Archive for December, 2013


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He tells me the names of the flowers
growing on our meandering road,
their petals too pleasant for picking,
and he shows me the flight of the geese
above us, in silvery sunlight.

He does this so gentle and trusting.
What is love or not? All that matters,
he’s patient while I keep on asking.
The more as he teaches of living
there are more questions coming to me.

We walk hand in hand on our journey,
the lines in his face are deep rivers,
all his tears are ships sailing to sea,
his eyes reflecting past and future.
My companion in life he is: time.

I wish everyone a very good 2014! Big hugs, love, arohanui xxx 🙂

Learning to live

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Desire to live on in spite
comes from walking near the sea,
from that overwhelming scent
of seaweed, tar and salt,
and from the movement of the waves.
Sea is the womb
where good thoughts grow.

So many lives and deaths
already passed this shore,
new starts always emerged
out of the deep dark nothing.
Giving up is easy, the sea indifferent;
to beat the undertow
means more to me perhaps.

I want to see the beige clouds
before rain, the grey skies after,
and remain in spite of all.
A proper sea will challenge every beach,
will never give up trying
to leave some proof of her attempts
behind in shells. In love. In courage before dying.



Christmas is about to start and the year is coming to an end, so time to think back. Of course there have been beautiful moments, but overall the world has not changed much since last Christmas, there still is poverty and war and awful disasters happened. The world again experienced violence, hate, envy. Not all was good in this year.

Personally this has been a rather good year for me though, as I have been able to work most of the time, in spite of some health problems that are continuing, and I sold 20 novels to my Dutch publisher 🙂 so I am grateful for that and surprised of myself!
My poetry book “Amor” was released, and there is another grandchild on the way 🙂 What the next year will bring, we shall see!

For everyone who has shared parts of their lives, part of their art and thoughts in blog postings and comments, thank you very much! I hope you will all have a very good Christmas, in the way you like it best, and have a good start of the new year. {{{{ big hugs }}}} and much love! 🙂


The next story really happened and is a repost of January 1 2010, the day I started this blog

The Christmas card


Last Christmas would be the first without my mother. We did the tree, the candles, and I bought some Christmas cards at the local photographers shop, with pictures of the island in snow. I got four of each, a total of about twenty-four I think, or twenty-eight. I was not very inspired this year, and hardly looked at the pictures of the lighthouse, the panoramic view from the dunes, and a scene in the street with the lighthouse in the background. All in snow. Somehow the spirit was not really there.

Things got worse when one aunt got a stroke just before Christmas day, aunt Esther broke her wrist and one son never made it home for Christmas because of weather conditions. (He is here now though. )

On Christmas day my husband, me and the youngest son went to my eldest son, who lives 6 km away, and whom I had sent a card as well.

“When did you make that picture of the Christmas card?” he asked while we were enjoying a drink.

“I didn’t. The photographer did. I bought the cards from him.”

I had sent him one of the street view, like I sent my cousin in Belgium. She had asked about a house in the picture. Something had been altered during the yeaRS and she noticed. I realized the pic must have been more than twenty years old. They had been made by the former photographer.

My son then wanted to know: “How come I never saw this picture of my grandmother before?”

“What?” I took a good look at the card. There were only two people on the pic.

“The woman with the sledge!” he said. “It is Oma!”

I watched. The woman was seen on the back But I knew the sledge, a typical Terschellinger design. As this sledge was very small, the handle had been made higher. I remember my father doing that. He never bothered to paint it green like the rest of the sledge.

“There is only one sledge like that and I have it here. And besides, I know that coat she is wearing,” my son said. “It is grandmother alright, going to do her shopping!”

I recognized the yellow boots. The trousers she hated to wear, but that particular year it was so cold… And yes, that coat!

“O my god! It really is her!“ I exclaimed. We were astonished. There she was, my mother, three months exactly after her burial, on this Christmas card I had sent to some people who had loved her. This way she was with us after all…

Of course it was a big coincidence I had picked this card in the shop for this Christmas. But a very nice one!

