Bugwoman on Location – A Walk to Solden

View towards the Wildspitze mountain from Solden

Dear Readers, it all started when I got a phone call last Thursday from the care agency who look after Mum and Dad.

‘Hi’, said the Manager. ‘I was just wondering if your mum will need extra carers next week to help her while your Dad’s in hospital’.

Dad’s in hospital? I had no idea. I texted my brother, who had been sworn to silence so that I could have a trouble-free holiday.

Indeed, Dad had been in hospital since the day I left for Austria – he’d been in and out of hospital for weeks with a chest infection, but this had now developed into something more troubling. He was confused and had bowel problems, and the hospital wanted to make sure that the infection was cleared up before he was allowed home. As at today, he’s been in hospital for two weeks.

I spoke to Mum and she sounded pretty chipper, all things considered – she was eating and drinking and taking all her many tablets, and was hoping that Dad would be out soon.

Unfortunately, what we didn’t realise was how dependent she’d become on her morning carer to help her sort out her medication. And the carer was taking a well-earned week’s break.

Mum decided not to take any of her tablets because she didn’t trust herself to sort them out. And then she decided she wasn’t hungry, and stopped eating.

We only  discovered this after my brother popped in to see her and take her to the hospital to see Dad, only to find her confused and disorientated.

Fortunately, we got a morning carer to help her with her medication and her porridge, and one of her friends in the village (who is in her late 70’s herself) slept over on the sofa to keep her safe.

Suffice it to say that I’m hotfooting it to Dorset next week, and we’re going to have a family conference to make sure that things are in place in case Mum or Dad are ever left in the house alone again.

For the past week all I’ve been able to think about is a) how guilty I feel that I’m not in Dorset looking after Mum (although my brother is there) b) how terrified I am that Mum is going to fall over and there will be no one to help her and c) how it feels as if none of us can catch a break at the moment – it’s just one thing after another, and I can’t see an end to it (well, not one that I want to see). I have to get comfortable with the fact that I can’t plan with any certainty for anything , that I will always be afraid when the phone rings, and that the constant knot in my stomach is something that I will have to get used to. At the same time, I recognise how much worse it is for Mum and Dad, and I often feel so helpless in the face of what happens to them.

And meantime it is so beautiful here. I find myself weeping at everything from snowy mountains to baby birds. I think that I’m on an even keel, and then something as simple as an alpine flower growing out of a slab of rock breaks me open. I am surrounded by so much fragility, and yet so much resilience. Mountain plants and animals have such a brief season that they throw everything into the short period of summer. They flower and breed with such exuberance, making the most of every bright moment, and I know that there’s a lesson here for me too, if I choose to take it. There are still sun-kissed moments with my parents when things are ok, when it isn’t all about sickness and medications and emergency buttons, although this is part of it too. It’s all part of it, and the more that I push it away, the worse it gets.

Anyhow, I seem to have developed a dicky tummy during this past few days, and so I’ve stopped pushing myself to harder and harder walks, envigorating though they can be. I feel a need to be gentle with myself, and so today we went for a little walk, mostly downhill, alongside the river at Zwieselstein and down to Solden for cake and the bus home.

There is already plenty of wood gathered in for the winter. I love woodpiles, and wood is what people used to use for everything.

The Oetz valley has a number of covered bridges, some modern, some old.

The clover is spectacular this year.

The path down to Solden is lined with gigantic boulders, and the river itself is full of them.

The boulders themselves form a mini habitat for all manner of shallow-rooted plants, especially different kinds of saxifrage and stonecrop.

Mountain houseleek (Sempervivum montanum)

White mountain saxifrage (Saxifraga cernua) ( I think)

There is an enormous chunk of driftwood by the path – was it put here by humans, or was it thrown up in an exceptional flood?

And further along the path, some pretty yellow foxgloves.

Small Yellow Foxglove (Digitalis lutea)

And on the path is a poor dead forest dormouse, looking rather as if s/he has been run over by a mountain bike. It’s such a shame that the only time I’ve ever seen one is as a corpse.

Dead forest dormouse (Dryomys nitedula)

Up one more hill, and we’re into the outskirts of Solden. Someone has made a very fine rock garden.

But what have we here? These cute frogs are just the kind of thing that mum would stick in the garden. And underneath, there is some edelweiss, actually a rarity around Obergurgl because it prefers limestone, and most of the area is composed of something called gneiss, which is acidic.

