Such slashing-sloshing wetness that the roads can’t take it. Such a dense grey blanket overhead that the light-switch needs to be flicked on before brushing my teeth, early in the morning. So windy that the umbrellas are bending and twisting into funky shapes, not fit for purpose. This has happened before.
Leaves starting to morph into colourful blades, beginning the descent of their curtains from clean pristine branches high up in the air down to the messy wet Earth, departing the very same points from where, not so long ago, they had sprung. This has happened before.
Some globules of rain clinging to the outside of the window pane, a crescent of heaviness at their lower edges. Quite still. Others making a dash down to the ground with quick wiggly lines disappearing behind them. The glass pane, an alive fashionable frosted sheet of artistic dots and lines, dancing. This has happened before.
This planet, tilted to perfection on its axis, keeping precisely to its orbit in accordance with the laws of creation. Doing what it was made to do. Billions of clumps of matter scattered all over the limitless expanse of space, each on its own path, own trajectory, appearing out of nothingness and then sparkling out of existence, unnoticed. This has happened many times before.
The tenth month is here again, at the cusp of two seasons. A climate of colours and shadows. Its steep, slanting sheets of light illuminating the trees in their sheer nakedness, foreshadowing the arrival of the dark. This too has happened before.
We know we are in Holland when the study table in our hotel room has a puncture repair kit in the drawer. Looking out of the window I see people riding their bikes with great abandon – simultaneously texting, chomping at an ice-cream, carrying a big bunch of flowers and chatting with a friend riding a bike in parallel. Pedestrians and automobiles are invisible to them. Bi-cycles go where they like, when they like. Anytime of day or night they shoot out of blind corners and come barging at us from all sides. Walking the cobbled streets as unsure visitor, we feel like an inconvenience to these bikers. I seriously envy them their security, their space and their freedom!
A white van drives past us with ‘Authentic smaak’ emblazoned across the side in dark green. It brings amusement to our faces. Does this mean what we think it does? We guess it refers to one of the substances that Amsterdam is well known for. We later discover the innocent local meaning of ‘smaak’ is ‘taste’.
‘Dutch masters at the Hermitage‘ is an enlightening exhibition. We got up-close to some of Rembrandt’s great works. The portrait of an old jew from 1654 came out a clear winner in my eyes. The light on his hands and face, the fineness of the wrinkles, the stories hidden in them, the detail on the hands, the use of space, the aura of wisdom …
Our hotel lobby was dominated by a large portrait of a mother and child. Painter unknown. Dates unknown.
It softened my heart. It spoke to me. It took me right back into the past. It made me sad in the most delightful way. It brought a tear to my eye and a smile to my lips. I didn’t need reminding that my very last holiday with Saagar, in April 2014 was to this very town, Amsterdam. He is with me, wherever I go. Our children never go too far away. They are in our DNA as much as we are in their’s.