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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Childhood Friends

We met on the playground.

You know that large open space with slides, climbing frames, swings and the inevitable sandpit. Is it bottomless or not?
Where you discover all about yourself and about socializing with others? Where you can experiment with Life and expand? 
Where I learned what discrimination feels like and that it is held up by the so called lower classes just as well. Where a bloody knee didn't always come from being clumsy on the monkey bars.

Yes, that's where we met. Can you imagine the tension in me, running into a stranger in that place?
But there was that big swing I wanted to give a try. And he was standing real close to it. Was he going to stop me? No, he felt like swinging too and the big swing was a bit hard to handle for one... So we mounted it, the two of us... both surprised at having such fun together. Apart from the swing we found out there was more to uncover and enjoy on that playground. So that's where we meet regularly now. I guess you could say we are Childhood Friends.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Journey with Unknown Destination 2

<-- to part 1 which has been updated a little

What Justus' plans were for me, when he left Jud on my doorstep, I don't know. But he, the dog, certainly changed my life.
No more leaving dirty spots on the floor, waiting for that one moment when I'd feel like mopping them up, all in one go. Puppy mishaps you just can't let lie around for weeks. Slowly my apartment becomes cleaner than it has been for the last months.
My son and I spend more time together, since he enjoys walking the dog with me. In the weekends we even take the german shepherd out into the wood or to the sea.
The one thing Jud doesn't break, is my morning routine. No matter how much I despise myself for it, invariably when it is sounding, I reset the alarm to yet another 30 minutes. That's what I do on my days off. On my workdays I just use the snooze button. Three times at least. And then, in panic, I push my son and my menagery through a needlessly stressful breakfast.
This day, is no different. I manage to help my son get to school in time, I take Jud for a quick morning round -the parking lot next to my house- and go inside again. The day is grinning at me, challenging me to fill it with good work, done in a good mood. The mere thought of those returning tasks, dishes, administration, litterboxes, give me the feeling that someone unseen places his hand around my throat and strangles me. I look at my living room, a bedsitter, and sigh. “What's the use? ”
I lie down on my bed, flat on my back. If I make up a good story, I have something to write later on the day, I think. That means my time won't be wasted. Isn't that sweet, writing as a legalisation of a daydream addiction. I shut my eyes and summon the characters I have been working on for a few weeks now. As they start to talk a whistling kind of sound cuts through the scene. The young german shepherd, begging for attention. I point next to me “Come here Jud, Lie down here.” As soon as he snuggles up against me, I know I can start the 'movie' again. Not so, Jud licks my hand. I move my hand away from him. A wet nose in my face, two paws in my stomach, my face being licked. Yuck. Now I have to get up, to wash my face. Satisfied Jud jumps off the bed, walks over to the door leading out. More whining and begging. Maybe the dog is right. The weather is beautiful, the sky a brilliant shade of blue. If the trees weren't bare, I would have mistaken it for a summer's day. My son will be out until dinner time, because he has homework to do at a friend's place. Instead of the usual, drudge like round, Jud and I can go some place else, explore some unknown area. Isn't 'Unknown' the middle of Jud's name? I hesitate for a moment. There will be the excitement of getting there. And then the cold to brave... only to arrive back home at the end of the day, finding the same pile of dishes I will be leaving behind me right now. The unseen hand around my throat returns for a second and I look at my computer. Wouldn't it be better to create, rather than to consume? Jud senses he is about to lose the game. He comes over to me, puts his front paws on my chest and 'whistles' again. His doggy brown eyes look straight into mine. They are so full of yearning, they're practically human. I give in. Reluctantly I put on my shoes again, reach for my backpack and the leash and off we go. First to the bus stop and then … to some unknown destination.

