In Holland, the sky has a cap (Dutch word is ‘pet’) on it. The land is low and long, and feels endlessly wide, but finite and contained, because you feel the weight of the ever-present gray. In Florida there is no ceiling to the sky.
In Florida, the air has a density and moisture you can almost taste. “Rotting vegetation,” says my friend Jan.
By the way, Jan is a common man’s name in Holland, and the “J” is pronounced like a “Y.” Not Jan Brady, but “Yawn Brady.” Jan the man’s name is often paired with a second name. Geert-Jan (sounds like “Hurt Yawn), Henk-Jan, Jaap-Jan to name just a few. (My Floridian friend Jan is a woman.)
Sometimes it is hard to believe that I’m here, sitting in front of the window, watching two trees bow toward each other by a canal in Amsterdam. For a moment this summer life here was bright and rapid, and then the sun begins limbo-ing away from us here in the North, and the skies become serious again, and the trees are still, waiting for winter.
When I was a small girl living in Orlando, maybe about seven or eight, I had vivid dream about living by a canal with a man who was my husband. There it was, just outside our door, and inside the house was bookshelves and a coat rack. Because I was dreaming I was an adult woman, I remember the surprise I felt at being more comfortable in my own skin. I woke up thinking how wonderful it would be to be a grown-up someday.
Frans and I live on the edge of one of the widest canals in Amsterdam, and he has drilled holes into the concrete wall for coat hooks.
We have been married almost two months. Last year I was beginning my final year of grad school, I was a TA, and I lived in a small Florida bungalow with my friend Becca. Sometimes I feel the identity shift sharply, like the shelf on which my selfhood sits has become tilted, and everything is in danger of sliding off. But then I look out toward Amsterdam from our own window in our own home. It’s ours. Whatever happens next is ours to share.
That’s comforting. But I also realize that it’s easy to stop there. Frans = home. Easy formulas, easy conclusions.
(I don’t like those…and I often think the easy formulas miss the important stuff.)
On one of my runs through Vondelpark, my iPod hit upon a song that’s been making the rounds in the States. The song’s lyrics, which I’d heard here and there and sung along to, and is now part of cell phone and car commercials, seems to me a central characterisitc of western culture. It’s about the importance of Love, and what, exactly, Love can do for you.
Let me come Home
Home is wherever I’m with you
The chorus is really sweet, right? The melody is also very fun and folksy. It seems to simplify the idea of home into something we sing about in a few lines. And those few lines are really fun to sing. There is even whistling! We, as part of western culture, LOVE THIS. These words touch upon what I just explained in the above about my dream and Frans and the Amsterdam canal. And some of this is true: Where Frans goes, I will go. I’ve made a promise. And where I will go, Frans goes. He’s made a promise.
But as much as we LOVE THIS IDEA (me included, really!) there is something in the rest of the lyrics that I just can’t jive with.
The song seems to make two conclusions. Conclusion #1: The right person can and will make us utterly and irreversably happy. Period. We won’t need anything else.
Man, oh man, you’re my best friend,
I scream it to the nothingness
There ain’t nothin’ that I need
Conclusion #2: My relationship with that person depends on the experiences we have together. The wilder, the better. The more alive I feel, the more ‘right’ the relationship.
We laugh until we think we’ll die,
barefoot on a summer night
Nothin’ new is sweeter than with you.
Now Erin, you may be thinking. Stop picking on these two free spirits. Let the song be just a sweet, simple song about two crazy lovers.
Sometimes I enjoy listening to music just for fun’s sake. Somtimes I even sing along. But I can’t get away from the nagging feeling that these ideas in this paticular song are VERY popular in our culture and that there is a very GOOD reason why. Let me consider this: maybe this song is a symbol of the spirit of this age.
So, what do you think…
Why is our culture so in love with these two conclusions?
What does that say about the western perception of ‘Home’?