Tag Archives: #hope

Milky Way

After camping for a few days, we’ve now stopped for a couple days in the beautiful city of Biel. Yesterday was a lovely day of spoiling myself. I took a long, hot bath while listening to Cinemix, had a picnic dinner from Migros (awesome Swiss supermarket!), and went to the pharmacy to get some advice on why the soles of my feet are still hurting like hell…

Turns out, I have an inflammation in my feet. The pharmacist was helpful and seemed super competent. She prescribed some pills and a special ointment. I was a bit relieved to hear that, apparently, I am not especially whimpy, but this happens to rather a lot of hikers whose feet have troubles getting used to carrying the extra weight of the backpack in addition to hiking up and down through the Swiss Jura region. It doesn’t help that there are no cold creeks to hang your feet into in the evening.

Anyhow, the pharmacist recommends that I stop for at least three days to make sure the inflammation is gone, before I continue. I am gutted to be slowed down, but also immensely grateful to finally know why my feet feel like I’ve got half a dozen knives stuck in them.

Dave will continue on with his partner who is due to join us today. I’ll sadly remain behind for now. But I’m planning to continue on the trail by Monday, or Tuesday at the latest. Depends on those two rebellious feet. Fingers crossed!

Being here in Biel with time to think brings back memories. I shop in Migros, in awe at all the delicacies and realize that, while I lived in Switzerland, I probably didn’t appreciate all these little luxuries enough. Even after only one and a half weeks on the trail, my perspective is already shifting. It’s a good thing. Being more aware.

I also think back on the last few years. Life, work, travels. There was so much good. Like the best road trip of my life so far, in 2013, from Zurich to Barcelona and back… all the way along the Spanish coastline, through the South of France, through Monaco, to Cinque Terre in Italy. Then we drove straight north, over the alps, back to Zurich. Driving this entire route for the first time was like a dream. As was experiencing the FINA world championships in Barcelona or deciding spontaneously to go to the opera. Or drinking Sangria in Barcelona’s old part of town. Then we drove on, through landscapes that were ever-changing and magnificent.

I get all nostalgic thinking about life experiences like these and think about how lucky I was to be able to share it all with someone who loved it as much as I did. It’s good to hold on to these memories, to treasure them. Life moves on, forever changing, but certain things remain forever good. Like stars in our firmament, lighting the way for us in harder times.

And, every time we have another profound experience, be it on our own or when we share it with someone who matters to us, we widen our horizon a bit further. We end up adding another star to our own personal Milky Way… making it glow just that tiny bit brighter…

More Sure Than Ever

Whilst on the trail and enjoying each moment as best I can, I still think a lot about what will be. What will the future bring? Will I ever find a job as a stage manager again? So far, I have mostly big show and circus experience. Will circus be reborn? I miss my work backstage. It’s always been so much more than just a job.

As my thoughts run away with me, I tell myself to relax and not dwell on what will be, because we simply don’t know, do we? Best to enjoy the moment and make the most of it, be proactive, use my enforced downtime wisely, and let it lead me to where it leads.

On the trail, I meet so many who inspire me. Like Chriggel the other day, a 14-year old farmer’s boy who goes on hikes even though he has lost his left leg from the knee down and wears a prostheses. He has an awesome sense of humor and told me, “I want one of those new prostheseses they are developing. Those will be sensitive to touch and you can feel when something touches your toe. You can even feel water. Then my dad won’t accidentally run over my foot anymore.” I just looked at him with a big question mark on my face. “Yeah, he backs up the truck to park it, and if I stand too close it happens. And then, I want to walk away but am pinned down, and I need to tell my dad, hey can you back up a little more. You’ve parked on my foot.” We both laughed and he proceeded to tell me, “In a couple years, I want to hike from here all the way to Rotterdam, and then take the ship back on the river Rhine.” Chriggel was full of life and worked hard on the farm, helping his dad. He didn’t seem like he’d ever let anything stop him.

Or then, yesterday, an old man literally ran past us on the trail when it was at its steepest. A little later we caught up with him and got to talking. Fred had hiked over from Lugano in the Italian part of Switzerland which is a couple hundred kilometers away. He was now on his way hiking back home again. He was 72 years old and told us how he used to hike up Mount Everest with his alphorn. And how next year he wants to do the Little Matterhorn and play alphorn at 4000 meters before it is too late. He said, “I am not as fast as I used to be. I used to be able to hike up 2000 meters in 1 hour, now I need 1 1/2.” (At my current pace, I’ll need 4 hours to do that.) After talking with us for 10 minutes, he finished his quick rest and walked away at amazing speed. A minute later, he had already disappeared over the horizon. Oh, and he does his long hikes with only a shopping bag. When I asked him what’s inside he said, “A spare shirt and a bottle of water. It’s all I need.”

