Monday, 23 June 2014

   My childhood dream visit! Switzerland!               

In 1973 I was only 9 years old and given a choice. "Do you want to become our adopted child and then visit Switzerland every year? Or, do you want to stay your mother's daughter?" I loved my mother, although she wasn't able to give us the life I was given as choice with my aunt, uncle and their son Walter. I chose to stay my mother's child and thought I would never ever see Heidi land for real.
Later in the Children's Home I would regret this choice in my mind, for visiting Switzerland would surely only be a dream forever.

After many many years, in only 10 days before the 6 July 2011, this dream was rapidly becoming reality. I was invited by Walter, my childhood would-have-been stepbrother-cousin, to come and visit him and his two sons Travis and Teegan in Solothurn Switzerland for a month. I sold a valuable painting and bought my plane ticket, applied for a Swiss visa and thanked God for this amazing, unexpected, but very very badly needed dream coming true. As a 47 year old divorced woman that made a lot of mistakes seeking love, I was desperate to find only self worth and at breaking point. I never booked international before and had to do it all by myself. After picking up my visa at 9:00 the same day as my flight later that evening, I nearly drove into a truck on the free way .... I could feel a force taking over the wheel, steering my car to safety, very close to hitting the barrier. Nothing was going to stop me any more to go and experience Switzerland for real.     
   

My luggage were packed within two hours after arriving home safely from picking up my approved visa and very close encounter with the truck. I spoiled myself by buying the purple weatherproof handbag, and attached a new soft pink heart to the zip. Last but not least, I put two books in my case that I had for a while, but could not read them for I have sinned being single and desperate. "The shack" was going to be the perfect book to read in Switzerland and I added "Seen jou gees" just in case. I knew God was going to help me get back on track again, and my Bible was to heavy and damageable. With my bags packed I was ready to be picked up by an older dear friend. Driving too the airport, I was filled with joy, expectation, thankfulness and also a little fear. Being three hours early, my friend helped me carry in my bags and left. The trip of a lifetime has just begun!    
               



 It was summer in Switzerland then. I thought to myself, well no snow but surely I will be able to run down green slopes, see a few goats with bells and eat Swiss cheese and chocolates!
Walter firmly made sure I understood two things! No walking past the stairway with shoes and no working in the kitchen! Taking off my boots and walking on socks was new and not understood, yet. Staying out of the kitchen, that was very welcoming for being a mother for so long. What a pleasure, I thought walking with only socks on my feet up the stairs toward the first floor.
Arriving upstairs for the first time I was faced with a very awkward situation! Walter kept my visit a secret from his mum and dad, my aunt Diane and uncle Walter, the very loving couple that wanted to adopt me so many years ago. They were only back in Switzerland since 2008, living walking distance from their son. They didn't expect to see me in Switzerland. My uncle gave me a big hug and welcomed me to his home town, for he was a Swiss boy and emigrated to South-Africa before I was even born. This is where he met my mother's sister Diane.
My aunt was shocked. She greeted me as if I was a stranger and reminded her husband that they should leave for lunch. And so they did. The boys showed me around and explained that the landlord(lady) stays downstairs. I could see her garden from the double glass windows. Neatly kept rosebushes and garden ornaments were beautifully arranged.  I later took a pic of the garden from the inside at the entrance. Behind the two story house which hosts these two families, is a woodwork factory Flori Holtz. The two buildings can be accessed through a small wooden gate between them, one that became part of an answer I didn't yet know, and had an equally important question I haven't asked at time.Walter's oldest son Travis took me for a walk to the nearby bakery to buy fresh bread. I learned that the children in Switzerland have a two part school day. Every day at lunchtime I was going to expect them home for an hour before they had to return.
Travis took me to the forest that covered the hills behind their home after returning from school that evening. Walter was playing tennis with a friend. First we had to go through the little gate. "Melane, how far do you want to walk? Maybe half an hour?" he asked because he didn't know that I was quit fit.

