Small things The Hague

It is that time of the year again and I can’t stop myself.

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Getting on the bike in one’s hometown can be the start of a journey. It is not about the distance but about the vision. A kilometer can be worlds apart. It is about the attitude and absorption, absorption of an experience, the ability to see beyond the obvious to look closer and enjoy the details.

So a few days ago I straddled my bike and headed through the still green parks of Haagse Bos (Hague forest) to another park in this the “city of peace and justice”. The destination that lured was the vision of one woman and the legacy she left behind at the Clingendael estate. Lady Daisy or as she was officially named Marguerite M. Baroness van Brienen had a fascination with Japan and the Japanese and over several trips East in the early 20th century brought back lanterns, sculptures, bridges and a small pavilion.

But perhaps the most important was the plants she took home to cover the grounds. It all came together on the estate where she lived. Her creation was kept private until Clingendael was purchased by the city in 1953. The precious garden became a national monument in 2001, why is easy to see once through the gates, which opens only for two months in spring and a few weeks in autumn. It is not to deprive visitors of the experience but only because it is so fragile.

This translated in my mind to reverie as I slowly walked through the portal last week and down the narrow gravel path under a cathedral like canopy of tall trees. I was not about to get married even if many choose the location for wedding photography (none on this day, though). At the end of the path is the heart of the garden a shallow pond with clear still water multiplying the bright colors around.

Not only does it enhance the view of the red lacquer bridges and the Pavilion but it also bestows life to the lush green vegetation. I avoid the straight path to the Pavilion the obvious goal for most visitors. Instead I veer off to the right in under dark evergreen trees and look down for the smaller things, spying fallen acorns and mushrooms popping out of the lush green moss. Here and there I get down on my knees to get close, real close filling my nostrils with earthy fragrance to study an acorn or a tiny mushroom the size of a pin.

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