/12 River

Karianne Bueno


“I dream a lot about Asper. I dream I am standing on the hill, looking down at the river Schelde. There is a house in the valley and, in my sIeep, it is yours. I wander through the fields, stroll along the roads. I look at the gardens, peer into houses, see people who don’t see me. Sometimes I lie beside the river that ripples softly. The trees bend over me to admire their own soft greenery, reflected in the water. Walking over sandy paths past verges blossoming with humming cow parsley, I find your house. Although it looks different in each dream I know it is yours. I recognise the iron gate separating your property from the road. Just as in reality, it is always open. The yard is warm and full of flowers. But you are never there to greet me, to show me the vegetables, the growing crops and the harvest. I search for you outdoors but I cannot find you. I lose my way in your small house which, in my dreams is infinitely large, and much darker than in reality. The rooms are deserted, cold, with cobwebs hanging from the windows. It smells of dampness and mouldering wood. I feel lonely as I awake. Aren’t you ever afraid? Of the darkness above your meadows, of the ghosts in your rooms?”

from: Dear Martha, November 2008, translation by Sarah Jane Jaeggi-Woodhouse)

In a long, hot summer a couple of years ago I visited a friend who had just moved to Asper, a tiny village in the Flemish countryside. It was love at first sight. The waving poplars, the river Schelde that meanders through the rolling fields. The sleepy villages, the churches that point out their centres invariably. But after the first embrace came quietness, and loneliness. The peaceful garden of the old convent I stayed in bathed in light, but on the first floor of the seedy building the emptiness of the mouldered rooms haunted me. The people of the village seemed kind, while in their eyes I recognized distrust. When I went for an evening walk the lovely hills drowned in darkness.

My book ‘Asper’ shows the beauty of the Flemish countryside, while one feels the oppression of living in a rural town. The idyll, as well as the loneliness, the longing for elsewhere and the heavy silence of the Asper’s people are all weaved togheter in this photographic story.