Woke up thinking of a misty rainy wonderful day I spent getting drenched in Switzerland. That memory has been with me all morning.
Do you ever have those moments? Random, but profound snapshots in time; pivotal emotional echoes of our choices in life? I do. Often.
we were somewhere in the Swiss Alps.
Heaven on earth (as I like to call it) was clean and green, and wonderfully hilly. They get rain in Switzerland, and it shows. The mountain sides are blanketed with tall, proud leafy canopies of dark green lushness. The ground beneath is cleared out too, so you can walk freely in the spring, hike in the summer and ski in the winter.
I learned pretty quickly, nature is important to the swiss. I couldn’t help but notice as our bus drove through the countryside, each and every single home had it’s own lovely garden: a carefully tended to tiny treasured plot of land; rows, short in length, neat and orderly, of delicious looking vegetables and vibrantly colored flowers.
I was so taken in by this society’s common vision of natural beauty.
Found my eyes zeroing in on the soil too: it was dark and rich.
Wanted to kneel down and run my fingers through it; those espresso colored grains of earthy goodness spoke volumes to me about sustenance.
It wasn’t just dirt.
It was a lifeline of nutrients to a single seed… and I thought about the abundance of rain that fell there, prompting the roots to stretch their way down deep and take hold, seeking out nourishment and finding it.
A perfect score of five healthy heads of lettuce were burgeoning above the ground . Sprigs of carrots gave clue to the orange crunchy delights that lie beneath…
The view was so enticing, I wanted to stop and make myself a salad!
I was only nineteen, but I remember thinking there is an order here; a peace, a calming effort on the part of each family to maintain their own perfectly plowed piece of land. These folks grew their own food.
For someone who spent a great deal of her childhood helpless and hungry, the concept left me in awe. The swiss understood how nature and nurture go hand in hand, and they acted upon that.
And it all began with the soil. And the rain. And the desire for roots.
The air among the alps was crisp and fresh too. Filling my lungs was like breathing in a slice of green apple. Refreshing, and I wanted more.
Not certain what the little town was called, but I knew as soon as our bus rolled in around noon, we had surely stumbled upon a Hans Christensen novel come to life. It was darling.
The winding slate colored cobblestone streets were almost whimsical, lined on both sides with wall to wall (what I can only describe as) human sized gingerbread houses, painted in pastels with dark brown trim. I saw stores selling cuckoo clocks, and watches, and hummels, and the red and white cross flag was displayed every fifty feet or so. We were in a tiny swiss village…
at first glance, delightful. At second glance, enchanting.
The pitter pat of gentle rain wasn’t lost on me either. It had given the old cobblestones a slick clean appearance; an attractive timeless ardor only a romantic would recognize, beckoning me.
I wanted to wander those fairy tale streets for the rest of my days.
We checked into our lodging for the night (which looked more like a two story home in the country) and then hurried out back to partake in an escorted hike through the woods. It was beginning to rain a little harder, and some folks thought they’d melt and opted to return to their rooms. I didn’t care. I plucked up the hood to my sweatshirt, tucked my camera away, and stuck with our guide. For me, walking through the dense woods in the rain was a dream come true.
I got drenched. Soaked down to the bone. It was magical.
I worked hard to make that dream a reality. Researched, saved and went. I appreciated every scent, every panoramic view. My ears absorbed the harsh unforgiving sounds of the german tongue, and once in awhile, I was reminded that english is rooted in german.
Wherever I went, the tiniest foreign nuances stood out like bold splashes of paint on what was before, simply a dull white canvas. Soon, I acknowledged to myself, I wasn’t born in a field of rich soil, but as my life became my own, I found a way to begin cultivating and nurturing my own soul, and before long I began to grow roots of my own…
Thought about selling my house recently. Even listed it for awhile. No bites though. No worries either. I’m a firm believer in timing.
Both of my children were relieved when I took it off the market. Too many changes in their lives of late. A feeling of home is all I ever wanted for them, and for us. Need to see that goal through. The laughter of my kids fill it now quite nicely, but once they are dating, studying and working, it will feel like an empty castle. Lonely.
I do love Ladera though…
It was the late 90’s. I had stopped by my friend Debby’s house, to say hello and drop off a package of diapers. She thanked me and said, “Wait! I have something for you too!”
My thoughtful friend placed a recent copy of our local newspaper’s real estate section in my hands. Glancing down, I saw a huge article touting the splendor of a new master planned community called Ladera Ranch.
Intrigued I asked her, “Where is this?” “Behind Mission Viejo. It’s not built yet, but you can get on their interest list. This is so you!”
Debby knows me well. I was looking for a place to raise my kids. We were renting a townhouse, and working out of our garage. Kids were walking and talking, and we needed to find new homes for both our business and for us.
When it came to planning for the future, I was pretty much the one who took the reigns–and I was always pushing us forward.
Had a twenty year plan in my head: We’d own a home. One we could build from the ground up (with our personal touches), and big enough to entertain friends and family, in a brand new master planned community. We’d grow with our surroundings. And my priorities were clear…
I wanted to break the cycle I had grown up in, the cycle my parents had grown up in. I wanted my kids to wake up every day in the same place, and have a back yard to run around in, with grass and sprinklers and bubbles. I wanted a swing set and jungle gym to test themselves on. I wanted a routine of birthday parties and trick or treating, lemonade stands and riding skateboards-all with the same kids from the neighborhood, and from school too. I wanted for my children, all the things their father had growing up, that I never had. Stability.
So some day, they could grow broad wings of confidence, and soar.
The further I got into the article, I knew I had to check this new place out… and the motto of this new wonderland?
ROOTS AND WINGS. How perfect was that?
Came on opening weekend, along with 100,000 (!) other potential home buyers, over a three day holiday weekend. They had to bus us in. It was a mad house. Some builders had a lottery system, others you entered an interest form online months prior, and came opening day to see if you made the cut for the first phase. You prayed for that, because with each new phase demand got intense, and the sales price went up, up, and up.
Our names were called that first day. More craziness. The fervor was palpable. But we wrote that check (with shaky hands) and moved in a year later. Our kids were two, we were self employed, and we were scared to death. But if you don’t risk the fall, you never gain the rise.
Life isn’t perfect. We have faced our challenges like everyone else, and continue too. But living in Ladera has been wonderful.
No regrets. Not even one. Only gratitude. Debby was right!
Finally, I now know what it’s like to own land like the swiss. Make it my own. Put my heart and soul into building something worthwhile. Creating and sustaining a beautiful life.
And so do my kids.
And it all began with a desire for roots. And a longing for wings.