Collaborating in the Netherlands: Day 2
On Day 2 of the on-site collaboration, we left the studio in Steenderen and completed no actual tangible work on the project. And yet, we accomplished a great deal.
Early this morning, we loaded up in Erna’s van bound for Het Nationale Park De Hoge
Veluwe, a Dutch National Park. After all, I’m here to work, but I’m also a tourist.
We took the scenic route, which included a ferry over what to me was a very small river. I thought of the story of the troll under the bridge (even though there was no bridge) as we passed over the water; we were the only vehicle on the tiny ferry, and the ferry captain’s first mate was his well-trained black Labrador.
When we got to the park, I chose one of the park bicycles available for use. Bicycling is such a major part of Dutch culture that it felt silly not to try it, though I haven’t ridden a bike in something like 20 years. I do have fond memories of bike riding around Amory, Mississippi, in my youth; back then, I felt so much agency and energy in taking to the streets on my bike and going about my small world alone to observe the quiet town in evening air. It is, however, very much a lie that you never forget how to ride a bike. I did forget, but with the help of Erna, I relearned.
Over the afternoon, we toured the Jachthuis Sint-Hubertus, an iconic house in the Netherlands, famous for its grandeur, tall tower, and excessive religious allusions. We also visited the Kröller-Müller Museum and walked around the exhibit of around 90 Van Gogh paintings, including the famous Café Terrace at Night.
But, running parallel to the touring, bike riding, and car journey was a day long conversation between Erna and myself, including a timeless, open, and heart rendering talk in the woods overlooking the Jachthuis Sint-Hubertus and its lake in which we talked over our great loves, our great losses, spirituality, dreams, the energies that move us and rattle us. Erna had hot tea in a thermos, cheese on toast, and sultana cookies, and like two fairies in the woods, we used our powers to delve into the past. I also cut my ankle on a rose bush that I didn’t see coming; some beauty you never see coming until it cuts too deeply.
We didn’t complete a poem or an artwork today, but I have a feeling that we
strengthened and authenticated the collaboration more over today’s adventure than we could have in the studio. Because to me, a successful creative collaboration emerges from the connection between the two people involved; the deeper the connection, the deeper the joint creative venture can be taken. The stories Erna told me about her life are now a part of me, and mine are hers. When we start to tell our stories as well as my stories, we’re truly getting to good stuff.
“Our whole life is an attempt to discover when our spontaneity is whimsical, sentimental irresponsibility and when it is a valid expression of our deepest desires and values.” – Helen Merrell Lynd