After a week in residence thirty minutes by dependable transportation from the center of town, I have an image of friendly tranquility, in the first instance, canal tranquility. The waterways are strips of serenity that float ducks and docked barge-homes and in their still quietude make the endless bustle of bikes mystical as movement rather than just business.

bikestwoEach sets off the other, the canals, the bikes, as the steadiness of trees sets off the alighting and departing of birds on their branches.


Neither canals nor bikes are pretentious.  The waterways do not have scrubbed docks or attractive retaining walls and are simply straight without curve or flourish, and unlike a stream, boast no movement at all.

amsterdam-bikes-The bikes are old and drab, mostly black, banged up, ridden by folks ferrying kids to school, or ferrying themselves to work or other unstated destination. Their brute numbers allow them to dominate cars on the streets alongside the canals, and pedestrians.

bikes-4They especially dominate visitors from away, who are in peril. It would take strangers weeks to master and anticipate the flow of bikes and motor bikes and occasional cars, and on the wider streets, trams and buses, each allocated an unmarked path forward that seems occult to the newcomer. You wait baffled only guessing whose lane you’re about to cross, and from which direction danger is approaching.


But relax. There’s no rush to work if you’re just there to take in the show, and the canals are there to remind you all is well, and has been, decade on decade, century on century. Spinoza found peace here, at least for a couple of decades, and so can you amidst watery geometric eternities.



3 comments on “Amsterdam

  1. Steve Webb says:

    Very nice, Ed. Thanks for this.

  2. efmooney says:

    Thanks Steve — if I were to add to this portrait of Spinoza’s and Rembrandt’s home town, I’d add that in my week there I saw not a single cop, not a single cop-car, not a single ostentatious rich guy or gal, not a single homeless person or beggar.

    I’m coming to Seattle July 8-10 for readings/discussions of the Melville and Philosophy book (the 10th). Details later. Will you be there?

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