"This story is completely true since I made it up from beginning to end."
- Froth on the daydream, Boris Vian

Of course it returned.
I was there at 8.14 to see it rise magistically and very red, not out of the sea but from behind it. It only took a few minutes before it turned into a big dot on the line that wasn´t really a line either.

I hadn´t planned to be here this early but after I woke up in the middle of the longest night at 3.30 I couldn´t get back to sleep. Eager to see the outcome of the Catalan elections I had made myself comfortable on the sofa around 9 pm but by 9.30 I was sound asleep with a furry animal curled around my head, a cat with the name of a fish, as black as the night itself.

Around 7 the sky was turning blue again and I had read up on what had happened after I fell asleep. The pro-independence parties had kept their majority, Rajoy’s PP had lost severely. It promised interesting and complicated times coming up. Like any outcome would have. But it was good to see these results and know the Spanish government would be in distress and hadn’t gotten it their way.

A 25 minute walk. People on their way to work. Dog owners, sleep-deprived fathers with little babies, old men drinking their morning coffee.

The sea was calm. A couple in a deep embrace was stretched out on the beach, not sensing the coldness of the wet sand, not noticing that the spectacle they had probably come to watch was about to begin. Seagulls everywhere, all the ingrediënts for the most cliché photo you could imagine were present.

I watched. I’d seen it before. I’d seen it almost every day last week and uncountable times in the months, years before. I guess we all have. And still we can’t stop watching it again and again. The airplanes spoiled it a bit but out of knowhere, as if to balance it, a historical three-master appeared on the horizon. I couldn’t help but thinking it might be the Pirate Party.
Small waves crashed on the shore, the foam looked like cream but once the water withdrew, it disappeared in an instance.

Of course I got too close. Water whirling around my shoes. It is part of the fun to make the same mistake always. Unintentionally. This time I wore waterproof boots. But I didn’t know that until after the sea came almost up to my ankles.

I pushed a jellyfish back into the water. I filled my pockets with stones I liked. One had a big V-shape in white on one side. “Victory”, I thought. But I wasn’t sure if I meant the political victory or the natural one: the light winning from the darkness.

Three years ago on this day it was harder. The longest night lasted almost forever, I was afraid it wouldn’t end, but of course it did. The light returned. I wrote then:

they wore boots with stars and a rainbow
they drew fire spitting dragons and cannons on my fathers coffin
the blackest black and the bluest blue
his name, their names, their own hands and hearts, many hearts

december 21, the longest night ever, the night of our wake
the last night we could touch his hands, see his smile
the night we were hungry because we shook hundreds of hands
because we looked into a thousand of sad eyes
the night we sat around him in his own living room and drank wine and used his feet to put the crisps on, without hesitation

and the next morning
when two beautifully dressed girls danced through the street from his house
spreading rose leaves on the tarmac
and one of the neighbours stopped traffic so we could slowly carry a man through the village where he was born, where he had lived for 63 years

the afternoon when we returned
and when we put his chair back to the place where it belonged
but where, when we returned from the kitchen with fresh coffee and our favorite chocolate
his grandson, who was born on the same date he was, was sitting

life is terrible
terribly beautiful

Of course I thought about that day when I saw the sun rise over the sea. How we somehow hadn’t realised that closing the coffin would have the mirror effect of what we had experienced when we felt his heart stop beating under our hands a week earlier. Less real but a similar combination of complete panick and complete calmness. How our rituals suddenly didn’t seem to mean anything anymore. The glow-in-the dark stars we gave the children to put on the inside of the wooden box. The embroidery I made in his breast pocket. What use did they have?

Of course they had a use. We created our own stories to deal with the other one, the one that had no embellishment. The one death wrote itself. The story we didn’t want to hear and had a hard time believing.

The sun had stretched itself out, the light was everywhere. I put on my sunglasses and walked along the surf. Somebody had turned on music, so loud you could hear it all along the beach. The sandcastle builders were still sitting on the pedestal of the big sculpture, waiting for the first tourists to arrive. I seated myself on a bench on the boulevard and ate a banana. A young mother passed me, carrying her baby on her chest, she looked as if she was walking there every day and I imagined her happiness every morning seeing this enormous sea with this tiny creature strapped to her body. She looked at me and we exchanged a smile as if we knew each other. Maybe we sensed each others lightness, something connected us for just a second.

I crossed the road, walked down the stairs, passed the fountain, the square were nobody ever lingers, the playground that has become a building site, the bars, the narrow buildings. The market square where the sun shines all day. I sat down to drink a coffee and to read a little. H is for Hawk. Helen Macdonald.

While I sipped my coffee and switched inbetween my book and writing this, a friend wrote me he thought the elections had been a struggle between empty utopianism and false nostalgia, a minority of nationalists leading the public into an independence that is not good for them. I didn’t want to move out of my own ponderings about more eternal strugglings where humans are really only spectators when it concerns the big nature events (although we are clearly doing our best to change that) or are actors only when their light dies out forever and all the others are the public. I am not good at putting things aside once they enter my mind though. So I responded.

Who is this public? I asked. And I questioned his use of the word nationalist. I said I thought more nuance was needed and that it is dangerous to simplify things. He laughed, said he had better things to do than have this kind of conversation and when I wrote him I would return to my story about today’s Victory he finished off with “let’s see what victory means in six months”, a double “cheers”, some applauding hands and “whatever you say”.

Whatever I say is a true story. We all have our own truths. We all read into words what we want to see. But we don’t have to. I know what Victory will look like in six months. It will be the longest day, the shortest night and this time the darkness will take over and be on the winning side for six months. Not so different than how things work in politics but at least an eternal cycle you can count on. One of the little truely secure things in life.


Wednesday, Barcelona

A seagull flew through the moon, its belly lighted up by the sun. A bright square on the wall of a building. A circle producing angular shapes, transformation is at the core of the world.

When I woke up at 4.30 a.m. the sky was still black but the darkness had evaporated and blue sky was on its way. My main reason for being here. In search of blue.

The temperature matched the colour. It was cold.

