Category Archives: austria

Day 14 – 40 days of Writing – Colour

A family friend keeps crossing my mind these days.

Her name was Ilza Hahlo. She was born in Vienna in or around 1908. She grew up to be a textile designer and designed costumes and sets for the opera there. She came from, what I assume to be, an affluent family. She had access to resources many did not. As a young girl she and her sisters had some warts on their hands treated by radium, by the infamous Madame Curie herself, I was told.

Of course, it must have been so exciting to be treated by someone who was revolutionizing the world. There was no way of knowing, I am sure, what the after effects of such a procedure might be.

Ilza eventually moved to New York and tried her hand at textile design stateside. She really did make beautiful textiles.

One of Ilza’s textile designs

Somehow she ended up in Arizona, which was our luck. She was a beautiful woman when I met her. We also knew that she had cancer when she came into the family friendship fold. It is assumed that her cancer was the result from the radium exposure she had as a young girl.

I recall one time, as she and my grandmother visited each other one bright Arizona afternoon, hearing Ilza tell my grandmother that as her illness got worse, her colours got brighter as if she was trying to bring all the goodness in light in and shut the darkness and pain out,

This has been running through my mind a lot these past 13 days. There is a darkness that descends and while the pain I currently feel is the result of the last biopsy procedure, there is something else there. It has hints of so many things, despair, anger, fright… to name but a few.

Managing those emotions on a daily basis is very new to me, I have been made aware of just how happy I was/will be. What an unspeakable privilege this happiness is. It weathered through me through a serious chronic illness (valley fever that symptomatically lasted one over year) and the darkness of being on bed rest for a great amount of my pregnancy.

What is so different now. I think it may be that my own mortality is coming to rear it head in front of me. Suddenly beautiful things mean so much more;  the goofy faces my son makes as his face matures from little boy to what it is now, the bright colors sweeping across the sky of a morning sunrise.

Subtle changes in myself too. The other day I ran across a nail polish set my mother had given me with wild and bright colors as I tend to prefer for my pedicures. I pulled the light teal color bottle out from the set and painted just one finger nail with its bright pastel hue.  I can’t stand to have my nails painted, but some how this one in bright green, seems to be less of a bother. I smile when it catches my eye as my hands wave about as I talk during the day.

I also chose to wear a pair of red pumps, though I am not wearing a stitch of red clothing. I am wearing blacks and browns, but on my feet are these bright red shoes. They invoke my grandmother, as if I am asking her to guide me as I walk this new path.

So colour has taken on new meaning, bright patches of it to cross my path, much like a brightly plumed parrot stands out as one walks through the mass of greens that are everywhere under Amazonian jungle canopy.


A slow and beautiful viewing of the world by car, plane and foot

I suppose it was a vacation, my last two weeks traipsing off to Austria to collect my Squink and bring him home and thus bringing back a sense of peace of having him in my close proximity.

It was an adventure, from my departure,  to my week with my in-laws (sans their son), the flight back to the EEUU (that is USA, for Spanish speakers) to a week with my mother in a state located in Americas heartland.

Living without your young child for more than one month is a strangely shocking thing, there is the idea that free time will occur, but the truth is, no such luck… if anything there were more demands for my time often coupled with phrases like “… since your son’ isn’t here…”

But, being busy was good, because the truth is that I missed my Squink sooooo much! And the freedom to trot off with friends who are not kid friendly or a wine with friends kind of thing was just not satisfying enough to make up for not having his insight into my daily life.

He came back speaking beautiful German, and considering that I last spoke the language at about his age, I feel like he has been able to bring back some of those skills for me… though I still have to make some pretty amazingly creative sentences to try to communicate with him… I am a bit pleased that speaking with him has brought back some of it, a good thing considering I have not spoken German in about 35 years.

I am also so very fortunate that I trust my mother-in-law enough to trust her with my son for such an extended period of time, though I try not to feel bad that she misses him so much not that he has returned home.

“In the first place, you can’t see anything from a car.” ~ ed abbey (my personal edit: you can, if you must)

As I was heading back, en route to visit my mother on a long trans-Atlantic flight I thought about my upcoming week with my mother… I glanced at the clouds outside and way below the window of the plane, smiling at Squink’s comment that we were flying way above the cloud line… I had noticed that as a very young girl, mentioning that we were visiting my grandparents in Heaven. My mother realized I had noticed this cloud thing and that I had made some connection… what is interesting, though, is that I actually thought Arizona was Heaven… and considering that I visited in Summer… I must have had a broad understanding that Heaven did not necessarily mean reasonable temperatures… and that the living were capable of visiting. I must have been a curiously interesting child.

Anyway, with inner peace restored by the mere physical presence of Squink back in my life, I smiled at that. Squink is rather religious so I wondered if he would have thought the same thing had we traveled as much as I did as a kid.

And there was something so perfect about going to see my mother on the trek back home, there was a ritual aspect to it on some levels; giving him the gift of time with both of his adoring grandmothers.

