Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Best Part of Summer, 2012

This summer, for the first time in my life I left the continent of North America and headed across the Atlantic for Europe. Our plan was to spend a couple of weeks with our beloved friends. In planning the trip, we said simply that we wanted to see their life, their joys, their favourite places, meet friends and family....see how and where they spend their days. We knew on some level they loved their country, but I don't think in their descriptions, they ever did it verbal justice. I still can't get my head around this and I am at a loss why. The trip was so far beyond my wildest imaginings that I don't know where to begin. We traveled through seven provinces over dykes and rivers, through river channels and forest roads that defy description. I don't know what I thought Holland would be, but it was a delight on every front. And having such perfect hosts was a gift I'll not ever forget.

I will try over these next few blog entries to describe what we experienced...

After a sleepless ocean-cross night, our friends fetched us from Schiphol in Amsterdam and drove across the country to the east province of Overijssel, to their home in Nijverdal. I was speechless. Even in a sleepy haze, the colour of the countryside, and the vast differences in the architecture was astounding. The first few houses I saw with thatched roofs I thought must be touristy places, storybook houses. But no. The houses look like that.

Brick and Thatched Roofs....the Dutch call them "Peat" roofs. Notice the woven willow fence to the left.

On that first night when we sleepily explored the town of Nijverdal two things stood out...I saw brick roads and brick houses. There was more brick than I was accustomed to. And I was stunned by the Dutch practice of perfect gardening. Every plot of land, whether outside small rowhouses or surrounding larger properties was manicured. Careful, artistic clipping of hedges and flower placement was evident wherever we looked. Hydrangeas of colours I'd never seen before took up whole front lawn areas. Woven fences sat at property lines and the biggest surprise of all was that small farms not only rubbed up against town boundaries at the outskirts, but were interspersed in neighborhood spaces. All land is used. I got the impression that the Dutch take no land for granted. They don't have the wide open spaces we take for granted in Canada, so they seem to demonstrate a love of what land they have.

A small farm around the corner from our friend's townhome. An interesting storage system for hay.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Summer 2012

Every time I sat down to write this summer, I was overwhelmed with the enormity of life. The time off from the busy school year was not the leisurely progression of one event to the next that I anticipated. The days were full. The basement called. The boxes of detritus that had been pitched into the storage room with the door hastily closed behind them now called in a whiny voice…sort me! So for what seemed like days on end, I sorted through boxes and closets and drawers and heaved six garbage bags to the curb and five to Goodwill.  Still unable to part with a smaller wardrobe (kept with high hopes or delusional thinking), the closets are still crammed. But drawers emptied quickly and leftover boxes are now labeled and stacked.  I had other aspirations as well…I would paint all the doors in the house and scour the mudroom. Nope, didn’t happen. That seemed too formidable. In the midst of all this, I planned for a new school year, and managed to do four paintings. (pictures not walls.) And two other big things..... more to come!