One Evening in Bern

How strange it can be when past and future, instead of receding in either direction as they should, collide in the present.

I was standing in my street here in this remote, southern outpost, farewelling the latest Sprössling, the youngest molelet, when I became faintly aware of French being spoken and when I turned round I saw a chap I had last seen seven years ago, on the other side of the world, in the parental burrow in Bern.

I felt a sort of whoosh of heart and soul as I waved simultaneously at my future departing and my past arriving. It was odd, uncomfortable and somehow momentous.

Had you been a fly on the wall of the Bern burrow that evening seven years ago you might have noted the sparse furnishings and the many boxes. In a room that had once been my Papa’s study you would have seen a figure bent over a small city of stamp albums. Flitting to another room you would have seen three siblings, two of them sitting at the one remaining table eating boiled eggs with soldiers.

The third, had just arrived; he jingled the keys to the cellar and proposed bringing up a bottle of our late Papa’s dwindling wine collection.

The figure bent over the albums unwound himself at last and joined us. He lived in France but commuted daily to the Universal Postal Union in Bern. He was a collector of stamps and any ephemera to do with trees and he told us that, alas, the collection that had belonged to our late Mama was worth very little. However, he said as he sniffed the vintage St Emilion Chateau Cheval Blanc – this was formidable.

He spoke no Bärndütsch and between us we siblings struggled to string more than three words together in French, so our conversation, as I remember, was animated with great paw-waving and exaggerated facial expressions.

And this is the way we met again the other day, each as discombobulated as the other, here on the street where I now live.

For years I straddled the two hemispheres, and in those years leading up to that evening in Bern, although my body was in Tasmania, my mind was constantly mapping over there, as I imagined myself into the thoughts and needs of my Mama, mapped the locations around her, spoke Bärndütsch to tradies, advisors, doctors.

After my parents had gone, when the burrow in Bern had been ceded to its next inhabitant and I had returned home, I became aware of a lessening of the pull of there, a growing peace with here. But still there was an unease in my paws, the soil was not quite right, the trees were odd, the sun too bright.

The soil, the trees, the sun still hover beyond my grasp but since the arrival of the smallest molelet, the one I was farewelling when my past came hurtling towards me, I have come to feel an embeddedness that had eluded me for most of my life.

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4 thoughts on “One Evening in Bern

  1. This is a beautiful piece of writing Miranda. So evocative and atmospheric. I loved reading it, and loved sensing the arrival of your feeling of roots going down into the where that you realise has now grown into your home.

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