(io mi ricordo)
If you live long enough there are sure to have been days in your life to remember, Days on which something occurred that changed the world in some irreversible way - 9/11 for example; especially if you happened to be in Manhattan on that day. I have lived through most of the turbulent 20th century and there were quite a few days I remember. To be sure, I missed the ‘Shot Heard Around The World’ - The one that killed Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand of Hapsburg and started the first World War. At the end of that war the Austro-Hungarian Empire was gone, nationalism had risen and, with it, the hand-writing was on the wall for the the end of colonialism. In fact the first of the great ‘ISMS’ that convulsed the century - Communism- was in the works. Fascism followed shortly thereafter and I remember the voices of the news paper boys running through the streets of Vienna shouting "Extry , Extry" when the senile Feld Maschall Hindenburg, President of the German Republic, appointed Hitler Chancellor of the German Reich. I was 10 years old at the time and I remember that fateful day because my father lifted the needle from the record player, shook his head and, addressing no one in particular, said "Its the first day of the second world war". There was the day, about that time also, when my favorite aunt died. She was in her late twenties or early thirties and had abdominal surgery for an intestinal obstruction. There were no effective anti-biotics except carbolic acid in those days and she died three days after surgery. It was my first encounter with death and was soon followed by the death, from a stroke, of my paternal uncle, Heinrich.
I remember the day Hitler triumphantly came to Vienna and saluted the enthusiastic crowds assembled on the Starnberg Platz, below, from a balcony. And I remember the next day, when I went back to school to find myself suddenly an "Unwelcome Guest" among my school mates in my school in my home town. I remember 'Krystall Nacht' or, rather the next day when the synagogues went up in flames and the bullies in he brown uniforms of the SA made fragile old men and women scrub the pavements.
In a way all these days marked for me and my family, and, perhaps for all of us. the end of life 'as we had known it' before.
There were a few days in my life of a rare personal but generic nature that I remember. These memories mostly date back to my childhood and refer to sudden awareness' of a sensation of intense well being in circumstances that are not likely to recur in quite the same way; The smell of oxen pulling a cart over an unpaved road through a fragrant pine forest or the sudden awareness of the warmth of the sun and the smell of wild strawberries and whipped cream in a pretty garden overlooking an alpine lake far below. I say ‘generic’ because, while these specific occasions may never be repeated, there are sure to be others that elicit similar feelings of the uniqueness, integrity and harmony experienced at that moment, the same illusion of the eternal truth of that instant. Resting at the edge of a path in the Rockies on a hot summer's day, recently, and gradually becoming aware of a grizzly munching out on goose berries, not far off was such an occasion for me.
But there came a day I remember because nothing happened yet I became aware that everything had changed for me forever. It was early on a crisp day in spring. I saw the tiny leaves on the bushes in the Vienna's Stadt Park and the buds ready to burst in the flower beds. I saw the early morning dew drops and waited for the elation such days had brought me in the past; The feeling of being integral part of the universal awakening of spring, of being ‘in it’ and ‘of it’ of ‘being Pan'. But the elation never came that day - I was a child no longer, I would never again be Pan.