Whitmonday 2016, Landschlacht, Switzerland
As I sit at my desk at home and consider how much I haven´t written about from March to May and how much I wish to write about…
As I look out my window at a grey sky, enjoying a day off from work, I truly appreciate that religion allows people holidays from adult lives so dominated by work…
I compare holidays when I have travelled alone and holidays when I have travelled with my significant other…
Good Friday 2016, Bernhardzell, Switzerland
The wife is working today, tomorrow and Easter Sunday.
I must work at Starbucks tomorrow and Easter Sunday, but this day, this day is mine!
I return once again to Herbert Mayr´s Bodensee Sud hiking book and decide to follow the creeping path that follows the Sitter river in the region of Bernhardzell between St. Gallen (where I work) and the Lake of Constance (where I live).
Bernhardzell, part of the municipality of Waldkirch, has a site considered a part of Swiss national heritage: the Catholic parish church of St. John the Baptist.
This wee village of some 800 souls has seen itself as the scene of violent fighting in the Appenzeller Wars when the village was almost burnt out of existence in 1403.
This church inspired two men of God to faithfully serve the Roman Catholic Church in fields a far distance away: Cristian Jakob Krapf (born 12 September 1936 in the village) has been a priest for 52 years in Ilheus, Bahia, Brazil and the Bishop of Jequié, Bahia, Brazil for 37 years as ordained by Pope John Paul II (he is now retired); Bertram Enzler, also a local boy (born 1955), is the Bishop of Santo Domingo de los Colarados in Ecuador.
It is a strange thing how the winds of change blew them so far from their Swiss homes and how the turbulence of time blew me so far from my Canadian home to this wee village…
The river Sitter is, much like your humble blogger, not so much to brag about.
It is a small prealpine river coming from the north side of Alpstein massif (canton Appenzell).
A few kilometers west of St. Gallen, there is a famous railway bridge crossing Sittertobel [Sitter canyon] with a height of more than 100 m [300 ft].
The river Sitter joins the river Thur near the medieval town of Bischofszell.
I left late morning from home, stopping off at Starbucks to exchange pleasantries with colleagues and friends, our banter far from intellectual, Bryan and Volkan, whom I call “an American wannabe, sheep-shagging son of a motherless goat” and “a short hairy Turk”.
Clearly, we are brothers in arms!
It was a Good Friday.
Train to Waldkirch, Postbus to Bernhardzell, a leisurely four-hour stroll in the rain.
If appropriately dressed, I love walking in the rain, for then the trails are mostly mine alone.
Birds sing as they shower themselves.
Farm animals shiver quietly and chew their cud, patiently waiting for Mother Nature to dry her tears and beam sunshine back onto soggy ground.
A man dying on a cross thousands of kilometers distant and millennia ago seems unreal in the rainswept fields and mossy forests beside a swollen river.
I was told as a boy how one man, both divine and human, sacrificed Himself to save a world desperately needing redemption.
I am no theologian, no South American bishop, but the concept of water washing away the grime and the grit from one´s person is evident all about me.
Though I am damp from the drizzle and my jeans and boots are splattered with mud, there is a smile upon my face.
This is fly fishing territory, hiking land, that puts me in a meditative state.
This is Switzerland and many a river runs through it, creating valleys where farms are and from whence cities are born, between mountain ranges high and proud.
I recall the 23rd Psalm:
“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul.” (King James Bible, Psalm 23: 1-2)
I stumble across yet another covered bridge, the Wannenbrugg, and Simon and Garfunkel sing of a bridge over troubled waters…
Here in the Wild Wild East, the undiscovered by most tourists countryside of Switzerland, this is a region that whispers the past in your ears, whose rhythms flow softly through your consciousness, a steady current taken for granted yet ever certain.
This is a region unheralded by poets, unloved by musicians, unknown to most save the locals who rarely see the everyday splendour all around them.
Green pastures do not excite most folks and neither do forests and rivers, for our ears are blocked by music distracting and our eyes flicker to electronics, for music and computers save us from our thoughts and feelings complex and disturbing.
And for this I am glad, for I don´t wish to convert others to my quiet vales, gentle rivers and silent forests.
I am a grateful audience of one, in a concert hall of birdsong, in a cinema of life itself, my heart humming in harmony to the sure beat of nature.
For though I am yet a creature of my modern age, enjoying like many, the distractions of music and the kaleidoscope of images shown by TV screens, computer consoles large or portable, cinema salles of action frentic, I praise the eccentric quirk within that compels me once more onto meandering path in an unmechanical world.
I have been blessed with friends and family far more knowledgeable in the beliefs of religions, far more certain of realms spiritual than I, but of one thing I remain sure…when I consider the world outside and the majesty of the universe beyond, for my life I am truly grateful.