My family and I recently embarked on a three-day adventure in Germany (living abroad is amazing – everything is so close!). We were all very excited to explore Bavaria, do lots of hiking, and see the famous Neuschwanstein Castle in person. We had the whole trip planned out.
After an idyllic drive through the Alps, we stopped in Innsbruck, Austria for lunch. That’s when the rain came a’tumblin’ down. This was not light, airy, Western Washington rain, like we’re used to. This was thunderous, pounding, drenching rain.
On the plus side, we had Old Town Innsbruck pretty much to ourselves. And, we got to see some of it while sprinting from awning to awning. On the negative side, while we waited (damply) for our lunch to arrive, we checked the weather forecast.
100% chance of rain every single day of our trip.
I didn’t even know weather could be 100%. I wasn’t sure anything could be 100%.
After months of pure sun and clear skies, the rains had arrived – and they were setting up camp with us in Germany.
This was, to put it lightly, a bummer.
The vast majority of our plans were outside excursions, which would definitely be a lot less enjoyable in driving rain.
But, we’re pretty hardy travelers at this point, so we gathered our soaking summer clothes around us and headed off to the next point on our trip, Mittenwald, Germany. We decided to try and see what we could of the town before moving on to our hotel in Garmisch.
At least, that’s what we thought we’d do. We made it to Mittenwald despite the driving rain and a couple wrong turns. But getting to Garmisch? Yeah, that wasn’t happening. The roads were all closed because of this little shindig called the G7 Summit they were having up the way in Schloss Elmau Castle. The 20-minute drive from Mittenwald to our hotel had become a two-hour re-route back the way we’d come. In a nutshell, we’d driven seven hours to be soaked, cold and trapped.
We decided to make the best of it and see what we could of the town before strategizing our next move. Luckily, we’d brought sweatshirts. Unluckily, while we were digging through the trunk in the pouring rain discovering that some of us actually hadn’t brought sweatshirts after all, one of the kids slammed another one’s foot in the car door.
So, we’d driven seven hours to be soaked, cold, trapped, and injured. Things were looking pretty sticky.
Life’s a kick sometimes. We weather the ride in our own ways, enjoying the highs and overcoming (and hopefully learning from) the lows. But sometimes, it all seems a bit much, which reminds me of this old Zen “Koan” that (basically) goes like this:
Once upon a time there was an old farmer who lived with his wife and their son. One day, the farmer arose to discover that a terrible storm had broken his fence in the night and the family’s three horses had run away.
“Oh what terrible misfortune!” the villagers cried. “How will you plow your fields? What a great loss this will be for your family!”
But the old farmer, who was very wise after his many years, simply said, “We’ll see.”
Later that day, the farmer’s horses, hungry for hay and home, returned. Miraculously, they were followed by three wild horses. In one day, the farmer’s herd had doubled!
“How wonderful!” the villagers said. “You have gained incredible wealth so quickly. What an amazing blessing!”
Again, the old farmer simply said, “We’ll see.”
A few days later, the farmer’s son was attempting to train the new horses when he was bucked off and broke his leg.
“Oh what a tragedy,” the neighbors all cried. “Your only son, injured. How will you bring in the crops now? What a horrible thing!”
And again, the old farmer said, “We’ll see.”
A week later, the village was visited by the national army. War was coming and the army was drafting every eligible man. All of the town’s young men were conscripted – except the farmer’s son, who could not fight due to his broken leg.
“How wonderful,” the villagers said and again, the old farmer replied, “We’ll see.”
The old farmer knew that even when things seem terrible, we actually don’t know for sure. Our perception of good may, in the end, turn out to be bad. And our perception of bad may, in the end, turn out to be good. There will be silver linings in even the most difficult circumstances and there will be unexpected difficulties from even the greatest boons. Whether we decide to suffer or celebrate along the way is entirely up to us.
So, our adventure in Germany had gone awry. There we were in Mittenwald, cold, soaking wet, trapped and slightly injured. Nonetheless, we sprinted (hobbled) through the downpour to a pharmacy, where we bought five rain ponchos and five umbrellas. Although we were already fairly soaked, this was an immense help (and kept us at least a little warm). Then we went marching through the rain, all in a little line. It was one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen and really, surprisingly, made me unbelievably happy.
Everything was closed, unfortunately. Probably a mix of the weather and the fact that no one could get through the roads. But this meant that we had Mittenwald to ourselves.
Along the rooftops were these big drainpipes that shot water out over the sidewalk. We ran through them with our umbrellas, making big, loud, waterfall explosions with each one. It was delightful.
Then, the rain slowed.
Then, the rain stopped.
And we had the whole place to ourselves. We hiked that baby from top to bottom and only saw a couple other people the whole time.
And then – and THEN – the people came. But they weren’t tourist people. They were long black cars with black tinted windows and G7 Summit placards and long lines of Polizia cars and vans and trucks. And where there had been no one – there was suddenly EVERYONE and I have no idea who anyone was but they were all clearly a VERY BIG DEAL.
Turns out, while we’d been walking, the three-day G7 Summit had ended.
We were one of the very first cars through the newly open roads, past the police checkpoints and temporary fence lines, past the Secret Service vehicles and we even saw THE BEAST! But President Biden wasn’t in it at the time – he was still up at the castle, I’m told.
Nothing is ever all good or all bad. Sometimes, you just have to wait and see.
Oh, and it did rain every day we were there, but just for a little. We got to do all the hiking and alpine rollercoastering and old castle exploring we wanted. And every step and hurdle we ran into along the way (of which there were more than a few) I thought, we’ll see … we’ll see…