It's 1968 and Poesie Albums are all the rage at our all-girls prep school in Traunstein. Guess they're one of those things that "fad" in and out over generations. Leather-bound albums that were circulated among friends who decorated the pages with little drawings, poetry, maybe a "wish you were here" postcard, and signed and dated in friendship....or more.
I have one that belonged to my great aunt Marie, filled with art nouveau and stylized flowers, wreaths, etc. Sweet memories of friends…
I have one that my grandfather gave to my grandmother when they married. Has all sorts of drawings and little watercolors, along with love poems pledging eternal devotion. Ultimate proof that paper is patient - Papier ist geduldig.
My own is a red leather diary-like album, complete with lock & key. My mom drew a beautful tiny Japanese crane lifting in flight, with the words: Verzeih den anderen alles, Dir selber nichts. (Forgive others everything, yourself nothing.)
My sister drew some lovely blue morning glories cascading over a wall, with the poem ending in the words, "The truest joys they seldom prove who free from quarrels live. 'Tis the most tender part of love eachother to forgive."
These two "posts" are etched in my mind and I think of them often. Not that I've always followed the good counsel, but if I stray from the path, I try to get myself back in line.
Of all the beautiful & sentimenal writings and drawings in all the albums, one comes to mind as frequently as all the others put together. Maybe it's because it's what the writer put into each person's album that she wrote in:
Roughly translated as: “Just when think you can’t go on, from somewhere a light will appear.”
I repeated that phrase more than once going up Mt. Yale last week. A tough slog, seemingly straight up, with some slippery troughs near the summit. Whenever I thought “this is the last step I’m taking in the summit direction,” I’d tell myself, immer wenn Du denkst es geht nicht mehr… and like magic, I’d make it a few more steps.
Made me think of climbing Mt. Belford last year. I was so out of shape; had not trained – had not even walked the dogs – in the weeks leading up to that climb. Halfway up the switchbacks I wondered what in the world I was doing there. Well, the wondering probably started when we hit the trail at 3 a.m. that morning, but it hit me like a ton of bricks halfway up the mountain. Labored breaths, a summit that I did not seem to be closing in on, a chilly wind that had my lips numb, and an exposed trail that had about a 500’ drop on the left side…and this guy walks up behind me…says what a great day it is to be up on the mountain.
“I’m so tired,” I said, “and I have a terrible fear of heights.”
“Step softly,” he said. “Try to step without making a sound. It’ll help. And, if you need to, hold my hand.”
Truer words were never spoken about climbing or hiking. It didn’t really make the climb easier, or the grade less steep. But it made me slow down and focus on making it easier for myself, to quit chafing. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot…all the way to the top.
Life is not always easy. Sometimes we have that tough uphill climb, revel on the summit, and then realize we’ve still got to make it down – using a whole nother set of muscles.
Step softly…and just when you think you can’t go on, wait for that light to appear…