Spring is here, and so are all of its delights. My small garden is full of roses I have planted over the years. I used to order one every year from a specialist rose farm. Some of them survived, others did not. The ones that survived are spectacular. I feed them, Husband prunes them, and they are just everywhere around the house. Even our grocery delivery person comments on them. My biggest success and my biggest failure is no longer with us. Husband had to kill it, alas. It was a Kiftsgate Rambling White Rose. Have a look at the original here. It is gigantic, encapsulating three trees.
“Kiftsgate” quickly covered our small patio in the back garden and attracted a million bumble bees. For a couple of years. But it just kept growing. And growing. I suppose the worst thing about this rose were its thorns and its stems turning to rock-hard wood. Of course, the disclaimer said “not for small gardens”. Which is sound advice if your back garden is only about 5 x 5m like mine. But I sort of overlooked that in my enthusiasm. Well, it is gone. Somehow “Kiftsgate” inspired our honey suckle into a growing spurt, covering the patio, so all is well.
Another delight that really is not a delight and hence must be resisted, is hay fever. It was staved off by the rainy weather but now all grasses seem to have bloomed at once. It is terrible. The Dutch hay-fever-radar sites colour a deep red, which is the worst there is. I have good hay fever pills now, keeping me from the worst, but this years is really quite extraordinary. I have to cover my eyes in vaseline and preferably stay indoors with all of my air-cleaning equipment turned on. And the tiredness! Even Husband complains, although he does not have a sneeze in his non-allergic body. Son, however, is still in denial, buying hay fever tablets off the counter, just this once … Well, hay fever is a predictable reaction. Once you pass a certain threshold of pollen, and start reacting, that is it. For years. But I suppose what amuses me most is his denial. He is so like me :-). Like: if I don’t wear my glasses, no one can see me (that was my favourite at his age). Anyway, the hay fever will be gone by July.
We live quite near Paleis Het Loo, which is the palace where Queens Emma and Wilhelmina and young Juliana lived before the war. It is being restyled – a many-years project which is already overextended. We walk the outer grounds every night. The coming week I will visit it properly, on the inside, with Husband and my good once-red-haired friend who has just come out of chemotherapy and a friend. Anyway, as they were also restructuring the landscape around the palace, putting in what looks like wild-flower areas, I just could not resist. I adore poppies. They are wild and beautiful and resilient. So I ordered a pile of seeds ( a few thousands) and threw them about on the newly prepared fields. Son did his bit as well. So far, only few have come up. So then we planted about 40 poppy plants which were sent to by the nursery I bought my seeds from (thank you!). And I have ordered more seeds. And more. In a few years, the whole place should be incandescent with poppies, I have decided. It will be my heritage. Much nicer than money or material things.
There are lots of other wild flowers on those fields surrounding Paleis Het Loo. I know because we have been using this app called “obsidentify” to get to know flora and fauna. It is quite remarkable. Like playing Pokemon but for the elderly. Much easier to use than my old Flora. At some point, I will use it to find edible greens and mushrooms. But already I am enjoying being able to identify plants and flowers and trees. Amazing what I remember from early childhood – I must have had a great interest in nature, because I can still identify so many plants off the top of my head; fortunately, with the obsidentify-app, I now have the means to check and find new ones. For instance, the yellow plants (weeds) growing in my front garden are called “stinkende gouwe”, i.e. “smelly gold”. I now have much fewer qualms about pulling them up.
Another disruptive thing I did was to have my hair cut. It had grown long throughout the Corona years when I did not dare to go to the hairdresser, so I just left it – well, Husband cut it for me to one length once. It grew way down my back, getting heavier and hotter every day. But I had this idea that with long hair I would turn into this patient, wise woman, such as below (the third woman from the left). The wild wise woman. Something my sister Sigrid is becoming in her amazing priest training, which is nearly finished now.
But alas, it is not for me, the long hair or the temperament! So I went to my old hairdresser who was amazed to see me – she thought I had gone elsewhere until they saw the length of my hair. Very amusing. Even more amusing is that my curls have returned. After 10+ years! Really tight curls that won’t be tamed. Which makes a mockery of the sleek, stylish hairdo I had selected, but who cares? I regard those re-emerging curls als evidence of my inner rebel – yes , the theme of this blog.
The decision to cut off my hair came at the end of a lovely holiday. We usually take one during the first or the second week of May. I don’t like to be home on my birthday because it is Remembrance day, and also because May is such a wonderful month. Spring, not yet hot, there is no pollen, everything a lush green and flowers everywhere. We rented a wonderful little house at the edge of a wood near the beach. Son came over on his bike because we were near Leiden where he lives, and we celebrated both our birthdays. We also did a lot of walking and photography and walking along the shore. One day we went to the Keukenhof. I had always wanted to go, and now I had turned 60 I felt I had a right 🙂 Husband was a true sport and came along without grumbling. Took a million pictures, but one will have to do for this post.
