The town is still asleep and the dark sits quietly around us. It’s cosy up here by the candlelight, a small body pressed against me snoring softly. Looking out the window I can see the Huguenot tower lighting up the dark forest. It is the same view that you see from the beautiful oakside, just from a different hill. It’s our first visit to this little dependance by the mystical pine tree. Out there in the garden is an old abandoned hut, enveloped in the dawn. I haven’t been inside yet, let alone to write. I’m not even writing in my art journal, I’m just scribbling on the back of a piece of paper that I found in a drawer. Life with a newborn is funny that way. Some part of me thinks back longingly to the creative dreams I had for this place. But then I remember what Stephen King said in his memoir On Writing: ““(…) put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”
Gathered under the oak tree for the summer solstice, we took a moment to reflect back on the past year. All of the ups and downs that we have shared: our heartbreak, my mum’s death, the magical road trip along the German Fairy Tale Route, a family member falling ill, the arrival of new beginnings, and… lest we forget, a pandemic affecting each and every one. I don’t think I have ever experienced the cycle of life/death/life so vividly. Faced with this challenge, I started reading Women Who Run With the Wolves. Estés’ book gave me the courage to embrace this cycle of nature with grace and made me realise that now’s the time to be in the light. And so this midsummer, we came together with family and friends to celebrate life and our unicorn love. It was through a magical ritual that we promised to each other to always answer the call of song, dance and joyousness. Like Raynor Winn phrased so beautifully at the end of The Salt Path, “Life is now, this minute, it’s all we have. It’s all we need.”
One of my favourite places in The Hague, besides the sea and the magical Voorhout, is Oud Eik en Duinen cemetery. Among its treasures are the grave of Louis Couperus and the beautiful remains of the chapel built in 1247 by Count William II for his father, Floris IV. But that’s not why I come here. My ancestors are buried here, so I come to pay them a visit and honour them – even the ones who died before I was born. It gives me solace to sit down under the tall tree that stands next to their grave, underneath its long overhanging branches that create a green-leaved shelter. I light the small rose-coloured candle and burn some incense, as I listen to the magpies flying past. For me it’s a sanctuary, a place of serenity and peace in the city, where I go to be quiet and listen to my inner voice. As I walk along the lanes, glancing at the names on the gravestones, I am reminded that it is a privilege to be alive. And that no matter how dark things get, there is always a place where you can find a lighted lantern.
When you live in paradise, you need never go on holiday. My little house at the beach is everything I could ever dream of. For the first time in over a year, I decided I was longing for a change of scenery and so I went on a little trip to the Veluwe woodlands. There is something about leaving everything behind – if only just for a moment. To discover unfamiliar territory and venture into an unknown world. When I arrived, it was still warm and so I headed out for an evening walk. The world was covered with rhododendrons in every colour of the rainbow. I followed a little stream into the forest and noticed something moving in the first tree I came upon. Lo and behold – it was a tiny red squirrel. I sat down in the grass beneath her. In this moment away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, I let all of my dreams flood over me. It allowed me to zoom out and see the bigger picture – how far I have come and what is still ahead. To dust off my compass and see the direction it’s pointing towards.
Five years have passed since I was attacked by a hawk. I have learned a lot about trauma since then. That it is not so much time that heals, but love – from myself, my family, kindhearted friends, and when I was finally ready, from the one who kissed my wounds. Also, that healing is painful. We’re talking flashbacks, numbness and hypervigilance. There are days I’ll be hopping through the forest, when I am suddenly scared out of my wits by a shadow, run home to my oak tree and hide trembling in a corner of the trunk, enveloped by the darkness of piercing memories. I can hear the raccoons playing outside, inviting me for a game of acorn spinning – as I lie under a blanket of leaves and try to breathe. It is difficult sometimes to open up about what is going on and let others in, because trust is one of the things that I lost in the incident. But I have also learned that I am stronger for it. The wound is the place where the light enters you. And with every step my light is getting brighter.