Of falling stones and faith

Grave

There is an understandable and appropriate silence about a graveyard.  The dead are meant to be left to their stillness.  Even outside of a superstition of what might happen if one “wakes the dead,” or that a cemetery may be “holy ground,” I feel there should be a reverence to the memory of the people buried beneath one’s feet.  In middle school, my English class took a field trip to an old cemetery near the rural-but-well-endowed California school house.  The assignment was to make a pencil etching of a gravestone of our choice, considering dates, names, comments left carved in moss-covered stone.  We would take our etchings back to the classroom and then write fiction based on the lives we conjured and assigned to these people resting beneath us. I vaguely remember penning something about “O. Henry,” a Civil War veteran who left behind his lover.  The curious thing about this exercise, as inspiring as it may have been to young fiction writers, is that the people buried in that cemetery were real; their lives were lived and paid in full.  One walks more carefully when one focuses on who the people were, and not who they are in a conjured world.

Yesterday I walked with my troupe around Saint Martin’s church in the local village in the French region of Picardie.  The church was constructed in the 12th century, and it, and its cemetery, are a long way from the glory days.

Editor’s note: more photos in a slideshow at the end of the article.

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Americans Celebrating the Armistice

Church and monument
Standing upon the stone sidewalks of a decaying French village is jarring because of its immortality–this village has looked more or less the same for decades.  The moss on roofs and walls is perhaps thicker, the chips in paint are perhaps more noticeable, but a World War soldier marching through this land with a heavy rucksack and soggy boots would still recognize this place.  And if that soldier marched by on November 11, he would have come across a couple dozen Frenchmen and two Americans standing in the rain, offering thanks.

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A Ferry-ride to Rapperswil

Rapperswil
Our time settling into life in Switzerland has been stressful–not only have we had to move ourselves to a new city in a new country, but I have also had to settle into a new job, and facilitate our family starting from scratch in so many realms: banking, legal status in this country, learning shops and neighborhoods.  And now that we have finally had time to breathe, we are beginning to look for a more permanent apartment which we will outfit with our own furniture, much of which will be similar or identical to our Ikea furniture from the States.

But despite this frenzy I told my wife I wanted to take a family day.  I had worked the Sunday before, on short notice, and we had a little time to plan something nice.  So yesterday we boarded the Helvetia, and set off to the medieval quarter of Rapperswil. (slideshow included)

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