Frank and I have been a right pair of invalids in the last few weeks – in Dresden we both had to go to be x-rayed and we ended up with a splint each: one for Frank’s right hand and one for my left leg. Between us we managed to drive Emma the 120km to Proitze from Helmstedt, where we then proceeded to pick up two more illnesses, Frank had a cold and I had a stomach bug. Something was telling us to SLOW DOWN, I think…
We rested for a couple of days before we got going southwards. Time was ticking on and we wanted to go through Switzerland and escape the winter before it got too cold or snowy.
We stopped off at an old school friend’s place in northern Bavaria. She and her family had had a year of stressful situations, plunging her husband into a deep depression and instability to the extent that he had to go and spend some time in a clinic. We decided to stop for a few days and to visit him every day, so that we’d have some time to connect with each other. On the last day, we had a wonderful time with him, collecting firewood together, strolling in the park, chatting about many things, exploring the historic part of the building housing the clinic, playing cards in our Emma and really connecting with each other.
Through his stories, we got a glimpse of the inner struggle he went through, and the unsettling experience of shifting realities, of a hypersensitivity enabling him to perceive things that others don’t see or hear, and the fear and unrest that this brings. The mind is such a complex thing, and ‘Normality’ seems an arbitrary judgement of a society. Parallel to our visit, I am reading a book about a woman who was invited by an Aboriginal tribe to go walkabout for several months. Her description of the tribe communicating telepathically, in fine practical detail, comes to my mind. What do we know at all about the mind…
I have a huge respect for the way that my friend’s husband deals with his situation, and how his family supports him.
We travel on to Switzerland, where my brother lives in a little village above one of the lakes. We are very lucky with the weather, catching a glorious couple of days where we enjoy alpine air and views. My brother’s wife Karen takes a day off work and we drive high up to one of the Alps where the cows spend the summer. Karlo and I lounge in the sun on some rolymats (me because of my knee and him because he’s weak from the cancer treatments), while Frank and Karen go for a one-hour walk up to one of the huts.
I enjoy the sun and the spacious silence and being able to spend some time with a brother with whom I’ve had precious little positive time in my life.
Sometimes, I take an active decision to focus on the things that give energy rather than the ones that take energy.
I remember 2 happy moments with my brother in the picture: I was very happy that he and his family made the long trip to Wales to join us at our wedding, and I enjoyed our visit to Karlo in July earlier this year. To this will be added the joyful memories of this visit.
It is great to see Karlo happy in this little and very Swiss village (check out the photos on flikr, it really is the archetypal Swiss village!), to feel the loving and nurturing care of his wife and the support of his children. They have a lovely house and Karlo is in the process of creating a beautiful garden along the South side. Some neighbours have given him Dahlias, of the dark red and full kind. They are my favourites, I can just imagine how beautiful they will look in this sparkling mountain light.
We visit an Alphorn maker in the village and both Frank and I have a go on one of these extraordinary horns. The wood for the instruments all comes from this valley, the instrument maker’s father runs the sawmill.
I am very happy to have been shown the beauty of the high Alps, with the stunning views onto snowcovered peaks. The cows are now down in the village, and one evening we go to collect the fresh milk as the farmers arrive at the central house with their individual churns full of milk, and before the big lorry comes to take it all away. That evening, we have a family meal where we are joined by two of Karlo’s children, plus the daughter’s boyfriend, Pascal. The food is exquisite and the laughter and conversation is a delight. Pascal has a great sense of humour, but his witty comments have to be translated first, as I can’t understand a word of his strong Valley dialect. I then translate on for Frank’s benefit, which slows down the conversation but also is the source of much mirth.
These are the moments I will treasure.
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