I spent the weekend in Cologne (known as Köln here in Germany) immersed in a Point Zero painting workshop hosted by Kathrin Franckenberg. I’d met Kathrin in Taos, New Mexico last October, when we were both participating in Michele Cassou’s Master Class. On our free afternoon there, at my request to talk with her about Sufism, we visited the Pueblo together and enjoyed a conversation sitting on the bank of the river. Later, coffee and some shopping in town where I purchased the pairs of colourful Smart Wool sox I’ve been wearing since I arrived in Europe, and she succumbed to a lovely light knit sweater, the colour of the sea, what I now know are her favourite colours.
I’d mentioned to Kathrin then that I’d be in Germany during the following winter-spring. We exchanged email addresses and planted the seed that I might visit. An episodic correspondence culminated in my email a week ago wondering if she might be free during this two week period before I returned to Italy. Perfect timing, as she would be hosting a weekend workshop in process painting, her partner had broken her foot, and so my visit would provide support on many levels. A quick internet visit to the Deutsch Bahn rail website to confirm times, followed by a phone conversation during which we were both heart-full of joy, wonder and tears at what was transpiring.
I arrived on Thursday afternoon, having had the most lovely train ride through the German countryside and cityscape, in full spring blossom…green with new grass and leaf, yellow with forsythia and erratic clusters of daffodils and tulips, pink and white with fruit tree blooms and magnolia flowers bursting in glory and magnificence.
My father wrote “see the Dom if you can” and upon meeting Kathrin on the platform, this was easily accomplished, as Köln’s landmark cathedral is right outside the train station doors.
I was made comfortable in the “jewel box” apartment she shares with her husband, an oasis of simplicity and calm in the midst of the city, for the most part, unadorned and utilitarian given it suffered greatly during WWII bombings. I was grateful for her email forewarning “five floors up without a lift,” and to “BellaThea” for the use of her backpack instead of my suitcase.
On Friday we set up the studio in anticipation of the nine other painters, an international gathering of women, hailing from Norway, Berlin and me, from Canada. We sat in circle to introduce ourselves. As I listened and sensed their words, spoken mostly in their language, feelings and energy, I spoke that being among them to process paint in Köln, Germany, with Kathrin who I had only dreamed I might someday know better, was truly beyond my wildest dreams, and that I had come to know from this that everything and anything is possible. And that given what I sensed were similar feelings about entering into this weekend adventure into the creative source, I was reminded of a comment to my blog a few weeks back that “we all sleep under the same moon.”
After a full day of painting on Saturday, Kathrin’s husband delighted in showing me his city. Though dark, I once again saw the Dom, this time aglow; the adjacent modern art museum; several of the towers marking the old town’s fortifications; and we traversed the Rhein River, watching numerous cruise boats motoring up and down. We dined at a great Turkish restaurant innovative for its self-service use of portable “buzzers” to let you know when your dish is ready to pick up.
The weekend was deep and moving and wonderful and too soon time for departing and saying “danke” and “auf wiedersehen” to all. I take home with me two full-sized paintings and one small one in process; a seed planted with Kathrin to host her in Canada for a painting retreat; and the title of a book recommended by Kathrin’s husband which I downloaded on my Kindle and began reading as I road the train south to Freiburg.
Balancing Heaven and Earth by Jerry Ruhl, with Robert Johnson, the author of the He, She and We books on Jungian psychology and myth, is about how to live with a “religious attitude” as told through Johnson’s life. “Religious attitude” relates to the “cultivation of soul – an openness to wonder, awe, fear, and reverence with respect to the ‘other,’ those numinous forces that exist outside our conscious control…called at various times fate, destiny, the hand of God, or, to use Robert’s term, “the slender threads.”
As I delight and savour the remarkable turning of events that led me to reconnecting and deepening my friendship with Kathrin, and to participating in a process painting workshop with lovely women in Germany, I realize this has been a year marked by several “beyond my wildest dreams” experiences.
Back in November when I visited my friend while she house sat on Whidbey Island, I never thought I’d ever see her in person after our initial meeting in Halifax at the Shambhala Institute some years earlier. To share time with her and her partner, to be with them to make and celebrate American Thanksgiving together with others in the island community, was truly a godsend.
And being here right now, in Waldkirch with “BellaThea” in March, is another “beyond” experience. Five years ago, together with my parents and my sister, I first came to Waldkirch to celebrate “BellaThea’s” birthday. That night, one of her friends created a birthday ritual whereby each woman present drew a card on which was written an event that would be shared with “BellaThea.” Mine read, in Deutsch, that I would pick white anemones with her in March. Last week as I walked into town with K, “BellaThea’s” friend from Denmark and our Paris guide, she told me that white blossoms covering the hillside below the house, so thick in some parts one would think it snow were it not for the warm temperature, are called “anemonen” (anemones).
Today I picked some, before March ends, to mark this miracle of a possibility realized…to grace our table…and to press in my journal as a keepsake of the slender thread.