Saturday, August 05, 2006

Dark Clouds over Fryslan

I was virtually certain that the excursion was doomed, right from the beginning. Sometimes, I like to pretend that I'm optimistic and spontaneous -- but the truth of the matter is that I often think in terms of worst-case scenarios, especially when there is no clearly definied precedent or pattern to channel my expectations.

So perhaps you can imagine the dark thoughts running through my mind upon consideration of a rather hastily-organized three-day camping trip to Fryslan (otherwise known as "Friesland," the northwesternmost province of the Netherlands) with my wife and two small children... Let's just say that I went ahead and paid the extra seven euros per day for the extended insurance coverage on our rental car (which I normally consider to be an exhorbitant precaution). From the start, I was thinking largely in terms of damage control...

Of course, it didn't help that the weather forecasts were calling for an average 80 percent chance of rain over the three days of our excursion. And did I mention that we were going camping? As a whole family? For the first time? In unfamiliar territory?

After picking up the miniscule rental car, I traversed Amsterdam to park in front of our home -- point of origin for the week's adventures. Ferrying loads from the basement to the backseat of the car, Elliot persistently begged for opportunities to be of assistance (which had to be creatively manufactured for the faculties of a four-year-old). Olivia cried and qhined -- for no apparent reason. And Marci and I observed our ritual stress-induced pre-traveling bicker-banter about very stupid and largely meaningless minutiae until the car was packed like a circus clown car -- ready to explode with all kinds of whacky surprises.

The first fat raindrops splattered the windshield on our drive through the flatlands of Noord Holland. Yet we rediscovered some degree of optimism and hope with the peaceful lull of the open highway, and we started to believe that the break in the clouds just up the road a bit meant something for us. When we stopped in Enkhuizen around lunchtime, we felt brave enough to try a picnic in a nice grassy meadow overlooking the IJselmeer. But even before the sandwiches could be manufactured, the wind and rain picked up to the point that we decided to finish our lunch in the rental car.

The rest of the afternoon ebbed and flowed with neither total exhileration nor total despair. We actually managed to arrive at our campside and set up camp during a break in the weather that allowed us enough time to figure out how to put together our brand-new tend whose bargain price invoked an increasing level of anxiety that corresponded directly with the increasing level of cloud cover building in the vast Frisian skies. I prayed as we raced to conclude preparations: "Please God, protect us. Please God, deliver us. Please God, forgive us for our foolishness..."

I don't suppose there ever would have been a truly "good time" for the rain to begin. Still, the timing felt particularly bad when the skies opened up in the midst of our dinner preparations...


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