Tonight at 8 pm Dutch standard time the entire country will pause for two minutes of silence. This tradition each year is to honor, remember and respect all war dead. That it includes, not only military, but civilian casualties from those conflicts.
On March 10th this year, the Hubby and I visited the largest American Cemetery in The Netherlands from World War II, Margraten.
Not our first visit, but I needed time to reflect on what was happening on the World stage. I needed counsel from the silence to make sense to what was happening in the Ukraine.
War is never cheap! It costs lives, some so young, they never got to live the life I have lived. Marriage, children, jobs that would give them joy. They never experienced Europe free from Nazi rule. Yet, each and everyone one of those souls helped to change the course of history. Leaders of the time after these soldiers had fought and died, said NEVER AGAIN!
Yet, here I was in 2022 trying to understand why? How?
As we walked through the silence of the peacefully resting souls who now are forever part of the Dutch landscape, I cried. To know that so many were lost, that so many helped to make Europe what it is today without ever seeing the war at the ending…sad…yet sadder to see a repeat of something so similar in the Ukraine.
So, wherever you are in the World as you read this blog today, please stop and send your thoughts towards peace. War is never the answer but we must remember the ultimate cost for everyone.
The Keukenhof Bulb Garden opened for the first time in two years on Thursday 24 March, and for the first time since I stopped working at the gardens in 2015 I visited with my friend Kathy from Minnesota.
Winter still has a grip on Northern Minnesota, it was more like summer here in The Netherlands. Tulips here are popping out of the ground fast! The Daffodils and Hyacinths are in full bloom! It was perfect weather to tour the gardens.
We arrived early (my advice to anyone coming to visit the Keukenhof is to get there before 10 am). The park was instantly an eye full of color as we walked in the gate. Since I worked at the garden for five years I was happy to see the new changes made since 2015. A new entrance gate, new wide pathways in some areas of the park that previously were under used by the masses of tourists. It was also good to see some things hadn’t changed within the park and I enjoyed showing my long time friend (we concluded that we have been friends for near 40 years!) all the cool places within the park. Some of my old co-workers at the William Alexander Pavilion are still working at the coffee cafe booth, hugs and smiles were exchanged. Something that just a few months ago would have been unheard of due to COVID rules.
The best way to see the park is to take a nice leisurely walk, peek into the different pavilions and see the surprises the garden designers have created. No trip is complete without trying one of the many “Dutch” treats. On our visit we ate poffertjes, small pancakes with a dab of butter and topped with a generous helping of powered sugar.
On Thursday we spent about three hours at the park. Noting that it was getting busier and busier by the minute.
Today, Sunday, I hopped on my bike and rode to Hillegom and then on through the fields towards Lisse. Once again, I passed the Keukenhof and noted that the warm weather brought out the tourists. Although not the numbers that have blessed the park in the pre-COVID years but still better than in the last two years when the park was closed.
If any of my readers will be visiting in the coming weeks, my advice again is to arrive early at the Keukenhof, take a bike ride in the local community, eat at our restaurants, and enjoy an European pace.
I am enjoying the freedom of Democracy! Please continue remember and support those in the Ukraine who are still fighting to protect their countrymen and the democracy. Our thoughts for peace are with the Ukraine people! 💙💛☮️🌷
Years ago when I first traveled to Europe while on leave from my military duty in the Middle East I saw it through the eyes of an innocent young adult. Europe was nothing like imaged from all my prior reading in books on the continent.
I flew into Germany, quickly purchased a dress, Birkenstocks, backpack and finally a train ticket. I stuffed my military uniform into a locker on the American Air Base and headed out on an adventure.
I had an experienced travel partner with me and we rode the overnight on a train to Italy to stay with his brother. I then jumped on a train alone, travelled on to see an Air Force friend in eastern Italy. Everything was new and exiting. The old buildings, the landscapes, the crazy mopeds driving on the busy streets.
I have retold tons of stories of that trip over the years to friends and relatives. The newness of Europe to me was full of adventure and I thought it would be my only opportunity ever to visit the continent. From where I sit today that newness and sharp edges are worn smooth with experience there are things I just don’t see of my adopted country of The Netherlands anymore.
This week the Hubby and I are hosting one of my best friends from my home town in Minnesota. Yes, there is a threat of war on our continent and most of us have gotten little sleep as prices rise, refugees are now entering the country and the news is constantly repeating the play by play of the war in Ukraine like some sports show.