Making the impossible possible, stretching the limits, overcoming boundaries… It’s what we do in circus every day, too. And as we do, we bring magic to the world. At the moment, all shows worldwide are closed due to Covid19, but we’ll be back! After meeting Chriggel and Fred, I am more sure than ever.

For now, I’ll try to make a difference for myself by walking and absorbing the many experiences along the way… and I’ll try to make a difference for our circus community by walking for #step4circus. Check out these links if you want to find out more:

Our first trailer on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Msf7rKELYxg

Our website: https://step4circus.com/

Our campaign: https://www.gofundme.com/f/step4circus

Also, on Facebook, search for Step4Circus and you will find our FB group.

Hasenmatt

Another eventful day. We reached our highest point so far: Hasenmatt at 1435 m above sea level. The view was absolutely amazing as you can see. In the distance you can just make out the Murtensee and the Bielersee.

Since we are so high up now, the nights are freezing cold. I am wearing every piece of clothing I brought along with me but my teeth are still chattering. Looking forward to get out of the mountains in a week or so and be able to get a good night’s sleep.

Another problem we keep facing is water. The Swiss Jura region is very different from the Alps where you can find springs everywhere. Here, water disappears immediately in the pourous rock. We stop whenever we see a restaurant, to refill our bottles. But… most restaurants are closed due to Covid19. So, each day, it’s a bit of a gamble. So far, we always got lucky.

This mostly due to the amazingly helpful and friendly Swiss farmers. One lady whose doorbell we rang opened her door and asked “Water?” with a big smile before we could even say “Hello”. Last night, we slept on a meadow right in front of a farm house. Then, early this morning we were greeted with a hearty breakfast. Coffee, home-made bread, farmer’s cheese, milk and butter fresh from the cow. A true breakfast of champions!

Wildflower Meadows

The new shoes did a good job. I didn’t get one single new blister today 🙂 feet were hurting a lot though after 6 hours of intense hiking… but that was to be expected. It was a day of wild flower meadows, buzzing bees, gigantic ant hills, and cows. Hundreds of cows! We are now at Weissenstein, soon crossing over into the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

Stormy Skies

Yesterday evening the sky turned into this, my weather app giving us severe rain storm and lightning warnings. So we legged it to Balsthal in Canton Solothurn where we took shelter in a cozy old hotel. We are staying here today. The sky still looks pretty much the same with occassional showers. Good chance to rest our legs, treat our blisters, and I bought new boots (but that’s a story for another day)

A Beautiful Day

Today was kind of an amazing day, agony in shoulders and feet included. We had to walk mainly uphill and it was a hot summer’s day. Now it’s only 2 of us. Another friend left, but my good old buddy Dave is still along for the ride (probably for 2 more weeks).

I keep being amazed by all the Swiss people we meet on our hike (and am falling in love with Switzerland all over again). This region (the Swiss Jura) has practically no water up high. It’s dry as a desert (almost no open restaurants and all wells seem to be in the valleys), which has surprised us a lot, plus combined with the hot temperatures the lack of water sources poses a bit of a problem. Amazingly, every door we ring opens up to friendly locals who are more than happy to fill up our water bottles.

As for hiking itself, the learning curve is quite steep. I am learning that walking downhill with a heavy backpack is putting serious strain on my leg muscles. Walking with hiking sticks helps a lot!!! I am also learning all kinds of tricks and techniques to make those damn blister plasters stick the entire day.

As you can see with this photo, our efforts today were rewarded by pure Swiss bliss, in every way. Towards the end of our hiking day there was even a guy up in the mountain yodeling and serenading us with his alphorn. Such a beautiful sound echoing from one side of the valley to the other. We finished our day in a restaurant with a marvelous Wurscht Chaes Salat (a sausage-cheese-salad), and a couple of deliciously cold beers. Now, I am in the tent again, soon falling asleep to the sound of cow bells and rummaging foxes in the forest.

Step4Circus

My buddy Dave and I are walking for #step4circus, an initiative to get circus professionals back to work. Check out our FB group https://www.facebook.com/groups/3081966308566508/?epa=SEARCH_BOX our GoFundMe campaign https://www.gofundme.com/f/step4circus our website https://step4circus.com/ and our first trailer on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Msf7rKELYxg Support us! Take a step!

