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Bed-Making, Bohemian Rhapsody and Runner Beans

17 Aug

Well the busy pace of life continues at Les Battees.  July is the holiday season in France and seems to bleed into August.  The daily rhythm continues… dinners for guests prepared by Roy, ironing sheets, doing dishes, and making beds in the guest rooms while discussing important issues in life… like the origin of certain English words…which leads us to conversations about Canterbury Tales and the language of the time (14th century) used in the book… and ultimately somehow digressed into a conversation about the song Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen and the muppet version of that song.  To say things aren’t just a little bit “koo-koo” around here from the unrelenting daily work at Les Battees would not be the truth.  But alas, so it goes.

The busy times has brought guests from the Netherlands and England. There have been French guests who have mistaken me for Roy’s wife and wondered why it was that I was so unfriendly not speaking a word to them… Unfortunately they did not understand my friendly American smile that I offered which means something like… “I come in peace… and I cannot speak your language!”  Yes, it seems I have digressed into saying that I cannot speak French.  My “foundation” of high school French has proven quite… inadequate… as mostly I tend to say “Je ne parle pas Francais”  which is, of course, I don’t speak French.  Part of the challenge I have found in speaking French is listening to and understanding French when spoken by a French person.  A whole different ballgame.  The other night at dinner there was a Dutch woman speaking French with the French guests so beautifully.  I had French envy.  Despite my challenges I still think it would be fun to speak French or another language in addition to English.

I remain “pampered” with the wonderful food here at Les Battees.  I never tire of French cheese and my prior habit of eating little dairy has had to simply… go out the window.  Roy continues to pull fresh vegetables from his garden, some familiar, and some less so.  The other day he picked some green beans from the garden.  They looked innocent enough until I saw the bright red beans on the inside.  They didn’t look like any green beans I had ever had!  Roy calls them runner beans and says that he thinks these are the same beans we use to grow kidney beans.  He steamed them and served them up with one of his famous mushroom omelettes.  Yummy!

We have another busy weekend ahead and then it looks like possibly a break…the first in weeks.  When I am not busy with the Chambres d’Hotes lately I am spending my time busily researching for my “next step” when I leave Les Battees… plans still under development.

So in the meantime, still making my way.  Ironing the sheets.  Making the beds.  And in between grabbing some sunlight and taking breaks in the fresh country air accompanied by the gentle hills surrounding Les Battees.

Goodnight, Alkmaar!

8 Sep

Well it is Thursday evening and I just returned from a bicycle ride into town.  Marijke’s home is in what we might consider the suburbs of Alkmaar.  But in truth it is not far from the center of town.  Just a short bicycle ride away.  The weather outside is cool and accepting.  It was a good night for a ride.

My time in Alkmaar in nearing an end.  I have been here, in truth, longer than I realized as time sneaks by me in my often timeless world.  Over four weeks.  But it has been good.  The time.  The connections.  And the generosity of Marijke of not only extending her home… but her consistent way of offering her hospitality and keeping me in mind as a part of her daily way.  To that I say, Dankjewel!  From the bottom of my heart!

As my final farewell and parting words to Alkmaar and for now the Netherlands, I off my appreciation in the form of the “ode to the bicycle”… Never before have I ever… ever seen such a place that pays homage to the bicycle the way the Netherlands does.  It may be normal life for the Dutch.  For me it is…well, out of the ordinary!  Just tonight I had my premier experience with the Dutch and bicycles.  It is essentially valet parking for bikes.  Okay, perhaps not that formal… but pretty good.  In town this evening we parked our bicycles in a free (gratis) underground parking garage for bicycles.  On the way down the stairs I prepared to struggle with my bicycle as is typical for me when escorting a bicycle down a flight of stairs.  But the Dutch are too smart for this.  First their premier levee system, now this.  Going down the stairs, on the outside, the perimeter of the stairs there is a… how would you describe it… a narrow, smooth track for your bicycle that allows you to easily roll it while you walk the stairs.  Incredible.  And then, when you arrive at the bottom in the garage, the friendly man gives you a numbered ticket… half on your bicycle, the other half with you.  And then you park!   Marijke’s tire was flat, so the nice man used the premier bicycle pump mounted to the wall to put a little air in her tire before she parked.  Outstanding.

