Europe N to S: Snowmen in Windows (11/27/16)


Today’s Miles: 17.6

Total Miles: 3,028.6

Near Darmstadt, Germany – November 27, 2016

People crowd the trails between Frankfurt and Darmstadt. Couples out for a stroll. Runners with earphones thumping music. Bikers with neon windbreakers. Dogs and owners playing in fields. Kids stomping on piles of dead leaves. And me with my backpack.

I huff along, following the white Xs leading me south, nodding and saying hello as people slip by. It’s a pretty day, not all blue sky, but pieces of it, and it’s Sunday so there’s time to walk in the woods.

I notice a man marching past me with two pine branches under an arm, a pair of sheers in his hand. An hour later I pass a couple emerging from the forest with a stroller full of evergreen branches and the displaced toddler scooped up in the man’s arms. Decorations. Christmas decorations.

I see them everywhere once I notice. Trees with ornaments in a yard. A Santa Claus clinging to a rooftop. A snowman peering out a window. A string of lights hung across a porch. They are supposed to evoke the holidays, but they only make me feel cold looking at them.

Christmas is December. December is Snow. Snow is cold. 

I walk on, watching the crowds thin with the dimming light until I am alone again in the forest. Quiet comes with darkness as I set up my tent, hidden in a small patch of evergreens.

The air is crisp, my breath comes in clouds. It’s not quite freezing, not yet, but the nights are long and I know I’ll wake to frost.

I think of the two men I talked to at a trail junction. They laughed when I told them I was headed to Spain.

“But it’s that way,” they said, pointing behind me.

I smiled and pointed to the X on a tree ahead.

“I didn’t come to go the straightest route,” I said. “If I wanted that, I’d just take a plane.”

They laugh, but somewhere deep down I know they are right. I need to turn soon, to stop heading south and start moving west, to fill the gap that always existed in my plan. The E1 is like a worn pair of shoes now, stretched to fit, comfortable, and broken in. I could have turned at Hamburg or Frankfurt or any of the other places I saw the Camino’s shells leading west to Spain, but I let them go without me. It’s hard to leave an old friend for a new one.

“I’ll know when it’s time,” I think. “Or the Alps will tell me.”

3 thoughts on “Europe N to S: Snowmen in Windows (11/27/16)

  1. I live vicariously through your words. That is one of the most special spaces on earth to me and the most beautiful time of the year that you are crossing through. So many years past getting to enjoy those trails and the slight morning frost and the almost-sunny days hiking and biking between Frankfurt and Darmstadt. Spending the afternoons at the Weihnachtsmarkt in all the different towns along the way (They are about to start this weekend). You have to try Gluehwein. The spirit of people offering their home made crafts and baked goods….as has been described by so many Poets and Writers who were born in those areas so long ago. You are coming up on Saint Nikolas day this Tuesday. Sending you warm thoughts and continued strength and gobbling up every word and thought you share….Thank You for letting us see a beloved land through your eyes.

  2. Yes, “Or the Alps will tell me” I’m thinking of you and the decision you will have to make soon. May each step be a joy no matter where you are!

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