It was a lovely way to bring in the new year:  on January 1 I flew to Europe to spend time with family… first stopping in Bavaria to visit my former husband and good friend Wolf and his wife Angelka, who had her birthday the day after I arrived.  Wolf prepared a yummy risotto with homemade pesto to celebrate. Now that’s a treat!  In southern Germany the grass was a spring-like green, the temperatures mild and there was no sign of winter at all.

A day later I took the train to Austria where my son Martin, wife Moni and two grandchildren, Nick 6, and Lilly, soon to be 5, make their home, nestled in the mountains, with a stunning view across the Inn valley.  Taking the train in Europe is always a pleasure — they are on time, clean, run frequently, are reasonably priced and well used.  Why don’t we in North America get it?

As we rolled deeper into the Alps, climbing steadily, winter descended around us.  I was struck by how quiet it was.  I’ve worn hearing aids for several years now, and I thought hmmm, maybe my hearing has gotten several stages worse since I was last here, because I hardly hear the clickety clack of the wheels at all.  It was almost silent, and the white world wrapped itself more deeply around us as we rolled along.  I later learned that it was, at least in part, the snow, that dampened the clickity clack, and contributed to the peaceful, almost other-worldly ride.

Lilly and Nick were waiting with mom on the platform to greet me, and ran full steam into my arms for what we like to call a “jump up hug.”  If you’re into Attachment Theory, I think jump-up hugs qualify as a great example of  ‘self-attachment’ (a form of warm and healthy connecting after infancy), and I highly recommend them.  They are heart opening and exhilarating for all parties involved 🙂

Well, a couple of days after I arrived, and happily after pilot son Martin had returned safely from a new year’s trip to Johannesburg and Nairobi, the snows began in earnest.

For two days and two nights, and then some more after that, the white came down, steadily, almost without let up. At times blowing sideways, coating the trees with a thick layer of icing, piling up on the railings of the houses, the roof of the bird feeder, filling up the driveway, the stairway, the path to the compost…blowing and drifting. Reports had it that there had never been that much or deep snow in this little village in recent memory.

Many, if not all, of the people who live in the mountain towns and villages welcome the great white.  The tourists who have come from far and wide for cross country and downhill skiing certainly do,  And the snow clearing, ski hill and trail preparation are impressive.  For our part, we shovelled, and shovelled, and shovelled some more!  During the blizzard, and after it finally stopped, the world was wondrous. We enjoyed together many of the winter pleasures, including toasty fires and hot chocolate on returning home with ruddy cheeks and tired bodies.

One afternoon I took a walk by myself up the road behind their house.  The trees were still cloaked in white, the ground soft, the afternoon light shining through the conifers created a peaceful, ethereal world. It is a fine balance, and precious…enough snow, but not too much.

There is much that seems out of balance in our world today, over abundance and too much or not enough… I hold hopes and offer prayers that events in 2012 will build on the courageous uprisings around the world last year and further the movement toward sanity, equity, sustainability…

I felt blessed and grateful for the reflective, gentle, yes even magical, time in the woods, for the connection with family, for the opportunity to talk, play, eat, read, work, exercise together…  And check out the igloo we built as the temperatures warmed, and the snow turned from powdery to sticky.  Cool, eh?

May your new year be rich with highlights and insights, may you find your own ways to be part of the great turning our  communities, cities, countries, and planet so desperately need.

Jill Schroder is the author of BECOMING: Journeying Toward Authenticity.  BECOMING makes a perfect gift  — an invitation for self -reflection, and to mine our memorable moments  for insights, meaning, and growth.  Perfect for new beginnings, birthdays, or any time of year.

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