Friday, February 17, 2012

Castle Report, Such as it Is

i've been here nearly a month and haven't blogged about it--or about much of anything, since time is being a mega issue.  besides, there really isn't much to say.  i love it, and the kids are good, and i adore my colleagues in those moments when i can tolerate human beings at all.  but a bunch of annoying though minor health problems, mental and physical, have pretty well drained my energy, so i've done very little and felt very distant from what i have done: mostly i just want to [a]be alone and [b] sleep, preferably simultaneously.  ugh.

still it's the castle, which in itself at least somewhat mitigates the effects of depression and  insomnia with its inevitable sleep deprivation. the cold snap seems to be over; we have typical dutch weather, damp rather than cold, so walking is something i can actually do, if i can bully myself into it.  and there are always things to delight in, even at a step or two removed from your soul.....

the cold weather froze over both moats.  the fresh snow made a pretty spot beautiful,  and kids from the town skated on the outer moat. as did one of our staff, ivo, who swears he did it only because we had a responsibility to make sure the ice was safe for the local kids.  watching ivo circling the moat with the grace of a speed-skater made up for a lot of shivering.

 but the most breathtaking sight,  and one i've experienced here only twice over the years, is the ice melting.  it cracks into thousands of small, irregular pieces, turning each moat  into a large, constantly shifting, crystal mosaic that i doubt any artist could replicate.

then again, this sunday will be the annual carnival parade, and 1/2 of the students are staying for it, as excited as five year olds [and 67-year-old teachers] about their costumes and about seeing their temporary home in its festive and ancient ritual.   swingin' and swayin' and dancing in the streets. [though here, it does matter what you wear].

and then there's my friend mia.  [there are two mia's in the village, both of whom are my friends, and both reason in themselves to keep coming back].  i ran into mia  t. in the supermarket, and there was the usual hug [american] and three cheek kisses [dutch]. after a bit of affectionate chat, we continued separately with  our shopping. then mia found me, again, because she wanted to tell me her news. she is happily, gloriously, newly in love.

mia is a widow, whose husband died around five years ago. they had had a long and loving marriage,  they both determined to maintain their happiness through his lingering illness, seizing every moment of their life together.  i don't know what rene's religious beliefs were, but mia has that huge-hearted spirituality that you see in some people of deep faith--catholic, i think, in its form, since this is a catholic area of nederland, but past all boundaries except love of humanity and of life.  so when she falls in love again, on the border of old age, you can only feel that wherever rene is he is glad for her; the glow on her face, the wide expansiveness of her strong, long arms, the whole sense of love not only for her new lover but for everyone and everthing on the planet.....who could not rejoice with her? the fact that her new beloved is a woman, whom she met in a christian retreat, would not be surprising in a large city.  but well is a small, interconnected dorp of 2500 people, and i wondered.

shortly after seeing mia, i met a couple in town who knew her well.  the wife is a member of the town's chorus [run and conducted by the other mia]. so we chatted awhile about our two terrific mia's, and the woman said, with only a slight air of caution, that mia was in love again. i nodded and smiled, and she continued. at the beginning of their concert practice in january, mia had stood up and said she had an announcement to make. my new acquaintance did a great imitation of mia's typical, hug-to-the-world stance as she told them she was in love, and spoke about the woman in her life. when she had finished,  'we all sang,'lang zal ze leven,' ' ['long zal ze leven' is the  hearty, exuberant  dutch  all-occasion congratulatory song, which means 'long shall they glory'; no one here ever has a birthday without hearing it many times].

i would, of course, be happy for mia whoever her lover was, and happy too that her community rejoiced with her.  but with all the homophobia permeating so much of  my country's current discourse, the petty, ugly hatred of the religious right spewing out through all the triumphs of gay marriage and gays in the military, the fact that the person she has found is a woman adds yet another layer to my happiness for her, and my respect for the townspeople who  seem able to cherish love where they see it.

mia, long shall you and your vriendin and the people who love you live, in glory!

1 comment:

Ken Goldstein said...

Congratulations to Mia. And thank you for a wonderful post that took me back to Well. I don't think the moats froze over the year I was at the Kasteel, but I do remember that parade fondly.