Oct 13, 2015

Pilgrimage (Part One Of Two): Ameland Island, Netherlands

The date is September 12, 2015. Feeling somewhat chilled and footsore, I stand before the counter at the Ameland VVV--the island's visitors' center--holding what seems to be a simple piece of paper. The kindhearted employee has just handed me a photocopied map of the town of Nes. On the north-east corner, just outside of town, she's drawn a circle representing the "Willibrordsdobbe." I thank her in my bad Dutch and make sure that it's all right to keep the map. "Of course," she assures me.

The day's been gray and overcast, but at least it's not raining. My bike is parked back in town center, so I walk through residential areas, following the map until I reach the end of a street. There's a parking lot to the left and a cemetery wall to the right. I'm not sure where to go next. Fortunately, what appear to be two park employees in florescent jackets are talking nearby. When I ask about the Willibrordsdobbe, they point down a paved path with easy assurance. The walk is a short one: I'd been closer to the spring than I realized.

Off to the right, dun-colored ponies graze on a small hillside. Sporting fields and skateboard ramps dominate the left side, empty that day. There's a large racing event going on by the local windmill, and I suspect it's keeping the crowds down here. The spring itself is tucked in between the playing fields and a line of thick conifers, and is surrounded by a low, wooden fence. The waters are still and speckled with a few autumn leaves. It's more of a pool or a small pond than the flowing, crystalline spring of imagination. But seeing it is no less a thrill. I stop to take pictures of the sign that's been put up to mark the site and am gratified to see a mention of Fosite (Forseti).

I take more pictures of the pool, from outside the fence only. What lies within that boundary is holy ground. A carved wooden frog sculpture stands close to a gap in the fence where the traces of a trail leading down to the water are visible. I briefly wonder what my God thinks of the carving. Frogs? I circle the perimeter of the fence, quietly impressed by the sheer diversity of plant life around the pool. Reeds and a pair of small trees; rowans with crimson berries; the gaily red fruits of rose hips, and their white and magenta blossoms. It's a natural garden with many representatives of the island's flora.

Finally setting the camera aside, I pause and meditate in the back near the trees, then return to the front of the spring and wait for a cyclist to pass. Some instinct compels me to take my shoes off before stepping between the wood slats.

The path down to the water is narrow, made softer by pressed-down reeds. The edge is muddy and I can see mossy green bits of algae in the water. I renew an oath and consecrate something I've brought with me.

I'm reluctant to leave, but the day is growing late and the skies are dark. The waters are silent, sheltered among reeds, bushes, and trees. It's time to go back to town.