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Natural Pot-pourri - fresh hay and meadowsweet

Natural Pot-pourri – fresh hay and meadowsweet

Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time:

Thus is your time on earth filled with glory. 

Betty Smith

We’re in high summer. Glorious hot summer.  After a couple of grey days when we arrived – which were perfect for settling in and sleeping off the journey and its over-excitements, summer started at last.  Winter and spring had both been long and cold, and the change was well-overdue.    We take, of course, full credit.  But those of our friends and neighbours who find a succession of high-20’s low-30’s temperatures (that’s Celcius of course) a little too warm for comfort might be wishing our weather-magic gone.

The pattern has become –  morning bike-rides when it’s cool, the swimming pool or lake in the late afternoon (the water in Bodensee is around 24°C), and staying cool in between!

Underneath the linden-tree - bliss (for nose and tail!)

Underneath the linden-tree – bliss (for nose and tail!)

So – a selection of the small pleasures of bike-riding.

Your nose is wide open to the smells.

Countryside smells: the warm fragrances of cows, and of hay drying in the sun. The overwhelmingly almond aroma of wiesengaissbart flowers. This healing herb is in profusion along our bike-tracks, especially by streams and swampy places. Wiesengaissbart (field goat’s beard) might describe its look – but its English name of Meadowsweet much better describes its nature.

Even sweeter – the linden tree.  Over our side of the old Rhein, they’ve finished flowering and the breeze is whirling their winged seeds to the ground.

But – just over the bike bridge into Austria – a beautiful linden tree is having a late flowering. We stopped to rest our backsides, and panted delight into our noses!IMG_6387_1

The silence of your passage disturbs nothing.

IMG_6421_1_1This handsome pair of storks didn’t take their gaze off the fields they find their food in.

The storks have only returned to Altenrhein in the last couple of years. They are still a cause for us to stop and celebrate.

Johanneskraut (St John's Wort).  Mani held one hand from the track, while I stretched out the other .. gathered!

Johanneskraut (St John’s Wort). Mani held one hand from the track, while I stretched out the other .. gathered!

The simplicity of stopping.  See something you want to photograph – or a herb you want to gather? Brake on, foot down… and  you’re there.  No negotiating with the driver.  No having to find a place to pull over. No “bother, maybe next time we pass”.  So the basket fills with herbs, and the camera with images, and your backside gets a little rest  (getting saddle-hardened again does take a while!)

...even to the lace curtains on the garden shed.

…even to the lace curtains on the garden shed.

The private glimpses.  Cycle tracks go through the fields, down the lanes, around the backs.  And we bike even stranger pathways… the “katz-wëgli” (cat’s paths) that Mani and his mates walked and biked when they were boys.

So you see the private gestures, like the decorations on this garden shed at the back of an allotment, or the incongruity that promises a story, like the mounted elephant.

IMG_6414_1You have spontaneous conversations with people mowing their lawns – or walking their dogs – or tending their gardens.  It’s a little like the view into backyards you get from a train – but altogether more personal, less voyeuristic, because you’re right there, open to engagement.

A "cats-way" just wide enough for us

A “cats-way” just wide enough for us

...and then there's the pleasure of watching others work....

…and then there’s the pleasure of watching others work….

And maybe that’s the magic after all, of being on the bike. You’re right there – breathing the air, greeting other cyclists and walkers from a knowledge of their shared enjoyment, and seeing – always seeing – from the expanses to the details.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour. 

William Blake

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