Couches

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I’m having a tough time today.

Last year in October, I lost my home. How I miss my beautiful, quiet little sanctuary with a view of the ocean, warmth, sun-flooded rooms, a gorgeous rooftop beneath the stars, and a charming neighborhood. I miss the sweet smell of egg tarts wafting through open windows in the early morning. I miss spending tropical nights with friends and a glass of wine on the rooftop. I miss buying fresh vegetables underneath old, sun-battered tarps. I miss the old lady who sold groceries from her living room around the corner… She was always deeply asleep on her couch making shopping a bit of a gamble. I miss the Chinese cafés with breakfasts of cup noodles and beaten coffee. And I miss heading out into the picturesque village and the hills beyond.

I had found a rare gem. It was exactly what I had searched for all my life and, each time I moved back into town for work, I was lucky to be able to rent it again (thanks to great friends and agents). Three times lucky as a matter of fact. I loved inhabiting this space on my own at first and, later on, adored sharing it with my partner and soulmate. It was a real home… filled with memories, color, music, creativity, happiness, laughter, sadness… and hope. Safe yet open to the world.

Ever since I had to leave, I’ve lived out of my suitcase and camped on borrowed couches. And no, these are not places to relax in and find some treasured alone time on.

Even the cabin I inhabited on the cruise ship I worked on these past few months was just a temporary space where I allowed my exhausted body to collapse at night. There was no peace or privacy.

I know, I am fortunate to have friends and my dad who let me live on their couches. The longer I stay, the more they sacrifice their own personal space as well. I am aware of that and I am grateful for their help. No matter how great their hospitality though, I long to get away. I long to be able to have a little harbor of my own again. A harbor, which I can sail into, feel relaxed in, and close the door to. I love being a nomad, but I’ve always found a place to retreat to wherever I was for however long; a place I loved coming home to, where I could breathe, ponder the day, and recharge my batteries…

Now, floating on couches, the only place I can rest in is myself. And, as important as this may be, I miss the physical presence of a harbor more than I dare admit to myself.

I am lonely, too.

But loneliness doesn’t bother me quite as much. I am comfortable in my own company just as much as I am with a person whom I love and enjoy spending time and sharing space with.

No, essentially, it’s the homelessness that gets to me most…

With freedom of movement in the world reduced to a fraction of what it was only a few weeks ago, there is no telling when I’ll be able to get back to my treasured expat life, no telling when I’ll be able to get back to working backstage, no telling when I’ll finally have my own bed again… (even if this will be in hotel rooms… any place really where I can be myself, openly and unguardedly).

I am doing my best not to dwell. I am doing my best to overcome, let go, and be grateful for what I have. I spend quality time with my dad, cook for us and, as we are getting into a temporary rhythm between two couches and a kitchen, share breakfasts and dinners with him in his one-bedroom apartment.
I fill my quasi-alone time cuddling with cats, learning, reading, writing, and binge-watching TV series on my dad’s exposed, cream-colored, white leather couch. Countering my lack of privacy with an invisible border I create with my earphones… There is a lot to enjoy and it’s a pretty couch.

Yet the homelessness remains…

Isolation with Dad, Cat, and the Fish

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It’s the end of March 2020.
A slightly ruffled, disoriented “hello” from myself and Bocelli, my dad’s ever-meowing cat who isn’t quite sure how he feels about me invading their space…

How are you all?

I haven’t written much in this blog since last December…
As stage and production manager on one of the largest cruise ships in the Caribbean, life as I knew it was put on hold. I worked non-stop, 7 days a week, 15 hours per day. I would get up early in the morning when, without fail, my phone would begin ringing… Then, after each relentless day, I would go to bed to the sound of said phone still ringing… Until I would pass out, exhausted, dreaming a fitful sleep, still working and solving backstage emergencies in my dreams. Relentless is the best word I can come up with to describe my experience managing a large, high-risk venue on an even larger ship. Other words that come to mind are growth and stamina.  And, thankfully, persevering, managing, learning, staying true to myself, and staying kind.

The absorption in our daily work onboard was complete. My colleagues and I heard about what went on in the world through word-of-mouth only. Or, sometimes, we managed to read about it when our anemic internet had one of its rare little bursts of energy and actually loaded an article or a post for us. Although we came back to sunny Florida once a week every Sunday since beginning of this year, Earth with all its viruses seemed a million miles away.

Mid-March, our ship headed for Miami, debarking the last of our passengers to cease operations in accordance with the entire fleet. Our stately vessel was then bound to sail into isolation on the open seas – with almost all crew remaining onboard.

