Valentine’s day…humbug

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings,
what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

(detail of mosaic of the 3rd century martyr, St Valentine)

I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day—that being the made up “holiday” and not that of the real person.
And yes, St Valentine was a real person.

I never had a traumatic incident regarding the day for all things amóre–
in fact, my grandmother use to love telling the story of how I once received roses
from 5 different suitors on a Valentine’s day long, long ago.

My cousins still enjoy reminding me of that story as my husband casts a sideways glance my way…
he wasn’t one of the suitors…

I just have never cared for the exploitation of the life of a person who was not about all things
marketing but rather more about the sacrifice of self for his faith and his fellow man.

It’s that whole notion of the ultimate gift of self…
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

I had labored all last evening on a post about our Founding Fathers.
I spent most of the evening writing it.
I saved it.
Oddly it wasn’t there this morning…just the initial post I had started several days ago…
None of the additions or the final completed edited post…
the completed edition that was to be posted this morning.

I went in via my phone this morning to publish the post and realized, after posting it,
that what I posted was not the completed post I had thought I’d finished late last night–
a post that was good to go, but rather just the initial incomplete writing.

Odd and frustrating to be sure!

What happened you ask?
I don’t know…
But my witness, my husband, was equally baffled as we had chatted a bit about what I had
found regarding the “faith of our fathers”—which was the gist of the post.

I did, however, have a nagging thought all evening that, whereas I wanted to write about the faith of
President Washington and his fellow founders, perhaps I should be writing about St Valentine.

So be it by Divine Providence or some sort of nefarious act—the President will have to wait
until I can rework him and try to remember what I wrote…
and no, it’s oddly not in any of the history on the computer or WP.

So here is my Valentine day offering—what perhaps should have been my initial offering
on this day of Love.
A reminder that our love for one another is to be the greatest gift we can give one another…
because the ultimate example was given to us on Calvary.

According to Church lore,
Saint Valentine lived in Rome in the third century and was a priest who helped the martyrs
during the persecution of Emperor Claudius II the Goth.
The great virtue and catechetical activities of the Saint had become known.
For this he was arrested and brought before the imperial court.

“Why, Valentine, do you want to be a friend of our enemies and reject our friendship?”
asked the Emperor.

The Saint replied: “My lord, if you knew the gift of God,
you would be happy together with your empire and would reject the worship of idols and
worship the true God and His Son Jesus Christ.”

One of the judges stopped the Saint and asked him what he thought about Jupiter and Mercury,
and Valentine boldly replied:
“They are miserable, and spent their lives in corruption and crime!”

The judge furiously shouted: “He blasphemes against the gods and against the empire!”

The Emperor, however, continued his questions with curiosity,
and found a welcome opportunity to finally learn what was the faith of Christians.
Valentine then found the courage to urge him to repent for the blood of the Christians that was shed.
“Believe in Jesus Christ, be baptized and you will be saved,
and from this time forward the glory of your empire will be ensured as well as the triumph of your armory.”

Claudius became convinced, and said to those who were present:
“What a beautiful teaching this man preaches.”

But the Mayor of Rome, dissatisfied, began to shout:
“See how this Christian misled our Prince.”

Then Claudius brought the Saint to another judge.
He was called Asterios, and he had a little girl who was blind for two years.
Listening about Jesus Christ, that He is the Light of the World, he asked Valentine
if he could give that light to his child. St. Valentine put his hand on her eyes and prayed:
“Lord Jesus Christ, true Light, illuminate this blind child.”
Oh the great miracle! The child could see!
So the judge with all his family confessed Christ.
Having fasted for three days, he destroyed the idols that were in the house and
finally received Holy Baptism.

When the Emperor heard about all these events,
he initially thought not to punish them,
thinking that in the eyes of the citizens he will look weak,
which forced him to betray his sense of justice.
Therefore St. Valentine along with other Christians, after they were tortured,
were beheaded on 14 February in the year 268 (or 269).

Apart from the historical data we have for Valentine’s life,
there is accompanied various legends,
such as from those who say he is the patron saint of lovers.