It is hard for me to see things as exciting and new. But, my friend is seeing and experiencing Europe with and through the eyes of an innocent child. Everything is new for her, the old Amsterdam buildings, the windmills, the Dutch countryside and the wonderful robust transport system we have in this country and it has lifted the shadows of the overhanging news of the war.
We have nearly forgotten that a terrorist is holding us all hostage with his threat of nuclear button pushing or super sonic weapons. Life is going on even if it is more expensive each day.
For Americans to explore the past locations that our ancestors came from since the birth of the USA. It will be harder, as this war lingers, to do such things without anxiety. My hope and wish is that there will be a quick and peaceful resolution, but from my professional background, old fears whisper “it will be a long and difficult road” before peace.
My advise to all my readers, come to Europe, live the experience, don’t let a terrorist win! Experience the continent and Carpe Diem!
We all want tourist from other places to enjoy the European continent in freedom and to see it for the diversity it holds.
Four o’clock in the morning I am wide awake recently. In the Middle Ages I have read, this time was when the nuns and monks would be conducting prayers prior to their morning routines. The quiet hours before all the earth wakes and the noise of the day begins. A time to let God know our deepest prayers.
I’m my prior military profession early morning was also prep time for the coming day filled with meetings, plans, training, routines. While most people were still restfully sleeping, I would bundle up my small sleeping child and head off to the day care at the military base dropping him off with caregivers who understood that the military didn’t run on “normal” time clocks. Then I would race off to the physical fitness field to start my day along with my troops. These long grueling early morning routines were preparing all of us for possible war if it ever came to a reality. I know I said a lot of prayers during those hours of painful exercise and asked God “Why am I doing this?”. I never received an answer so I guessed there was no one listening.
This morning as I pulled myself out of bed as the Hubby was in a peaceful sleep I wondered again “Why?”
No answer…except from my years of experience. A military officer must always be the first awake, prepared, set for the coming tasks of the day. Although I am retired (now 12 years!) I feel the old pull to routines. To start my day, know the situational ground truth, start my day in a peaceful reflection and ask the universe for help in dealing with what the day brings. My belief in a God is not the same as it once was but as in any relationship it has matured over time.
This situation in Ukraine challenges us all. We all want Putin to stop this assault on the people and sovereign nation of Ukraine. We want to live as humans on this planet free from war and the threat of war. Will that be a reality today?
As a retired military officer who has lived through three combat zones, served as a U.S. military officer assigned to NATO twice, these old routines are not a burden. I have already provided comfort to people who fear the unknown of what is to maybe or maybe not to come.
The universe has placed me right where I need to be. I fear not the evil that has attacked the Ukraine. I cry tears for those who have had to experience war. No war produces winners, it is only death and misery. The scars ripple through time in hope of finding a peaceful solution for humanity and our planet. We all must listen and help where we can in ways small and large.
Please provide what support you can to those who suffer from the war in Ukraine and other wars that have tormented our planet. Let’s find ways to live in peace. 💙💛🙏☮️
For my regular followers you will be happy to see that the Hummm… is still in me and that I can write about it. Maybe it will bring some smiles to those of you who have been too much in front of all the current World events. As I now have a strong following from China I hope that they understand the Hummm files and can see the smiles on all of our faces as we read these strange and unusual sightings. Welcome to my new Chinese followers!
We made a short trip this last week to an undisclosed location here in Europe to enjoy the sun and see some local sights. The weather was unusually warm for this time of the year and it brought the local citizens out in grand European style to enjoy the sun collectively and enjoy a nice cup of coffee with friends. After two years of COVID we are all very happy to get back to normal!
Hummm… normal? What the heck is that? Well, I didn’t think I would be enjoying a cup of coffee and have to worry about nuclear attacks! That is NOT normal!!! So what other not normal things did we see… here is a bit of the sights.
Hummm… how am I doing? Sleep, crappy! Worried…NO! Prepared for whatever crap comes our way…YUP!!!!
I do not fear Putin and as any coward usual does, he is hiding in Moscow while his troops are dying on the battlefield. Hummm… is NATO prepared for him if he crosses the line they have set into place. I can say in the most unofficial terms YES, YES, YES!!!! 💙💛🙏
Will the Hubby and I have to escape via our beautiful Cedar canoe if things get really close? Possible. We were asked to wipe our muddy feet when we get to where we are going to paddle. No problem! 🛶🚴♀️
So for all you out there that worry about us we appreciate your prayers and support here at the Cedar Journal, but please send most of your support to those in Ukraine as they need it more than we do at this moment. 💙💛💙💛🙏🇪🇺🇪🇺🇪🇺🇪🇺