I appreciate this the most about the Netherlands.  It’s persistent bicycle culture that has, indeed, put me to shame.  It wasn’t unusual to see someone almost twice my age passing me on their bicycle as I reluctantly asked Marijke, “how much longer now…”  A bicycle ride in the rain… just another day for the Dutch.  And then there’s Marijke’s neighbor… a grandpa who rides his bicycle over 20 km to work every day.

As I say farewell to the Netherlands, I prepare to return to Wettenbostel… leaving early Saturday morning. I am so grateful to have  a friendly welcoming place where I can return.  But for now I say Goodnight. Goodnight to the wind and the windmills.  The bicycle paths lined with cows and sheep.  The unexpected showers and expansive sky.  Goodnight!  Goodnight sweet Alkmaar!

Gypsy of the Soul

5 Sep

It is a rainy Monday morning here in Alkmaar.  I am reminded it is the beginning of the work week as Marijke is off at her job. The weekend was filled with an out-of-town adventure… as well as some soul-searching…as I am leaving the Netherlands this week.  There was a balance of enjoying time in the Netherlands, in the now, and exploring the inquiry of what is next on the journey.

Saturday was a trip down memory lane for Marijke as we visited the town where she attended college, Nijmegen. A jewel of a town just kilometers from the German border, it is rich with history as well as culturally and architecturally stunning and fulfilling. Around 2000 years old, Nijmegen has architectural remains and artifacts dating back to Roman times.  But it strikes a balance of feeling rich and rooted in history and alive and vibrant in the now.  As we arrived crossing the River Waal, I learned from Marijke that during WWI, the Germans tried to invade at that river crossing the bridge.  The Dutch met the Germans midway and ultimately stopped them from invading any further.

I had a few hours to explore on my own while Marijke attended to her own plans, and the town invited me in.  I wandered the river until I found a cobblestone road, pulling me uphill to the center of town. I was greeted by a Saturday outdoor market as well as the sounds of drums filling the street as there was a Samba and Salsa festival that weekend.  I went where my feet took me… and found a fabulous Thrift Store!  And later to the park near the old water tower with locals speckled throughout the green lawn enjoying the beautiful summer day.   I sat in the sun and drank in the park, the grounded earthy feeling of its history and strength as well as its creative spirit.

Later that day I met with Marijke and her nephew and his girlfriend.  They live in the heart of Nijmegen and were proud to share their historical but independently spirited town.  With a university just outside of the center of town, it is brimming with liveliness.  We dined together at an Italian restaurant that had been there since the 1940s and then an evening stroll through the city and… more Samba and Salsa drifting into the night air.  We returned late and tired… ready for a good night sleep.

And Sunday… time for self. And a little reflection.  There is one thing I am coming to see…in this gypsy life of mine… Being a gypsy is not just about meandering, just wandering from one place to the next.  Seeing where the next opportunity lies.  It is also about learning, exploring and beginning to be a gypsy to my own soul.  Wandering in unknown territories.  Being open to explore something new within me.  Listening to the cry or even the whimper of my own being and what it needs… and in gypsy spirit… being willing to go there and explore.  Sometimes those places may look interesting and sexy.  Sometimes they may not.

Just days before leaving Marijke’s home in Alkmaar  I find myself feeling somewhat like the the illustration of the children in the poem Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.   In the image children are on the edge of a sidewalk floating in the sky… with a sign “the Edge” as the sidewalk crumbles off into nothingness.

I have been listening to those around me… and feeling the wandering and listlessness inside of me… I keep hearing from people around me words like intention and direction and questions like “what do you want?”… and still further  “it feels like you have no direction.” And wondering, curious where all of this fits in the world of flexibility, going with the flow and allowing things to unfold.  Looking for what it is that will ground me and seeking, exploring how to pay attention and see what it is I need and want… This passage seems to call for intimacy…. and not just an intimacy with others but an intimacy with the self.  Or at least a first date. A little coffee, willingness to say hello, spend some time and at least take a risk to offer something new, fresh, that is wanting to be nourished.

