An idyllic view down from the Bueckeberg hill in Hagenohsen near Hameln Germany. Source: www.dewezet.de
This is the church in Emmerthal near Hameln Germany dating back to 1004 when the village was first mentioned in official documents. Nearby, mighty oak trees well over 100 to 150 years old.
Happy Easter 2012. Today put me into a reflective mood. It is most likely due to today not only being Easter but also the exact day on which Mom Abel, my wife’s mom, lost her fight with cancer 4 years ago that makes me thinking about places that moved me the most. I am thinking about two places in my old home close to Hameln Germany that have influenced me in long lasting ways.
This region in northern Germany is rich with small hills just before they taper off in another hour towards due north as the crow flies. One of them is the Bückeberg on which Hitler put up great displays of feasts, army and Luftwaffe shows on German Thanksgiving day during the autumn seasons of the early 1930’s. Nowadays only very few artifacts remain from that dark period of time. Sitting on top of this small hill you can see the town of Hameln (where the Pied Piper is from). The rolling landscapes are all in neat order and depending on the season you will find the prime farming land occupied by either sugar beet or grain crops. The only interruptions of this idyllic scene come in form of the railroad tracks and the small meticulous cared for roads that are lined mostly with apple trees. Then there are two smaller villages that speckle the landscape on the way to the city of Hameln. On the other side of the hill runs the river Weser.
This is the sight that back in 1984 formed the back drop of my darkest days of my life. I had just started my three year apprenticeship and was bullied extensively. At home both parents were alcoholics and my life just seemed pointless. I was sixteen years old and life made no sense to me. Frequently I would take my moped up on the hill to look down at the peaceful, serene scene to ponder life and its meaning (in Germany until recently you could only start driving a car at age 18). It came down to two key thoughts that motivate and fill me with enthusiasm to this day: For one, you can only make a difference in people’s lives if you are around and actively make things happen. Second, while you are at it, you might as well enjoy whatever it is that you are doing no matter how hard and no matter how pointless it may be at the time. I will never forget the look on my mom’s face when I came back from one of my hill trips asserting my believe to her that when I wade in muck all the way to my chin, I might as well do it with a smile. I owe my enthusiasm to this place of deep self-reflection big time. I did not know that back then, but I do know this very well today how important solitude is in finding yourself and to automatically have fewer and more intensive thoughts.
Another significant and more light-hearted place is the Scharfenberg opposite to the Bückeberg. The above mentioned river separates the two as it curves. Located a mere two miles away from the house I grew up in, its main access road is a small paved road normally only used by tractors, farming equipment, many walkers, joggers, and bicyclists. The road is also lined with old yet small apple trees. For the two miles of travel you enjoy the sight of pristinely cared for prime farm land. The woods themselves are almost undisturbed and you will not find a dwelling anywhere in or around it. Some areas are state owned, others are privately owned, but everyone can hike or bicycle in it.
Whenever I am back in the area, I really try walking to a place that takes another good hour from the beginning of the woods to its location at the peak of the hill. This requires a brisk walk in a beech, oak and pine forest. It is almost a secret location where a thousand year old oak tree stands. On the way there the rich smell of pine needles and other hardwood tree leaves, moss, ferns and rotting wood, which provides a smorgasbord for the nose. Small little paths accessible only on foot and with wood skidders/ tractors are weaving through this part of the dense forest. My sister is always amazed that I can find this tree no matter how long I have been away from home.
The tree has most likely been dead for the last 40 years or so, but the hardwood resisted the weather and bugs for the longest time. What a majestic tree it was. The trunk measures an easy four to five feet in diameter. Most of the tree limbs have broken off now, but even their size is nothing short of awe inspiring. That is also the key word here. I found this tree so inspiring because it humbled me to think what the World was like over a thousand years old. That would have been just around the time early Germans started the little village in the valley between the two hills. Also, it withstood a totally different weather pattern and intensiveness. It grew as tall and old as it could – of how many humans can you say this? Also, by comparison we can last about 10% of the time it was around. Humans that long ago would have barely been around long enough to see the tree through its infancy. The tree served its purpose truthfully and even now that it is dead still gives off life for flora and fauna. And yet, it also motivates and inspires the few folks that still manage to visit it.
What places moved, inspired, motivated or otherwise defined you the most? Give it some time and reflect upon it. Fewer and deeper thoughts may be just what you need, providing much needed guidance when you may need it the most.