One of my favourite places in The Hague, besides the sea and the magical Voorhout, is Oud Eik en Duinen cemetery. Among its treasures are the grave of Louis Couperus and the beautiful remains of the chapel built in 1247 by Count William II for his father, Floris IV. But that’s not why I come here. My ancestors are buried here, so I come to pay them a visit and honour them – even the ones who died before I was born. It gives me solace to sit down under the tall tree that stands next to their grave, underneath its long overhanging branches that create a green-leaved shelter. I light the small rose-coloured candle and burn some incense, as I listen to the magpies flying past. For me it’s a sanctuary, a place of serenity and peace in the city, where I go to be quiet and listen to my inner voice. As I walk along the lanes, glancing at the names on the gravestones, I am reminded that it is a privilege to be alive. And that no matter how dark things get, there is always a place where you can find a lighted lantern.
When you live in paradise, you need never go on holiday. My little house at the beach is everything I could ever dream of. For the first time in over a year, I decided I was longing for a change of scenery and so I went on a little trip to the Veluwe woodlands. There is something about leaving everything behind – if only just for a moment. To discover unfamiliar territory and venture into an unknown world. When I arrived, it was still warm and so I headed out for an evening walk. The world was covered with rhododendrons in every colour of the rainbow. I followed a little stream into the forest and noticed something moving in the first tree I came upon. Lo and behold – it was a tiny red squirrel. I sat down in the grass beneath her. In this moment away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, I let all of my dreams flood over me. It allowed me to zoom out and see the bigger picture – how far I have come and what is still ahead. To dust off my compass and see the direction it’s pointing towards.
Five years have passed since I was attacked by a hawk. I have learned a lot about trauma since then. That it is not so much time that heals, but love – from myself, my family, kindhearted friends, and when I was finally ready, from the one who kissed my wounds. Also, that healing is painful. We’re talking flashbacks, numbness and hypervigilance. There are days I’ll be hopping through the forest, when I am suddenly scared out of my wits by a shadow, run home to my oak tree and hide trembling in a corner of the trunk, enveloped by the darkness of piercing memories. I can hear the raccoons playing outside, inviting me for a game of acorn spinning – as I lie under a blanket of leaves and try to breathe. It is difficult sometimes to open up about what is going on and let others in, because trust is one of the things that I lost in the incident. But I have also learned that I am stronger for it. The wound is the place where the light enters you. And with every step my light is getting brighter.
Diary of a wounded squirrel
In The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle Hugh Lofting tells how 9-year-old Tommy Stubbins met Doctor Dolittle. It all started when Tommy came across a hawk on a rock with a squirrel in his claws. The hawk is so startled that he drops the squirrel and flies off. When Tommy picks the squirrel up, he sees that the squirrel’s legs are badly hurt. He carries the squirrel to Puddleby-on-the-Marsh to find someone who can help. His friends advise him to go see the famous animal doctor, John Dolittle, who has the extraordinary gift of speaking the animals’ language. Doctor Dolittle is away on a voyage, so Tommy has to wait for the doctor’s return. When he finally meets Doctor Dolittle, they visit Tommy’s home to take a look at the squirrel. After having talked to the squirrel, Doctor Dolittle ties the broken leg up with matchsticks and prescribes two weeks of bed rest under dry leaves, which is difficult for squirrels as they are very active and cheerful creatures. I am the squirrel and this is my diary.