“I am facing my fears during the hour of the wolf” I wrote at 4.30. But there is only one fear. And it is always the same one. It is the fear that I won’t be able to leave when it is time to go. It is a smaller version of death. But I know there is only one way to deal with your fear. It is facing it and stepping into it. I did many times. I left many times. Leaving is easy. I wrote it many times. But it is easy to write it. I still have to learn how to do it well. But I am getting better at it. Exercises in being here, only to understand that nothing lasts forever. Exercising for not being here. Living is leaving. Letting go. Step by step. It is a beautiful walk. Beautiful and sad. Like all good walks.

I walked to the sea. The city was silent. A holiday. Celebrating he Spanish Constitution. The beach was empty. All the beach bars had disappeared. Only sand. And endless blue. My fear was washed away. Or maybe already disappeared earlier when I closed the door to leave my home.

On my way back I found a book next to a garbage container. Andreï Tarkovskyi’s Journal, French edition. It opens like this (and I’m translating:)

“The Journal of Andreï Tarkovski starts in April 1970. Tarkovski is only 38, his wife is expecting a child, he is about to buy a house in the countryside and his autobiographical movie “The Mirror” is germinating in his mind. In the past, a Lion d’or in Venice for “The childhood of Ivan” and a monumental movie, “Andreï Rublev”. Self-assured, writing: “I’m not afraid of anything anymore”, he decides to focus on writing an intimite journal …. “


Lost Memory Act 2

Last spring
Chance of rain

When the world was one

Vigils For seasons

(the poetry in the album titles of my Spotify Discover weekly song list)


Nothing more than the sun and the sea

It was the right morning to visit my silent friends again. I hadn´t seen them for a long time and I knew they would be where they always are. But when I approached the beach I thought for a moment they were gone, the space inbetween the big trees was empty and I wondered if they had been taken to the exhibition elsewhere in Spain where the sculptor Juan Muñoz´s last work is currently on display. There were more big trees behind the first ones though and there they were, unmoved, as silent as ever. Unable to move even if they had been taken elsewhere. Even if they wouldn´t be in what looks like a cage, in a room where it is always raining, Una habitació on sempre plou - the installation was meant to include water so that “rain” would perpetually fall into the cage, however, due to technical problems this feature was never implemented.

The sea was loud, seagulls torpedoed themselves in the water to catch fish, waves were crashing on the shore. You could hear them coming, a low rumbling sound getting louder and louder, scary if it wouldn´t be counterbalanced by the beauty of what was causing it.
 I sat on a metal storage box and stared. When I started spending time in this city I would walk here every day, 40 minutes from Gracia through Eixample, Born, Barceloneta, the same route always. Almost three years later I live 20 minutes away and I seldom come here but I know I could and that is what makes it possible for me to live in a city.

Two women in their fifties were celebrating something with a small bottle of cava, maybe nothing more than the sun and the sea. A young man woke up in the sand and positioned his backpack so he could lean against it and look at the horizon. I walked to a beach bar where I knew the coffee would be more expensive than elsewhere in town but still cheaper than anywhere in the city where I lived before I chose this one. I brought a book from my still unorganised library. Poetry works best for small breaks during a walk.

The man I had seen swimming from the left corner of my eye in the dark blue water mass had proceeded slowly to the right, where the sun lighted up the waves, where everything was bright white and he had become invisible. A woman who was dressed for a fancy but sporty holiday tried out all angles with her selfie-stick while variating the position of the sunglasses on her head, putting on different smiles and moving around her own axis to get the ultimate proof of how beautiful and happy and lucky she was.

I didn´t feel particularly beautiful and not especially happy but I did feel quite lucky. Like time, you have to take it, make it. And often when you take time you create your own luck. It sounds easy but I know it isn´t. And I suspect that most people who tell me I am lucky not having to go to work every day or catch deadlines don´t realise that I don´t go to work because I am already in it - 24 hours a day - and that I live my work and my work lives me, leads me, haunts me, exhausts me, makes me happy.
I wandered on, ignoring men trying to sell me big Indian style beach blankets, looking at other men earning a living by making sand sculptures. Three street musicians were taking a break in the sand. A man was lifting weights close to the surf.

I picked up a white round stone that fitted in the palm of my hand, held it and let the images of what I had seen this morning go through my head again in as much detail as possible. I put it in my left pocket and walked home through the park, to the Arc de Triomf, only stopping to look at a giant machine tearing down a huge building, its gripping arm resembling a giant beak, a dinosaur head, tearing off pieces of the wall. I put my hand in my left pocket without thinking.

It was silent in the house. There was a bloody bone in front of my door. Inside my room it was colder than it had been in the outside world. I put the stone on my desk, next to my computer. I made coffee and drank it while copying what I had read.

About History

One day in March I go down to the sea and listen.
The ice is as blue as the sky. It is breaking up under the sun.
The sun that also whispers in a microphone under the covering of ice.
It gurgles and froths. And someone seems to be shaking a sheet far out.
It is all like History: our Now. We are submerged, we listen.

Conferences like flying islands about to crash …
Then: a long trembling bridge of compromises.
There shall the whole traffic go, under the stars,
under the unborn pale faces,
outcast in the vacant spaces, anonymous as a grain of rice.

Goethe travelled in Africa in ’26 disguised as Gide and saw everything.
Some faces become clearer from everything they see after death.
When the daily news from Algeria was read out
a large house appeared with all the windows blackened,
all except one. And there we saw the face of Dreyfus.

Radical and Reactionary live together as in an unhappy marriage,
molded by each other, dependent on each other.
But we who are their children break loose.
Every problem cries in its own language.
Go like a bloodhound where the truth has trampled.

Out on the open ground not far from the buildings
an abandoned newspaper has lain for months, full of events.
It grows old through nights and days in rain and sun,
on the way to becoming a plant, a cabbage head, on the way to being united with the earth.
Just as a memory is slowly transmuted into your own self

- Tomas Tranströmer, The Great Enigma (new collected poems), Bells and Tracks. Translated by Robin Fulton


Catalunya today

I am sitting on a balcony, it is chilly and I am on the shady part of the street, on the fourth floor. Right across the street, on the same level, a girl sits inside her room with the balcony doors open. The sun is shining on her face. She sits on a chair close to the doors and plays guitar.