My time in the Netherlands has offered this to me… in has shown me what in my life needs attention. Like baby birds, beak open, screaming to be fed… and that being said, paying attention to where the hunger is… not just the need… but the desire and interest. I remember one time when reading The Artists Way by Julia Cameron, she offered a possible way as a roadmap to our inner artists…. notice the things that make you jealous.  This jealousy she says is something within you saying… I want that!  I want to play and to consider that aspect of self has somehow been… denied!  And explore even little ways to begin to offer yourself a piece of THAT!

There is still some time to be enjoyed here, rain allowing.  One more bicycle ride down the canal lined streets.  One more pass past the fields of cows and sheep.  And tonight… drum lessons!  Marijke is attending a class to learn jimbay and I will join her.  Yipee!  And later this week, we shall see…


31 Aug

Freedom. Ah, perhaps one of the most questioned topics….  Janis Joplin, spiritual texts.  But what is freedom… really?  I suppose it just depends on who you ask…

I have been in the Netherlands now for about two weeks, and I have to say it has grown on me.  It has a sweet and simple essence to it and it is a pleasure to be surrounded by bicycles, canals, cows, sheep and of course windmills as part of the daily landscape on any average day.  Time here the past few days has resumed a moderate pace.  Marijke returning to work.  Me mostly staying by the house except for a walk here, a bicycle ride there.

A few nights ago Marijke invited two friends over for a Reiki exchanged.  I witnessed the rhythm of the evening as it was explained to me before hand…  Coffee, tea and something to eat… (strawberry pie for the non-sugar eaters… everyone but me…), then upstairs for Reiki share (for non-Reiki people, simply this includes gathering around a Reiki/massage table and taking turns giving and receiving Reiki…), and then return downstairs for more socializing and more to drink… some wine perhaps… and more snacks too.  A different beat from our Reiki shares in the States, less formal… and generally no tea and snacks served…

Her guests and friends for Reiki were a friendly married couple and it was a fun “dutch” experience for me.  They mostly indulged my need to speak English and we talked and shared and laughed about what was true in the States, what is true in the Netherlands and in Europe.  Marijke almost fell off her chair laughing when she heard it was not uncommon in the States to sing the National Anthem at “important” events.  This just doesn’t compute to her dutch mind… it is even a little ridiculous…  And flag bearing and waving, well perhaps just a little less regarded here in Holland.  They do, they said, when they remember, fly the Dutch flag on the Queens birthday.  That’s sweet.

Nationalism, the topic turned, has a bit of a different flair here in Europe as well.  According to my intimate conversation with a select three Europeans, there is still a significant degree of sensitivity to ideas like nationalism since the impact of the Second World War.  It is fine to love one’s country… but perhaps there is a fear, a concern of taking that too far… An example was offered of being in Ireland where an Irish man started singing his national anthem with pride.  There was also a fellow there from Germany and when he was invited to sing his anthem, “Germany above all… above all in the world…” there was hesitation… even perhaps, disgrace.  It certainly puts a different context on history to be in the countries where the atrocities of WWII happened… something that over in the states we are mostly isolated from…

But alas, Europe and the States are not all that far apart in some ways.  American culture has leaked into European culture and you see it everywhere.  Sometimes with a chuckle.  And at times, a little disturbing… Just today I was walking around the nearby shopping area and heard Lionel Ritchie “Say you, Say me” being piped in through the overhead music.  And the neighbors have a dog named Neil… named after Neil Diamond.

