My Evening Walk to Austria

It was routine. Time to put the chickens to bed and let the dogs out one last time for the day, but when I reached the bottom of the stairs I stepped right into another time and another part of the world. Suddenly, I was in Graz, Austria twenty years ago.

Wearing just a sweatshirt I anticipated getting chilled. Instead the air was damp, but not cold, in fact it was warm for a winter evening. Fog hung low in the air, gently hugging my arms as it tried to touch the ground. The snow beneath my feet wasn’t squeaky or crunchy as it has been the rest of the winter, instead it provided a silent, gentle cushion as I walked. The scent of a neighboring wood fire kissed my nose.

By the time I reached the coop I had relived memories I didn’t know still existed. I’d waited for the train in Jakominiplatz, I’d walked my daily route from the bus to my host family’s house looking up to the foothills of the Alps. I’d spent evenings hanging out with friends in some of my favorite pubs and took relaxing walks home. My heart filled with fondness and a sense of peacefulness washed over me. Paralyzed, I stood and smiled.

They say once you leave, you can never truly go home, but the weather tonight triggered memories of my home away from home. A place in time and in my heart that will never change. To go back today would be different. I wouldn’t be twenty one, in college on a new adventure. I would already know what great friends my travel companions would become. My host family would still welcome me, but things have changed there too. My host sisters are all grown up with lives of their own. And while the city of Graz is several hundreds of years old, I’m sure it is different today than it was twenty years ago.

So tonight, when I walked back to Austria, I was happy. Happy to see great friends to share laughter and tears and sleeping cars with as we traveled. I was happy to have my nine and twelve year old host sisters try to teach me to ski while I failed miserably. I was happy to drink coffee with my host father and learn about Austrian politics. I was happy to laugh hysterically with my host mother as she clarified my misunderstandings as she taught me the Styrian dialect over her homemade apple strudel.

And as I looked off at the silhouette of the trees in the distance, the light struggling to make its way through the fog, everything was just as I’d remembered it.

Then I turned, whispered “good night” to the girls as I closed the coop door and made my way back to the house. I paused one last moment to say goodbye and then headed back inside to 2013.

Kate

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