It's another sunny Belgium day. Cold, but sunny. The skies are blue and the barren trees art against the backdrop of the sky. It's beautiful, as I look out my window, seeing the sway of branches in the slight wind. Through my other window, I can see the church tower, a tower built so long ago, in the year 1007. It's unbelievable to me, having such a piece of history right in front of me. At the top of the tower, a golden rooster stands proud in the blue of the sky.
My little village is definitely tiny. But the church tower breathes a bit of life into our tiny little place in the world. Housed inside the church is the oldest organ in Belgium, called the Gilmanorgel and dating to 1593.
We have nature areas the fall within our town limits. The canal runs through, separating our town into two distinct areas. On one side of the canal is the village, houses and people, the little grocery store, one cafe, and a snack shop. Here is also the elementary school combined with the well-used community center. On the other side of the bridge, which is now being rebuilt, slowly adding something new to the old of our town, are all the farms and farmland, all the cows and crops. This area also houses the old water mill which is now a place for picnics and the nature walk meeting point.
There is a lot of brick here. Homes are built in brick, strong and lasting. Just like in the story the Three Little Pigs, the brick home protects, and can handle any disaster. The older bricks are all of the reddish variety, while newer homes are being built with lighter tan colored brick. Sometimes, seeing so much brick gets to me. It's something quaint about Europe, and nearly unheard of in American towns. House after house built of brick, as well as sidewalks, all meshing into one. Some streets are even made of brick, or cobblestone which are beautiful but a disaster to walk on...cobblestone streets...quaint, European.
The front yards are all prettily manicured, grass and flowers, neat and tidy. Windows in the homes are covered by a sheer curtain, usually a vase or trinket placed in twos in the window. In the darkness of night, nearly all the windows are shuttered closed, keeping out the wind and the cold. Securing the home from the dangers of night.
The school yard is closed off in a great big gate and fence, and the play equipment is minimal. There are soccer goals and a basketball court, along with hopscotch and other games painted on the play surface. There are no slides or swings or climbing gyms. Children play marbles and jumprope and it sometimes reminds me of watching Little House on the Prairie. Sometimes, during recess, I go take a little walk, just to see the kids playing, hear their laughter and shouts, try to pick my kid out of the crowd as he competes in another rendezvous of soccer. The bell rings, the kids line up in lines, no talking, no whispering allowed. Once the bell rings, it's like a stillness overcomes our little village one again.
And the clock on the church tower rings. Every hour, I hear the bells number the time. One oçlock, two oçlock, three oçlock... and each half hour I hear one single toll of the bell. I have come to need the tolling of the bells, use them in judging my time. Though I know it's nearly lunchtime, time to pick up my son from the gates of his school, I only leave home as the last bell at 12 tolls.
My village. My life here in Europe. A little piece of history and nature combined in the modern technology of life in this great big world. The history is alive, as is the modern day world. It's a very nice mix.