A river runs through it

September 28th, 2010

I wish I could explain, if only to myself, why these places have such a hold on my heart. It is more than that my father’s spirit continues to visit these rivers, though there is surely that. Summer after summer I watched my father fish these waters; summer after summer these rivers flowed their way into my father’s story and so, into mine. To this day I cannot look at a trout stream without assessing it with an angler’s eye it for the perfect spot to cast a line. In this, as in so much, I am my father’s daughter.

But these waters are more than a repository for my father’s memory; they have been in my life, for as long as I can remember, riffling in the sunshine with a life of their own, one that has nothing to do with my father. They speak to my heart. I do not know why. I have never known, with a logical kind of knowing, why. There is my father, of course. But I believe now that that came later. I think, having had two decades now to think about it, that it was after the rivers had already laid their claim that I grafted on to the pull I cannot explain the pull that I could. I think my love of these rivers is so inexplicable even to myself that I decided that I love them because they remind me so uniquely, so precisely, of my father. Twenty years on I can see my father in his waders and fishing vest, I can hear his voice asking at Bud Lilly’s what flies are fishing well. Some of my most vivid images of my father are from here, from this place of rivers lined with aspen and cottonwoods that blaze yellow under an autumn sky. My memory of my father is forever tied up with these rivers.  

And yet.

And yet I know the rivers have their own voice. I know that even without the image of my father forever in the corner of my eye, casting from the far bank of memory, these rivers, these glorious golden rivers in the last dying hours of summer, speak to me with their own voice, and it is with that voice that they call me home.

Call for help from US readers

September 26th, 2010

So Small Boy just lost his first tooth. I was all prepared for this in Swiss francs, but what’s the going rate for a tooth in US dollars??

Waiting for the boat to cross the lake

September 26th, 2010

I’ve always loved taking pictures of the backs of their heads. I don’t know why I find it so adorable.

On the other hand, the US has this view

September 23rd, 2010

Did I mention we’re on vacation?

And now for something completely different: actual information

September 14th, 2010

I was tweeting with After Words yesterday about our kindergarten situations (nutshell: hers, awesome; mine, suboptimal) and the discussion of kindergarten and school schedules led to a little back-and-forth about daycare options here in Switzerland (nutshell: suboptimal) and the dearth of any organized anything to help out families with two working adults led her to say: “Somehow I thought the Swiss would be more progressive?” which made me chuckle, because, really, Switzerland?, until it made me realize that clearly I’m not a very informative blogger. Because, really, Switzerland? Switzerland, I think you know I am deeply fond of you, heck I might even love you, but progressive you are not.

So, since I’ve been telling myself for months that I need to recommit to this blog, and since I live in Switzerland, and since a fair number of my readers do not live in Switzerland, I came up with this brilliant idea. I should tell my readers a little bit about Switzerland and invite questions about life in Switzerland, life as an expat, raising bilingual children – and I’ve got an interview about that to finish for Bringing up Baby Bilingual, actually – or whatever question you have about life in the land of cheese and chocolate.

What do you want to know about the mountain fortress that is my home? Fire away. In the meantime, I’ll be putting together a post about the Swiss school system in the next couple of days. I bet you can’t wait.

Still crazy after all these years

September 11th, 2010

Sitting at the Grosse Schanze, this view that I never tire of. To the right the green wooded hill of the Gurten, in front of me in the foreground the spire of the Heiliggeistkirche and to the left the dome of the Bundeshaus, the tiled rooftops of the city below me, the window boxes of geraniums that are the hallmark of Bern and the backdrop to it all the snowcapped wall of the Alps, the Jungfrau, Mönch, the black diamond of the Eiger Nordwand. Even the Bernese come up here on a blue sky day, lean against the railing and stare out at that view. The hippest trying-to-be-jaded twenty-something will stop in spite of himself, watch a cloud forming around the peaks. I love this view, I’m crazy for this view, I can’t get over this view. This view makes up for Swiss-German, for my outsider status, for being a foreigner, for Swiss reserve, for being away from home and living my life between two languages, two countries, two cultures, two homes. This view helps my heart decide.

And then he was big

September 8th, 2010

I would know this about the Small Boy by now, or you’d think I would: he develops in jumps. Usually big ones. He takes a long time, or what seems like a long time, to get used to the idea of doing something, trying something, learning something. Then he decides one day to try it and doesn’t look back. He was on the tail end of the curve for starting to walk, but when he did walk, he walked. He never cruised the furniture. He didn’t spend weeks taking four steps and falling down. He just waited until he had this walking thing sorted out in his head and then he walked. He was a late talker, late enough for me to ask the doctor if he might have a hearing problem although I knew perfectly well that he didn’t because he had full comprehension in two languages – he just waited to talk until he was ready to talk and then it was three, four, five new words a day. He wore diapers overnight until an age that I’m not going to mention out of respect for his privacy, but one day he started waking up dry and I can count the accidents he’s had on one hand. He takes a long time to warm up to some things. Then he goes and does them, and in one day grows up by six months.

I should know this about him by now, but it takes my heart by surprise every time.

Hay is for horses. Hay bales are for little boys.

September 5th, 2010

This is how the boys passed the time waiting for dinner:


running across the driveway and jumping onto the hay bales. Can you see them there, dangling off the hay bales? I didn’t want to get any closer to take the picture – they were in the middle of one of those golden moments when they were running around inventing games and requiring no adult interaction whatsoever, and any parent knows not to get in the middle of that.

The hay was baled last week and wrapped yesterday. That was the first time I’d seen bales wrapped up, and I think the wrapping machine is my new favorite piece of farm equipment. I love farm equipment – there’s a specialized machine for everything. There’s one machine for baling the hay and another machine for wrapping it. There’s a machine for harvesting the wheat and another for harvesting the corn and another for digging the potatoes and whole other machine for digging the sugar beets. No small farmer can afford all that machinery, of course; J hires the machinery he needs at harvest time and he hired the wrapper for the hay.

Silage, rather than hay, would be the proper term for it actually, and would you believe that Boychen taught me that word (which happens to be the same in German and English)? It makes perfect sense actually, since he is growing up on a farm and I did not; just another reminder to me of how situational language learning is, how situational language itself is. “The wrapping machine,” I wrote and I wasn’t far off: it’s a wrapper or a bale wrapper, and I’m currently as enthralled by it as any child.