took my Kayak for a spin

Today I took my handmade kayak to the water for the very first time.
It was the one thing I chose to spend my energy on. We carried it to the stream and I had a 10 minute paddle. The first bit was Very Wobbly since my kayak has a flat hull. It’s an East Greenland type: fast, small, swift and excellent for cutting through waves. It lies high on the water, with little gravity to stabilize it.


On a flat Dutch canal, with a kayaker who’s been severely wobbly for some time now, it was quite an experience! I trip over sunshine beams on a good day so you can imagine how non-co-ordinate I was, kayaking for the first time in 7 years in a high performance and skittish boat I had never paddled before.

Just 30 seconds out on the water and I had to row back ashore. I was trembling and close to tears with excitement and with the trouble of keeping the kayak from tipping over. But after a little breather it went better.

When kayakking these kind of boats you somehow have to detach your torso from your lower limbs. Your legs are for locking the kayak and making it an extension of your body. This is really how it will feel: your lower limbs will have the shape of a kayak. Walking is forgotten, you are now all about slicing through waves, surface tension, setting a course and undercurrents. A different language with different references. And you won’t think twice about it.

Your torso is for paddling and looking ahead and for calm breathing. When you paddle correct your torso turns, from left to right, and it’s a wonderful motioned rythm. I didn’t get to experience that today but I will later. I remember it from the fjords around Bergen, Norway, and it’s a most wonderful rythm. It connects the spirit.
I did find the calm breathing. And as soon as I “detached” the torso from the legs, the kayak became stable.

This kayak I made back in 2007, in a course in Norway under supervision of Anders Thygesen, the Kayakspecialist.
He has various ‘patterns’ for specific uses: long daytrip-kayaks or swift cutting through the surf-kayaks and many more.

They are all tailormade: first length is determined, based on desired main use of the kayak and your length.
Then you sit in a “toile” and exact notes are made of where your feet should be met by a beam (this is where you put pressure when you use your paddle) and how far back the entrance should be and how wide. Then it’s noted where your knees are supposed to meet a support beam (this is how you keep a kayak stable, you lock in. This is how you can roll a kayak back up when you’ve gone under).

My support beam is made of a vintage piece of oak from the forest the Danish King planted to make tall ships centuries ago. I love a bit of peculiarities in any handmade thing. Anders promotes this too. He invites you to name your vessel too.
You can just see a bit of that characteristic oak beam, in the roof of the entrance.


No screws or pins where used. They are all handmade wooden dowels.
The “ribs” were bend using steam (after laying in a Norwegian stream nearby for a night). This is the bit Anders does for you, he does this by eye and the whole hull has to be one whole, shapewise.
The fabric is regular heavy canvas, painted with some weatherproof paint. It’s the last bit to go on. First you make it into some sort of glove by sewing shut the sides and then it is pulled tightly over the frame. This takes about 5 blokes, all pulling.
Then you sew shut the last flaps and shape it properly around the tips. The seam stitches vary from flat fell and various others.
In the end a hole is cut in the middle and the entrance is made: placing the round wooden ring (this is the only bit that is glued, this and the paddle. All other wood parts are held together by dowels) and attaching the canvas to it.
Then the canvas is treated with linseed. That’s the reddish colour you see on the canvas at the inside of the wooden ring. The outside is painted with paint. (white) and I put a green coat over when I got the kayak back to Holland.

Some of the stitches used:

These are all traditional Inuit methods and skills. Only the canvas is not original, it would have been seal skin. Using the same stitches though.
It was a wonderful experience, building it. I so much like materials and hand skills.

I hope later on this year to make a little trip up the canal with the kayak. I’ll clean it a bit. Put in the waxed ropes that lay over the deck and that hold the paddle (and the reserve! Never get lost on the water without any paddle)

It was lovely, having it out again.
In the city I have a full fjord gear: clothes and tools to deal with paddling in life threatening cold waters of the north. But in these Dutch waters I won’t need them. I run more of a risk of botulism than of hypothermia here.

I would love to make and attach a “skirt” to it: a piece of cloth that is attached to your waist and goes around the wooden entrance hoop. This will be a watertight seal and when you tip over your kayak will not fill with water.
You could tip it back, upright again. But this requires a special “flip of the hips” that I have not mastered yet.
So when I flip over I’ll have to swim out of the kayak, turn it back up, try and empty as much water as I can, crawl on the deck, empty more water, get inside, get to shore, dry myself, change clothes, empty it and have a lie down.

