The Artist at Rest in Switzerland

The Artist at Rest in Switzerland

The picture shows him looking out over Lake Lucerne.
For once, no tension on his face, no furrows of concern.
The snow up on the mountain top echoes his beard and hair,
but no strategies of line or form are here for him to  bear.

His nut-brown arms and hands at rest, touching no wood or clay,
His eyes collecting images—each thrust of rock, each ray
of light that dances on the lake. The murmured low of cattle.
The fisherman out on the lake—their laughter and their prattle.

We’ve come to rest in this green land, tired of our travel,
to calm the tension of the road and let our thoughts unravel.
Flowers, lake and greenery, mountains, light and cloud
help us to express our thoughts without speaking aloud.

For once he does not recreate what nature has created.
His need for shaping elements for this short time’s abated.
I know his thoughts as he knows mine, and so we are at peace.

Our best communication sometimes happens when words cease.

Prompt words today are nut-brown, strategy, snow and concern.

It was 1986–a year after we’d met and some months before we married. We spent the summer touring Europe via car and by the time we reached Switzerland, the tension had mounted. It was hard-going traveling from country to country where we knew none of the languages. Bob felt insecure away from his usual realm. I felt pressured with having to read maps and make all the decisions while he simply had to aim the car and grew unsympathetic with my occasional misdirections. He didn’t like the food. The French didn’t like us, so moments after we crossed the border into France, we veered back into Switzerland and decided to spend the rest of our time before departure in Switzerland instead of France.

It was the right decision. Bob loved the wienerschnitzel and the calm view of the lake and mountains. I loved not having to make decisions. We rented the bottom level of a house for two weeks. It overlooked the lake and the mountainside where the owners of the house ran their cattle. A telescope in our living room was directed toward the cattle who were virtually unreachable by road. If the snow got too high in the winter, they airlifted bales of hay to them, dropping them from a helicopter. My earlier decision of a few weeks before, when I couldn’t wait to get home from Europe so I never had to see this guy again softened, and seven months later, we were married. Within a year, I, too, was an artist and we made our living for the next 14 years doing art together. In the 16 years I knew my husband, this time in Europe was the only time I knew him not to be creating, yet for an artist, even the art of living can be a creative experience as they draw images and other sensory details into the wellspring of their creativity.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized on by .

About lifelessons

My blog, which started out to be about overcoming grief, quickly grew into a blog about celebrating life. I post daily: poems, photographs, essays or stories. I've lived in countries all around the globe but have finally come to rest in Mexico, where I've lived since 2001. My books may be found on Amazon in Kindle and print format, my art in local Ajijic galleries. Hope to see you at my blog.

36 thoughts on “The Artist at Rest in Switzerland

  1. isaiah46ministries

    Judy,
    I liked the story. I recognized that travel can make or break a relationship. I told my students to take a short trip with any intended wife or husband, to get to really see people, especially if you get lost. Wonderful post.

    Like

    Reply
        1. lifelessons Post author

          We started out there. Bob said he couldn’t wait to get home to be mean to French tourists! Ha. We had to go back at the end to catch our flight but arranged it so we only had to spend one night there.

          Like

          Reply
        2. bushboy

          Paris, Dijon, Marseilles, Lyon, Avignon and many other places it has always been good. We stay in the suburbs and not the tourist areas so maybe we interact with locals who are intrigued by us as we are of them

          Like

          Reply
          1. lifelessons Post author

            I had been in Paris years before with two good friends from college and I hadn’t noticed the antagonism then, but when Bob and I went it was noticeable. At one restaurant, a Frenchman at the next table apologized to us for the way our waiter was treating us. He said he had just returned from a trip to the states and so was aware of the great difference. He said that he hoped we would be a bit comforted by the fact that the French were just as rude to each other as they were to Americans.. Ha.

            Liked by 2 people

            Reply
            1. SAM VOELKER

              Well maybe when you visited before, you were young cute, sexy college girls and not with a big stud~! That would make a difference you know~! Ha
              There was one place where we went every day. The waiter was very rude to us but to other regulars, not so much so. So one day I ordered boiled shrimp, when he brought them I said in my best French: now peel them, he gave me the usual “mais monsieur~!” I then said if I were a French friend you would do this, and we come in here every day and spend a lot of money, so now please send your “Chef de cuisine” out to talk with me. He stood there and peeled every one of those shrimp using the usual knife and fork. I guess he had never met a stubborn Coonass before. But he was rather nice to us after that.

              Another time in another place, we had it in with the Chef de cuisine, we were having steak. Then one stupid Texan asked for catsup to put on his steak, the Chef came out and loudly let him know that the steak was the best in France and he did not need catsup. We then all joined the fight and enough noise was made that he exited and brought back a small bottle of catsup inside a paper bag. I hated taking up for the dumb Texan, but we had to pick sides and this fellow worked for us.

              Like

    1. lifelessons Post author

      In addition to Switzerland, we loved Spain, Italy, Monaco, Belgium, Germany and Austria and also Normandy. Our best time was zigzagging over the Pyrenees between France and Spain. That’s a wonderful area. We spent extra time in Cadaquez and Figuerez, which we loved as well.

