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Continued from Banishment to Switzerland

The Swiss landscape mended Yry’s soul. Arosa is tiny village nestled in a valley shadowed by a chain of ancient granite peaks, the largest thrusting to over 8,000 feet. The region is a mixture of calendar-green alpine pastures, forests, glacial lakes, and foothills that decorate the feet of the icy alps. The nascent ski industry was born here. Yry had traveled around southern Germany with her parents, vacationing in Bavaria and in the Black Forest, but she had never spent extended time in such grandiose mountains as these.SCAN0106

The brilliance of Arosa washed sadness away. Linen-clean air tickled Yry’s nose hairs and planted the seed for a lifelong reverence of nature. Sunshine glinted off dazzling peaks set against a bluer than blue sky. On some days, magnificent clouds thundered up around the peaks, ballooning and shape-shifting, omens of storms that would soon unleash more snow on the valley. The school was administered by nuns. The other children that shared her fate ranged in age from five to fourteen. Two or three kids were assigned to each bedroom. No lit candles were allowed in the rooms at night. The frail children needed plenty of rest. Long sunny afternoons lying on the sun decks were prescribed, as well as sleigh rides, tobogganing, and ice skating—and with arrival of spring— brisk hikes.SCAN0107

She was unfazed by the incredible cold of Arosa. It was a different flavor of cold than what she’d experienced before. She knew it was very cold because her breath hung in foggy puffs, and ice crystals floated in the air. This was a crisp, dry cold, that nipped exposed skin but failed to penetrate deep into the bones like the damp, foggy cold she had known in Germany and England. This cold was fun! It transformed the world into a magical dreamscape dotted with white, puffy pillows where rocks had been. Instead of looking barren and naked, the trees and bushes sported diamond-studded coats of frost. Water froze in its tracks, trapped waterfalls formed fanciful ice statues that stood in awkward arabesques, waiting for spring to breathe life into them.SCAN0108

Easter eased in a slow transformation. Frozen brooks began to trickle icy cold water. Waterfalls danced to life, still decked in fanciful trimmings of glassy rock jewelry and hoar-frost hair. Tiny rivulets of water descended from the peaks above, gathering force as they approached the green pastures below. In protected nooks the sun kissed tender buds of early crocuses; they responded with masses of color to announce spring. The cheerful chirping and twittering of song birds broke winter’s silence, as they preened their feathers in golden rays of sun. In Arosa, children shed layers of protective clothing as their hikes ranged further.

It was also good for Yry to be in the company of children, as till this time she’d spent much of her life with adults. One of Yry’s friends was a little girl called Frieda from the nearby village of Chur, Switzerland. Frieda was several years younger than Yry. Having this little girl tagging after her with the awe that younger children often shower on older kids was good for Yry’s bruised ego. The down side of little followers, she learned, was that you had to pay attention to what the little buggers were up to. Her most prized possession was a very chic pair of sunglasses that Norah had sent from Mainz. Imitation is the highest compliment, but Yry’s patience was tested the day Frieda donned those sunglasses and they slid off her tiny face and shattered on the stone patio.

Continued