 
 I knew that this forest was going to take up a lot of my vacation time, for I could feel nature, stillness and a godly presence closing in on me with every step. The crisp fresh air was an extra. Each breath filled my lungs with God's pure breath. The ivy crew wild, creeping up every pine tree towards the sun. Small insects could be seen sitting on beautiful little wild flowers that covered the soil. A small but strong stream was running next to the narrow walking path and surprised now and then by opening up into a slightly wider shallow downfall. Ferns and bushes drank up the cool water and flourished near the river bank. Slippery green moss was growing on some trees close by obstructing the pathway, reminding humans of the force of nature.
Travis was talking a lot, testing my religion with questions. "Mel, way don't everyone have the same god? Does it really matter?" My answer was straight forward, to the bone and cutting no corners. "There is only one living God." In the back of my head I knew all the answers like a good Christian should, but I knew I was a long way from accepting His forgiveness.
Deeper into the forest, a tree trunk had fully grown mushrooms decorating its sides. Working ants crowded a hollow trunk. I have never seen such big ants and wondered how deep and far their tunnels stretched.
We came across some fixed exercise courses and Travis tried to impress me with his skills.
I couldn't believe that it was still daylight. It was almost 8 o'clock. South-Africa and Switzerland lays in the same time zone with opposite seasons. In Switzerland the sun only sets at 21:30 during summer. We arrived back home at 20:30. Walter was ready to serve dinner and informed me that the bathroom was off limits after 22:00.

That evening I opened "The Shack" by William P. Young for the first time and began reading.
On page 18 I read the note:       Mackenzie,
                                                            It's been a while. I've missed you.
                                                            I'll be at the shack next weekend if you
                                                            want to get together.
                                                                                                       -Papa

The note could have been addressed to me. Melane, It's been a while. I've missed you. I'll be at the forest every day if you want to get together. -Papa... your only Papa ever.
A few warm tears brought me back to reality. I closed the book and decided that I would read most of the book in the forest, bit by bit, making each word my own, until I find my only Papa ever, again.





Being left at home in the morning all by myself, my uncle came along to fetch me. We crossed the road and walked to the shops passing this beautiful carved bear with her cubs, once a tree. The stretched forest behind the sugar field was visible all the way. Back home, we left the shopping bag and walked through the small gate.  "You can go into the forest on your own if you get to know the way"  I had to accept the fact that in my uncles eyes I was still a child, so I gave up my first read in the forest for his loving caring company.

We got home just in time for lunch. I was thankful for seeing my aunt again. She explained her behaviour  seeing me there. Her warm smile reminded me of years ago. While in the Children's Home, I visited them some holidays. Returning from work, she surprised me one day with a beautiful dress I still own since 1978. The shock in her eyes no longer existed, her eyes were filled with that love I knew.
All kinds of bread, spreads and cheeses were set on the table. I enjoyed the new tastes, but most of all, I knew that only family can love this purely. After lunch the boys went back to school, Walter went back to work and I went with my aunt and uncle to their flat. They informed me of their plans for the next week. Uncle Walter assured me that he was going to do his best to book a seat for me on their planned trips if I wouldn't mind going with "die ou ooms en tannies" (aged).



The boys came to fetch me on their bicycles at their beloved oupa and ouma. I strolled along taking in the beauty of every small garden. The houses were mostly double stories or higher. The living areas upstairs are warmer in winter. I came across this postbox, decorated with small porcelain figures not knowing that only two years ahead, I would past there again, the figures covered with snow. When Walter Jr. arrived home we went to the shops again. I bought a few toiletries and had to try very hard not to convert the Franks into our weaker Rand. Cents are equal to Rappas and Aktion means Sale. Buying "toast bread" was buying sliced bread not yet toasted. Shoppers put one Frank into a slot in the trolley to be able to use it. Returning the trolley a coin is pushed out of the trolley in front as a refund.

That evening I opened my book again and was struck by the first words.
The shack by W. P. Young, Page 35          Chapter 3.

"Wallowa Lake State Park in Oregon and its surrounding area has been well referred to as the Little Switzerland of America. Wild, rugged mountains rise to almost ten thousand feet, and in between them are hidden innumerable valleys full of streams, hiking trails, and high-elevation meadows overflowing with sprays of wild flowers."
I couldn't be in a better place to read The Shack. Monday I would find my special spot and continue to read in the forest.




 Sunday Walter drove us to La Maison Du Gruyere  www.switzerland-cheese.com  , a demonstration cheese-dairy. We passed this big traffic circle edged with Swiss steal figures representing each of the Kantons, one being Solothurn. At the cheese factory we could smell the different types of grass and herbs cows graze on, taste a piece of matured semi-salty cheese and listen to the information given in our choice of language through a touch of a button on the headset.  The proses of cheese making is showcased through glass windows from a higher level and children can follow by looking at the animated pictures on the wooden wall panels. All senses being satisfied with cheesy things, we continued our journey.