A big banner hangs from her balcony. It is bright green and there is a woman’s face on it in white, without eyes and with a big red mark printed over her mouth. There is a text, only one word. Democrácia!

The girl in the sun has her eyes closed. I can’t hear her play but I can see her fingers move, her body slowly swinging from left to right. I can see her lips move. She is singing.

Homo fugit velut umbra*

Be quiet and drive away
Over light earth

Les barricades mysterieuses
Lamenta della ninfa

Noon hill wood
Hermit trust
Ground in c minor

The dream featuring low


(the poetry in the titles of my Spotify Discover weekly song list)

* Homo fugit velut umbra : Man flees like a shadow


November 12th, 17.30

When you unsuccesfully tried to get the digital piano you transported all the way from the Netherlands to Spain working. When you neglected the Polaroid cameras you brought as well and love deeply for too long. When the sky is turning a pale pink before it gets dark on a slow Sunday where you are inside writing and reading and thinking and you feel happy-sad which is possibly your favorite mood because it makes you smile and feel alive. When you play random music and a song passes by that makes something turn upside down deep inside your body. When you read the album title and it is called “Polaroid Piano”.

Listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKqgDeVc1uQ

(Polaroid above is mine)


Taking five trees on a walk.

“Of all the trees in the forest, none occupies quite the space in our collective consciousness as the oak. At once both mighty and ancient, the oak is indeed massive in stature, both physically and spiritually. Associated with gods and kings from the earliest tribes of Europe to the Greeks and Romans, right down to our present day nations, the oak continues to be used as a symbol of strength, endurance, and longevity.”

A lot has been written about oak trees. This quote comes from the jewelry maker Carl Blackburn who is also known for his role as a dealer of important and magnificent jewels and is one of the most recognized luxury estate buyers in the US. I don’t know why there is a page about the symbolic meaning of oak trees on his company’s website. Trees have rings. And some rings are made out of wood. But not his. It is a mystery to me. Like many things are.

I was never specifically interested in oak trees myself but somehow they entered my life the way all things enter my life. By chance and going with my instincts.

“Growing an oak tree from a tiny acorn takes a lot of time and patience” the “WikiHow to do anything” website says.

1. Harvest some acorns that are free of worms, holes, and fungus.
2. Place them in a bowl of water. Discard any that float after 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Place the good acorns in a zippered bag with damp vermiculite or peat mix.
4. Store the bag in the fridge for 45 days. Look for sprouting acorns.
5. Place the sprouted acorn, root-side-down, into a small pot filled with damp soil.
6. Water the acorn regularly as it continues to grow.
7. Transplant the acorn outside when it is 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) tall.

I didn’t do any of this. But there are five baby oak trees growing on my balcony, waiting to be taken on a walk through Spain. It makes sense now. Like most things that come into existence by a series of events do.

What I did do was this:

On a sunny day in April I walked through the woods where I grew up and felt just as much (or maybe even more) at home as I used to do in my cozy room in the house not far from the edge of the forest.
I walked along the paths that are now closed off because in the past we managed to disturb the living circumstances of the animals living in those parts of the Netherlands to such an extent that now they have to be protected from peoples’ presence. At the same time the Nature Reserve is being promoted as a great tourist location and more and more people walk and bike through there on less available sandy roads and winding paths. It makes sense to give the animals their space and privacy but it makes me sad at the same time that I can only experience “my” forest the way I’m used to by breaking the law.

I still know where my father took me to find chestnuts in autumn, where the dense corners are where I pretended to be living and tried out my survival kit, the hilltops with the best views, the path with the muddy pools on the left side where we watched salamanders, the location of the ancient grave mounts that are hidden from sight and aren’t indicated from the road, probably because human presence is unwanted there as well.

My goal was the hill top the area is named after. De Haarlerberg. The mountain of Haarle: 63,2 meters high. On my way back I collected chestnuts and beech nuts and acorns. I took them back to my parents house that used to be my grandparents house, the house I was born in. I drove them to Amsterdam, flew them to Barcelona, took them on a train to the Nau Côclea Contemporary Art Center in the Catalan countryside where I spent 18 days to walk the route I was going to walk in August without leaving the house. There are many ways to walk and walking can be many things. (see: www.wherewewandered.blogspot.com). Every day, while walking my route in the virtual world, I planted Cosmos Daydream seeds. A plant with the most amazing name and beautiful pink flowers.

“The “cochlea” /ˈkɒk.liə/ (Ancient Greek: κοχλίας, kōhlias, meaning spiral or snail shell) is the auditory portion of the inner ear. It is a spiral-shaped cavity in the bony labyrinth, in humans making 2.5 turns around its axis, the modiolus. A core component of the cochlea is the Organ of Corti, the sensory organ of hearing. The name “cochlea” is derived from the Latin word for snail shell, which in turn is from the Greek κοχλίας kokhlias ("snail, screw”) …..” (from Wikipedia)

Nau Côclea is housed in a rectangular building, it looks like a box in the landscape without any curly shapes. But there are snails everywhere. Snails and music. It once started as an artist residency with a focus on sound art and these days music, sound, poetry and storytelling are still of great importance there. The Organ of Corti is stimulated in different ways. And once a year Clara, the director, organises a long walk that is spiral shaped. This year I proposed a plan for it and was invited to make it happen.

When I came back to Barcelona after collecting the seeds I went to Scotland for a week and left them in my room inbetween two layers of moist cotton wool. No idea if that was a smart thing to do. I was hoping they would germinate while I was gone. When I came back it looked messy and nothing had happened. I packed them in a big plastic bag, took them to Nau Coclea and left them outside in the garden next to my frontdoor for the first days when I was settling in. When I wanted to start planting them they were covered by a layer of slugs and snails that had been feasting on them.

I planted the ones that looked still good, I watered them daily inbetween staring at my computer screen and walking virtually through Catalan mountains. At night I put them inside to keep them as safe as possible from the snails, sometimes I checked them in the dark and removed the animals that had almost managed to climb into the pots. The tiny frogs didn’t form a problem but I had to make sure not to step on them when they were jumping through the living room. I don’t know why they kept coming inside when there was a large pond outside.