We go by bus, train and by bus again. In a small village I buy my lunch and something edible for Jud. Then we set off. I have a few options in the route to take in order to return back home just before my son does. But for now, these tracks coincide. The further away we get from the village, the smaller the road gets. There's been no sidewalk for some time already, just a cycle track , next to a quiet brook. As the track diverges from the stream, a narrow footpath along the bank of the stream enfolds. When the path has led us to a safe distance from the road, I unleash Jud. Justus trained him well, the dog doesn't stray and obeys me.
The brook becomes more vivid here. The trench is sloping and filled with fallen branches, causing the water to muuter as it passes by. A little more upstream the bedding of the stream becomes rougher, with large stones changing the brook's complaints into a merry chatter. Occasional snowdrops have shown up along the bank, matching the white bubbles of the brook where it clashes on the pebbles in its way. Here the path divides. One line veeres off from the brook, back to the road. The other route opens with a bridge crossing the stream, leading to a path running up a woodsy hill. I am not in the mood for another cabin in a forest. Neither do I feel like going back to the road. I look at Jud to see if has the same thought. He does, I just know so. We cross the stream by the bridge. On the other bank, we slink between the logs of the railing and here we are, on the other bank of the stream, that now laughs at our plan to leave the beaten path. Jud laps up some of its water, then, tail high, wanders further upstream. I follow him. We keep up the same pace for half an hour or so, then I slow down. It must be around noon, I want my lunch. But Jud is not hungry nor tired. He walks on, in spite of my calls. I stop. Would the dog at least mind that? A couple of hundred yards away he halts and turns to check up on me. That's all he does. He doesn't come back nor does he sit down. His eyes implore me to go on. "OK" I mutter and pace up again. "You'd better know where you are taking me." Jud scratches himself with his hindleg until I'm close to him... then he sets off anew.

I see now where he is heading to. A watermill. The mill is not working, and from the looks of it, hasn't been operative for a long time. But the house is still in use. Through the windows I can see lamps, furniture and playful, colourful, decorations. I follow Jud upto the house, planning to hook him onto his leash and keep him away from this secluded place. But the dog suddenly makes a run for it.... disappearing through the thick hedges that enclose the back yard. Quite a large, not to say immense, back yard.
Just as I muster up the courage to walk to the front, there's a new attack on the hedges. Starting from the garden side, coming my way. A dark complexed woman, of indonesian heritage, appears. She's walking on her bare feet, in spite of the cold weather.
" Is that dog yours?" She motions in the direction of the hegde and I nod. Awh, what havoc can Jud be causing?

to be continued...

Monday, March 26, 2012

From Dark to Light

Don is not himself today. Sure, he is agile, and definitely not someone who sits down for hours. But now he's walking through the kitchen looking for something to clean, to make, to do, out of sheer restlessness. Which is quite a different matter.
In the livingroom his pacing is being noticed. Harry drops his newspaper, seeks eye contact with Roy, who's at the table bent over his law book. As if he feels Harry's eyes, he looks up, straight at the man who has been his 'substitute father' ever since his boyhood. Harry raises his eyebrows, Roy shakes his head in answer. Obviously Don is brooding over something, but who will be the volunteer to pry it out of him? Not me, Roy is thinking.
The older man plans to sit this one out. He has taken it upon himself to let his ex wife's son and his son in law become brothers. He's not going to cut in, in situations like this. “Why don't you go to him and talk to him?” Harry tries to sound casual and acts as if he's burying himself in the newspaper again.
“Beg pardon?” Roy stays where he is. Copies Harry's trick albeit with his law book.
“Come on son, you weren't studying. You were only gazing at the pages.”
“What do you expect me to do?”.
Harry smiles inward, at least Roy doesn't argue the non sequitur he created. “Why don't you just talk to him. That's what you'd do if he were your brother, right?”
Roy is folding his arms in defence, He would just as soon let his brother solve his own problems, he argues. Harry raises one eyebrow, looking straight at the blond young man a few feet away from him. He used that look when puncturing the scanty lies of the teenagers who were entrusted to his care.
“Are you still afraid of Don?” Roy tilts his head as a response. This ís an interesting view point. Is he? In the kitchen a chair is pulled across the stone floor, the sound reverberates Don's short temper and impatience.
“Yes, I am.”
“Why don't you go Harry?” Roy tries to taunt Harry a little.
“I want you to talk to him. And as your adopted father I can ask that from you”
Harry hides his face behind the newspaper, but not without noticing some funny wrinkles coming up at the side of Roy's eyes, mocking Harry's bluff. Does Roy really plan to continue this dialogue just to let Don do his mulling on his own, Harry wonders.
“Since when have I adopted you as my father?” As he utters the question, Roy feels a bit like a traitor, but it's done.. the words are spoken.
“Implicitly during your teens and explicitly... when Phoenix came here.”
“Actually,” Roy thinks, “you were the most explicit about it.” But he keeps his words to himself. Why hurt Harry? Besides, he likes the idea of Harry taking him for his son, how inofficial it may be. And how hard it may be for Roy to express his appreciation. The young man leans back in full length, smiling like a seraph. In the kitchen the chair scratches the floor once more. Don gets up, starts pacing again. Harry puts down the newspaper. “Roy, if you are planning to talk to Don, do it now. Or else I'll go myself.”
Odd, Harry's last remark is the argument that makes Roy get up from his chair. He doesn't want to back out. Or doesn't he want to end up being left out, once Harry and Don start solving Don's prying problem?

