Homesickness

A couple of weeks ago, an old friend passed through Amsterdam for the first time – a friend for whom how I connect with the landscape of Holland is a bit of a mystery.

Holland is flat and crowded to those of us from a vast, empty space, and I kind of felt I had to justify my decision to live where I do, to prove why this was worth missing Canada.

My friend asked me once if homesickness for me was a nostalgic “I remember” or a driving “I’ve gotta get home” kind of feeling. I told him I associate certain kinds of landscapes with specific people, that when I’m in those landscapes I think of them, and that’s my way of missing them, and Canada.

Why? I don’t know. But the mystery of it is essential to the experience.

Without it, it would just be a thought.

So when my friend arrived, I decided to take him to those places that, if I ever leave Holland, I’ll miss. The places that’ll make me homesick for Amsterdam, its surroundings, and my connections here.

We ducked into a few churches, art galleries and hidden courtyards in the city, rode along the canals, and then headed out of town.

I took him to a favourite village of mine in the outskirts of Amsterdam,

where we left our bikes and headed through a broken gate into a protected bird area.

As we walked, we feel into the routine we had back in Canada – using catching up on each other’s lives as a way to get into deeper, philosophical issues, and ultimately, vice versa. In that way, the landscape didn’t matter.

And in another way, it did.

We didn’t get to see everything while my friend was here. We missed the dunes. We missed the polder I bike through on my way to work. We missed the old battery on the dike and the castle in a village on the other side of the bay of the protected bird area. Next time, maybe. There was no way to see it all in a couple of days. There are a lot of places, a lot of different landscapes to see, which disprove the reputation this country has for a singular, monotonous landscape. Landscape, after all, is about more than just the land, the physical space. It’s about the associations you make with it, and you need time – years, even – for that.