I remember the first time that I really gazed out the attic window to the view of the Bosboom Toussaintstraat. The night was black and starless, but the string of amber streetlights offered a gentle glow to this quiet urban canyon. The tall, gabled houses framed the narrow street with a sense of diminuitive grandeur. A typical Amsterdam street, except for the absence of bends or crooks in the thouroughfare, allowing an unrestricted view of the entire Bosboom Toussaintstraat – straight as an arrow pointing to the monolithic urban developments built on the fringes of the city long after its illustrious golden age.
The view offered an epiphany. A moment of realization and understanding. A quiet knowing of the fact that this was Amsterdam. The strange amber light, the 17th Century architecture, the traffic flowing with hatchbacks, scooters, and bicycles, the measured two-pitched song of an ambulance racing through the night… That first deliberate view out of the attic window provided a sense of genesis – a threshhold to new beginnings in this city we chose for our own.
I’ve sat to gaze out of that attic window many times since my initial reflection upon the Bosboom Toussaintstraat. It seems to offer a timeless window on life in Amsterdam. Through all the people who have come and gone, through times of sorrow and joy, through sleet and sunshine, through silence or singing… the amber streetlights flicker to life every evening and illuminate the Bosboom Toussaintstraat, essentially unchanged from my first view of the Amsterdam nightscape. Every view is an opportunity to re-center, re-focus, and renew my perspective. I remember who God is. Who I am. How we came to find ourselves in Amsterdam in an attic space overlooking the canals and streets of the city centrum. Every gaze is a new beginning.
This evening, I look down upon the dancing waters of the Singelgracht beneath me. The amber reflections of the city streetlights are refracted and projected in a cycle of perpetual motion, as if I’m methodically running my fingers through piles of golden treasure. Above the canal, a woman on bicycle is sillhouetted against the streetlights as she struggles to surmout the incline of the Koekjesbrug. And beyond the bridge, on the other side of the busy Nassaukade, the Bosboom Toussaintstraat stretches out like a long, straight finger, pointing the way to tomorrow.