Friday, 22 August 2014

Big skies

We have had “a lot of weather” this August including dramatic thunderstorms, torrential downpours, fantastic sunny periods with clear blue skies and, of course, greyness.  Yes, one thing you can be guaranteed in the Netherlands is unrelenting greyness at regular intervals!

However it occurs to me that this range of weather, and the landscape within which we view it, is one of the great charms of the country we live in.  I know many expats complain about the weather, and you certainly do not move to the Netherlands for the climate, but it is part of what defines this little patch of Europe we call home.

As we flew into Amsterdam after our summer holiday my son remarked “isn’t Nederland green!” It is. And it is criss-crossed by a network of waterways which when viewed from above add a little sparkle.  From the sky our adopted home looked lush and fertile, with added bling!

With friends visiting this summer we have been tourists in the country we live in once again.  As we travel around visiting “typical Dutch” vistas they have been remarking on the dramatic skies and colours of the landscape.  When you are used to your home being described as grey it is surprising to be reminded that it is actually so much more than just grey. 

The colours of the sky, as storms blow through, as the sun’s rays hit raindrops and as the sun sinks with pink, orange and purple hues across the horizon can be fabulous.  Fellow buitenlander residents may complain about the unremitting flatness of the landscape, however that flat landscape leaves a lot of room for sky.  Big skies. 

Those skies have inspired art and creativity through the ages. There are so many ways to capture them, through photography, paintings and the written word. And so many ways to view them, from the car on motorway journeys,  from the network of cycle paths across the countryside, the footpaths alongside the canals and from the water itself. 

Taking a boat trip or paddling along a canal in a canoe provides its own unique view of the Dutch landscape. From the water, looking up and over the dykes and river banks with the sky reflected all around you, brings an altogether different perspective to the scenery.  With the addition of the water creatures around you and birdlife above it’s a lovely way to see the countryside.

There is something quite magical for me, still, about seeing a traditional Dutch windmill silhouetted against a big sky.  When it is dawn, dusk or a stormy day that view becomes even more special.  So the Dutch skies, and the flat landscape that allow us to view them so fully, are something I will try to remember to appreciate more as I walk, cycle and drive around my “home”.