The cards are still being sold! 🙂


The lighthouse and the candle (fiction)

It was a quiet evening. Christmas eve.
The “Pythia” was sailing under a full moon. On board, captain Hessel Westra did his shift and drinking his coffee that the cook had brought to him in the stirring cabin.
“Another Christmas at sea,” the cook sighted. He gleamed outside.
Hessel didn’t speak. He shivered. Every now and then a beam of light flashed over the water from the coast. The island became visible. The lighthouse Brandaris. Terschelling.

The old farmer put his book down and his glasses away. He looked at his wife, who was sleeping in her chair near the window. On the windowpane was a candle next to a picture of a young man. The candle was flickering. Christmas eve and a silent night. Maybe it was a pity there was no snow this year.
He rose from his chair, got his jacket and wellies and went outdoors.

It was so quiet outside. Just the sea behind the dunes. The moon was shining from a clear dark sky.
A cow in the barn mewed, then it was quiet again.
The old farmer started to climb the dune and he thought of years ago. So maybe he was wrong that time. He shouldn’t have tried to force the lad to do what he didn’t want. But that was how it was in those days. Children listened to their parents, was he wrong to think his son would listen too?

But the boy wanted to go to sea. Not become a farmer. And now, years later, he knew the son had a point. But then… Had he himself not just lost his brother who was drowned? He was still wearing the black armband then!
Around the arm that hit his son that Christmas eve.

From the top of the dune he looked over the peaceful island, the dunes and the sea.
Where would his boy be now? Well, boy, he would have been forty now. Would he still be alive today?
He left that Christmas eve and he had never returned. Never they had heard from him.

On the bridge of the “Pythia” Hessel still shivered. The coffee couldn’t keep him warm. Was it really cold? He remembered that he had this strange sensation when he was young. A shiver. A feeling of bad things to happen. And then he would just know a cow would die, or lightning would strike , things like that. Odd, he had forgotten all about that shiver.
Maybe it had to do with the fact they were sailing here, so close to Terschelling, where he had lived on his parents farm until that Christmas eve such a long time ago.
There was the lighthouse. There were the dunes. And somewhere behind those dunes was the old farm, the horse and his parents. If still alive.

The old man was staring towards the sea, were he could see the light of a vessel far away. Why didn’t he just go home, inside, where it was warm.
Didn’t he hear the old horse now? What was wrong with that animal?
He turned round and entered the barn. The horse was restless, scraping his foot over the floor.
“What is the matter old boy? Huh?”

On board of the “Pythia” Hessel took over the stirring wheel from a mate and gave him his coffee.
It was strange, in the last years he must have sailed here several times, so close to the shore of his island, and he never thought about home till now. It had been a horrible fight, between him and his father. Over twenty years ago it had been and he had left and never returned to the island.
Maybe he was right then. He thought so, then. But now, he could see his fathers point of view too. So soon after the death of his father’s brother, he should have waited a bit with revealing his future plans.
And now he once again sailed by the island he used to live on.

He shivered.
All of the sudden he saw his mother, she was sleeping in her chair near the window. The candle on the windowpane flickering. The candle…
He uttered a cry.

The horse had calmed down a bit, the old eyes looked sadly at the farmer.
“So you are fine now, aren’t you old boy,” the farmer said. Just when he decided to take a look in the stable to see if the cows were okay, he could hear the telephone ring in the living room.
“Now why doesn’t she take that call?” he wondered. He forgot about the cows and hurried inside, into the living. There his wife stood in the room, a burning curtain was lying on the floor. She tried to kick out the flames. He helped her and they succeeded to put out the fire.
Still shaken she said: “I was asleep, you know, and then the phone rang. I woke up and I saw that the curtain was burning. I just tore it down to the floor. Just in time. If that phone hadn’t rang…”
“Maybe whomever it is, will call again,” her husband said.
“Whomever it was, he or she may have saved my life,” the old woman said. She put the fallen picture of her son Hessel back in its place and they both had a glass of wine to celebrate the good ending.

