’m living in and now most of the people I’m talking with on the street. “Ok, have a nice day!” But between the many conversations I have had today, Marieke stands in front of me. We often met by coincidence. “Hey!”

Now, we’re sitting at a table in the Vondelpark, equal in essence, impersonating yes with fresh mint tea and no with a coffee, while the trees are preparing for their outburst of spring. She just told me how she quit her jobs to the dissatisfaction of her colleagues and how she broke up with her guy after he asked her to marry him. “You always bring out the hippy side in me”. It’s in times like these that I see the colours of the energies. I am aware that things flow into each other obviously as our smiles do now.

“Will you be my girlfriend?” Looking back, I could have chosen a more romantic setting than the schools main entrance. I had wanted to, but never dared. Hey, it was my first time. Her answer can be summarized in a short but painful ”No”. Little did I know then that in over ten years, this would contribute to a cosmic click.