This afternoon I walked along a winding, gravel path in Weinfelden (Weinfelden means “Wine Fields,” in German). Behind me were lamas grazing on the hillside while their babies suckled; to the right, a swaying wheat field still green, too early in the season to be golden; and up ahead, an old Swiss farm house painted white with sunshine-yellow shuttered windows and a garden over-flowing with wild flowers. On the left side of the path I was hoping to see Bergita working in her garden. At first she wasn’t visible, but then I saw her, behind a bushel of orange poppies, hunched down low, digging in the dirt. I said “Grüezi,” the traditional Swiss salutation.
Like many Swiss, she rents a small plot of land in the countryside for gardening. She’s built a tiny shack made from mismatched pieces of wood to house her rake, wheelbarrow, shovel, and vintage push mower. At age 79, you would guess Bergita was 20 years younger.
Bergita greets me warmly, as if I am a dear friend. We don’t know each other, I just see her from time-to-time on my walks, and I always stop to say hello. Bergita , who rides a basket and bell-adorned bicycle to her garden patch daily, speaks German to me slowly, carefully enunciating every word, using lots of hand gestures. Originally from Serbia, Bergita came to Switzerland 55 years ago.
She tells me about her life…how she arrived in Switzerland not speaking a word of German, without family or friends, and without any money in her purse…a woman, in those days, all alone. She doesn’t share why, and I haven’t asked her yet.
When I talk with Bergita, I feel like I’ve just made a pilgrimage to the Zamzam Well and had my vessel filled (the ZamZam, a place I’ve only read about, is located in Saudi Arabia and believed by Muslims to be divinely blessed, satisfying hunger and thirst, and able to cure illness and disease).
Bergita is a devout Catholic. Her blue eyes sparkle as she tells me that as long as I trust in God and pray every day, I will be able to work through any problem. She says, “Life is short, shorter than you realize. Don’t spend energy on angst and worry.” In this moment I feel as though Bergita can see right through me.
Then she asks me if I know the meaning of “Gesundheit!” I tell her, in German, that I know it’s what you say after someone sneezes, except that I don’t know the word for sneeze in German and gesture one instead. She says, “Yes, yes, but do you know what it means?”
“To your health,” she says. “To your wholeness,” she smiles. Then, she takes my hands in hers, looks me in the eyes, and says, “Life is good.”
In this moment, out in nature, talking with a woman I don’t even know, I feel so held, so loved. This interaction awakens my consciousness to how magical, beautiful, and precious life is. It’s so crystal clear; I wonder how I can possibly forget some days.
A true Yogi sees the divine in all beings. I know from our talks that Bergita knows little about yoga. However, she is one of the most spiritual beings – one of the most beautiful yogis – I have ever met. Her reverence for the divine in all things is apparent in they way she lovingly cares for every plant, bush, and flower in her tiny garden, as well as how she treats complete strangers on the path.