Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Puzzles and Planes

Recently I picked up a Sudoku puzzle book at the local dollar store, and began playing at once. It's funny: doing Sudoku makes me feel like I am on an airplane nestled in for a ten hour flight to Schiphol Airport. Driving to Kalispell these days with the cold grey overcast quality of light reminds me of driving atop the dikes outside Culemborg. But, then, as Diane will attest, it takes very little to remind me of Holland and our times there. I have choice pieces of Delftware on my walls and in or on my cabinets. I have my own set of wooden shoes displayed in my writer's garret, along with a huge collection of Santa Claus figurines and statues. There is nothing more Dutch than klompen -- clogs -- hand carved in the Netherlands and brought to America when we immigrated way back in 1952. And Santa Claus is derived from Sinterclaas, the Dutch version of Saint Nicholas, whose feast day is December 6 and whose arrival to treat all the little children is the night of December 5. The kiddies put their shoes, their klompen, outside the door and Sinterclaas places treats and candy in the shoes (or coal and twigs for the "bad" or "naughty" kids) to be discoverfed the next morning. Therefore: the Christmas season reminds me of Holland. Then comes New Year's. We have celebrated New Year's in Holland three times. They really know how to approach that holiday, marking fresh beginnings by getting rid, emotionally, of all the bad things you feel or see, and exploding fireworks the way we do for the Fourth of July. Plus, the cold weather and the bright lights combine to create that untranslatable feeling, gezelligheit. The closest translation is "coziness," but it is more than that, more like a warm fuzzy glowing comfortableness that reaches down to your toes and back up through the whole body, that links you indelibly to everything and everyone around you. Therefore: New Year's makes me think of Holland. The rest of the year I have less cues, but I really don't need them. I read Erik's blog, I talk on the phone to Erik and Annemieke and Olaf and Anneke, and we exchange e-mails frequently. If I don't hear from them, I think of them and wonder how they are. When I do hear from them, I think of them knowing how they are. It doesn't take much. I think about Vermeer's "The Girl With the Pearl Earring" at the Mauritshaus in den Haag, or Jan Asselijn's "The Threatened Swan" at the Rijksmuseum. I think about the rock shop in Giethorn. I Listen to a piece of music by Jan van Gilse -- admittedly not a great composer, but because of his life story and a few great works, he has become a "pet interest." I look at words in English that came from Dutch, like clomp, which means to walk heavily, and comes from klomp, which is Dutch for shoe. I have a proud heritage and have immersed myself in it, although my mastery of the Dutch language is non-existant. Something else to work on in the coming years. The best part, for me, is that Holland thinks about me. Specifically, both sets of nephew-niece loved their time in Montana with us this year so much that they want to come back. So they are the reverse of the coin on which I am featured, the yin to my yang -- for every memory or thought of Holland I have, they counter with one about Glacier International Airport and the surrounding wonders here. All we need is money and time -- ha ha. But we have our memories and our photographs and emails and telephones to sustain us. A man is supposed to be satisfied with what he has. I have much. I love what I have. But a man also wants more -- it is a large part of what drives us on. So I love my new home and my friends and family around me, but I dream of playing Sudoku on an airplane, because it's almost impossible for me to sleep on one.

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