“Working in the nature has always been a passion for me. It is how I finish my day and how I fulfil a perfect evening. Over the last five years, I have spent my time working on a bee hotel at ‘De Vinken’. Besides making a wood sculpture of my beloved wife, the nature has made me the person that I am today.”

“As a child, I was already a huge fan of bees and the nature. So when I lived with my family in an apartment, without a garden to work with, my parents decided to move out to a place that had a garden. They saw that I was unhappy with being ‘locked up’ in our apartment. So I was glad that they noticed it, and the new garden made me really happy as a kid. Finally, I had a garden that I could maintain.”

“Bees are a huge and important part of the nature. So it is really important to care of them. I also have something in common with the bees. They need a garden to live and a happy and healthy life. That is the same with me, because I love to help them, by making a hive for them to live in and to pursue their lives. So being in the garden really makes me happy. I can say that working in the nature helped me grow to who I am today.”

“Besides working on my bee hotel, I made a wood sculpture of my wife who had passed away two and a half years ago. It was also actually thanks to my beloved wife that I found this place. She had dementia, and we sought a place where we could enjoy making art. My friends thought that I would fall into a black hole after she died. But the nature and the art really helped me grow as well.”

“Although I am dyslexic, I wrote a text for her funeral that I sadly could not attend. That was a really hard time for me. They read my text at the funeral, but to this day I avoid funerals because it is really confronting.”

“I can still feel my wife through my wood sculpture”

“My wife and I were together for 36 years. Normally I am not a talkative person. But in the last ten years of our relationship, my wife was the one that was the most quiet person, because of her dementia. I took good care of her in her last years with the disease, and I loved doing that. I remember my friends telling me that I also needed to look out for myself instead of Hilde, my wife. But I do not regret taking care of her.”

“I made a wood sculpture of my wife that I am really proud of. I take it everywhere I go here. Thanks to the lines and the engraves, I can still feel and touch her. The most intimate moments in life are going in bed and stepping out of it. I have a painting of my wife in the bedroom, so that I can look at her and talk to her. The things I say are mostly simple things that a regular couple would say at the end of a day. I can talk about my struggles and clumsy things, I did or said in a day. That keeps me going.”

“When I was not busy working with the wood sculpture, I was working in the garden. I can say that I am an alternative person, because most people on earth like a clean garden, with a flower here and a tree there. But for me, a garden must be as sloppy and as wild as it can be. And of course, with little to none poison or fertilizers. At a place like ‘De Vinken’, I can express my passion. Here I am understood.”

“A perfect day ends by disconnecting from the world”

“I live alone in an apartment, where I get help in the household. These ladies are incredible, sometimes they help me with difficult papers that I need to fill in, the computer that I know little of, and a lot of other things that I find difficult to do, on my own. Besides those things, I can also talk with them about everything. Sometimes, I can share my story with them. That’s why, I am also not looking for another woman or whatsoever. People that I can talk to are enough for me.”

“I fill in my week, with my trips to ‘De Vinken’ and ‘De Rui’, another place that I visit to connect with my passions. At these places, I can live my life to the fullest and share my knowledge of bees. At ‘De Rui’, I also give lectures about the nature and bees. It is fun to see that people are enthusiastic and really want to know more about my knowledge around my passion.”

“The weekends are the most difficult part for me. Sometimes, I can meet up with my friends. But obviously, that’s not possible every week. I spend my days being creative and losing track of time, by working in the garden. That is the best time of the day.”

“I spend my days waking up at three in the morning because I like the silence. I can enjoy the silence of the ending night and the upcoming morning. Then I lock myself up in the cocoon of my apartment, and that is a way of disconnecting and finding my space. When I can end my day with some me-time, then my day has been successful.”

Patrick and the bees

This article is part of a collection of interviews with people from Belgian organization Beschut Wonen.
“Here we don’t look at the person, but at their artistic abilities.”
Anja Vereecken, coordinator

Invisible Cities project at AP Hogeschool Antwerpen 2023:

Team: Noa Van Hoeydonck, Mariam Janiashvili, Annemiek Jongejan, Veera Kontula, Deniz Nalbantov, Răzvan George Tîmpescu
Coach: Kaijaleena Runsten

Thanks to Beschut Wonen Antwerpen