It has been a couple of hours since I took it to the canal this morning.
Of course, when I got back home I crashed. This is called PEM. Post Extorion Exhasution (I’m so tired I can never remember where PEM stands for). It’s when ME or CFS people crash (long) after they’ve been physical active. This has to do with the mitochondria not working properly and not being able to replenish energy after it has been used.

I’m happy to report that after two hours of laying flat and only being able to hum or moan I was able to eat something and spend the last hour writing this (a cognitive activity).
An illustration how my resilience os growing.
I might even be able to go outside and enjoy the Spring day for a bit.

Either way: I spend all my spoons on kayaking today and I am chuffed!


How to enjoy perfection

When something’s perfect it nurtures a deep need in me. It’s not an “Oh, that’s nice” kind of thing. It’s a fundamental, existential kind of thing.

Especially when humans are involved in the creation of perfection I experience a deep and total sense of happiness. Fulfillment even.
On such occasion I feel the full extent of being a human myself, of being part of a society and of the advancements that come from dedication, attention and precision. I feel very connected to the person who put in the dedication and created perfection. It’s like a dialogue and I am actively participating, even though all I do is observe or notice.

A perfect meal. A perfect performance. A perfect art work. A perfect wedding. A perfect urban project. A perfect piece of writing. A perfect scientific experiment. A perfect political summit. A perfect cup of coffee.
When things are just right, it gives enormous pleasure.

Seeing how things could be perfect is a trait many people have.
“If they would just….”
“If only they had….”
Wether it be crafting supplies or politics, if “they” would only aim a little higher, co-operate a little better, think things a little more through!
Then the world would be perfect.

I have a personality type INFJ (or INTJ) that revels in these traits. Both the need for perfection and the habit of seeing things in the big picture.
I think in broad concepts. I see the world as a whole, where everything is intertwined. Where everyone is connected. Both from the present and the past.
Reality gets me very frustrated because it’s nitty and in gritty nature and things seldom end up júst right.

When I was young I wanted to fix the world. “Just give me the reigns and I will wash this puppy clean!”
Minister of State, that was going to be me. (I was oblivious to the nature of politics, a game I don’t play well.)

When my brother died unexpectedly reality came right to my doorstep en kicked me in the shins. (and smeared poop all over my door and set my house on fire)
I was not having it. I would not accept a world where my brother would just die at age 19, from a natural cause. (myocarditis from a flu virus)
So I didn’t. I sat there, arms folded, glaring at reality, waiting for it to behave.
It didn’t.
Slowly I learned that life is not perfect and that I am no player in its match.

Now I still see many scenario’s in life that would lead to perfection, or at least a diminishing of human suffering, if only “they” would do so-and-so.
But I’ve learned to bear the frustration that “they” will do not. And that that’s ok. Because that is how life works. And reality.

I now try to identify and cope with trends I see and that will affect my life.

For example, around me the landscape changes. Nature will have less of a place. Animals will disappear. Silence will never return.
People are building things, operate factories, drive cars and trucks. This is life.
I would love for it to be different. But that’s a dream that’s never going to be.
So instead I will view my cabin and its little patch of nature as a little getaway form the city. No longer shall I compare it to the vast nature reserves of Norway or the landscape of historical Netherlands. When I instead compare it to the little post stamp gardens from the city, it feels so much better. I appreciate the bird species, the various bees, the hares that live around my cabin.
I appreciate what is, not what could have been.

Another example: the changes in society. People now live faster. They decide quicker whom they like, whom they dislike. There’s more shouting in the streets, less talking to the neighbour. There are more crowds and more unsanitary behaviour induced by crowds. Even entertainment is influenced by the larger number of people it serves: big plastic prevails. If it looks the part it’s good enough, it doesn’t have to bé the part. Illusion is magic enough.
As a society the Netherlands have long lost their trait of tolerance and hospitality (if we ever wore those badges rightfully).
Perhaps we need to because this country is growing fuller and fuller. When people live close together, social attitudes change, no doubt.

Instead of moaning about the good old times when you could leave your bicycle unlocked (and so many things were wrong behind closed doors) I could take an interest in the humanity flux. Observe it. Theorize about it. Pretty much like Desmond Morris did 50 years ago in The Human Zoo.

