Thursday, October 2, 2014

Golden Storks Forever


Alkmaar, Tuesday September 30, 2014

The sun is playing hide and seek with the clouds today. I am looking up at a big old church, looming like a benevolent guardian over the numerous cafes lining the square in this typical Dutch town in North Holland. A snow-white pigeon is strutting back and forth between the tables, as if he just stepped out of a beauty parlor. Every quarter hour the church bells fill the air with their carillon, making sure we don't forget about the passing of time. This majestic building must feel humiliated; having harbored millions of souls in distress over the centuries, it is now reduced to the status of a common museum; its soul is gone, but its fa├žade hasn't changed. On one of the high ledges, golden stork statues stare out onto the world, immobilized for eternity. They must envy the seagulls as they fly by with their shrill cawing: 'Come fly with us, come to the beautiful North Sea and fill your golden bellies with fish. Nothing will come of it, if you stay here, on this old church that has lost its glory.'

A lost balloon is rolling by my table, carried by the breeze. A black pigeon is watching it with detached curiosity, his head retracted but his beady eyes in constant motion, waiting for some crumbs.

The golden storks remind me of my mother Ata, who just turned 101. She stopped flying a long time ago. Slowly, she is letting go of her time on earth, but the carillon reminds her that it is not quite her time yet: 'Ata, wake up, you are still here. Your body still needs you. We still need you. You have all eternity to stand on that ledge. Wait a while longer.' But soon she will sleep through the quarter hour, then the half hour, then the hour. The chime will be ringing for the living only.

The lonely balloon floats up the brick wall, then falls again, floats higher, never reaching the storks. The golden birds look stoic, they have all eternity to watch the frenzied back and forth of this silly balloon and the endless stream of the living that are visiting their square. 'Go already' say the storks. 'Make room for others to live. Join us here, we have all the room you need.'

When Ata is ready, she will join them and from her high ledge, she will watch us and love us. And when I am ready, I too will make room and join them, up on the ledge of that beautiful old church, trapped inside my gold leaf covering. We all will… eventually. leave comment here