Harry folds up the paper, his ears open to the dialog that will enfold in his kitchen. That's easy, Roy is leaving the door ajar.
“Hi, what's up?” the latter asks with his back against the door.
Don looks up in surprise. His eyes narrow when he realises Harry probably sent the younger man to him. “Did Harry send you?”
The remark is like a sting to Roy, especially because of the tone. “Does it make a difference?” The youngest tries to soften the tone, but the darker, jewish man doesn't get it. “Of course it does” he retorts. He gets a shrug for an answer, while Roy turns to leave the kitchen. “You know, Don,” he casts just one glance at the dark brown eyes across the kitchen, feels seniority over the man he sees, even though he's five years less of age. “We went through this the night Harry brought in Phoenix. You haven't learned a thing.”
In the living room Harry holds his breath and finally realises that even he walks on his toes during Don's tempers. Time to enter the arena himself. Or not? He gets up, yet waits for what comes next.
Thus missing the embarrassment in his son in law's face. Don turns away from Roy, lays back his head
and sighs. Wishing he could bite off his tongue. “I'm sorry. I'm sorry. It's just...” Don holds back, does he really want to confess all the thoughts he has been entertaining the last two hours, or is it enough that it dawned on him how impossible he has been behaving. Enough, so he doesn't need to talk about it now?
“Come on, what's up?”
Don shakes his head. “No. It's just stupid.”
Roy sits down on the bench at the kitchen table, right across his 'brother'. “Try me.” His grey eyes are open and vulnerable. His smile is without any mock or disdain. Just plain and honest. In the door opening Harry appears, it's becoming a family gathering. Better get it over with, they'll drag it out of me anyway, Don thinks. And confesses he's been making himself crazy about Phoenix. How she recoiled from him, when he tried cheering her up. Even though he took care not to cross her boundaries. That she prefers to keep her grief to herself. And how he doubts she will ever accept him as her father and her friend.
Even before Don ends his complaint, one corner of Harry's mouth is twitching. Roy notices and knowing why, has to look away. He can't smother his grin, it runs from ear to ear. Don looks from Roy to Harry and back again, feeling more left out than embarrassed. “Whát? What's so funny?”
You are.” Harry walks over to Don, pushes him on a chair. ““You are complaining about Phoenix recoiling and keeping her grief to herself. What do you think you've been doing the past hour? Keeping your thoughts to yourself. And the way you lashed out at Roy, when he asked you about it.”
Don is not amused. “Don't use a likeness between her and me as an excuse to ignore her problem.”
“We're not doing that,” Roy enters the conversation. “But you have to admit that somehow it's funny. And a warning. It may be pretty hard for her to shed that behaviour, since it in her genes.”
“I have been thinking about what you said. ”
These words make Roy raise his eyebrows, almost. His 'brother' Don, thinking over his words? It's time to laugh at himself now, Roy thinks, for he hasn't seen the respect Don has for him. Taken his brother's expressive style as a sign of scorn. “What did I say?”
Harry pulls his chair closer to the table , closing the circle.
You said,” Don is looking for words. “That Phoenix seems to trust us. But in fact she is only playing along. Letting us get close, without actually trusting us. Knowing that complying is the safest way to maintain a supposed truce. While she fears that one day... we may turn on her, become like Edmunds.”
Harry nods. The child is not being a bother, not playful, not experimenting, unnatural. Sure she has discarded most of her fear... but all of it? “So?” is all he says.
“I wish I could come up with a way to convince her we are not like that.” Harry nods, and picks up the problem as Don has put it down.

