Monday, March 18, 2013

Commute Through Paradise

It is said that trauma lodges itself in your cellular memory and can be called up when similar situations present themselves. I believe the same is true for our moments of deep happiness. Today I took the old bike ride from the Orff Institute to the village of Anif, the place I lived for six weeks my first time teaching the Special Course in Salzburg. As I passed each familiar landmark, I felt a wave of profound joy and contentment spread over me. Not nostalgia, but a reliving on a cellular level the same happiness I had back then. There was the Sound of Music pavilion at the entrance to Hellbrun Park, then the tree-lined path like the birth canal to Paradise, the cage in the zoo where I greeted the lions each morning going out and evening coming back, the small gate that opens to the vista of surrounding mountains (now wholly born into Heaven!), the row of quaint houses and artists’ studios, the church where the conductor Herbert von Karajan is buried and then the farmhouse where I stayed. Every day for six weeks, I biked this 20 minute ride back and forth, in rain, sun, sleet or snow and sometimes all of the above in one day.

What a glorious way to start and end the day. How I pitied the people who commuted on a trafficked freeway to their isolated office cubicles, with mountain scenes on their screensavers and scheduled trips to the gym. Here each day began with exercise blending with a healthy dose of beauty, more exercise and beauty and fun and connection at work dancing in circles and then ended with another infusion of of transport that got the heart pumping and the breath going on paths and through fields that moved your heart and took your breath away. A whole life lived fully in each hour of the day, nothing to recover from or compensate for. What a fine time that was.

I always mildly regretted that in spite of a life of constant traveling, I never lived abroad for a year or two. This was the closest I came to that feeling, everything fresh and new and exciting and filled with feeling of living in a mythic world, carried by a new culture and a physical beauty in the surroundings that daily took my breath away. And ten years later, it’s all still here, untouched by the claws of commerce. Amazing.

Herb Caen, that colorful San Francisco newspaper columnist, once said, “When I die and am admitted through the Pearly Gates, I’ll look around and say, “It’s okay. But it ain’t San Francisco!” I agree with him about that, but let me add: “Not bad. But not as good as the bike ride to and from Anif.”

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful! Last year I went with some friends to a mountain bike trip around Cusco and Machu Picchu was what I enjoyed the most!


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