I could look at Japan and New York, to get an idea where the Netherlands could be heading. And what gems emerge in those two settings that might grow here too.
Gems in the sense of urban structures such as small vegetable patches on rooftops. But also in the urban society where new communities rise, gathered around subjects old-country-people could have never imagined. Dungeons and Dragons, Graffity and Skateboarding are some of these subjects I remember from the 20th century. I wonder what would be the current things.

But let’s go back to my desire to enjoy perfection.
Over time I have learned to curb my desire for perfection in the big things of life.
Life and death; politics; economical progress; education system; world health etc.
They are well and good out of my reach. And thinking I could define perfection in any of these subjects would amount to megalomania.

Then there are the slightly smaller things where I personally still have no influence over and where perfection depends more clearly on the action of specific people.
Fashion; TV-series; music industry; craft supplies; husbandry; media coverage; internet behaviour; monetary art appreciation; genetic manipulation of crops and animals etc.
I do well to stay away from expecting perfection in any of these areas too.
I could think about it though, how perfection would look like in any of these areas. But it would end up in frustration because it never will.
Better to realize the imperfections whenever I deal with any of these scenes and work with them. Remember that the paper lies exaggerates so don’t get worked up about something stupid or insensitive it reports. Realize forum users are just people, the majority of them good hearted (albeit a bit clumsy verbally). Get your crops from a farm far away from GM crops.

But I still have that craving for enjoying perfection. I would very much like to experience perfection in my life. It makes me feel alive.
So I turned to subjects that are under my control.

But I’d be a fool if I strived for perfection in the big things in my life. Career, marriage, my body, friendships, other things that are close to the heart. These are just the things that will cripple a perfectionist if she focuses on any of them.

Because these are the things that will never be perfect.
And these are the things that will need more time and energy to get to perfection than any human can invest.
Stay away from trying to make these things perfect.
Enjoy the kinks and wrinkles in them instead, they are illustrations of how reality works. Noticing and “forgiving” the imperfections lets you personally off the hook too, there’s no need to demand perfection from yourself in these areas. Just like you do not demand perfection from your friends, your colleagues or they way your body operates.

So I decided to feed my perfection-hunger in the small things of life. The things where 20% effort gives 80% result and the last 20% result do not require an 80% effort.
Things that do not matter if they are imperfect.
But when they are perfect, I enjoy them sincerely. The full bouquet of attention to detail, dedication and an expert sense for proportions, colour and material is to be noticed and enjoyed.

It’s like fine art. But with humble subjects.
Japanese martial arts, including the arts of Sumi-é and Ikebana, come to mind.

A perfect cup of tea.
Stroking the cat just right.
Arrange silver ware on the table perfectly.

I’m not talking about “enjoy the simple things in life”
I’m saying: “Scratch your perfection-itch with the small stuff. And get to work on the big stuff. Sweaty, fallible work.”

In my life I have chosen like this:
I’ll strive for perfection in cups of tea and hobbies and once in a while Japanese food.
As art and design need to be perfect in my mind, which is a personal opinion that I cannot defend nor escape, I have assigned them the label of “hobbies”. That means I get to play around and aim for perfection but results in reality are not mandatory. Public recognition as an artist is off the table. (I’m astounded, I just reach this conclusion, writing this paragraph)

Getting results, getting public recognition (for my sweaty and imperfect work), will be on the subjects that I enjoy doing but that do not wear the yoke of perfection (for me). They are writing (both scientific journalism and little stories) and illustrating (of those stories).
So that will be my job. (wait, what?! astounded again. This is it?)(It sounds like it.)(It’s logical.)(I’d love it.)

I know all this thinking is a roundabout way for organizing ones life. Who else thinks like that? But that’s the way I’m wired and that’s what works for me. I need some sort of conceptual structure of life, me and the world I live in. Some concept of how to interpret the daily hours for me to live in happily.
I blame INFJ:

INFJ’s always need to have a cause. People with this personality type always want to know that they are moving toward a worthy goal and may feel disappointed and restless if this is not the case.

You say it like it’s a bad thing…

Anyway. If that’s my trait, and I concede it is, I need a way to work with it. I think I’ve found one.
But I also may be an INTJ, I’m not sure. I do have mayor extroverted thinking going on and I don’t recognize myself in the airy, floaty image of INFJs that is often presented.
Either way: Introverted Intuition for the win!

