On Mutuality

despite you are gone

By Justine Maxelon

Dear Kobe,

how are you becoming?

I’m sitting here, writing this introduction on mutuality, your introduction, in your stead, Kobe. There’s a lot to say about mutuality. And you had a lot to say about it. But for now, we have to learn to listen to past and still ongoing conversations with you on this topic. ON MUTUALITY.

You left us and our mutual exchange on the 18th of May 2023 — in the middle of finalising this almanac. We remain with many metaphorical and literal gaps; empty spaces, blank pages, unfinished thoughts and feelings to sort out.

From the beginning, the process of making this almanac was inspired and framed by your sickness. And this chapter on mutuality bares especially witness to your progressing illness. Your ideas for this chapter were plenty, but you couldn’t realize everything you were planning anymore. So, it ultimately remains in becoming.

“My mode of existence is cohabitation… and that includes cancer”, you wrote me once in a private message. You didn’t die fighting cancer, you died trying to live with cancer, to cohabitate with cancer.

ON MUTUALITY. How well this chapter fits you and your thinking! You saw, experienced and created with rigour a world of interdependencies and collectivity, always belonging to a specific locality and time. “…the idea of mutuality is that differences create possibilities for exchange.” This understanding that you formulated in one of our first email conversations was one of the many pillars of your being. May it be gardening, teaching, relating, or your art practice – in all aspects of your life, you tried to include a pluriverse of practices and thoughts.

This became apparent not only, but in a very special way, in the last seven months of your life. Your sickness made the general dependency on the help and support of others very concrete. It became the base of a relational field, a sustainable and responsive support network, where each part, even the tiniest one, played an important role. The cohousing project Copost, as a consistent ground for care; Entrepotes to guarantee financial, but anonymous support; Lios and Mossel, our cat companions, for play and warmth; the mirrors next to your bed through which you could see the river float; kin and family for all the things that kin and family do; the bed that gave you comfort, the last frietjes you ate with so much pleasure; the Zennegardens with all their bounty, from afar; the medications that relieved your pain; the touch of many… In these seven months, we almost never had to cook for ourselves and i only remember a few days where no visitors came with who you embarked on inspired conversations or with who you lay in silent presence. You died in mutual relation with many,

dear Kobe,

and mutuality continues.