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L’Ou Com Balla

Today marks the start of a peculiar holiday in Barcelona. L’ou com balla – the dancing egg – is a ritual dating back to the 1600s for which nobody seems to know the exact origin or explanation. Some say it’s tied to Christianity and the Eucharist, some say it’s the continuation of a pagan fertility rite. Perhaps, of course, it has no deeper significance than that it’s simply fun. Throughout the center of the city, in medieval patios, fountains are adorned with flowers, and hollowed eggs literally dance all day on the water sprouts. People walk from one patio to the next to see each dancing egg. I went too. I figured it might be good luck. I’m still not sure as to the purpose of this, but perhaps it’s meant to be somehow life-affirming.

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Colors of Barcelona

The day started with rain and me sitting in my room getting plenty caffeinated and contemplating the beauty of losing one’s head. Living intensely. Pursuing passion, that kind of stuff. It reminded me that the Chanel mannequins on Paseo de Gracia have literally lost their heads and that I wanted to paint them.

Later, the sun was shining, and I set out for what I consider the most colorful neighborhood of Barcelona: the Raval. Here I saw purple artichoke flowers – have you ever seen such a thing? – and people, many people going about their business or enjoying the sunny afternoon. I ate at my favorite restaurant, Ca’l Estevet. I had cod cheeks with shrimp and they were too good to describe. I wandered through the Boquería market in search of fresitas, tiny fragrant berries from the mountains. I contemplated a visit to a beautiful old bar, but it was closed. Eventually I found my way to the horchata shop. The beverage seemed as refreshing and magical as ever. I drank it and went back to the hotel. I suggested to the friend I’m meeting tonight that we go back to the Raval. Perhaps we can find some Indian food to balance my very decadent Catalan lunch.

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The old friend I met for lunch today said it was officially the first day of summer. I felt it too. Something in the air, beyond the scent of linden blossoms or the ease of wearing a sundress. There was suddenly a certain freedom to just walking around, a certain lightness to everything. It’s like the sunshine has infiltrated even the darkest corners of the Gothic Quarter, has hidden unicorns among the gargoyles, and healed the tallest palm tree in the city – safeguarded in an ancient courtyard, and propped up by a metal corset – of its many ailments. Much as I sometimes see it as a city of perpetually closed doors, Barcelona, especially in the summer, tends to be easy, free floating. It invites you to shed all kinds of layers, to take things lightly, to just be. Perhaps it’s not my forte, but sometimes even I can do that.

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In Which I’m Happy to Be Here

And then, though the jet lag hasn’t completely faded, I remembered many of the reasons why I’m so happy to be here, why I always choose to return. I also bought a fabulous red dress I might wear for my solo show. And I discovered the best surprise of all: in my favorite horchata place, Planelles Donat on Portal d’Angel, where I’ve been drinking horchata de chufas for ten years now, they’ve framed and displayed the watercolor I painted for them three years ago. It turns out a part of me is always here. I might at times doubt my connection to this complex and wonderful city. Its magic sometimes eludes me, yet sometimes takes my breath away. But perhaps magical connections are this way. Perhaps they get a little staticky at times, but they are never lost.

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Back in Barcelona

I got here late last night, too late to even blog. My jet lag is still with me and it’s brutal this time around. I’m in a state of perpetual exhaustion that makes me question everything. Even my desire to come back so often to this city I love so much. There are, after all, many other places out there, places I’ve never seen, places I might never see if I don’t make more of an effort. It occurred to me late last night, while I was trying to fall asleep, that it’s been ten years since I tried living here and found that, for all its undeniable beauty and mystery, the city only offered me fleeting glimpses of happiness. It was a bit like a relationship between two people who have great chemistry and mutual affection, two people who care about each other deeply, make each other laugh, and yet, something is off and happiness eludes them. Sometimes these things are hard to understand. Still, after a decade, is it perhaps time to let go and move on? The weird thing is that I feel that I have. Unbeknownst to me, my attachment to Barcelona has loosened. I no longer find myself sad that I don’t live here, no longer find myself concocting plans to stay forever. Maybe I’m even ready to face the possibility that it might be unnecessary to visit a lot. Perhaps I need to see all this as progress. After all, I might have a terrible track record of holding on too long, but occasionally I prove to myself that I can also let go.

