Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe...join me!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

washing Jesus.

Before today, I had never washed Jesus. On Sunday, Palm Sunday, great guy and I hiked along the narrow, rocky donkey’s trail (Eselspfad). I remember that at particular uphill stretches, as we were slowly slogging one step after another, I thought about another donkey trip that took place on this day (or round about) a couple thousand years ago. So began my week; contemplating journey and sacrifice.


It’s a couple of days later and I’m standing in front of Jesus. I pour some water from the green plastic watering can onto a dry white cloth. Why great guy brought a white cloth along I don’t ask. As I stand inches away, I’m all of sudden greatly moved by what I’m about to do. Jesus’s head hangs down and so our eyes don’t meet. Not surprisingly, I’m taller than he is. His wavy brown hair and thorny crown are close to my face. The air is crisp, the wind sways through the trees as if it’s dancing, and the birds sing; but quietly, as if they’ve been told to keep it down. It’s Easter.


His skin is cold and hard, but so smooth like porcelain. Gently (I have this overwhelming need to be gentle) I start to brush the soft cloth lightly over his body. He is dusty and dirty. In places I need to really scrub to get the dirt off.  I run the cloth down his legs to clean his tortured feet, leaving his face for last. As delicately as if I were cleaning a newborn, I wipe under his eyes, along his nose and around his mouth. The pain in his expression I’ve always found hard to look at, and now touching his sad, but resigned eyes, I feel like I’m part of his pain.


I take a few steps backwards. Great guy is busy hacking the bushes violently and swiftly with a sickle; pruning. He doesn’t notice that I’ve been silent this entire time. He’s busy. I look back towards Jesus hanging on the cross. He is clean now. But, he still doesn’t look up. I know he’s thinking about bigger things; worrying about another type of cleanliness - mine, yours, the world’s.

I’m preparing for Easter: to welcome the father and maid marion home from their Spanish winter hibernation, to sing in Easter services beginning this evening, and to beautify the graves. I feel busy and expectant.


In Germany, even on normal days, the graveyards are more like interesting gardens: tidy, organized and taken care of. But, at Easter time the graveyards are a-bloom with colours bursting out of almost every plot. The weeds are plucked, leftover leaves are raked, flowers watered, headstones and statues polished, and unruly bushes are shorn. As loved ones come to visit at this time, inevitably thoughts turn to journeys taken together and journeys that have ended. To have a quiet (except for birds chattering), peaceful garden to relive these experiences is cherished here.


Today is Gründonnerstag (Green Thursday), and in church services around the country Christians will come to prepare themselves for tomorrow. I will be singing parts of Rossini’s Petite Messe solennelle, as part of a small choir in a big church. This piece is filled with repentant cries of Kyrie eleison (Lord have mercy), exultant expressions of Gloria in excelsis Deo, sacrificial wails of Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), and appeals for Dona nobis pacem (Grant us peace); all set to mostly joyful tunes. 

Rossini was a witty composer, and once said, “"Good God, behold completed this poor little Mass. Is it indeed sacred music that I have just written, or merely some damned music? You know well, I was born for comic opera. Little science, a little heart, that is all. So may you be blessed, and grant me Paradise!" (source: Wikipedia)


Whether we choose to spend a few moments this weekend thinking about the journey we have taken with someone who is no longer with us; or we choose to pray for those who have or are sacrificing themselves so that others may live a better life; I feel extremely blessed a) to have the choice, b) to have had the privilege of walking with those who impacted my life in big ways, and c) to know the peace of someone’s sacrifice - some large, some small.


This weekend I will be thinking about the courageous ones who have, or have tried to pave peaceful paths for others to walk on: a pastor in Homs, a woman in Egypt, a teacher in Nigeria, a father in Calgary, a son on a cross.

At the grave of his mother, great guy rolls a big rock away to make room for a newcomer who will be laid to rest here next week. The letters ‘INRI’ are carved into the wood above the cross. I’ve forgotten what they mean and ask him to remind me. He says, without skipping a beat, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’.


We are clean. God, grant us all peace.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

laying tracks in a barn

The date above the door says 1793, but house is probably much older. As we entered the courtyard through a large metal gate, we saw a small shed-like building with large windows and a small door…as if a builder’s afterthought.



But no afterthought, it’s a recording studio/barn. Okay, it was a barn. A small barn, fit for a donkey or two. In the front room are the mixers, a PC and a foosball table. Through a door, which is actually a heavy curtain, we arrive into the recording room. Complete with a trough built into the heavy brick wall on one side, and a free-standing wood stove on the other, to call the studio intimate would be a cliché.



A lone microphone takes centre stage on the carpeted floor. A row of four vintage movie theatre seats takes its place along the back wall. Heavy spotlights beam down on us from above. The space has a romantic, ticket-for-two feeling.



We spent the day here ‘working’; ms. potter and I, along with another Canadian (let’s call her ‘blondie’ cause she’ll love that) and a nor’west of Londoner, called lizzy.




Our mission was to lay down 33 conversations in English, which will later correspond to the word-for-word written translations in German. This old method is a proven effective technique for learning and keeping a language in one’s porous brain.


This Friday experience was filled with many ‘do-overs’, lots of coffee, and many questions (on my part) about the history of this property. Herr Schütz, obviously a fan of his home, gave us a tour, including his chock-a-block filled garage. Framed photographs lined the walls, garden furniture and other normal paraphernalia jammed every surface. And nestled in the middle, like a grinning Cheshire cat was just enough space for Herr Schütz’s first car, a cheery-red ’64 Opel Rekord. The crowning glory teetering above his prized possession was a wrought iron candelabrum; adding a bit of chic to his shabby.


According to the town’s website, its lifeblood is horses, wine and rock. Personally, I think those sound like perfectly acceptable ingredients for a home-sweet-home. I once lived in small town Saskatchewan whose lifeblood was more like, cows, tomatoes and cows. Also nice. But, here in Neu Bamberg, vineyards surround stud farms, and the stone ruins still stand from the 1253 built Neuer Bamburg, seat of one of Germany’s noble families, the Raugraves.


The Schütz house was once part of the gatehouse of one of the city fortress’s three gates. Standing next to the town’s impressive clock tower, the house is easy to find. The family bought the house in 1996, knowing it was a significant piece of the town’s history and already a protected landmark. Over the years, they came to realize that many of the town’s families had personal stories who also called the house their home. Originally, four families lived on the property at a time, in very close quarters.


So, acting in concert with the town’s restaurants, mills, farmhouses and five wineries, the family felt strongly that their property should be open to the town. The owner wrote to me saying, “For too long the courtyards, farmyards and gardens, with their high stone walls, were closed off. Though the walls were once necessary, protecting residents from the various troops coming through, as in the thirty-year war;” they separated the townsfolk from each other and from visitors.

Neu Bamberg is a short 85 kilometres south-west of Frankfurt, nestled in rolling hills between the Rhine and Nahe rivers. With an abundance of walking and bike paths, through forests and along lakes, this is a casual adventurer’s dream. Called Germany’s Toscana or Rhine-Hessian Switzerland, the region is just eager to burst its German borders and ‘be’ something bigger.


As we departed, Herr Schütz invited us back next year when his family will open a small café in the courtyard for the wanderers and hikers who pass through. We said we might just do that. It was enjoyable meeting a kindred spirit; the only downside of the day was constantly hearing our own voices during the playbacks.


Spending time and trading laughter (the tears only coming when ms. potter gets the bill from this adventure) with my dear colleagues, blondie and lizzy was also a treat from the everyday.

The only thing missing was the donkey.

(er war am schaffe)
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