The High Road

There is a beautiful Wanderweg (clearly-marked walks through the Swiss countryside, mainly) in Kanton Zug. It sits atop the Zugerberg and contains breathtaking beauty, relaxing pedestrian strolls, a charmingly dilapidated church, fabulous tracks for bikers, and the “Skulpturenweg” for children and adults.

When I lived in Zürich, I took the short train ride (with my beloved SBB) to Zug, and  walked it many times. It was more meditation than sport. I would walk for hours – disappearing in the sound of cowbells and sunshine or rain or foggy mists.

The top of a Swiss mountain, even a “smaller” one like the Zugerberg, can make one pause. There is a literal and figurative perspective when viewing the city below that brings an immediate disconnect from “real life” and places one in the mountain’s uppermost sanctuary.

When looking down upon the city below, I recall feeling compelled to stay high. I wanted to stay at the top because being at the top felt easy and peaceful. Relative to what lingered below, the higher road above felt more who I was. (Do not mistake me, I can do it – work and live below – I just don’t want to.)

The low road is covered with soldiers running around wearing narcissism, greed, neglect, pathological lying, darkness, etc. like medals. It seems almost normal for quelque personnes on the low road to engage in the tearing apart of folks who don’t live like they do. People who place a higher premium on other virtues.

I don’t do that well and I hope my son will choose not to. It’s not a Catholic thing for me, it’s a human thing. I have one life, I don’t want to live it worshiping those gods.

The high road has better views and many things seem easier to “touch” up there – joy, God, clarity, compassion, sunshine. That’s what I want my son to strive for, also. Life can show you true joy when you stay focused on gratitude, generosity, and humility.

There’s one great thing that lives up there I failed to mention. Justice resides on the high road. Even as some on the low road fail to see her or care she is there. Justice always stays where the air is pure and the views are clear.

And, she’s one hell of a companion to have by your side.

Birthday Wish to all of you

“A ship in a harbor is safe, but it’s not what ships are built for.”

Today is my birthday. In the past 10 years of my life, I cannot believe the “outside of the harbor” choices I’ve made. Ironically enough, given the quote’s nautical nature, I do not consider “moving across an ocean” to be one of the most trans-formative choices.

I learned a new language (something one can do anywhere). I changed my career path (you can also do this where you are, and consider that applicable to all below). Together, my parents and I mended conflicts well before it was too late (today, they are two of my closest, most treasured relationships). I maintained a healthy physical lifestyle and weight, which wasn’t easy when I couldn’t walk. I published a book. I became “Aunt LaLa” to the Ayres Little Men and added a new family (my “Henry” carries their family name). I gave my hair to make wigs for children with cancer…four times. I faced, and continue to face, my fears (crippling stage fright and fear of heights). I watched marvelous sunrises in gratitude and walked through challenging sunsets in humility. On this day in 2011, I converted to Catholicism, which was the single-most authentic decision I have ever made.

Perhaps, some of the most trans-formative trips out of the harbor are those we simultaneously fear and welcome? Though we are afraid, we know we truly have to go – into the vast, seemingly-unending expanse. Someone calls and says, “I have the perfect job for you, but it’s in Lichtenstein” or someone writes you an email and begs, “Can you please take in this rescue dog?” or even “Marry me, my love?” Life changes in one … Augenblick.

One of mine happened on January 22, 2016 when I saw and heard a strong heartbeat from a machine in Bern, Switzerland. It took me about a second to process that was his (Christopher Henry) heartbeat. Sometimes, I guess, that second is all it takes to pick up the anchor and set sail. Fear be damned. Best decision I ever made, pulling up that anchor.

I know it’s tough and scary. Many times in the past 10 years, my ship has ventured out into the sea only to return battered and bruised. Heartbroken. Sea voyages can be treacherous and arduous. There are literal ups and downs that either propel you forward or crush you. It’s difficult to leave the comforts of a tranquil and serene harbor. Ah…but, that’s not what ships are built for.

I like to imagine wisdom from my four grandparents, as I push away from the harbor each time. They have four simple rules for each journey.

“Be bold, Lulabelle.”

                                                                 “Be authentic, Sweet Girl.”

                                    “Be brave, Granddotta!”

                             “Be peaceful, Princess Wawie.”

 You can do it, too.

Be bold. Be authentic. Be brave! Be peaceful.

Why do the nations so furiously rage?