Hessel was still near the radio and waited. There was the voice of the operator.
“This is Scheveningen Radio again sir, I am sorry, they won’t answer the phone.”
He thanked her and stared out of the window again, over the sea. There was the lighthouse of Ameland, the next island. The shiver had gone.

Slowly the ship continued the voyage.

“Beyond the Threshold”

book-003 francina

“Beyond the Threshold” – Poems by Francina Hartstra

My dear friend Francina Hartstra is a Dutch poet now living in the city of Delft who has also lived in the United States for several years.
In 2004 her first poetry book “The Song of the River” was published by Helionaut Publication in the USA.

Francina’s lovely second poetry book, also in the English language, contains 39 poems. The collection emerged from the thought that every person makes choices or needs to make choices in life without really knowing the consequences. The poems are written independently but arranged in such manner that this thought became a red thread throughout the book.

The book is very beautifully printed and is published by Francina herself. A wonderful treasure of thoughts about loss, life and loneliness, and of course about love.

ISBN 978-90-821238-0-7

Go to Francina’s blog for more info about ordering the book



Somewhere hidden
in the wooden salt container
that you bought for me that Winter,
a smell of some sweet fungus
mixed with a cheap perfume
is waiting for shared memories,
the kind I hope you
will find somewhere too.

Keep looking for them
in the lines of old women’s faces,
like those that folded
when she sold us
a newspaper in the Newski Prospekt,
“Pravda”, which means “the truth”,
but we couldn’t read Russian that well
so the truth never hit us.

Do you remember the taste
of my father’s burning vodka
when everything was frozen?
We had chosen not to judge the world
covered with black spotted snow.
A cold war ended in the mean while
as we grew up, but where
my friend did you go?

Somewhere hidden
in the wooden salt container
is the Winter when I first saw
life as lovers know it.


My sixteenth birthday

In December 1973, a day after Christmas, my mother and I got a physical check-up, in order to get a real Seaman’s book. It was all done in a hurry, in Amsterdam, and from that moment on we were supposed to be stewardesses. It says so in that book, I still have it somewhere.

A stewardess, on a coaster! There is no such thing, of course, let alone there would be 2 of them about, but only with that piece of document we were going to be allowed to go ashore in Leningrad, (that is where the trip was going to), by the authorities there. We had to pretend to be real sailors, mama and me.

The officials in Amsterdam were very creative and cooperative.

Oh, and it turned out we were both healthy. Always good to know.

I was very excited to go to Russia, it was the only time I went there. My father got me some English-Russian study books and by the time we got there, I had learned the alphabet and some lines that might come in handy.

The ship was called Noorbeek (former Timca), owned by Rederij Spliethoff, and we were to get a load of wood. My father was first mate on that voyage, and I got the pilots cabin to stay in. It was locked by my parents every evening from the outside. My father was a bit overprotective I guess, or he didn’t trust me to behave, but I had never given him any reason not trust me I think. Anyway, it did not bother me just then. I also had to make a deal that I would occasionally wear a dress instead of jeans. Now that was the hard part as I hated dresses. Jeans for ever!

The trip went smoothly. We sailed through the canal between the North sea and Baltic, we called it the “Kielerkanaal”, and as we had a pilot on board in the canal, who had to have access to his cabin because of his trade union-issues, I stayed up that night in the wheelhouse. I found a nice place on the floor to be out-of-the-way and listened to the calm voices of my father and the pilot. “Midships!”, answered with ”Midships.” Very relaxed. There was almost no conversation. A men’s world really. Women would probably have spoken a bit. Chatted. Not these men.

After a few days, on dec. 31, we reached the port of Leningrad, now (again) known as Saint Petersburg. The dead trees used for guiding the ship to the harbour were the first thing we saw. It was cold, it froze about 15 degrees C. It stayed a bit dark almost all day. I probably wanted to go ashore right away, but that was not possible of course, it never is with ships, the custom officers have to have their say first.

