Life certainly presents interesting opportunities and challenges! I traveled with Walter to Europe in July as he pursued some fascinating developments in his career. We started in Ferrara, Italy, where he worked with colleagues and a professor and his team using a small unmanned aerial vehicle, (not a spy ship) to photograph the destruction and damage caused by recent earthquakes in the area. The places we filmed (I got to be the photographer on the ground :>) were too unsafe to send in human beings. (To see some of the footage, go to http://microaerialprojects.com). From there we spent time with his aunt and cousins in the Italian Alps before traveling to Kassel, Germany, where Walter is consulting. We lived in hotels and out of suitcases until we could move into an apartment right in town. Around the corner is a bus stop and a bit further along is the tram station. Everything we need is within walking distance and with high speed internet now in place we are back online!
On the other side of the building is a lovely garden with trees, flowers and birds. At night I can lie in bed and look out the big windows at the stars and as the windows are south facing, we get the warmth of the sun in the cold weather and can watch the beautiful sunrises and sunsets from our windows and balconies.
Kassel is an interesting place. 80% of the city was destroyed during the war. There is a mix of old European architecture and solid but plain buildings built to accommodate a population left homeless. The town itself lies among rolling hills. The colors are gorgeous and I delight in exploring and walking.
Kassel has a fabulous park system linking every corner of the city. I can step out my door, walk around the corner and be connected to natural pathways that I can take to be in nature in every direction. The pathways cross fields, traverse forests and hills, and benches have been thoughtfully placed throughout the natural areas. I have taken up my camera and pen and have started photographing and writing a few tentative lines of poetry quite regularly, something I used to enjoy so much and had forgotten.
Driving out from the city one is immediately in the countryside of rolling hills, forests and fields. The word that keeps coming to me is “romantic”. I can so easily imagine the fairy tales read to me in my childhood. There is no urban sprawl here like I am used to in Florida. Towns are neatly tucked into the landscape in a central place surrounded by the countryside. Many are full of traditional timber frame houses and flowers adorn windowsills, street corners and gardens!
I have met some lovely people in the area! Most go out of their way to help me, especially when they see I am trying to speak German! The Baha’i community is delightful and I have met a charming artist who also teaches and enjoys plein air painting, so we will be getting out there with our easels! I brought my trusty Soltek with me and can fold it up, put it in a big wheeled rolling cart which people use here for shopping and off I go! I’ve met some other women who like to hike and meet for coffee, so between setting up an apartment from scratch with all the basics, visiting, and exploring the countryside with Walter during off hours, I’m as busy as ever. I’ve started a few paintings and will be updating my website as I have time. In two weeks I’ll be back in Gainesville for awhile. It will be an interesting process having studios on both sides of the “pond”, painting different worlds and exploring and expressing what I see, learn, experience and contemplate…
That’s it for today!
Tschüs and Vielen Grusse from Kassel, Germany!
Mary Jane Volkmann
Photo taken with Walter, October 2012