Studying global relations (law and economics on an international scale) has been full of many lessons I wish every person could learn. Not yet done – but here are just five things I’ve already learned, in Tell-It-Like-It-Is style (i.e. I’m not using fancy phrases, okay, I promise).

  1. There is absolutely no reason for wealthy, developed nations not to get along. There are many excuses (most of which center around the need to “protect” or “isolate” the individual country from the global marketplace), but there are no reasons. In times of plenty, we should not be greedy – we should be gracious. In times of strife, we should not be aggressive – we should be thoughtful. In short? We should work together and base decisions on reason – not emotion. Insert book suggestion: Al Gore’s Attack on Reason.
  2. You are born where you are born, and there’s nothing you can do about that. So, when I have a discussion with one of my colleagues at the Institute as an “American,” I am aware that I am not a superpower. I was merely lucky enough, and I was very lucky, to have been born within the borders of a superpower. We don’t discuss things as countries, we discuss things as humans. We bring our expertise to the table, but the overall discussion is global. What’s good for the world will be good for humanity.
  3. Religion has absolutely no place in when discussing geopolitics. I mean exactly that. The singular reason to discuss religion at all, in serious global discourse, is for the purposes of determining geographical areas of prosecution and intolerance in regard to human rights. There is no place in geopolitics for one’s personal religious beliefs or preferences (coming from a devout Catholic).
  4. Negotiating truly is an art form and this is why. Negotiating needs, at least, two willing and able participants. To be willing to negotiate means one is willing to be vulnerable, humble, and open. To be able to negotiate means one has been given a proxy or authority to do so. Imagine how many times a day world leaders do this without our knowledge? So, if there is hope this can be done countless times every hour, there is hope this can be done (WTO Members, I’m looking directly at you) once a day. Negotiating keeps war, poverty, strife, collapse at bay. It is the entire ballgame, but rests securely on both criteria being fulfilled.
  5. The worst times in Switzerland to hold discussions about international policies are the following: just after lunch, when there is a major news story unfolding, if the sun is shining in the city, if there is snow in the mountains, or if there is no more wine on the table. This leaves a great window: when it is raining, the carafes are full of a good Humagne Rouge from the Valais, and there are men AND WOMEN at the table. This is ideal.

Gotta love Handel and the Bible…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNcZgu9yFjU They make my point for me.

Last Concert of 2015

I sang my final concert of 2015 last night.

Last night’s concert was  bittersweet. It ends a year of major transition for me, personally, and I believe last weekend began a new transition for us all, globally. This global transition has changed every time I connect to the internet. As Thomas Paine observed centuries ago, “These are the days that try men’s souls.”

As I sat in my dressing room, there was a knock at my door and a dear friend appeared to be with me before the concert. He remarked about the very same things (both)  I previously mentioned and said there was a very interesting “look” happening for me last night.

“It’s as if there is darkness around you, but there is light inside. Chiaroscuro.”

I agree. (Side note – that made me think of The Grant and Durd. Had to completely redo my makeup.)

“See how there is just a small amount of shadow on the wall? That’s manageable. Easy to overcome with your smile.”

A little Swiss man, who would show up to hear me sing if I opened a grocery store, talked to me after the concert and said the same thing. He told me my smile after the last note, which was something I did quite purposely, made him feel like everything would be okay.

Light. We need light. I was given a Texas-size serving at birth.

(Your pictures are below. Thank you for being with me before that concert. You have remained one of my dearest friends throughout some times when the dark and the light weren’t in such great balance.)

****

There is a great deal of darkness around those of us who are trying to process the current events in a compassionate, concerned, humanitarian way. What do we do? How do we help? Also, how to we protect – ourselves, our children, and our future?

The answer is not to be found in contributing hate speech, bigotry, racism, or darkness. That is unproductive, unnecessary, and inhumane.  As history has shown us, hate feeds on such answers.

Thoughtful, well-educated, serious people sitting together and creating appropriate, targeted, short and  long-term solutions to the problems we face – that is a solution. Marrying prudence with compassion – that is a solution. When force is necessary, tempering such action with a strong eye on the innocents affected by such force and a plan to deal with their future, which we will directly effect. For every child with which I am concerned, there is an aunt/Godmother/LaLa version of me in Syria who is equally concerned with the child she loves.

****

Farewell to 2015 – what a wonderful year of some beautiful music. Jackson, I believe my favorite moment of the entire year happened at Transfiguration when we performed “Blackbird.”