      Like

      Reply
        1. lifelessons Post author

          Yes..The castles and the walled mountaintop towns where the roads got smaller and smaller until they ended at a brick wall and so little room that it was almost impossible to turn the car around.. and those wonderful milky turquoise lakes from the copper in the soil.

          Like

          Reply
          1. SAM VOELKER

            Or watching an old woman looking to be a hundred years old, sitting on a straight chair in the open, tatting lace with her fingers moving with a great speed, just to sell to the people watching.

            Like

            Reply
      1. SAM VOELKER

        Did you notice the difference between northern Italy and the southern part~! As you pass Rome, it is like going into another country and Shirley said that she got her ass pinched more times in one day, than she had in all the years before~! Maybe the young ones are worse than Parisians in being “couth” (I know there is no such word, but then where did “uncouth” come from~?) I feel a poem coming on~!
        SAM

        Like

        Reply
  2. SAM VOELKER

    Oh happy thoughts, sitting on Lake Lucerne, dreaming; did you ask yourself, “is he thinking what I am thinking~?”

    Your poem and write up brought back mixed feelings for me. Such happy thoughts of togetherness bring back similar happy memories to me and even the problems of “touristing” as well. My time spent away from home on my trips to our field operations always built up “off time” and the problems with the desire of keeping our visas current in case the Algerians decided to shut down the country to us had me, by the second contract, putting into it that I would take at least a week off for each six weeks there. If your exit visa expired from not getting it stamped from use, it took three weeks to renew it~!!!

    This we mostly spent, starting off in the very same area you speak of, renting a car and just getting lost in Europe, always using Geneva as the central landing place. If we found a village we liked we would circle back, either for the special food, places of interest or just the people we met. We also learned that the train service in all of Europe was a great way to travel. One of my favorite places was the Black Forest, where you would meet German people taking their early morning walks and always get a: “Guten Morgen~!” with a smile~!

    One thing different though, I could converse OK with the French and Spanish, and Shirley was good in German, Hungarian, Czech with a little Russian thrown in, as her mother was Czech and her grandmother spoke no English at all, but lived with them and Shirley having taken German in school. (those people are really mixed up with it comes to language) (her grandmother, the old cuss, could understand everything we said though~!!!)

    I had to go back and read this more than once~! It brought back soft happy memories to me, but at the same time sad ones too. I bet you have a picture taken on the Chapel Bridge in Luzern, I have several~! We had one favorite hotel where we liked to stay just south of Lucerne, a small quiet place where our usual day started by sitting on a balcony, overlooking the lake, having ordered fresh hot crescents with jam and butter, and good hot pot of coffee. One memory is the sound of the cow bells echoing in the deep valleys, each with a different sound..

    I do not know if I told you that my youngest son, Mark, was born in Geneva. Shirley having spent the last five months of her pregnancy living there, we having lost our child before Mark, only a few days after birth. I would fly down for a few days when I had built up time to stay with her; and also each of my two sisters spent time there as well.

    I am so pleased that you have those beautiful memories of being there with Bob, and it was kind of you for shearing them with us, I too have also had similar “trips to hell” as you describe, I wrote about one such as that, a short while back, but that good friend and I, like you two, turned it into something good and several times we have had great get togetherness still, either my going up to the North or her coming this way.

    She will be coming for a couple of weeks in early February and I am already making up short itinerary’s of things to do while she is here, that virus makes it somewhat difficult, but that “trip to hell”, I mentioned, lasted for over a week and that was just too much of a good thing with too many miles shut up in a tiny car with a Tami, who thought she should not be sitting in the dog place. My son Cass is putting together a great “work station” for her to use while she is here. As editor, she can actually do her work online during the virus, but she will also be taking vacation time as well.

    I have been spending time going through my thousands of 35 mm “slides” of my travels, some have even turned red due to time, and others I have forgotten exactly where they were taken, but I have so many that must be identified, digitized and repaired if possible, with some just being thrown away. Most of my travels were done long before the “digital age” and date back to even black and white, when I did my own dark room work in school~!! Maybe I will be ready for that “photo contest” in the not too distant future, especially if you rewrite the rules just a little.

    SAM

    Like

    Reply
    1. lifelessons Post author

      I’m not totally sure it was Lake Lucerne It might have been Brienzersee. I chose Lucerne for the rhyme. We visited both but couldn’t tell from photos which it was.

      Like

      Reply
  3. Marilyn Armstrong

    I think that the first time Garry and I traveled together, we knew we’d be okay. Travel can be terribly difficult … or, as it was for us, the easiest happiest of times. We both left our work at home. It was the ONLY time we left our work at home and while we each, in our own way, loved our work, the time we spent “away” together was the best. You poem reminded me of so many great vacations and all the places we’ve been. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  4. Leslie Johansen Nack

    What a great story. And we had the same experience with the Parisans but nowhere else in France. Uppity for sure! I stopped in some small hamlet in Switzerland while I had a Eurorail pass in 1987 and I’ve longed to go back there ever since. Lake Lucerne looks fantastic. And your time there with Bob sounded challenging yet beautiful – isn’t that the way…. xox L

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.