Put Your Tulips (Soil) Next to Mine

By Jheri St. James

     The village of Heiloo was where Agata Barnhoorn found her soil for Common Ground 191. “This village is built on a raised sandy ridge around the Witte Kerkje (White Church) where you will also find the Willibordusput (Willibordus’ Well), named after the man who propagated Christianity in the 7th Century. The place name is a corruption of Heilig-loo, which means Holy Wood. This says a great deal about the surroundings, 80 hectares of woodland. Heiloo is separated from the seas by a 7 kilometre-wide area of polders and dunes, with its own flora and fauna. In spring, the sandy soil is the growing ground for bulbs.” Add windmills and wooden shoes, and we have a storybook concept of the Netherlands. But the Netherlands has two faces—the rustic, and 21st century prosperity.

     Adept at adding to their real estate with “polders” in the Zuider Zee Project, the Dutch reclaim land from the sea by building a dike to seal off an area and pumping out the water. The drained land is then transformed into fertile farmland. Windmills (and electric pumps) keep the polders drained, and also saw wood, grind paper, press oil, and pound tobacco. And in this small area of the globe—growing, to be sure--a largely agricultural economy grows vegetables, fruits, meat, dairy products and tulip bulbs for export to much of Europe. Many people still wear wooden shoes as boots, filled with straw for comfort.

     But the Netherlands is also part of a very lucrative trade union with Belgium and Luxomberg known as Benelux, in addition to being one of the original members of the European Union. Rotterdam, at the Rhine’s mouth is the busiest port in Europe and 10th in the world. Naval and economic eminence made the 17th century a golden age for the independent Dutch republic, then Europe’s leading commercial nation. One of the most densely populated countries in the world with 17,000,000 people, the Netherlands has two capital cities - The Hague (seat of government) and Amsterdam (capital city, the royals). Amsterdam is very liberal; drugs and prostitution are legal. However, this city has a low crime rate. More contrasts and dualities in the Netherlands.

     Artists recall that Vincent Van Gogh (19th c.), Rembrandt van Rijn, Jan Vermeer (17th c.), Bruegel, and other famous masters lived and painted in the Netherlands. Some of the work of the Dutch Masters is revered for its photorealistic, still life close-ups, rendered in stunning clarity. The Dutch people have vision. The soil of the Netherlands is eternally new land, combining the past, present and future. We appreciate Dutch soil adjoining the Common ground 191 project. Put your tulips next to mine?

The White Church in Heiloo (Holy Wood)






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