When the Powder hit the Mountain of Angels

Among snow and ice, a few firs cling to a rocky mountain face in Switzerland
Photograph copyright © 2009 Mignon Naegeli

Almost fifty years ago, two young women spent the last day of the year in a mountain resort in central Switzerland.

They went skiing. Both women where at about the same level of untalented downhillers, but one was slightly more adventurous. One was a bit overweight, one a bit too skinny.

One was leading the way down the slope with awkward moves, falling on her butt once in a while, whereas her friend stood frozen on top of the hill, only to be rescued by a young, experienced skier, who helped the damsels in distress to reach the valley. Chuckling then, he waved a good bye and disappeared in a cloud of snow.

(Personally, I have not much experience with this white stuff. God knows what I would have done had we moved to Duluth, the place the Female fell in love with a few years ago. Only fur-lined booties might have coaxed me to go outdoors to do my stuff.)

Following a well deserved rest and a hefty Swiss meal the girls went out to explore the Sylvester nightlife. After screening several venues they settled in a hotel bar, bored, ready to call it a night after the clock turned.

Chakra had other things in mind. First a bunch of handsome young men appeared, crowding the young women; one of them even had the same last name as the Female. He came from a village in the canton of origin of her father’s family. (Here in Tennessee we would call one a “fifth cousin”!)
Then a lone, shady (remember Harlequin novels?) figure appeared in a US army surplus jacket. When the band started to play a tango, the stranger swiftly grabbed the Female, who then—so she thought at the time—danced the dance of her life.

The Stranger, who was from her parts of the woods, studied in Bern. With the mention of that city, they discovered they had something in common: both of their mothers’ ancestors were Bernese. Months passed, the Female’s family warned her about the upper class hormone filled males who took advantage of naïve victims only to drop them for a suitable wife. Which, of course, is a proven fact …

There are exceptions to the rule! Once in a while, a male turns out to be a honest, caring human who couldn’t care less about ethnicity, social standing, and minor things that can be fixed, like neglected oral care and such. Those men don’t remain strangers. I see many similarities between humans and canines. Take a controversial breed of dogs. One might become an attack animal, another a sweet pet. Frankly, I believe the same phenomenon occurs in what is called “the superior species.” Albert Schweitzer versus Idi Amin; Wolfman versus — well, who knows, there are too many.

After a tumultuous wasted time, the Female finally got her act together, thanks to the many books she read while waiting for the Stranger to show up (and seldom did). When he finally came to her parents’ apartment, where she lived at the time, she handed him her final Christmas present: a book she had not chosen for the author’s brilliant writing or it’s content. It was the title that made her choose, In Cold Blood.

Many years passed. The female wed my Wolfman, moved to the land they call home. The Stranger’s fiancé left after he received a good slap from the Female when he showed up somewhere he shouldn’t have. He then married, divorced, married again, had a child. Left his family for the former wife, returned back home — to die.

The Female had learned the middle part of the sad story long after living in Tennessee with her happy menagerie. One day she received an invitation to a birthday party. The venue for the planned festivities sounded tempting. A chalet way up above lake Thun, overlooking the Bernese Alps. She declined politely but agreed to have lunch one day in the future with the now middle aged Stranger, who apparently had not changed his views of the weak sex at all.

While visiting their homeland a few years later, my Humans decided on a day trip with the Wolfman’s father. They drove to a town near Berne, where my first Bernese mountain dog siblings, Rigi and Dandylion came from. [That was long before my time, but I assume they had equally affectionate personalities as my long passed big brother Ziggy and my sweet, sometimes slightly annoying young sister Annebäbi.]

Back to my tale:
The two Naegeli males settled for lunch in the stylish Restaurant Ochsen, and the Female went to meet the Stranger for a last time at the Löwen, an old dark place on the wrong side of town. Not a good omen to choose a restaurant named Lion to see a kitten turned lioness! She shot closeups over the narrow gnarly table. When the Female later showed the prints to her friend Susanne, she uttered in her proper English accent: “I wouldn’t buy a used car from this guy.”

The Stranger had one real talent though. While his career as a comptroller for the Swiss government fitted well his controlling personality, he also had a keen eye for photography. Over the few years that remained of his live, he sent the Female a picture at the end of every year;  pictures that talked to her about sadness, emptiness.
After the stranger’s death, his widow notified the unknown persons who’s addresses she must have found in his belongings. One of those people was my Female.

The ashes of the misguided seeker are now mixed with the soil on that, I assume, really beautiful hill overlooking the Berner Oberland.

Close-up sepia toned black and white photograph of a bearded man wearing eyeglasses..


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