We went … and we opened.  So many young lives that ended in 1917.  The time gap seems wide but it’s not.  Soldiers of all countries lived like me: happy and sad, together and lonely, healthy and sick.  They had dreams.  I have dreams.  I get to live mine.

We visited the memorial to Canadian soldiers.  A man with head bowed mourns the loss:

A sign told us that the soldier faces the wind that brought chlorine gas into the lungs of Canadians.  Such a horrible way to die, clutching your throat for air.

And today?  It felt so ordinary.  A pretty park.  This patch of grass could be anywhere, hosting a single dandelion:

But the Battle of Passchendaele was fought in oozing mud and driving rain.  How easy it is to sense only our usual world of 2023.

A British writer spoke for his compatriots but he could have been French … or German:

There is not a single half-acre in Ypres that is not sacred.  There is not a single stone which has not sheltered scores of loyal young hearts, whose one impulse and desire was to fight and, if need be, to die for England.  Their blood has drenched its cloisters and its cellars, but if never a drop had been spilt, if never a life had been lost in defence of Ypres still would Ypres have been hallowed, if only for the hopes and the courage it has inspired and the scenes of valour and sacrifice it has witnessed.

The German Air Force bombed Ypres until there was virtually nothing left, including the Cloth Hall.  It was “built in the 13th century.  Also during this time cats, then the symbol of the devil and witchcraft, were thrown off Cloth Hall, possibly because of the belief that this would get rid of evil demons.”

Yesterday I sat in front of the Cloth Hall, pondering mankind’s beauty and depravity.  My head dropped without my mind in the picture.

Here are two photos:

We also visited the resting place of many young men.

“There are now 11,961 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in Tyne Cot Cemetery.  8,373 of the burials are unidentified.”

Such an expanse of death.

Sonetime in my future I want to visit the nearby cemetery for German soldiers.  They too need to be honoured.

For all the dead, there is this tombstone:

And at the end of the day, there is life … in front of the Cloth Hall:

You know the ball is there

2 thoughts on “Ypres

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