Thursday, 20 August 2009

A Moment of Transformation

The lower Rhine area of Germany is part of the North European Plain which stretches all the way from the Ural Mountains and the Russian steppes in the East to the Atlantic Ocean in the West. The landscape is almost featureless, flat, wide and fertile, with woods and lakes interspersed with verdant meadows and rich brown fields. It is a quiet landscape, an autumn landscape with high, racing clouds and wonderfully soft, white mists rising from the marshy ground where the Rhine has left his alluvial deposits for many centuries of shifting in his bed. Even today the river refuses to remain civilized, every Spring, when the snows in the Alps melt, he threatens to overflow and break his banks.

The many old river beds remain today as brooks, small lakes and marshland; they have become a picturesque habitat, rich in wildlife. Rare waterfowl nest here, there are several nature reserves where flora and fauna are under protection. Part of the landscape are the many windmills; whether the wind direction is East or West, it is a wind that blows unhindered, often furiously, driving the high clouds in front of it at a pace only seen in the plains. Nowadays the windmills are decorative only, but many are left standing and are periodically repaired as reminders of a different age.

The roads marching through this landscape are dead straight, always lined with trees, often with tall poplars or oaks. Each and every road has a cycle path running alongside it and bicycles are the preferred method of transportation, even today. Cycling here is always a pleasure, whether you are battling against the wind or being speeded along by it.

The tree most typical of the landscape is the pollarded willow. All pollarded willows here are protected by law, they are the symbol of the area.

This rather lengthy introduction finally leads me to my 'Moment of Transformation'. It was Bonnie of Original Art Studio whose post under this heading brought the moment back to me.

On my visits to the area of my birth, when my parents were still alive, the first thing I always did was to lug the old bike out of the cellar and set off for a long ride, always to the same, old familiar places, to pay homage.

On one of these rides the wind was blowing furiously, dark, heavy clouds were racing high above me in the endless sky, the trees in the copses waving their branches in supplication and the poplars by the side of the road almost bent double; the land all around wide and flat and magnificent in its severity - and there was I, alone, not a soul to be seen anywhere, a few birds carried shrieking to the far off ocean - there was I, also carried before the wind on my bicycle,
shouting at the top of my voice: I AM ALIVE, I AM ALIVE, I AM ALIVE, over and over and over again. A moment of true exultation, never again have I felt this intensity of being one with the elements, nature , my history and the history of this modest landscape; with myself as part of infinity.


  1. I have been in 'that place.' Not Germany but that place where the wind blows through your very body and creates the element of aliveness which you cannot deny. It happens most often when you are young.

  2. What a transformational moment! I had an almost duplicte experience.

    Friko, I hope it is alright - I have given you an award. You can check out the details of it on my blog.

  3. These are rare and precious, those moments when the breath moves in you and the blood runs strong and you sing with life. Beautiful blog.

  4. hi friko, i added this posting to the list of transformative moment postings on my webpage. thankyou so much for joining in. your posting reminds me of my plans in 2011 to visit either iceland or friesland for a bicycle trip. the photos you share here make me think i should add a third possibility, you see i had no idea that there were parts of germany that look like this!!! see you again. steven

  5. What an inspiring post. I think that when moments come to us like that, we are alone. I was for mine. You were young, I was not, but these are unique times that are hard to describe. The words are there but they don’t seem strong enough usually. I enjoyed your unique moment.

  6. Elemente, / Innig gesellt, / Bilden das Leben, / Bauen die Welt.(Friedrich von Schiller)

    Good morning Friko,
    I think translation would have ruined the sound. What a great post of you today. Will spend some time looking at the photograpy. Thank you for sharing. Please have a nice Friday.

  7. Imagine if that moment had come and gone and you hadn't been paying attention.
    I think that moments like this depend on some grand coming together of time, place, receptivity and ........luck. Lovely.
    By the way - you explained what Marches are, and this evening, as I watched a TV show, the subtitle 'somewhere near the Welsh Marches' came up and I was so pleased to know that it meant the Welsh border. Thank you!

