I am grateful for Flanders Fields. Tonight I went for a walk with my best friend Jolien and what started off to be a little stroll in the park behind our backyard, turned out to be walk for about an hour through the beautiful Fields that surround our neighborhoods. We had great conversations about forgiveness, relationships – especially long distance ones – and our future. Just two best friends enjoying time together against a gorgeous setting. I was so glad I had brought my camera, because nature decided to give us one of their best shows, as if we were being treated as a thank you for us spending time just wandering through those glorious Fields. We decided we are both lucky to have grown up where we did and to have been surrounded by all the beauty and joy of our environment. And every time I get to be at home for a while, those Flanders Fields just feel like a gift. One I will treasure forever, deep in my young smiling heart. And even though me experiencing those wonderful Flanders Fields have no obvious connection with World War One, there is just no way to disconnect it from each other. So with this I would like to bring tribute, yet again, to this beautiful contribution of Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae:
- In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
- We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
- Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
I am grateful for The Sun. Besides being the source of life, it is also often the source of my happiness. My day completely changes with or without sun. Everything seems different. The Sun has always meant a lot to me. Not only to me. Generations of cultures have worshipped it as the source of their existence or the highest force in their hierarchy of mythology. As a kid I absolutely loved learning about it and enjoyed comparing Greek with Roman and Egyptian mythology. There is so much to learn about it, because so many people have done research on it or talked about it. Anyway, bottom line is that I have always been fascinated by it. It even got to the point that I decided to tattoo one on my back. You see, the sun is more than just the source of life in general, for me it means the source of life of my mother. When she was diagnosed with cancer and her thyroid was taken out, she was completely dependent on medication. Even with all the radiation she was getting, the doctors were afraid that she wouldn’t be able to make it, that she would get too weak and that her entire hormone system would get out of balance. Before this happened to her, I never even knew about a thyroid and how important it is to our body. Neither did my mom. I guess I can say we learned about it the hard way. So now, for the rest of her life, my mom is dependent on all kinds of medication to keep her body running the way it is supposed to run. There is one exception though: The Sun. The Sun helps her feel better, helps her get a natural portion of Vitamin D, which gives her a lot of energy. This always caused this personal internal dichotomy for me: My mom is one of the hardest working people I know. She as well as my dad have always worked hard and in doing so inspired me to do the same. I realize now it has become one of my key values: Honesty, Passion and Hard Work. It is something I want to live my life by, but not in a forced way, it just comes very naturally. However, with my mom’s health it was crucial for her healing process to rest a lot and to spend a considerable amount of time in The Sun. Laying in The Sun obviously seems the complete opposite of working hard. Yet I know how important it is, how much value it has. The Sun is an incredible thing. And even though I know it is her body that’s creating that vitamin, it is still being instigated by The Sun, just like it instigates the growth of nature. It’s actually just a magnificent big ball of gas, still it’s nature’s work of art. I am impressed by it’s invisible beauty day after day. And one of my favorite things is to feel how it caresses my skin. I love the Sun. I am so grateful for it’s existence. Without it my existence wouldn’t be possible. Thank you.
I am grateful for Clouds and all the breathtaking formations they create. I sometimes feel like it’s a never ending ever changing work of art. In the morning you see them float in from the mountains colored by the rising sun in tints of soft pink, orange, yellow or just pure white. During the day they sporadically appear in clumps or perfectly designed shapes or they simply hoover together creating a tapestry of future condensation. From the darkest purple, blue, grey or almost even black to the clearest snowy unpolluted fresh white. In the evening a unique, unmatched, extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime live spectacle of colors and movements. Some may say that Clouds forewarn us, that they are a sign of the unavoidable rain and therefore should be disdained. I say I just enjoy the moment. I stop and watch the Clouds, knowing that this particular moment is a gift unseen and unheard of, knowing that now and only now I will be able to marvel at its beauty. Nature keeps amazing me and I am so grateful for its swiftly and perfectly composed brushstrokes of Clouds against those eternal black and blue skies.
I am grateful for the wonderful wonder called Teotihuacan. It is absolutely amazing and breathtaking. Being there gives me an inexplicable feeling. It makes me very aware of who I am and what my place is in this universe. Yet at the same time it also reinforces my belief that we are able to do so much as human beings. Look at the wonders we created! It’s almost incredible. Teotihuacan also showed me my personal perseverance when I visited this ‘City of Gods’ (which is a close translation) for the first time. This was in 2009 and at that point I had broken my foot. From the bus I made it to the pyramid of the Sun, which is the one you see behind me in the picture, in a wheelchair. At that point my determination took over and I decided to leave the wheelchair at the bottom of the pyramid. I, myself, started the climb for the top. On my butt. My broken foot straight up in the air, my arms and my other foot pushing myself slowly but steadily up towards that very, very, very high top up there. I don’t remember how long it took me, but I know that I made it. There was no other way. I would not give up. I remember being up there and having two main thoughts, one slightly later than the other one: Oh my God, I made it! I can’t believe it! Followed by: Oh dear God, I have to get all the way back down… I remember being back down. Broken. My arms trembling, my hands bleeding, my pants ripped. But I had made it! I had climbed a pyramid all the way! On my butt. Yay me! Yay determination. The next time I went, about a year later, I remember climbing it using my two feet and just laughing all the way. Last week, I was here for the third time and the place just never seizes to amaze me. It’s such a gorgeous and fascinating place. There is still so much to learn and discover.
