Of gabled roofs & cobbled streets
My relationship with her has been tempestuous. The first two years were the darkest days, like living in perennial half-light. One could see the glimmer of hope at the far end. Somehow it remained just that, distant and unreachable.
The sun seemed trapped just above and behind a layer of dark clouds fervently travelling with the wind. Every now and then you glimpse a sliver of light lining the horizon. Teasing, always hovering and hardly ever breaking through.
Dark days, I call them. A period of great depression and separation anxiety from what was once warm and familiar to this stark anonymity, just another face in the throng. Of grappling through and finding my way in a strange and new country called the Netherlands.
Her summers are a bit confused at times, like living four seasons in one day. You wake up shivering on frosty mornings, which calm down to springtime chill halfway through the day. Late afternoons strip the layers of your clothing as warmth finally seeps in and when you cycle home at day's end, the sun sets and the cold creeps in again.
Her autumns are magical on sunny days. The lakes glisten under her blue skies and at night, a walk along the city's cobbled streets is ethereal and dreamy, an invigorating inhalation of crisp clean air.
But you cannot deny that her rains and winds this time of year are as wretched as they come. Pissing at any well-clad, suited executive en route to work and drenching school children on the way to school.
"Does it get any better?" a friend, a new arrival and in her early stages of relocation anxiously asked.
"Oh yes!" I replied smiling. "It gets so much better you never want to leave! Or maybe just for awhile during the long winter months," my eyes twinkling.
What is it about this brooding landscape that plays with and tortures one's psyche? Is this love or hate? Eventually, out of resolution, perhaps resignation and ultimately acceptance I settled for love.
I do not know exactly when everything started to shift. Whether it crept up slowly or it was a conscious decision in my being, or both. I was standing on the Scheveningen Boulevard at dusk on a particularly windy and sub zero degree day in winter.
The pier's lights glowed in the distance and the silhouettes of people promenading alongside the sea lent a stunning backdrop to the whole imagery. The waves were crashing savagely against the shore. I stood there shivering in the cold, transfixed, in awe of her beauty.
What had laid dormant came alive. Everyday was an awakening. Stately century-old houses with gabled roofs regally standing along The Hague's Sweelinckplein beckoned. How did I fail to notice all these when I walked past by them everyday?
The friendly chatters of the merchants and shopkeepers in the Reinkenstraat drew me in. Orchestras set up impromptu stage performances on this residential neighbourhood square occasionally on Saturday mornings, rousing me up to the sounds of trumpets and trombones. It was surreal, delightful. I fell in love.
Her city centres' medieval cobbled streets were once my most loathsome enemies. Whether it was in Utrecht, Den Bosch, or Amsterdam my pointed heels sank between crevices. Darn, I could not even walk properly in this country! Five years on and now it is my fervent wish that they will never be dug up and replaced for concrete modernity. I have shifted to non-stilettos since.
It is late autumn now and the trees have shed most of their leaves. They stand bare and forlorn underneath her gray skies. Where I once saw desolation and ugliness, I see now stillness and calm. A quiet air of assurance, mindless of the depression settling among its people which is a regular happening this time of year. Her winds sweep across the lands and she stands her ground. She knows this is essential for re-birthing.
There is the promise of yellow crocuses and lavender daffodils budding in springtime - slowly creeping out of her grasses giving way to cheerfulness as only spring can bring; a burst of delight and awakening. The church bells rising from old towers break the stillness with their chimes. Their clanging brings forth a joyful clarity.
Over time, as when you give someone, something a chance, all good things come to shine.