A big bunch of people, all seven of us straggling along the streets, we stand out in the small town like a green&red-checkered cow. There are a lot of turning heads…and, born in Bad Ragaz, I would have probably been one of them. I relish the unexpected.
It feels like an adventure, a visceral rush of blood, the possibility of monsters in the mountains. The question is: why did we not bring along our shields&swords?
Coop is like the first leg of the hero’s journey outward into the unknown: one stocks up on food & drink, not knowing what the alpine wilderness will bring forth. But grocery shopping is not something to be done in packs. As you sift through the trolley, the same items turn up twice, party members get lost in far-away aisles and differences in taste have to find a common ground. It’s the energy level that makes the exercise fun.
Perhaps the only difference between a postauto and a roller coaster is that the former might, at any moment, plunge down hundreds of yards into a ravine. To one’s crushed death. The feelings in the gut are more or less identical.
Finally Valens! The seclusion, the bracing breeze of fresh air, the impossible, drowning flood of childhood nostalgia. How everything is always smaller than in the caverns of memory.
What I miss: the chirp of the cicadas in july.
Settling into a new place, even if it is only for a weekend, arranging one’s stuff, filling up the fridge, etc. is immensely pleasurable. A slow, deliberate doing of things, the establishment of an order. Perhaps we satisfy an old territorial/nomadic instinct, the sweet double knowledge that we have to stay some place and that we cannot stay there forever. That home is where the heart is.
The fights that we do have are small & harmless, respecting everybody’s desire for “quality time”. They lack the sharp edge they can have when “@ [capital h] Home”. And the time’s quality is, well, timeless.
Have I entirely licked having once here wasted my heart?
In the evening we cook Thai. Everybody contributes: Dad, Sarah, Ray, Nomsa, Mum, Sipho, myself. I move about the kitchen, wishing things could be like this forever.
There are times, like a nice evening, in the mountains, when one can look up at the grey and white peaks serrating the purple sky and feel something inside go out to everything else, there beyond the eyes. And all that coming into one. The goodness of that feeling is just, once in a long while, becoming an undivided part of the whole. Everything is everything.
On our way down into the gorge we come by a playground cable car. It’s basically asking us if there’s still a child there in us, somewhere. Nomsa answers with a running start, Remo is holding the little seat for her, she sails through the air then down the “runway”. On the way back she is assaulted by a bystanding bush and the child in her or the child she has once again become screams for joy. It’s bitter-sweet this wish, of loosing one’s years and returning to the days of living one day at a time.
That’s one of the reasons people keep diaries, to remember the exact chronological order of things. But maybe it’s not that terribly important after all.
The valley is verdant beauty. Even the damn cannot block this.
It is quite reasonable to assume that, on our way down into the ravine, gorge, couloir actually, one of our number mentioned that the Swiss used to be called “Schluchtenscheisser”, freely translated as “Those who crap into the couloir”. By the Germans. Though of course none of us did, to the best of my knowledge, take such a crap.
There are bits and pieces of knowledge that the brain only unlocks when you’re in a party of three, four, five or more.
The way down to the Bad Ragaz, the actual ancient Building where Paracelsus [he of unrivalled medieval medical fame] held forth and is im/memorialized by hundreds of plaques, is something I can recollect in an un-romanticized light: we were assaulted at every turn by stinger-bearing bugs. I recall two of us getting stung by the insectoid adversaries. One of the young French ladies that passed us by also yelped when one of the fuckers bit her. Plus it was damn-steep. Something to consider at 30plus and, a forteriori, for my dad, whose knees became jellified in the course of the descent.
The estate surrounding the Tamina Therme and the adjacent 5-star hotel is best called an “artscape”. There is a giant mosquito sucking dry the hotel and it must be either bloated with the blood of elderly aristocrats or serious dineros. Then there’s a monolithic, totally reflective spire piercing actually not just the lawn and the sky but the whole exhibition with its alien singularity. The giant polychromatic crystals atop rusted shafts poking from the ground. Escaped animals from a phantasmagorical bestiary, sprinkled down along the village’s main, tamed Tamina. And a nigh endless parade of sculptures that is better seen than written. Thus Bad RagARTz, one of the sculpturally densest places on the planet.
Schluchtenscheisser? Is that our festering resentiment against our northerly neighbors?
If the place also styles itself a spavillage, then the Tamina Therma are its high-arched cathedral. The ivory temples of Heidiland [yes, that exact Heidi] welcome the worshipper of wholesome water with large Palladian windows. The pools are outfitted with jets of all conceivable configurations that convince one of H2O’s cathartic forces. One floats, one enjoys, one is at one. And once one steps out of the soothing aqua vitae the new convert is wrapped into the warm, splendidly white robes of the Tamina Therme novice. An altogether purifying experience.
Remembering is also, always, a fight to the death against death.