And then we go to our favourite cafe in Solden for a coffee, and end up having some more apricot cake. We watch the gondolas of the Gaislachkogelbahn go up and down for a bit.

And then I spot a mother alpine swallow swooping up and down under the eaves of the parking garage opposite, so of course I have to go and investigate. And what do I see?

Baby alpine swallows

Is that mum?

All this waiting around for food is sooooo boring…

And so we head back on the bus. I feel my spirits lifted, almost as if I’d been pulled out of myself for a while. I’ve loved our more ambitious walks here in Austria: I feel fitter, and leaner, and a bit stronger. But for sorting out my head, there’s nothing like a (fairly) leisurely stroll, with lots of time to ponder on what I’m seeing, and to try to understand how things fit together. How does a boulder become a habitat? Where did these fledgling alpine swallows nest originally, and how long will it be before they, too, take to the wing? How does this incredibly complicated ecosystem fit together?

And also, time to just stand in wonder at this extraordinary, sacred world.

15 thoughts on “Bugwoman on Location – A Walk to Solden

  1. Alittlebitoutoffocus

    Sorry to hear about your father’s illness. I know from my own experience that it’s a huge worry. Your pictures look oh so familiar – mountains, fast flowing streams, huge rocks and plenty of flowers. I checked my Alpine Flora book for the Mountain Saxifrage (as you seemed uncertain) and, whilst it’s not clear, your picture looks a little different to the one in my book (and the ones I found online). E.g. your picture has small protrusions every cm or so up the stems (I guess they are like leaves) but the pictures I’ve seen don’t have anything like that, other than a few more flowers. Also the petals look slightly more pointed on yours. However, I’m afraid, I cannot offer you a better alternative, other than maybe some form of Sandwort?

  2. Fran & Bobby Freelove

    So sorry to hear about your parents, we know what a worry it is as we’ve been through it ourselves. Sometimes you need a small break just to recharge your batteries, and your upset stomach is probably just down to all the anxiety. Rest assured, you’re doing all you can and the care you show comes through in your words. Let’s hope that by the time you get back your dad will be out of hospital and on the mend and your mum will be feeling a little less worried, hopefully then you can share the lovely photos and times you had on your holiday, take care x

    1. Bug Woman

      Thanks Fran and Bobby – we’re hoping that Dad will be out early next week, perfect timing as I’ll be down with them from Tuesday. Keep your fingers crossed!

  3. Laurin Lindsey

    Ah, such a difficult time and you are a very good daughter being there, if not physically then emotionally. I am glad that you are surrounded by stunning vistas and beautiful scenery. Life is a journey and we are all meandering to the same end. I pray you come back from your vacation restored and with a fresh perspective. Sending prayers for your parent too!

  4. Andrea Stephenson

    A beautiful walk to help comfort you – I’m sorry to hear about your Dad’s illness and the effect on your mother. I do recognise that feeling from when my mother was ill of not being able to plan for anything because something is sure to happen when you make plans. I hope things settle down a little soon for you and your parents.

    1. Bug Woman

      Thanks Andrea. We’re hoping Dad will be out of holiday early next week, but he still seems pretty confused – hopefully being back at home will improve things.

  5. hanorah21

    Sorry to hear about your parents; it must be such a worry. I skied a couple of times in Solden with my boys many years ago and it’s lovely to see summer photos of the area. I remember a frightening bus journey in a complete white-out. Talking of guilt, the only day I left my boys (4 of mine plus a cousin) in their class so I could go for a longer ski with mine, I returned to find my youngest with a plastered leg – mother having been absent the while frolicking on the slopes. He had done whatever it was in German so we’ve never been entirely sure but he enjoyed the rest of the time on a restaurant balcony while sympathetic people bought him drinks and treats.

    1. Bug Woman

      🙂 you only have to turn your back for a second don’t you….I bet your youngest dined out on the story of how his mum had gone ‘frolicking on the slopes’ for years …

  6. Sarah Ann Bronkhorst

    So good that your family tried hard to allow you a proper break. Keep the swallow family in mind when you return to London: wonderful photos.

  7. Cheryl Capaldo Traylor

    So much beauty and fragility in this world; I understand it breaking your heart, or you, open. Best wishes for your parents health. Many of us have been in your shoes—the guilt, the not knowing, the limbo it places us within. In times like these, I always am amazed at the resilience of humans, too. We are like nature. We are nature. Beyond gorgeous photographs!


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