Early this morning I heard it. We sleep with the large window open even though the temperature can drop to the low 40s at night. The air is crisp and refreshing. Just as daylight was breaking today the light plaintive call of the cuckoo bird came floating in on the brisk air -- "cuckoo, cuckoo."
I'm not sure what I thought about cuckoo birds before now. I'm not sure if I thought the bird in the cuckoo clocks was real or if it was imaginary but Cuckoo birds are real. They flourish in the Vienna Woods that surround Haus Edelweiss and the community and monastery (Stift) called Heilingenkreuz -- Holy Cross -- near Vienna, Austria where we are.
I am a member of a team of Europeans and Americans serving at Haus Edelweiss a school/Christian training center with students from 14 east European countries. Our church is a partner in this enterprise.
Austria is a mountainous country about the size of Maine but with eight million population compared to 1.2 million in Maine. They have nine counties while Maine has 16. The climate is roughly the same in both countries since they are on about the same meridian which corresponds to International Falls, Minnesota and North Dakota.
We went to a cemetery where Beethoven, Mozart, Strauss and Brahms are interred. I thought how ironical. They spent their lives composing and we went to see them as they are now decomposing. Get it?
We were riding the street car and at one stop a group of pre-school children got on with their teachers. They looked like American children -- energetic, smiling, crowding into seats and chattering amongst themselves. Two stops later another group got on. They were probably 5 and 6 and shepherded by three women. One teacher held a group of four or five who were standing to keep them safe. They were most polite and orderly. They made me smile.
Downtown Vienna a city of nearly 2 million has closed its streets and made pedestrian malls and walkways. Indy is going to do that to the circle. Good. People milled about eating in cafes, conducting business, talking on cell phones, using computers and seeing and being seen. One thing I noticed, there are very few obese people here compared to Indiana. We ate Weiner Schnitzel in a small local restaurant. Friends, that is nothing more than a Hoosier breaded tenderloin with much less breading. Every alley and street is filled with shops and eateries. It is most delightful to walk down them wondering what lies around the next corner. Many American products are sold here; Vienna is known for chocolate. I am reminded of Hershey, Pennsylvania. It is glorious. I am going to take some home to BW. I will score high on the rave meter for that.
People in Austria and around the world go through their day much the same as we do. They have families, jobs, household duties, they eat, sleep and work. They have dreams and aspirations, fears, needs, wants, health issues and disagreements. They drive cars, have babies, grow old, seek solace in pets, love, hate, suffer from greed and hubris, share with and help others and live out their lives with hope and expectations.
The students at Haus Edelweiss demonstrate what all people have in common. It is most pleasant to know them and interact with them. What a joy to serve them and know that they will go back and serve in their own communities.
Larry grew up north of Calvertville on a farm and graduated from Worthington High School. He lives in Plainfield and can be reached at Goosecrick@aol.com or (317) 839-7656. Write him at Larry Vandeventer 6860 Sunrise Drive, Plainfield, Ind., 46168. He has written five books.