Carla Drift – Life in Amsterdam, the Solidified Time

In the course of my third year of study in Delft, my emotional life started to drift. In that year, I became totally estranged from my great love. I could not continue my study in a way that suited me. I was empty handed.

In addition to the emptiness in my life, the intensity with which I experienced all, increased. Everything I did, everything I felt and thought, tore me – invisible for others – filmy in half. My sensitivity for all increased. Every act, every encounter with others was with an intense glow – completely unique and all-embracing solidified over time. In that time I wrote: “Everything around me silences, everything around me chills and quite unintentionally everything I touch dies“.


With the intensity, also the chill came at the same time. Life that I lived solidified in cold glass. All that I came across and touched with, flowed and solidified in glass untouchable for me. After the flowing and solidifying, the chill of cold glass or cold ice stayed. In this manner I felt the solidified time [2]. The intensity of my life was inextricably linked with the icy coldness and stiffening of the death. At the same time, I felt an inner glow of fire and the intense coldness of ice. In that time I wrote: “Life is a constantly dying of Now“.


With the intensity and the chill, time solidified. The time delayed and almost seemed to stand still. Everything took endless in happiness and sadness at the same time. Cooking, dinner and chatting with visitors and/or with the two house-mates in Amsterdam were all-embracing. Three years of my life were like three centuries. All events and memories were an endless coherent glass-pearl-game.


The poet Piet Paaltjens had his strangling-angel [5]. I had my jump-angel; on galleries of flats, on top of towers and on station platforms, she tried to entice me as a siren to jump into the void, in the dark, to the other side. With daily bike trips to grammar school, by the rowing in Delft and by continuous study, my discipline was strong enough to resist the temptation of this angel. Of course I evaded alluring places as much as possible; to my relatives I said I had fear of heights. Also on this topic I played hide and seek.

In Amsterdam I quit boat-racing. In the last boat race season in Delft, I noticed the the limits of the capabilities of my body – other oarswomen made progress much easier. On foot and on bicycle I explored Amsterdam and surroundings. I switched from rowing to cycling – during my study in Amsterdam, I spent my summer vacations alone biking and camping in Europe.


In these three years as three centuries, I read more than ever. In the area of literature, “War and peace” of Lev Tolstoy made a great impression by the interplay of man and the circumstances on history – one act of a soldier could decide a battle. This did fit with bifurcation points in the Chaos Theory. The wanderings of Holden Caulfield in “The Catcher in the Rye” of J.D. Salinger was a vague reflection of my way of life. However, the following passage by the end of the book appealed to me: “I see a lot of children who are playing in a huge rye field. Small children and there is no one else –except me. And I stand on the edge of a cliff. And I must catch them when they threaten to fall into the abyss. That is what I would do the whole day. Then I was the catcher in the rye” [7].

From the library, I read almost all the books of Saul Bellow, Ayn Rand, Bernard Malamud for the descriptions of the life of especial people. In the four books from the series “Into Their Labours” of John Berger, I read with interest the development of ordinary people with all their failings from the farmers society to the modern city life.

For leisure, I read all the books of John Le Carré where I sympathised with the intensity and loneliness of George Smiley in series “The Quest for Karla” (1982) – containing the previous books “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”, “The Honourable Schoolboy” and “Smiley’s People“. I could perfectly sense the alienation between George Smiley and his wife.In the 12-part series of espionage novels of Len Deighton, I recognized the adventures and the despair of Bernard Samson – his wife had left her children and him without reason and she defected. And of course, each new book by Sjöwall and Wahlöö in the Martin Beck series was read in one sigh.

After three years as three centuries, a shining spring came. A spring like no other. The flowers and  blossom never flourished more beautiful. Life was back to normal. Still I miss the intensity and the endlessness.

In 1988 the book “Ver Heen – Far Gone” of P.C. Kuiper was published. He described his experiences with a deep depression that he had gone through after his retirement. The description was very recognisable. So depression was the cause of my special three years. I never thought to look for medical help. I was always an outlier. In heartbreak and grief on parting, I should also be special – better not to bother anyone else. Hide-and-seek was not new for me.
[1] Source image: “Glass production doghouse”; via:
[2] See also the end of the film “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Stanley Kubrick, 1968.
[3] Source image: bMA, City of Amsterdam, Keizersgracht 123, 1015 CJ Amsterdam, The Netherlands; via:
[4] Source image:
[5] See also: Paaltjens, Piet, “Sobs and Bitter Grins: Student-Days Poetry” 1867
[6] Source image:
[7] See also: Salinger, J.D., The Catcher in the Rye”. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1979.


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