As the pace here gets slower and Marijke’s work schedule gets busier… it seems it will shortly be time to leave the Netherlands.  Or at the very least depart from the generosity and comfort of Marijke’s home.  We discussed this briefly today.  It will soon be time to go.  And the idea of being some place else, some place new brought to me… well, excitement.  Cool… something new… what’s next?  Could this feeling be something like… Freedom?…

Ah, it’s the adventurer in me that often excited by the spirit of something new.  But I have to admit I am not always smooth in this transition.  I can recall times in the past when something has come to a close… being delighted by the feeling of the possibility of what is next… something new… and then stricken with anxiety wandering through the uncertainty of it.  Well, it’s a way perhaps… a way to waddle from point A to point B… meandering through the uncertainty.  But perhaps this time will be different… a gentle shift from what is now to what is next.  A new country perhaps?

Which brings us to the original theme when I first arrived here in the Netherlands to stay in Marijke’s home… that is “go where you want to go, do what you want to do… we are loving you!”  Freedom.

Needing to be

29 Aug

I am sure many of you are familiar with the book and now movie Eat, Pray, Love.  In the real-life story a 30 something woman finds herself in transition… unglued, unlocked… and makes a choice to spend a year traveling.  3 months in Italy… Eat.  3 months in an ashram in India… Pray.  And 3 months in Bali… ultimately love.  Before I made the choice to embark on my journey in Europe, I remember an experience I had.  It was in the bathroom of the mostly empty home where I was house sitting in a suburb of New Orleans called Metairie.  In full transition form, I was living there lightly.  The house was empty and for sale. I had set up an inflatable mattress in the bedroom.  My friend and Reiki teacher, Elizabeth Ohmer Pellegrin, who was sharing the space for her Reiki practice had thankfully set up a futon and coffee table in the main room.  Ah, a little comfort of home in the sparseness of it all.  Things were coming to a close at the house and a transition ensued in my world.  The house was under contract, all of my personal belongings fit into a storage unit the size of a closet, and my 1996 Ford Taurus, which had given me 5 good years, was about to collapse.  What am I going to do?  I looked in the mirror in the bathroom… and what I heard was… Eat, Pray, Love…. I smiled a little to myself… taking some comfort in the possibility of a journey.  And that I might deserve to have such an adventure.  I was in need of one.

But where, for now, Ms. Gilbert and I depart ways was she had a plan… a framework for her journey… and at least,I think, an advance on the book she was writing.  And so it seemed, as I canceled my return flight to the states in June and rescheduled it for May of 2012… I was excited but also in a state of the unknown.  Unknown of where I would go and what I would do and unknown how I would finance my adventure…  Now I have some practice and power with this state of being living the mischievous life that I have led in New Orleans… and then of course post-Katrina.  A friend once told me that I am like a cat… I always land on my feet.  But jumping and leaping all of the time can get… exhausting.  It’s that word again… balance.  It seems, here in my state of flux I am craving it.

So I had a little walk today with Marijke, my friend and host in the Netherlands and she asked me… what is your wish?  What is you wish for your time in Europe?  And in a way, the conversation was a surprise for me.  I suppose I was thinking that in going with the flow I would have to surrender to the will of the way…  and in the way, no one asked me about my wish. That somehow I did not have a choice.   Hmmm, interesting question, I thought…  I have to admit, a few weeks into my visit in the Netherlands… I have a lack of focus and what seems to be a handful of possiblibilities for “what’s next” depending on this, depending on that… My “dependence on” has me hypnotized by my need… and less in the here and now.  But she offered, I could consider my wish… and have that as my intention.  For example, she offered, Ms. Gilbert and Eat, Pray, Love… the book that she happens to be currently reading… started out with an intention… of where she would be for each period of her journey.  She offered that as something to consider.  What is my intention?  What would I like this year to look like… with off course leaving room for flexibility and shifting and unexpected opportunities.  But a nice idea nonetheless!

And somewhere in this I find that I need room to be… where I am… and the idea of immediately moving here, then moving there… no maybe there… is a little unnerving.  What would I like?

