Monday, April 13, 2009

Heads or tails

Flying the Friendly Skies to Europe last week I amused myself by following in the corner of the tiny screen in the headrest of the seat ahead of me the constant readout of the speed of our friend Mr. Tailwind. The higher the number the sooner we would arrive. Flaps down we descended over the North Sea towards the coast. Looking down I saw the global recession. Where there were normally just waves there was a fleet of container ships at anchor. It looked like some sort of armada. Then the offshore windmill park came into view, then the coast, the steel mills, the canal, more windmills, freeways and finally the field the Turkish 737 fell into last month at the end of the Polderbaan runway.

Easter Sunday I went for a bike ride through the neighborhoods of the north of Amsterdam where I used to bike thirty-five years ago. In the Netherlands it's not hard to tell which way the wind is blowing. Every day most Dutch climb on their bikes to get to school, to work or to the market. Words like "head wind" and "tail wind" are often used. When you come home at night and are asked how your day was, often the answer is "I had head/tail wind all day." In a flat country like this the wind is always felt and except for under the dikes there are few places to hide from it. Is that why so many Dutch wear scarves? As I was biking through the neighborhoods on well marked and well maintained bike paths a group of about thirty bikers from a bike club in a distant polder town (they all wore the same biker clothing) passed me by. On their way to the seaside I thought. They pedaled in single, sometimes double file. What I found interesting was that each biker passed a message of danger to the biker behind them. "Paaltjes! (posts in roadway) or "Tegen!"(oncoming bike traffic). Nobody to warn me of such dangers.

In the late afternoon we walked down the canal to stand under the new windmill put up last year. It's a huge mill, as big as they get. The wings of this mill are visible from our living room window. Not a day goes by that we don't look at it and look to see which direction the wind is from. In this country that is important information as it dictates the weather. So here stands the curious, need-to-know North American under a four hundred foot plus tall mill looking at these wings turning round and round in the light winds. Do they always turn clockwise? The next morning they are turning counter-clockwise. How is it possible? We live just north of the Mill on the Canal. When the wind is from the north the wings turn clockwise. When the wind is from the south they turn counter-clockwise as I am looking at the backside of the wings. Clockwise front of the wings, counter-clockwise back of the wings. Heads or tails. No losers only winners. I'd never thought about it like that. It all depends on how you look at it. Windmills like this west of 56572. I can't wait to see them. Pure tailwind. Headwinders really need to re-think and feel the wind at the back of your neck...pushing you......forward.

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