The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project

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The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Chapter XVIII

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On my Moped to Father in Michelbach

It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.

Anne Sexton

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My Father in front of Erna’s House in Michelbach near Schotten

It had been more than five years, since I had seen Father. He had left one day looking for work at friends and relatives. Considering his poor health and age, he was faced with the dilemma of having to return to Wesel, where he would be dependent on Aunt Mieze’s financial support or else be content with the odd casual work, which barely supported his livelihood. Furthermore considering his intensive pride as a former successful agricultural administrator and the pain he must have suffered from the dismal failure of his farming venture in Southern Germany, I can understand his anguish and feelings of having become utterly worthless in his own eyes and in the eyes of his family. Pride and failure have never been good bedfellows in a man’s heart, and Father was no exception. As for me, I missed his presence a lot, but I was too timid to ask as to when he would come back and did not know what was going on behind the scenes. Much later I found out that with Uncle Günther’s support Mother had initiated divorce proceedings. On the basis of the law that required common residence and conjugal relations Mother was able to get a divorce in exchange for waiving any rights to financial support from Father. So to make this sad and depressing story short, Father after the divorce joined and not long afterwards married Erna Krämer, an old acquaintance from the Warthegau days, who lived in her rustic and cozy home in the village of Michelbach at the foot of Mount Vogelsberg north of Frankfurt.

Schotten_Uebersicht_Kirche

Picturesque Schotten – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

The last summer holidays before graduation were only a few weeks away. It was also to be the last year Mother and Aunt Mieze would reside in Wesel. Uncle Günther and Aunt Lucie had invited them to live with them in Watzenborn-Steinberg (now Pohlheim), where all four would share the rent of a brand-new house that had been built by a teacher as a retirement home in the distant future. Naturally there was a lot of joyful excitement among the three Kegler siblings having been raised together at the parsonage in Grünewald and now having the chance of living once more under one roof. There was just one problem. How would I fit into the grand plan of bringing the family members together? A transfer to a high school in another province with different graduation requirements was out of the question. The solution was an obvious one. I had to stay behind and continue my studies later on in the fall, while they would move to the land of the Hessians. The decision to finish my secondary education in Wesel proved to become one of the great milestones and turning points of my life.

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Twenty-year Old Peter

But for now at the beginning of the six-week break from school I had other things on my mind. I had to think of visiting Father. One of my old scout buddies sold me his moped for DM 50.00, a true bargain at the equivalent of ten monthly allowances. It had a peppy engine and in spite of being quite old was in excellent shape. The best part was that I did not need a driver’s license. Having always envied Klaus for his scooter, I now had my very own motorized transportation with which I could travel to Michelbach to see Father and his new wife Erna.

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Philosophical Discussions with my Father

At a maximum speed of 50 km/h it took me all day to reach the scenic hill country around Mount Vogelsberg. Father and Erna gave me a warm welcome alleviating immediately all fear that Father might have turned into a stranger. I had departed from Wesel with these somber feelings, which had been building up due in part to our long separation, but also due to Mother’s bitter and regretful remarks that she had sometimes made about the divorce. So it was a great relief to be greeted so cordially and be welcomed as son and friend into their cozy old farmhouse. Here then I was going to spend the next six weeks, would become reacquainted with a rural environment slightly reminiscent of Rohrdorf, would get to know Father more closely through our philosophical and historical discussions, would begin to like his wife, would be introduced to her friends and relatives in the village, would taste her hearty meals albeit a little too rich in fat, in short I was here to relax and feel completely at home in an atmosphere of genuine friendliness and camaraderie.

Joy at my Father’s Home

Right from the beginning of my visit Erna and I got along very well. Her cheerful and lively disposition did not allow me to lose myself in gloomy moods, as I was occasionally prone to do, especially during prolonged periods of idleness and aimlessness. I could even see, even though I was reluctant to admit it, that Erna was the right person for Father. She was the sunshine that had brought lightness and contentment to his sunset years. From her radiated a contagious joyous spirit that created the in-peace-with-the-world atmosphere so conducive to Father’s healing process from a torturous past, from which he only now began to recover. I definitely do not remember him as a man broken in body and spirit, as my distant cousin Eberhard Klopp described him in his book of the Klopp Family History.