                                           



After the quick visit at the cheese-dairy, we drove to Maison Cailler Chocolaterie in Broc/Gruyere www.cailler.ch . Getting out of the vehicle I saw the snow on the highest peaks nearby. The Swiss Alps are surely worldwide more associated with chocolate than cheese. I could have known to expect a much more exciting and innovating exhibit.
"In 2010, the Maison Cailler was ranked second in the "Outstanding Project" category of the MILESTONE, the most prestigious award in the Swiss tourism industry."  
  After waiting an hour for our group's enter time, determined by language choice at the pay point, we followed the trail, being moved on by electronic doors opening and closing.  Recordings and moving exhibition educated us in the history and art of chocolate making. Long ago chocolate was drunk and seen as a sin for it was even then believed to provoke feelings of love.  It was too expensive to most common folk in the early days. Cailler, Cadbury and Nestle were some of the earliest masters in this art.
We could smell and even taste aromatic cocoa beans from around the world that are used in Cailler's chocolates.
 After walking along a small chocolate production line we ended the journey in the taste hall. The u-shaped counters were packed with chocolate treats ranging from dark to milk chocolates. I could experience the difference between a home bought chocolate bar and real quality chocolate. Eventually the sweetness became some what bitter as I reached out for the last one.


                                         









We continued our Sunday outing and stopped for a small lunch.
                                         


We sat outside and watched the river down below. I couldn't stay seated and took these pics from the strong built wooden bridge to capture the beauty of nature . As I turned around to go back, the small water wheel and wooden box filled with pink and red malvas added more joy. When I checked my watch, it was late in the afternoon but the sun was still very high. Later that day I was informed that I was going on a trip with my uncle and aunt the next morning. The name Saas Fee didn't have any special meaning to me then.



We had to be at the tour bus stop at 6:00. After picking up more passengers, all 60+, at several stops we drove out of Solothurn. Our first stop for coffee was at a lovely warm restaurant which also hosted the local Jodlerklub. The band leading the Joblers had their music instruments displayed in the restaurant while not in use. This big Swiss bell below the wall of honour, reminded me of my aunt and uncle's home when they were still South-African citizens. Thinking back during my teen years to the time considering the question of being adopted by them, the Swiss bell display in their home always came to my mind. 
.    










Our next stop for lunch was at Relais Du Saint-Bernard restaurant. I did not know that taking pics of the displays was forbidden, so after snapping this orange juice display I was confronted in a very gentle way.





The bus took us through the most beautiful valleys. The wooden and stone homes with their flower boxes looked welcoming. Each stretching town was nested between high mountains. A few farmers had their homes build against the slopes, some looking a bit neglected. I wondered how they would keep up in a winter snow storm. The tour guide spoke in Swiss-German and I could only understand when my aunt explained after some laughter settled down. As the journey progressed, I had a lot of time to stare out of the window and became more aware of His love, making this trip possible. Around each corner there was something new that amazed me. Sometimes the bus had to move very slow up a steep hill. At a very high point we even came to a standstill to make way for the horses pulling a blue and gold Royal Carriage. Everyone on board the bus was dumbfounded, while I couldn't understand the fuss. Switzerland doesn't have a king and is ruled by 5 representatives chosen from the 26 Kontons. Laws are strict and followed by mostly all citizens, failing to do so leads to prompt prosecution. We arrived at about 13:00, the snow capped mountains in sight!    


         













The way up the mountain was still a walk away. I was educated on the little wooden "homes" being wooden stands built to store wood for the winter. Excitement filled my heart as we walked between the stands, some wooden homes and flower decorated restaurants. Nearing the bridge we came along this Christ figure, one of so many others I have seen in Switzerland. After crossing the bridge we went up to the first cable car check-in. Back at home in SA, I only realised what this experience and the experiences that was still to come, cost my aunt and uncle many franks. I felt blessed for every frank and hour spend, came straight from their   hearts.

   




We had to take two cable cars and the small town below became smaller and smaller. The first car wasn't packed and only hosted the three of us and two young student ladies, one being Asian and the other American. The higher we went, the less life was visible on the mountain. The green pine trees stayed behind and plates of black and grey rock was almost touchable and looked hard and cold. Small water streams came down the rocks from the melting snow above.         









