(yes, it is) 23 of May – 26 of June I’ll be one of three residents in the project Walking Peace in the Avian Kingdom in Sweden, organised by ARNA at the very spot where two pilgrim trails meet in Harlösa. Walking Peace is a green, slow and peaceful way of making new connections across cultural backgrounds and religions, creating art as a statement for peace while walking. Afterwards I'll be researching the pioneer life in Värmland.


A red house, a blue house

I arrived in a red house. A house with a history, a story. A lonely house in the woods. No electricity or running water. I live here with some other people. Every day we walk the 20 minute walk to our hosts, to Jeppe and Andrea who are living the pioneer life and need help doing that. Building, clearing, foraging, gardening. I’m learning about plants, preserving food, self-sufficiency. About people and life. About myself.

Before I came here I was in the south of Sweden, near the city of Lund, in an art project about walking the pilgrim trails. I travelled to Sweden in a three piece walking suit, a suit that was part of my art project, a suit in which I walked the pilgrim trail from the west coast to the east coast of Sweden. A suit in which I collected stories.
For the exhibition that was part of this project I brought another suit, a suit from an earlier art project, a suit embroidered on the inside with 108 drawings and texts. And during my stay I bought a third suit for an upcoming project.

So I travelled up north with 3 suits in my suitcase. And I laughed about it. Because there is no use for a suit in a pioneer life. At least that is what I thought.

I had seen photos of the red house before I arrived. I heard its sad story. It made me think of Tranströmer poem “The blue house”. A red house, a blue house.

When I arrived in the house I was offered the upstairs room in the back of the house. It is a lovely room. It smells of dried plants. It has a window overlooking the forest.
In the room there is a closet. In the closet I discovered a pair of old shoes. A white shirt. A woolen suit. It has been worn a lot.

The person who lived in this house was called the Captain. Outside there’s a wooden boat. Nobody knows where he went. But he left his boat behind. His boat and a shipload of empty rum bottles. And a big stain on the kitchen ceiling resembling a galaxy.

All that and a suit.

Tomas Tranströmer
The Blue House

It is night with glaring sunshine. I stand in the woods and look towards my house with its misty blue walls. As though I were recently dead and saw the house from a new angle.

It has stood for more than eighty summers. Its timber has been impregnated, four times with joy and three times with sorrow. When someone who has lived in the house dies it is repainted. The dead person paints it himself, without a brush, from the inside.

On the other side is open terrain. Formerly a garden, now wilderness. A still surf of weed, pagodas of weed, an unfurling body of text, Upanishades of weed, a Viking fleet of weed, dragon heads, lances, an empire of weed.

Above the overgrown garden flutters the shadow of a boomerang, thrown again and again. It is related to someone who lived in the house long before my time. Almost a child. An impulse issues from him, a thought, a thought of will: “create. . .draw. ..” In order to escape his destiny in time.

The house resembles a child’s drawing. A deputizing childishness which grew forth because someone prematurely renounced the charge of being a child. Open the doors, enter! Inside unrest dwells in the ceiling and peace in the walls. Above the bed there hangs an amateur painting representing a ship with seventeen sails, rough sea and a wind which the gilded frame cannot subdue.

It is always so early in here, it is before the crossroads, before the irrevocable choices. I am grateful for this life! And yet I miss the alternatives. All sketches wish to be real.

A motor far out on the water extends the horizon of the summer night. Both joy and sorrow swell in the magnifying glass of the dew. We do not actually know it, but we sense it: our life has a sister vessel which plies an entirely different route. While the sun burns behind the islands.


that's why

And what happened to the y-shaped branches I collected in the beginning of this adventure? The ones symbolising questions? Tools to find water, the source? Or usable as catapults, when necessary?

I forgot about them. And sometimes that is the best thing you can do with the "why's".

But yesterday evening I got a second chance to watch the full moon perigee. This time I didn't fall asleep. And when I arrived at the lake where my friends were already waiting and I only had eyes for the moon after I sat down, they pointed at a big branch sticking out of the water.

