Autumn Festivals in the Black Forest – Sasbachwalden

Harvest festivals mark the transition from summer into autumn by showcasing the bounties of the region. When I visited the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) in Southwestern Germany last October – the area where I was born and lived for the first 20 years of my life – I had to choose between an over-abundance of events.

My favorite festival was the Erntedank- und Weinfest (Wine and Harvest Thanksgiving Festival) in Sasbachwalden, one of the most beautiful villages in the Black Forest. The main event was a parade consisting of music bands, floats, harvest and crafts demos with an emphasis on traditional ways.

Huge haybale characters and a traditional hay wagon marked the beginning of the parade route.

Hundreds of people were gathering along the side of the road leading into the village

I marveled at all the dirndls and lederhosen outfits many of the spectators wore with a sense of style and pride

Floats were elaborately decorated with flowers and often displayed specialties of the region (bread, ham, wine, beer)

A very popular theme, of course, was grapes, grape harvest, and the fine wines of the region. This man carries a wooden container on his back which was traditionally used for harvesting grapes. The second man pretends to fill a ceramic pitcher, traditionally used for serving the fizzy new wine.

Monasteries were famous for their wines and other spirited beverages as well as abundant vegetable and flower gardens.

And here is Bacchus himself, the Roman god of agriculture, wine and fertility. His oversized glass was filled with real wine and his reddened face betrayed his liberal indulgence along the parade route.

Wine and schnapps were freely passed around (no cheap candies here) to anyone who asked:

Many Germans join music bands (Musikverein) as children which often becomes a lifelong hobby and social connection. Each band wears distinctive clothing reflecting the traditional costumes of their town or region.

All ages participated and enjoyed being part of the parade.

There was a joyous spirit of celebration, fellowship with relatives and townspeople, and a sense of proud contentment.

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Sunflower Fields Forever

Saturday was my get-away day. I didn’t mind getting up at sunrise to drive over the mountains so I would arrive at Hope Field before the crowds hit and the sunlight became too harsh. Hope Field is a vast field planted with sunflowers, just outside the city of Harrisonburg, Virginia. It was open to the public for the weekend, donations accepted as a fundraiser for a local hospital’s fund for uninsured patients.

Already, people were spreading out into the field searching for their very own perfect bundle of sunflowers.

Me – I was happy to meander through the undulating sunflower fields to the far end hunting for perfect pictures. I decided early on that I would not pick any flowers since my arms were full with camera and camera bag and I had forgotten to bring a bucket for picked flowers. This way, I could concentrate on both the beauty of the flowers and the humans who came to admire them. By the time I left, there must have been a few hundred people in the field – young and old, men and women, entire families, college friends, people from all walks of life.

Here, at the corner of Sunflower Avenue and Sun Salutation Boulevard, nature and humans intersect – for purpose and pleasure. Sunflowers provide so much: prolific pollen to honey bees and other insects, seeds, seed oil, winter fodder for animals (silage), biofuel, sunny bouquets, and sheer beauty.

Children were fun to watch – almost swallowed up by the tall sunflowers, some of them played hide-and-seek, others stroked leaves or petals and eagerly helped their parents to pick out their very own flowers.

And the bouquets people gathered! A bounty of gold and green, summer colors harvested as a large, heavy bundle.

And here are the stars of Hope Field in their full glory:

For the second time this week, I had witnessed how nature brought people together sharing awe and admiration: the solar eclipse and this immense field of sunflowers. I left with a big smile and a sense of peacefulness in my heart.

The DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Corner.

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Summer Porch Textures

From my summer porch, I observe much of what’s going on around me without necessarily being seen. Since we can’t see our human neighbors through the trees, animals and plants become the subjects of my voyeuristic tendencies. When I saw this little hummingbird resting on the porch railing, I had time to go inside and fetch my camera. From its pudgy body shape and its slow movements, it appeared to be an adolescent that had recently left its nest to learn the ways of the world. Adults have much sleeker bodies and move so fast that it is difficult to get decent pictures.

This little fellow seemed to have no fear and allowed me to come quite close. Eventually, it flew from the flaky railing to a lemon-colored day lily and nestled against its smooth, cool petals.

I love the contrast between the soft and somewhat tussled feathers and the sleek flower petals. I can feel those textures on my fingertips.

When I saw one of our cats coming close to investigate, I waved my arms at the birdie and it flew across the yard to feed on phlox flowers there.

Even though the colors look different from the first few pictures, you can recognize the fellow from the strange little white feathers sticking up from its back. Here it is looking much more like its adult version.

