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I rain

Because your meadows call

For God.

Hafiz, 14C Sufi poet.

(This entire poem at the end.)

Thank you Hafiz, but enough already.

It’s been an exceptionally cool and soggy June – though fortunately here we’ve not had the deadly floods that Germany and France have suffered.   But there’s been enough rain that Bodensee (Lake Constance) is full-to-nearly overflowing.


Storm-clouds over Bodense

So there’s only one thing to do – celebrate the drama of the weather, and the ingenuity of engineers as they find ways to deal with it!

I’m reading Gaia Vince’s “Adventures in the Anthropocene” at the moment, which deals with not just the human-caused climate changes, but also some of the extraordinary innovative options for adaptation.  We need such creative brilliance more than ever.


A newly re-engineered river on the other side of the Alps. (Not so much recent rain there!)

Of course, we’ve been adapting nature’s waterways for centuries, and here we live by the banks of an example.

The very top part of the mighty Rhine river (the part technically called the Alpine Rhine) runs through the Rheintal and into the Bodensee.  It always flooded with rain and snow-melt, which is why all the old towns lie up along the foothills.

The 19th Century was a time of great re-engineering along the entire Rhine, and the Alpine Rhine was rechannelled, straightened and deepened to increase its flow, and contain its waters – and offer a rich valley floor of alluvial silt for more secure farming and horticulture.  The ‘new Rhine’ flows out through Austria.


The ferry returning from Rheineck when the Alter Rhein is full, but not TOO full.

The ‘old Rhine’ (Alter Rhein), which still forms the border with Austria, was left as a swamp,  which was later dug out to make a navigable river up to Rheineck. Between the two is all nature reserve – and some of our favourite bike tracks.


Iron sculpture at the mouth of the Alten Rhein, celebrating the dig-out


Post 1999, all the properties along the rivers have flood protection. A barrier comes across to shut off the gate.

And right now – it’s full!  The new Rhine had filled up the channels either side between its first and second stop- banks, though it’s now back in line, and the old Rhine – itself further reengineered after the 1999 floods – overflowed the path I normally walk.


The Alter Rhein last week

The ferry landing / wading

The ferry landing / wading

The Weisse House restaurant rebuilt after the 1999 floods. The log was souvenired from INSIDE the old restaurant.

The Weisse House restaurant rebuilt after the 1999 floods. The log was souvenired from INSIDE the old restaurant.










Along the Alter Rhein and around Bodensee, water-birds’ nests have been flooded, and we’ve had flocks of gulls shrieking overhead as they look for options. There are a few floating nesting platforms – now highly prized and contested real estate.


To compare and contrast….


2011 – only the fishing boats could come up the river. Too shallow for the ferry.


Bodensee 2011 (from the local paper)


But the show must go on…

Margrit, Maria and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Kloster St Gallen for the outdoor opera. This year was Le Cid by Massenet, which I’d not seen before but now add to my favourites. It started in the rain, singers all exposed, and audience all in rain-condoms (or so I titled the multi-coloured plastic hooded capes that people pulled from their handbags for protection).  By mid-opera, the rain had stopped; still a great night.


Margrit under the red umbrella, and half of Maria!

And, as in New Zealand where a post-rain trip in Fiordland offers the best gushing roadside waterfalls, our trip through the passes to the sun of northern Italy was highlighted with full mountain streams.IMG_8977_1_1

So… to celebrate the rain.  The refresher of streambeds, the greener of pastures, the reminder of the source of life itself!

And, confession time – it’s easier to finish writing this after a few days in the sun of Lake Garda (of which more later), and with sunshine (and lawn-mowing!) waiting for me outside.


A postscript.

A couple of years ago (it can’t have been 2012) I reported on a snail that had improbably taken up residence in our little wind-machine.   Here’s its kin, inside the bird feeder suspended by wire, and firmly capped.  The only way in was through one of the feeding holes towards the bottom.  How? And more puzzlingly, Why?  Most fanciful explanation so far is that a bird might have seen the feeder as a larder and popped the snail in there for later. Other ideas welcome!IMG_8856


The previously inhabited wind-machine is still there to the right

Back to the Wetness…..


…  For some creatures that love the rain…..

I Rain

I rain

Because your meadows call

For God.

I weave light into words so that

When your mind holds them

Your eyes will relinquish their sadness.

Turn bright, a little brighter, giving to us

The way a candle does

To the dark.

I have wrapped my laughter like a birthday gift

And left it beside your bed.

I have planted the wisdom in my heart

Next to every signpost in the sky.

A wealthy man

Often becomes eccentric.

A divine crazed soul

Is transformed into infinite generosity

Tying gold sacks of gratuity

To the dangling feet of moons, planets, ecstatic

Midair dervishes, and singing birds.

I speak

Because every cell in your body

Is reaching out

For God.

From The Gift, a collection of poems by Hafiz, whose given name was Shams-ud-din-Muhammad (c. 1320 – 1389), translated by Daniel Ladinsky.  Pub. Penguin Compass,  1999.