We are all Saints – Wir sind alle Heiligen

I see that November is coming and I think, “Hang on, girl” because every year, both Allerheiligen (All Saints day) and Allerseelen (All Souls day) teach me.

https://lauraanneayres.com/2014/11/02/allerheiligen-allerseelen-all-saints-and-all-souls-day/

https://lauraanneayres.com/2014/03/10/allerseelen-by-strauss/

That’s, well, only a part of it all. Just two glimpses into how these days have molded me.

There was a lot of personal impact-laden death around me in 2009 and 2010. In 2009, all my “you’re a foreigner” trouble started in Switzerland, I was beaten by the man I thought I’d marry, and two men that were touchstones for me unexpectedly died (less than 2 months apart). Happy New Year in 2010, as my parents divorced shortly after lawyers/judges returned from ski vacations, my family split in half, Granddaddy died, L’s mother died, and Annie overdosed. It was a lot.

So, these two days mean a great deal for me every year. I quietly reflect on November 1st and 2nd. I remember all those I’ve lost – some are actually still living and others are dead. All Saints and All Souls days are contemplative for me. Not dark, just contemplative.

For the past four years of my life, I have spent Allerheiligen at Bibiana’s grave, and this year was no exception. I learned a profoundly important lesson this year.

A man was adorning the grave beside Bibiana’s. He had tears falling from his eyes onto the grave.

I literally cannot handle it when someone is crying. So, I said, “es macht die Erde gesunder” and I put a hand on his shoulder. (It makes the soil/earth healthier.)

When I put my hand on his shoulder, he flinched. I am not sure he even realized someone was there. I pulled my hand away quickly (sometimes, I forget that I am in Switzerland, where you are not supposed to have “so much sunshine all the time”) and he…pulled it back. He squeezed my hand and said, “Stimmt.” (True that!)

After he left, I put one of the candles I had for Bibiana (I had 5, plus the Easter candle I made at church last Easter, I had a rather Texas amount to begin with…) on the grave of his loved one. He came quickly back, took one of the flowers he’d used for his loved one, and put it on Bibiana’s grave!

We are living Saints. All of us. We are all connected.

Written from a train from Luzern to Bern, 01.11.2015

Important Lessons from a Swiss juridique Konferenz

September 11th and 12th found me sitting in a breathtakingly gorgeous room in St. Gallen, Switzerland attending a legal conference the presentations of which were in two languages which were both foreign to me a mere 6 years ago.

Yep. Same girl that wrote that book you all love. Now, I’m attending legal conferences. Go figure.

Regardless of my green status, I held my own.

Well, maybe not on day one. My brain didn’t trust itself. I translated everything that was said into English and wrote my notes in English, as well. I left with chicken scratch about most of the presentations (thankfully not the one given by my new professor, who was amazing and thankfully did not speak at the speed of a Texas bullet) and a gigantic headache.

I wasn’t sure if there was a point in attending day two. At three o’clock that morning, it hit me – let go. Listen to the words and write your notes in German.

I tried it and it worked. Thank God because one of the presentations yesterday changed the way I will approach my thesis (if it gets approved). Thanks to the Swiss guy who sounds like he’s from Luzern, but is actually from Solothurn/Cambridge, Mass…go mighty Crimson…moving on.

Swiss people do something by nature that continues to astonish me. They easily flow from one language to another. They can, and do, seemingly seamlessly answer a question posed in French with an answer formulated in German (and vis versa). Above that rests a familiarity and comfort with English that blows my mind given how complex this language is (for example, I can say, “The money I had had had had little worth in the end,” and this sentence is a perfectly acceptable sentence utilizing double past perfect. It’s also a perfectly acceptable reason to drink Vodka shots. Moving on…). Anyway, the ease of linguistics was my first lesson this weekend: keep my languages (specifically words and thoughts) flexible.

The second lesson was something I’ve seen in both conferences this summer (the other being the remarkable conference on Internet Jurisdiction, hosted by the University of Geneva in June). The Swiss rarely dig their heels in and, instead, will find a way to say “perhaps, I’m not sure, it’s possible that, well have you considered” in the most flowery way and end it with “you might be wrong?” We all will be at one point and time! Second lesson: keep my “feet” nimble and ready to move. Not easy for a Texas girl, no matter how liberal she has always been.

