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Black Forests and Pink Dreams

Black Forest; the words conjured an image of a slice of velvety dark chocolate and soft, creamy icing topped by a perfect single cherry.  A delicate plate patterned with blue Iris flowers and silver leaves cradled this tempting mental image.  I could almost smell the coffee aroma of swirling smoke coming from the matching blue and silver cup next to it.  The Black Forest cake was a favorite at the hotel’s patisserie and our French pastry chef never missed an opportunity to point that out.  But I was now tens of thousands of kilometers and years away from that palatial hotel I worked at in Muscat, Oman.

Image credit Adrian Hoe via Flickr

Image credit Adrian Hoe via Flickr

Spacing Out, Listening to a Foreign Language

We’ve been driving for hours.  An unlikely mix of inactivity and tiredness made me sigh audibly.  It’s surprising how tiredness could come from not doing much.    The scenery was of various shades of green, early yet in September for any signs of fall. The voices in the car sounded muffled. I could pick out words and phrases in the conversation, which was in German.

They spoke in soft tones, this genuinely genteel family – a truly pleasant surprise.  I recalled my encounters with German chefs while working in hotels – belligerent opposition to requests of banquet clients and rowdy celebration at the end of successful food and beverage festivals.  Genteel was not an adjective I had associated with Germans.

I leaned back, turned towards the window, and was lulled to sleep by the movement of the car.

A gentle shaking on my shoulder woke me up.  We had arrived at a cottage with large wooden beams, white walls, and a reddish-brown triangular roof, one of many such structures.  The cluster of cottages made picturesque silhouettes against the deep green woods and bright blue sky.   It felt good to stretch.  A walk was just what I needed and I allowed myself to be led to the back of the cottage to begin.   Flower patches and vegetable gardens lay near the cottage followed by a long stretch of short grass.  Beyond that stood a formidable wall of tall fir trees, the rim of Germany’s Black Forest.

Fully Awake in the Sacred Silence

When we reached the end of the stretch of grass, my self-appointed tour guide did a formal sweep of his right arm and announced in a simple utterance “Schwarzwald.” With that, he took my hand, led me through the first row of fir trees and we were instantly in a different world.

Thin slivers of sunlight peered through the dark green canopy in the eerily silent space.  I instinctively tightened my hold and he gently squeezed to reassure me.  Except for the crunching of our shoes on the moist ground and the wind-swaying sound of the topmost branches, it was completely silent. Closing my eyes allowed me to hear other, more subtle sounds – birds, a gurgling brook in the distance, a pine cone dropping and rolling, and other sounds an unaccustomed, city-bred woman like me could not identify.  Deliberately, I slowed my breathing to a rhythm that somehow kept pace with the hypnotic flow of the forest.  We walked without speaking.  It was unnecessary. It didn’t feel right to inject the sacred space with human voices.  It would have been disrespectful.

Feeling Great to be Alive

Too soon it seemed, we approached a clearing with a view of the sky slicing through.  We’ve reached the end of this side of the Black Forest.  Without noticing it, I came to a complete stop, transfixed by the moment.  Tall dark trees lined our either side, a light green canopy covered directly above, and in front, the soft rays of the afternoon sun slanted toward us in a cascade of warmth.  I felt a tightening in my chest and stinging in my eyes which rapidly turned misty. They were happy tears – a feeling of immense gratitude from bearing witness to wonders of nature, juxtaposed in one suspended moment.

Ouch! A distinct kick in my lower stomach broke the spell.  Someone else was feeling good to be alive.  I gently rested my left hand over my swollen tummy to calm our impatient baby.  A sigh of serene joy escaped my lips as I turned to smile at my husband – attentive and loving, with gentle brown eyes . We walked hand-in-hand over the last stretch of the Black Forest.  In our tomorrows danced pink dreams of a dark-haired little girl in a schlafsack.

{In our distant future, the partnership would dissolve, replaced by a somehow steadfast connection. Our dark-haired schlafsack girl is an everyday gift. The memory of the Black Forest moment remains.}

Image credit Jonas Ahlstrom via Flickr

Image credit Jonas Ahlstrom via Flickr

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