I don’t know the answer to that question yet.  But I will spend some time chanting about it and sending Reiki.  How does one walk that path… of going with the flow, listening to and being guided by a higher wisdom… but still feeling and staying grounded along the way and being connected to our own wants and desires.  Hmmm… I have explored this road before.  But now, in Europe, in Alkmaar, the volume seems to be turned up a little higher.  It’s so nice to have someone who is kind enough to ask the questions… on a lovely stroll through the maze of paths near her home.

Tonight, friends of Marijke’s are coming to her home to join us for a little socializing and some Reiki.  And for me… it’s hard to just be with all these questions running through my head!  Alas, maybe I’ll start with exploring and asking… what do I want… what is my wish?  And explore the spirit of the intent for my journey.


24 Aug

What is Kermis you ask?  Well it looks like a Carnival or fair… except it is in the Netherlands and they call it … you guessed it, Kermis!  City blocks filled with carnival rides, games, kids young and old.  I celebrated Kermis with Marijke and her family in a town about an hour and half south of Alkmaar. Kermis is an annual celebration and most towns and cities throughout the Netherlands celebrate it.  It’s a reason for families to get together.  Spend a little time, eat some food…and wander the streets of the Kermis. It reminded me of the carnivals we used to have as kids… our Catholic schools parking lots transformed to a place of spinning metal contraptions, cotton candy and funnel cake.  No funnel cake in Holland, but a very similar sweet fried dough with powdered sugar on it.  I suppose somethings are universal…

Meeting and spending time with Marijke’s family was really great.  Her family was a relaxed and easy group of people who felt like “down to earth dutch”.  Although at times I felt like an alien in the midst of dutch conversations, I was often comforted by a friendly comment, a smile or question in English.  They joked with me and laughed and said I wasn’t missing much in not understanding the conversation!

The Netherlands, as you know, is a really small country.  I was told it takes a maximum of 5 hours to cross by car… and that is from one far most tip to the other.  But Marijke and her family are clear to point out there are still differences amongst the dutch and the different regions of Holland. After driving just an hour and a half south, it was about 5 degrees warmer as there wasn’t the cool breeze creeping in from the North Sea.  And I learned from Marijke’s brother-in-law that the southern most part of Holland has its own dialect.  It is so distinct and different from typical dutch, that those in the North cannot understand it… written or spoken.  Amazing!

So the mission continues, this adventure in Europe.  I have to admit that sometimes it is a bit strange being here.  Sometimes I want to cling to some idea of what  my life was like, should have been like or will be like in the States.  And in the midst of my traveling, I am exploring… am seeking… and wanting ways to be… centered.  In me.  Not thrown off like being on some twisted Kermis ride… Balanced – no matter where I live.  Sometimes I feel like I have this… and… often… I don’t.

Marijke has been taking horse back riding lessons from a woman who lives near Alkmaar who is an expert with horses and a Reiki student of Marijke’s.  They know something about being centered!  The stable is called belckmeerhoeve… don’t know what that means…. and the owner and primary teacher is Marion. Her work with horses is very unique.  Marion is sensitive to and pays attention to the energies of the horses… and works with people in the same way.  Marion says that when riding a horse it is not person sitting on top of horse… but rather the rider and horse connected as one.  It is the practice of the rider to stay connected and centered while working with and connecting with the horse’s energy. This place of centered is called  “one point” or “ki” in the practice of Aikido.  From my years of reading tarot cards it also reminds me of the chariot card… as I learned to interpret it..the powerful woman or man who drives the chariot… being able to stay centered and grounded within their own being while chaos and powerful energies surround them… but staying calm and centered in the midst of it… staying focused and and still being able to direct things…not getting lost in it.

So I am noticing, paying attention to ways and tools that can help keep me stay… centered… and grounded in the here and now…. in Holland which is where I am now… but wherever in the world I am!  One of the challenges I have is “staying in my body”… when I get nervous and sometimes  simply being social and around people… something in me just leaves…hits the road… and physically I am still there but really…I am…not.    Frequently my mind is off running… Ideally, when a person is in “one point” or in their center they are not thrown off  so easily. Jolting outside events or even the perceived threat of one do not have the same impact when you are centered.  So the practice, the exploration for me is… staying centered and grounded… and being engaged in life and traveling in Europe!  Ah, the exploration!