Schotten - Photo Credit: vogelsbergtourist.de

Town of Schotten – Photo Credit: vogelsbergtourist.de

Erna also had a moped of the same make and the same 49 cc class as mine, on which she would travel down the steep hill into the town of Schotten to buy the few things she needed for the small household in Michelbach. When there is company, one always seems to find the time to show off the beauty surrounding one’s home turf. Without visitors one tends to delay and leave such outings for another day. Erna was no exception. Now she was eager to travel with me to the nearby-forested hills, up the scenic Nature Park around Mount Vogelsberg, down winding country roads into the lush verdant valleys neatly tucked in between minor mountain ranges. There was no better form of transportation than our two mopeds. With a lunch pack clamped to the rear luggage rack we were ready to dart off into the wonderful Hessian landscape. Father a little overweight for these light machines gladly stayed behind looking after a few chores still to be done on this mini-farm with just a few goats to feed and milk,. Just as we were revving up the engines, Father came to the road to congenially shout over the noise, “Have a good trip!” At the end of my vacations thanks to our weekly excursions into the hill country, I had acquired a solid geographical knowledge of the region. As I was internally preparing myself to leave the Rhineland for good after my graduation, I had already created a new base to drop in as son and stepson, a place I could truly call home.

Landscape of Vogelsberg Hill Country - Photo Credit: vogelsbergtourist.de

Landscape of Vogelsberg Hill Country – Photo Credit: vogelsbergtourist.de

In the long summer evenings after supper we three would sit in the living room leisurely sipping homemade apple cider. We would talk until it was time to go to bed. More accurately speaking it was Erna, who did most of the talking. She truly had the gift of the gab. With the unerring memory for minutest details spiced up with colourful expressions and peppered with the melodious dialect of her village she was the born storyteller. I will never forget how she described the chaotic scene of the German Reichstag of the roaring twenties. She and her friends were sitting in the same living room forty years earlier and acted out the ugly political debates they had heard over the radio. And they did this with such exuberance, with so much mock yelling and screaming that the poor cats terrified by the brouhaha created by the inflammatory speeches sought refuge under the sofa and added to the parliamentary cacophony with much hissing and growling.

Incredible Rock Formations near the Top - Photo Credit: myheimat.de

Amazing Rock Formations near the Top – Photo Credit: myheimat.de

Is it Love?

Within the scope of the family history I would go too far if I included Erna’s side of the family except the ones that I came into contact with. There was the Langlitz family, Walter, Frieda (Friedchen) and their two daughters Helga and Anita. Walter had become a successful contractor who ran a prosperous business with his impressive array of trucks,

Church of Michelbach now part of Schotten - Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

Church of Michelbach now part of Schotten – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

caterpillars, backhoes and other heavy machinery that he had acquired to assist in the government sponsored land reform program. In contrast to the northern provinces of Germany, where the eldest son inherits the farm, inheritance laws in the south required equal division of the fields among all the children of the deceased farmer. Thus, over time emerged a chaotic patchwork of tiny fields often less than one ha in size, which made farming more and more inefficient and unproductive. So Walter profited from the reallocation of land by owning the right equipment at the right time. The two daughters, Helga and Anita, age 12 and age 10, whose exact degree of relationship to Erna I do not recall, often showed up to play board games, such as chess and checkers with the newcomer in Father’s home.

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Peter Basking in the Sun – Summer 1962