Getting out after the two cable car rides, and the near vertical tunnel train, I could feel the cold on my bare face and hands as we arrived at Drehrestaurant Allalin (3500m above sea level.). We entered a new world by exiting a big hall filled with people getting ready to ski. I stepped onto the grey gravel and headed for the snow! Uncle Walter tried to stop me by calling me back, but I wasn't going to let this privilege pass by. I walked onto the deep snow and soon discovered that I needed more suitable shoes to be safe. Still, I continued and my uncle came after me. I realised that being stubborn, I could cause him to fall, so I turned around, pleased that I could surely say in the future that I set foot on a snowy capped mountain in Switzerland. I knew my uncle understood as he smiled at me, shaking his head. 

We went back into the hall and climbed some stairs to the revolving restaurant. The warm  vegetable soup on the menu was just what the doctor would have ordered. We ate bread and drank soup and wine enjoying each new theatrical scene behind the glass window-walls. A geographic chart showed every mountaintop that could be viewed and the worlds highest restaurant kept on revolving past Allaninhorn, Rimpfischhorn,  mountaintops and even the well known Feegletscher. www.saas-fee.ch 





After lunch they had another surprise up their sleeves. We were about to go down into the mountain. The ice tunnel was created by digging into the thick layer of compounded snow, forming hard ice walls. The cold crept up my legs as we went down each of the 115 rubber covered steps. Reaching the slightly more slippery rubber floor below, a heart warming fairytale world opened. We took pic's peeping through a hole in an igloo and quickly became aware of the thinning air. A display of a rescue operation took my imagination to a non fiction movie, and I could not belief that they could survive for more than one day.
                                                      All miracles for sure.          








The way back home by bus was still to come. Waiting for the bus, being half an hour early, my uncle and aunt allowed me to explore the village, warning me to keep track of time. I walked down a garden route between the river below and the rising wall that was part of the road. I found another Mother Mary monument behind a small rough iron gate. It was built into the wall. Not being Catholic, I just enjoyed the beauty thereof without any religious connections. I found a perfect spot to be alone for a few minutes. Heidi and Peter's goats climbing the steep mountains came to mind. I wished I brought my book along in my purple bag with the new pink heart attached to the zip. The clock was ticking and I walked back. The bus pulled away at 3:30. We were informed that we would arrive back home in Solothurn at 22:00 that evening.


On our way home, we had to stop once more. My cellphone's battery was low, and I could not take any more pictures. As we walked towards the little badger's "dassies" cage I knew that I was going to explore somewhere else, although we were told to be back at the bus in 30 minutes. I have seen many "dassies" in zoos. Ever since I have began to dream of visiting Switzerland one day, I imagined myself running up green mountains, just like Heidi. The moment my uncle looked away, I took off. I felt like a child. I skipped over rocks and ran towards the open green "field", decorated with small bushes and wild flowers. Walking up to the nearest river, full of running emotions, I thought of Heidi and Peter and my life long dream coming true. I kneeled next to the river and thanked God for the moment. I was so pleased that I took a some water in my hands and drank it. As I drank the water I heard some bells from a distance away. I stood up, and as I walked towards the sound I could see some goats on the hill. After moving a little closer, I could see them more clearly. The next moment one of the goats looked up at me. "I was Heidi!" "Thank you Papa!" A long tear rolled down my cheek and I thought that the purpose of my visit has been met. "This moment will stay in my heart forever"
I suddenly realized that I had to go. Turning around, I couldn't even see the road and bus. I started running back. My breathing became heavier as I ran over two more hills, noticing that everyone was already in the bus. When I arrived my aunt informed me that we were only waiting for my uncle. He was running around too. Trying to find me. I felt bad, upsetting him. When he arrived, he teasingly warned me with a smile that he was going to put a leash around my neck next time, I knew he was only protective. During our journey home, I had to swallow down a few tears, knowing that Papa was still, and always will be in our circle of love.    


Tuesday the 12th of July was the first time I went into the forest alone, with my book under my arm. I opened the gate and walked through Flori Holtz's premises very aware of my own presence. I thought I knew the paths in the forest ahead. While looking for a perfect spot to sit and start my, so longed for meeting with "Papa", I stumbled across a lady walking her dog. She greeted me in a broken English! I greeted back and complemented her on her lovely shepherd dog. She warned me of a nearing storm. The news send a few shivers down my spine. Although I felt thankful, I kept on looking for a perfect spot where no strangers would be able to bother me again. I had to leave the pathway in my search and ended up on top of a hill. I saw some maize and corn fields in front of me and then realised I was a little lost.



