Diana's ashes are dancing in grey clouds over the Appenzellerland. As if ordered for the occasion the mountains are dipped in a wet grey dress. The vast expanse of rolling hills, so impressive in the sunshine, is shortened by a foggy wall. Thus the landscape appears small, almost intimate, more protected than it would ever seem in the sunshine. The humidity is high, and many water drops linger on the meadows that are still uncut and in full bloom. As our Footwear ploughs through the grass, the water pearls down along the thin blades of grass or spreads out over our freshly polished leather shoes. We stand alone in this vast landscape. The gloomy weather protects us from the otherwise unavoidable weekend tourists. One after the other, we reach into the little linen bag and lift the ashes into the sky. It's strangely direct and un-ceremonial. At the front of the abyss, looking over the rolling hills, I am alone with my farewell and watch my grandmothers remains dance over the meadows...
After the weekend, my parents, my brother and I stay in Switzerland for another week. We enjoy the rolling fields, the spicy cheese, the Appenzell schnapps and wander from one of the mountains down into the valley. For me, it's the first time on a mountain without ski slopes and ski lifts (Bucket list √). Tourism is still slow hereabouts: the Aescheralp is almost empty, the path down into the valley is partially covered by snow, and the stairs are waiting for their spring repair. This landscape is something else.
Even though the trip to Germany is not in itself challenging, it's expensive. Not because of the actual dollars, but because it draws financial strength from my ultimate goal. There remains a little uncertainty as to my return. Not because I have to ask myself if I want to continue, much more because I can't completely ban the (irrational) angst that external forces are somehow going to make me stop. For the record: I won't. My trip is not the solution to any of my problems. It doesn't feed me either. It embellishes my perspective on the world. It's a luxury. But somewhere in my twisted little brain, I am convinced that it will give me the frame of mind to settle down, to breath, to host, to enjoy life and create something substantial that keeps me in one place for a prolonged period.
My home leave also brings positive impulses: the questions of my family and friends about Russia, lead me to test my findings on other people. Aspects that I had hitherto avoided to address because I feared to be unfair, I was able to air out in trusted company. Not infrequently, their reactions made me smile because they exposed my caution as patronising. After all, cultural discourse is primarily about describing differences, not about changing or improving our own or the other culture.
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