(photo: sara nuytemans)

more about the Y's HERE


walking in circles

i woke up feeling strange
fully dressed on my bed, fully light outside

i missed the full moon perigee

i fell asleep at 9 last night, unintentionally
and only woke up at 6
i had been planning to bike to the lake
where my walking friends were watching
and go to the snails afterwards
but i slept

i felt sad

when i walked down the stairs to make some breakfast
my legs felt as if i had been walking for hours
and i thought of the quote i started this project with

to step is to dream

i must have dreamt a lot
and then i remembered something else

great things always begin with sleep.
great things begin by the thinnest edge.

i thought i just ended something
i thought i might have missed something
but i didn’t

*brendon labelle, handbook for the itinerant
* christian bobin, the very lowly


when snails dream of running

i slept outside the snailhouse
and dreamt of snails running
or maybe the snails were dreaming of running
and i just dreamt of clouds
ready to be harvested

i had been planning to eat the snails*
while watching the full moon perigee


maybe i’ll dance with them instead

(watch and wonder:)
snaildance 1

* like the monks did who imported them here in the 12th century; my 108 snails (and all the others ones) are their descendants


an erotic afternoon

i didn’t know what to do with the snails
but they knew themselves
they danced
and i watched them
for three hours

(watch the video HERE)

108 snails and a gallery space




where does the walking stop?
and who am i walking with?

a friend send me a poem tonight
moon rondeau by carl sandburg

i was just thinking about snails carrying moons on their backs
about the longest day being the start of summer but at the same time the beginning of the shortening of days

my favorite flowers have start to wither
and bonnie prince billy sings
about weakening his darkness by holding it close to him
loving it, being inseperable to it

and then this

"Love is a door we shall open together."
So they told each other under the moon
One evening when the smell of leaf mould
And the beginnings of roses and potatoes
Came on a wind.

Late in the hours of that evening
They looked long at the moon and called it
A silver button, a copper coin, a bronze wafer.
A plaque of gold, a vanished diadem,
A brass hat dripping from deep waters.

"People like us,
us two,
We own the moon."

some people I walk with every day
every hour, every minute


the centre

Next to the cathedral in Lund they built a labyrinth. The priests use it to do labyrinth walks, every morning at 7.15, sometimes in the afternoon as well. After our presentation in the Visitor Centre we were invited to join the priests in a walk. It was the second time I walked the labyrinth.

The first time, a few weeks ago, was with pilgrim priest Anna. Before she entered it, she told us how she usually walked the labyrinth. She took a stone, carried it with her while walking and with every step she thought about something she was dealing with in her life, big things and small things, trying to let them go. In the centre she would leave her stone behind and with it all her worries.

The first time I walked the labyrinth my mind stopped the moment I took my first step. I didn’t think of anything. I just walked with an empty head. Even though I tried to bring things to mind I should concentrate on, nothing entered my head. Only when I stepped into the centre my brain started working again and I wondered how long I could stay in there. The second time the same thing happened. I just put one foot in front of the other. No thoughts. Nothing to struggle with. Emptiness. Until I reached the centre. And the moment the thoughts came back, I automatically stepped out of the labyrinth.

There was a man in our company who didn’t do the walk with us. He said he was too impatient to walk slowly through a labyrinth. He sat at the bench on the side and watched us. Afterwards he said that everybody had been looking so serious and troubled. “You were the only one smiling,” he told me.

I hadn’t realised it. And his words made me sad. And the sadness made me smile again.

It isn’t that difficult to get to the centre. But staying in the middle is the most difficult thing there is. A lifetime usually isn’t long enough to learn the skill. And there is nobody who can teach you how to do it. You can only be your own teacher.

The best way to learn is to walk. And if it doesn't teach you all you want to know, at least you've been walking.



