Tuesday April 19 In the land of Maas en Waal

Written by Jack van Ommen on April 20th, 2011

To day was a memorable day. The weather was gorgeous, in the seventies (Fahrenheit). I spent most of the day aboard “Glissando” with Marinus and Leni Hoogendoorn. I met Marinus in February 2009 in the Virgin Islands and you will remember that “Fleetwood” was towed up the Rhine behind “Glissando”. I came aboard in Gorinchem on the Merwede River and they dropped me off in Nijmwegen on the Waal River. I took the train back to the car in Gorinchem. This stretch of the confluence of  the Rhine with several rivers which flow past Rotterdam into the North Sea is particularly scenic. Wide levees with brick kilns, pasture land, well preserved fortified midevial towns. The view from the wheel house over the dikes shows a much larger picture than from aboard “Fleetwood”.  “Glissando” continued on to Mainz with a load of Brazilian Soya Beans that they loaded on Monday in Rotterdam.

Palm Sunday I attended mass in Heemstede. The children paraded in witht their colorful Palmsunday treats, an old Dutch custom in moist of the Catholic churches. The choir sang parts of the St.Matthew Passion through out the reading of the Passion gospel. Yesterday, I met Karel Willem v/d Meer, whose grandmother and my grandfather were brother and sister. We were not aware of each other’s existence till last November when we met through my research for the book I am writing about our mother. Karel is, at least, fourth generation, barge skipper. His grandfather and father plied these these same rivers I was on today under sail. The last twin masted clipper and the earlier pavilion tjalk are still sailing in the Dutch “Brown Fleet”.

On of the historic land marks on this afternoon’s river trip is the town of Zalt Bommel. Famous for it’s unfinished church tower. There is a beautiful poem about the bridge of Zalt Bommel.  When I read it, it always reminds me of my own mother. In short it translates that the muse sees a sailing barge pass through the bridge at Zalt Bommel and a woman stands at the helm and sings a Psalm that he recognizes, his mother used to sing. In my book this is a repeating theme where our mother and her group of prisoners sing their way, with hymns and songs, through the hardships of the concentration camps.  

De moeder de vrouw (Mother the Woman)

Ik ging naar Bommel om de brug te zien. Ik zag de nieuwe brug. Twee overzijden die elkaar vroeger schenen te vermijden,worden weer buren. Een minuut of tien dat ik daar lag, in ‘t gras, mijn thee gedronken, mijn hoofd vol van het landschap wijd en zijd -laat mij daar midden uit de oneindigheid een stem vernemen dat mijn oren klonken. Het was een vrouw. Het schip dat zij bevoerkwam langzaam stroomaf door de brug gevaren. Zij was alleen aan dek, zij stond bij ‘t roer, en wat zij zong hoorde ik dat psalmen waren. O, dacht ik, o, dat daar mijn moeder voer. Prijs God, zong zij, Zijn hand zal u bewaren.

Uit de bundel ‘Nieuwe gedichten’ van Martinus Nijhoff die in 1934 verscheen.






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