Just as the worry started setting in, I heard Walter and his friend Adriano on a nearby path. I looked around and could see them behind some trees. Still not able to read and find a reading spot, I unwillingly had to join them to get back safely. The storm did come down that day, not long after we arrived home.

    














Uncle Walter and aunt Diane joined us for dinner and asked me if I would want to go along the next day. Wednesdays are market days in Solothurn. They would walk up and meet me at the bus stop across the bakery at exactly 7:55.  







Next morning I accompanied my aunt and uncle to central Solothurn, build many years ago. Their bus tickets were valid for a month and they had to buy me a day ticket. They explained the transport system and I took in every word, not knowing that I was going to need it in the very near future. Arriving at the historic enclosed city, developed into a old aged "shopping centre" over time, my uncle asked me to look up at the clock. The clock has eleven bells, and only eleven numbers. What a strange, interesting clock! And it still keeps up with the normal 12 hours! We entered the market place walking through a opening between two buildings. The streets were filled with market wagons, selling fresh products of the highest quality. Some flowers,  fruits and veggies were totally unknown to me.




                                                                               
Aunt Diane waited at a restaurant as my uncle and I headed for this well known cathedral. Every countable group of "things" hold eleven of something. The eleven statues situated around the cathedral each has some gold item, adding up to eleven weapons keeping watch over the cathedral. The letters above the entrance is cast in gold. We walked up the three groups of eleven stairs and tried to open a door. It was locked. Just as disappointment in my own high expectation set in, thinking that this would be my forever last opportunity to see the inside of this magnificent cathedral, we came across a single open door leading to the left tower. We were blocked to enter by a stream of youngsters singing a gospel song while coming down the spiralling narrow stairs, all visibly happy. I could understand the English song and with a broad smile recorded it on my phone. Still waiting for the steps to clear, a worker came up to us and spoke to my uncle in Swiss-German. He explained that the travelling students were only allowed to enter as a favour and asked us please not to enter. The inside of the cathedral has been set alight two year prior, and paintwork was still in proses. This time I was willing to leave with a smile, for the gospel song sang so spontaneously by the students, were more than I could bargain for. I learned later that entering this historic cathedral was another expectation that would be experienced in His perfect given time. We joint my aunt again and visited another cathedral. This cathedral's doors were open and as I entered I found their weekly newsletter and took one for just in case. I scanned the headings and thought it would be wonderful to attend the advertised choir's performance at 9:00 on Sunday the seventeenth.

                   





Thursday I went into the forest alone again, this time determined to find a hidden spot to continue reading "The Shack"


I knew exactly where I was, having this cross in mind in more than one way.










                                                                           


I found my piece of garden and sat down to read.

The Shack by WM Paul Young page 140:
"And well you should, Mackenzie, because this garden is your soul. This mess is you! Together. you and I, we have been working with a purpose in your heart. And it is wild and beautiful and perfectly in proses. To you it seems like a mess, but I see a perfect pattern emerging and growing and alive - a living fractal." 
 Sometimes tears were flowing down my cheeks, for Mackenzie, and for myself.
After closing the book, filled with emotions and confusing thoughts, I stood up. Turning around and leaving the river down below behind, I walked back to the road. I then realised that I didn't even hear the horses passing by above. 



Friday morning uncle Walter took me on another stroll. We were going to walk for more or less three hours to a lake and back. We passed different types of homes. I was amazed. The absence of high walls and electric fencing reminded me of the fact that Switzerland is so well governed. Crime isn't heard of and there is no need for protecting any personal belongings. Even the open maize field stood proud and unharmed across multiple private owned homes across the road. Low fencing is sometimes used to keep in animals on farms or used for it's decorative value.  







                   


We walked through some farms. Between the one farmer's house and the sheds, the cats welcomed us for no one else was in sight. I felt like an intruder but uncle Walter just shook his head, chuckled and reminded me that this wasn't South-Africa.

After covering quit a distance, we finally arrived at "Weireli". It is a popular spot for Sunday strollers. A path surrounds the water and wooden benches were placed  metres apart for duck and bird watchers. We didn't take time to sit down and walked around the dam towards a few big old trees.





I picked up an apple between the soft green grass and wished that I was able to keep it forever. Slightly unwilling to sink my teeth into the red apple, my mind wondered back at the times mom came to visit me and my sister in the home. We were allowed one, two-hour visit a month. Everyone at the children's home knew our mom, for she was one of the few who made use of the opportunity to come and visit. She brought as each some small cash and a slab of chocolate. I kept mine hidden between my clothes, having one block a day, trying to make it last forever, just as I would have liked to keep that apple.


