The business of judicial forensic inquiry is never something that can be rushed, Sir. It requires painstaking attention to detail.

Kerr, A Man without Breath

While Esther cleans the small leftovers of my pruning – Her will, not mine – I actually see the area becoming clearer.

As if I was in the grand gardens of Versailles. Endless beds without a trace of leaf or withered foliage, through the gate a vista toward the end of the garden – as if all of a sudden something essential is hiding out there.

She keeps the garden clean. As my friend Roland, a farmer’s son, puts it so delicately a moment later: ‘With tweezers…’ Each and every displeasing leaf that is blown away from the elderberry is carefully removed, this on the hour. As a great-grandson of a farmer I did it always more farmerly – mostly with a rude rake and only when the mess really begins to annoy me. Not like Esther in advance thereof.

Intellectually a Romantic, I always found leaves and petals rustic indeed. From now on, however, I’m going to remove fallen leaves more often, it makes our small property look a lot bigger.



Meanwhile painful muscles from my garden labour slowly start to relax. With a nice pastis in hand I may now overlook the serious damage wreaked in the knee while falling from my racing bike in far away Dutch Spaarnwoude. Open flesh – gruesome as a crucifix.

‘Yes’, says Esther when she is done with it, ‘it all resides in trifles’. When she has already gone inside, where she changes her gardener’s outfit for cook’s dress and thus becomes a sorceress in the kitchen, I call after her: ‘God is in the details – in the kitchen as well as in the garden. What did I say? The Goddess is in the details’.

Wie denn, wenn Gott ist, sollte seine Ordnung nicht auch in Kleinsten sein…? How could God’s order – that is: if He exists – not also be in the smallest of things? These are the words in Ungar’s ominous novel Die Verstümmelten, said by a male nurse who at the end of that story turns out to be a murderer.

The faith of this little atheist has its limits. Already now I know that my good intentions are weak. In due course I shall kill trees and bushes again. Restlessly and untidily their old leaves will spread over the grounds.

La Roche, 7.8 / 2013


Author: rjsiersk

Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats.

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