Join the Slow Journalism movement. See the world from a 2 mile/hour perspective .
STORIES are everywhere
I don’t have kids at home or grandkids nearby, but Halloween, tucked between fall and winter is my holiday. Perfectly positioned between the anniversary of my mother’s and father’s death a week apart from each other, I let myself get childish, dress up and eat candy. This year is especially momentous as I am starting my novel about the women in my family. What better way to start than a rainy day, wet leaves clinging to boots, as I walk, wild hair wig with big mouse ears to a nearby coffee house where I drink chai. Looking like a mouse whose been in a cat fight, I don’t feel very mousy, I am ready to come out and write about the dark family secrets, the bad times, the ghosts that are lurking in the shadows, and ultimately the triumphant comeback of the heroin of my story. You’ll have to read the book to find out who that is! Disappointed? It all comes down to this, If you don’t play, you don’t get the goodies.
What are you going to do with your Halloween? There is still time, it’s early in the day. Have you held a secret wish about writing that story, starting that project, taking that trip? Why not dress up for the occasion and let the spirit roll. Even if you never finish, you’ve at least been playing. I am already happy just parading around in my fleece Minnie one-sie.
I want to write about origins this week, since I am steeped in the past, visiting Zeeland, my place of birth. An empty sky, thin clouds streaking above the horizon in a star pattern, the sea and the long, empty, sandy coast line, penciled in by the green grasses of the dunes, are my companions.
I let the images of a tiny village bombed by freedom fighters, and confused inhabitants sink in, as I walk the long dyke circling around the red tile roofs. The inhabitants, my forefathers did not get the leaflets encouraging them to leave because the wind blew too hard that day and blew the warnings ten kilometers inland. As I gaze on the endless green grey water on one side and the red roofs clustered under the dyke on the other, images of this water rushing inland through the big hole in the dyke make me shiver.
This is a simple land without grandeur. It’s beauty is in flat land meeting the wind and sky. A land of clean lines, an ordered land, as people have farmed and protected every inch against the sea. There is a safety in simplicity, a safety reflected in the small, but solid brick row houses, clustered around a church and market.
The grandeur I have found here, is in the tenacity of the people. People bicycling on the flat land, bent over against the wind. People bent over working the heavy clay. People breaking their back pulling in nets from the sea. People growing and gathering the resources to build the dyke against the endless attack of water.
The dyke in West Kapelle has been reinforced to withstand a storm of a magnitude that happens only once every 4000 years. A statement of will and endurance, expressed after the losses of many lives, life stock and crops.
People have lived among these waters and tides since the year 200 AD. It hasn’t been easy. Endurance and revival are engrained in the DNA of the “Zeeuwen”. As the saying goes: “Jij bent uit de klei getrokken”, “you have been extracted from the clay”. If you have tried to turn the fertile clay soil here, you’ll know what that means.
A new outlook on society arrives at the most unexpected moments. I am traveling and spending some time in my native country, not a new and foreign place for me. After reading a news article, a speech, about the new annual budget in the Netherlands, views I had always held so dearly, are now in question.
I come from a long line of people who believe in social democracy. That means we take care of the underdogs and share what we have. Well, it is becoming an untenable position in this socially democratic country, where people with top incomes can pay as much as 52% of their income in taxes to support the system. Health care in a growing, and longer living population is taking up 40% of the budget, education another 30%, that leaves 30% for all other expenses, not enough to take care of roads, increased public transportation, military, the King’s new work quarters, and let alone nature reserves. That is what happens when you provide basic “rights” for the population.
Did you realize that the more we take care of the underdog, the longer the underdogs live, producing more underdogs, effectively driving us globally to a zero income state?
Without a thriving economy we are all going to suffer. The difference between rich and poor apparently is a good thing, it drives the economy. I never thought I would say this. Ann Raynd wasn’t so far off....
What happened? What was such a good and stable system when I was a child and young adult, is no longer working. The Dutch are suffocating in their own good values.
It’s like the deer in my home town. We provide delicious and easy accessible munchies in our flourishing gardens. Why wouldn’t they come down out of the hills and take up residence in the empty lots around town? I can’t shoot them, or charge them rent. I now have to build fences and protect my property. I want my peas and tomatoes to feed myself. So much for my humanitarian outlook on sharing.
Delicate balances are easily disturbed. Nature has her harsh consequences. There are forces greater than us, to create balance. We as humans are lousy at it. Will it make a difference if I change my political alliance?