At the end of my 18 day virtual indoor walk only two of the beech nuts had grown into tiny plants. The rest didn’t show any sign of progress. But when I carefully dug up the acorns some of them had formed roots. So I carried them back on the train to Barcelona.

The beech trees died. The chestnuts never grew into saplings. But five acorns turned into tiny plants and started to form small leaves.

Oak tree facts. “Oaks produce more than 2000 acorns every year, but only one in 10 000 acorns will manage to develop into oak tree.”

I left them in the care of a friend when I went to a natural farming course. It felt a bit like leaving my children behind. I had to go to the Netherlands for a week. Another friend watered them. Every time I came back, the first thing I did was to take a look at my trees.

The young leaves turned brown and I thought they were dying but new leaves kept appearing. I saved the leaves that fell off and studied them as if they were maps.

The biggest one is 25 cm. now, the smallest 8. Two of them are twins which is just as uncommon among oak trees as it is among human beings. I will plant one of those at the location where once, centuries ago, two small boys had a vision. Originally two juniper trees marked the spot where Jaumet and his older brother Celdoni saw the Holy Virgin, but after crowds of pilgrims started to visit the location the trees died. The gothic cross that was put there to replace the trees was demolished during the last Spanish civil war. Now a new cross replaces the cross that replaced the trees in the old meadow of Bassedòria, a stonesthrow distance away from the church and convent (el Santuari del Miracle) that were built there after the miracle happened.

Five trees to be taken on a walk. One to be planted at the starting point, one at the middle (at the Santuari del Miracle) and one at the final destination, Montserrat. One to accompany me on the rest of my journey (which is my life) and one that will find its own destination.

I am thinking about carrying all five of them for the whole walk but I will be dependent on my fellow walkers for that. I can only carry one myself. I have to build handy sturdy lightweight constructions to put them in. I am not sure if they will survive the walking days and I am even less sure if they will manage to stay alive after I planted them but what counts is trying and it is a route that will pass many places where miracles took place so I’ve got good hope I will manage to perform the miracle of transplanting a little piece of my childhood environment to the country I love as a trace of the thing I like doing best: walking with people.


..... as though another person's life was also a place you could travel to

"Who hears you? To have something to say is one thing; to have someone who hears it is another. To be heard literally is to have the vibrations of the air travel through the labyrinth of the listener's ear to the mind, but more must unfold in that darkness. You choose to hear what corresponds to your desire, needs, and interests, and there are dangers in a world that corresponds too well, with curating your life into a mirror that reflects only the comfortable and familiar, and dangers in the opposite direction as well.

Listen Carefully.

To hear is to let the sound wander all the way through the labyrinth of your ear; to listen is to travel the other way to meet it. It's not passive but active, this listening. It's as though you retell each story, translate it into the language particular to you, fit it into your cosmology so you can understand and respond, and thereby it becomes part of you. To empathize is to reach out to meet the data that comes through the labyrinths of senses, to embrace it and incorporate it. To enter into, we say, as though another person's life was also a place you could travel to."

- Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby


Seeing through

Reading old notes in a new country. Looking at them through the lens of newly acquired knowledge. Realising "lente" = "lens" in Spanish.

jump (english) = spring (dutch), spring (english) = lente (dutch), lente (french) = slow (english)



"What’s your story? It’s all in the telling. Stories are compasses and architecture; we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice. To love someone is to put yourself in their place, we say, which is to put yourself in their story, or figure out how to tell yourself their story.
Which means that a place is a story, and stories are geography, and empathy is first of all an act of imagination, a storyteller’s art, and then a way of traveling from here to there. What is it like to be the old man silenced by a stroke, the young man facing the executioner, the woman walking across the border, the child on the roller coaster, the person you’ve only read about, or the one next to you in bed?
We tell ourselves stories in order to live, or to justify taking lives, even our own, by violence or by numbness and the failure to live; tell ourselves stories that save us and stories that are the quicksand in which we thrash and the well in which we drown, stories of justification, of accursedness, of luck and star-crossed love, or versions clad in the cynicism that is at times a very elegant garment. Sometimes the story collapses, and it demands that we recognize we’ve been lost, or terrible, or ridiculous, or just stuck; sometimes change arrives like an ambulance or a supply drop. Not a few stories are sinking ships, and many of us go down with these ships even when the lifeboats are bobbing all around us."

- Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby


The future

I sometimes read my tarot cards, or the clouds, the dirty dish water or the people passing by underneath my balcony. Today I did a Kinder egg reading. A nurturing wolf, a dangerous crocodile and a superhero. Not bad.


When we weren't leaving yet

We meet and we continue on our travels but our roads keep crossing, old roads crossing new roads, walking in each others footsteps, meeting people knowing people we once lived around the corner with. We say the world is small but it isn't. We are small. And the world is big. But we look for each other, we need each other. We want to be connected. And the world gives us what we need. We see each other in people passing by, in newspapers, books. In bridges, trees, airplanes. We touch each other by looking at the sky, by listening to the winds, the cars rushing by. We leave traces, marks, memories, we are everywhere.

(mountains and skies during a Natural Farming course in the Pyrenees with a group of wonderful people)


To Be a Reader

I fell asleep around 11 last night with my doors wide open, the hot day had transformed into a cooler but still warm night. I slept sound. The city noise doesn’t bother me anymore when I am sleeping.
My slow movements getting upright were copied by a small body moving through my room. My housemate’s cat is too nervous to enter my room when there is somebody around but when I’m asleep she often sneaks in to sit on my balcony and get some fresh air. The moment she becomes aware of somebody being present she gets scared though and walks out, keeping her eyes on me in the movement.

I thought about going back to sleep but I was awake. Four thirty. Still dark, quieter than it is during the day, less traffic noise, but more noisy people walking home from bars and nightclubs.

