Friends, Family and the Fourth

This last week back in The Netherlands has been a nice recovery from all the drama and trauma of the last months.  We spent the weekend at our camping site at Oud Alblas.  We went canoeing on Saturday and then on Sunday we had a nice paddle with the Dutch couple who we bought our cedar canoe from a year ago.

We spent a wonderful afternoon paddling and sharing ideas and paddle ideas with each other.  We were also happy to find out that they will be attending the same canoe conference in September.  The afternoon paddling the Oud Alblas was perfect conditions with a bit of wind but not anything that would tire us out.  Now that the hydrangea’s are blooming it has changed the river view of houses that sit along the river. Just a few weeks ago some houses went really unnoticed but now as we pass, are bursting with powder puff color balls of white, blue, lavender, pink, and red.

launching from Oud Alblas Ice Club Camping

Launching from the Oud Alblas Ice Club Camping

Paddling the Oud Alblas

Paddling the Alblas River

The windmills of the Alblas River

The windmills of the Alblas River

Sunday night the hubby headed home as he had to go to work the next morning, I stayed at the camping to get some more great sleep (or so I thought).  I prepared my kayak for an early morning paddle on Monday.  I was on the Alblas River at 5:00 am.  The sun was just peeking over the horizon and the glow of the morning and all that is new with a start of a fresh new day was waking as I paddled along the quite banks of the river.  Looking at the flowers, back gardens, and the few people who had also chosen to wake at such and hour and welcome the new day.

Alblas River at 5 am

The Alblas River at 5 am

The past few weeks of drama and trauma melted away and I was only living in the moment.  This early morning moment feels like a new life, full of hope of a new day a new future.  Fresh with a new outlook.  Beautiful and untouched by all the ugliest in the world.  I want to stay here and live here on the water floating along the current without a care in the world.

But this too, must come to an end, the paddle is almost over after two hours, but I still feel the peace that is the zen from the Alblas River. I float through the rest of the day and head home via, bike,  water bus, and train.

Oud Alblas in the early morning

Oud Alblas in the early morning


The perfect morning light of Oud Alblas

The perfect morning light of Oud Alblas


7 am on the Alblas end of the paddle

7 am on the Alblas. End of the morning paddle for me.


The 4th of July brought me to Amsterdam.

I almost never go there anymore.  It is a city of tourist and I am not a tourist anymore after eleven years.  I find it to be very busy and not Dutch anymore.

This time I have a coffee appointment with family.  Yes, family out of the USA who are here for business.  More as a family requirement and not really to spend time to “see” me they suggested meeting for coffee early in the morning close to the hotel in Amsterdam.  The family is a cousin from my mother, I am nervous as to what my mother or father has said to her before she got to Amsterdam.  I know, I am on the naughty list, and that my parents have cut all ties with me since I was in Minnesota.  This hurts emotionally, rationally I know I did the right thing but the two parts of my poor brain are in conflict as to how to deal with other family members over the situation.

Not talking about it or let it all hang out in the wind and the wash.  I am never sure when dealing with my family and that is where I stand in the early morning as I ride the train to Amsterdam before the commuters clog the train.

I arrive in Amsterdam at 7:15 am.  I love this time of the morning.  Relaxed and quite, I can watch the city wake from a night of partying.  The foreigners have littered the streets with trash, the city workers are busy working on the clean up to make it new for the next day and night of partying.

I walk to the OV Fiets (the rental bike shop), pay for a waiting bike and ride through the streets to the Dam.  This place where the palace of the monarch of the Netherlands has special celebrations and has the national war monument.  This place is peaceful at this hour of the day.  I think I am not far from the cafe where I am to meet the family but after looking on my app I find I am one street and a canal not far enough to the East.  I hop back on my bike and head back in the direction I came to get to the cafe on time.

The Dam in Amsterdam

The Dam in Amsterdam 7:30 am

The war monument at The Dam

The National War Monument at The Dam, Amsterdam

The Lion at the Dam.

The Lion at the Dam in Amsterdam. The symbol of all things Dutch and of the Monarchy.

I stopped at the old VOC building to check my map.

VOC building in Amsterdam

VOC building in Amsterdam.

Tourist backpacking in Amsterdam.

backpackers in Amsterdam

Backpackers in Amsterdam

I have a coffee with my mother’s family (ok, my family even though I have only seen this cousin once before in my life and her Phd daughter – never before).

Nice, the Phd is here to give a presentation at the University of Amsterdam, then they are taking a five day bike ride in North Holland.  Wonderful!  I think as I listen.  American’s who really are seeing this country from a bike.  Plus, they have perfect weather for it.

The conversation turns to my family in Minnesota and I let loose of the pain and the reality of the situation.  It hurts as I tell it but I maintain my military bearing and share the facts and how I experienced it.

Sad, yes, it is, but can’t be changed as it takes two sides to change this impassible situation with my parents and they will not even entertain the idea of repair or further relationship.  Oh well, I think, so sad my cousin tells me and they hope it changes, but I am sure it won’t.

I tell them I have made my peace with the situation and said my last good byes to my parents with love, but I knew once I took action on their situation they would feel upset and would not let me forget it.  Cutting all ties with me was not really what I expected but in the end I guess I wasn’t surprised.

White Dutch Lilacs

White Dutch Lilacs

As I bike and ride the train out of Amsterdam I reflect on the good times with my Mom, the fact that she always loved lilacs, that it was the one of the last good conversations we had over the phone before we knew she was so sick.

She loved everything about them the different sorts, the different colors and the smell.  When she had worked the hard industrial jobs it was the one thing she always had in her house was a bar of lilac soap.  It was the one thing that made her feel special.

My hope now is that she has one next to her as she forgets the good things she has in her life as the struggle with her illness takes over.

I wish for myself peace in my kayaking, peace in my life in The Netherlands, peace in my life when I visit Minnesota, peace in the world.

Is any of that possible?

I can only hope and love.  That is all I have.