I am grateful for Handkerchiefs. Yes, not the cool white paper tissues, but the grandpalike white cotton handkerchiefs. They just make me so happy. The world only. Handkerchief. I mean, look at it! There seems to be so much wrong with that word that it eventually turns out to be beautiful. Handkerchief. Which obviously comes from “hand” and “kerchief”, of which the latter can be brought back to the old french “cuevrechief”, which is a combination of “couvrir (to cover) and “chief” (head). Poetry. Right there. Love it! Anyway, so far semantics. I guess those five years of Linguistics did leave their mark… I love the object that word represents. On a regular day I would feel incomplete without them. This is what the pockets of my pants look like before I leave the house: my cell phone goes in the front left pocket, handkerchief in the front right pocket, wallet in the right back pocket and the left back pocket is always open and seems to be the spot where I automatically put spare change while in a hurry, or a note with something on, a business card, a receipt,… It’s a natural system that kinda grew organically and I just stuck with it, because it works. In general I am grateful for Handkerchiefs, I like them so much better than paper tissues. Not only are they softer to blow your nose in, but you can reuse them. And in more than one way! You can obviously wipe your nose with them more than once, but you can actually wash them and reuse them the next day. How genius! An invention brought back from the past. No wasting of thousands of paper tissues. No trees unnecessarily killed. Handkerchiefs, the silent saviors of our planet. Oh how grateful I am for thee!
I am grateful for the beauty of the Jacaranda. It is a gorgeous flowering plant that keeps on surprising me every time I encounter one on my way. That’s exactly how it feels: I just run in to them. They are spread out over Mexico and I find them on the most random places. According to Wikipedia, the Jacaranda is native to tropical and subtropical regions of Central America, Mexico, South America (especially Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Uruguay), and the Caribbean. It is also found in Asia, especially in Nepal. It is found throughout the Americas and Caribbean, and has been introduced to Australia, New Zealand, India, Fijiand parts of Africa. That explains why I am so amazed by them here: You find them everywhere… except for Belgium. I just love the color. It’s so bright and even more beautiful when the flowers dance in the wind. I could have picked a breathtaking picture of a Jacaranda by itself, surrounded by nature, but that’s not how I discovered them. Jacarandas are found everywhere, in the most random places, like here just in the middle of a street. That’s what I love about them. You can find amazing pictures on the internet of beautiful Jacarandas by itself, but that’s not how you find them here most of the time. This is how I see them. Everyday. And everyday I am amazed by their beauty. It’s as if they brighten up a street. I am very grateful for how they do that so subtly. I know I enjoy their presence on a daily basis.
I am grateful for This Particular Bouquet. It’s not just any bouquet, it’s one that represents something. So often there is an object that’s not just an object and I am grateful for that. The one candle that burnt up long time ago, but still you leave it standing there. That little statue that doesn’t really fit into the interior of your home, still that’s where you want it to be. Those items you just can’t throw away. They aren’t just an object, they are so much more. You look at them and there is a story in your head. Right there. Immediately. A story. I am grateful for This Particular Bouquet. I gave it to my grandma on her 74th birthday, which happened last March 20th. A seventy-fourth birthday is not a special year, neither is March 20th a special day and this bouquet you might say is rather ordinary. It could have been her 75th birthday on March 21st, right when Spring starts and I could have given her a bouquet of 75 white roses. Whatever. But it wasn’t and I didn’t. It was just This Particular Bouquet. I was on my way to her place for the nice dinner we were gonna have with the family and I decided that I wanted to buy her flowers. When I stopped by the flower shop there were obviously tons of options. For some reason I liked these flowers, which I picked out myself. I felt like they had a story, as if they would fit into a beautiful movie. How they looked as if they were just fresh, but at the same time had lived for years and years. As if someone had designed them for a play, to evoke the exact setting, the perfect feeling you want the spectator to have. And even thought I was doubting a little on the way there if I shouldn’t have bought the bright vivid red roses, I knew from the moment I walked into my grandma’s living room that I had picked out the ideal bouquet. This Particular Bouquet was made for her and for her home. The table cloth, the painting, the bottle of wine and the plates ready to be put away… it all looks as if it was set. But it wasn’t. It was just this moment. Just This Particular Bouquet that made this ordinary moment an extraordinary one. And the best part is not in the picture, but only in my mind. The story, the image, the moment I cherish. My grandmother’s smile.