a head full of thoughts

My head continues stuffed to bursting. Thoughts, facts, things to do. I took a few minutes to research the van Gogh woodsy paintings, and imagine my surprise to see that they are reportedly in the possession of the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. I was frankly shocked, looking down the wikilist of all of the paintings, to see how many they have that are not hung. I know that museums have vast collections that we never see, but I suppose I forget how much is salted away in vaults. I’ve been to that museum twice and haven’t seen a fraction of what they are reported to own.


The woodsy paintings appear to have been done in Paris, along with boatloads of views down from Montmartre, before the Sacre Couer was built.

I had a twisty night, thinking about one of the themes that has bothered and struck terror in me my whole life, which is people falling to hell and losing their spark as they get older. I have been horrified by this since childhood, observing adults (a dodgy demographic anyway) and attempting to compare them to photographs or stories of themselves while young. I swore, vowed, insisted that I would never become one of those lumpy, dull, couch-bound superstitious sorts of life forms, and I HAVE NOT.

And I will not. Not a chance. However…  they fill the Earth. And some of them are people who used to be really magnificent. And I can’t think why people have to get that way. Or why they marry nervous people who want to dull them down. Or how anyone can ever be bored. Or feel lost when they are alone. What is the matter with people, having so little steel in their spines, ideas in their heads?

As Bill would point out, this is not a topic that is useful for me to study. Adults have been doing this forever, slipping into soft slugs of incuriosity, failing to have inner lives, casting about for some external reason for their existence or blame for their torpor. My attention to the problem cannot contribute to its solution.

HOWEVER. My horror continues unabated, each time I see the next example. I feel exactly the same about it as I did as a child, like these people maybe ate a bad plant that I should be on the watch for, or that surely something must have happened to them beyond (or because of) the lumps they married, the dreams they gave up. Something that could maybe happen to anyone, which would mean that it would be wise for me to keep an eagle eye on the problem. I am wary of looking away from things that I don’t trust. Which means I waste time looking at things that don’t need to be looked at. Like this.

Luckily, the rain and cold is over, and the sun and warm is coming, which means I can get back outside, and put my mind where it belongs, which is in the dirt, the sky, the sunshine, the birds. Things that never go soft, or stupid, or need an explanation for their existence.

17 thoughts on “a head full of thoughts

  1. Regarding the Van Gogh pieces – last year I went to the Philadelphia Art Museum’s Exhibition. Amazing. Every time I go to one of these I am renewed in spirit. Regarding the other topic, sigh. I work as a physical therapist in homecare, and there is where you really see what can happen to people. Through disease, through bad luck, through as you put it – incuriousity. I look at the photographs on the wall, see the life, the vibrancy and then see the sadness of the life that befell them. It does get to be too much at times. At those times, it fulfills me to go to church, to see the “babas” still living the good life, interfering in the youngsters lives, giving a boisterous voice to the older population.

  2. Oh my God, Kate! So interesting to read this. I have often wondered what the hell happens to people too. It’s like they are walking shells, doing the bare minimum in their wait to pass away. And then there are those people who are vibrant. No matter what the age. They are so shiny, so fascinating, so FUN to be around. And when you spot one out and about, they do actually glow a little bit. I want to be one of those people, for sure. I think maybe I’m on the right track. This post strikes me as particularly interesting as my birthday is this Thursday. In linear years, I’ll be 42 and it means nothing. If somebody asked me how old I was, I’d have to go with 20 because at least that number “feels” reasonably accurate. And the man I’m dating; just started seeing him actually, is a beautiful Italian opera singer who has planned my whole day as a surprise. I have no idea how I’ll be spending my birthday but I imagine it will be breathtaking as he is the most romantic soul I’ve EVER encountered. His age? 68!

    • Everyone seems to have an age that they really resonated with, that they feel forever. For me, it was about age 11. I was a more grown-up 11 than a lot of people, but still a child.

  3. I’ve never seen the Van Gogh woodsy paintings and the one you show today is my new favorite. The education is much appreciated.
    You don’t need to worry about growing old. You can see the ones who will; they become staid parents, even more staid grandparents and seem to take life very seriously. I moved across the country and started a new life and new business in my 50s; just bought a house and took on a mortgage at 64. I told a friend her mother must be stressed and tired because she was starting to look grandmotherly and giggled afterwards, realizing that I was older than the mother. I just have a more magic mirror and intend to keep it.
    There are lots more like me. You just have to avoid the old people, just like you avoid the people who bring you down now. Like Jack Benny, my age is 39.

