30 August 2013

Walk on air against your better judgement.

Where to begin? Seamus Heaney's writing has been with me for ever it seems. In so many ways his voice is Ireland to me. The gentleness, the quiet firmness, the soft voice with a strong message, the sadness behind the laughter, the courtesy throughout. Oh, he will be missed.

On 31 August 1993 when the IRA had announced its ceasefire (which eventually led to the Good Friday Agreement) Seamus Heaney had spent all afternoon listening to the radio hoping for words that would do justice to the event but instead had only felt more and more claustrophobic with all the meaningless chatter from politicians and commentators. So he went outside to collect his thoughts and suddenly a flap opened somewhere in the back of my head and the light came in. 
I remember that I started to cry when I read this sentence. Just one sentence that says it all, the anger and pain and the hope to finally be able and overcome 25 years of darkness, the terrible suffering caused and endured by all parties involved, the deaths and the hatred.

In 2009, it seemed that all of Ireland was celebrating his 70th birthday with him. On the day itself, the 13th April, Ireland's national radio station played the 15 CDs of Seamus Heaney reading his own poetry all day long. We were driving along the Connemara coast that day, a calm and sunny day with a clear sky, listening to his voice with just a hint of Northern Ireland accent. And whenever we stopped and rolled down the window to smell the sea, we could hear him from the other cars parked along the pier and later on, in the pub in Roundstone over the loudspeakers. 
A week later as I was queueing for the check in at Dublin airport, taking off my boots for some ludicrous security clearance, there he was again, this time a rerun of him reading his poem St. Kevin and the Blackbird on The Late Late just after he had received the Nobel Prize in 1995. Where else would you have a poet laureate addressed as just Seamus and thus expressing the admiration and the respect and the love that surely was felt by all who watched. 

So walk on air against your better judgement
Establishing yourself somewhere in between
Those solid batches mixed with grey cement
And a tune called "The Gravel Walks" that
conjures green.

28 August 2013


This afternoon, a tall and handsome man was crying in my office. He tried to blink away the tears and look all composed and tough. But in the end he just broke down. When you watch the news you see what is happening in my country. But I feel it.

21 August 2013

into the sky

deck chair summer under the wisteria

18 August 2013

Dropping the ball - again

A bit of rain, so what. I am eating a most delicious peach while the little cat tries to decide whether to stay in or go out. The garden is shiny wet in all its glory, a very fat and noisy hedgehog has been licking the bowl I use to feed stray Ginger in recent nights and the most stunning dragon flies are trying to make up for the lack of butterflies. No butterflies, none at all. What is going on? Well, for starters, but...

Last night my sunny red haired child who is working in the halls of politics and diplomacy explained to me what the phrase drop the ball means. And no, it has nothing to with rugby.

I have been rereading - again - the information leaflet for the iron supplements this morning. I wish it would work faster but I suppose ten days is nothing. In the early hours of the mornings I speculate if have been hit by another yuk disease. The passing-out-while-sitting-in-a-meeting disease, the too-exhausted-to-sleep disease with the heavy arms and legs and the cold shivers on a hot day symptoms. There is a lot of reassuring murmur and guesswork coming my way. Your iron storage levels are extremely low almost non existing, probably due to a low impact source of internal bleeding, they tell me. Intestines, most likely. Not your stomach (oh thanks). We will schedule a colonoscopy, an ultrasound and some more tests to keep you entertained. No need to be alarmed, we keep an eye on things. In the meantime, you can do what you want as long as...
I know (yawn), don't overdo it. Overdo what? Life? How does one not overdo life? A bit like not eating too much? Not sleeping too much? Not thinking too much? Don't tell me, rest. This is so boring, so tedious.

Totally unrelated, some of the statues that watched me cycling past last week in Franconia:

15 August 2013

Applaus Applaus

It is no longer hot, but warm. This mellow, hazy, sunny August warmth with spider nets and withered lavender blossoms. In the morning I collect a handful of blueberries from the front garden and as I walk out to the back patio I pick a fresh fig on the go. The cat is lolling below the pear tree, showing off her fluffy belly hair. The bin man walks down the road whistling Applaus Applaus while he rolls the empty bins back onto the drives. Never mind the bleeding gums, the cracked lips, the shaky nausea thanks to the new iron supplements (miles better than the infusions). This day looks like a winner, I think I better get ready to tackle my downbeat disposition.

