By Linda Boeckhout
I hope you do not mind me addressing you in this manner, for all the world to read. I do not think you do. I perceive you as such an elemental Goddess, so attuned to the needs of ordinary men and women. Demanding capitals to every you and your is the prerogative of a fearsome desert God, set apart in unforgiving sky. But in your own land, all is flat and even, the damp land kisses the sky undivided. So I will speak to you like I would to anyone else.
Just yesterday I stood at your shores, not far from where your temple lies buried in the sea, by tons of sand and waters. Your name set in stone lies sleeping under the blankets of sand, or in the musty corner of a museum. Forever? Your devotees were Frisians, Romans, Gauls. They came to you from as far as Cologne and Besançon. And those are only the ones we know about. How many nameless women and children honoured you with flowers, fruit and cakes? Their humble gifts could not withstand the test of time, but I like to believe you valued them even more than the ostentatious votive stones the more fortunate left at Ganuenta. Even in archaeology, we cannot help but hearing only the voices of the bold.
Then the water came and devoured your sacred places, leaving your children to flee, or rather forcing them into the arms of a foreign God. The water came and went again and again. For hundreds of years it flailed the land, until your children did no longer perceive the water as inevitable force. Instead, it became but a jealous lover to be whipped into submission. From silt and shell and mud a nation arose. Over your waters they travelled and traded. Everywhere they sailed they were met by wealth. And if they were not, wealth was squeezed out of other people’s land, or even their flesh and blood. Upon both their ingenuity and their ruthlessness I feed today. Most of the time in blissful ignorance, sometimes in shame. Did you bestow our wealth upon us? Or did you yield, for once and for all, like a tired mother would with a screaming toddler?
Now few know your name at all. And the ones that do, often only acknowledge it as an echo of a very distant past. It seems you do not mind. Like a good mother you have given of yourself, so that your children may live. As long as we are happy. Most of us are happy still. I know I am. Yet many are not. There is an aching loneliness in many of us. No matter how much we have, we always crave for more.
Your face is placid and unfathomable today, a dead calm. I know you must have raged before, but have never known you to do so. Seagulls plaintively and shrilly scream for more more more. But it seems you have been done giving. Your apple basket is emptier by the day and so are our hearts.
Your loyal companions, the dogs, still lead a good life here, in general. Maybe this is why you have never lost your patience with us, up until now. We even travel across Europe to pick up discarded mutts from less forgiving places. We are not so inclined to take in our human brothers and sisters though, who cross the Mediterranean, looking for a promised land.
There is no easy answer to their plight and our own decline. The golden days are behind us. In the twilight of the western world we are forced to forge a new era all by ourselves. My wish is that it will not be an age defined by metal for once. Let it be something that grows nonetheless, like samphire grows on brine and sand, and the apple tree blossoms in the western winds.
I have come to ask you one thing today. You have given us so much, now I have come to ask you to withdraw. Let the low tides come and force us out on the beach, to look for treasures we have never given the time of day. Cut down the apple tree, before we spray insecticides all over them again. Yes, we will moan and complain. But we have had too much and no amount of apples will fix our belly-aching. So, dear Lady, take your blessings back to sea. But stay anyway, and lead us beyond the waves of greed, to your simpler shores of generosity.