I opened the book I had been reading before I fell asleep, reread the chapter I had tried to finish before my eyes refused to do what I wanted them to do and moved to the next chapter. “A Short Note on the Singularity”. It starts like this: “There is no accepted version of the Technological Singularity. It is a light gleaming above Silicon Valley’s horizon, appearing now as religious prophecy, now as technological fate. There is no end to the riches the faithful claim it will generate, no end to what can be said of them. In the broadest sense, the term refers to a time to come in which machine intelligence greatly surpasses that of its human way, an extreme expression of techno-progressivism, the belief that the universal approach of technology will solve the world’s most intractable problems.” In the former chapters I had read about uploading the brain, how it works according to scientists who have devoted their lives to figuring that out. About the largest of the world’s four cryopreservation facilities where for $200.000 they store your body until the technology has been developed to transfer you out of your useless vessel or $80.000 if they only store your head. It is located in Phoenix, “on the outskirts of a city named after this mythical desert bird, with its cyclical existence of immolation and renewal. It’s a detail at which you reader, would probably wrinkle your delicate and finely attuned nose if you came across it in a work of fiction.”

I smoked a cigarette on the balcony and wondered if in a different container than my mortal fleshy body my mind would have allowed me to fall asleep at an odd hour according to modern world standards, something I like to do and seems to make sense since I am more productive when I follow the natural rhythm of sleeping when my body gets tired and working when it is ready for it. But maybe sleep wouldn’t exist any more in the Singularity. Smoking surely wouldn’t.

Earlier in the book “To Be a Machine. Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death”, Mark O’Connell writes about a lecture by Dr. Anders Sandberg, a research fellow at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute and how he spoke of the social and economical costs of suboptimal mental performance, of how misplaced house keys alone -the time and energy invested in trying to find them- ran the UK’s GDP a deficit of £250 million every year.

I stared at the dark sky, listened to the plane trees shedding their skin: tree bark falling on the sidewalk. I slowly moved my blue and yellow left knee with which I had bumped into a glass door last Monday, maybe because my eyesight isn’t as good as it was when I was younger and probably also because I had forgotten that when I walked into the bar (where I only drank one glass of wine, so that couldn’t have been the cause) I passed two slowly opening glass sliding doors. “Our version 1.0 biological bodies … [are] …. frail and subject to a myriad of failure modes, not to mention the cumbersome maintenance rituals they require. While human intelligence is sometimes capable of soaring in its creativity and expresiveness, much human thought is derivative, petty, and circumscribed.” Mark O’Connell quotes Ray Kurzweil here, “an inventor of many ingenious devices … and director of engineering at Google, to act as thought-leader-in-chief for the company’s pursuit of machine learning.”

I have been quite disturbed but completely caught by this book and I can only imagine how the writer, who isn’t a transhumanist and is expressing his own struggles with the subject in beautiful writing, has been feeling throughout the process of researching and writing the book. I finally started reading it properly yesterday and found it almost impossible to put it down. But it was getting light and the sky started to show traces of pink. In the past I used to walk to the beach on Sunday mornings to see the sunrise, in the beginning with a slight feeling of confusion because I was born in a country where you see the sun set in the sea, never rise out of it.
I decided to finish the last few pages of the chapter I was reading and then head off. It was still about Kurzweil, now a description of a documentary about his life, Transcendent Man, where in one of the scenes “we encounter the film’s subject standing on a beach at sunset, his inscrutable gaze fixed upon the serene expanse of the Pacific.” Directly before that scene he had been talking about the last conversation he had with his father before he died. The director asks him what he is thinking about as he stares at the sea. “Well,” he says, “I was thinking about how much computation is represented by the ocean. I mean, it’s all these water molecules interacting with each other. That’s computation. It’s quite beautiful. I’ve always found it very soothing. And that’s really what computation is all about. To capture these transcendent moments of our consciousness.”

I was too caught inbetween a feeling of horror to see the sea -this particular sea- for the first time in weeks, maybe even months, with Kurzweil’s words in mind and a curiousness about whether it would change my perception of it, or maybe more accurate: my feelings for it, to make a move. So I made coffee and sat on my balcony and made the amazing discovery that this time of year in the early morning the sun reaches my balcony shortly after it rises out of the Barcelona sea and then moves behind the buildings after 10 or 15 minutes. Something I never thought would happen, simply because I had moved here in August and have been only aware of the hours and later in the year the minutes the sun reaches it from the other side at the end of the day.

A man and a woman were sitting on one of the benches of the triangular square with the statue of Casanova -not Giacomo but Rafael, icon of the Catalan independance movement. I only saw their backs but they seemed to be in their thirties. They were sitting close together, not so close to assume they were lovers but from their movements and some of the words I caught, I read they most probably were lovers-to-be. A man wearing only shorts and sneakers ran by and his impressive chest reminded me of several descriptions in “To Be a Machine” of scientists researching ways to become immortal that would imply letting go of our body but since they weren’t close to reaching that state, were spending hours (which would be considered lost time in the Singularity) training their bodies in order to try to prolong their life expectancy so they might still be around when solutions would be found.

The two people on the bench fell silent. The silence inbetween a long exchange of words to get to know the other (slightly) better and the first kiss. I thought of Chris Cunningham’s videoclip of Björk’s “All is full of love”, two robots making out.

I watched them kiss, which clearly for them was a more pleasurable moment than the slightly awkward one before, the one I enjoyed watching more because it was such a vulnerable moment. I was curious how it would end, how they would walk away but they smoked a cigarette and started talking again and I lost interest and returned to my book. “Even if it were possible to put aside for a moment the considerable issues of plausibility, and the obviously religious foundations of the whole edifice, the Singularity was not a concept I could ever see myself getting behind. I will admit, that is, that I never succeeded in grasping the attraction of the things, that I never quite came to understand how what it offered -the prospect of a bodiless existence as pure information, or run on some third-party human hardware- could ever be seen as salvation rather than perdition. If life had any meaning at all, my instinctive belief was that its meaning was animal, that it was inseparably bound up with birth, and reproduction, and death.” (Marc O ‘Connell)
When I looked up again the couple had left and a young woman was standing in the middle of the square patiently trying to make her big dog get up. He was clearly enjoying the coolness of the stones, lying stretched out on his side, not moving a single toe. She didn’t want to force him, probably realising how wonderful it must be to lay on the cold pavement in the morning after a warm and sultry night. She gave up, smiling, and just waited until he was ready to go.