The Saint had a reputation as a peacemaker, and one day while cultivating some roses
from his garden,
he heard a couple quarrel very vigorously.
This shocked the Saint, who then cut a rose and approached the couple asking them to hear him.
Even though they were dispirited, they obeyed the Saint and afterwards were offered
a rose that blessed them.
Immediately the love returned between them, and later they returned and asked the Saint
to bless their marriage.
Another tradition says that one of the charges against Valentine was that he did not adhere
to the command of the emperor which stated that men who had not fulfilled their military
obligations were not allowed to marry;
meanwhile the Saint had blessed the marriage of young Christian soldiers with their beloveds.

Besides all this, the likely choice of him as the “saint of lovers” is to be associated with
the pagan festival of Lupercalia, a fertility festival, celebrated by the Romans on February 15.
Others connect the celebration of this feast with the mating season of birds during this period.
Certainly, however, the Saint has nothing to do with the commercialism (marketing) of flowers,
gifts and secular centers which trivialize Eros, this great gift of God.

St Peter’s Orthodox Church and Mystagogy Resource Center

an interesting tale…

(morning surf, Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

The following tale is taken from a writing by Madeleine L’Engle
Waiting for Judas

“There is an old legend that after his death Judas found himself at the bottom
of a deep and slimy pit.
For thousands of years he wept his repentance,
and when the tears were finally spent he looked up and saw, way, way up,
a tiny glimmer of light.
After he had contemplated it for another thousand years or so,
he began to try to climb up towards it.
The walls of the pit were dank and slimy, and he kept slipping backdown.
Finally, after great effort, he reached the top, and then he slipped
and fell all the way back down.
It took him many years to recover,
all the time weeping bitter tears of grief and repentance,
and then he started to climb up again.
After many more falls and efforts and failures he reached the top and
dragged himself into an upper room with twelve people seated around a table.
“We’ve been waiting for you, Judas” Jesus said.
“We couldn’t begin till you came”

I heard my son-in-law, Alan tell this story at a clergy conference.
The story moved me deeply.
I was even more deeply struck when I discovered that it was a story
that offended many of the priests and ministers there.
I was horrified at their offense.
Would they find me, too, unforgivable…

But God, the Good Book tells us, is no respecter of persons,
and the happy ending isn’t promised to an exclusive club.
It isn’t -face it- only for Baptists, or Presbyterians or Episcopalians.
What God began, God will not abandon.
He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.
God loves, everyone, sings the psalmist.
What has named will live forever Alleluia!

Madeleine L’Engle

It is indeed an interesting thought to consider that there was, could have actually been,
repentance, then forgiveness given…
to the one who seemingly sold his soul for thirty pieces of the silver for
the betrayal and life of God’s beloved son…
only to be followed by the taking of his own life by hanging over
the damning realization of his actions…

Who am I, steeped in the wretchedness of my own transgressions,
my own unworthiness, is to say, can say,
who is to be forgiven…and who is not…

An interesting tale indeed….

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick;
who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked,
following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air,
the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—-
among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh,
carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath,
like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy,
because of the great love with which he loved us,
even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive
together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—-
and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches
of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:1-10

St Hubertus and the deer

“When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”
― G.K. Chesterton

(the skull of a whitetail deer found while walking in the woods / Troup Co. Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014

There are those moments in life when the balance between the magical and mystical somehow manages to make time stand still. We find ourselves privy to something so surreal, so otherworldly, that our senses strain to make sense of it all.

As we stumble upon those things of the unimaginable, we marvel over the mingling of death and decay and how lifelessness suddenly mirrors stately beauty.
How did it die? Why did it die? A litany of questions race across our thoughts, yet the only thing that we are certain of is the single fact that the questions will never have answers.

DSCN7673 2
(skull of a young deer accented by poison ivy / Troup Co, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)

During our travels yesterday, deep into the woods, we came across not one, but rather two skulls of whitetail deer. One was young, most likely a spike. The other was a 6 point. From initial observation it appears that each deer mostly likely meet their demise last year.

Rare as it is to stumble across a skull of a deer when out walking, it is odder still to stumble upon two.
When deep in a forest, far from any road or human interaction, questions wildly swirl in the recesses of the imagination.
Was it a rattlesnake?
An errant shot by a hunter?
Could the two deaths signal that the dreaded black tongue disease is in the area? A cruel disease that will decimate any herd in a short amount of time.

