I helped out for an hour yesterday at Lydia and Jo’s funeral services business, taking tape off a flat of urn boxes and then placing them on shelves according to colour. It felt great to contribute.
She had to continue working after that and suggested I go for a walk. Lydia knew of a scenic route that would take me into Oudenaard, where I could meet up with daughter Lore at 5:00 pm, after her exam.
Lydia wrote out detailed directions, naming all the streets and a few landmarks. As she told me all this, I followed along with Google Maps on my phone. Piece of cake!
Soon I was out and about on the streets of Maarkedal, joying in my touristic explorations. Ah ha – there’s the Boulangerie Vermeire that Lydia mentioned. A bakery sounds good to me. My purpose is not merely to admire architecture, but also to eat yummy food. Inside, a large custard tart beckoned me and resistance was futile. I munched as I strolled on, happy in the world.
The street curved past city hall and a towering church. Lydia’s directions were spot on. Okay, jog right at the t-intersection and find the sign for Ladeuze (a street). Yes, there it is. Now onwards to an imposing cream coloured house, then turn left onto a narrow paved path (about two feet wide).
The next half hour was bliss … fields to the left and right, cutesy homes out in the middle of nowhere, a stream cutting in from the left and accompanying me on my journey. A ringing bell came from behind and I made way for a smiling cyclist. And another. Then an unsmiling runner. We shared the path. Past a wee stone bridge, I climbed onto a vista of farm and home, clumps of trees and a meandering waterway. Such a gentle place was surrounding me.
And then …
No more named streets
No more juice in my phone
A niggly trembling in the heart
I paused. I breathed. I smiled. This was going to work out. I’ll guess about the turns. I’ll ask locals to point the way. I have Lydia’s list of street names. I’ll be there for Lore.
The path widened into a narrow road, with railway tracks joining me on the left. Ahead was a woman walking her dog. I never caught up with her to say hello. The land was slumbering under a grey sky.
“Turn left at the Nissan,” said the instructions, assuming I was on the road called Diependale. I wondered if that was a big assumption. I walked into a shop and faced a rough-looking fellow. “English?” I intoned. The reply was a vigorous shake of the head and a flood of Flemish. I pointed to “Diependale” on the sheet, and the gentleman shoved his hands downward, which I took to mean I was in the right place.
So onward, and soon a Nissan dealership presented itself. There was supposed to be a bridge over the Scheldt River but none graced my eyes. A gentleman was sitting on a bench. “English?” > “A little.” A minute later I was pointed to the river and city hall beyond. My step sprinted.
What astonishing beauty glowed from the walls of the building. I broke away from the wonderment as I realized I didn’t know what time it was, nor the location of the Tacambaro statue where Lore and I were to meet.
The solution was obvious: go into another shop. The woman inside was surrounded with jewelry displays, and was fully anchored in English. She went outside with me and pointed past the city hall. “Go straight. You’ll see the statue.”
And so it was. Lydia had shown me a photo of a young woman reposing in marble, and after several blocks a shining whiteness parted the moving cars and people. I stood beside the lady at 4:50 pm. Lore came along shortly thereafter.
It was a grand day for walking into the unknown, trusting that the goodness of the world would blossom.