In a talk with Marijke, who in addition to being a Reiki Master is a therapist, she suggested that perhaps it is a thought in my head that is throwing me off my center.  She said likely it happens so quickly that I don’t even notice it, almost unconscious.  She encouraged me to “pay attention” to what I might be saying to myself that is perhaps a precursor to losing that center… that connectedness within me and connection to the people and world around me.

I am really impressed and interested in the work Marion and her team are doing with people and horses.  In addition to teaching riding lessons, she also offers what she calls equine therapy.  As she explained, the energy of the horses is such that it easily connects people with their feelings…  Often as a defense mechanism we (me…) may get lost in our thoughts as a way to avoid simply being with a challenging feeling or emotion.  But working with the horses give direct access to that which must be experienced and expressed to begin to… heal.   Marion says it’s not so easy to keep avoiding things when working with horses in therapy.

And last night… Marijke invited her neighbors over for dinner.  And guess what?  I am doing the cooking.  The is part of the trade that we worked out.  I cook in exchange for staying at her house.  It’s kind of funny for me to be doing the cooking considering the notion and experience I have of myself in the kitchen…(see previous entry on domesticity!).  But often, many times cooking is really…nice.  It feels… well, centering… and grounding…to take my time and chop vegetables and cook food.  Simple food.  And it’s appreciated, which is nice.  And it tastes pretty good!  The little time I spent in Wettensbostel in the kitchen did open up the space for a some fun and creativity…  I can feel a bit of excitement in throwing a few seasonings or ingredients together… sampling how they taste and adjusting as needed.  It actually feels sort of like … freedom.  Who knew I could find …. freedom… in the kitchen…


18 Aug

Well, I have been in Alkmaar, Netherlands for about a week now.  And who knew that having a nice place to stay, some comfort and friendliness of “home”, and good meals to eat would be…freeing.  But it turns out that a big dose of some good old fashion comfort, hospitality and a little stability are just what the doctor ordered….

It has been a quiet day today.  So quiet that I find myself restless.  Isn’t there something I should do?  Move to the left… move to the right.  Mind wandering… searching the internet… and then, underneath the surface I notice… that I am… happy… for those of you following my nearly daily blog, you will take note that this is the second appearance happy has made in my daily dialogue.  I take note of it in my life because… for a while now it… happiness… has eluded me.  As I find it now, while I am hanging out on the couch in Marijke’s house in Holland, it makes me wonder if happiness hasn’t been there all along.  Hanging out beneath the surface while I raced or darted about my day… worrying or making plans or losing myself in thoughts and emotions.  There it is, happiness, just hanging out drinking a cup of coffee… wondering if we are ever going to notice that it’s there, and in that, not really caring one way or the other.  After all, it is happy.

Happiness for me in the past 24 hours has included seeing two very lovely dutch towns not far from Alkmaar.  As I have heard new acquaintances say, these towns are “typical dutch…”  Ya know, canals, boats, bicycles… and of course windmills.  But lovely all the same.  I visited a college down called Leiden yesterday.  This is the town where Marijke works.  I accompanied her to her workplace, walked down a perfect little path about 2 kilometers and before you know I was in the town’s charming center.  A little shy when on my own, I hesitantly chose a place to stop for coffee and a sandwich.  It was on the canal and my seat at the coffee-house overlooked the water.  My sandwich was smoked salmon, cheese, tomato and cucumber on a multi-grain bun.  Yummy!  After lunch I reconnected with Marijke and we headed for a town called Haarlem.  Equal in charm to Leiden, it had a softer style and pace.  It was a place you could just relax and be, filled with charming shops and restaurants, cobblestone streets.

And for now I am at home…just… hanging out… me and happy.  Later tonight we will connect with a friend of Marijke’s.  Low key.  Chill.  And… freeing.