Two soldiers were standing in front of the ship, with real guns, keeping guard. I had never seen a presumably loaded gun before and it scared me to bits, those things can be dangerous! One soldier on one end, we called them all Iwan and a good change that was really their name, and one on the other end. They were there the whole day, also at night. Well, they got released every now and then of course. I cannot remember ever seeing that, though. We felt awfully sorry for them. Nobody on board was quite sure whether they were there to protect the Russians from us, or to make sure nobody tried to leave the Soviet Union as a stowaway. As one of them was always right in front of my porthole, underneath a lamppost, I could see him go up and down with the tide at night.

There was a green sort of box near the gangway, with a sloping lid, and in there our harbour passes were kept. Every time we wanted to go ashore, we gave the precious seaman’s book to the soldier, he gave us a harbour pass in return and the harbour officials in the building at the entrance of the port would exchange that for our passports, and then we could go into town. Till eleven pm.

Meanwhile the timber was being loaded. The workers were so cold, my father gave them things to eat and drink to keep them motivated.

First thing when he got a change, it was my father’s duty to organize transportation from the harbour to the centre of town for the crew to spend their leisure hours. He went ashore and I followed him through the snow. He didn’t wait for me, so I really had to walk fast. I felt very adventurous, here I was, with my father, in Russia! But for him it was just another day at work, I suppose.

We came across a lonely Christmas tree, that puzzled me, I thought they did not do Christmas over there at that time. Well they did, on the 6th of January. With Father ‘Frost.’ (Djed Maroz)

There was a building, very old I remember, built of clay and it had irregular walls. We entered, there were some women sitting round a table, silent, but one of them was crying her eyes out. Something terrible must have happened. Somebody had died or something.

I looked at my father, weren’t we suppose to ask what was the matter? Perhaps we could help? But he ignored the women, only asked if he could use the phone on the wall, phoned and arranged things with Intourist, an organization not just for tourists, but also for seamen I suppose.

As it was New years Eve, we got instructions from the captain, an excellent cook by the way who made all of us a very nice festive diner, NOT to do any fireworks. It would not be appreciated by the harbour authorities. So in the middle of the night, 2 am local time, that was midnight in Holland, after the captain went ashore with drinks for the soldiers and we had all watched, knowing they weren’t allowed to accept even though it was so cold, the second mate and I went to the upper deck and he fired off a beautiful red emergency light. It went al across the dock and landed in a pile of timber. And got alarms started. Nasty sirens. We had a great time. My mother predicted that we would all be sent to Siberia. Instead we got a third armed soldier to watch us in front of the ship. Iwan the third.

The next days we strolled along Newski Prospekt, were a man in a shop wanted to sell us a fur coat. Never! The rest of the shop was very empty. All of Leningrad was a bit grim, but great. The people were silent and sad, life was tough for them, that was obvious. Things were scarce, not much to get. In a pedestrian-tunnel I sold my old scarf to a well dressed Russian man for 8 rubel. We saw the Herimitage, (Winterpalace), the best museum in the world I guess, it had 27 Rembrandts we all got to see.

We could enter without having to wait in line, as the Russians had to themselves. That was very unfair. We visited the vessel Aurora, were the Revolution started with, and also the seaman’s house, a former palace of a kind.

A woman, in full make up and probably to be rented by the hour or something like that, turned out to be quite nice actually.

There was one Russian seaman who was sitting on a different part of the bar. He did not speak to us. There we were sort of obligated to watch a film about enormous tractors, fields of waving grain and a lot of happy singing people. Boy was it fun to live in the Soviet Union!

“Propaganda,” my mother sighed. We saw it through politely. A man came sitting next to me and started to ask all sorts of things, in German, like: What did I think of Russia etc.

“Ignore,” my father said. “He just wants you to work as a spy and make photo’s in ports and such.”

Ok, as if that sounded normal! But to him it did.

The second mate had a girlfriend in town and stayed away one night. It gave trouble with the authorities.

