When the sun comes out in the spring, there is no more beautiful place in the world than The Netherlands – this from someone who struggles with the weather here after more than ten years living in the heat, humidity and dramatic weather of New Orleans USA.
It’s an easy statement to make on a day like today, when the breeze is warm and the soft baby-blue sky gazes down on a calm landscape filled with fields of flowers. An artist’s palette sprinkled with delicate pastel colours in a myriad of subtle tones and shades.
This is not a dramatic, awe-inspiring or breath-taking panorama – it’s beauty lies in its delicate calm. Easy on the eye and gentle on the emotions, it has an everyday quality – this is a canvas of subtle hues and fleeting shadows rather than swathes of vibrant color from a large brush.
The spring landscape is emerging, thrusting its way through the monochromatic colours of winter covering the fields with precise, light brushstrokes. The scent of hyacinths gliding on a warm breeze is excitement enough as we wake our senses from the heaviness of winter-induced sensory deprivation.
It’s like being released from the confines of a dark, silent, cold and soggy room into sunlight – we need our senses roused gently, with caring and kindness. Mother nature eases us back into life with a muted palette of beauty which will deepen and intensify into the vivid colors of late spring and summer.
There are infinite shades of green unfolding from tightly furled buds on crooked branches, jutting from wrinkled trunks of ancient trees. Pink and white blossoms are exploding too, thrusting towards the sunshine in a froth of ruffles, bright and effervescent, tossing petals into the slightest breeze like confetti at a wedding, bringing life and vibrancy to a world starved of colour for far too long.
Everywhere change is evident. Grass grows rapidly on the banks of canals topped by erect windmills, sails outstretched like children stretching to the sky. The southerly breezes twist and twirl across the lowlands making the grasses sway like an ocean rising and falling on a new tide, the heads of delicate wild flowers bobbing among them like colourful toy boats jostling with each other to crest the waves.
Among the lapping waves, black and white bovines stand and ruminate contentedly, tails swishing, coats gleaming in the sunlight. They no longer have to stand hunched in a corner of the field, huddled together for protection against the raw winds scything down from the arctic across the vastness of open, flat space.
The Dutch bloom too, in this atmosphere of awakening and renewal. The longer hours of daylight and warmth from the sun allow for more social interaction everywhere. Their clothes echo the transition from semi-hibernation into spring – gone the heavy, dark coats, jackets and warm boots. Like emerging flowers we see soft colours, floating fabrics, a flash of skin.
Facial expressions are softer, smiles ready, eyes connecting with interest and curiosity, there is time now to stop and chat, exchange pleasantries. No rushing indoors to get respite from bone chilling winds or slicing rain.
Outdoor cafes sprout up from the pavements cheerful and inviting, their bright umbrellas urban flowers, with the same variation in colour, size and shape as their natural counterparts. The chatter and jovial hubbub from the cafes matches the increased noise and exuberation from the wildlife in the trees and parks.
Alongside the cafes and squares the canals have changed from bleak, sluggish soups lined by anorexic winter trees, into iridescent mirrors of light and colour. Crystal ribbons of water are washed by the reflection of the sky and blossom adorns the now voluptuous trees, as arid air ripples the surface of the water.
We’ve watched with a quiet anticipation as life has slowly started to return to The Netherlands after (this year particularly) a seemingly endless winter. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, spring is finally here.
So please excuse me if I dash to catch the remnants of a glorious day, we have to make the most of them . . .