Erna was also anxious to have me meet her 16 year-old niece Roswitha, who lived a few houses down the street with her widowed mother. Even though I did not recognize it at the beginning, it was clearly a matchmaking effort supported by Father. In collusion with her sister-in-law, Erna invited her niece over for coffee and cake to make sure we would see each other as often as possible. Roswitha in terms of the standards I had set for what a girl should look like fell well within the range of acceptability. However, inner qualities, such as interests in activities that one could do together, readiness to share and exchange thoughts and feelings, to support them and if necessary even to oppose them, such qualities, which began to gain more and more in importance for me, were severely lacking. In a way my encounter with her helped me set the bar a few notches higher, which further limited the number of choices for my future mate. I vaguely felt for the first time that only love could help jump the hurdle. But what is love? I could not tell, because I had not experienced it yet. So what Erna had hoped for, did not happen. We were friends, who did things together for a while. We walked down the steep hill down to the town and district swimming pool in Schotten and on Saturday evenings we went dancing in the nearby villages. The music was not exactly rock ‘n’ roll, but we could dance to it, whenever a fast beat would permit. The performance of the band improved with each refill of the giant beer mugs during the frequent breaks. Thanks to the loud music there was no opportunity to talk, and there would not have been much to talk about. On our long walk home in the moonlight I explained to her how the stars would move like the sun following the rotation of the earth. For everything I said during my scientific dissertation she approvingly giggled. Only once did she protest to express her utter disbelief, when I insisted that the moon shining so brightly now onto the forests and meadows would also show its pale face during daytime.

My brother Adolf relaxing at the Schotten Swimming Pool

My brother Adolf relaxing at the Schotten Swimming Pool

With my first visit to see Father after such along gap inconceivable in the light of today’s custody laws that require visiting rights at regular intervals, I accomplished much more than just reconnecting with him. The ice had been broken. Other family members now were eager to come in a spirit of reconciliation that was shared even by Mother albeit somewhat reluctantly. Near the end of my holidays my brother Adolf dropped in for a visit. He had returned from Canada to Germany on a temporary basis to learn a trade in an apprenticeship program at the Honeywell Company at Hanau. There he eventually acquired a journeyman ticket as a trained machinist that would – so he was hoping – land him a good paying job upon his return to Canada. Adolf endowed with a witty sense of humor and an extroverted personality was the life of the party no matter where he went. In formal or informal gatherings, in suit or in jeans, with academics or with factory workers, he was the born entertainer who made people cheer up when they were depressed, got things rolling when they appeared to be stuck. Everybody liked him. He had many friends and few enemies. There was just one problem with this gregarious likeable brother of mine. He seemed to be shy, yes even afraid of unmarried women, who might take too much of a liking to him, pursue him with the full force of passion and lock him up in the golden cage called marriage. When we received an invitation to a social evening by Roswitha’s mother, Adolf felt safe, because his youngest brother was with him. On the surface it looked like we were the suitors, Roswitha being courted by two promising young men. In reality in a strange reversal of the customary roles it was the other way around. As we gathered in the living room, Frau K. served us wine, crackers and cheese, spent a few perfunctory minutes in conversation with us and discretely withdrew with a few cheerful words meaning that we now were on our own. I found the situation very odd and to some extent embarrassing, because I had expected her to stay. It was Adolf who saved the day or more accurately the evening with his social skills that helped to get the ball rolling. He asked Roswitha about school, hobbies, her likes and dislikes, the weather, and all the other trivia that he was so apt in using as a social lubricant. To her replies often accompanied by the aforementioned giggles he added humorous comments that made us laugh and feel at ease. Eventually even I emerged out of my taciturn shell and presented to everyone’s amusement a few jokes and riddles. Around eleven o’clock Adolf ironically remarked that it was time for us ‘boys’ to go home. We politely said good night and cheerfully departed to have another drink of a more potent kind at our Father’s place.

Happy End to a most Enjoyable Visit

Then my sister Erika dropped in for a brief visit. When she heard that I had been going out dancing with Roswitha, she mockingly and contemptuously commented on her in Father’s presence, “Ho! Ho! Peasant duffer! (Bauerntrampel in German)” By now I had become quite accustomed to the unpredictable outpourings of her sharp tongue. Her caustic and biting remarks at Mother’s place in Wesel had been edged forever into my memory. However, Father was livid. Having respected all his life the hard honest work of the farmers from whom we receive our daily bread, he was deeply insulted by that derogatory remark. He gave her a severe dressing-down for displaying unjustified disdain for such an honourable class of people. Never since my early childhood days, when he had read me the riot act for stealing eggs from Mother’s henhouse, had I seen Father so angry. If I did not know the meaning of holy wrath, I knew it now.

