Because your meadows call
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.
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.
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 ‘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.
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.
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….
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.
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.
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 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!
Back to the Wetness…..
… For some creatures that love the rain…..
Because your meadows call
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.
Because every cell in your body
Is reaching out
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.