                  

Every other Friday morning I helped my aunt to clean Walter's house. She has always been proud of the fact that she has spoiled him since childhood, being the only child. I pressed his sons's t-shirts and enjoyed the task thinking of the words in The Shack. "Working is an act of love." Aunt Diane was always working. Apart from the dress she bought me so many years ago, I still have a jersey that she knit during my first College year. When the term ended in April 1983, I was told that I could not stay in the dormitory for the holiday. I had to phone someone to fetch me. Aunt Diane and uncle Walter came without hesitating. I then learned that she doesn't take any short cuts when cleaning up. She was still doing it after so many years, being over 70, only now she has their own flat and her son's house to clean.  




When Sunday the 17th came, I was very anxious to go and listen to the choir in the cathedral. I knew the market place and Walter dropped me off at 8:45, reminding me that he will be picking me up after two hours. I walked pass the clock with it's eleven numbers and thought that everyone was in the cathedral already, for the streets were empty and it was raining. I entered the double wooden doors and had to push very hard to open it.  There was no one in the cathedral. I had to leave. The town was quiet and all the shops were closed. I was about to be stranded for two hours in the cold and rain. I remembered where the bus stop was. Being Sunday, the bus to Bellach was still 45 minutes away. As I sat waiting I could hear some church bells down the road closer to the bridges crossing the river. The add I took, was from another church. 
When the bus arrived I couldn't answer the bus driver and just handed him five frank. He shook his head and took it. We waited the three minutes. Only two more people came. The bus started it's route. When the driver came to a standstill for 15 minutes he looked into his mirror a few times, he surely knew I was kind of lost. Luckily I knew that, although the trip was returning from that point onwards, the stop closer to Walters house was somewhere just around the corner. When the bus drove off again I stood up and rang the bell to get off as quickly as possible. The bakery stated my whereabouts. Everyone was surprised to see me back from church and we had a good laugh.

When evening came,  I decided to write down all religious notes on The Shack in my journal by translating it into my home language Afrikaans, trying to make every small message stick to my long term memory. 
I paged back to the well known "beginning" on CHAPTER 6.

bl. 89 Moenie iets doen omdat jy verplig voel nie - geen punte in die hemel verdien nie
-jy moet die regte ding WIL doen
-nie veronderstel om iets te doen nie - jy is vry om te doen wat jy wil ....


The next few day I spend a lot of time with "The Shack", ending every progressing reading session with a regressive translating one.
  
The Shack by WM Paul Young:

Chapter 11 Page 153 
       "Oh my soul....be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions "  - T.S. Elliot.
         "Mack followed the trail that wound past the waterfall, away from the lake, and through a dense patch of cedar trees. " ............. The Great Sadness settling on his shoulders with its full weight, almost suffocated him............

                                                                 Chapter 12 Page 172

....."For the past years it had defined for him what was normal, but now, unexpectedly, it had vanished. Normal is a myth, he thought to himself. The Great Sadness would not be part of his identity any longer."....

                                                                Chapter 13 Page 184
                                             
                                                        "Falsehood has an infinity of combinations,
                                    but truth has only one mode of being." - Jean-Jacques Rousseau

     ... page 187... "Mack, just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn't mean I orchestrated the tragedies. Don't ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I needed it to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me..."

I had to rap my own head around it all. Since the beginning of my adulthood, studying to be an educator,  I asked the wrong questions. Why didn't I just say "Yes" in 1973, to a more normal life? But then, what is normal? How could evil deeds against a child be justified by "the will of God?". How could God have planned my childhood to be able to make use of my growing empathy? Was I suppose to stay married in a forced marriage that brought more sorrow than love?

                                     






On Wednesday evening I went to sleep at the flat and left my book at Walters house. Uncle Walter and Aunt Diane was taking me with them on another trip. This time some of the the passengers on board were familiar. We were on our way to the highest town, driving through the Italian side of Switzerland. Heavy packed grape bunches added pride to the Italian' vineyards. I was dumbfounded when we passed this zee(river) with it's clear clean greenish water. As we drove through the green valleys passing small churches, once more was reminded of the awesomeness of God's creation, and it being celebrated around the world. Still, I didn't expect any more surprises after visiting Saas Fee. What could possibly top that! 