It finally came to rest on the spiky flower head of echinacea. To me it feels more like sitting on a pin cushion! From there, the bird chirped as if calling out to its parent: “Feed me, feed me – I am tired of doing it all on my own. This is not as much fun as I thought it would be.” While a few adult hummers flew by, none of them stopped to respond to the little one. What a vulnerable time for this youngster who doesn’t know yet that cats are not your friends.

Eventually, it disappeared and has not returned – unless it metamorphosed into an adult so quickly that I can no longer differentiate it from the others that land on our hummingbird feeder. The picture below was taken when one of them hovered near the feeder and cast its shadows against the soffit board.

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Textures.

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The Preciousness of Friendship

I saw my best friend from childhood, S., last year. It did not matter that we are now middle-aged and that we have missed decades of each other’s lives. We talked for hours about the years that shaped us and things we might have sensed as teenagers but never discussed then – family secrets, private struggles. What a gift to talk about the past, with someone who knew me in a way that no one I met afterwards could ever know me. Long forgotten memories surfaced as we visited our old school together and roamed the streets we knew so well. We gave each other insights that made us more complete, pieces of understanding that connect our adult personality and ways of being with the distant life of childhood and adolescence. I miss her across the Atlantic Ocean.

Each friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born. Anais Nin

We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over. – Ray Bradbury

I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better. – Plutarch

It seems more difficult to establish close friendships as we age (or is that just my experience?). Opportunities to get to know each other deeply and to bond through long conversations and unhurried activities are rare in a fast-paced culture. And so I feel very blessed to have found another friend in recent years. Unlike S. who comes from the same country and culture as I do, my new friend A. comes from a very different culture, with a different language and religion, even a different socioeconomic background.

During these dangerous times of turning those who are different from ourselves into the “other” (and, too often, into the “enemy”), our cross-cultural friendship is particularly precious to me. We do share a lot of things in common: love for nature, literature and writing, life-long learning, standing up for our values, compassion for those less fortunate, pride in being an accomplished professional in our respective fields, maneuvering through American culture as a member of a multi-racial, multi-cultural family.
And – we love taking our cameras for a walk!

We have gotten up at an ungodly hour, wandering along the beach, for the thrill of capturing the sunrise…

and pelicans, appearing out of nowhere, ghost-like, flying inches above the water

I am aware that we get strange looks at times when we walk around together. But, I am hoping, that our friendship will leave its subtle ripples in re-weaving a kinder and more inclusive web of relationships all across this country, all across the world.

To peace and great friendships!

PS.  I feel honored that Cheri Lucas Rowlands included an excerpt from this post on the WordPress Discover site:

The DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Friend.

Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Precious.

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Our Wild Food Heritage

By the time spring comes around to our mountain world, colorful birds provide the sound backdrop each morning and wildflowers and their garden-tame cousins bloom in profusion and spread heady perfumes.

The birds and the flowers would be plenty to delight my winter-weary soul with omnipresent beauty. But to sweeten the deal, the proliferation of wild food awakens my forager self. Most of us no longer know about, or have access to, wild foods even though they represent our food heritage and have nourished and healed our ancestors long before agriculture was invented.

This spring, I have become fascinated with edible wildflowers. I made jewel-colored jellies from purple violets, red bud blooms, and dandelion flowers (a topic for a future post).

Currently, the Black Locust trees (Robinia Pseudoacacia) are in full bloom.

They are blooming with such abandon as if this was the last time they will ever produce flowers. The trees are lit up by the creamy white blossoms that catch the sunlight and radiate more light back into the world. All kinds of insects are drawn to the pollen in these sweet-scented blooms. The old timers say that honey from locust blossoms is particularly sweet and fragrant.

I went out with a rake to hold down some low-hanging branches so I could harvest the blossom clusters. After rinsing them really well (there are always insects attached to them), I made a light-colored fragrant tea with some of the blossoms, sweetened with honey. What I didn’t drink as a tea, I put in the refrigerator to use later as a cool, refreshing lemonade.

In the past, I’ve added locust blossoms to pancakes but this time I wanted to experiment with something different: I added two handfuls of the blossoms to a rhubarb cake recipe. With freshly picked rhubarb from the garden, the cake came out beautifully light and moist. It was a true culinary delight. The fact that some of its ingredients came from the wild and my own garden was the icing on the cake.

The cake disappeared so fast that I didn’t even get a chance to take a picture of it!

More info on black locust by a fellow blogger.

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Heritage

Ailsa’s Travel Theme:  Cream

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