When the world is white & the trees are bare


When the world is white outside your window, you will have to stand and stare. Especially if you are a creature from the tropics. You may curse the weather in whichever part of the white world you are (pun intended) – curse it when for months morning can’t be distinguished from evening; when everybody insists on wearing black, making the bleak landscape even more depressing; when the flu is a recurrent companion and the overcoat becomes an extension of yourself. Curse such a weather with all your might; but if on a winter’s morning, the world suddenly turns white outside your window, you will have to sit up and take notice, or stand and stare for at least a few seconds before you rush off to catch your train.

And when you are out, of course it is a different matter. But let’s hold it there…. I’m tired of the realities of life… so please allow me to wax eloquent a little more about what you feel when you are from the tropics and can enjoy, may be on a weekend, the view of a white landscape from a heated room.

It’s lovely to see a readymade white landscape, the work done while you were blissfully sleeping under your warm blanket; but it’s surreal if you actually see a snow-shower happen – tiny balls of wispy cotton showering down on earth, covering the ground in varying shapes of white blanket. I like seeing that – the ground all white – but what I love even more is the way the trees look when they are snow-laden.

The trees of buitenveldert

I was always drawn to nature, but I fell in love with it in an entirely new way after coming to the Netherlands. And the trees of Buitenveldert – the residential district in Amsterdam Zuid, where we live – are responsible for that! It is easy to admire nature’s beauty in Europe, no matter which country you may visit or live in; and of course, every country has something distinct to offer. I’ve savoured that beauty of Europe well enough through my travels here; and Holland itself has provided me ample opportunities for that. But what I’m talking of is a different thing altogether – it is not about how many beautiful sights I’ve seen and recorded on facebook, but of a transformed relationship with Nature itself.

Our 7th-floor apartment in one of the tallest buildings of the neighbourhood is a spacious one, but its chief charm is the view it affords of the Amsterdam skyline and a cross-section of tree-lined avenues. These trees enact for me the drama of life. Their leaves veritably act out a seasonal cycle, so that I can sense the rhythm of the seasons simply by looking out the window: in spring, the first tender leaves shoot out, small and delectably fresh; in summer, they take on a lush green hue, resplendent in the beauty of youth; in autumn, they fall continuously in a riot of colours – yellow, brown, red, orange… and all the shades in between; and in winter, the naked branches, disrobed of their leaves, stand forlorn, waiting for the renewal of spring.

Over the years, I’ve learnt to appreciate the beauty of winter as well (especially if it’s a mild winter)! I’ve discovered, for instance, that nothing can feel better than the tingling freshness of a crisp winter morning, when the sun is out. In fact, sunny winter mornings have become one of my favourite things.

From spring to autumn, if one stands by a window in our apartment, one is in a direct line with the heads of the trees; and from that vantage point, they look crowded together in a huge mass of green (or brown) that stretch out as far as the eye can see. The windows frame a fecund green growth; and only by looking down can one see the neat spaces in between. Winter is however a different story: the bare landscape seems to lend a sharper clarity to the topography of the place. I’ve come to admire that too – the neighbourhood being bared to the bones, as it were, yet managing to maintain its dignity.

I can’t have enough of these trees. They give me lessons in life like few else can. Watching them, loving them, photographing them (in their hundreds), has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life in Amsterdam.