Tall Tales

Last week in the midst of some warm and humid weather I decided to ride my bicycle into Freiburg to join one of the monthly church groups – the Wise Ones.  While the group is a fellowship group for those who are retired, they let me join partly because I’m the minister, and partly, I think, because I have some grey hair, and as the Celtic tradition says, a head of grey hair is a sign of wisdom.

As I started out my journey I tried out one of the features of my GPS that will calculate various routes, be it by bike, by foot, or by car.  Having figured that I’d seen a few different routes to the church already, I programmed the GPS to take me on a hilly route.  This is where I think I gained a few more grey hairs, but proved not to be very wise.

After the first 2 kilometres it became evident to me that I was going to get my heart racing.  The suggested road to take turned out to be an over-grown edge of a field that the farm tractor may have seen a few weeks ago.  Nonetheless, I persevered in ignorance.

Next came a short, but steep, jaunt through the vineyards.  The grapes are coming into season, the air was warm, the clouds were darkening and I could hear thunder in the distance.  Of all the days to have a thunderstorm!  The idyllic scenery could not conquer the steady pounding in my ears of my own racing heartbeat as I was set to ignore every possible switchback and continued on my course straight up the hill.  I became mildly concerned to find the hair on my arms standing upright with ever-blackening clouds and ever-nearing sounds of thunder.

With about 200 metres until I reached the canopy of the Black Forest the heavens opened and the rain poured.  Receiving shelter from the tall trees only made me feel protected from the violent crashing of the thunderstorm, yet the rain drops fell more heavily as they gathered their forces together off of the tall leafed trees and plunged down.

The dirt path quickly became a small stream and mud splashed up from my wheels to ensure that whatever dry part of my clothes was left would be properly soaked.  Wisdom tells you to bring an extra change of clothes (which I did, thinking I would be too sweaty), wisdom might also tell you to put your clothes in a dry bag (which I didn’t) and still when I arrived at the church I was allowed to participate in the Wise Ones meeting.  The rain actually fell from the trees so hard that it took me a moment to realize that my route had been changed.  The water drops falling in rapid and heavy succession upon my touch screen GPS had canceled my current route and changed it to something altogether more impossible.

As I stood in the rain pretending to find shelter under the trees and hunching my back over my electronic navigation system so that I might find my correct course, or better yet, my actual location it occurred to me that I had not seen anyone on my ride.  Usually I would have encountered dozens of people out for a bike ride, or a hike.  Either everyone knew that there would be a thunderstorm, or I was so far into the woods that there was definitely no restaurant, or Gasthaus nearby – this by German standards is completely lost.  Your mind begins to play tricks on you as you become more chilled from the rain and you feel disoriented.  Had I been somewhere in Canada I would have felt as if I was on a logging road and been concerned that a bear might come out of the woods.  All the German fairytales started to come to mind, but not in the Disney versions, rather the original German versions which are far more gruesome.

Onwards and still upwards! After the momentary lapse in confusion, I mounted my bike and began to plod my way steadily uphill.  I began to use my better judgement for a change and started reading the signs and ignoring my GPS so that I eventually made my way down the other side of the hill towards my destination.  It was only then that finally the heavens opened and the blue sky and bright sun showed up, a little too weakly to actually dry anything off, but it was good for the mood.

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Bike riding is full of adventure, but later I learned from my parents that sometimes the adventure comes to you…even in your own home.  We might be half a world away, but we find ways of communicating our stories and adventures.  Having a running commentary this morning by text message about the large Black Bear that has found its way into the house and made itself very much at home in the kitchen with several hamburger buns, and a jar of peanut butter would certainly surprise anyone, even the family dog.  Eventually the determined bear was scared off, but surely the story will live on and grow into a family memory, a legendary tale.

I think I will stick to my rainy bike ride up the side of the mountain then come face to face with a large Black Bear and her jar of peanut butter.  At the end of the story I think we are all, a little greyer, and I hope, a little wiser.

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Light

People often tell me that they enjoy the light of Freiburg.  That there is a unique quality to the light that is distinctive to the place.  Usually I just see light without the uniqueness that others enjoy.  Perhaps I am simple.

I now run around 5 kilometres three to four times a week as part of my wellbeing.  It was the other day, perhaps from a ‘runners high’ that I noticed the light.  My running routes purposely take me away from the busy roads and I find myself running through fields and vineyards.  The weather is getting cooler and I usually am the only person walking, or running outside.  In the evenings the gym near the train station is aglow with neon lights and the bobbing silhouette of men and women jogging on treadmills.  Even when it is raining the grey clouds don’t always seal up the sun.  Particularly in the evenings towards sun-set the light is wonderful and majestic for a few moments.  There are times on my runs when I want to stop and dig out my phone so that I can snap a quick photo, but the light is so perfect for just a short time that the moment has passed before I can untangle my headphones and retrieve my phone.  The photos never do any justice to the overall view.

Now the sun provides such a contrast to the grey clouds, the flocks of birds that scavenge the spilt corn, and the multi coloured vines that make the hills into a patchwork quilt of colour.

Is it from the time spent being in one place that I can now see the light in the way that others have tried to express? Or is it the pumping heart, the working legs and the distance that is more than just kilometres that has worked to open my eyes to the etherial light of Freiburg?

 

Around the Area

Monday is a day off, and after school was finished the girls and I took the local train to the end of the line in Münstertal a small village in a southern valley of the Black Forest. We ate lunch there in the park whilst watching a couple of Mallards defend their small pond and tiny nesting box from other ducks looking for a place to call home.

I had the feeling that when we got off the train and everyone ran over to a bus and we were left all alone at the small train station that if this was a Western a tumble weed should have blown past.  Despite the loneliness of the village it still offered some quant surprises.  A small playground with a stream nearby and the sound of cowbells from the animals grazing on the hillsides.

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A One Horse Town

Needless to say, we didn’t stay too much longer in town, but decided to skip over to the next town of Staufen where we could me Anke after her work in the kindergarten had finished.  Even on the short ride back towards Bad Krozingen we were asked to see our tickets and the girls got to see what happens when you board the train without paying your fare. Don’t worry, it wasn’t us, as we had paid, but a young woman had to hand over a 60 Euro fine.

In Staufen, it is a small town which is famous for a number of things, but most recently for the large cracks on some of the buildings in and around the town hall.  Several years ago there was the idea to use Geo-Thermal heating in the Town Hall, but when the water was forced into the ground, the chalk expanded and created localized earthquakes which did a lot of damage to many of the historic buildings.  It is still a problem for the town council and citizens, but it has created a fascination with others.  One of the girls noticed that even a small motorcycle which was parked along side the town hall had a bad crack running down the outer plastic surrounding the engine; it fit perfectly with its surroundings.

In the midst of a wine growing region, Staufen offers magnificent views from the ruins that are situated on top of a small hill.  Family owned vineyards with ecological and organic practices in agriculture being highlighted in informative signs that led us to the top of the hill.  Unfortunately the brisk wind was pushing the clouds in quickly (as soon it would snow later that evening), however, the view was great and we all had a chance to explore the old castle ruins.