February, as the writer Margaret Atwood describes it is a, “month of despair, with a skewered heart in the centre.” It really is a tough winter month to get through, and in the Netherlands the grey seems to go on forever, as does the forlornly empty, flat landscape. But the thing I’ve learned is that there is always a silver lining somewhere, if you look hard enough!
The grey days seem to disappear from my memory, when the sun comes out and we are treated to a blue sky, "nature’s hypnotherapy". We all emerge from our warm caves, blinking in the sunlight, marveling at the color of the sky and the wonder of the warmth on our faces. These days taste like a gourmet meal to a starving man and I find myself eating as much as I can. The local cats sit on their windowsills smiling with happiness and the birds flutter in the garden, as giddy as teenage girls on a Friday night.
We find joy where we can and the promise of spring comes with those rare sunny February days. You begin to notice green shoots nudging their way upwards and the wonderful Dutch florists fulfill our needs with scented hyacinths in terracotta pots and dancing daffodils in baskets. People walk the streets wrapped with scarves but smiling with pleasure as they past a local store displaying rows of vividly bright oranges. The terracotta roofs are so evocative against the blue sky and my garden is filled with snowdrops and the promise that spring is coming.
One of the great things about living in the Netherlands is the plethora of world-class art and when those grey skies get too much that’s where I head, to a museum to soak up the colors. The Mauritshuis is one of my favorites, with it’s wonderful Vermeer paintings, himself a master of making the most of light, the delightful Holbein portraits, amazingly vibrant after centuries and many stunning floral paintings reminding us that our gardens will soon be full of blossoms. Of course, the wonderful Rijksmuseum can fill your day with color, as can the Kroller Mueller museum with it’s splendid collection of van Gogh paintings, or the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven.
So when that grey sky descends, as it will, take a trip into the art world or purchase a hyacinth and place it on your windowsill and take heart … spring is just around the corner.