Feeding My Soul

13 Aug

I just finished reading the book Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert, the same author who wrote the book Eat, Pray, Love – a book and now movie of her year adventure overseas after the end of her marriage.  Committed is a continuation of the “love” story from her first book.  One of the things that struck me in the book was her description of her now husband, “Felipe”, as a traveler.  She says what makes him a traveler is his ability to make himself at home anywhere in the world.  He likes it simple.  He might even be boring… but he has a capacity to carve out his world anywhere that he is in the world and make himself at home.  Now, I am new to traveling and definitely new to being in countries that don’t speak my language, but I think if I would have to call myself a traveler… that is the kind of traveler that I am.  Like Felipe.  Knowing and liking some things that feed my soul and seeking to create those things around me wherever I go…

There are some things I just love, that light me up, and finding and connecting with them brings me peace no matter where I am.  Yes, there is a particular delight in experiencing some of these things in new places… What is great about new places… especially for me in Europe… is that just going down a new road or new path can be a sheer delight!

Top on my list of feeding my soul is bicycle riding.  How great it is!  My dream, my wish when living back in the Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans, and considering where else I might live, was the next place that I lived would be a fun place to ride my bike.  At the time Europe wasn’t even on the map, but when it comes to bicycle riding Europe has far exceeded my expectations!  Now here in Alkmeer, Netherlands, this place is so bicycle friendly that there are roads created just for bicycles – no cars allowed.  And we’re not talking just paths alongside the main road, which of course they have, but distinct roads just for bicycles (and scooters…)  that easily pave their way around the community and into town.  These roads even have street names… like a real road. Amazing.

Yesterday Marijke and I took a bicycle ride into the center of Alkmeer.  She has two bicycles and was kind enough to lend me the newer, fancier one.  Ah so smooth and good to ride!  We easily followed the path from her home along the canal-lined bicycle road… and in only four kilometers we parked our bikes and enjoyed our tour around the cobblestone roads and stores at the center of town.  Holland is nice and flat like New Orleans since it too is below sea level which is great for endless and tireless bike-riding. It feels so good and independent to me to just hop on a bicycle and go somewhere… particularly somewhere beautiful.  And, this same path into town takes you to the train station… and from there you can go… anywhere!…

I have to say that it also feeds my soul to have access to  a car… not necessarily my own personal car, but wheels nonetheless.  I love the feeling of being able to just pick up and move… movement.  Just last night I asked Marijke if she would like to join me for a stroll… her response was… would you like to go for a stroll at the sea?… the sea, I thought.  Well of course!  I had never thought of that… not knowing we were so close to the sea and that it was easily accessible for evening strolling.  Being an American chick, I had not yet been to the “sea”… but to the ocean, the gulf… The sea sounded great!  So we hopped in her car and within about 15 minutes and a beautiful tree lined drive, we were at the sea!  At first I didn’t believe her as there were dunes blocking the view to the right.  But she said, and over those dunes is… the sea.  And I walked a little… and looked… and there it was… in its beautiful magnificence.

Which brings us to the next thing that feeds my soul… beauty!  Particularly natural beauty!  Love it!  It was about 9pm and the sun was starting to set and the water spread out like glass.  The tide was low and the water stretched out from the beach clean and long.  Its smoothness spoke like a sea… so calm and alive.  Marijke said that if I swam out into the sea… and just kept on going… I would reach Britain.  I took her word for that.  But, with just a quick snappy drive we both enjoyed a stroll with a scenery and a world that was utterly satisfying.  And a full moon, too!

Apart from these outer-worldly soul soothing activities, this traveler also needs to satisfy my soul from the inside.  Simple things like a regular dose of Course in Miracles… a short read of the text and nearly daily practice of the workbook in back.  My daily practice of the Art of Living Sudarshan Krya… and of course Reiki.  These spiritual tools are priorities in my travel backpack and feed my soul whether I am in Marijke’s home in Holland or hanging out at the Seminar Haus in Wettenbostel.  And with these tools I am willing to travel… to places new to me and undiscovered… both inside and out.