The swallows had arrived. They were shrieking and flying low over my head. On my way to the bathroom I passed Gunda, lazy and cute as always, named after the word for “yummy” in Ewokese (the language made its first appearance in Star-Wars VI). In the kitchen somebody was eating a big slice of watermelon.
I felt happy to be alive and to be mortal. Why would you aim for immortality and being around forever when you can experience moments, sometimes even hours, when time doesn’t exist and it is there already?

(all quotes from “To Be a Machine” by Marc O’Connell)


The happiness of solitude

I invited a man I love and hadn't seen for while to visit me, because he doesn't need me to be happy and I don't need him to be happy. In the afternoon a man showed up. I had met him that same morning when I drank coffee in a local café. He had been driving around all afternoon looking for me. He thought I could make him happy. I had to turn him away.


Wolf traces

Yesterday, when I went for a walk through the woods where I spent most of my childhood and "climbed" the Haarlerberg, the "mountain of Haarle" (63,2 meters), I forgot I still had a sticker of a wolf attached to my forehead, planted there by my niece Tirza who wanted me to guess what animal I was.

Today I received some photos from Andres Roberts (Ways of Nature) who is in Romania to explore the area where we will spend a week in October for the Fire & Shadow programme. They showed the beautiful Carpathian Mountains (over 2.000 meters, highest peaks over 2.500) and wolf and bear tracks.


memory of a bumblebee

just now i was sitting outside in my garden
somewhere in the countryside in the netherlands
drinking coffee and looking at the birds chasing each other
when i heard a bumblebee just behind me
the low humming
and i remembered a day in sweden years ago
when one was caught in my room
moving slowly along the windowsill, bumbling
and before i opened the window to let it out
i took a photo of it
but my camera was even slower than the bumblebee
that slowness


Cold dreams

I love sitting on my balcony. Moving through the world without moving. Seeing the people pass by, a small part of their story unfolding under my feet.

It is a beautiful sunny day in Barcelona, one of the warmest days this year so far. I look down and see two small boys carrying a gigantic image of a winter scene through the city.


Jó világ van

Somebody sent me this photo two days ago. A tattoo of a post-it, freshly inked. I recognised the text immediately. And the handwriting. I wrote this post-it almost 12 years ago. I actually wrote 40.000 post-it notes with the same text in one week and then filled a museum room with them, covering all walls and the ceiling.

It was the first big project I did as a full-time artist. Shortly after I graduated I was invited to live and work on the Slovak-Hungarian border for 6 months in the Bridge Guard Art & Science Centre. I spent time there meeting people, wandering the streets, doing a lot of small projects and while doing that, I regularly heard people say “Jó világ van”, a Hungarian expression (Sturovo, where I lived, was Slovak but was part of Hungary before the Trianon Treaty and 80% of the inhabitants are Hungarian) that can be translated as “Life is good!” (literally: it is a good world). People said it after a nice meal or on a pleasant Sunday outing. At the same time life was hard over there. Many people were struggling to survive and still suffering from the old political system.

Before I made my installation in the museum, I walked around on both sides of the border (formed by the Danube) for two weeks, spreading these post-it notes anonymously, sticking them on lamp-posts, cars, shop windows, church doors. As much as it was meant as a reminder, there was also a question behind it.

When I was installing (sticking) my installation in the museum some people came to protest. They said I was offending them, telling them life was good when it wasn’t, accusing me of being a rich western artist. The museum director who dealt with them, since they only spoke Hungarian, laughed when they left and said: “This was the first time these people were in the museum, how wonderful!” He told me most of them were shop owners and were annoyed by the post-its on their windows. Most of them were probably better off than I was.

After the project a local band that was inspired by my work, decided to adopt this phrase as the name of their band. “Jó világ one” just released their third album and has become a very popular band in Hungary. This week, 12 years after I wrote that line 40.000 times like a mantra, one of their fans decided to get a tattoo of one of the original post-it notes.

Amazing how ideas and images can travel through time, change shapes and develop into something new. It is truly a good world.

Many thanks to the band: http://jovilagvan.com & the tattoo artist: http://www.pictaram.com/user/dorcaborca/9665826

The sound of money

The bank across the street has three cash machines. There is one outside and two inside. Often there is a line outside while the two inside are free. It always makes me wonder.

There is a man living inside. He is homeless. His mattress is there and a shopping cart with the few items he owns. Sometimes he is sleeping, today he was drinking beer. It is always a bit smelly in there. I don’t mind.

Even on a day like today, when it is sunny outside, he stays in. I can understand that. It is tough to be out on the streets when you are homeless and it must be tempting to just stay where you are when you are in a safe and dry place. It must be odd though, to live under a cash machine and hear the sound of money coming out of a slot all day long.

He never asks for money. I never give him any. But I always say hello when I come in and look him in the eye.


Presence presents

We are still in the simple present tense only. When we try to talk about the past or the future we make mistakes. We learn that there is more than one way to be.

There is the verb “ser”, which you use when you talk about a permanent state. The teacher gives an example. “I am a woman”, “Soy una mujer". Even when these days you can be born as a man and turn into a woman (but probably because you always were, even when you were labelled differently). If it is a temporary state we use “estar”. “Estoy casada”, I am married. Even when you promise your partner that you will stay with him or her forever (but you won’t, because even if you never get divorced, one of you will die earlier than the other). 

Learning a new language brings up many questions. Maybe that is what I like most about it. What is permanent and what is temporary? How do you say “I am alive?” It is a temporary state so it must be “Estoy viva”. But how about “I am dead”? Is that a temporary state? I would say no, because I don’t believe in an afterlife, but that is a personal opinion. And I hope I am wrong there. This language tells me I am. “Estoy muerta”, I am dead. Simple present tense of “estar”. Temporary being.
We learn how to possess and what you possess. We learn to be afraid. To have fear, “tener miedo”, which is a wonderful way to put it because if you have it, if you possess it, you can also decide to get rid of it. In my own language we don’t have fear anymore, it sounds old-fashioned to put it like that. We are afraid. It has become part of our being.

After class I try to be in the present a bit longer. The sun shines. I sit on the bench where the homeless man was sitting yesterday, who today sits on the bench where I was sitting yesterday. We look at each other from a distance. Everything is different today although it seems to be just a reorganisation of elements, a change of shapes. The angelic man in bright white with the baby in a white blanket on his chest is replaced now by an Indian woman who walks the same route he walked yesterday, dressed in brightly coloured waving garments, a sleeping baby in even brighter colours wrapped in a blanket on her back.

