I was born in the Betuwe, on the edge of the part of my home country that is above sea-level. Go west and north and the land is inundated, below sea level, if not for the engineering genius of the people who build dykes and figured out how to pump the land dry. I have always had a strange relationship with this land; I feel most at home in mountains and deserts. So it is a bit strange to find myself on the edge of the ocean, flatland as far as my eyes can see, with the intention to stay here for a while and submerge in its stories.

Maybe now is the time to newly appreciate this land, looking at it with fresh eyes, informed by what I have learned and experienced from land and people in other parts of the world where I have lived over the years. 

Its flatness is not an indicator of its historic depth as people have lived in this region for millennia, and like other coastal zones, it is dynamic, water, plants, animals and people have  moved in and out. But where to start, how to frame the story of this land. Maybe it is best to start with our current concern of rising sea-levels, of melting ice-sheets and focus on moisture, or what Mathur and DaCunha have termed “wetness” as a novel way of looking at our relationship with oscillating air-water, gas-fluid, interfaces, horizontally as well as vertically. 

During the last Ice Age (Pleistocene) is when the ice sheets formed, a time when the Netherlands had a tundra climate. The land, now called the Netherlands was formed as a result of the interplay of four main rivers (Rhine, Meuse, Schelde and IJssel) and the influence of the North Sea and glaciers during the Ice ages. It is mostly made up of sediments that were deposited during the Pleistocene glacial and interglacial periods. The Saale glaciation covered the eastern part of the Netherlands, moving in from the north it pushed moraine forward that remained in the landscape as a long hill, forming the higher parts of the country. Saale ended around 130.000 years ago. During the warmer periods, Neanderthals, moved into these tundra and intermittent permafrost regions and from about 40.000 BC, early modern humans began to settle here. 

Looking out from my desk at the window over fallow fields that, I assume, will soon be planted with potatoes and imagine early hunter gatherers roaming these regions of tidal sand flats and peat marshes 10.000 years ago. Suddenly it is not so flat anymore. The interplay of life, land, and water. I am ready to listen to the stories.