To the Great Plains, beyond the frontier. That was the plan, age 10. A realistic one, no illusions – especially being Dutch and living in the Netherlands.
To get prepared I ate everything: raw potatoes, raw beans, raw everything, food that fell on the ground covered in earth and ants, bloody meat, raw eggs, Brussels sprouts and other types of bitter vegetables I had never before been able to swallow – Out there, one could not afford oneself to be a picky eater.
I learned how to bake bread and took the mother dough with me where ever I went. I tried to dry meat and fish and fruit in the sun, unfortunately the Dutch sun…
I stopped crying: a bloody knee, a broken arm, I did not shed a single tear anymore, let alone for a nasty friend, a critical teacher, a negative adult – futilities.
My parents were proud. Of themselves. Finally their education started paying off. Not knowing it was The plan that was secretly transforming me into a pioneer, but then apparently pioneers contained many of the same characteristics as well educated children.
A few years later I saw a picture in a magazine of a weightless diver flying in the water, surrounded by magically colored fish and fantastically shaped plants and I made my mother call the local swimming pool.
– No, they did not have any diving courses, but the fire department did train their men in the pool.
I started training twice a week in the evening with the firefighters. They cracked a lot of jokes and made me swim like crazy, as if I had to be saving lives in the North Sea under the roughest circumstances.
After one year of heavy training they took me to a gravel pit for my first real dive. A black hole, visibility 30 centimeters (we did see a car), temperature 6˚C. It was amazing!
Age 17, being able to climb Dutch dikes dressed as an amphibia and dive in the North Sea, I had adapted the plan: I would study archaeology and specialize in Pre-Columbian and under water archaeology.
I enrolled at the faculty of Archaeology, studied the Mayan language and mythology and continued diving with a student’s diving association. These students were in many ways similar to the firemen, cracking jokes, drinking beer and being principally male, but they did have more or less my age and some of them even had similar plans.
Many years passed
and suddenly I realized that somewhere, somehow I had taken the wrong trail: The plan had not worked out.
For one: I was living in Rome – not that bad, but it did not match, obviously, with the original plan: the Americas.
Easily explained though: I married my husband who happened to be an Italian.
I had met him in Sevilla where I was doing research in the General Archive of the Indies for my thesis on a Dutch expedition in the 17th century to Chile.
(The expedition’s goal was to conquer the country in alliance with its indigenous population, the Araucanians. It failed. Conform the European worldview, the Dutch kept seeing the Araucanians as barbarous, wild people. Therefore the Araucanians stopped giving them food and the Dutch had to leave hungry.)
I had never thought about the country of origin of my future husband, but when I asked him where he was from and he answered “Italy”, I just gazed at him as if he had given the wrong answer and I wanted to give him the opportunity to correct it.
The Americas, or Spain or even Holland, but Italy, no, it had never crossed my mind. Although I had spend quite a big portion of my childhood in Calabria in the south of Italy where my enlarged family lived every summer for two months in an abandoned country house surrounded by acres of olive groves while my uncle, an anthropologist, studied kinship and the ‛Ndrangheta. But that had been my family’s plan, not mine.
It had definitely helped me to get prepared for the plains. Walking in the middle of the day at easily 40˚C for easily 6 hours in the Aspromonte, “rough mountains”, (Why? we were asked regularly by the local population) where, as we were told, the ‛Ndrangheta hid their hostages. Catching lizards and hunting for the shed skins of snakes around the low stone walls that crossed the sun burned fields, while my uncle interviewed shepherds.
That had been all very adventurous, but was never supposed to be my final destination. Of course my family was pretty excited about my move to the country they could only visit during the summer vacation, but I considered it an intermezzo, a side street (not my marriage of course, but the country).
Secondly, the day I moved to Italy, I started my working life. Behind a computer. And I have sat behind one ever since.
