Twenty plus years ago I studied German in college. What I remember was enough to get my family and I safely through a wonderful family trip to Southwest Germany last month, but there were always words here and there to trip me up.
One lovely afternoon we were walking around Titisee, a beautiful lakeside town in the southern Black Forest. We had finished a delicious, but long lunch in a nearby hotel restaurant overlooking the lake and had only a few minutes to explore before we needed to catch our bus. On the way to the bus stop we saw a path that led to a lakeside trail and decided to walk there instead of along the busy roadway. We were greeted by a sign that told us we were entering the Titesee Ruhepark with a long list of things that were not allowed, including pets, radios, and loud conversations.
As we opened the little gate and entered, I searched my mind for what the translation of Ruhepark might be. Park is park – that was easy. Ruhe was a common enough word, but nothing came to mind. As we walked, even the chirping of birds seemed muted. It was clearly a place to relax and rest. A young couple lounged on the grass, one quietly reading. An older couple strolled hand in hand. We approached the water and gazed out over the lake, with no need for words.
Just a few hundred meters down the lakeshore, children laughed and played at a small public beach. Even though their laughter carried across the water, there was no disturbance to the quiet of the park. Except right at the water’s edge, you couldn’t even see that beach. Graceful trees shaded and screened the ruhepark’s grounds from busy vacationers all around.
“Quiet,” I suddenly said, remembering as we left and approached the bus stop. I told my husband and son that the word ruhe meant quiet. It’s a quiet park, I explained with wonder that such a thing might exist.
As a person who loves the contemplative life and finds great solace in quiet, it was a boon to my soul to think that a place in a busy vacation town would be set aside for rest. Other meanings of the word, I learned through Google translate, include rest, peace and calm. These are not words everyone values. In fact, there were long periods in my life when I would have wondered why anyone would bother with such boring concepts. But now, something inside me leaps with joy (quietly, of course) to consider ths place.
Upon returning home and beginning this blog post, I again looked to see if Ruhepark meant anything special. I found one site in German where the term was used for a place where people’s ashes could be buried at the base of a tree in a special park area. I didn’t see any stone or markers that indicated the Titisee Ruhepark was such a place, but perhaps it is. I can’t find anything online about it.
But that little bit of information did remind me how beautiful it was at this time of year – fall in the USA – to walk in the cemeteries around our home when my husband and I lived in Boston. At that time there was little quiet in my life, but with the leaves changing and the city all around us, those were my Ruheparks, places ripe for contemplation and walking with the Divine. In fact, in German the term for a cemetery translates to Peace Yards (Friedhof), places of nature and peace.
It can be hard in the hustle and bustle of our lives to find peace, quiet, and a place and time for contemplation, but our souls rejoice when we do finally find it.
What is your relationship with silence? Would it be frustrating for you to spend 10-15 minutes without speaking? Where do you find quiet and peace in your life? Are there outdoor places you can walk and find space for your own thoughts or even no thinking at all? When you go on vacation, do you visit parks? Have you ever been to something like the Titisee Ruhepark?
I am always amazed at how much noise there is around me when I’m in “silence.” Sometimes it’s the noise of the world, which I tend to think comes from the Divine. But often it’s my own thoughts swirling. Spiritual direction can help you become more comfortable with the silence – you might even grow to love it. Find out more at Openings: Let the Spirit In.