A ship on the beach is a beacon at sea – the literal translation of a famous Dutch saying. We’ve never felt much need for beacons along the rivers, even though rivers carry their own threats. Witness the fact that I have – hopefully just for once in my life – been evacuated from my home town of Zaltbommel. This was in jan/feb  ’95, when the rivers threatened to break through their dikes. This is scary, for the area I live in is much like a bathtub: it is situated between two major rivers (Maas and Waal) and the land inbetween is lower than the rivers’ winter levels. If a dike breaks, we are in big trouble. 

This all came back to me when I visited the IJsselbiennale recently. This art festival is situated along the river IJssel, a tributary of the Waal. To be better prepared for high(er) water volumes in the rivers – and to prevent me from having to evacuate once again – us Dutch executed a series of projects titled ”Room for the River’. Overflow areas were created as an alternative for making higher dikes, and along the river IJssel a highwater gully was created, complete with dikes – to be used as farmland normally, to be a river arm when needed. An altogether strange element in the Dutch landscape: a river of grass between two dikes.  

Image below is of a work of art by Maze de Boer, who placed a sailing boat on a pivot, making it into a weathervane. Situated, of course, in the highwater gully – not a wave in sight at the present moment. Nice!  

New hopes: 
a. we will see a next edition of the IJsselbienale;
b. it isn’t foolhardy to continue living in the bathtub. 

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