from Sandy Needham

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Amsterdam Reprise Dispatch

May 20, 2007

We had one more day and night back in Amsterdam. Our previous hostel reserved a room for us, though not on the first floor as before - but up three flights of illegally steep stairs. Newt was the luggage carrier, for which he acquired the nickname, 'Beastie.' The weather continued to be sidewalk café caliber.

Our friend, Jean Cristobal, met us at the Van Gogh Museum. What can I say about that man Vincent pouring his soul out in brush strokes for seven years? His passion, his heartbreak, his childlike love are all so raw and breathing from the canvases, I cannot be surrounded by them without weeping. Elise's first Van Gogh exhibit at a month-and-a-half old was the Fall 1984 Van Gogh retrospective at the Met. I could not contain myself then, either. [Do you remember, Dick Taylor, that we saw you there?] I cannot imagine anyone remaining unscathed by the experience of this fragile, earnest, fearless human expression - it not only speaks to me, but shouts and whimpers and beckons, as well.

I loved his words on the museum walls, and have already ordered the book of his correspondence with brother, Theo.

"The world concerns me only in so far as I feel a certain debt and duty towards it, because I have walked on the earth for thirty years, and out of gratitude want to leave some souvenir in the shape of drawings or pictures, not made to please a certain tendency in art, but to express a sincere human feeling. So this work is the aim--and through concentration upon that one idea, everything one does is simplified."

"The way to know life is to love many things."

I bought a poster at the Van Gogh museum for our dining room. The best part is, when you turn away from the poster, you see a red-flowering bush out our front door with yellow butterflies hovering. This is the sort of thing that makes my day!

I received several questions and comments from you, my little audience, regarding the Dutch people. Yes, they are all tall and good looking. They run a tight ship there, so one believes they could be precise, serious, stern? As tourists in Natal, they usually do not make eye contact. But then on our flight back they were a particularly gregarious and happy group among themselves. We approached a Dutch family last weekend on Ponta Negra Beach, and they were so friendly that we now have been offered a place to stay the next time we're in Holland! As one of you noted, "a hidden sense of humor is not the same as no sense of humor." And their country really works in so many ways.

We felt a little reluctant to leave Europe, where there is so much we adore, but we got over it the first morning back in Natal. The 'rainy season' had arrived, so the air had a yellow tinge, and the sea was almost black instead of the usual turquoise. Big cumulous clouds allowed the sun to peekthrough - very dramatic. But that palette and its shower lasted only a few minutes...then the sea and sky were a solid pale grey with a barely perceptible horizon between; then it was clear and sunny! This is paradise, with constantly shifting colors and lighting. And so far, not all that much rain! My hip socket was back to normal after one day on the plane and one day not walking for miles.

P.S. Sometimes you e-mail me and comment about not having much news from your 'ordinary' lives, not full of leisurely beaches and travel like mine. Well, my life is a fantasy at the moment, but please believe me when I tell you that hearing stories from everyday life, raising the children, going to work - is totally romantic to me. My beloved children and family are far away and my beloved school is far away, and I long to hear about all of your lives. Please send me a story from your day sometimes. I will find it exotic, believe me!

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