This is just recording of thoughts, and some memories from my childhood
experiences in my German grandmother's house.
(mostly just 'stream of consciousness' writing)
Arizona buttes and mountain cliffs
Some days you can see forever into the distant mountains, where only
striped layers show evidence of the eons gone by...
There is a tug at the heart as we gaze down the mountain to the natural
fortifications of rock built up like castle turrets; habitations for
wildlife (not human houses).
The passing of an age, an ending of a generation of giants, and the
faint beginnings of a new one, registers itself in a solitary blaze of
red lines in the sky. Geese honking and calling as they pass overhead;
a kind of sadness settles in, as if they never again will find their
mates. A melancholy curtain of dim blues and greys settles down as the
world turns into the night. Really it's just turning it's back against
Silence descends with the dusk, interspersed with birdcalls, spring
peepers, the solitary whine of a single mosquito. The light fades into
luminescence of silver reflected light- soon the moon will rise, large,
lopsided, orange hanging low over the still bare black crowns of the
maple woods. In the distance a lone robin sings out like a nightingale.
Patches of white, leftover snow in random shapes like seagulls, and
s's and twisted t's, in 20 C weather. Warmth like in summer,
beckons us in slippers, outside to bask in the sun. Soggy moss and
lichens underfoot, with hard, icy undercarpet crispness soaks through
slipper's soles. Reminder that it's cold spring in the ground, not
On the lake, high calm water, with swirling water beetles zooming in
circles; small typhoons of energy whirling for no apparent reason except
to celebrate new life. Rising dampness in the air, humidity from a
heating lake drives us indoors. Smell of wood smoke rising again
perhaps one last time, to ward off the damp.
Regular metalic ping of the wood stove chimney tube, overheating the
room with crackling wood firelight.
I searched yesterday for the spring flowers, starting up under the thick
carpet of leaves: too soon, everything still asleep underneath.
Crunching deep through bleached from snow, cold layers of leaf. One
solitary bat greeted us outside the patio door, followed the sun down
the wall, then flew away.
Spring peepers begin, faintly, their variegated song. Drifting -in
sounds from the door open to the indigo dusk sky; dark woods over lake.
Suddenly a large pile of bear turds or cat scat directly in my path, up
from the road. Taking a different route this time, through the forest
from the road, towards the house. Ravine appears to the left. Hardly
any broken trees this winter, must have been unusually mild.
Spring cleaning after breakfast, sweeping and mopping floor, pounding
carpets on the deck railing with the broom. Satsifaction with the
return to order, somewhat cleaner kitchen.
Windows opened to the air, breezes wafting through as I prepare dinner.
Unusual connection with cousin in Europe through internet mail. Sense
of far-reaching distance, half a planet away. And yet, a sense of
relation-ship: a thread of yearning to meet up again.
A shared family, a shared past, a grandparent's life works, intentions,
labour, culture, detritus of daily habits.
Memories of First visit to grandparents:
Picking up goat's milk from neighbour's down the road: one litre
aluminum milk canteen, with carrying handle, and lid. Returning with
full, frothing, heavy, container full : trading off the carrying,
sharing the load. Uphill, this time, up to the closed gate, standing on
tippy toes to reach the bell, gate opening slowly (all by itself!) and
clanging shut behind us. Hurrying to the front doors, up the stairs,
Grandmother at the door. Impatient with us, we dilly- dallied too long
on the road. Takes the canister of milk, dismisses us till breakfast!
Ascend to the guest bedrooms in the attic (3rd floor has the best
views). Two flights of stairs, past closed door to uncle Josef's second
floor apartment. Cousin Markus lives there, (1/2 year old - we get to
visit after breakfast!)
Breakfast of runny oatmeal with cooked fruit compote, or milk soup with
lemon : a sour/sweet pudding flavour, and my favourite breakfast. Sit
at table, no banging of legs or feet against table or chair legs, no
talking while eating. Jam or marmelades in lovely tiny bowls with lids
that have spoon openings in them. Silver tops, friligreed. Spoons,
see-through, multi-coloured, lovely rounded shapes, like marbles.
Wooden bread boards at each place setting, no plates for lunch. Soft
boiled eggs, thick rye bread slices, butter. Cut from large ten pound
loaf, Gradmother stored them on top of a ceiling high old walnut wood
cabinet. (I watched her take it down, she climbed a three step stool to
reach the top.)
Drawers, too heavy to open, but together we pull. Grandmother has gone
down to city, down the path, through the burning nettle bushes, past the
honey bees' house, down the stone steps to the city graveyard. Through
the graveyard, visit great-grandmother's grave, red candle hanging
"forever lighted". planted flowers, yellow and blue.
Race back up the stone path to the house, drawers have fascinating
objects inside: cloth serviettes, serving utensils, candles, in one,
flutes, and a lap harp in the other. Must remember to ask Oma if we can
"play" that when she gets back.
Look out kitchen/great room window: down below, river valley, castle
Stolzenfels on the far bank, yellow stone bright in the sun. Open
window shutters, draw them back inside, like a folding up accordion.
Villiage on the opposite shore, nestled under tree-covered hills. Ships
passing on the Rhine, visible from the heights. View like that from a
castle, built half way up the mountain. My sister draws the view from
the window in pencil, later, colours it in.
Walking down the Allee Rosenberg, beside Opa, going for a walk to
the Rhine "Ufer". Walking stick in hand, swinging rhythmically,
with each step of the right foot, placing down the tip of the
walking stick. I walk, and imitate the movement of the leg and the
hand in perfect rhythm with my grandfather.
Opa talks as we walk, high German only, no "platt- deutsch" for him.
Tells me of the Rhine river, it's long, long history back to the
Roman occupation and after that, to the Robber barons who built
castles, and got rich collecting river tolls.
(It doesn't seem possible to return to this house- yes a renovated
version is still there- but someone else own it now. Who could afford
to purchase it back?)
(possible continuation later....)
Writing by Regina Stemberger