Its been summery in the Netherlands all week, clear mornings and afternoon thundershowers. I joined friends along the riverfront terraces, enjoying the breaks in the warm sun with talks and coffees. We ruminated about the past; we plotted futures. How do I improve the business, which country has the best visa rules: where would you vacation, buy a house, bring together family, enjoy the culture, share time with friends?
It’s about time; it’s about place.
It feels funny (and kind if nice) to be taking that long view again. Maybe it comes with time. having a bit more stability and the 60th behind me. Maybe it comes with quiet places, gazing into early mists flowing across the low landscapes at sunrise.
She was alone in Arles for a reason, a reason she was still in the process of formulating. It was in France that she had found liberation, license, and pleasure. And, at 62, she returned to come to terms, finally, with her European legacy, and her American future, determined to erect new alters to old gods. Food and pleasure, style and good living, love, taste, and even decadence: She was suddenly keenly aware of the need to make sense of the old mythologies, the too easy seductions of nostalgia. Barr, Provence 1970.
‘a time for taking stock. I listened to her tale unfold in the audiobook, reflecting, as I sped across Belgium towards Calais. Life has, in important ways, started to come together again. After 2013, I don’t take that good fortune lightly.
There’s still too much rushing about, I reflected, watching rain beat against the ferry windows. But I hold time in each day for reading essays, house routines, rambling conversations, leisure excursions. Weekends hold more ambitious explorations, whether Moroccan cooking (Chicken Sofrito, below, was an experiment in tumeric vs.saffron) or dinghy sailing classes.
While I know lots about sailing, I don’t (yet) know much about small boats. The instructors are putting together bridge sessions so that I can learn how to shift weight in response to the wind, how to handle sails and right a tipped boat, gaining confidence in the hull and courage about getting immersed in the icy waters of Poole Harbour (they promise to provide wet suits).
I pause in Basingstoke for lunch, a get-together. The bakery has the largest crème horns I’ve ever seen: they look like pillows. I opt for (somewhat) healthier pizza and a longform essay:
A cornerstone of art and fashion is that some people believe what they see and others see what they believe. Tangier, filled with the latter, is a world of tainted wonder.
Expatriate entrepreneur life feels much the same now: I am one who can see the things that I want to believe in. Europe is filled with creative possibilities for composing socially and individually significant dreams and means to achieve them. Where are wonderful people of all types
The ‘tainted wonder’ is also true, perhaps unavoidable. Alongside remarkable experiences, life’s delivered some harsh rebukes. Occasionally, like the faint smell of burnt smoke and bitter aftertaste of turmeric in my Sofrito, I;m reminded of the consequences to becoming isolated, self-absorbed, stressed, careless, or neglectful. I watch it carefully; friends keep track.
You can’t confuse a happy retreat with a lifelong reality, I’ve debated this with friends in Maastricht and Dorset. Yet I remain a stubborn romantic, despite the turmeric. ‘Perhaps even moreso now, seeing both a larger life and a more intimate life. The dream is real: I catch it in glimpses during walks and in conversation.
Place, time, success, relationships.
My shared coffee-bar conversations, in the sun and along the rivers, NL and UK, friends and colleagues, are never about whether we’ll all get there.
Only about when, how, and where.