Savoring Experience: Reflections from Switzerland

There are some things, if we want them to last, that must be consumed slowly. Like the croissant that makes its way from my fingers and into my mouth. If like a savory cotton candy, it dissolves almost instantly as it hits my tongue. More importantly than the croissant though, in my opinion, is the brie I’ve been spooning (I can’t seem to find another utensil) into tiny clumps across the last croissant and a half. My travel companions are still sleeping, and I consider how rude it would be if I finished the entire wedge left over from last night’s amazing Swiss, pumpkin-soup-dinner extraordinaire. 

And it truly was extraordinary. Artisanal bread filled a large basket as a long cutting board presented at least three types of cheeses, grapes and walnuts spread out in masterful placement. Each bowl was filled with a basic salad, followed by another set with soup. The soup was comprised of blended pumpkin, yam, ginger and a handful of other ingredients that left me feeling warm and nurtured, and let me settle into the seasonality of it all. You know, that fall time magic. The pumpkins were borrowed from the front porch decor to be put to use for the meal. For some reason, upon hearing this tidbit of information, I immediately imagine someone chasing a pumpkin across the backyard, as if our hosts had gone and caught us a wild backyard gourd; it was a free-range pumpkin I could feel good about.

My espresso is bitter this morning and makes my heart feel flighty. Mixed with my very subtle hangover from last night’s three glasses of wine, I try to decide if the coffee is helping or not. I’m tired, but I think the jet lag has finally began to dissipate, like a layer in my energy field that has slowly been shed to reveal a new glow in my everyday outlook. It’s about time. After a week and a half, I finally feel like I am settling into the appropriate rhythms to really enjoy and feel the wonder of my travels through Europe.

Unlike with the consumption of food, experience requires a different approach in order to be truly relished in and digested. Days can easily turn to dust, be carried away with the winds of time with little to show for it, in memory or in productivity, lost to the deep pools of our past. Will these moments one day resurface, or will they be misplaced in the vast library of the mind? Older people often talk about how it becomes increasingly difficult to recall their memories. Could it be that, with age, our libraries just become so extensive that the problem isn’t our minds, but more so that there is so much contained within the space of our memories that it would take an assistant to help you sort through everything you keep there? The swirling of time and space around us often blurs reality. We can probably give ourselves a break if we don’t remember it all.

Church bells ring from a few streets down. I welcome them, at first. They give me the sense that something important is happening. A wedding. A death. An invasion. An important ceremony. On the Camino de Santiago, I hear, there are some places that ring the bells as it gets dark, a tradition that draws pelegrinos to the area, helping them find their way on a darkened path. My Camino guidebook says the bells represent a calling from God, a reminder for those who are seeking to find solace in God’s love. There is something about all of this that is comforting.

It’s five past noon and the bells still ring as we head out onto the road, leaving behind Berne, Switzerland and onward to Hanau, Germany. I put in my headphones and listen to the same song I always start out with when I turn on iTunes, a habit that probably comes from my innate desire to seek comfort in the known even while being amongst constant unknowns. I suppose hearing the same songs over and over also reminds me of who I am, even though that definition seems to be rapidly changing. There are some things we can try and hold on to, control and maintain. Yet, ultimately, each piece of croissant, piece of cheese, moment in time, song… It all comes to an end to make room for the next.

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