As I stare at the contrasting starkness of both beauty and death, my thoughts drift to far away place and of a mystical image of a magnificent stag adorned with a brilliant golden cross resting between his horns. The image is of a legendary red stag which appeared to a lone man, adrift in his sorrows. A rich nobleman who had recently lost his young wife during childbirth. Bitter and lost in his sorrow this lone man took to the isolation and vastness of an endless forest. His time spent mindlessly wandering and spitefully hunting.

His heart now hardened, he had no time for God. His time was his own, he offered none of it to the observance of a faith which now seemed lost in the sorrow of a broken heart.
Yet God had plans for this lone man with a broken heart. He was destined to hunt more than mere animals as he was set to hunt and capture, for the betterment of the faith, the hearts and souls of men.

The story is of St Hubert or Hubertus of Liège. He, along with St Eustace, are each considered the patron saints of hunters.

St. Hubert

St Hubert or Saint Hubertus (born c. 656 to 658, probably in Toulouse; died 30 May, 727 or 728 in Tervuren near Brussels, Belgium), called the “Apostle of the Ardennes” was the first Bishop of Liège. Hubertus is another patron saint of hunters, but also of mathematicians, opticians and metalworkers, and used to be invoked to cure rabies. Saint Hubert was widely venerated in the Middle Ages. The iconography of his legend is associated with the legend of St Eustace.

As a youth, Hubert was sent to the Neustrian court of Theuderic III at Paris, where his charm and agreeable address led to his investment with the dignity of “count of the palace”. Like all nobles of the time, Hubert loved the pleasures of “the chase” i.e. hunting.

Meanwhile, the tyrannical conduct of Ebroin, mayor of the Neustrian palace, caused a general emigration of the nobles and others to the court of Austrasia at Metz. Hubert soon followed them and was warmly welcomed by Pippin of Heristal, mayor of the palace, who created him almost immediately grand-master of the household. About this time (682) Hubert married Floribanne, daughter of Dagobert, Count of Leuven, a great and suitable match. Their son Floribert would later become bishop of Liège.

Unfortunately, his wife died giving birth to their son, and Hubert retreated from the court, withdrew into the forested Ardennes, and gave himself up entirely to hunting. But a great spiritual revolution was imminent. On Good Friday morning, when the faithful were crowding the churches, Hubert sallied forth to the chase. As he was pursuing a magnificent stag or hart, the animal turned and, as the story narrates, he was astounded at perceiving a crucifix standing between its antlers, while he heard a voice saying: “Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell”.
Hubert dismounted, prostrated himself and said, “Lord, what wouldst Thou have me do?” He received the answer, “Go and seek Lambert, and he will instruct you”.

Hubert set out immediately for Maastricht, for there Lambert was bishop. Saint Lambert received Hubert kindly, and became his spiritual director. Hubert now renounced all his very considerable honours, and gave up his birthright to Aquitaine to his younger brother Odo, whom he made guardian of his infant son, Floribert. Having distributed all his personal wealth among the poor, he studied for the priesthood, was soon ordained, and shortly afterwards became one of St. Lambert’s chief associates in the administration of his diocese.

By the advice of St. Lambert, Hubert made a pilgrimage to Rome in 708, but during his absence, Lambert was assassinated by the followers of Pippin. According to the hagiographies of Hubert, this act was simultaneously revealed to the Pope in a vision, together with an injunction to appoint Hubert Bishop of Maastricht.

He distributed his episcopal revenues among the poor, was diligent in fasting and prayer, and became famous for his eloquence in the pulpit. In 720, in obedience to a vision, Hubert translated St. Lambert’s remains from Maastrict to Liège with great pomp and ceremonial, several neighbouring bishops assisting. A basilica for the relics was built upon the site of St Lambert’s martyrdom, and was made a cathedral the following year, the see being removed from Maastricht to Liège, then only a small village. This laid the foundation of the future greatness of Liège, of which Saint Lambert is honoured as patron, and Saint Hubert as founder and first bishop. Hubert actively evangelised among the pagans in the extensive Ardennes forests and in Brabant.

