The summer that I left San Diego for Switzerland I had just finished college, was working as a bartender/waitress, and spent most of my time as a beach bum in Mission beach, California. As much as I loved it, I knew that I had to get off my ass and make a move before I passed up the chance to get back to Europe and see what was happening out there in the world beyond the distraction of surfer dudes and tan lines. I had spent the previous summer traipsing around Europe by train, and the experience just blew my mind. The diversity of so many different languages, cultures, cuisines, and (at the time) currencies within a relatively close distance to one another enchanted me beyond return.
I found a job as an Au pair in Switzerland through an acquaintance, and before long, I made the leap – open and curious and wonderfully naive.
Coming from Southern California, there were a lot of differences to adjust to after I got here. The biggest deal for me was getting used to a whole new barrage of languages that I was totally unaccustomed to (Swiss German, French & German). But most people speak at least a little English or Spanish here so I managed to get along just fine. I got used to swimming in the lake instead of the ocean, learned to survive without Mexican food, and most importantly, experienced a real change of seasons for the very first time.
I arrived here in early June of 1998 and popped right into a splendid yet unfamiliar kind of summer. While it’s only a myth that it never rains in Southern California, it’s (insert Larry David voice) pretty warm and sunny most of the time over there. Summertime in Switzerland was (and is) breathtakingly beautiful, but it can also be evasive and unreliable too. Every year seems to be a totally different combination of conditions, but one thing is for sure….when the sun is shining, this place is like planet paradise, and even the grumpy old men might tip their hat to you with a smile. I’ve learned that the days we have “nice” weather are precious, and maybe that’s what makes me cling to them so tightly.
As summer fades and tapers off into a usually exquisite fall, the vibrant color of the changing leaves is something to behold and learn from indeed. How the trees just do their thing and shed the old with unyielding trust and inherent wisdom every single year. And after all the leaves have fallen to the ground, it is a time for acceptance and rest, and internalization. Time to hibernate and surrender to the longest season of the year – it’s winter.
For some that must seem melodramatic, and surely some people (I know some) prefer wintertime to all of the other seasons, but I’m sure that those people grew up with a close relationship to the mountains, snow, and winter sports. Just as I grew up with a close relationship to the sea, sunny days, and wearing flip-flops all year long.
Long ago I learned how to live and drive with, and especially dress for snowy conditions. I figured out how to use a window scraper on my car, maneuver through the fog, and how to put a snow shovel to use. I found it novel and interesting for the first few years – back then when I thought it was a temporary experience. Something to write home about and take pride in surviving through. And now I go through that process every year, but I grow less and less enchanted by the cold and snow, and always more drawn to find a way to spend my winters in a warmer, sunnier place. So I dream big, and look forward to the time when I will be able to take off for a warmer spot seaside for 2 months a year. Don’t get me wrong, I still appreciate the change of seasons, and being around to see it happen for certain, but the one season I could use a lot less of is winter.
But until then, I will wait it out, and make the best out of it. For me that usually means traveling, snowboarding or snowshoe walking, museum visits, and sharing quality time with loved ones. And slowly but surely, the days grow longer, and the vibrancy of nature creeps back through a literal eruption of life force as springtime nuzzles it’s brilliant way back and extends its hand out to summer. Aaaaahhhhh, the first jump in the lake, the air that smells like honey, the shared glasses of white wine that pair so perfectly with summer. The birds are chirping from morning till night, and daylight stretches out and graces us until 9 or 10 PM. The welcome return of peaches, nectarines and strawberries, watermelon and co….. so sweet. And I feel at home again.
I am ready and waiting.
All photos were taken by June Liechti-Adamson with the exception of the header photo of myself which was taken by Corinne Liechti.