And it was HOT! The Netherlands have been experiencing a record heatwave, just in time for my visit. It was at least 97 F here, and humid of course. Despite a month in the damp Maine coastal environment, this arid-country girl was melting.
But life goes on even when you're drowning in your own sweat, so when in Netherlands do as the Dutch and get on your bicycle.
With friend Nicky's guidance I quickly became master of the Dutch train system. Okay, maybe not master, but at least I'm not completely hopeless. Chipkaart in hand and bicycle at the ready I managed to find my way to visit artist friends in several different areas of the country, including sculptor Jaap te Kiefte. Since the last time I visited Jaap had completed and installed a commissioned portrait of the writer Simon Vestdÿk in the city of Doorn. A nice extra: there is a "secret" place on the sculpture which serves as a kind of geocache, where visitors quietly exchange one of Vestdÿk's many books for another.
It stays light here for a long time in the evenings, and it's easy to lose track of the hour. On one of my forays I found myself getting off the train in Hardenberg at almost 11:00pm. Cycling home from the station in the dark and quiet with my scarf blowing behind me is a memory that will stay with me a long time... Especially the part where I crossed over the river and had my reverie interrupted by a cloud of gnats. So much for idyllic moments.
Tomorrow the next chapter begins, as I travel to France to visit more friends there. It's a lot of moving about in a short amount of time, but I am determined to take every opportunity to connect (and reconnect) with people I don't get to see very often- To engage in conversations about art and the artist's journey, to drink wine and eat bread, to laugh, to learn about ourselves and each other. To be surprised by the things we have in common and the things we don't. Trying to sort out unfamiliar bird song and eating stroopwafels is icing on the cake.
Travel for me is not about sightseeing, it's about becoming a "bigger," better person. As Mark Twain said, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.... Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."
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