My brother Karl and his wife Ingrid with an aunt in front of Erna's house

Erna Klopp with her neighbor’s baby in her loving arms

Erna’s house was at least half a century old and the electrical wiring was outdated and no longer in compliance with the latest electrical code. It required that all circuits be properly grounded. It made me feel good that I was not just there to enjoy a relaxing summer visit but also had the opportunity to make myself useful. Father had bought the three-prong wire, and I installed it and connected it to the junction boxes, outlets and switches. When I showed reluctance to take the twenty marks Father wanted to give me as pay for my work, he lectured me somewhat like this, “Listen, Peter, if someone offers you money, not dishonest money mind you, but money earned for work you did, do not hesitate to accept it. For you not only cheat yourself out of the reward that is rightfully yours, but you also insult the generosity of the giver.” To such a powerful argument I had nothing to reply and took the twenty marks.

Together with Helga and Anita in Michelbach

Together with Helga and Anita in Michelbach

At times when Father’s back pains were hurting too much, he stayed in bed for most of the day. Adolf and I were sitting at his bedside to keep him company. Then Father and I would often talk about the great empires of the past and the lessons one might learn from the causes of their decline. I really warmed up to this topic as I had recently taken a keen interest in the history of the Roman Empire. We came to the conclusion that if one allows foreign religious and ethnic elements to penetrate the cultural core of the nation, it will sooner or later lose its identity, its values and strength and will eventually have to face first decline and then total collapse. Germany according to Father has not learned her lessons and was headed in the same direction. He pointed to the record player on the night table remarking, “The record is turning, the needle appears to be progressing even though it is running in circles, but in the end it will be starting all over again symbolizing the eternal recurrent of the same in world history.” Adolf feeling a little left out in this highfalutin talk said he would buy himself a couple of history books to study up on the things he had missed in school.

Reading and Relaxing - Summer of 1962

Reading and Relaxing – Summer of 1962

 

Chapter 42 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part II

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animals avian daylight ducks

Photo by Achilles Demircan on Pexels.com

Finally Together

In the meantime my brother Gerry (Gerhard) and I were getting ready to pick up Biene at the airport. The Chinook winds, which had brought spring-like weather to the city of Calgary less than a week ago, now yielded to the cold front chilling to the bones everyone who was foolish enough to venture outdoors. I was grateful to my brother and his wife Martha for providing accommodation for Biene until the time of the wedding. Biene seemed to have forgotten that this arrangement was part of the conditions we had to fulfill for getting her landed immigrant status. ‘Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis.’ Times are a-changing and liberally minded people may scratch their heads nowadays and ponder in mockery and disbelief over this old-fashioned provision by Canada Immigration of the 1960’s.

At the airport we found out to our great dismay that Biene’s plane was delayed by two hours. I admired Gerry’s patience for having to wait that long before he could drive back to his home in southeast Calgary. This being Wednesday he had to work the next day. And I had a psychology lecture to attend in the morning. Shortly after midnight we were standing at the gate, through which the first bunch of travellers  were passing and were being received with cheerful hellos from friends and relatives. As their number dwindled to a trickle and the flight attendants were marching through the gate, Gerry noticed the grave expression on my face and in his own peculiar way to cheer me up remarked matter-of-factly, “Don’t worry, Peter. Biene is not coming.”

He had barely finished teasing me, when a figure, rather slim and bundled up in a black coat emerged all alone in the doorway. The fluorescent light gave her a pale appearance. But her smile upon seeing me was unmistakably Biene’s. Weaving our way through the remaining stragglers we approached each other faster and faster like driven by powerful magnets feeling the overwhelming forces of attraction every step of the way. Then we embraced and kissed each other, while Gerry looked on amazed at the sheer length of time we took just to say hello.

So it came to pass that exactly one year after we had kissed each other good-bye in Germany, Biene and I were wondrously reunited at the Calgary Airport.

