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.