                 


              

           



                                                    

Arriving at the highest point of the longest valley, I saw a young boy working the fields, raking up hay. Next to the field I took a pic of another Mother Mary monument and informed my aunt and uncle that I was going to have I look at the "church". Christ's crucifixion is magnificently  modelled in 15 different wood figures. I lit one candle for each of my children back home, not knowing the custom, and prayed for their love and safety. As I turned around to exit the church, a beautiful panoramic view unfolded. I blocked the entrance while taking a pic, having the church's  wooden doors as a point of reference.  I found my uncle and aunt at the restaurant and enjoyed a cool drink. We strolled along to the souvenir shops, nothing interested me. Every experience was more than money could buy. As uncle Walter called me to go and take a sip ice cold pure running water from the crib, I knew I was blessed. We boarded and were on our way to the highest reachable point by road, San Gottardo (2091 m above sea level) 


  

                          





It was very cold, and it seemed as if I could touch the sky. We arrived at (Gotthard) San Gottardo at 17:00. The day was nearly done. The two statues stood high against the mighty mountain's top. They reminded me of the part each sinner had played and will still play in the Greatest Sadness turned into the Greatest Grace. I returned my thoughts to the presence and appreciated the small purple and yellow wild flowers growing, the clouds drifting by and the sparkling running stream of water. I had to drive sadness away by living in the presence, not in the past or the future. Better even, allowing "I am" to become a verb, through me.    
                                              The Shack by WM Paul Young. Page 206:
  "And as my very essence is a verb," she continued, "I am more  attuned to verbs than nouns. Verbs such as confessing, repenting, living, loving, responding, growing, reaping, changing, sowing, running, dancing, singing, and on and on. ...... Nouns exist because there is a created universe and physical reality, but if the universe is only a mass of nouns, it is dead. Unless "I am" there are no verbs, and verbs are what makes the universe alive"











Next day Walter Jr. and I went to Stork city. While driving there, we passed his Dad'S childhood home. I wandered what it was like for him, growing up in this wonderland.















At Stork city we watched some of the big birds sitting on their nests, build on top of chimneys and rooftops. Others made their nests in treetops. Walter pointed out a nest with a few stork chicks, looking like full grown birds. As we walked along the lake, a swan and her family followed us up to the dock.  







My visits to the forest was also coming to an end. On the morning of 26th July I went into the forest for the last time. I was done reading "The Shack" and wanted to read some parts once more, and hoped to meet Papa there again. I decided to take as many pictures as possible on my way to my piece of garden. While sitting on the tree trunk, listening to the sounds of nature, a soft rustle caught my attention. It was a little squirrel, running from the river towards higher ground! I nearly didn't see it between the ivy. In my mind, Papa confirmed His presence!

                            "The Shack by WM Paul Young Page 241   Chapter 18

"Faith never knows where it is being led, but it knows and loves the One who is leading" Oswald Chambers

Walking back to Walter's house I thought that the walks through  "Flori Holtz" was meant to be. God led me there for a reason. I took a few pictures of the premises, so that I could go and show it to my ex husband. He always enjoyed wood craft. Having the pictures on my phone, I went through the gate between the house and the forest, and turned around. With my back to the house, I aimed to take a picture of the gate, thinking back on the many times I had to open and close it the past few weeks. As I was still thinking, the camera snapped and the picture was taken. I stood in awe! "What just happened!" Looking at the gate on my phone, a thought crossed my mind in a flash. "This door is closed". I wrote the sentence across the screen. It seemed to me at that moment that the closing gate was referring to the end of my days in the forest and that I wasn't able to go back again.    

 






   








That same afternoon we visited Walter's "South-African" friends. They have been Swiss citizens for five years. Walter told me to please remove my sunglasses as we arrived. Once inside, I met the two families, both woman "make-up-less". With my sunglasses behind my back I stood smiling. That afternoon we all went for a three hour walk to burn the lunch calories and came across this "honesty box", one of many found around Switzerland. Trusting all passing citizens, the box wasn't locked. Walter opened the "box" so that I could take a pic. The price list was taped to a pole above the trays of eggs inside banana boxes and a small red safe was fixed underneath the shelf, waiting for traders to trade eggs for franks. If this was put up in South-Africa, even the hinges on the doors would have been taken by midday.
I was reminded of the need for hierarchy between us humans, especially in a country known for crime.

