Friday, July 8, 2011

Scale of Landscape

First thing to strike me as I drove around Dallas (two weeks in Europe, never drove - one day in Dallas, hafta drive!)... was how different the scales of Texas and the Netherlands are.

Both are horizontal landscapes (though not even Kansas is as flat as the Netherlands), but even large fields in Holland are defined by lines of tall, graceful, evenly spaced  trees that announce the landscape as human-made, while Texas' fields and range-land are vaster, the thirsty trees naturally scrubbier and lower, seeming more human-hacked-from-the-scrub than the garden of the Netherlands.  It feels like a long time since their land was wild... Texas could revert in a week.  (Dikes, however, suggest that Holland could be underwater any minute.)

Holland, Zeeland, and Friesland seem designed around walking distances, while Texas is designed around the car... more between-things distance and wide, wide streets.  Heck!  In front of my neighborhood is six lanes - I never even saw a Dutch highway that wide - most streets are one narrow lane plus a bike path each side that serves, when you meet another car, as an impromptu and exciting two lanes... add a couple bikes, a parked truck, and a nice brick wall, tree, or steel bollard...!

Amazing to see Dutch villages like Workum where brick house fronts sit on the street, but the rear walls - one room away - sit in pure country.  Corn at the window.  Our towns... straggle... tool-shedding themselves messily into a countryside of out-lying gas stations, wrecking yards, and billboards that straggle on for miles.  The Dutch civic crispness (I'd say European, except Paris definitely straggled) of city/country edge was sometimes breathtaking.

So was the tidiness and up-keep of a whole country.  If I were an antique building, I'd want to be Dutch.  If I lived in a Modern multifamily building I'd want it to be in Holland...  Our highrises could use a few petunias, I tell you.  I lost my heart to the hollyhocks that spring up out of tiny urban 2" plots to stand, floral sentries 6' tall, at doorways of quaint 17th century Zeeland cottages and brand-spanking-modern wharf-side Amsterdam townhouses.
Hollyhock image courtesy of
I wish hollyhocks grew here, but there's not enough water to make that work - it was 104 F yesterday.

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