My year away was indeed marked by many other moments of deep appreciation of the beauty of my surrounds. Now, as I try to distill the essence of these moments into words, more images come flooding back to me;
Walking on cold evenings through the cobblestone streets of my home town; clad in a thick down jacket with scarf wrapped high around my face; undrawn curtains and early evening lights providing an intimate glimpse into a story book of all things German; my sense of direction constantly assured by the majestic ruins of a castle perched high on a hill, its once formidable and impregnable walls now conquered by thick and ancient forest;
Sitting cosily in the cabin of a high speed train; softly strumming my guitar; gazing out upon the southern German countryside as small specks upon the horizon grew steadily into snow mantled Alpine giants; the last rays of sun casting a golden glow upon the scenery and belying the icy cold that would bring overnight snows;
A sunny morning in Venice; the perfect marriage of morning sunlight and light breeze creating a sense of wellbeing; strolling happily through a wondrous city devoid of the usual throng of tourists; exploring lesser known corners, each twist and turn bringing yet more architectural and artistic masterpieces; sun glistening on the gentle undulations of the Mediterranean Sea; empty gondolas bobbing happily;
Spring in the Yorkshire Dales; thatched roofs and wildflowers and bumble bees; a nest of kittens in the corner of an old shed; a lick from a dog; hedgerows and crumbling stone walls separating a patchwork quilt of fields and pastures.
These settings evoked a stream of wonderment and joy from within me. There was a romantic beauty that touched me deeply. A beauty intensified by the fact I was alone, outside of the usual context of friends and possessions. At the time these feelings were yet to manifest into any strong beliefs, but certainly, there was a very subtle sense that I could not be blessed with such beauty if it were not for some guiding force behind it all. It was the desire to experience this feeling again that led to the sincere search I would undertake some years later. Seeds were undoubtedly being planted within my psyche.