The map is not the territory
This year’s card is a little gouache of the Maloja Pass in winter, from above. I remember my first trip there in 1981 when we travelled from Lugano per ‘Post-Auto’, the trusty Swiss postal service’s own bus, staying overnight in Juf in Val Avers, the highest year-round inhabited village in Europe. Early in the morning the next day, before sunrise, we crossed the Septimer Pass and sighted a group of ibexes on the horizon. They were so close, silhouetted against the cliff-face above us like cardboard cut-out toys, we could hear their hooves echo against the stone rock in the clear morning air. I was completely in awe! Then the green serpentinite stone of the Septimer, the teal-colored mountain lake.
Dorothea, our elderly friend happened to also be a mountain guide and as we had spent most of that summer, climbing in the nearby mountains around Val Colla, she wanted us to do this tour together, as the crowning finale to my 3-month stay in Bella Ticino.
After the descent to Maloja, we hitchhiked down the Maloja Pass. Pretty memorable for me – it was an Italian driver! I might add that the valley of Bergell leads down to Chiavenna and the Italian border and the young man knew those roads like the back of his hand.We then took the Post Auto up to Soglio to stay at the legendary Palazzo Von Salis. I was a student at the time and didn’t have any spare money to buy postcards, plus my instamatic camera had no more film. I had to save the few pounds I had left for the journey home via Paris, so I kept those memories in a very special place in my heart. I can still see the smoke rising from the fires lit down amongst the chestnut woods in the evening air, the Palazzo’s surprising secret garden with its gigantic redwoods and lush pathways, where once Rilke strolled…
A year later we started tending a garden in Bever. This meant frequent trips up to the Engadin which deepened my love for those Segantini skies, that crystal air…
This year, we returned to the Engadin and stayed for a few days at the Waldhaus in Sils Maria. From the window, I could see the top of the pass and in my mind’s eye, I could also see the road through the Bergell Valley to Soglio. When I came across a picture of the Maloja Pass, taken from above, in a book we were given by the owners of the hotel, I found myself saying, ‘So that’s what it really looks like!’ Seen from above, not as scary as it seemed to me then. It made me think a bit of the road we all seem to be on at the moment; long, winding. It feels impossible for us to see what’s around the next bend or plan ahead.
So this Christmas, I wish us all some perspective and a bird’s-eye view of the terrain below our feet. Perhaps that’s one way to define hope, faith and trust.
My wish for you…
“Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells”
Seamus Heaney from The Cure of Troy