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Day 2

Still jet lagged. Going back and forth between some sort of existential anxiety (after all, it’s extremely disconcerting for your whole life to be far enough away that you almost get the perspective of an outsider while you have long hours to roam a city by yourself) and excitement about some of the experiences here. For example, I felt very happy when it occurred to me to go to the Hortus Botanicus today to see the butterfly house. I hadn’t seen it in years and it’s one of the things I like best here in Amsterdam. I also like the walk from the Hortus to Amsterdam Centraal, the train station I’m fascinated with. I ended up walking a lot. I got dizzy and tired at times. I managed not to get hit by bikes – no small feat as they are everywhere and come at you fast! I also managed to create some semblance of inner balance to counter the effects of feeling too tired and out of context. A piece of a greater puzzle I’ve not only never managed to assemble, a piece of a puzzle I’ve never managed to name of identify in the first place. A piece of a puzzle that got placed into the wrong box. What’s weird is not so much feeling foreign in the place I am visiting, but rather being so far away that my own life seems foreign to me, an object whose contours are fading in the distance and whose solidity I’m beginning to doubt. This, by the way, happens to me often when I travel.

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Sunshine in Amsterdam

It’s sunny and warm here in Amsterdam. I’m drifting in and out of jet lag, but I did get to take a long walk, with bicycles buzzing by me like magical insects, and I did get to start working on one of my watercolor commissions. I will give you more details in the days to come, as I get more acclimated.

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Highlights of the Day

Today I took the dog to Galveston to board her at the vet. She pushed me with her stubborn little head to get out of the car when we got there. She pulled on the leash to get in. That made me feel better. She loves it there. Still, missing a dog is very deep and very physical. It’s like missing a limb. You want to touch it and it’s not there. I realized I’ll miss John and Ryan’s dogs the same way. Nancy, especially, with her silky fur. Nancy, who will will get her snout close to your face but who will never kiss.

After dropping off the dog I had lunch with a friend at Maceo’s. Ronnie treated me to a delicious shrimp sandwich on a croissant and I had cannoli too. Ronnie is going to Palermo this summer. I think that’s exciting. I love Palermo. And I love Ronnie.

Then we went up to the rooftop terrace of the Tremont House. Also to Tangerine for a new dress.

Then I drove back to Houston. My friend met me at the studio. I left my keys with her. I hope she’ll paint a lot while I am gone.

And then, finally, I went to my Escapist studio. I painted with my Escapist sisters. We hugged and we said our goodbyes. We’ll miss each other. But we’re also excited because we’re all bound to have exciting adventures while we’re apart.

When I got home I checked in for my flight and charged my European phone. I miss my dog.

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Best Birthday Ever!

Y’all, I had such a perfect day! I can’t even imagine a more lovely birthday! While my favorite moment was in the afternoon, when it was raining heavily outside, and I was in my studio in the Chrysalis writing letters, the balloon my sister got me dangling from my chair, there were many other wonderful things that happened today. I had a Skype call with my dad, walkies with my poochie, cake and red roses at the gallery, watched a little bit of one of my favorite movies with John, and had a lovely Vietnamese dinner with two of my favorite people. I also got two lucky bamboo plants and other fun things as presents!

The most important thing, though, is that I felt happy throughout the day, felt like this is a fresh beginning and that wonderful opportunities abound.

I also think the picture we took today at the gallery is very fun! Yes, I’m wearing a tiara and my mentor is wearing shades! That’s how we roll! My sister is just a blur of excitement, kissing Bobby the English Pointer, Nancy is hiding behind Bobby, and Ryan is not in the picture, though he was in the room and he got me a wonderful lemon cake. Aubrey is also not in the picture because it took her special talent to capture such a fun image in the first place. Anyway, my day was as fabulous as the picture and then some! And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to bed with the queen of England. And by that I mean the new book by my friend Courtney Brandt: Queen of England – Grand Tour. There’s even a unicorn in it!