This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Bleak light in Brussels

brussels-7It was the days between Christmas and New Year. When everybody wraps up warmly and goes out to town to look for friends, items on sale, or mulled wine. When the bleak weather is easily rescued by good company as work is not on everybody’s mind.
brussels-5When the christmas tree was still relatively much alive while most around it was winter dead in the dead of winter.

But even bleak Brussels felt warm because of holiday cheer. That, and a few hot waffles and a ride on the ferris wheel.brussels-4(Brussels, Belgium; December 2016)


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Rubens’ angels and Antwerp’s angles

antwerp-3It always rained in Antwerp. The cold was the kind of wet central European cold that penetrates any warm clothing and settles in the bones. The cobblestones were uneven to walk at and I felt sorry for generations of horses that had to negotiate them day after day until the day they died.

The old town was quiet. Most bars and restaurants were closed. I wondered where they got their business from, and when. Antwerp used to be a bustling diamond merchant city (and it still is to a sense). But nothing can be seen on the streets. The diamonds have always been hidden.

antwerp-1Hobbling on the damned cobblestone streets in my heels I thought of the kilometers of water running in channels underneath the city. Antwerp used to be like Amsterdam. Someone thought more cobblestones were a more practical solution than smooth waterways.

I passed the cathedral and thought of Rubens’ fleshy naked angels inside. In the dark and rain it seemed that Antwerp would benefit from pink fat little angels outside the cathedral as well, scattered in the city.

When I finally slipped through the doors of the hotel I thought how lovely it was that one man who lived 400 years ago is remembered by the world for his pink fat little angels. There is much love for life in the work of Rubens, something this cold, edgy world never seems to have enough of. Perhaps some angels and bare warm skin would be an effective remedy against its cold and troubles?antwerp-2(Antwerp, Belgium; January 2016)


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The seemingly square abbey

Belgiumspring-2 And suddenly, behind the trees alongside the road, was a red-brick abbey. Built by someone who had an organized mind. An abbey where horse-pulled wagons once clattered in through the vaulted gate. Where buildings and their bricks were arranged in strict geometrical lines – except for the bell tower that looked, well, strictly like a bell tower. Where there was no way to cross a quadrant except for trampling the daisies on the lawn, and where people adhered to walking along the angled pavements. Belgiumspring-3But we did dare to cross the daisy-scattered lawn and walk underneath the purple beeches, and arrived at a pond which was neither square nor circular. It was simply a pond. With black swans, no less.

Belgiumspring-4And when we dared to peek into the buildings, the scent told us a story of much less square people: those who indulge in the art of making abbey beer and cheeses. And who take the time to sit among the daisies on the lawn.

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(L’Abbaye de la Ramée, Jodoigne, Belgium; May 2015)