The holiday marked the beginning of my return to health. If you remember my last post, things were pretty bleak on that front – my worst CFS flare up in years. But I should have remembered, just when I start to cry that I just cannot go on, things always get better. I had ordered a pile of supplements which might counteract the CFS bad-fuel problem, the anaerobic metabolism that causes my muscles to behave like they have run a marathon. The science is all here, in a PostScript. Anyway, I have been taking these supplements for two months now, and they are really making a difference. I don’t have more energy, but most of the aches and brain fog and stiffness have gone. Husband says I seem to get stronger. Great. I aim to be a super fit pensioner. That is still seven years away, so I might make the deadline :-).
Whilst on holiday, I took some time to think about work. Normally I don’t, because there is not much I can change, but I was experiencing some kind of inner revolt which was bothering me.
- Revolt against our political system, which I feel has been eradicating the social fabric of our society for the past 20-odd years. In civil service (the day job), such changes become more and more visible in the way we deal with the public and vice versa. I loathe neo-liberalism beyond anything I can put into words.
- Revolt also against my day-job, which is about (information) security. I had been researching the threat landscape, both at work and for my PhD. It looks as if citizens are becoming squashed between criminal organisations and governments, neither of which can be defended against. So what is there for little me to do against all that?
A bit bleak, eh? But there is nothing for it, other than to look the monsters squarely in the face, take a deep breath, and do what I can in my own little world. Or so I resolved. I must find some more colleagues to pass on my experience and knowledge on. That is a much better idea than running around, trying to save the world by myself. Meanwhile, I keep an eye on the lottery, but I never win. Well, as they say, lucky in love unlucky in gambling, which is fine with me.
Another thing that was worrying me is whether we should move house. We have very steep stairs, so if we become old and feeble, we won’t be able to make it upstairs. We had the stairs measured for one of these chair-lifts, and it will fit! Well, you would have to duck your head a little, but it fits. So that is one problem less. Time to revamp the place, coz it is a while since we did any painting. We will need help this time around. So Husband and I have decided to save up a bit before we start. We will start on the study. Husband has already made a maquette to scale. Exciting.
The PhD is also back on track. My professor advised me to stop reading and start thinking. Which turned out to be very hard advice to follow – whenever I think up something, I am inclined to check if someone else has thought of it, and what they said, and how they developed the thought, etc. And this habit was making me feel as if I was catching snowflakes. It is strange, somehow just thinking does not feel like work whereas reading does. It is the Protestant Work Ethics lurking inside me; I suppose. Anyway, I have been “just thinking” for over a month now (with a bit of reading on the side, I will admit), and things are progressing again. I have developed a mini theory which I am expanding on. I have also run into some interesting contacts.
- A German guy who is introducing companies to autopoiesis. The thing is, it seems to work and they are ecstatic, but no one seems to worry about why it works. Autopoiesis is about living cells. Organisations are not.
- Some interesting IT guys, external contractors, approached me. They have developed a new way of approaching problems, which is a bottom-up empowering style, rather than the traditional top down “blue” design thinking. I like them and their style very much, but for now I cannot make much sense of what they are doing: it seems to be a pot-pourri of original thoughts, sound scientific theory, well-thought out personal style and agile-style hypes. Must find out more. The conversation continues.
- Then there is this interesting guy, a business architect like me, but much more the suave boardroom type. He is clever, well read, and a self-styled philosophy with fixed ideas about language, the type of ideas that many people in the IT business have – they think that either language has a fixed meaning (being comprised of words) or that meanings come from intentions. If I can explain my ideas to him and get him to understand, that would mean that I have achieved sufficient clarity myself.
- Also talked to two security professors now. Both want to help me. One is offering to co-author my literature research on security professionals. Not too much work for him, but it would validate the paper, as I am a philosophy researcher, not a security one, despite the day job. So sharing authorship seemed ok to me. My professor agreed. Better to be generous.
I am a bit hesitant, but in my next post I will try to outline some of the ideas I have been working on. Must start somewhere, so I will start with you.
I have signed up for the reading challenge on Goodreads. A 100 books this year. I am heavily into “noir detectives”, and I don’t read, I listen. All the time. I have also been listing to some other stuff. This one: the Dawn of Everything, by David Graeber (anthropologist) and David Wengrow (archeologist). It is “is a reimagining of the history of humanity, based on new discoveries in the worlds of anthropology and archeology. According to the authors, new findings challenge what we thought we knew about hierarchies, inequality, property, and the state”. David Graeber, who died unexpectedly last year, was actually kicked out of Harvard for his anarchistic ideas, so that sparked my attention. A whopping 24 hours listening, but a fascinating book! The book is very detailed, so I will repeat the experience at some point. Recommended. For my Dutch friends, there is a Dutch translation: “het begin van alles”.