When feelings are lies.

I came out of a dangerous depression. Which was caused by a lack of vitamine D, that all important hormone.

Even though I knew the depression had a chemical cause it did not hurt me any less. My ratio was no match for the powerful feelings.
It even went so far that I was not to be trusted to be by myself any more. The restrains on suicide had been eroded. And I am an efficient person.

The depression had been building from the start of January. By the start of February it was bad. I was like a caged animal. I knew something was wrong but I could not figure out what. I changed everything around: my stress levels, my diet, the methylation, the HRT, the place I slept. Nothing worked.

By the end of February it was becoming dangerous.
Just two days before I was to have myself committed or killed (yes) I thought of the vitamin D. Just gave it a shot.

I took one extra pill of 25 mcg, on top of the one I take every morning.
45 minutes later the depression lifted.

I was shocked.
And then outraged.

Later in the day the depression doomed over me again. Another 15 mcg of vit D took care of that.
This happened the next day too. But each time the depression lifted.
Within a few days I got rid of the depression all together.

I am still very angry. Because these kind of emotional rollercoasters take their toll, both physical and mental. Not to mention how much being depressed hurts, all those days of struggle, all those individual minutes of misery. And the dangerous level this one got to was really scary! I had left that level years in the past, it is not good for moral to have it resurface.
How it could have been avoided altogether. If I had just thought about it.

In October my doctor had told me to half the dose of vit D because my blood levels were now perfect: 85 where 60 to 80 is desired. Over the Summer I had brought it up from 52 by supplementing 50 mcg per day.
So I tapered down to 25 mcg and this is what I took all Winter.
Forgetting Winter eats vit D. As does the methylation I started. And forgetting I got the initial low level of 52 while supplementing 25mcg every day for months.

If I only had thought about vit D sooner.
But I was so fixed on those blood levels. They say too much vit D will show the same symptoms as not enough…

Now I know: MS people gladly aim for blood levels of 100.
Me, with various cell processes siphoning away the hormone and at least one receptor out of commission, should probably not go by blood levels at all but by cell functioning.

Anyway. It’s been two weeks. It was Monday the 3rd of March that I took the first extra vitamine D and had my lightbulb 45 minutes later.
Since then I’ve topped up and the depression has been gone for a solid 13 days now.

pic by Julien Osotimehin

I’ve found my optimistic self again. (it’s weird, being enraged and happy at the same time)
And in those two weeks I’ve also put in two days of solid work: research and writing.

I’m still working on a technical report to be used in the court case to stop the manure plant from being build in the field next to my cabin.
I’ve put in a solid six hour day of working at my desk. Twice.

This bids well for the future. If I can work one day a week I can do something I love: work on paper. Perhaps write my fairy tale musing. Or illustrate.

I also allocated other hours fairly well and kept stress and worries out of it.
But I have not found the time yet to sit and do that thinking exercise I wrote about in the previous post. Still having to set priorities and still not doing that too well (choosing hours of surfing over a walk or constructive thinking)(still: should’t beat myself op over things)(shouldn’t)

In the mean time it also has become Spring and my senses enjoy the sounds and smells of that. The warmth of the air. The colours. The call of the Lapwing.
My emotions run high, pulsed by the birds in my patch of woods and the way my cat jumps and runs through the grass.

I do not know what to do with these feelings. They are strong. And they evoke memories. Of Norway. Of dreams I had. Plans. Strong emotions again.

Probably nothing, there’s probably nothing one has to do with these feelings.

Last night a sense of urgency arose. That I need to get writing/illustrating soon. Because my life is flashing by. I’m already older than many (all) people who have careers.

I know this is rubbish. Nonsense. I suspect there’s a chemical in play here too.
But still, my ratio is no match for feelings.
So on my new search I go, looking for the element that causes urgency and a feeling of midlife crisis. I suspect Lithium (which shortage makes me feel a useless human being) or the Vanillin in some cream puffs I had yesterday (which excess makes me wired and sensed of doom).

I know for sure that thése kind of feelings are not the right kind of feelings. They are not the ones I get from Spring, love, beauty or shocking news. Those are real. But these, these are chemical feelings. They are not genuine. They are not me.

