By the end of March I’d started taking Ginger on daily walks up the trails near my mom’s house in Germany. There were two sets of trails, but I didn’t know what they were called so I referred to one as the spring/summer trail and the other, as fall and winter. The fall and winter trails started above the train station on the other side of a river called the Nekar. The other trails were on the far end of a valley we called the golden fields.
We had been in Europe eight months by the end of March, having rented our house out to a family of friends and taken our kids out of school. We spent the first three months planted in Germany, trying to learn the language and home school. After 90 days we had to leave the region though, so we bought a used car and drove to the UK where we traveled another 90 days before returning to the Schengen in late January.
I hadn’t worked in more than a year now and knew it was time to start thinking about work, but didn’t want to. On those walks with Ginger there were parts of the trail where you could see the Black Forest, a good two hours from my mom’s village. I day dreamed and wrote and imagined what life would be like when we got back to the States. I really just wanted to backpack and write poetry, cook.
In April, Dawn’s mom would be coming over for a mother/daughter, three-week trek through Italy. I planned a couple days in Amsterdam myself, a short, two-hour flight from Stuttgart. The day after I got there, a terrorist strike hit Brussels and I watched the Dutch react to it on the news from a coffee shop. In the morning I took the train to Schiphol and felt a palpable unrest in the airport, suspecting every passerby as terrorist. When I got back to Germany mom and I took Ginger for a walk near a village where they were setting up a circus. We’d take the kids, it was almost Easter, and Dawn and her mom would be getting back soon. Our French friends were coming down too, and it would be a house full of kids and dogs with lots of late night cooking and laughter. Just like old times.
There are parts of the trail on Cougar Mountain that remind me of the spring/summer trail in Germany. Sometimes I can transport myself back there for a minute, by imagining what the trees and light looked like. The trail is flat and wide, and they’re planting conifers now because the red alders die after 80 or 90 years. It’s thinning out, letting in more sky. Patches of frost on last year’s leaves, the dog crunching through. No other sounds save a bird call or woodpecker somewhere far off, drumming a dead tree.