What I’m learning about these two particular “Swiss” approaches is how crucial both are to moving forward. We can no longer (especially in the area of law in the digital age) continue to sit still, review data, and “write legislation.” The majority of legislation in this field, for the foreseeable future, has the lifespan of a fruit fly. It needs almost constant reworking, rewording, amending, reviewing, re-creating, etc. The moment after it is accepted as law and applied, chances are good it will already be obsolete or facing obscurity. Let me put it this way for all you Torah/Bible folks out there:

Each of us owns a tablet, but the age of stone tablets is over.

Don’t dig my heels in. Stay agile. It’s common for me to be dewy-eyed and optimistic, but I remain optimistic about my thesis and what it might add to the landscape. I learned many things this weekend that will help me a great deal.

This country continues to teach me life lessons.

Unrealistic Expectations – I’m talking to all of us – the Liberals

The Pope is Catholic. He is going to be anti-abortion. Posting on FB, “I don’t know why he doesn’t just get with the times” or “Who does he think he is…God?” is ridiculous. He’s the Pope.

When someone identifies as, “I’m conservative in all ways,” chances are good that guy or gal is going to be vehemently anti- uh…- many things. I’m always glad to hear that because, well, then I know. I’m not disgusted or pissed off or anything. I just know. That’s how he/she sees him/herself. Period.

What shocks me is why we, I’m talking to the liberals, expect something different? For example, the Pope. We expect the Pope to be a flaming liberal overnight because…? I think he’s fairly transparent, right? Though he is, in my opinion, following the steps of Christ more than I’ve seen in any other Pope, is he going to be hosting a Global Dance Party in Support of Gay Adoption soon? Probably not. Am I expecting him to? Absolutely not. Though, I would LOVE that party. Moving on…

When did we forget “liberal” implies an “open mind” and why do we think we need to change someone who is being transparent? It’s not the transparent ones that need to change – it’s the hypocrites. The liars. These are the people that need a good whack with the truth ruler. With the transparent folks, you know the deal: you take the deal or you don’t. Me? I don’t take it.

Lately, the liberals are becoming like the conservatives and I think it’s due in large part to the 2-party system. We are set up  the moment we are indoctrinated into the “Republicans and Democrats” system to believe there is our way and the other team’s way. Because I’m liberal, it means my beliefs are always right. Wrong. Plenty of my conservative friends and family members have legitimate reasons (I’m not talking about the bats*** crazy ones) for defending certain extreme (in my opinion) beliefs. That’s fine by me because their beliefs have nothing to do with me, even when they affect me as a woman. There are plenty of people out there, in 2015, who believe I am no longer a “delicate flower” that needs to give my little woman’s brain a break from 1-3PM. That’s why my FB friends list looks still looks like a unicorn whizzed rainbows all over it.

Go with me here and this is only my experience (please don’t write me telling me that one time you knew a Swiss guy who voted only SVP).

Switzerland has roughly 28 parties. 28. There is a PARTY for Pirate Protection,  two Communist PARTIES, and a PARTY that wants to protect the little four-legged folks. The Swiss don’t have this American/British “there is only one way and it’s my way” due in large part to the spectrum. Growing up Swiss means you don’t have black and white. You have 28 versions of grey and every canton has an additional version of those 28 versions. The politicians, religious leaders, etc. are transparent and the Swiss find this normal and not worthy of their ire, even when they vehemently disagree with the viewpoint. If the Swiss don’t like the XYZ party’s initiative, they simply…don’t vote for them. In general, they don’t raise holy hell, they don’t post 80 things on FB (maybe 4 is the most I’ve seen from one guy on Twitter). They simply use their feet to show their disagreement.

In this privileged First World in which we live, it’s too bad. See, we set ourselves up when we limit our beliefs to this party (conservative) or that party (liberal). We will travel one road and anyone on another road is “wrong” or “infringing on my beliefs.” Is that true at times? Yes. What’s to do? Not sure…start a new road? Join someone else’s road? Don’t be Catholic. Don’t be Episcopal or don’t live in Dallas county. Don’t be FB friends with Joe the Plumber. Or…there are lots of options.

Think I’m being dismissive? Au contraire mon frère.

“Dallas” didn’t work for me. I didn’t need to change Dallas nor did I need Dallas to “evolve” to meet my expectations (think of how arrogant that sounds?). No, I needed to find a place that worked. For me. I moved across an ocean to find a place that felt better (most of the time) and where I fit a bit better (most of the time). It was not easy and I wish Dallas had been more in line with what I needed, who I was, etc. But, it wasn’t.

Dallas was transparent and I wasn’t buying it. So, I went somewhere else. And…God…it was the best (/hardest) path I’ve ever been on.