(in other news: I just slept two days through the night. After eating raw steak for dinner. This might not be a coincidence…)

pic by Makio Kusahara

let me say that in no way I think that depression is caused by lack of vitamins, hormones or sun light. Depression is a serious thing, not something that is easily cured.
It’s just that in this case, my case and this particular depression, I knew it was chemical. I felt it. I knew it in my bones. But wether it was from hightened stress levels (due to court case manure plant) or something I was wrecking with the methylation or sleep deprivation I could not tell.
This depression, of me, in this time frame, had a chemical cause. This says nothing of depression in other people.

It is a horrible thing to suffer from depression. Or feel suicidal. Hang in there. Just busy yourself with living through the next 30 minutes. That’s all you need to do. Just the next 30 minutes. That’s something you can do.
After that: survive another 30 minutes. No more. No less.

the will to live in a doomed world

I have a pretty clear view of where this country is heading, what with all the urbanization and increasing of production and population that’s been going on. When one just elongates existing trends from the last 30 years it gives a good idea.
Add to that the tendency of mankind to do things because they’re possible (in stead of what’s desirable) and it is clear: more roads, more buildings, more people, more houses, more traffic, more noise, more pollution in the Netherlands.

pic by Roger Waleson

Less animals, less patches of unkept nature.
Especially with the tendency of the Dutch to do everything thoroughly, optimalized and regulated.

This future is not a bad thing. It’s just a thing that will happen.
It is no good to cry over the loss of panda’s and silence and funny little frogs. These things are happening and these things are to be expected. Because we are who we are and we do as we do.

pic by Margan Zajdowicz

It is not my aim to sit here all gloomy and doomy and cry my eyes out, no matter what the tearjerking nature documentaries or accusing reports are trying to accomplice.

It is my aim to come to a mental attitude that aknowledges these processes and premisses and finds a way to exist happily within them. I just need some time to sit down and think about this properly. Apply my mind and find the nuggets.

Within this future I feel there will be a chance to witness the unexpected beauties that will develop from the new situation. Like we never would have expected LOLcats and the joy they give when we first thought about internet and its implications.

lol by Mandy Julian

In the same vein there will be unexpected new things come into existence in a more urbanised world. Already the city birds sing harder than their country cousins. Certain bugs can exist thanks to the city warmth.

Humans can get involved. There’s already something called “Guerilla Gardening”. I have done so myself, throwing poppy seeds all over town to grow some flowers.
There will be other things.

pic by Michal Koralewski

A second thing that will pop up in this exercise of thought will probably be the embracement of shrinkage. I cannot shield the square mile around my cabin from urbanization and heavy industry. But I can shield my little patch of woodland. I can optimize it for animals. And I can find joy in sitting in the grass and seeing a bee emerge from the bee hotel I made and enjoying the flowery herbs I sowed.

I also expect there will be a word or two about human culture. Therein may lie the way to happily spend time and feel forfilled as a human being in an urban world. Or at least be amazed at what’s possible and how intricate it can be.

It will be something that’ll be lost to future generations too, just like our polar bears.
In the same way we no longer appreciate the intricate meanings of a gift of flowers a couple of hundred years ago. They were like lettres! Also in art the chosen flower was a communication.
Or the way women tied up their head scarves. There was so much meaning in that. It was a form of communication. For all the community to see.

So many meanings, implications, reasons for public outrage or private chuckles in these expressions of culture are now lost to us.
And so will ours in the future. Internetmemes, ’80s music, action figures and films. Their meanings and communications are now gone or fleeting.

But joining in, becoming part of a contemporary cultural tribe, might be an answer to the feeling of doom one gets when realizing how the world as you know it is changing and that things get lost.

Other answers are denial, distraction or numbing (that last one by using drugs).
These are not my style. Although I use distraction a lot to manage the stressors I feel. When it is not the time to deal with them I use distraction a lot (aka watching movies or solving a difficult puzzle)

My style will be to identify what changes are to be expected in my country, in my environment, in my lifetime.
Then I’ll try to identify what attractive options I have to feel good about living in this world at this time. I expect at least these three aspects to be involved: trying to predict and spot unexpected opportunities budding from the new situation; embracing life on a smaller scale; looking at human culture for existential delights.

Art is one expression of human culture that delights my mind and spirit:
pic by Winnie Lee