Friday, 1 August 2014

The Magic of Switzerland

The Magic of Switzerland

'A friend who is far away is sometimes much nearer than one who is at hand. Is not the mountain far more awe-inspiring and more clearly visible to one passing through the valley than to those who inhabit the mountain?'
       Khalil Gibran, Lebanese author and poet

I will always remember August 1st as Swiss National Day, wherever I am, whoever I am with. If I look back to the last two August 1sts, I see two of the happiest nights of my life. The first was in 2012, diving into Lac Léman at night with my Swiss friend, Céline, as the moon lay a carpet of light on the water and fireworks burst into the sky. Streams of colourful light shot up from Geneva and towns further around the crescent shaped lake. We swam out so far that we could see a lightning storm moving into the Alps. Between the thunderous mountains, the smoky, fire-spotted sky and the orange moon, we floated, stunned into silence.

The next August 1st, in 2013, friends had come together to watch The Full Monty at the outdoor cinema, so it seemed only right that my friends Elena and Haseeb and I should strip off and head into the lake. This time there was no moon, only a sky thick with stars, and Haseeb, ever the scientist, explaining how sometimes starlight has traveled so far to reach our eyes that in fact the star the light came from might already be dead. Feeling as blissfully infinitesimal in the scope of light years and dead stars as I had been beneath fireworks and Alpine thunderstorms, I made an August 1st mental note: that some of the most precious moments in life are those spent in water, with friends. 

This August 1st, distance is on my mind as I think of the magic of Switzerland and the beautiful people it brought into my life. Tonight I will be swimming in a different body of water, not the teal-coloured, chilly, weed-sprouting shallows of Lake Geneva, but the salty turquoise of the Mediterranean. 

My oldest friend has always said that it is easier to leave a place than to be left behind, and after two and a half years in Geneva, I think I finally understood what she meant by that. I've so often been the one leaving, jaunting off across the globe, following my feet or mysteriously worded job ads. In Geneva, a transitional city that attracts a transitional crowd, I found a place where people's feet were as itchy as mine and I stayed long enough to love them, learn from them, and watch them fly away. I discovered that sometimes the best way to love those we love is to honour their dreams and their choices, even if those dreams take them far away. 

Wishing you a beautiful August 1st this 2014. I've heard it said of loving people that we should summer them, winter them, and summer them again, to know them in every season. When I look back on my time in Switzerland, I wonder if the same can be said for places we have lived?

À la prochaine, Genève!

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