At first in the cellars of Roman monasteries, archiving theological and ecclesiastical literature, fearing the monks would find out I was brought up as an atheist and fire me.
Later on in the Art Department of an American university located in Rome where most of the students would enter the library on flip-flops and some of them even with a surfboard (a huge improvement). There I had the impossible task to ask students not to eat in the library.
Thirdly, after years of studying Pre-Columbian mythology, ending up in catholic Rome confused me. I was tired of the atheistic point of view, but the “glorious” roman catholicism did not speak to me either.
I felt stuck
and I started to become scared of many things. Things I had never before been afraid of, like not knowing what was swimming beneath me in the sea, or the abyss from my balcony on the 10th floor.
And new things I had never imagined doing anyway, like giving a power point presentation at work. Or standing in waiting rooms and lines – very much used in the big city of Rome – in which I spent days not knowing what to do nor say in order to reach a doctor, teacher, train.
And much more.
Steadily I slid into a dark pit, a bad one this time: visibility zero.
It was as if somebody had switched off the daylight, somebody with a lot of power obviously.
Then, one day, while staring at my computer screen, I simply typed “say something uplifting”. Who knew what the Web had in store for me?! I was hoping for something slightly different from the usual point of view, something just enough to lift my feet a few inches from the ground
or in the ground?
That’s the same (from my my point of view).
Of course nothing miraculous happened (in line with the usual point of view). That is… on the screen.
In my mind something was taking place: The visibility slowly increased, the black changed into a grayish substance and I started distinguishing an idea in the distance…
I saw myself catching fugitive, light tales.
From that day on, the real(istic) magic started taking place. Now that there was no plan anymore between me and the outside world I realized how much there was all around, beneath and above me to lift me up – I just had to look for it in a different way, the ‘savage’ way, using my senses and imagination.
Now I share everything I catch (or is it the other way around?)
up here in the Cloud.
Of course, it is my collection and if my catches are not part of your plans, they might not work at all, but then, I have the strong impression you are better off without any plans anyway.
(1) Claes Jansz. Visscher [Public domain], url
(2) Iduns kokbok [Public domain], url
(3) Rembrandt van Rijn [Public domain], url
(4) Venus de Milo Louvre [Public domain], url
(5) Ida Waugh (d. 1919) [Public domain], url
(6) Slauerhoff (Magazine Fleurs du Mal) [Public domain], url
(7) Jim E Maragos, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], url
(8) Shane T. McCoy [Public domain], url
(9) Bonaventura Peeters [Public domain], url
(10) Ice diving [Public domain], url
(11) Afsluitdijk [Public domain], url
(12) Unknown Maya artist [Public domain], url
(13) Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], url
(14) Paul Gustave Doré [Public domain], url
(15) Jacob d’Angelo after Claudius Ptolemaeus Nicolaus Germanus (www.polona.pl) [Public domain], url
(16) Ilustración de Gerónimo de Bibar en su Crónica y relación copiosa y verdadera de los reynos de Chile. [Public domain], url
(17) Louis Gurlitt [Public domain], url
(18) Scott Rheam, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], url
(19) Ravpapa [Public domain], url
(20) Nevrax Design Team [GPL, GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], url
(21) Giovanni, di Paolo, circa 1403-circa 1482 [Public domain], url
(22) University of Houston [Public domain], url
(23) By NicvK [Public domain], url
(24) Orvieto italy well [Public domain], url
(25) William Powell Frith [Public domain], url
(26) Georges Seurat [Public domain or Public domain], url
(27) Olaus Magnus [Public domain], url
(28) By W. T. Blanford [Public domain], url
(29) Jacopo del Sellaio (1441/1442–1493) [Public domain], url
(30) Leon Brooks [Public domain], url
(31) Leonard Kaplan[CC-BY-SA-3.0], url
(32) Samuel Hubbard Scudder (1837-1911) [Public domain], url
(33) Paolo Neo [Public domain], url
(34) Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) [Public domain], url