We board a hundred-year-old barge
purchased by UNESCO for a single euro,
motor down a south Holland canal
shaped by Rhine Delta waters.
18th century windmills tower over levees
along a patchwork of fields
amid reclaimed farmland, low-lying polders.
Tan and white cattle munch reeds
among apple trees, sunflowers.
A millwright with wooden shoes
clumps out to meet us,
demonstrates how to unfurl canvas sails
to catch and harness wind,
stomps upon spoked wheel
to winch rotored mill head
in the proper direction.
For generations, families handed down
their special craft, father to son,
pumping rainwater from pasture
to canal, Rhine River channel,
back into North Sea.
A tall stake painted with red, yellow,
black slash lines demark
historical levels of flooding.
We’re soft American tourists,
intimidated by claustrophobic built-in bed,
little floor space, cramped outdoor kitchen,
a way of life alien to first-world privilege
on display, preserved by museum.