Archive for September 2013

I HAD A NICE HOT SHOWER THIS MORNING   9 comments

Well, what’s so newsworthy about that? Nothing — and that’s the point. After singing a few scales and having one go at “Consider the LIllies,” I lapsed into my usual thought. How lucky I am that I can have this water — clean, hot, plentiful, and there when I want it. Think of the folks in the world who don’t even have enough of it to drink, say nothing of such luxury as bathing.

I can’t help being grateful — and longing for a world where no one is thirsty.

Posted September 29, 2013 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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SALZBURG REVISITED   2 comments

I guess it’s time to share another segment of our recent trip to Europe. The last entry was Portugal – a delightful new adventure. This time it’s nostalgia all over again. Austria, mostly re-experiencing Salzburg.

My first visit to Salzburg was right after graduation from college with a National Student Association tour. We spent 11 weeks in Europe: Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, England, Holland, & Belgium.  As I recall, the entire price (except for two free weeks at the end) was $675.00, including eleven days over and back on the S.S. Volendam of the Holland America line. Transport was not elegant – the Volendam was still fitted out as a troopship – but for a bunch of students it was great – movies, lectures, courses, each other. a small smoking room, and bottles of Heinekens for 5 cents apiece.

I think there were 15 people in our group,including three guys. It was the time of the Korean war (which history refuses to label as such.) That meant young men had to hang around home in case they were called up for the draft. I’m not sure how some were free to go, but three of them made it. I wonder who, out of that group, is still around to remember.

I learned many years later that was the year when the CIA first enlisted students to gather information.

But now the focus is on revisiting. On our graduation visit, Austria was our first stop. My roommate and I were boarded in a home in Hallein outside Salzburg, the salt city. I’ll get to that later.

The first adventure I remember was Hohensalzburg – the castle on the mountaintop overlooking the city. It was new to us, but anyone who’s been to Salzburg knows it as the major site of interest. My first visit, though, was before “The Sound of Music” turned Salzburg into a tourist site, It was right after the end of WWII, so the place was filled with displaced, homeless people, giving it the feel of a medieval village. I don’t remember walking up there, so I think we arrived at the top by way of the funicular, which shows in this photo taken from the cemetery outside the plaza of the Cathedral.

Hohensalzburg & cemetery

My second visit to the site was in 1976 when I traveled Eurail with my teen-aged son and daughter. Again, I don’t remember walking up, so I suspect we took the funicular. Even then my children had to deal with my acrophobia – fear of heights.

This time, my tour guide – otherwise known as my son Doug, well beyond teen-age – had us walking to the castle, stopping along the way at various sites, and for lunch. Obviously there were many more things along the way than had been there decades before. Thankfully we returned to the ground below via the funicular.

Most nostalgic for me was the visit to the Salzburg dom (Cathedral). On my first visit I looked at it with ooh/aw excitement. On the second visit in 1976 I hid behind a wall to conceal my tears as I was grieving the end of my marriage. But there was beauty too. My son and I attended a Haydn mass there on Sunday, so crowded we had to stand in the back. But imagine – a full orchestra and chorus. Better than a concert hall was the site of the cathedral. This year, we got there early enough to get a seat for the Mozart Mass. Equally powerful. No tears. Just plain joy.

Salzburg dom

As one would expect in a tourist town, there were sales booths set up on the plaza outside. Yes, I did buy some things. Then we walked on through to the cemetery, seen in the photo above. A lovely, calming place, I thought.

After Mass

We did visit the adjacent convent, and I even took a photo from an upper floor – hooray for me! In spite of my acrophobia, You can see the cemetery down below.

view from convent

No visit to the Salzburg area is complete without a stop at Schloss Hellbrunn. Having been there twice before, I thought I was really wise and would avoid getting wet, but they got me. No photo of that, but a picture of the early surprise for the unsuspecting. The water felt good, though, because we were in Europe during a heat wave.

Getting wet

Of course, anyone visiting the area has to see Mirabel gardens.

Mirabel Gardens

We went a step beyond and bought tickets ahead of time for a concert at the palace. Remember, Salzburg celebrates its most famous citizen – Mozart. So, of course, we attended several Mozart concerts. Here, though, the physical setting was particularly lovely.

Schloss Mirabel

But Mozart wasn’t all we experienced. We happened to see an ad for a free concert at St. Peter’s church – Talis’ “Spem in Alium.”

St. Peter's Talis ..

A ten-minute choral piece. (Hmm. I’m getting a déjà vu feeling. Have I told you this before?) Well, anyway, to go on, we got there early to get out of the heat and waited in a not-very-comfortable pew, So few people were there, we thought it would be no big deal. Then suddenly the church was filled to standing room only. And at the appointed hour, 5 pm, the choir surrounded the back of the church and we were blessed with ten minutes of the most glorious music. After a long standing ovation, we were treated to a ten-minute encore. (Note: In Minnesota it seems the audience always offers a standing ovation, but in Europe, at least in our experience those few weeks there, such appreciation is saved for something really special.)

I hope you’re not bored yet, because I want to tell you about the salt mines in Hallein. I remembered them from my early visit there. Being attired in protective white clothing and sliding down into the depths, then being transported by various means through them. It was fun. I could hardly wait for my son to enjoy it, though I chose to have lunch while waiting in the tourist area above. (No such building was there on my first visit.) I don’t have a photo, but I was well satisfied with his pleasure.