So, here I am, learning to feed my soul no matter what the scenery… what the location…  Right now I am in Marijke’s kitchen watching the rain pour on the canal outside while her cat Sil keeps me company on the kitchen table.  Much rain here.  They say it is not typical for this time of year.  So for now we dart out when we can during the dry times.  Sometimes we see a spec of sun.  And when it is not dry… well, staying warm and dry someplace inside.  Enjoying a cup of a tea, a good book.  Ya know…


11 Aug

Well, my world has shifted a little bit.  Just a car ride away (about 6 hours) from the small but big world of Wettenboste,  Germany, I have now arrived at the home of Reiki Master Marijke Lemmen in Alkmarr, a city in the Netherlands.  A new language, new people, and I had to cross a very large dike to get here….  So here is my new and exciting information I have gained about the Netherlands that I will now share with you….

The Netherlands as we all know is also called Holland… so what is the difference?  Why do some people call it Holland and some people call it the Netherlands… I didn’t know….  Well, what I learned is that technically the country’s name is the Netherlands and a large and important region within the Netherlands is known as Holland… So, somehow, some way of which I am not totally clear… the country also became referred to as Holland.  So, next … that big dike we drove on to get here… it is called the Afsluidijk and it is 32 kilometers long (that’s 20 miles…)  For those of you from New Orleans to appreciate – it is not quite as long as the the causeway (23.83 miles) which crosses Lake Ponchartrain and incidentally holds the Guininess Book for World Records for longest bridge in the world over continuous water… but it is long nonetheless.  While driving on Afsluidijk the north sea is on one side…to the north… and on the other side is an lake created by the dike called Ijsselmeer, translated as lake Ijssel.

Before the construction of the Afsluidijk and other dikes, the Netherlands was a smaller country.  It is the intricate dike system that gave it access to new land that without the dikes is submerged in water.  Again, New Orleans people will appreciate this as New Orleans itself is below sea level.  The bonus of the Netherlands, though, is it has no hurricanes…. although it too has it’s history with storms and flooding.  They have a Monarchy which is mostly not involved in the politics of this Democracy.  And there is a strong social infrastructure here that supports people and families with good medical care and financial and housing support if they are out of work.  However, about 40% of their paycheck goes to the government to support this system… Yikes! It is one of the most densely populated countries on earth… which does not surprise me from the  small glimpse of it I have seen,  streets populated with rows of townhouse like homes and apartment buildings.

The temperature is cool here today and I am beginning to accept that I need to throw my ideas of what summer is like out the door.  I am wearing long pants and a fleece jacket with a raincoat when outside.  It is overcast and the wind here has a bite.  Yes this is a windy little country with gusts that will come up from behind and grab ya – kind of like the the windy little town where my mom and dad now live…Belton, Missouri of all places!  Marijke’s community of Alkmaar is on the Northwestern side of the country not far from Amsterdam.  It’s population of about 100,000 people is a world away from Wettenbostels population of, I think 58… that’s 57 now that my host’s daughter has moved…  Alkmaar has that European sensibility for bicycle riding with easy bicycle paths lining many roadways.

As I am settling in to spend a little time here, I am often overwhelmed by people’s generosity and Marijke’s generosity specifically to invite me here as a guest in her home.  As I explore my way in her home the theme here seems to reflect a song we sang as people were leaving Friends and Reiki last weekend in Wettenbostel… it went like this… “rainbow (insert name, like… Teresa)… rain bow (insert name)… go where you want to go, do what you want to do… we are loving you…” So I am here honored to be a guest and exploring what it is like to be in the space of someone saying – go where you want to go, do what you want to do… and in that space, also honor, respect and contribute to them…

And all of this is… well, abundant.  Especially the groceries we picked up today!  It has become clear to me just how much I love good, simple food and how it is a way that I really feel cared for and nurtured.  It has been fun living in Wettenbostel and getting more comfortable preparing food and doing that in community with others.

So, wow, I am in the Netherlands!  The wind is blowing!  And I am exploring “go where I a want to go… do what I want to do…”

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