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Typical Dutch part I

June 7, 2013

Bicycles, stroopwafflen, VerMeer, licorice, windmills, dikes, and canals ~ God created the earth, but the Dutch created Holland, or so the saying goes.

Skirting just around blasphemy, it may be true.  If the nationwide water management system were disabled for even less than a month, 1/3 of the country would be underwater.  That much is below sea-level.  From 1/3 of their landmass ~and I use that term somewhat loosely~ the Dutch are constantly pumping water up to the sea.  It started with someone digging a ditch into which water would flow out of a boggy patch, making a drier higher ground to call his own.  So did his neighbor.  Sometimes families would group together behind a taller earthwork called a dike, which held back more water.

Then came the windmills.

Not primarily for grinding grain or generating electricity to make life nicer, these mills, 10,000 of them across the country, lining the canals, existed to pump water from one canal up to the next all the way to the sea.  They made life possible.

The Dutch are a bloody-minded people, demanding dry land from marsh.  They are also brilliant, succeeding with water management engineering to which the rest of the world looks when the sea comes knocking.  It’s not perfect; as the marshy land dries out, it settles, thus lowering itself further, requiring more vigorous pumping to remain dry.  Keeping the land extant is a national concern and undertaking.  I read somewhere that the people strive to be typical.  You hear it in they way they talk about themselves and their customs.  It’s always typical Dutch.  The ever present threat of inundation and the constant vigilance to protect the country from it have formed a national character.  We are in this together and we all do it for all of us.  It is better for everyone to have it good than for a few to have it all.

Time with the windmills of Kinderdijk moved me.  The power coursing through those old wooden structures was difficult to comprehend.  Standing in place, just out of reach, as the vanes whoompfed by may be as close to riding a roller coaster as one will find standing still. Join me here.

The back, whence they rotate the works to follow the wind.

The back, whence they rotate the works to follow the wind.

The Dutch see themselves as enjoyers of life, living for today.  But truly, it is also in their basic nature to plan for tomorrow or there may not be one in this place called the Netherlands, Low Lands indeed.

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