Nothing much happens. More people appear and disappear. The homeless man objects when a taxi drives into the square. A man fetches water for his dog from the fountain in the middle. A street cleaner sweeps up a dead pigeon.

All in the simple present tense.

(Spanish class, day 4)


Miedo y felicidad. Fear and happiness.

Yesterday in Spanish class we did an exercise with names of famous people. We had to say if we knew them, who they were, if we liked what they were doing. I knew Penélope Cruz of course, actriz and Alejandro González Iñáritu, director de cine. Leo Messi, futbolista, Rafa Nadal, tenista, Shakira (none of us liked her), Gabriel García Márquez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Javier Bardem. I never heard of Zoé Valdés, writer.

Today I walked to the language school and saw some books on top of the container just next to the door. One in particular caught my eye. “La nada cotidiana”. The everyday nothing. Written by Zoé Valdés.
I put it in my bag and after the class, which we ended by having to write down five reasons for being happy, I sat outside on a bench in the small square a few hundred meters down the road. It was sunny and opposite of me some other people were enjoying the sun. I thought of the reasons I gave. Porque el cielo eres sempre azul aquí. Because the sky is always blue here. Porque ser infeliz es una pérdida de tiempo. Because being unhappy is a waste of time. Porque no ser pobre y tener un lugar en la vida. Because I’m not poor and I’ve got a place to live.

A homeless man was enjoying the sun as well, getting warm, and two elderly men who seemed to know him joined him, one of them reading the newspaper, from time to time exchanging some words with the other two. It was cold in the places the sun didn’t reach and people walking by were dressed in winter coats, dark colours mainly, grey and black and here and there a touch of dark blue. But then a young man entered the square, walking in the sunlight, dressed in immaculate white. White jeans, white boots, a white leather jacket with a white fur colour. On his chest he was wearing a newborn, a tiny baby, wrapped in a white blanket. I thought he looked like a modern angel.

I opened Zoé Valdés book. It started with a quote by Marguerite Yourcenar. Tener miedo del futuro, eso nos facilita la muerte. Fear of the future makes death easier.

Until yesterday I didn’t know what “miedo” meant. But I saw the word in the newspaper after class when I read about Zygmunt Bauman who had died, about his concept of liquid modernity, applicable to all aspects of life, “desde el amor líquido al miedo líquido”, “ranging from liquid love to liquid fear”.

Only three days of learning Spanish and fear is everywhere. I am afraid that “miedo” is a word I will never forget, unlike many other ones I am learning these days. But somehow it will always be connected with the image of this man reflecting the sunlight, carrying his child through the city. And being happy, sitting in the sun, aware of having a home to return to.

Adding to my vocabulary in the simple present tense

I learned - or sometimes only tried to - learn a lot of languages in the last 44 years. I don’t remember being taught my first one and I have vague memories of how the two second ones entered my life, my grandfather watching German tv programs and English songs being present on the radio. There were English classes in primary school and German, French, Greek and Latin in secondary school. Old and modern Irish and Welsh in University and Hungarian when I lived for a while on the border between Slovakia and Hungary.

Some of them I forgot, there are no traces of the Welsh and in Hungarian I only managed to figure out when one word ended and the next one started in those never-ending poetic lines I heard people say. It is handy to be able to read the Greek alfabet when I am there on holiday but we never learned to speak in the classic Greek or Latin, just read and, speaking for myself, getting lost and confused. I speak English well though, good enough to feel comfortable writing in English. My German is pretty good and I can make myself understandable in French. It goes without saying that I don’t master any language as well as Dutch, but I don’t use it a lot and prefer not to.

I’ve been wanting to learn Spanish for a long time and postponed it for almost two years. This week I finally started and although I’ve spend many weeks and months wandering around in the language, speaking it is something different altogether. You need time and attention to learn something new and I couldn’t find it before. 

During the day, in class, I learn Castilian which is Spanish but only one of the four Spanish languages. I try to tell the time and to remember the year I was born in. I fail often. My memory plays tricks on me when at home I put verbs in my mouth but don’t know how to conjugate them. I still don’t manage the simple present tense in this new language but I do manage it in my being when I sit on my balcony in the darkness.

It is these quiet hours of the night that teach me most. About something that shimmers through all languages I ever learned. The hours when it is darkest outside and the birds are singing, birds that clearly don’t need daylight to sing but if they are robins, as I suspect, they appreciate the streetlights. They sing as if daylight is arriving soon and it will, in only a few hours, an instant in a lifetime, interchangeable with other offshoots of the night on other days, in other months.

During the night I leave my grammar books closed. I try to read El Principito and random Spanish articles of which I merely grasp the general meaning. I read Wallace Stevens in translation, two languages side by side, and I suspect it would be more efficient to stick to the grammar book if it would be only about being able to feel at home in the conversations of Spanish friends as soon as possible.
But I need to feel at home in my new life as well.

So I read this.

Prologues to what is possible


There was an ease of mind that was like being alone in a boat at sea,
A boat carried forward by waves resembling the bright back of rowers,
Gripping their oars, as if they were sure of the way to their destination,
Bending over and pulling themselves erect on the wooden handles,
Wet with water and sparkling in the one-ness of their motion.

The boat was built of stones that had lost their weight and being no longer heavy
Had left in them only a brilliance, of unaccustomed origin,
So that he that stood up in the boat leaning and looking before him
Did not pass like someone voyaging out of and beyond the familiar.
He belonged to the far-foreign departure of his vessel and was part of it,
Part of the speculum of fire on its prow, its symbol, whatever it was,
Part of the glass-like sides on which it glided over the salt-stained water.

As he travelled alone, like a man lured on by a syllable without any meaning,
A syllable of which he felt, with an appointed sureness,
That it contained the meaning into which he wanted to enter,
A meaning which, as he entered it, would shatter the boat and leave the oarsmen quiet
As at a point of central arrival, an instant moment, much or little,
Removed from any shore, from any man or woman, and needing none.


