LOST YEARS

Self published book
pigment print, 96 pages
2014, Vienna

I was almost born in Bad Aussee – if my mother, already in labour, had not decided to give birth in Linz instead. I spent most of my childhood and youth in this place; it is deeply familiar to me. I know its mountains and valleys, the smell of its freshly-mown meadows, its clear air, the silence of its nights. But I never realised the true beauty of the place, its value for me; I never saw what was to grow so important to me.
Of course time has not stood still around Bad Aussee, but many of its places have not changed since my childhood. They have resisted change, they refer to days past, to generations of old. Perhaps that is what moves me.
Bad Aussee was the playground of my childhood. Bicycling, hiking, riding, fishing, skiing – I recall many happy hours there. And yet that time is lost to me. Is it possible to lose oneself – without noticing? It happens too surreptitiously, yet the effect is suffocating. How is it possible that those closest to us become such strangers? That we fail to recognise ourselves, lose our grounding, and yet do not reach out a searching hand?  How does this impotence become so powerful? Where do we look when we don’t know what we will find? When we’re unsure whether the search is worthwhile? When we fear finding?
And yet, staying, enduring, hesitating – all that costs so much more energy. It demands everything, devours it hungrily and leaves less and less behind. I have lost so much time in this fog, so many years I can hardly remember. I participated in life, and yet I experienced nothing. I was there, but I could not see myself. I was among people who loved me – yet I was alone. For fear, I lost love, and with it everything I held dear.
But sometimes gifts arrive unexpectedly. They take their time – or is it us who need to take this time? Perhaps the gifts wait for us until we are ready. Ready to recognise and accept them.  Bad Aussee has given me such an unexpected gift. For years, I avoided this place of my childhood. My family there was too close for comfort, the expansive landscape was too narrow for me, the clear air felt suffocating. I was too little myself there.
This past summer, however, I received the most beautiful gift imaginable there. I found myself. With a vengeance, with all my power and full of love. I have experienced that the search is worthwhile – because finding makes it worthwhile.