For some reason, the snowflakes were long today and looked like cragged mountains and spikey castles.
Maybe it was the last warm summer day of 2012. I took a longer walk up and around my favorite hill, enjoying the warmth and the silence – nobody was around and sometimes I need to be completely alone to find myself.
There was no wind and it was very quiet, except for some faraway birds and some crickets. I stood and scanned the far horizon when I became aware of a very quiet, almost inaudible high drone – and of a cloud of several dozen tiny insects that circled around and above my head.
I don’t know why these insects flew around me – they didn’t settle on my skin and they seemed completely harmless. They liked me for some reason, and they stayed with me for about 15 minutes. They were very small and very fast, tiny dots, barely visible against the blue sky. I couldn’t believe my ears – I don’t think I have ever heard something like this before. Unexpected and magical!
I found that the swarm of insects reacted to my movements – I could raise a hand, and they would back up a little bit. For some reason, the pitch was higher when they were close, and it went down immediately when they went further away. Eventually, they flew away, and the sound vanished into silence.
I did not have a recorder with me to record the sound, and the insects were very quiet, almost inaudible, the recorder wouldn’t have recorded much. Here is a recording of a swarm of insects inside of a hedge behind my house, recorded in 2007. I sped the recording up to give it a pitch that was like what I heard today. It sounds a bit different (that sound was much more steady and quiet), but you can get an idea.
what is it that makes me
lie in the dark on a warm summer night
looking up with binoculars?
why do I feel happy when I see
a satellite, and another one, moving fast across the
stars, eternally falling through the night all alone?
occasional fast movements,
a falling star, glowing specks of dust
or a bright Iridium flare
when it gets even darker,
the black dotted canvas becomes
huge and deep and full of white dots
each one a star, all different,
some small, some huge, some old, some young,
citizens of a city of another kind
simple dots just at first glance.
places! clusters! brilliant clouds of light
different colors, not just white
I find that this one over there is actually
Saturn, sister world, rings, dozens of moons
and over there, Mars: close companions
what about that one? the larger stars have names,
Latin, Greek, Arabic, mysterious names,
some of which are familiar, and they are all out tonight
what is it that makes me
feel home among these places
that are so far away, further than we can imagine?
Arcturus, Wega, Spica,
Procyon, Sirius, Aldebaran,
Antares, Polaris, Deneb
and in some nights that are dark and clear
I find, southeast of Cassiopeia, the faint glow
of Andromeda, sister galaxy
While New York, just shaken by an unusual earthquake, prepares for a severe tropical storm, we’re having much more harmless weather conditions here, but unusual as well: today we had a hailstorm, something rare for this area.
Several loads of torrential rain followed in the hours after the hail. And we discovered that the skylights in Sabine’s room aren’t completely tight – one of them above her bed. The mattress was partly wet. We had to drag it in front of the heating, hoping it will dry soon. Adventure!
This year seems unusual, weather-wise, too much sun for April-May, too little rain, and the plants grow and are flowering more than ever before, or so it seems. At the moment, our Laburnum anagyroides (Golden Rain) is pretty amazing and if there is a quiet moment, without wind, cars, or planes, you can hear that the whole tree hums with bumblebees. What a great natural sculpture!
Postscript: our wonderful Golden Rain tree eventually was killed by voles – apparently the roots were tasting too good, and I could pull the big plant out of the soil with one hand.
We took a long walk near Lindlar with my old friend Thomas and Chikai, his friendly Akita Inu dog, past the quarry where I had recorded a few midwife toads a while ago, and beyond it into a very beautiful open landscape of large fields and hills that I wasn’t familiar with although it is just half an hour away from here.
This happens when it is very cold and foggy. No fun to take walks because the cold creeps into your coat, but then everything looks like a fairytale landscape, or like those strange infrared photos where the sky is black and trees are white. Everything is covered by tiny ice crystals. People who walk through this frozen fog eventually seem to get grey hair as even their hair gets covered by ice crystals.
Sunday after the birthday party, taking care of a slight hangover, cleaning up the house. I was lazy but Sabine convinced me that we should take a walk, and maybe not one of our short standard walks around the hill, but something a little more special. The weather was cold and sunny, spectacular compared to most of the rather grey January.
We drove to a village called Frangenberg, near Linde, a few miles from here, and took a round walk around the hills at Breidenbach and Spich, under a deep blue sky, with wonderful views. The end-of-January sun had already some power, and there was a hint of early spring.
Back home we had cherry cake and coffee and then we put these images on my computer and looked at them and had half of the chocolate candy box that Vera and Michael had given to me yesterday … they were REALLY good
Fresh 5th December snow near our house, late evening. It had finally stopped snowing, thank god. We had done two shovelling sessions on this Sunday and my shoulders were hurting.
When I got out to take a look with the camera, the bushes and trees had turned into surrealist sculptures, lit up by the yellow street lamp. It was totally silent.