End of Book I

Note to my dear readers: I will be taking a break from the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story. I consider to write Book II on Biene’s side of the family, especially on her father, who unfortunately has been getting a lot of negative coverage in the final chapters of Book I. I  also would like to start a series of stories on the life and work of Albert Schweitzer written by my cousin Hartmut Kegler in German. It is a wonderful children’s seminar on this famous doctor and activist for peace. For my English speaking friends I suggest Google translate, if you are interested. I also want to do another series of posts on Bill Laux’s unpublished work on the mining and railroad history of Western Canada.  Of course, it goes without saying, I will also continue with the popular series ‘Wednesday’s Photos’. That will be enough on my blogging plate for the next couple of months.

aerial alpine ceresole reale desktop backgrounds

Photo by SplitShire on Pexels.com

Chapter 42 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part I

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adventure calm clouds dawn

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Biene’s Flight to Canada

“flight

1 a journey made through the air, especially a scheduled journey made by an airline

2 the action of fleeing, such as flight from turmoil

The New Oxford American Dictionary”

A Very Peculiar Itinerary

On April 6, 1966 Biene’s best friend Ulli pulled up her Mercedes at Elisabeth Street 9 to pick up Biene and her mother and drive them to the Düsseldorf Airport. Having taken the passenger liner Ryndam the year before, I was unable to give Biene any advice on the best possible airline route from Germany to Calgary. The Frankfurt International Airport  would have been a better choice. For it was then and still is one of the busiest travel centres with non-stop flights to all major destinations including Calgary. As it turned out, Biene’s odyssey with two stop-overs, one in Paris, the other one in Montreal, was going to be the last endurance test on her patience , which had already been stretched to the limit of her strength during the past twelve months.

After the final farewell and one last appeal from her mother to keep her independence (meaning not to get married), Biene stepped onto the regional plane to Paris. She was travelling light, although in those days airlines were far more generous than today with the weight of your luggage. Her suitcase contained only the most essential articles of clothing and personal effects. Perhaps her mother perceived it as a hopeful sign. The sweet illusive prospect of having her daughter back by Christmas had made her departure a little easier to bear.

In the late afternoon, Montreal time, Biene had just made herself comfortable at the window seat on the plane bound for Calgary. Tired and a bit exhausted from the long journey across the Atlantic and the tedious passport control by Immigration Canada, she let her thoughts and feelings dwell on the joyful moment awaiting her at the Calgary Airport and on the time together with me in my humble basement suite. She could barely contain her excitement mixed in with the fear of the man whom she only knew, except for a very few visits, through their three years of correspondence. Yet, it was a pleasant fear, as she described it in one of her last letters to me. She managed to calm herself knowing that the love she felt for me would overcome all fear.

Suddenly an announcement over the intercom brought her back to the immediate presence. In a calm and reassuring tone the pilot explained that due to some engine problems he would have to fly back to Montreal. When Biene looked outside, her eyes became glued in horror to the engine on the left wing. A trail of thick smoke was pouring from the defective engine. Fortunately, a short time later the plane landed safely, but caused a two-hour delay for the passengers on their flight to Calgary.

Chapter 41 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part IV

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Biene’s Last Letters from Germany

March 26th, Velbert

My dear Peter,

Finally after a long time I have a quiet evening, which I want to devote to you right away. Normally there is always somebody here for a visit, even though I am not always in a sociable frame of mind and would prefer to be alone with my thoughts. Today it snowed so hard and the streets were so slippery that my friend Ulrike, who had come in spite of it all, immediately drove home again.

Now I sit at my desk, on which I had written so many letters. A little oil lamp, which a friend had given to me for my birthday, is spreading a soft light that creates a dreamy atmosphere. And so it also happens that I am playing my opera records. But ‘Don Giovanni’ will come last, when I am already in bed and have switched off the light. You must feel for sure, what I am thinking. Indeed it would be wonderful, if you were with me now. God willing it will not be long until I can come to you. Thank God, my father is on the road of recovery. We all are breathing a sigh of relief.

In the next couple of days I will finally book a flight. Yesterday my passport with all its pertinent papers stamped and cleared ready for the flight came back from Cologne. I am getting more and more excited. Hopefully at least you will stay calm before the exams.

I have to work for another five days. During the last month I have become so accustomed to my work that I thoroughly enjoyed it. This was especially due to the very pleasant department, in which I had been placed. I would really love to work in Calgary at an office of a large company, if that will be possible. Do you think, we will find something suitable?