I decided to leave. Maybe, I had seen too many disaster movies. But my instincts screamed at me to keep moving… that being locked down on a ship at close quarters with thousands of other people was far more dangerous than to grab my bag and make my way across borders and continents back to my father’s home.

I had to go. To be there for my dad, in case he needed me. And to ride this pandemic out somewhere… not alone… but together with someone for whom I profoundly matter – and who matters to me.

My trip home, from the Southern US to the South of Germany, began on 15th of March. It became a 3-day odyssey and quite the challenge…
Flights were cancelled left and right. Borders were closing all around me, faster than I could blink. My window of opportunity to make it back safely shrank before my eyes.

Most of my cruise ship colleagues decided to stay onboard. They sailed towards the Bahamas. To drop anchor close by. They sanitized, cleaned, and partied together. There was no physical distancing. They assumed to be safe. They waited for the world beyond the blue horizon to find its way back to some kind of new normalcy. Which is when they planned to dock in Miami yet again to reenter a land-based existence…

Meanwhile, I squeezed through all rapidly closing gates and borders. Yet on the way, I shared close quarters with thousands of people on airplanes and in the airports of New York, London, and Zurich. Now, with daily rising numbers of infected people worldwide, I would not dare to tackle this three-day journey anymore. Far too much risk of infection. At this point in time, it has simply become too great a hazard to travel so far.

It seems, I left just in time.

Even so, I was terrified upon my arrival in Germany. My dad’s loving hug, which usually feels so good, made me quiver inside. Had I endangered him by trying to do the right thing? After the initial closeness, I tried to distance myself physically from him as best as possible in his small apartment…
I have now been at his place for 15 days. I’ve counted the minutes, the hours. And, I was glad, yesterday, to finally get to that magical 14-day-incubation-time mark with both of us – as of yet – still healthy.

But there is the ship. My co-workers and friends. Who worked and partied with vigor during the past two weeks out at sea. And for whom safety was an illusion.

Three days ago, I heard 14 people onboard our floating palace were infected with Covid-19. Yesterday, the count had already risen to 51 people. I am terrified and worried for my colleagues and hope with all my heart that this is it… not, how I fear, just the tip of the iceberg. 1’600 crew are still onboard. I can’t stop thinking about them. Trapped on the ship. I hope they will beat the virus. I hope their immune systems haven’t been compromised too much by months of working hard with barely a pause.

Here I am now, being stared at by Bocelli, my dad’s tone-deaf-opera-singer cat. I am grateful for my little harbor of momentary safety, at the border between Germany and Switzerland, amidst green fields and forests. I am, however, well aware that, just as on the ship, safety in the face of an – as of yet – undefeated, invisible enemy is an illusion.

For now, in self-isolation like most other human beings on our planet, I have way too much time to think on my hands. I endeavor to use this gift of time wisely. I want to rest, but also be creative. I want to write. I will write. Our world has shrunk so much so fast. Yet, through our creativity, with the aid of the Internet, there still are no boundaries. We can still let our minds soar. Writers like me can send their words out to ride fiber currents…

I am thinking of my friends and family around the world. More than ever before, I know there is nothing more important than the human connections we build throughout our lifetimes. I can’t wait to be able to travel again to do what I love most: hug and squeeze the people I care about, touch base with them every so often, share experiences, ideas, and thoughts.

No matter what’s out there, and no matter what happens to each of us in the months to come… as always, friendship, love, kindness, creativity, and hope will help us overcome it all… even when we have an annoyed, territorial cat glaring at us.

More Fragile Than We Ever Imagined

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So often in life things turn out far different from how we imagine them to be. Often, what we count on and believe in with all our heart turns out to be far more fragile and unsure than we ever imagined. Sometimes, it only takes a few days or weeks of intense pressure, or a break in familiar routine, for the walls of the temple of our hopes to crack and crumble, debris raining down all around us… leaving us to wonder why the beautiful structure we had built had looked so formidable and strong… yet turned out to have walls as thin and treacherous as an early-winter layer of ice on the pond of our desires. Reality always comes with a twist. Plans we make go up in a puff of dust, because life – more often than not – has other plans. Maybe our path is supposed to be far more challenging. For us to grow and learn from past mistakes we were only vaguely aware we were making. Maybe reality checks need to hit us with the force of a raging tsunami, tearing us up and away by the roots, so we can reawaken to what’s truly important, move forward, and build a better foundation, forever being more aware and appreciative of what we have been blessed with.