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  • Monique Sliedrecht

Disorientation

Updated: Sep 25




As we descended in to Edinburgh Airport, we flew through a patch of cloud which suddenly opened up allowing the sunshine to burst through onto the luscious green landscape, lochs and hills in the distance. The view was stunning, showing off the beauty of this country of Scotland.

It reminded me of a painting I saw the day before, in the National Art Museum in Copenhagen. One by Dufy of the view of St. Paul de Vence from up high — a place I’ve been to previously, though some years ago now.





On my last day in Copenhagen I decided to set out on my own to see a bit of art and enjoy the surroundings of a less familiar city. Everyone else I knew was working or resting. It had been a full week for many.


When I walked into the gallery I felt a sense of being home among the art, enjoying the colours and the myriad of compositions; the journey through cultures and ages.


I started with the Nordic Art Galleries, encountering work by the well-known Danish painter, Hammershøi, whose work is infused with atmosphere, even almost oppressive at times.


I was drawn to this painting with the two candles on a table. It seemed like a corner of a room I would choose to sit at with a friend.




Or this table, which could be me right now - though with a laptop.




Afterwards I went to the room with French art.

Matisse kept an eye on me as I walked past to see his 'Woman with Green Stripe'.








I slowly made my way through the European room, finishing my tour at the gift shop to pick up a few postcards. I ended my time in that lovely gallery sitting in the bright open cafe where I had a salad for lunch, let myself drift, and wrote for a while.


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The visit to Denmark has largely been one of spending time with friends, old and new, and enjoying celebrations - a wedding and a birthday, plus the everyday interactions highlighted by listening to music, dinners with friends, a trip out to Louisiana Gallery, city canal tours, walking through Christiania, and sitting on sunny hillsides ...




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One early morning I took in the sights and sounds of the waking neighbourhood while sitting on the balcony of my friend's place....


The sun is shining bright.


A distant church steeple is backlit, silhouetted against swiftly moving cirrus clouds in a blue sky.

The bells have tolled their 8 AM chime, a wake up call to the neighbourhood, announcing a new day.


In the middle of a patch of green, a browning chestnut tree stands calmly announcing the start of autumn, strong and sure in the midst of a flurry of movement as people emerge from their homes.


A mother hangs laundry in the shared courtyard. Her young child calls from the window, needing the reassurance that mother is still nearby. The sheets hang heavy on the line next to small shirts belonging to the little girl - pink, yellow, green.... They cast long moving shadows on the ashphalt.


Nearby a row of bicycles is lined up against the wall waiting and ready for their next trip out, shopping, visiting a friend, a cycle to work...


A man takes out the rubbish, the bins making an unusually loud clatter as he drags them along the walkway.


The sun positions itself higher in the sky, its rays streaming down onto red tile rooftops, shadows shortening.


Gates open and close.


In the distance, I can hear a train go by, along with the faint voice of a spokesperson on BBC World News, words like Ukraine, war, energy crisis cutting through the air....




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Being in a new city like Copenhagen is wonderful. It can also be very disorientating, as was my experience on my final day there. I thought I had things under control and generally knew where I was going, but when it came to specifics, I missed a few beats and found myself walking to my friend's place, arriving later than I planned because of some 'wrong' turns. Thankfully, along the way, I had the helpful guidance of passers-by. One lovely woman named Sophia set me on the right path at one point. She was a sympathetic soul and seemed like she could have been a good friend, actually! Losing one's way has some perks.


Disorientation is never comfortable, though it can help us more fully define who we are, and what we are at home with. It can stretch us, making home expansive and a fuller place of welcome and flexibility. It can enable others to be there for us, filling in the gaps left by unfamiliarity.


I'm struck by this quote by Kierkegaard, whose grave we went to visit on Monday:


“To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one's self.... And to venture in the highest is precisely to be conscious of one's self.”

Søren Kierkegaard



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Looking out over the landscape from my small window seat in the airplane gives one vantage point, and zoning in on the details gives another. All of it is a window to greater potential, richness, and learning.




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The light is lowering here in the city of Edinburgh, casting a golden glow on the chimneys. It's time to reorientate and see a couple of friends - one from Scotland, and one visiting from Canada. I've got some ingredients for a simple pasta dinner to take with me as an offering.





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“Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.”

Søren Kierkegaard




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