It’s a few weeks since Christmas and Hogmanay. In Edinburgh last week, I met with someone who wished me a Happy New Year. He said that New Year’s greetings are extended in Scotland. I quite like that. It gives more space and time to adjust to the idea of a new year, especially after the mad rush and blur of time passing that seems to occur over the holidays. I always lose track of my days in that festive and busy season. However, the first day of the year remains etched in my mind as it was so clear and beautiful, which was a nice change. The wild winds paused, allowing me and friends to go for the traditional New Year’s Day walk along the clifftops of the most northerly point of the UK mainland, Dunnet Head.
Looking towards the hills of Sutherland from Dunnet Head
Last week in Edinburgh, the skies were similarly blue, bright and clear, and the weather very cold. Maybe not as cold as the Highlands though, where I heard reports of snow, and quite a lot of it too. In some ways, I am sad to miss it, as I love it when it snows. It must be the Canadian in me! But I enjoyed those crisp sunny days in Edinburgh as well.
Earlier this month, before leaving Caithness and heading south via Stirling, I was taking down the decorations and noticed that my hyacinth was starting to bloom. It was given to me by a friend at Christmastime. I placed it on the piano and beside a card which was from another friend. The card has on it an image of a hyacinth in the windowsill, a painting by Winifred Nicholson.
I did not want to leave it behind and miss the full glory of the white blossoming hyacinth, so I decided to place it in a box and take it with me on my journey south. It sat in the back of the car for the 6 hour drive. The first stop was Stirling where I attended a three day conference. The focus of the conference was on the visual arts, but when I got to the venue the setting was overwhelmingly grey and muted. One of the speakers, who is also a friend, said that she was tempted to drape her scarf over the lectern just to add some colour. That prompted me to bring my hyacinth into the meeting room. At that point it was in full bloom and the scent filled the space for the remainder of the talks, and I’d like to think it enhanced everyone’s experience.
Beauty is essential. It inspires our souls and gives joy to our hearts. And isn’t that what art, music, design, and nature is all about? A recent article I read in the Guardian speaks of the positive effect art can have on our health and outlook. ‘Art is often seen as a luxury but, just like exercise and meditation, researchers are coming to believe it’s fundamental to our mental and physical wellbeing,’
In Amsterdam (blog cont'd)...
I’m sitting in the waiting lounge at Schiphol airport, looking out a large wall of windows onto the take off and landing space. A KLM plane is awaiting its next group of passengers. The clear sky is darkening in the blue hour, accentuating the long row of green lights lining the runway.
A woman sitting at the table in front of me is speaking Spanish to someone on her phone, or is it Portuguese? I’m not sure….
As I sit here, my great grandparents come to mind. I didn't know them personally, but know that they lived nearby in the town of Badhoevedorp. Mom said that they often housed the first pilots that flew from Schiphol when it was a very small airport. Now it's one of the largest airports in Europe.
An hour or so ago I was dropped off by my cousin, Wendy, who I have not seen for about 10 years. It was lovely to connect with her and her family again, along with other relatives. I went over to the Netherlands for a brief weekend trip, as my parents were across from Canada. They flew over to celebrate my aunt and uncle’s golden wedding anniversary, along with various other birthday and landmark events. The 50th anniversary party seemed a good opportunity to reconnect with some of my Dutch family too.
Thankfully via video calling my parents and I can stay in touch on a weekly basis - a routine that was reinforced during the pandemic. It means that when we see each other in person we easily pick up where we left off. Saying that, there is nothing like standing in the same space with someone.
So much water in the Netherlands!
I went for a walk around the town of Wilnis with my Dad one morning. It was cold, but we were happy to be out and to clear our heads from all the visiting. Wilnis is where some of my relatives live. It was interesting to see how their lives intertwine and to get a taste of what it might be like to live in the same village as your extended family. I've never experienced that really, my parents having emigrated to Canada just before I was born. They carved a new life out for themselves in a new land which was so different from the one they left. Sometimes I wonder how it might have been had they stayed in Holland. However, when I was walking with my father we both agreed that Canada was a wonderful choice for our family life. All that space and beauty!
Now I'm in London and I look forward to seeing a couple of plays, one being a comedy by a Korean Canadian playwright who I know from Toronto, Ins Choi. He wrote and is performing in the play 'Kim's Convenience' at the Park Theatre. It's had great reviews and tickets are selling out fast. We'll enjoy having lunch together in a few days.
But for now, it's time to wrap up the day with a lovely dinner prepared by good friends in London.