12 August 2013

Late evening, just before sunset and we are all sitting down together for dinner. The air is so beautiful, clear and balmy, a crescent moon has just appeared, the trees are full of birds. We have ordered our drinks and hearty Franconian beer garden food, spicy sourdough bread, fried chanterelles, potatoe salad with fresh chives and horseradish, smoked beer and local red wine and so on. It has been a pleasant day, not too hot but we can all still feel the sun on our arms and faces. We were very polite all day, careful not to mention any tricky subjects. No accusations, competitions, no nasty remarks about our kids. We even managed to cycle next to each other occasionally.
My sister has been doling out funny anecdotes from our happy childhood for most of the day. Earlier today when we were resting in the shade of yet another beer garden after we had raced each other up and down the vineyards I told my brother that I remembered him to be much smaller and everybody thought that was a great joke. 
And now my sister has us in stitches with the story of how she tried to make soft boiled eggs for the first time in her life. Oh, what a funny story, how she watched the eggs boil for ever, testing with a wooden spoon for softness, again and again. We are laughing and I am so very tired. I wish I could leave. For a very brief moment I catch her eyes and I am tempted to ask her to tell us all the whole story. Of that day and the tears and the snow, of how it was already getting dark outside, of my mother who hours and hours ago had locked herself into her bedroom together with our baby brother. 
Instead I just look at her and suddenly there she is, my big sister, almost six years old, with her long plaited pigtail coming apart, still in her pyjamas, standing on a kitchen chair by the cooker, her serious face bent over the steaming pot, trying to figure out how to make dinner for us. 
And I want to say something so badly, so urgently but of course I can't. None of us can.

09 August 2013

Anxiety doesn't even cover it. I think I am coming out in a rash and my intestines, oh don't ask. This is day two in our short little pretty getaway cycling holiday and my big sister is on her way here.  I think right now I actually hate her. Once that particular emotion will have died down I will pity her, which is more painful of course and in fact downright condescending and that's not what I want to feel at all. Way back during the big freeze and snow my brother suggested this little tour, just the two of us with our spouses so to speak. All about having neglected each other for too long etc. What a surprise, nice. Until our big sister found out and without a second's thought decided not only to come along incl. her man but also to take matters into her hands and organize it properly. And so we are here in this pretty little town with the geranium window boxes and the Roman stone bridge across the river and now she is on her way and any minute she will be here, in full cycling regalia, helmet and Lycra and all the proper maps and we will follow like the little ignorant ducklings we are in her presence.

07 August 2013

The first bit of cool air for what seems like ages. Already it is hard to remember how hot it has been only 24 hrs ago. During the past week, a large pale ginger tom cat from somewhere down the road has slowly made his way into the garden and - well, obviously - I have started to feed him. Although I read somewhere that ginger cats are usually male one of the neighbours tells me that this could be a female. Strange looking creature, pale green eyes and almost silent croaking voice, very hungry and fearless. Just now I heard this tiny clicking noise and there he was, sneaked in below my radar, eating our little old cat's dinner (who is not interested at all).
My girl would love this, put her heart into it with great urgency and so I imagine her easy laughter as I quietly talk to Ginger, carefully checking his fur for ticks and cuts, wondering what his story is.

03 August 2013

Sunday lunch

After Sunday lunch we were sometimes allowed to choose dessert. But first, all the stars had to be aligned just so. The state of the bathroom was a major contributing factor. We were hopeless, we were careless, too many puddles, open toothpaste tubes, scrunched up damp towels. Some days the bathroom problems were simply insurmountable. The entire Sunday with all its hushed up quiet and boredom could become a nightmare thanks to a few stray hairs in the sink. Sometimes it was easier to just accept defeat.
Then of course, piano practise, we were hopeless, we were careless, too fast, too loud, wasting her good time and money, or suddenly brilliant, gifted, her proper little Mozarts.
Next, the setting of the table without squabbling, the heavy white linen cloth just so with straight corners, napkin rings in the correct order and the matching  - what did I tell you???
And so we were keeping our breath in case of faulty oven thermostats, lumpy flour, overripe onions, wrong spice mix, all the mysterious kitchen disasters she had to face, only to feed us. Us. Who in our ungrateful selfishness spilt greasy gravy on the freshly starched white linen. And once again we were not worth it, all her sacrifices, her time and energy, for nothing.
And as she stubbed the half smoked cigarette on her plate and started to cry, we knew that all was lost. Again. 
And yet, there were Sundays when we made it to dessert as a somewhat intact family and my father did his eeny meeny miny moe thing and the lucky winner would then be allowed to go down into the basement larder and choose one jar of my mother's bottled fruit: peaches, apricots, cherries with almonds, plums, pears with cinnamon sticks, applesauce with lemon drizzle.
My brother was scared of the dark basement but quite unable to admit this would run down singing and huffing while my parents smiled at each other with pride.

For maybe far too many years I was convinced that this is what happened on Sundays in all my friend's houses, that up and down the street families were steering that same treacherous course through blame and anger and fear.

01 August 2013

the whole universe

You are something that the whole universe is doing, in the same way that a wave is something that the whole ocean is doing.

Alan Watts