If I had a column in the Delft op Zondag

(Not the real)
Delft op Zondag


2 JULY 2017

A Balanced Day

DELFT - Another annual summer solstice has just passed, a Northern Hemisphere event that is likely more important here in the northwest of Europe because the length of daylight varies so much during each year. Winter's solstice has all the attention: holidays, religious holy days and fireworks in the night sky.

Summer's solstice comes and goes with barely any notice, unless one is a devotee of pagan things that can be enjoyed outdoors, such as May Day's merry dancing around poles. However, I am one of a number of people who look forward to solstice: characterized by perfect balance, a rarity. That day, the length of daylight matches the duration of dark. It is an absolute in a shifty and unbalanced world.


"This is a view along the Vrouwjuttenland canal, which hosts concerts, antique stalls and displays of art through out the summer. In the photo, two men on blue peddle boats are trying to place a contraption of tubes floating on plastic liter bottles. Displays are a little odd but why not? Art appreciation is a pleasant way to spend part of a day."

In most ways, we are the 800-pound gorilla who does what he pleases, because he is an 800-pound gorilla. Everything else on our planet must conform to our wishes. The Mediterranean sea once was bounded by forests; north Africa once was a granary. People of various times built ships out of wood for trade and war. There was a lot of trade and war, and slowly there were fewer trees.

No trees and the soil erodes. Erosion silts harbors and leaves infertile soil, which limits crops. What is left, after adding in pollution and population increase, is our world today. But have no worries: Man, our version, will adapt and carry on. We know we can, we have till now, and we are able to imagine. Art and poetry result as often as arms and tyranny.

There is a new bookstore in Delft, just round the corner from Het Klooster, run by a man I know from Cafe de Engel. It is in a book-shelved, narrow room that leads to a back part with more books. It has an English section.

I found Attenborough's 1987 picture and story book, The First Eden, and bought it. The long saga begins when the land, now the Mediterranean sea, first flooded and then takes an insightful walk through time to today.

What stayed with me once I had read it was how well humans, for the most part, adjusted to continuous change. As a contestant in survival, we are remarkably good at making do, making over and making tools.

Because the Earth is off balance itself, we live on a playing field that does not hold still - and has dangerous competitors. But we are top hunters, have domesticated many animals and cleared land for our food crops.

Imbalance is what we are given in life, all of us ride a see-saw. Solstice, a point of balance, heartens me that we will keep our seat through ups and downs, if only just. Our prolific ways on this planet are a little risky.

G. Wiley / NLStrabo - © Copyright - All rights reserved - gwileynl@gmail.com
In memory of Herb Caen