Sunday, February 12, 2017

Switzerland: Building Your House in the Sun


On top of the Simplon pass, going into Milan, where Hannibal crossed over with elephants to surprise the Romans. There were very few houses or hamlets, for that matter so high. But we did see a few that gave me some comfort if anything happened on a stormy day. Another post about light:  You can see I am fascinated by light....

How glorious a greeting that the sun gives to the mountains! --John Muir

An old home and hotel on the top of the Simplon pass, in case anybody needed rescuing....
One of my dear friends grew up in a little village in Interkerken, Switzerland--not far from Mieringen (where meringue was supposedly invented). As a child, the looming Alps cradled their village, hugging it tight, as if to keep it remote and unknown to the outside world. In between the crag-edged cliffs, there is a small valley with fields, farms, scattered houses, a few stores, and of course, a steepled church. The mountains, she thought, were always there to keep her safe and protected. But she later told me, those majestic cliffs also delayed the sunlight from coming overhead to the valley. The Alps are so close together on that pass, clinging to the narrow valley, that it sees little sunlight. Every sun ray is precious. It's like you want to capture it in a bottle and seal it up.

When I recently went to see my daughter who lives in the French speaking part of Switzerland, we hiked, tromped, and drove along the steep mountain passes--with the mighty Alps beside us. If you drive in Switzerland, plan on going through dozens of tunnels and winding around steep descents. The expansive terrain of sun and sand that I am used to now in the Middle East seemed far away. There are no vertical drop offs in Qatar. I am accustomed to an ever present sun that explodes every morning, and shoots out its rays all day until it droops off the horizon. No need to bottle up sun here in the Middle East; it is seemingly ever present.

In the Sion/Sierre valley of Switzerland. You can see the "Toblerone"mountains in the distance.
My daughter pointed to the villages on our walks, almost hidden between the crevices of the Alps. She said, "Some houses are almost always situated in the fog or mist. But see how those people build their houses in the sun. Look at the villages nestled up there, and how they catch every possible sunlight." I then noticed that most every house plot was chosen purposefully--selected with meticulous forethought and care. Finding the right location meant receiving the maximum sunlight--in every direction. The house owner had strategically planned where they built their home so that on the dark, cloudy days there would still be some shrouded sun--maybe even a rainbow. She told me that in some villages the real estate is much more expensive because the sun shines more on one valley than the other.

Being in Switzerland reminded me of how we all need to cling to light--in our fogs and clouds. Engineers can build tunnels and nifty trains that carry cars through long, dark passageways. However, ultimately, it is critical to choose a sunny, cheery place to perch your spot. And when the storms inevitably appear, we would have soaked up enough light to survive any tumble. Mists gather on all mountains so we need to be like a prism in a sun drenched room. With every sway or touch, the crystal catches colorful rays that lights up our surroundings. Switzerland taught me to build my house in the sun that scoops up all the light in every direction--no matter what valley or mountain I have chosen.

A painting I found in a restaurant that captures the desired spots on the mountain to catch all the sun rays.

Another perfectly situated house, with orchards around it.

A house built on the right side of the valley to get as much sun as possible.
More homes that are strategically placed in the Sierre/Sion Valley

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