Parsley, Sage Rosemary and Thyme

Dreams could come at least 50% true, and songs too, apparently. That’s what I found when I read the recipe on the label of the packet of black spaghetti. Black, because it gets it’s colour from ink fish. I needed sage and rosemary to bring this black spaghetti to life. And the song that started to play in my head is one I grew up with – “are you going to Scaborough Fair…. parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme” in the harmonious voices and the gentle music of Simon and Garfunkel.

I remembered too, the herb garden – no Scaborough Fair but more like the commons of Oegstgeest – the village in which I live. It’s a little strip of land, on the edge of the shopping centre that I discovered quite by chance when I first moved here three years ago. Here, a board says in Dutch, and I translate:

“Pluck a leaf, flower or seedling, at ease

Of different herbs according to your wish

Go about it in a sustainable way

So that you leave something behind for others”

When I first discovered the herb garden, I found its location in the heart of the commercial centre of the village fascinating. What could be the message, I thought, that the makers of this garden want to give to us, the residents of the village? That, before you enter into shops and supermarkets overflowing with everything you may or may not need, there’s a spot – modest in comparison – where you could stop to indulge in another way of shopping. Or picking. However you see it, take your pick.

At that time I was impressed by the garden’s location. But I soon realised a few things about the village. That it’s full of volunteers whose aim it is to contribute towards improving the quality of life. That the initiatives are many and diverse. And that the herb garden is beautiful for it’s own sake. It has no other function besides offering, in a sustainable way, folks the possibility of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme should they need it for a meal or two. It stands there as a reminder – a thing of beauty – that hopefully will last forever, while busy shoppers in the background continue to do what they came there to do.

Mission Possible

I’m hardly ever in front of my house, but on this day, I was. And before I knew it, a voice greeted me and asked if I’d like to volunteer to go around the neighbourhood collecting money for ‘foundation for the child’. And before I knew it, I had signed up with name, telephone number and email id, and a promise to go around with a collection box for a week. For a cause I knew almost nothing about. And that was that. I’d agreed to stand on the ‘other side of the door’ of my neighbour’s homes – the outside – in the shoes of the folks who ring my bell on many an evening. It often leads to irritation or a patient kind of tolerance, or sometimes, I’d go so far as to say – a feeling of here they come again. The changers of the world. Collecting change for cancer research, heart research, children, animals, environment, causes, causes, causes. Being the change they want to see in the world.

On the radio, an expert was asked why there was so much attention in the Dutch media for hurricane Harvey in America, when the people of Eastern India, Mumbai and Bangladesh were suffering a lot more at the same time. The expert’s reply was that the tendency to identify with ‘one of your own kind’ is much stronger in the human heart than to identify with someone who is not considered so. Dutch- American bhai bhai. Dutch Indian/Bangladeshi – not.

Now I am standing outside a door having rung the bell, collection box upright in hand before me, identity badge visible.

The door opens.

“Would you like to make a contribution to the foundation for the child?” I ask in my best Dutch.

He smiles. “That doesn’t ring any bells”.

In the background, there’s the little head of a child bobbing up and down. “She’s Italian, she’s Italian”, he says in Italian. He’s as excited as a little puppy that has sniffed what it loves best. Iv’e just returned from summer holidays in Sanremo/Italy. My spaghetti string dress shows my arms, shoulders and neck that have turned golden brown.

“Well it’s for Dutch kids who are not fortunate enough to live with their parents”, I reply – delivering my lines slowly and clearly. The money enables them to participate in clubs, music lessons, swimming lessons….that sort of thing. And when they’re older, it’s used to hire coaches to guide them with study and life choices”.

Sure he wants to contribute and pops back in to look for his wallet.


And now I am a bird, sitting on a nearby tree, watching and hearing myself doing something with no idea about why I’m doing it. Waarom, daarom.

With every step I take and every bell I ring, I get into the rhythm and the rhyme.

“…well….Dutch kids, Dutch kids, Dutch kids….” I hear myself say. The box get’s heavier, and I have to let my right arm drop every now and then to give my wrist a rest. There’s a storm brewing. A hard wind blows. Summer is edging towards autumn. I have a mission. It’s possible.

“Thank you for your support, thank you for your support, thank you for your support”.