I’ve just returned from three days and four nights in the Bavarian and Austrian countryside. I flew to Munich and met up with my father who was there on business. What a joy to spend uninterrupted time with my father, a brilliant and daring thinker and traveler. Too often while I am in the “busy years” of parenting, our conversations get short circuited by the demands of caring for my kids. So this was a great opportunity. Plus, my father knows this part of the world like the back of his hand. He studied there on a Fulbright, speaks German fluently and returns often for business. Here’s my father in a nutshell: when he has a few hours between clients (usually, Information Technology leaders at major corporations), he jumps into a rental car and speeds into the countryside to visit his beloved Rococo and Baroque churches. As my sister writes, Dad is a physicist and a poet.
Physicist-poet and I drove from small town with gorgeous church to small town with gorgeous church in the 20-below-zero deep freeze. My favorite church was the Wieskirche, set all by itself in a large meadow. The story goes that an old wooden statue of Jesus one day cried real tears.Pilgrims came from all around to pay homage to this miracle and eventually this gorgeous church was built on the site.
I studied lots of Art History in college and I remember cringing when we got to Baroque and Rococo. It was way too much. Almost embarrassing with all those naked angels, all that gilt. But my perspective is changing with age. In the interior of the Wieskirche, I’m starting to see what my father sees: a colorful, joyful, fanciful celebration of a benign God.
I didn’t realize until I left Israel how much I needed a break from this intense country (Palestine and Jordan don’t count. Of course I acknowledge that Germany has its own intensity, past and present, but for me, this year, it was as relaxing as a tropical island). I needed a reboot for my mind and heart, a chance to reflect on our year thus far. “Of course!” said a more experienced expat friend, when I told her of the good my trip did for me. “You simply have to get out of Jerusalem every month and Israel every three months.” Of course it’s a privilege to even think this way. But I’m amazed and grateful to see that I’ll have the chance to go abroad again in March, April and June (Istanbul, London and Italy)…many opportunities to get critical and reflective distance on Jerusalem.
In another post, I’ll try to explain why I need that distance. For now, I just want to say how grateful I am for this trip and its explosions of color and whimsy and forgiveness. See? This Jesus even rides on a rainbow.
These Rococo confections were a great counterpoint to the sombre tone of art –and often life — in this part of the world. Especially combined with so many other things I can’t get in Jerusalem. I admired sparkling snow, drank amazing beer, and ate pork and non-kosher cheese at every meal, and I did it all with my dad. What a reinvigorating opportunity.