“So, how have you adjusted?” Since we came back last July from our one-year sabbatical in Santa Fe, the girls and I have been asked this a zillion times. Although the question is well-intended, its meaning is not quite clear to me. Have we adjusted to being back in our little Swiss town, or to having lost Matthias?

Of course, it’s a harsh contrast between 7000-inhabitant Muri and Santa Fe, the cultural, spiritual and historical capital, cosmopolitan touristic center, and high-desert hiking and birding paradise. But Muri is home, especially to Hannah and Marie. What I miss most here are the wide horizons and the feeling that “the sky is the limit”. But maybe I’ll learn to widen my horizon and push my limits here too.

The girls and I had prepared ourselves to returning to an empty house full of Matthias’ absence. It has none the less been hard to invent new routines without him. I miss him not only at home, but also at work. However, it was sweet to come home to our friends here in Switzerland.

In Santa Fe, Hannah and Marie attended a wonderful girls school, the objectives of which is to empower girls and strengthen their political awareness. Here in Muri, Hannah promptly re-connected with her old friends. Marie changed school upon our return and is now in 6th grade, where she has made lots of new friends.

Before returning to Europe, we took several great trips in North America. We spent Easter weekend in photographer’s heaven at White Sands National Monument, about 4 hours south of Santa Fe. During spring break, we made an 1,800-mile road trip to the Grand Canyon, the flowering Sonoran desert, and Canyon de Chelly. Right after graduation, we flew to Vancouver to spend a few delightful days at John and Jill Innes’ and meet their wonderful, funny dog Banjo. John had been Matthias’ and my boss until 1999, and visiting him and his wife was another step in our healing process. It’s not just us and our close relatives that mourn and miss Matthias. Other people do too, and it is wonderful to share memories with them.

The next highlight was our 2.5-week trip to California in June, during which we stayed for four fun days at Greg and Mary Biging’s in the San Francisco Bay Area. Greg had been Matthias’ prof and PhD advisor at UC Berkeley, and maybe also like an older brother to him. We also visited John Helms, another of his professors, and his wife Wendy.

Matthias had spent seven years in Berkeley before moving to Switzerland in 1994. During our previous sabbatical in 2004/2005, he had immensely enjoyed taking us to his favorite forests, beaches, hikes, national parks – and of course introducing us to his friends –, just like I did last June.

During the past twelve months, we have slowly realized how resilient we are. We have made new friends, travelled, remodeled our home in Muri, enjoyed concerts, hosted guests, and most of all we’ve held together. Sad moments get scarcer. Again and again, we feel surrounded by Matthias’ love and God’s blessings, and I am confident that it will be so next year too.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.

Click on slide show above to enjoy in full size.

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