Roy is looking away from them, he doesn't like what Don said. Just can't put his finger on it.
He stays out of the conversation about how to build trust relationships, problems Harry has worked on with some of the teens that have lived on his ranch. Harry never worked on building trust with him. Or Don. Don had been one of those teens once...
You two are focussing on yourselves.” Roy's voice cuts through the conversation, shutting it down instantly. “Yes, you are only concerned with impressing upon her how good you are. She doesn't need that.” Roy's almost defiant. “she needs to know how good she is. That she's worth our love. Other peoples love too. The way you suggest it” Roy now faces his audience “means that each person she meets , has to prove himself first. You don't want that.”
Don is sceptical, but Harry is interested. “Go on.”
Now Roy lifts his shoulders. “There's nothing to go on with. I've no idea how to do it. But I just thought your starting point was wrong.”
There's a prolonged silence, in which each of the grown ups are thinking of these viewpoints. The first viewpoint was so easy, now Roy has thrown them into an abyss. No firm ground under their feet.
Harry gets up, getting refreshments for them all. Mostly for the sake of doing something. It might trigger a constructive thought. Behind him he hears Roy asking what stood between Don and his father. Don doesn't need to think long about it. “He had such definite plans for me. Never listened to what I wanted, never actualy saw the real son he had.”
And what made you come back to the Phoenix1 ranch?” Harry turns his head a little not to miss a word. Don could escape the question by joking about coming for Cathy, Harry's daughter.
“I guess Harry let me run free. Let me find out what I was good at. Or rather, what I liked doing. Made me feel like a person.”
Roy nods. He would have given the same answer if Don had asked him the same question.
“But we didn't get a better relationship with our fathers because of that.” Don is trying to find the weak point in Roys theory. For if there is one, he won't use it on his daughter. But that's not what Roy wanted to point out. It was Harry they came to trust. And Harry never invested in proving how trustworthy he was. He invested in making them feel appreciated, giving them responsibility for their own life, so they could gain self confidence. Yet they came to trust Harry. And care for him. “So much that we are back at his ranch even though we are in our thirties.” Roy winks at Harry as he accepts the glass with juice from him.
“Yes” the older man remarks casually, handing Don the other glass. “such a bad job I've done. You still aren't capable of taking care of yourselves.” He sits down with his drink. “Even fighting like teenagers at times.” Harry moans to emphasise his so called disappointment
“So what do I do with Phoenix, once she draws back again?” It's Roy's opinion Don is asking for, not Harry's.
Roy's habitual shrug comes first. Then he answers with a question. What Don would do in the roundpen, with a horse that would shy away from him.
“I wouldn't mind. It's part of the process. The horse will finally have to choose whether to follow me or not.”
“And they always do in the end,” Harry pitches in. Don nods. No need to be modest about the truth.
“Inside and outside the round pen you are two different persons.” Roy remembers how he and Don were to fight out their battle in Harry's round pen, fifteen years ago. He remembers the shift in Dons attitude while they were in the enclosure. “Outside of it, you are full of conclusions and need for control. I suggest you drop that. Have faith in that kid of yours. Don't judge her or belittle her. Encourage her.”
The darker man nods. He has finally settled down, getting a grasp on how to deal with his daughter.
As if Fate means to play a trick on him, the door from the hallway slowly swings open, revealing on the threshold a slim six year old girl. With slightly lighter brown eyes, but the same defensive look that Don dropped only moments ago. Don rises asking her if she wants a drink. Then changes his mind, sits down again. “The juice is on the counter and so are the glasses. I think you're big enough to pour yourself a drink.”
Instead of moving in she hesitates. Is she allowed to fill the glass herself, like the grown ups do? What an unexpected honour. Don sees a shimmer of pride lighting up in his child's eyes. 


1The fact that the ranch has the same name as the girl is purely a coincidence.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

True Friends

   How can you know a friend is true?

   Friendship should make one feel happy, right? But not just in receiving. In giving also. And maybe not straight away, or not at all times. And maybe not that exuberant kind of joy, but one like little gems you can make a necklace with after a long time. Or that you carry with you in your 'pocket' [your memory; translator's note.]
   Fact is true friends don't leave when things are going bad. That's when they support you. Or you support them. 
Just watch ... any help from a friend triggers the wish to pay it back. Or forward.

   I do not agree with Ecclesiastes, when he claims that Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. (Eccl. 7:3).
   I remember feeling very tired once, while on my way to my work. I was fearing the next 6 hours I had to spend behind my desk... At a crossing I had to slow down my bike to let an elderly woman cross the bike path with her shopping trolley. She stopped and motioned for me to go first. Slowly I increased my speed... then she smiled at me. And I smiled back at her. In that short moment, in which we made a connection, I felt all my wearyness disappear. I felt wide awake and strong and relaxed.
   Now which friends make me feel that way? Joyful, supported, supportive and connected.

