28 June 2018

Our union is like this:
You feel cold so I reach for a blanket to cover
our shivering feet.
A hunger comes into your body
so I run to my garden and start digging potatoes.
You asked for a few words of comfort and guidance and
I quickly kneel by your side offering you
a whole book as a
You ache with loneliness one night so much
you weep, and I say
here is a rope, tie it around me,
I will be your
for life.

Today is our 36th wedding anniversary. Not that we make a big deal about it, never have. We got married so I could stay in Ireland and we had to travel to England for it because I am not catholic and in those days, it was extremely much too difficult to marry outside of the church. Life was complicated back then but we laughed our way through it. This is the link to that day, I post it every year and by now the whole world has read it. It still makes us happy to remember.

Today was hot, R went to the dentist for a check-up, I ate too many apricots and did some laundry. After lunch indoors (because 33°C /91°F) I went to work and did some important things to keep the world turning while R waited for the window cleaners and mowed a neighbour's lawn. For dinner, he grilled Irish salmon wrapped in slices of freshly harvested zucchini and roast some of our first potatoes with fat splotches of salty butter. All through dinner on the patio, we watched the butterflies and bumble bees frolicking on the phlox and buddleia and agapanthus. For dessert we crawled on all fours through the strawberry bed. I made some tea and sat on the patio to read a couple of sad short stories by Carys Davies because I have to return the book tomorrow and R harvested the onions.

I should add that we argue a lot these days, plenty of hissing and misunderstandings. You know, the stuff that comes up every so often.

Also, this music:

27 June 2018

On my last visit to Franconia, my father let me take two boxes home. They had been sitting inside the bottom drawer of my grandmother's bedroom dresser. He says, he never looked at them, has never been interested to go through "her" things. My grandmother died in 1995.

In her fine handwriting, they are labelled "history of the family in letters", and one is subtitled "the war letters".
At a rough guess there are about 400 letters, maybe more. 

I take my time reading them, there is a lot of tedious stuff, like going through your mother's texts on your cell phone (where is your laundry? did you lock the door? I wish you wouldn't wear this. etc.)
There are revealing (to me) insights into family life that I will treat with care and discretion.

And there's fascism and then the war. Or rather, there isn't.

The war never really happened in rural Franconia and its towns, no fighting, no bomb raids. 
From what I've read so far, the war mostly meant rations, petrol vouchers, the search for a bicycle tube, a decent winter coat.They lived secluded in the family cocoon, helping out and looking after themselves.

Fascism and its atrocities did happen. There and everywhere, discreetly and openly. My grandmother developed her own set of schemes to keep her children out of the compulsory hitler youth organisations, there are various medical notes claiming hay fever and chronic indigestion and there are her begging letters to friends in high places. My father's accounts confirm this but that's for another day. 
My grandfather knew and everybody knew that my grandfather knew because he was once almost arrested when a visitor noticed his radio was set to the BBC. That story is now one of the family legends. But my grandfather's story is for another day, too.

What strikes me most is the continuation of a seemingly normal life over many years. (I am well aware that this has been discussed by others in much detail.) Simply because at the time, my father's family was on the "right" side of things with sufficient resources, well connected and trying to remain unconcerned, looking after themselves.
What should they care.

Fintan O'Toole writes today in The Irish Times:
Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.
One of the basic tools of fascism is (. . .) the generation of tribal identities, the division of society into mutually exclusive polarities. Fascism does not need a majority – it typically comes to power with about 40 per cent support and then uses control and intimidation to consolidate that power. So it doesn’t matter if most people hate you, as long as your 40 per cent is fanatically committed. That’s been tested out too. And fascism of course needs a propaganda machine so effective that it creates for its followers a universe of “alternative facts” impervious to unwanted realities. Again, the testing for this is very far advanced.
But (. . .) there is a crucial next step, usually the trickiest of all. You have to undermine moral boundaries, inure people to the acceptance of acts of extreme cruelty. Like hounds, people have to be blooded. They have to be given the taste for savagery. Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group. This allows the members of that group to be dehumanised. Once that has been achieved, you can gradually up the ante, working through the stages from breaking windows to extermination.
It is this next step that is being test-marketed now. It is being done in Italy by the far-right leader and minister for the interior Matteo Salvini. How would it go down if we turn away boatloads of refugees? Let’s do a screening of the rough-cut of registering all the Roma and see what buttons the audience will press. And it has been trialled by Trump: let’s see how my fans feel about crying babies in cages.

This morning, we looked at each other over breakfast and decided, it's time to get ready.

23 June 2018

just garden




morning glory

the white queen of Sheba lily

voodoo lily


red elder

second spud harvest

20 June 2018

World Refugee Day

In nature there are two approaches to dealing with flooding. One is to build a dam to stop the flow. The other is to find the right path to allow the flow to continue. Building a dam does not address the source of the flow – it would need to be built higher and higher, eventually holding back a massive volume. If a powerful flood were to occur, it could wipe out everything in its path. The nature of water is to flow. Human nature too seeks freedom and that human desire is stronger than any natural force.
 (. . .)
Establishing the understanding that we all belong to one humanity is the most essential step for how we might continue to coexist on this sphere we call Earth. I know what it feels like to be a refugee and to experience the dehumanisation that comes with displacement from home and country. There are many borders to dismantle, but the most important are the ones within our own hearts and minds – these are the borders that are dividing humanity from itself.