Hubert died peacefully in Fura, Brabant, 30 May, 727 or 728. He was first buried in the collegiate church of St. Peter, Liège, but his bones were exhumed and translated to the Benedictine Abbey of Amdain (“Andagium”, in French “Andage”, the present-day Saint-Hubert, Belgium) in the Ardennes in 825. The abbey became a focus for pilgrimages, until the coffin disappeared during the Reformation.

Saint Hubert was widely venerated in the Middle Ages and several military orders were named after him: the Bavarian, the Bohemian and that of the Archbishop Prince-Elector of Cologne.

His Feast Day is 3 November.
(excerpt taken from

(the pin of St Hubert which is to be worn on the day of the hunt, reminding those who hunt to offer thanks to a gracious Heavenly Father who provides for all of our needs. . .)

Indian Paintbrush

(photograph: Julie Cook/ Crater Lake, Oregon, 2013)

The following story is taken form the Wildflowers of Texas/ Legends and Folklore Part I
Ladybird Wildflower Center/ Austin Texas/ 2006/ Docent supplement

An Indian legend tells the story of how paintbrushes came
to bloom. There once was a young boy. He wanted more
than anything to be a warrior. But, he was very small and
couldn’t keep up with the bigger boys as they learned the skills necessary to become great fighters.
One day, as he sat outside the family’s tent feeling sorry for himself, his grandfather sat down beside him. “You know,” he said, “Not everyone is meant to be a warrior. You have other skills that make you special. You can draw and paint anything you see. That is your great gift.”
The little boy thought about that for a while and decided that his grandfather was right. From that day forward, he began to draw and paint all that he saw around him.
As a young man, the boy became obsessed with capturing the colors and beauty of the sunset. Although he tried very hard, the colors kept eluding him. One night, as he lay sleeping, an old man and beautiful young woman came to him in a dream. The woman was carrying a pure white deerskin. “This,” she said, “will be the canvas upon which you capture the beauty of the sunset.” And she laid it next to him. The old man leaned in close and whispered, “Go to the hill tomorrow evening and you will find all you need to capture the sunset.”
The next morning the young man awoke and waited all day for evening to come. As the sun began to set, he gathered up the deerskin, his paint, and brushes and made his way up to the top of the hill. When he arrived, he saw brushes of every color of the sunset. He sat down, spread his canvas out, and, as the sun began to set, and using the brushes he found, began to paint the sunset. As he worked, he tossed each brush aside. By the time the sun had set, he had his picture. Proudly, he carried it down to the camp and presented it as a gift to the tribe.
The next morning he awoke. As he walked about the camp, he looked to the hill where he had painted his masterpiece. There, everywhere he had tossed aside a brush, were flowers in every hue of the sunset. And, every Spring, the Great Spirit sends the colors of the sunset to remind us of the little boy who captured the sunset.

There are several legends connected to the Indian Paintbrush, but coming from a retired art teacher—I simply couldn’t resist this one………….



The Kehlsteinhaus


Just inside the southern German border, a mere stones throw from Austria, lays the village of Oberzalberg. This is a gorgeous area of the German/ Austrian Alps. On a clear day one can indeed see that the hills are alive with the sound of music—or rather the constant rustle of wind as a crisp deep Prussian blue sky dotted with giant balls of white popcorn clouds makes one feel as if they must be just below Heaven’s gate (perhaps my German friends may not like the color description but this is from an art teacher who loves the color Prussian blue).

Perched high in the mountains, above this quaint village, exists the remnants of a once glamorous and yet ominous mountain home. The Kehlsteinhaus, or Teahouse, was the 50th birthday gift, for the Chancellor of the Third Reich, Adolph Hitler. It was presented to him from one of the top leaders of the Nazi Party, Martin Bormann.

It is often in the old black and white photographs and film footage that we see Hitler, along with his companion and future wife, Eva Braun, walking along the outside deck, overlooking the picturesque view of endless mountains, quaint Alpine villages along with a view of the city of Salzburg in the far distance. It is here that the Fürer would entertain the prominent dignitaries of the day.