“We will all end up in Siberia!” my mother exclaimed. He was the kind that always got into trouble, and I was not allowed even to play chess with him with the door of the cabin wide open. “We will all end up in Siberia!” my mother exclaimed again.

And there was a matter of the harbour perhaps freezing over, icebreakers not being able to fix a route anymore. If that happened, we could be stuck there all winter. I hoped for it to happen. It didn’t.

My 16th birthday on the 4th of January was celebrated on board and in the seaman’s house. I got a real balalaika from my parents, it is now in the attic, and also a gift from a very nice crew member, who did not speak Dutch. It was a wooden salt container that I have had for many years. And I got another souvenir: I exchanged a ring I had, for a pin with Lenin and a red flag, with one of the soldiers, who was not much older than me.

The exchange was pure friendly, nothing romantic! We did not say very much to each other, him standing on the quay, me on the ship. With my father being around somewhere it had to be done quickly and sneaky, and what is there to talk about, if you don’t speak each others language well and it is freezing hard. But Rembrandt he knew. When the ship left january 7, he was on the quay doing what soldiers do I suppose and I was on deck. We did not wave, hey, it was not as if we knew each other.

Goodbye Leningrad. The best thing I remember now about that holiday, was my father being a man of the world I could look up to as he walked on that quay. Of course my adolescence-battles with him were about to start…. Sweet sixteen, forget it! I must have been a difficult teen. But that holiday has left a very dear memory.

This is a repost of 26 December 2011

The place

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Not far from my home is a place
I come every time when I walk;
a space just to see nothing changed.

Ships go by and the ferry leaves port;
people wave. The sea wears the colour
of lead or is blue. Sometimes green.

Seagulls decide not to be fed
by passengers throwing pieces of bread,
enough to feed all. The birds are not keen.

They stay circling over my head,
maybe just for a talk as they
might be messengers and you sent them off.

If I listen with care I may know
what it is that you’re trying to say,
what is was that you had to go.

Life probably is not

I know what it’s not to me: Life.
It is not about experience
although one could look back in time
and be content: “so much achieved”,
one could be mute and angry too,
whatever: I shall make some notes.

Life is not the voyage to death;
that is only the dark side track,
that we die – not that important.
What makes life our reason to be?
Maybe I know what life is not.
However, I make notes and see.

For me so far life was a dream,
a journey, an adventure too,
a waiting to be found and find.
Discovery. To learn and give,
a life to live is worth it all:
all pain, each downside and the fall.

Winter idyll

a winter flower
life emerging through the snow
no sunbeam shows up

winter proceeding
hoarse crows find food under snow
all in blue darkness

a lonely cyclist
air running through his hair
no finish to reach

layers of snow conceal
wounds of the bicycle tracks
a broken flower

a dead crow in snow
run over by ignorance
tears of the black birds

satisfied cyclist
proud to have challenged winter
no respect for life

nature revenging
ten black birds come to his house
beaks puncturing tyres


A whisper

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It seems so easily to find
all that you mean to me right here
where surf and tide rule over mind,
the place we said our last goodbye.
You live in shells. In murmurations
many birds move on, towards you
but not sure of their direction.

A whisper comes from over sea
with every wave rolling ashore.
It is your voice. In every sigh,
you come to me to be on land.
You’re more and more a part of me,
then ebb away so easily.
You wash before me on the beach.

You stay at distance, out of reach,
you tease, as if you do not want
to touch my sand. You are
a whisper that with every wave
becomes more part of me. It seems
so easily from where I stand
until the tide is turning.

Bloody Christmas

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I could stay where we are
hiding from snow and be fine,
no need to get up, if I didn’t feel
how the tiny thin glass splints
of the broken Christmas tree ornament
that was over fifty years old
enter the skin of my hand.

We could have that happy feel
as if all is well for a moment
because of candles
spreading their yellow light
and outside it would snow,
if you were here too.
It is warm here and all would be magic.

We could see smiling faces
in each little fragment
of the broken tree-ornament.
But for now I am content
with just the thought of you thinking of me
while outside Winter is making things worse
and blood drops are falling on Josef.

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