Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Eifel

December 1

Update: Day Four of the four-week Intensive German Language Course. Yesterday I started getting lost.

This afternoon we move into the apartment in the Belgian Quarter in Koln and leave the Eifel countryside. When I returned from school yesterday His Holiness wanted to walk with me, so off we went, bundled up against the chill but happy for the late fall sun and clear sky. We are staying on a farm that has been in the family 400 years. It is a huge, rambling assembly of buildings, a mixture of half-timber and stucco and brick, with a central courtyard and barns long ago filled with cars, motorcycles, firewood and holiday decorations. Only one of the barns houses farm equipment and one of the younger cousins uses it to raise grain that is then sold to produce beer. The land surrounding the farm is green and alive with farm animals and tractors and people out walking with their dogs. Taking a walk (meaning Papa either carries him or pushes him in his stroller) is a favored pastime for His Holiness and yesterday he was in the mood for a long one. Everyone was out – we must have seen half a dozen dogs of various sizes and dispositions, sheep, horses, tractors, birds and in the distance, the city.
As we began making our way back home and his eyes began to close ever so softly, I pushed us up to the crest of a hill, into a stand of trees, a waldchen, I believe is the term in German. There are only 30 or 40 trees in the stand, but it is positioned at the highest point in the area and on a clear day you can see the Dom in Koln. Yesterday as the light turned from blue-gray to gold, we made our way along the short path and to the top of the hill. In all my years of travel I don’t think I have ever seen a more beautiful space. It reminded me of a patch of pastoral landscape from a Hudson River school painting, with a wash of Flemish light. It was a scene from imagined memory, a spot in the road where fairies and sprites abide, and where in such fleeting moments of perfect illumination, they become visible to believers.