Back in October, when I was fortunate to travel on the great retirement celebration trip, we were to spend 3 wonderful days in Salzburg before traveling on to Vienna. When planning the trip I discovered that I could arrange a couple of side trips, using our stay in Salzburg as our base of operations. As a huge history buff, I really wanted to take the 4.5-hour tour to the Eagle’s Nest, or Kehlsteinhaus.

I was both excited as well as nervous about our trip and tour to the Eagle’s Nest. This was a tremendous piece of history, notorious history—the history that I have spent a lifetime reading about and learning. Things and places like the Kehlsteinhaus seem almost bigger than life, especially because of who use to be a the “owner.” Hitler is like the elephant in the room in this area—not seen or spoken of, but whose presence remains eerily heavy in the air.

The weather was not cooperating on our chosen day of travel, as it was drizzling and chilly. We took a tour bus for about an hour or so drive from Salzburg into Germany. The drive was very pretty, especially as we began to climb up into the mountains. The higher we ascended on the journey, the fog and clouds grew heavy with visibility fading fast, as a light drizzle spit on and off.

Eventually the bus made its way to the top to the mountain where we parked in a large paved area. We disembarked only to wait before next boarding a smaller shuttle for the remainder of the journey upward. As we had a few minutes before loading on to the next shuttle, we decided to visit the small souvenir shop located at the bus parking lot. The shop was outfitted with all sorts of alpine wear and alpine souvenirs, along with a couple of books about the building of the road leading up to the “retreat” but very little information in the way of the original owner and of his time on the mountain—which made me begin to wonder.

As I was now cold from the blustery wind and drizzle, accompanied by a dip in the temperature the higher we climbed, I found myself buying some cute pairs of socks and a beautiful alpine woolen sweater. 
We eventually boarded the smaller shuttle which took us the remainder of the way up the mountain to, yet, another parking area. Disembarking the shuttle, we were led to the entrance of a long stone tunnel that bore its way 400 feet in to the mountain.


It was dimly lit, damp and I swear I could almost hear the boots of soldiers’ goose-stepping through the same tunnel almost 70 years prior. The tunnel is just as it was. It leads all visitors to
a massive elevator that is fitted in brightly polished brass and green leather seats with mirrors covering the walls. It is said that Hitler was as vain as he was paranoid—the mirrored walls allowed him a full visual access to those with him when in the elevator. The elevator holds almost 40 people. It ascended 400 feet to the top of the mountain.

When the doors opened, we found ourselves in small unassuming “foyer” or hallway. We were told we had about an hour before having to reload the shuttle. We were confused—where was the museum, the artifacts, the history? What we found was, however, a restaurant. That was it, a restaurant. I was dumbfounded! 
The Eagle’s Nest, the Kehlsteinhaus, the Third Reich Teahouse, is now just a tourist trap of a restaurant. We glumly found a table and ordered an apple strudel and hot chocolate, as there wasn’t much to look at or do. Granted had the weather cooperated, the view from outside would have certainly occupied our time.

There was the massive marble fireplace still intact in the larger room that had once been the main conference room during Hitler’s occupation of the “retreat.” The marble fireplace had been a gift from Mussolini. Italian marble I surmised. There were a few plaques on the wall showcasing the massive building effort of the road leading up the mountain. From reading the plaques,although in German, I understood it took just one year to build. But, still, the one missing figure, which was truly the elephant in the room, was nowhere to be seen.


We ventured outside and the fog was so thick we could barely see in front of our own faces. There was outdoor seating which would have been nice on a warmer clear day and one could make the short hike up the summit of the mountain to see the cross that has since been erected. Such beautiful irony, that a cross is now gracing the summit of this one time bastion of an evil ideology. I took the small climb up to the summit. I peered out through the fog into nothingness. I knew that had the day been clear, what I would be seeing would have certainly taken my breath—but the endless fog seemed to match my mood, as well as of the heavy history that I felt to be present– even if any and all images of such had long been removed.

