Hallo, junge Dame! Are you walking all by yourself? I turned my head towards the voice. I was the only person there, so the question was clearly meant for me. Two older women were gesticulating towards me. They were seated at the only bench and table in the forest, two bikes behind them. I moved a bit closer. I was reluctant to get into a long conversation about grandchildren and arthritis. Ugh. I was on kilometer 21 of my hike. Sweaty. Dirty. Tired. Hungry. Probably smelly! And I was nearly done. I had in fact just finished calculating that I had a mere 2.5 kilometers left.
But they were adamant. I was soon in a crossfire of questions. Are you hiking alone? Do you always hike alone? Do you have a boyfriend? When were you born? With every question I moved a bit closer. It felt rude to be standing so far away, strapped into my backpack like I was ready to make a mad dash towards that ever so close finish line. Finally, I just decided to sit down. The bench looked so welcoming. My feet were sore, my legs were dusty, my backpack straps were moist and clammy against my bare shoulders. I was starting to feel happy about being obliged to rest.
I settled in and soon found out that these ladies could not be bothered to share any stories about their grandchildren or their great grandchildren. They were 83 and 85 years old respectively, but they prattled on about their ladies’ nights and their afternoon bike rides to that very spot where they would have a little piccolo before heading back home.
They told me they were kontaktfreudig, chatting up anyone who would take a moment to stop and listen. One told me about her cruise from Peru to Hamburg and then Australia and New Zealand. A world traveler. That same adventurer also told me how she had just jumped in front of a moving vehicle cruising along the trail to inform the driver that it was a no driving zone. I loved her gumption!
The other woman was a bit more reserved. She scolded her friend for rambling on when they had in fact wanted to find out more about the junge Dame. What do you do for a living? Where do you live? I gave them the briefest of run-downs , touching on my reservations about Berlin and my desire to see more. Do it! While you can. While you’re young. While your knees will let you! Our generation, post-war, we didn’t have those opportunities. Take them. Live them!
They were of course right. But I already knew that. The real lesson was much more profound. What struck me most about these ladies was their openness. To life. To new people. To spontaneity. To seizing every moment.
When I thought about it, I was the old fuddy duddy I was expecting these sprightly lasses to be. I was the one who wanted to trudge along, head forward, eyes down. I was the one who was not open to seeing where a chance encounter on an unknown path might take me. I was the one who was more focused on getting there than enjoying here. What a boring old fogy!
So I snapped this shot of these charming ladies as they rode away. As a reminder. And I hope that next time I am rushing to be anywhere other than where I am, I will remember that there is always time to drink the piccolo.