Sunday, May 20, 2018

Middelburg Memory

Because I was having ‘mobility issues’, I separated from the rest of the group and went into Middelburg (the Netherlands) on my own. I wanted to see Middelburg’s ‘Abdij abbey complex’ and had a map indicating that getting there would be easy. 

I wandered the town square, enjoying the bustle of a little flea market and admiring the city’s magnificent town hall. It was raining but I had waterproof gear and was content, if hungry. A restaurant on the square had a table where I could eat and watch the town’s activities. 
Sated, I walked the few blocks to the complex—dating back to the 12th century. There were two places of worship now connected by what we would call a social hall (where coffee could be served).
The lovely interiors included the oldest altar piece in the Netherlands. 
Eventually, I opened a heavy wood door to enter a corridor enclosing a garden of hedges and other plants. To the left, a barrier prohibited entry into part of the cloister. To the right, interesting sounds echoed off the ancient stone walls. 
I walked around the corner to discover a group of high school aged kids practicing movement and song. After a while, they were still and silent as a slim young woman began singing “We’ll Meet Again” in crystalline soprano. 
It was magic. 
Noting my interest, an adult leader explained that they were practicing for a World War II memorial event to be held in Middelburg in a few days. I was invited but my tour would have moved on by then. 

I have no regrets. The poignant song resonating through so many layers of history is permanently lodged in my heart.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


There’s a reason Holland is practically synonymous with tulips. These flowers thrive in that country’s soggy land and climate. And they are spectacular. 

On tulip farms and at the rightly world famous Keukenhof Gardens, the Netherlands is resplendent with tulips of every shade and configuration.

At Keukenhof, three million tulip (and other) bulbs are planted each year for a spectacle that is open to the public for only eight weeks.

 But everything seems to have a shadow side. My tour visited a tulip farm. Unable to walk with my fellows into the fields, I lingered behind. When I asked my guide about these buildings, she revealed they were housing for the ‘seasonal workers’ – usually from Poland – who helped harvest the bulbs for processing and shipment. Migrant workers are apparently treated the same the world over.

I can only hope some of the beauty seeped into their souls and gladdened their hearts.