Ai Weiwei

World Refugee Day is held every year on the 20th of June to commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees.

18 June 2018

Being unreasonable is the only way that we can have hope.

Arundhati Roy 

The Franconian sky on a hot June morning. If you see things the way my father expects it from me, you will of course observe the faint line defined by broken hedgerow and immediately connect this to some deeply buried forcefully forgotten knowledge acquired during years of excellent education.  And after a moment's hesitation, you turn to him and say, surely this is where the Limes was, ending your sentence with a firm note of conviction. He nods briefly and with a tiny glimmer of pride in his eyes.

Has it helped me in life to know that in the 2nd century AD the Romans build this wall across Central Europe, across Franconia? As a defence against the "Barbarians"?And that the great Roman empire collapsed when the Barbarians (the Goths, the Germanic tribes, the Huns, you name it) had enough of being treated like shit? And that the Roman economy crashed because the fat rich Romans ran out of slaves? It has.

Do I sigh in exasperation when my father repeats one of his favourite maxims, namely that history always repeats itself and that in human history, every revolution is followed by a tyrant and every tyrant is followed by a revolution? I do.

06 June 2018

blog housekeeping

As of May 25th, the new European Data Protection Regulation is applicable in all EU member states to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe. It is a good thing, I have turned to my favourite computer geeks to convince me of this.

And blogger recommends that I inform my readers re comments:
If users leave comments or other contributions, their IP addresses are stored for seven days. This is for our own safety, if someone leaves illegal content in comments and contributions (insults, prohibited political propaganda, etc.). In this case, we ourselves can be prosecuted for the comment or post and are therefore interested in the identity of the author.

I also had a very nice email from a blogger nerd explaining why I can no longer receive email notifications when there are comments to my blog posts waiting for approval - I didn't quite understand why this is so but the email was ever so nice so I must assume this is surely due to a shortcoming in my digital understanding department.
For now and eternity, I probably have to always go to the blogger dashboard and check and click and run around the garden three times etc. - so be patient if your comment takes time to appear and be forgiving if a comment has been lost in the past.
I also found mountains of spam comments overflowing in a newly discovered spam comment file. Life is full of surprises.

02 June 2018

the rambling rose after the thunder storm

from Middle High German winner and Old High German giwitiri and West Germanic gawedrja is really a collective noun for weather; the initial meaning being "totality of weather", yet in common modern usage "thunderstorm"

In the early hours just before sunrise, a heavy thunderstorm wakes us. The way my mother taught me, I count the seconds between the lightning and the thunder, taking a rough guess as to how far away it is. It is clearly coming closer. I grew up with summer Gewitter, I can recognise the silence and the sounds, the smells, the way the approaching clouds change colour.

I don't want to get out of bed but if we don't pull the plug to the router and the tv and whatever else, the insurance won't pay in case of damage. Just then, the house is shook by a string of such heavy and loud thunder, that all I can do is crawl further and deeper below the covers. Too late.

The sounds of thunder slowly receding are replaced by the loud hammering of hail and rain and I peek through the blinds at a heavily flooding street and so we get up and check the basement which is damp with salty patches beginning to blossom on the floor surfaces but otherwise dry.
And now the sun is rising and the birds are awake filling the air with their urgent chorus as if they have to catch up for lost time.

The day is misty and damp, hot, we are clammy and moody. Later after dinner I am floored by another episode of low blood pressure and whatever else, which takes longer than the ones I had experienced before and by the time I make it into bed my first slight panic gives way to a dramatic, divaesque breakdown. The voice in my head whispers that there must be a better way to cope but like a child during a temper tantrum, I howl at the moon and wipe my tears for a very long time. A triumphant moment of exhausting anger.

At one of the earlier appointments after the initial diagnosis, I was given a list of the organs at risk and how to watch out for symptoms of, say, advancing kidney failure. At regular intervals, I have to sign various forms to confirm my responsible acknowledgement and to release the experts from any potential wrong doing.

I wish these form include the heart, not the muscular organ sitting somewhere behind my left chest bone (they include that, coronary risk factors feature highly), but my real heart, my innermost center of being and hope and love. Which I know is at risk due to fear and panic and loss and that endless always-stay-at-the-bright-side-of-life effort.

And yet. Another morning and as so often, my life today is not like my life before. Something has shrivelled away during my diva moments.  Gone. A bunch of fibers from my heart worn into shreds and gone.
A memory of R's worried face, shrugging his shoulders, asking me if I want him to stay or leave and feeling unable to absolve him from his confusion. My mind forms meaningful sentences but I am at a loss of words and send him away.

I do not for a moment ask that my life be exactly as it was before—no one remains static neither in health nor in sickness. All life is complex at any moment.  And yes, some moments are harder than others. But I know that I must understand what I feel and figure out what I am capable of. Every day.

Someone once told me that we have many more places in the heart, empty places in the heart, ready to exist if we allow it. Let this be so.