It is late at night on a cool summer evening. I am lying in my bed with an icepack on my shoulder from a recent surgery. I have the window wide open. The evening breeze is softly billowing through the white lace curtain. As I lay here, outside I hear the breeze playing in the treetops. I also hear the sound of the wind chime on my back patio. I am immediately transported to another time and another place, when I remember a similar sound. The wind chimes sound exactly like the sound of clanging cowbells hanging from the necks of the dairy cows grazing peacefully in the meadows on the slopes of the Alps.
Flashback to 2008. I am traveling in Germany and Austria with my mother, my daughter, and my niece. We are in Reutte (Austria) staying at the Landgasthof Lilie. We had originally planned to do a bit of sightseeing that day, but my mom awoke with a bad cold and needed to spend the day in bed. That left Rachel, Jessica, and I to adapt our day without her.
Just down the road was the tram lift to carry people to the mountaintop for a day of Alpine hiking. While we are not hard-core hikers and were not equipped for a long jaunt, we decided to ride the tram up the mountain to see the scenery. Gathering our belongings as well as my limited German language abilities, we tucked Mom into bed, kissed her goodbye and headed out. We quickly found the ticket station and managed to purchase our tickets…we were on our way.
Immediately out of the station the tram began to climb up the side of the mountain. We were able to look out the windows and see hiking trails winding their way through thick, dark forests. Soon the tram came to a stop at the top. We found a hiking map and began to look and see if there was a short easy stroll that we could take. The map noted an interesting and intriguing option. A barefoot hiking trail looked to be a great adventure?
We reached the beginning of the trails after a short easy five minute walk. At the first station the sign directed us to take off our shoes. The trail then led us through a series of sensual and invigorating textures to delight and tantalize our feet. Each new section of the trail was a new feeling which added and built upon the previous section.
According to this travel article (http://www.tyrol.com/a-alpine-barefoot-hiking-path-reutte ) the trails were designed to “give your feet an invigorating massage and also enjoy a Kneipp treatment with refreshing mountain spring water.” Kneipp was a priest who believed in the healing powers of walking the earth with your bare feet. Round river pebbles, soft wet mud, velvety moss, tiny pointy rocks and Alpine streams so cold it took your breath away….and in the air was the smell of wild meadow flowers and the sound of the cow bells. Truly amazing!
The trail ended in the barnyard of an Alpine dairy (hence the dairy cows). Here we sat down on a log bench, put back on our shoes, and gazed out over the meadows, mountains, and valleys. The farmer asked us if we would like a cup of hot chocolate before we began our journey back down the mountain. It came to us in a rustic stoneware mug, filled with rich, creamy, hot, chocolaty goodness. As we sipped, we noticed a small chairlift system just outside the farm. We watched the farmer take a 5 gallon milk can from the milking barn, wrap it in a blanket… and off it went, carrying the morning milk and cream to the village below. I felt like standing on the mountain and singing “How Great Thou Art” at the top of my lungs…like Maria, in the Sound of Music!
As I lay in my bed reflecting back on that very special day I am so thankful for so many blessings.
• The special relationship I have with my daughter, my niece, and my mom and the memories we made on this trip.
• The beauty of the world around us and the ability to enjoy and experience it.
• The awesomeness of God’s grace and His creation.
May I never take these blessings (and many more) for granted. Do you have a special moment in your life that can be brought back by a distinctive sound or a specific touch or feeling? Do you make time to experience the special moments on the mountaintop? I will never again have that exact time, place, and experience again, but I can relive it every time I hear the wind chimes and walk with my bare feet on the grass. Take off your shoes…throw off the constraints of your busy life and make some special memories.