As such, I took pictures of the journey that Squink and I made, and will have to get those on here for the gentle tale of our pilgrimage home.

“As I make my slow pilgrimage through the world, a certain sense of beautiful mystery seems to gather and grow.” ~ A. C. Benson

An empty nest – 1/40

Currently, in the United States it is common to send your children away in certain populations… ones that come to mind are the really wealthy and the really disenfranchised (e.g. – parents in prison). I would assume that the wealthy send their kids off to boarding schools and the disenfranchised lost their kids to the courts or to other family members during their incarceration.

Registering in the village with the Mayor
So, I find myself now with an empty nest… I have moved my 9 year old to Europe to live with his grandparents and it is honestly something I struggle with. 
The weeks that led to his departure were emotionally agonizing, though that may be because of other incidentals in my life… but being with him was my priority and I kept to that pretty well (though in all honestly, not much changed because I take him everywhere with me). 
The day he left was emotionally intense, and I was saved by the need to arrange a visit to a mechanic and some official activities like withdrawing him from his school here and fighting off some form of cold.
I spent the day sleeping in his bed (around dropping off and picking up my car), his scent still lingering on his pillow… breaking in to tears that my dear Squink was not around. It was tough, and I still feel a certain pressure in my heart when I think of that first day.
Facetime with me, while Shatzy was still with him
It gets easier, and there is the new freedom to be relished, but the transition has been tough. He is 9, and a very independent 9. I have talked to him, and his words proclaiming he misses me seemed to be intoned with the thought that that is what is expected of him to say. He told me I had interrupted his game and was forced to call back later. I suppose that this is all wonderful and I am most certainly happy that he seems to be settling in so well there but the part of me that aches for him… honestly wishes he missed me a little… and then I have to think how horrid that I wish that kind of despair on him just to feel like I am  missed and loved.
Makes me feel horrid. I try to focus on the fact that his adjusting so well is a testament to my parenting, but I honestly believe that this kid was born with an independent streak… he picked when he was born, just as he has picked most of what has happened to him since.
His biggest lament when he left, one he held guardedly close was that he felt friendless. Though when pushed, he would admit to having some close ones, it was as if he wanted more. It seems that moving from a large class where cliques are present to a small class where cliques are less obvious that his wish has been granted. I hope that this perception stays with him, that he has a lot of friends.
What I know is that I miss him and that I am missing him terribly every day and that I hope he has the most wonderful time on this adventure… and that hopefully, I figure out what my adventure is in this experience.
Dealing with jet-lag when he first arrived

Day 5 – the day trip to Schlaining

We did not get to bed at a decent hour since we returned to the village after the festivities and then managed to sleep late enough that we missed saying our good-byes to Schatz’s brother, fiance and nephew. Perhaps, this was the closest I came to getting a good nights sleep.

Oma and Opa suggested, in the late morning once we were up, that we go on a day-trip to the nearby Schlaining castle… hungry for some “sight seeing” we readily agreed, packed up the Rover and headed off. Of course, nothing we had looked at indicated that the castle would be closed… which it was. Thankfully, castles are often equally as interesting on their outsides. Though there is a peace museum inside, so maybe a visit there next trip is called for.

I have to say that where I live is based on the Roman street system, that is, we are on a grid, and you can usually get some idea about where you are going, or coming from. Not the case where we were, though we managed to only get a little turned around.

Anyway, the three of us headed out and managed to actually find the castle without a problem: we parked and looked down into the moat (with a sad lack of dandelions).

castle moat

Here is the bridge over the moat into the castle.


One thing I noticed is that the castle had two “guardians”, much like the church where Squink was baptized.

100_1539 100_1540.

By this time Schatz was taking pictures of the castle and I was looking for a way to explore with the Squink. Squink and I found a trail and I was on the hunt to find a picture that resembled the pictures of me as a little girl in the castles in Spain. The trail was a fairly easy switchback down into the moat. The whole thing looked like it had some purpose, though I have no idea what that may have been.

Here are Squink and I on the trail…


Here is Squink showing his tendency towards adventure, those steps were lousy… they scared me (as those things would scare a mom).


At the bottom were these series of “bridges” that Squink insisted on crossing, repeatedly.


Here I am explaining pond life to Squink.


Here is a shot of the castle that Schatz took, I like it because it has an odd perspective and looks like it could be a mini castle growiing among some weeds.


Here is a picture like the ones I have of me when I was younger, framed by a doorway or window… sadly I could not get him to look at me for anything.. but I like the picture anyway.


On our way home we stopped at a McDonald because Squink had seen the playground and kept asking to go to see it. Inside we found that Austrians are so serious about their coffee that they have a McCafe inside. It offers up a nice selection of pastries and freshly made coffee (as in to order)… and which are served on real plates, with real flatware… while the McDonalds does it the usual way. I should add that I had the royal (which was a choice I sadly made which was influenced by Pulp Fiction and Schatz had a shrimp burger (which a nephew later told us was heavily laced with antibiotics).