                                             
                                                "The Shack" by WM Paul Young Page 126

"Jesus picked up the conversation. " As the crowning glory of creation, you were made in our image, unencumbered by structure and free to simple "be" in relationship with me and one another.If you had truly learned to regard one another's concerns as significant as your own, there would be no need for hierarchy."
Mack ....."So are you telling me that whenever we humans protect ourselves with power..."
"You are yielding to the matrix, not to us, " finished Jesus.




My visit was coming to an end and I really thought that Papa was satisfied. In the back of my mind I knew that I was looking out for one more small miracle. I would love to see a wild reindeer in the forest. But after experiencing my "Heidi" moments, I could not ask for any thing more.










When Walter came home from work the next day, he took me and his dad to a mountain a few km away from their house. They often went for such walks. We drove up the mountain to the walking trail. While driving there, a reindeer stood next to the road and took off as we approached. When we arrived uncle Walter explained that the valley halfway to the mountaintop was their holiday destination when he was still a youngster. It still is a ski resort in winter. Uncle Walter waited at the resort while I had to proof my fitness to Walter Jr. We kept on walking, and walked up the steep hill, every breath becoming more difficult because of the thinning air. As we reached the top, a herd of cows were grazing. The sound of the bells were beautiful!












I took a video on my phone of the cows, capturing the sounds of the bells. The view from the mountaintop was breathtaking. We only stayed for a few minutes and took another steeper hill down towards the restaurant.



At the restaurant uncle Walter chatted to the owner. A group of young men and woman, dressed very Gothic, sat in the restaurant, leaving no space for more customers. We were seated in a small room where the owner and her husband were sitting, doing some admin. Their black Sheppard dog was laying under the table. The smaller picture of the resort on the wall were taken in the years that my uncle was still a lad himself.  Listening to my uncle speak Swiss German to the lady, I felt privileged being there with them. He shook his head, while noticeable talking about the "kids in black". I remembered that, no matter how bad or wrong some people seem to appear, we are not to judge, for judgement day will come. And being found once, means Papa will never let go again.  




                     


  "The Shack" by WM Paul Young Page 183

"But so many people I care about seem to be both in it and of it!" .....
"Mack, I love them. And you wrongly judge many of them. For those who are both in it and of it, we must find ways to love and serve them, don't you think?".......
"Most roads don't lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you"


The next afternoon Walter took me to Interlaken to shop for presents. Teegan came with us and followed me while I went into more or less every gift shop. "Melane, every time you go in, and you come out after 20 minutes, with nothing!" It was surely frustrating for the ten year old boy to shop. I already bought some presents for my family and was actually looking to buy something special for myself, not that I needed any thing, for no item could sum up the experiences.      











At this charming little shop I did find something to remind me of that very special moments that could not be snapped by a camera. I bought a small          "Heidi and Peter" brooch and attached it to my purple bag.


   





 


Back in Solothurn we stopped at the river. I was amazed, as the river was down below the market place.




I had only one day left in Switzerland. I was informed that the family was taking me to Einsiedelei St. Verena.

Visiting Einsiedelei was the perfect place to visit on my last day. I could not show all my emotions.


















                       



........ Papa knew what was still to come................

"The Shack" by WM Paul Young Page 250......

                   "Earth's crammed with heaven,
                 And every common bush afire with God
                But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
               The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries."
                                    -Elizabeth Barret Browning.

......... as I met my daughter Jo-Marie at the airport, I knew something bothered her.
She took me for a drink at the Wimpy, but kept fidgeting.
As we drove home on the free way,  her cellphone rang.
She answered the phone. It was her father.
I was visibly happy to hear his voice from a distance and asked to speak to him.
I briefly told him about the wood working factory I had to walk through, forcing me to think about him every day. He didn't say much.
I realized that we had to fetch my keys at my youngest daughter Celeste's temporary workplace.
When I greeted Celeste our greeting was warm but rushed. Jo-Marie asked me to step aside for a moment.
She whispered something to Celeste and looked puzzled.
Celeste and Jo-Marie came up to me and said they have something to tell me.
They informed me that their father got married on his birthday, during the time that I was in Switzerland.
His new wife surprised him with a marriage ceremony for his birthday.

I was shocked, and took out my phone.
I browsed through the pics to find the picture taken by "Papa".
I showed them the picture, and while telling them in a soft voice what happened they could read the words.                                                            "This door is closed"

Papa send me on the most unexpected childhood dream visit to Switzerland, because he knew what was still to come ........


 The End