Along the path, as I slowly made my way back down from the summit to the main building, I looked down to what I knew was the unmistakable edelweiss flower. The edelweiss is a small white flower, which grows in very high alpine altitudes. There are many legends and lore which surround this demure small flower—the one I like best I found on a site that addresses all sorts of folk legends:

In the country of eternal snows, lived a white lady: the Queen of Snows. She was surrounded by many small wights, who were in charge of her protection. Armed with spears of crystal, they protected their queen from the intrusion of stranger folk and those who might do her harm.
When a hunter or an imprudent mountaineer approached the beautiful lady, she was often pleased by the visit, and she would encourage him with her smiles and her eyes to join her. Fascinated by the gentle eyes of the beautiful lady, the mountaineer forgets the danger and continues to climb…and he climbs higher and higher with the hope of seeing more closely this beautiful face.
Confronted by this apparent danger, the wights take to their spears and push back the suitor until he falls into a precipice.
The white lady at the sight of that horrible spectacle began to cry; the tears then ran along the glacier and flowed to the pastures, and when arriving near the rocks, they changed into Edelweiss.


During our trip, while visiting Switzerland, we were also told this story of the edelweiss–a young suitor, in order to show the girl of his dreams his true feelings, would have to climb very high up into the alps, risking his own safety, in order to find an edelweiss. He was to pick the elusive flower, bing it back down from the mountains and present his “love” with the flower, a true symbol of his affection.

I was sorry to have missed the stunning view, as I have heard it is breathtaking, but somehow the fog and drizzle seemed almost appropriate for where we were. 
After the war there was debate as to whether or not they should blow the “retreat” off the mountain. But the officials of the time decided to keep it, as it was such a stunning setting. And I suppose they didn’t know how to treat the place—not to make it a shrine to a dark and sinister individual but opted for the Disney approach, when in doubt, make it a tourist attraction—hawk souvenirs, food and a view. I, for one however, was disappointed. I wanted some history–and history was not to be found.


I asked our guide if there wasn’t some sort of museum near, perhaps down in the village, which provided a more historical slant to the Kehlsteinhaus and the surrounding area. He was very vague and told me that there wasn’t much time. Again, I had a very odd feeling. We had come all of this way for what I had hoped to be a mini history lesson but instead we simply had a nice piece of strudel and hot chocolate.

Later, once we were back home, I was talking with a friend of mine from Switzerland who now makes his home in Florida. He had recently been home to Switzerland, visiting relatives, and decided to create a short holiday by driving to Austria and Germany for a few days. He too decided to visit the Kehlsteinhaus. As I retold him of our misadventure and of my disappointment with the tour and of our trip to the Eagle’s Nest, he shared a similar experience.

As he and his wife were driving, they stopped in the small village of Oberzalberg to stay for the evening. Asking at the hotel for directions as how to best visit the Kehlsteinhaus, he was met with a bit of confusion. The hotel operator told him that they did not know of what he was asking. It was as if they had never heard of the Kehlsteinhaus. How could that be he wondered. He told me that he was indeed conversing in German so there was nothing to be lost in translation.

My friend later, sitting on the balcony of his hotel room, looked up and on top of the opposite mountain, there he saw what he knew had to the Eagle’s Nest. The next day he and his wife figured out how to drive their way to the mountain retreat, purchasing tickets, leaving their car in the lower parking lot and taking the same shuttle for the journey up the mountain. And they too were met with the same sense of disappointment that they were simply visiting a restaurant. However, the weather cooperated for them, and they were at least rewarded with spectacular views.

All I can think is that it is difficult for most Germans, as well as Austrians, to sort out this part of their past. As I can only imagine it must be—how can one allow oneself to lay claim to something that was so terribly dark and tragic? How can one say that what happened 70 years ago is a part of one’s country’s history and not feel some inextricable sense of guilt or cling to some sort of vehement denial? It is the paradox of being, I suppose, German as well as Austrian. Painful to confront something so unimaginable.

And perhaps denial or ignoring is part of all of that—and perhaps that is how one generation may deal with it, the younger generations may feel so far removed that those things are not a part of or have no bearing on the past that they know.

One day I hope that I will have the opportunity of returning to the area as I would like to explore the lovely Alpine villages and perhaps catching a sunny day for some spectacular views while enjoying yet another piece of strudel.