On a Friday afternoon, I sat on the terrace with some paper work. It was a bright sunny day, and not too hot. In fact, it felt just perfect. There was a slight breeze as I could see the tree branches moving just enough. Surrounding the two “sloten” across from me, are tall wild weeds that are about six feet tall. You cannot even see the water at all, but the weeds were swaying back and forth. I could not see or hear the ducks, but I knew they would be coming back later in the day. I looked for the neighborhood heron, but it was either hiding in the weeds or off on an adventure. All around me, there  was not much noise and really, not much going on. A good opportunity to get some work done. My head was focused on the table in front of me, and soon I realized that I had been wrong. There were sounds of the street and each time I heard something, I would have to look up. It basically became of a game of me trying to guess what the sound was.

There is a distinctive sound between two kinds of bicycles, the new or newer bikes barely make any sound at all. It is like they are riding over clouds. But an older bike has a shake, rattle and roll sound. You can clearly hear the chain as it goes over any little bump.

While I was writing, I could hear children playing down the street at the playground. This is constant source of background noise, kids on swings or playing football are not going to whisper, and I am used to their voices. But then it got quiet, and I heard boys talking. I saw three boys on their bikes, riding down the middle of the road in conversation. The third boy said something (in Dutch, of course) and he turned his bike and looked back. There came a fourth boy pedaling at a very slow speed and he had a popsicle in his hand. His friend waited for him, which I thought was very nice of him, and then they went the rest of the way side by side.

The Dutch love to talk while they ride, you are always hearing snippets of conversations as they go by the house. On this day, two teenage girls were riding perfectly side by side, and enjoying an animated conversation. They passed a mother, with two children on her bike, and she was listening to her older child  who was in the back seat and her baby, in the front, was singing.

You may remember that we live opposite the honden toilet, I call it the poop park. It is a great location, as we get to see all sorts of dogs and their leash friends. When it is quiet, I can hear paws hitting the pavement and guess how big the dog is before I look up. All the dogs know where they are going, and once they see that magical plot of grass, they are pulling their leash to get there. No matter what size of dog, they are all determined to get to their happy place. Once there, the people are on their cell phones, texting or actually talking to other people. I always know when they are talking to their dogs, because their voices are higher. I have seen big tall macho men sound like Mickey Mouse as they congratulate their dog on a successful trip.

Right before I went into the house, I had my favorite moment. I saw a man riding down the street. He was obviously in no rush and was just taking his time. I could see a woman behind him, and I thought she was following him too closely and needed to give him some space. But as they got closer I saw that they were riding together on a tandem bicycle. They were quite old, their legs were perfectly in sinc with each other and they were taking their time. People walking by and other bikers all looked at this couple and it seemed like we all just took a moment. This couple did not talk and their bike did not make any sound. It felt like the street just stopped. The moment felt very calm and peaceful. After they went by, I got up, as I knew that I was not going to top that.

Here is the view from our terrace. On the right side, you can see one of the sloten with the high weeds/grass. This is a rare moment where the street is free from bicycles, people and dogs. But you can see some dinkie Dutch cars.

Recommended reading: one of the best “road” novels is THE MEMORY OF RUNNING by Ron McLarty. A great story about a man who literally rides his bike from Rhode Island to California. I just found out that McLarty has a new novel, THE DROPPER.  He is a wonderful writer and it is always good news when he has a new book published.

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  • Jean Langley  On July 14, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    What a lovely view! You are enjoying a long-existent pasttime — watching who goes by. I wouldn’t see much from where I live, just an occasional bird, squirrel, dragonfly, or a neighbor’s car once in a while. I’ve often thought that a lot of our library visitors come not only to read the paper, but to see who comes and goes.

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