You want to make yourself at home somewhere, you will be there, go in circles, find the change, and learn from it.
Sometimes, you will do so returning to places and races, and quite by chance…
Long distance events don’t just give chance many an opportunity to strike in the form of accidents or physical discomfort, they also give the participant a long time to ponder.
January 22, 2016, the day before I would travel to Munich for the ISPO, saw the 24H Burgenland Extreme (official website, in German only) tour around the Neusiedler See lake take place for the fifth time.
Black and white photography is something like the quaint, old, but also mysterious and possibly powerful grandpa in the happy-go-lucky family of modern photography.
St. John’s Day, as in: Midsummer Day, the day of the summer solstice, is almost upon us.
It will be the time for mountain solstice fires again, then, and fittingly for both that day and climate change, St. John’s Wort has just come into bloom here, already.
Having looked towards FKT as “fully known trails / terrain,” I have reason to look back at everything that I had encountered during the recent ‘trails of spring’ (#1: Winter’s Last Hold at the Traunsee, #2: Wild Leeks in the Leitha Mountains)
Flowers, pretty as they often are and useful as plants can be, have been among the prominently noteworthy things.
In making plant diversity more obvious in all their many colors and pretty shapes, flowers are good illustrations of the lack of at-home-ness we often have: They are obviously there, they are obviously all different – but how many do you recognize?
And if you want to argue that there is just no need to do so, let me ask what’s the need to recognize different brands of cars or clothes when you can’t eat them, can’t use any but your own, and won’t even interact with the vast majority of people who use them, so that the social cues inherent in them aren’t of any effect.
At least you could enjoy seeing the flowers and knowing what they are; and in knowing them, you could probably find some that could be used as food or tea or medicine, too.
And simply knowing the places you live more intimately, from the roads to the trails, from historic buildings to blades of grass, makes for a different – and better – connection with life.
In all the connected technology and social media connection all around the world, we are all too little connected to the places where we actually are, anyways.
But of course, as a human being, everything that moved was more noticeable also to me; the closer to potential prey or predator, the more so.
The sheep grazing not far from the road just recently struck my eye,…
…as did the mountain goats using the trails as their paths through the still-snowy landscape of a month or two before.
There were also other things.
Not just small animals such as the fire salamander trying to hide away between stones…
…but also more and more flowers. The ones that started emerging just as soon as the snow was melting, and the ones that only came up much later, now that we are moving closer to summer…
Of course, there is much more to be seen than I took photos of; and there is a lot that could be said about them all.
There are commonalities, such as the wild leeks (ramson) that grow in both the Pannonian landscape of the Burgenland I usually live in and the Salzkammergut part of the Alps I regularly visit to run mountain trails, and there are differences between these two areas.
In fact, there are differences just between different mountains and different faces of a single mountain, between the woody hills and the agricultural floors of the same flat landscape.
It’s just a matter of making oneself at home in these places enough to notice it all.
In Austria, and particularly its east, I’ve lived for the longest time. So, it is just natural that I’d think I know this place and find little of interest in it anymore. Jaded and inured to the charm…
To make myself really at home here and remember that there’s a lot I don’t know and can yet explore further – not to forget, to have the fun of doing so – it helps to find contrasts.
For one, there is that nice contrast between spring – with a topping of snow – further into the Alps and the rather more advanced turn to spring at lower elevations, in the east.
(This year though, interestingly enough, I couldn’t honestly say that this is quite how it is. In the lower parts of where I go in the Alps, the fruit trees are blooming at the same time as in the Pannonian east…)
Of course, there are always the cycles to get at home in and to see again, in their new iteration.
There are the circles I run in and always see somewhat anew, whether that should be because something out there has changed with the passing of time, or whether it is because I have changed, seeing something differently, knowing something more, or getting faster or slower.
And, turning from winter to spring, the wind gets slightly – and sometimes, much – warmer (we hardly ever have no wind here), and it’s been time to see the wild leeks emerge again… and to use them.
This, too, has become quite a theme as my interest in food (not least with www.chilicult.com) has become stronger.
These wild leeks used to be what the poorest of people would have eaten, and what anybody who was anything didn’t want to be caught using (or so says my 93-year-old ‘aunt’); like so many things, they have turned into a spring delicacy that is found on restaurant menus same as in supermarkets, in sausages same as in breads sold in the spring.
Amusingly, considering the carpet of these wild leeks one can find in the Leitha mountains (Leithagebirge) – and actually, also where I go in the Alps – they also sell at rather high prices.
If 100 grams are 3 Euro, then what I sometimes step on, as need be, when I go running through those forest paths must be hundreds of Euros worth…
My running there still ranges somewhat widely, along the ‘mountains’ whenever I can, as a big part of the fun is getting into this area designated with the same word as mountain ranges in the Alps, in some select trail segments almost looking the part… but mainly being nothing much more than hills.
Yet, it can offer different views than other places there – another kind of contrast – again:
Still, running here when the leeks have emerged looks little like a classical training run on which time and distance matters the most; it gets slower and delayed whenever the fancy – or rather, the amount of food to be foraged – strikes.
Then, rain jacket and running vest also suddenly find themselves being used not to protect from weather extremes but to serve as wild leek carrying system; the 3L volume is tested well ;)
The passion for exploratory living does, admittedly, profit handsomely from some studies in contrast.
My personal practice for that (as you, my dear readers, may have noticed ;) ) are trips to the Traunsee in the Salzkammergut, Upper Austria.