The priest asks: "Do you feel a pilgrim now?" and I don't know what to answer. Pilgrim is a word, like yes is a word and no is a word.

The same evening I watch the documentary “Patience” about W.G. Sebald’s book The Rings of Saturn for the second time. I am looking for a quote I had written down in my notebook without mentioning the source. I suspect it is from Sebald. I find out it isn’t, but it is in the documentary, it is about him.

“.... if you allow yourself to become a writer, the catastrophy will be like an avalanche, whereas if you keep walking, you might be ok.”

The quote is somewhere towards the end of the documentary. Just before it goes into the subject of pilgrimage. The Rings of Saturn, a story about a long walk, is subtitled “An English pilgrimage”. And as the narrator explains, a pilgrimage is a movement towards healing, towards resolution, towards selfunderstanding. But in the book, the narrator, Sebald himself, collapses. The walk results in catastrophy, a vanishing of stabilities.

Saturn is the melancholy planet. It represents our limitations in power and control. It intensifies feelings of isolation and sadness. Its rings were once a moon that circled closer and closer around the planet until it got too close and was ripped apart by tidal forces. Now its particles circle around the planet at an equal distance in an endless movement.

Reading Sebald always makes me realise there can be great comfort in it, when everything collapses around you. When things fall apart. When the centre cannot hold. Once, in an interview, being asked why he was still writing when at the same time his view of the world was so pessimistic, his answer was that he was trying to create very small lagoons situated out of time, to discover specific truths, in as far as that is possible. He said that trying to describe the unbearable things in such a way that they loose their heaviness, makes it possible to communicate them, to open peoples’ eyes.

One of my favorite moments in Rings of Saturn is when Sebald meets Edward who lives with his mother and sisters in an old manor house somewhere in the countryside. “Ever since leaving school in 1974, Edmund, the youngest, had been working on a fat-bellied boat a good ten yards in length, although, as he casually informed me, he knew nothing about boat-building and he had no intention of ever going to sea in his unshapely barge. It’s not going to be launched. It’s something I do. I have to have something to do.”

He makes me realise I’ve been building my own boat.

And to come back to the subject I’m dealing with here, on this blog, in this project (and this is Sebald again): It is not about reaching some sort of christian or spiritual goal but it is about “auf eine bestimmte Weise zu gehen und zu sehen”, to walk and to see things in a specific way.

Sebald chose to walk and to write but he once said that he could just as well grow cucumbers. It doesn’t matter what you do. As long as you go about it in the right way. And when you grow cucumbers at least you know you will have a crop you can show to the outside world. Something they can eat. Something they understand.

There is sadness in this thought but Sebald masters his sadness well. Like Rilke he sees how it is an inseperable part of life. It is connected to change. No change without sadness. No newness without sadness.

“For they are the moments when something new has entered into us, something unfamiliar. Our feelings become mute in timid shyness. Everything within us steps back; a silence ensues, and the something new, known to no one, stands in the center and is silent.”

Rilke wrote this in his Letters to a Young poet and I encountered them here, in Sweden, in the most Sebaldian way possible. In the middle of a walk along the pilgrim trail from the west-coast to the east-coast of Sweden I started the second day in a tiny place called Flädie. In the afternoon I collected Rilke’s book at a library where I had ordered it because I wanted to reread it. The eighth letter, the one about sadness, is written in Flädie. I had no idea.

“For it is not inertia alone that causes the unspeakably monotonous and unrenewed human condition to repeat itself again and again. It is the aversion to anything new, any unpredictable experience, which is believed untenable. Only he who can expect anything ... will have a relationship to life greater than just being alive ... when a sadness arises within you of such magmitude as you have ever experienced, or when a restlessnes so overshadows all you do ... you must believe that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand. It shall not let you fall.”

Life is a pilgrimage. But those of you who read this all down to these last lines know already. You know it doesn’t matter if your answer is a yes or a no. You know that there is no need for the question.

made out of air

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.

John 3:8

flying lesson #3