Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Living on the edge

Close your eyes, spread your arms and turn around. Feel the tall grass touch your body. Open your eyes, and look over the fields. See the distant church steeple, the windmill and the roofs of a small village. Close your eyes again, spin around once more and open them again. You see the trees, the edge of small forests between wheat fields and farmlands. It's a dream. No, it's not, it could be real. But not for me. I live on the edge. Literally. I live on the coast. 

People envy me. I live near the shore of the North Sea, in a seaside town in a small northern European country. Living on the coast, on the waterfront, is for many the ultimate location to settle down. The sounds of the waves, the cries of the gulls, that do not contain much music, but that are so unmistakeably connected to life near the shore line. The crisp fresh air, culminating in thundering storms when low pressure winds come ashore, the endless walks along the beach when the wind settles down. This is how people define their own imaginative paradise on the coast.

The sea and the beach have almost magical powers for many people who live here. It is a emotional life source. Many problems have been solved, or looked far less challenging after a walk on the beach. They say that the beach never looks the same. So it may be. But I see sand and water. And apart from swimming just a few meters into the direction of England, it never gets you anywhere.

The sea and the beach never got under my skin. My relation with the sea is ambiguous. You know it's there and you would not want it any other way. It's where you go when you have been away. At the same time, the North Seas irritates me. It limits my radius, it keeps me confined in a narrow north to south corridor, close to the dreary streets of my characterless town, with the urbanized and heavily populated Leiden area to the east of me. I feel trapped. Already as a young boy I opened up when I saw the emptiness of fields around me. The endless possibilities in every direction fascinated me. And it never lost that appeal. A slight touch of Jack Kerouac, even though the kid never heard of him, and later suppressed all wild thoughts that might haven taken him to an adventurous life and substituted that for a rational living?

No matter what, there are few things I like more than pointless walking, riding or driving around without any master plan and let myself be surprised where I end up. My sister comes to the rescue here. She lives in a rural and forested area in the southern part of the country, where you still can get lost wandering around over narrow country lanes in any direction you want. Where church towers are your focal point and where you find yourself crossing the Belgian and Dutch border various times without knowing. There are more places, not far from home that, in a modest way, can help to fulfill that odd desire for the unknown. The area around the charming and small Germany town Bad Bentheim and the Teuton Forest, or the Teutoburger Wald as its German name is, somewhat more east into the country of our Eastern neighbors, never fails to bring me surprises too. I can get my dose of Wanderlust, but I need to drive a few hours for that. And so I do. Because I want to dance in the fields with my eyes closed and run to all corners of the wind.

1 comment:

  1. I can understand having completely opposite feelings about such an experience or geography. I take being by the water (Lake) for granted as I've been there all my life, but when I go on a ferry boat across the sound or to the coast it is another experience entirely. I've started to miss the mountains as I went skiing as a child, and to a friend's cabin in early adulthood. Being on top of a mountain at night, on a snowmobile, with the engine turned off and the stars out is a wonderful feeling that's hard to describe.