Just a few more things. When I was there the first time, right after the war, we asked our student guides in Germany to take us to Berchtesgaden. They obliged and we spent a nice afternoon on the beach. We had in mind Hitler’s retreat, the Eagle’s Nest, but it drew a blank from the students.

This time, however, we did get to cross over into Germany to visit it. (What a pleasure – no border patrols asking to see our passports. Part of the European Union now.)

Until a year after we were there as students the Americans who controlled it did not allow visitors. Sometime later, it was returned to the locals, on condition it should not celebrate Hitler. So it is now a restaurant. I do have an aerial photo of it, but it’s a postcard and I suspect I don’t have the legal right to show it here. So, the best I can do is show the only decent photo I took on that visit – just a scenic sight.

Eagle's nest view

Especially interesting was the careful timing to get there and back again. It’s a one-way drive up (and down) a single road requiring split-second departures. By the way, the elevator was very elaborate by which Hitler was raised to the Eagles Nest after being delivered by his driver who then had to back out for quite a distance.

At some point we decided to visit the “Silent Night” museum. Following the directional signs as best we could, often leading to place of “Huh? Where do we go from here?” we finally found it. Wish they had warned us. It’s closed for a period of time. Best I could do was get a photo of Hans Gruber’s grave outside his home.

Gruber grave

Finally, just to convey the atmosphere, I’d like you to see the photo of a restaurant we enjoyed in Rohrmoos – Pariente.

Pariente in Rohrmoos

The header is a photo of the boat on which we had a 40 minute ride after visiting Mirabel gardens and before going on to a series of concerts.

Gratitude begets gratitude   6 comments

I can’t tell you how grateful I am that so many of you “liked” and/or commented on yesterday’s gratitude blog. Sometimes I get the lonely feeling that no one is seeing what I put out. Of course, I’m aware that I didn’t really put this out, but rather I passed it forward. Which obviously was a good idea.

Speaking of passing it forward. I remember years ago in Boston when I was in graduate school I decided one day to smile at everyone I encountered. Wow! What a result. Everyone smiled back. I mean, a real eye-crinkling smile. I suspect some of those smiles got forwarded to others.

Posted September 26, 2013 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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GRATITUDE   11 comments

My throat got lumpy when I watched this — but in a good way. If you haven’t already seen it, please enjoy.  Gratitude

Posted September 25, 2013 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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ONE WORLD – THE LOST SONG   10 comments

Yesterday I was reminded of a song I’ve been singing to myself lately. Here’s the story.

Bristol High School, Bristol, Connecticut, 1946. A brief period of fresh air and hope after the end of the war – WWII,  that is.

Our choir sang “One World.” In fact, I think the Connecticut Joint Chorus sang it.

 One world built on a firm foundation

One world no longer cursed by war

Let no mortal man

 Change the Master’s plan

In a world where war shall cease

One world built on love and peace.

I have wondered what happened to it. Also, wanting to share it with the group I had been with, I googled it. Only one thing came up – a request for the words from someone who remembered singing it in a High School Chorus at that time.

Apparently Karma, or something, had just obliterated the song.  It did once exist – I found a photo of the sheet music at a site selling old music.

Why did it disappear?  Is the sheet music still there somewhere in the music department archives?

Were we not “ready” for the message? Fearful even? Did the director, or the administration decide it was somehow dangerous?

More important. Are we ready for the message now?

 

WHAT INTERVENES BETWEEN VENGEANCE AND FORGIVENESS?   2 comments

Thanks to a fellow blogger who supplied this succinct statement.

“Forgiveness trumps vengeance, and reduces our stress as well.” I agree, but here’s my big question mark. If it’s true that our first reaction is to act with vengeance, then at what point does forgiveness trump it. After we’ve done something we’ll regret?

Dan Ariely addresses this in The Upside of Irrationality to which I referred in my last blog. His chapter 10 (pp. 257-280) describes the danger. “The Long Term Effects Of Short Term Emotions: Why We Shouldn’t Act On Our Negative Feelings.”

If the human impulse is to rush to vengeance, and if forgiveness trumps vengeance, what has to happen in between to prevent vengeance so the forgiveness process has time to work?

Count to ten? What has to happen to train us to do that? Suggestions? …

 

VENGEANCE AND REGAINING CONTROL   4 comments

Yesterday’s post recognized the built-in nature of vengeance. But I think if we probe further there is something more basic behind it. The need to regain control and order. Think of the expression “get even.” It’s as if we can bring things back into balance.

The animal in the wild who is attacked instinctively fights back to preserve his (or her) self and group. Behind it is survival — getting back to a level of safety. Safety implies familiarity — things returning to where they were.

The problem for us in our civilization is that we can never return things to the way they were. Whatever the offense, whether a terrible rape and murder or a personal insult, it is now a fact of life. That old urge to get even can’t work. There is no way to return to the way things were.

So, the best effort is to gain control. To find a way to bring order out of the chaos the offense created. And that’s where using our heads helps. That’s the basis for a realistic approach to whether and how to forgive — to let go our desire for vengeance and bring order — a new order — back into our lives.

It’s something we do for our own sanity and comfort. Does it mean the crime goes unpunished? Probably not. Punishment applied appropriately, untainted by vengeance, may be one way of reassuring ourselves of safety in the future. But back to the issue of vengeance. The basic fact still is, vengeance breeds vengeance — and so is lost the safety we’re after.

Thoughts?

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