   What about the High Self Esteem I'm so often writing about? Without it, you will not act, having been delayed by doubts and being put off by your fear of failure. With sufficient Self Esteem you will either know you won't fail, or simply not mind failing [failing can be fun and it opens doors]. Self Esteem is not like being vain or egocentric. It simply makes you feel comfortable around others and you connect to others easily. You don't pull away, being too shy, but you 'radiate' something that disarms others. It is allowing you to spontaneously help and share, because you don't believe that people will turn your offers down disdainfully. Self Esteem definitely is a true friend.

   I don't like naming the obvious true friends... did you think of this candidate: Responsibility? True friend or false friend?   
   Irresponsibility, after some unthoughtful acts, leaves you in the midst of havoc and remorse. Definitely a false friend.
   What does Responsibility create? It makes you a person who wants to act wisely, a person who will deserve respect -and no doubt will get it from those who are wise enough to recognise its value-. It will keep you far away from regretting things, so you can spend your talent, your power, on going after your soul's deepest wish.
   Answer: true!!

   Last but definitely not least ...Lady Love, Lady Fear's antagonist... Love, not to be mistaken for lust, is not exuberant. Yes it is a happy and powerful feeling inside you, but it remains modest even though it's as strong as steel. To me, it gives a sense of fulfilment. Love can make you laugh or jest, but it is not flaunting, fleety or flamboyant. Yes it is flaming, but without burning you up. It warms you and everyone around you. What more heart warming friend can you wish for?

Love is patient and kind.
Love knows neither envy nor jealousy.
Love is not forward and self-assertive,
nor boastful and conceited.
She does not behave unbecomingly,
nor seek to aggrandize herself,
nor blaze out in passionate anger,
nor brood over wrongs.
She finds no pleasure in injustice done to others,
but joyfully sides with the truth.  
She knows how to be silent.
She is full of trust, full of hope,
full of patient endurance.
[1 Corinthians 13;4-7]


False Friends

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
   but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
Ecclesiastes 7:4


   There are those who are good to you, there are those who hurt you. Maybe they pretend to love you, maybe you are taken in by them so much that you can't see... but those who hurt you, don't love you.

   Yet it's so easy to welcome them. They praise you without holding back, and give you such good times. Awesome. Splendid. What's so bad about that?

   Your friend will tell you there's a shortcut to Hotel Happiness, right through the forest. Maybe it is the Forest of Feasts. He, or she, promises to travel along with you, if you take his/her advise.
   So you pack your bags and go. But after a while, all that seemed fun becomes a bore. You grow weary and your goal is not a mile closer than if you'd stuck to your own way.
   Your friend notices you're tired. Of playing while traveling, of tripping over sticks or getting stuck in hidden burrows. He offers to carry your bag for you, the bag that holds all that represents you.
   But his mood is changing, he's not such a pleasant companion after all. He begins to stall. And suddenly... he's gone. Leaving you in the middle of a dark forest, tired and lonely. Robbed of all your tools and funds. Of your talent and energy.

   I can give you the names of some of these con artists. Like Greed. He robs you of your ability to share, or do without. He makes you concentrate so on getting the best, it makes you a bad friend to others. 
   There's Fear, a lady who will take you to rock solid Safety, making you forego the riskier moores, where you might have uncovered your soul's yearning.
   If you turn Obedience into an art, it will stop you from defending whom, or what, is dear to you. Instead it will tie you down to undesirable commitments, that drain you and lead you away from who you are.

   The list of names is long, and if you take time to think, you can write down other names yourself. 

to be continued ...

Philosophical Exercise 1 [pre S-serie]

Just a little training in philosophy for those who can't sleep. 
Or have piles of dishes to wash or laundry to iron...

What is Wisdom, is it the same as knowledge?

Compare your answer with this ...

Love never comes to an end.
There is the gift of speaking what God has revealed,
but it will no longer be used.
There is the gift of speaking in other languages,
but it will stop by itself.
There is the gift of knowledge,
but it will no longer be used.
[1 Corinthians 13:8]

And compare it with my post “ Essentials