The metaphor stirred his fear. The object with which he was compared
Was beyond his recognising. By this he knew that likeness of him extended
Only a little way, and not beyond, unless between himself
And things beyond resemblance there was this and that intended to be recognized,
The this and that in the enclosures of hypotheses
On which men speculated in summer when they were half asleep.

What self, for example, did he contain that had not yet been loosed,
Snarling in him for discovery as his attentions spread,
As if all his hereditary lights were suddenly increased
By an access of color, a new and unobserved, slight dithering,

The smallest lamp, which added its puissant flick, to which he gave
A name and privilege over the ordinary of his commonplace -

A flick which added to what was real and its vocabulary,
The way some first thing coming into Northern trees
Adds to them the whole vocabulary of the South,
The way the earliest single light in the evening sky, in spring,
Creates a fresh universe out of nothingness by adding itself,
The way a look or a touch reveals its unexpected magnitudes.

Wallace Stevens (from: The Rock)

Prólogos a lo que es posible


Había una comodidad mental que era como encontrarse a solas en una barca en el mar,
una barca empujada por olas semejantes a brillantes espaldas de remeros,
apretando sus remos, como si conocieran bien el camino para llegar a su destino,
doblándose e irguiéndose del todo sobre las asas de madera,
regados de agua y relucientes en su aunado movimiento.

La barca estaba hecha de piedras que habían perdido su peso y, al no pesar ya nada,
solo habían dejado un brillo, de desacostumbrado origen,
así que quien estaba en pie en la barca, inclinado y mirando el frente,
no pasaba tal como alguien que parte y viaja más allá de lo familiar.
Pertenecía a la partida de su nave en el lejano extranjero y era parte de ella,
parte del speculum de fuego de su proa, su símbolo, fuera lo que fuese,
parta de los cristalinos laterales por los que resbalaba sobre el aqua salpicada de sal,
al viajar solo, cual hombre espoleado por el señuelo de una sílaba carente de significado,
sílaba que le parecía, con señalada seguridad,
que contenía el significado en el que él quería entrar,
un significado que, cuando entrase, arrasaría la barca y dejaría a los remeros callados,
como en un punto de llegada central, un momento de un instante, mucho o poco,
retirado de toda orilla, de todo hombre o mujer, y sin necesidad de ninguno.


Le inspriró miedo la metáfora. El objeto con el que él era comparado
estaba más allá del reconocimiento. Por eso supo que su parecido alcanzaba
solo hasta cierto punto, no más allá, a menos que entre él
y las cosas más allá de la semejanza estuvieran esto y aquello pensado para ser reconocidos,
el esto y el aquello en los recintos de las hipótesis
sobre las que los hombres especulaban en verano cuando estaban medio dormidos.

Qué yo, por ejemplo, contenía él que no hubiera sido aún soltado,
y gruñera en su interior por ser descubierto mientras sus atenciones se extendían,
como si de repente todas sus luces hereditarias hubieran aumentado
por un acceso de color, una nueva e inadvertida ligera turbación,
la más pequeña lámpara, que su pujante fulgor sumara, al que él diera
un nombre y privilegio sobre lo ordinario de su lugar común …

Un fulgor que sumara a lo que era real y sy vocabulario,
igual que alguna cosa primera al ir entrando en árboles septentrionales,
les suma todo el vocabulario del Sur,
igual que la primera luz solitaria del cielo vespertino, en primavera,
crea un nuevo universo de la nada cuando se suma ella,
igual que una mirada o un toque revela sus imprevistas magnitudes.

- Wallace Stevens (La Roca. Traducción de Daniel Aguirre)


In the beginning

First Spanish lesson today. Me llamo Monique. But I knew that already. The teacher advised us to keep our iPhones on the table to look up words we didn't know. "Because nobody uses dictionaries anymore." I put my dictionary on the table. I don't have an iPhone. I am nobody. Soy nadie.

It is an intensive course so we are supposed to be studying at home. I am reading El Principito, "por que todas las personas grandes han sido niños antes. (Pero pocas lo recuerdan.)"

"Un día, vi ponerse el sol cuarenta y tres veces."
Y poco después agregaste:
"Sabes? .... Cuando una está verdaderamente triste son agradables las puestas de sol .....
"Estabas, pues, verdaderamente triste el día de las cuarenta y tres veces?"
El principito no respondió.


The old and the new

“I hope 2017 will bring you beautiful things” I wrote to a friend on the first evening of the new year and he answered “2017 will be what we make of it”.

Earlier that new year’s day, when I was walking home through the city I chose to live in for no other reason than that it makes me smile to wake up in it under a blue sky, I found the first present of the year (not counting the wonderful start with old and new friends of course) lying on the side walk. It was covered in dirt and maybe that is why it was thrown out but I could see the beauty of it through the layer of filth.

First rough cleaning revealed the hidden patterns and after some love and care I will be able to house my collection of gifted, bought and orphaned single cups and glasses on it, among them a delicate moon bowl made by an artist who went on a journey to deliver it to me personally, a golden rimmed cup and saucer I found in the trash and reminds me of a special person, a Double Phoenix Japanese cup which was a birthday present from a dear friend, a ceramic cup I bought from an artist who’s work I like a lot and two orphaned pieces I picked up from the street, an engraved glass and a small cup depicting a house I wouldn’t mind living in.

2017 already brought me beautiful things and I will make it a year I feel at home in. A new year where the newness will be in looking at old things with new eyes. In cherishing old connections and making new ones. A year of staying and sinking in before undoubtedly there will be leaving and wandering once more. A year of using this new old tray and serve coffee and tea and wine and whisky to friends and strangers as often as possible.

Our life is what we make of it but we make it with the things and people we find on our paths. And the most interesting finds are the ones that seem to be plain or unattractive even but show a hidden beauty buried under layers of proper or improper use, layers of history and memories and traces left by others.

Nothing is really new. Or maybe everything is new all the time because we look at it from a changed perspective and a different constellation every moment. And of course this thought isn’t very new either. Marcel Proust already said it far more eloquently: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” It makes me realise that although my eyesight is getting worse, I start to see better through the years. It must be the continuing newness of getting older.