My dear Peter, how can I possibly control my excitement, until I am with you? I feel it more and more. Dear Peter, I must not carry on thinking of all these things. Otherwise my fantasy will run wild and I will get sick with excitement, Hopefully I can soon pass the exact date of my arrival on to you.

My dear Peter, try also to remain as calm as possible. But I believe, even if I had to travel to the Shah of Persia, I would not be as excited as now at the thought of coming to you.

For now be lovingly embraced by your Biene

March 29th, Velbert

My dear Peter,

Very quickly the most important information! I just returned from the travel agent. The flight is booked and paid for. Next week on Wednesday, April 6th I take off at Düsseldorf at 13 hours and will arrive in Calgary at 22 hours local time.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kind words with the good news in your last letter. I also thank you for writing to my parents. I am so happy about it. Your letter was well received by them. My father is getting better. I just don’t know how to manage to visit your mother in the remaining days. Unfortunately, my parents had also in this regard thrown obstacles in my way …

Dear Peter, although I did not do everything right in your eyes, I ask you for understanding. Unfortunately, it is true that letters can only reflect a fraction of the life and character of a person. Now I have to close and say goodbye.

Pray that all will be well.

Your Biene

The Splendour of the Arrow Lake

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Wednesday’s Photos

Mountain Adventure with Michael

With the wildfires still raging in many parts of BC our son Michael invited me to a trip on his ATV to a nearby mountain range between Burton and Nakusp. Apart from the magnificent scenery we also for a few hours escaped the dense smoke down in the valley and breathed in the clean and invigorating mountain air. Now less than a week later the long expected rain has finally come to the Arrow Lake region and brought much needed relief from the smoky conditions. Enjoy the video.

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Chapter 41 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part III

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Paving the Way towards a Brighter Future

Peter’s Last Letter before Biene’s Arrival in Canada

March 25th , Calgary

My dear Biene,

I remember very well the time when I wrote you the first long letter. Just like three years ago I am sitting in the warm spring sun and hope that it will bring some warmth into my lines.

Your birthday letter has reopened the locked chambers of my heart with power and might, and a flood of new ideas is pouring out about our near future, our little apartment, our weekends in the city or at the lakes in the mountains. With so much joyful tension and anticipation I can barely concentrate on my studies and I am longing for a break from my intensive work.

Only at night time I am still being plagued by ‘nightmares’, which constantly warn me against the wedding soon to take place. They whisper threateningly that we both don’t have the assurance of the heart to throw ourselves into such an adventure. But in the light of a new day I always return to my confidence and trust. I have been searching deep within me and often discovered that the very weaknesses I had attacked most fiercely in you lie also hidden in me. You were in deep trouble, almost in a state of desperation. There weaknesses emerged in a way that greatly disappointed me. But after some time through self-discovery I was able to understand them. I wished you wouldn’t worry about this my disappointment any more. In the atmosphere, where nobody dictates what our happiness should look like, let us work on the healing of soul, spirit and mind and let us try to overcome our weaknesses.

I am little ashamed that you are a bit afraid of me. Perhaps I have sometimes given you cause for such fear through my seemingly cold behaviour. Perhaps you even believed that your father’s illness could provide the answer to my last urgent question. Now that I did not receive any reply,  I had to assume of course that you are sticking to your original plans. In the meantime your parents will have received my letter, in which in very kind words I have adopted your and your mother’s position and reassured your parents that you would not be in any kind of danger. I hope my letter will contribute to alleviate their fears. I also wrote that I was sorry if they felt insulted by my letter last Christmas. Hopefully you will understand that I could not apologize for what I had written. The strength to overcome my reluctance to write and to fulfill all your wishes came from the returning trust that from now on everything between us will develop normally and we two will forget the ‘sick’ period of the last three months. Should we not learn to trust each other, then spiritually speaking we will have built our relationship on sand and I will have no more hope. I am looking forward to make a little paradise out of our apartment. We will achieve this with love, imagination, and our skilful hands.

Thanks for the many kisses. It’s too bad that I was only allowed to imagine them and did not receive them right away.

Please write when the plane arrives in Calgary, so I can pick you up.

Greetings in love

Your  Peter

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