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.