  8. This post made me feel alive ALIVE!

    Thankyou. I knew nothing of this beautiful land.


    Comfort Spiral

  9. Good for you! It's a feeling I get closest to when I'm running.

  10. Your post is so inspiring, Friko, from your epiphany to the image of the windmill reminding me of Quixote's tilting at windmills.
    Recently I had that feeling of being intensely alive that you described so well. I was going through a bad period after my only sister died to cancer. I rented a little place in the south of Portugal and I went there with my dog, I needed to be alone, and fortunately my family understood. One day I was listening to Pablo Casal playing the Bach suites for cello and I just had my epithany. I run outside, I remember the almond trees were all in bloom at the time (it was January/February)and I just shouted as I ran and ran "Ï'm alive, I'm alive, I'm alive", crying and laughing at the same time.

  11. Hi friko

    This is an interesting parallel to Bonnie's experience...
    I loved the way you wrote about this country landscape...

    Happy days

  12. Beautifully written, I found that vivid and inspirational.

  13. Beautiful blog. Consider yourself tagged. Please check out my blog

  14. Hi Friko,
    A glorious post could feel the wind in my hair reading it.

  15. A beautiful post Friko. Your description of joy at being back and riding your bicycle, you make me feel free. I feel like I am with you.

  16. The intensity of your description took me to this magnificent place. I got goose bumps reading your words. Thank you for sharing.

  17. Beautifully told tale of a magic moment. I almost felt the wind tossing my hair as I read of your joyful experience.

  18. Tabor - a good place to be. I wasn't young though, I already had two teenage children.

    Bonnie - I know, it was your doing that I wrote this! Thanks for the award.

    elizabethm - beautifully commented.

    steven - go to Friesland, definitely, there you have the sea not just a slow, lazy old river.

    Vagabonde - Again, I was not young, almost middle aged in fact.

    robert - Ah, Schiller; I'd love to exchange a poem now and again with you.

    Pondside - yes indeed, it's a platitude maybe, but nonetheless true, carpe diem with all your might.

    Cloudia - Wonderful, I am very happy about that. Aloha

    ChrisH - Exertion works, every time.

    Celeste Maia - I love that you love Bach. Again, let's live every day as intensely as we can while we can.

    Delwyn - thanks you so much. It's all Bonnie's fault. And Steven's.

    Dave - High praise and no "great post" in sight.

    Wipso - Thanks, I think.

    Herrad - Wish you could join me.

    Lucy - thank you Lucy, Come along in spirit. I can only go in my imagination now.

    lucy - thanks you for your comment, I appreciate it.

    Darlene - It was a magic moment, I'll never forget it again.

  19. This is one of the most beautiful posts ever, Friko. I loved every bit of it. Can't wait to share it with my husband later, as his grandfather was from Germany and your descriptions will be inspiring for him.

  20. Friko, what a delightful blog to read this morning. I've learned some new geography, and I love your photographs, especially the fourth one down, with the trees in the distance.

  21. Hi, I just dropped by via Robert's blog and loved this post. I have had a few moments like this. They have been few, but very powerful. Your pictures are beautiful. Thanks for the little tour.

  22. Hello, I have come to you via Bonnie. We are posted as recipients of the Bella Sinclair Award. So pleased to visit. I most certainly appreciate your "Moment of Transformation." I posted my 'moment' as "In This Hour of Sunset," (Thursday, Aug.18th) in poetic response. Your photographs are indeed a treat. Do come by.
    Rose Marie
    APOGEE Poet

  23. Friko, I don't know what I can add to all the praise above, except to say that as I read your description of the landscape I thought to myself, boy, this is a good one. And it only got better.

  24. An absolutely great blog in every way. Your description of everything just takes you to that place where you are, at that moment in time. The pictures, the poetry, all was just great. Thank you for sharing.


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