I recall Munchweiler. Born there, I was fortunate to see it again when eleven, but have not been back. They have torn down the flat I lived in as a child as well as the hospital where I was born and there is a large scar on the land. The town is still dominated by the Katholishe Pfarrkirken St. Georg and the hills that surround it on all sides.
As a child, my father and I would spend hours walking on the trails that ran through the Pfalzerwald. One day we hiked most of the morning to reach Grafenstein castle, now a ruin. I wrote somewhere that this was the first time I understood my father, who with his aloofness and silence never impressed me as a man that ever wished to be known and whose life was spent in quit duty and familial obligation. Outside of hiking the Rockies, that walk is the most memorable of my life.
I have often said I was a product of the mountains. Though the Palatinate are mere foothills compared to the mountains of the American West, it is their presence that instilled in me an appreciation for the high places reborn this last summer.
I believe the Pfalz also connected me to a Germanic nature, an irony in that I was suppose to be born in July at a French hospital. Still there existed the very real possibility of having never been born at all. My mother who miscarried and who in the eyes of physicians should never again become pregnant…..well I have said somewhere that her womanhood was born in the mountains of the Carolinas, but perhaps it was born when she was 19 in the German highland.
I have loved the high places. I have loved the people who have walked with me in those places. Their numbers are very few. I have filled my life with the inconsequential. And what is important in this life? It’s not the things of worry, but the presence of the other and the broken lines on the highway that mark the Nebraska night and Colorado day. It is holding hands beneath the great stone edifices and it is standing next to someone strong and protective in the German ruin.
What is important in this life? History would say that it is whatever forgotten story that brought Grafenstein to ruin. It will care nothing about a man and his son. But we should know better. The people who count know already the things that are important.
It is hard to believe we are so loved. It is hard to believe the gifts we’ve been given. To walk with another, to lay next to another, to see the Plains, to hike the wooded trails.
“We must laugh and we must sing. We are blest by everything. Everything we look upon is blest.” William Butler Yeats
My life is inhabited by beauty. If everything ends today, that is the story that will matter.
Image: Grafenstein Castle located between Munchweiler and Merzalben