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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mission Cemetery

Last month, in the hiatus between my time in Boulder and my return to Berlin, I traveled to the region I still consider my homeland: The Four Corners Country.

I was born and grew up in Durango, and spent a good portion of my youth riding around the region in the back of my parents' old, white International pickup truck with my older brother, Geoff. We'd chug along highways and back roads through the Reservation and public lands, the aroma of sage or pinon or juniper or exhaust our constant companions. My dad was a writer and a journalist, so these trips qualified as work for him. We were poor, so they were our only family vacations.

Later, as a teenager and then a college student, my friends and I continued our explorations of the canyons, mesas and mountains of the area.

My recent return was in part for work. I ended up writing for and editing a special travel issue for High Country News, which included a piece on the Four Corners Country. It was also for pleasure. It had been a long time since I had visited this beautiful and eerie place. Despite all my time spent in the area, I made some new discoveries. I had actually never hiked into the Bisti Wilderness, and I did on this trip. And I had also never noticed this cemetery, though I had driven past it many times. The light was just right this time, and I had to stop and caught a few images. It was beautiful but also haunting, a place where the dead have been forgotten, it seems, the grave markers toppled and decaying. I'll post more pictures from the journey soon.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Stumbling Stones of Aldekerk

One of the reasons we moved to Germany in 2010 was because Wendy, my wife, and our daughters have German citizenship. They are citizens because Wendy's grandparents, Arthur and Margaret Mendel, fled the Nazis back in 1938, and German law says that those who lost their citizenship between 1933 and 1945, along with their descendants, can have it back.

The story of Wendy's grandparents and their families is heartbreaking and fascinating. It's a story I hope to write down someday. In the meantime, I made this short video about Wendy's grandfather's home town of Aldekerk, and the installation of Stolpersteine, or Stumbling Stones, in front of the family house there. The Stolpersteine, of which there are thousands throughout Germany and in some neighboring countries, are a project of the artist Gunther Demnig, who places the little brass sculptures in sidewalks in front of houses from which Jews and other victims of the Nazis were taken or where they were murdered. When we stumble upon them in Berlin, which is quite often, sadly, we always stop and read the inscriptions.

Up until June 2012, there were no Stolpersteine in Aldekerk. Now there are two groups of them, one for each of the two Jewish families who called the small town their home until the Nazis took their homes and many of their lives away from them.

Sometimes the number of memorials to the Holocaust in Berlin can be overwhelming. And sometimes we might ask, Isn't it enough yet? The answer is clear: It will never be enough.

Music: Requiem for Victims of East Japan Earthquake (sanmi) / CC BY 3.0
and Brendan Kinsella playing  Bach - Aria Variata, BVW. 989 - Variation No. 3 from under a public domain license.