Tuesday, February 20

The Old Man is Snoring

20 October 2005

We are now fully into what is a new season for us. It is autumn here in Holland and it is a fresh experience for this desert dwelling family. The temperatures have dropped with the daytime reaching the 60’s and the nights hovering in the 40’s. That's Fahrenheit degrees, I haven't really learned to translate the Celsius thermometer just yet. The leaves on the trees are turning orange, red, yellow and brown and they are falling non-stop, leaving branches bare to battle the cold. Though it has been a moderate October according to the locals, we are adding layers of clothing to keep ourselves warm. We are also trying to prepare ourselves for the real cold which seems imminent. This will be a true test for our thin desert blood.

The change in the weather also includes the arrival of the rain. Rain in Holland is an exceptional thing, I have really never seen anything like it. It's a very quiet thing. The storm makes no loud pronouncements that it is here; there is no thunderclap to signal its arrival and the dark clouds don't even really roll in, they just appear and then silently open up and pour. There seems to be no interruption in the rhythm of the raindrops and I would qualify it more as rain streams rather than separate droplets. Often, the mist is so fine you must tilt your head to catch the full image of the falling water. The ground just seems to open up and receive the wetness. There are no major puddles gathering where ground is saturated and the streets don't seem to flood. The water wends its way into the cracks between cobblestones and disappears into the ground. It actually seems that the earth is just waiting for the water to return so it can gobble it up and send it back through its cycle to visit again another day.

Then add to the rain, the wind, which is blowing fiercely today. As I sit at my dining room table and write I am watching the wind whip the trees in the backyard and send the falling leaves spinning. At this moment I am glad that I do not have to go out in it. However, I am learning that life goes on as normal here, rain or no rain. Though I am not willing to saddle the bike and head out against whipping wind and pelting rain, Hollanders are making their way every morning in the wet cold. This is the culture of which you can say “neither rain nor sleet nor snow will stop us from our appointed rounds." To me, the Dutch seem indomitable.

On rainy days we ride a bus which is a bit more crowded than usual. I attribute that to the other foreigners here who also lack the fortitude of the Dutch and they, like me ditch their bikes at the first sign of discomfort. As we round the corner to Central Station the masses vie for a position to step off the bus. There is a shuffling of feet, packages and umbrellas as the bus approaches the platform. As the first feet hit the pavement there is a “whoosh-pop” of an umbrella going up and over the head. Then “whoosh-pop, whoosh-pop, whoosh-pop, pop, pop, pop, pop” as others embark and raise their own rain covers. What you see then is a tremendous parade of color as the umbrellas surge forward to the protection of the station’s overhang. It’s a visual delight, repeated each time a bus pulls in to the station to unload passengers.

One common saying in Holland that I have heard oft repeated: “if you don’t like the weather, just wait ten minutes” which we have witnessed to be a truism. We have experienced heavy rain, wind, sunny skies and hail in the course of a single hour. It is hard weather to predict, because just as I say “oh, clouds today” they are blown out and replaced by blue skies. Even the official weather predictions are a bit sketchy at times. We have learned to carry an umbrella even on bright sunny days and to always pack along an extra jacket. The learning curve on this has proven to be steep, but slowly we are getting what it means to be in a land of changing seasons and changeable weather.

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