  4. I love Van Gogh’s work, the French part in particular. I quite love your post too. About all those paintings which exist but you never saw… what you see is not necessarily what is. Why. Who decides what is good to show or not… etc…
    People change… sometimes the good way, sometimes the wrong – a question of perspective sometimes too… I am often too serious. Have always been. Because so sensitive. But it saved my butt more than once. I’m working at laughing at myself now…
    A girl from France one day said to me “Renouncement… I think that life is a long series of renouncements…” OK. Somehow true, you got to renounce to what you need to let go, don’t you? Many would see this as a very negative thought. I think “renouncement -> rebouncement” – Only this fucking light allergy makes me sometimes shout it out and cry when it overwhelms me… Illness can make very dark, desperate, depressive. I’m a fighter and won’t let it win. Instead of looking at what I couldn’t, or can’t, I look at what I could and can. I don’t want to look back at what I’ve gone through except for acknowledging what I’ve survived and has made me stronger. And there is a lot I’ve done, and a lot I can still do! Beading, writing, dreaming, reading, loving, playing with aromas, and so much more to enjoy life.

  5. Very interesting post. Some people will be forever young and some people just dry up when they become middle-aged and keep going down hill. I was just talking to a friend last week about this very thing. I think the key is to keep learning and searching and being active, that is why some people thrive and never grow old and others whither. You are right, they give up being curious.

    How sad about all of those Van Gogh paintings that are being hoarded and stored and not on display. That is a tragedy.

  6. I am 30 with 30 years experience…except for my right thumb and left hip which feel a little older today.

    Your words resonate with me strongly Kate. I have that fear and was horrified to watch my mother turn into a shadow of herself before she passed from lack of desire to live. My mother was a fragile spirit who was abused by life and couldn’t rally. I am not.

    I am a survivor. I have survived the suicides of the nuclear family I was born into. I survived the murder of my husband.

    I climbed and clawed my way back to life where I built myself the one I wanted. I cultivate and nourish it every day.

    I turned 60 this year and often consider this next stage of life. I have hopes and dreams to keep me going for a century or more. I strive to squeeze every bit of joy and life out of the day before I am done with it. Most of the time I am successful.

  7. I’ve told you Kate before that you remind me of me when I was “young” . At 71, now, and some limitations with asthma, I have to say I’m still driven to learn, get involved, do things which still elicit that “oh Alma, really” in a critical way. Been a theme to a lot of my life, so I must have been doing something right, and it doesn’ t hurt when I hear a young man say to one of my sons, “your mom is hot.” Curiosity and an open heart are great gifts you have as do Cath and Nikia, both of whom I admire so much. Health problems can limit the body a bit, but not the mind. As for VanGogh, his work has resonated with me as long as i can remember, I hope somewhere he knows how much his work is admired.

  8. I’m one of those you want to avoid, I guess. I was felled by illness and even though I kept a positive attitude about it for a very long time, assuring myself I could beat this, I didn’t beat it. It beat me. And now it has become very difficult for me to do a whole of things that I used to love doing — and that pisses me off! I try and probably I should try harder. But sometimes it seems like too much. But for people to say to avoid the old people (I’m 68 for the record) makes me heartsick. If everyone did that, we’d all shrivel up and die (and be happy to do that because the alternative is so bleak). I am still me at heart, still the very confident businesswoman I once was. Still active and alive. I just don’t look like her or act like her anymore (figure that one out! ha!).

    • Don’t be silly. If you think I have a problem with OLD PEOPLE you need to read more closely.
      But people who are depressed or negative, or looking for those angles on things, yeah. That I want to stay far far away from. I’m sorry you got sick.

    • Depression is a mental illness. “Being” depressed and “having depression” is a way of seeing the distinction. If you have depression, it’s not your fault. It’s your brain chemistry that’s at fault. I did a lot of work for an organization in DC that supports work with the mentally ill and I had a doctor who told me the difference between the two a long time before that. And being negative isn’t the same thing as having depression. Being negative serves no purpose that I can fathom (except to prolong the agony which some people seem to want). The end (sorry if this was too much).

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