And my mama cried
And my mama cried
Don’t be a naughty eskimo
Save your money, don’t go to the show
Well I turned around and I said oh, oh oh
Well I turned around and I said oh, oh oh
Well I turned around and I said ho, ho
And the northern lights commenced to glow
And she said, with a tear in her eye
Watch out where the huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow
Watch out where the huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow
I can’t remember an August that has been this wet. July was sunny and hot, very hot, too hot too long, and August has been raining almost all the time.
We spent most of the day yesterday in Tübingen, a beautiful university town that we both hadn’t visited before … mostly walking around the old town, having a coffee or two and an icecream. (The icecream was especially good.)
Most of the Tübingen postcards show the romantic view from the Eberhard bridge, and this blog entry is no exception. Students sitting on the wall above the Neckar bridge, boats loaded with tourists being punted around like in Venice, the yellow Hölderlin tower where the famous poet lived in the early 19th century.
And then it began to rain (earlier than forecasted) and we had to sit under an umbrella of a street cafe. I had found a copy of Attar‘s Conference of the Birds in a little bookshop, and read a little while we waited for the rain to stop.
Later in the evening, we met our friends Niele and Günther for dinner. We hadn’t met for six years and it was wonderful to see them again, in a restaurant overlooking many miles of the Swabian landscape. Here’s two photos of us and them – no, not the gorillas, we’re at the bottom of the page 🙂
Niele and Günther are currently busy preparing the logistics of a large Java Developer conference. After this they’ll return to their regular job of running a successful web design business. I might do a little Flex application for them – we’ll see. I want to learn Flex but it is difficult to learn something as complex as that without a project. This might be the chance.
Fragments today as there is a slightly fragmented, slightly surreal feeling – I just read something surreal, and something slightly surreal was there after a short nap in the early afternoon today.
The Sahara Of Snow we saw today was a perfect white surface that covered the hills; mostly perfect, gleaming in the early March sun, but here and there, a trail made by humans and a dog, trails made by deer who had galloped across the open field, maybe in the night or the early morning – leaving groups of four indentations in a row, then a wide gap to the next group; and mysterious small trails that began nowhere and ended nowhere, trails by large birds that had landed for unknown reasons, doing unknown work on the ground, thinking bird thoughts.
Tomorrow Craig and Trinity will fly back from their short concert tour / vacation in Portugal to their home in Idaho. How wonderful that one can easily feel so connected to people from faraway even without knowing them very well. I wish we’d have more time. How wonderful also to play music together in front of a small audience. Some more about this later.
I looked their house up in Google Streetview and loved the large blooming lilacs all around – followed the street for a while without being able to see the mountains in the east. What a strange kind of spyhole I looked through, an unsharp kind of warped virtual reality consisting of frozen frames with cars standing still on the street, but me zooming from one frame to the next like a ghost in a world where time stands still while a sun shines that never moves.
How long until we’ll have telepresence robots that will allow us to walk and talk, representing us in faraway places?
Long rows and columns of numbers that represent tree rings and their sizes, created by an ancient Fortran software that is as old as my car – 23. The time we looked back to: 7000 years in the past.
How strange to think of the people who lived then, not knowing about Fortran, impossibly far removed from the faintest idea even of the concept, just as we are removed from their concepts. Long rows and columns of numbers, measurements, places, realities, landscapes, real lives, births, deaths.
I’ll write a software for these numbers that will reverse their sequence, and group them in a different way: In the Heidelberg format, maybe invented in this city in Germany that was also home to a factory that built the famous printing machines that I used to work on in my early youth, helping my father.
They had a black thing going forwards and backwards – it looked like a slightly eerie robot head, with one eye, and it had two arms, one taking up the next sheet, one putting the printed sheet down on a stack. I always wanted to record the sound they made but I never did.
The impossibly fast minimalist patterns played by Keith Tippett on a grand piano (one that I’ve played myself for a few minutes last year), at times prepared on the fly with objects that I couldn’t see from my place. Never having seen him live but in love with his style of music since the early seventies, Lizard, Centipede.
Julie Tippetts (I forgot the story behind the “s”) somewhat aged visibly of course but with a voice that hadn’t. The drummer from Germany who I hadn’t heard of before, catalysing the piano/voice duet, leading and following with an astonishing degree of sensibility. An hour of hardly ever looking at each other because it wasn’t necessary – going to many faraway places together, totally in blind sync, rhythmic and dreamy, musical box and mbira, stately Purcell chords on the prepared piano that suddenly sounded like a cembalo. The audience was stunned and in awe.
“I understand that some people would like to hear more but this was all that we know.” The Britishness, the sideburns, the dry humour. What a genius. His playing took me to many places that felt totally right, taken directly from what I imagined I would have played without knowing it, without even beginning to have the musical vision for. And the idiosyncrasy that made me feel even closer to him.
I took a friend out from my office room and showed him around the yard in front of the house, some patches of snow left here and there (that was days before we got new loads), blue sky, a promise of lilacs. I carried my notebook around and talked to him, he sat in his living room in Hamburg, hundreds of miles from here.
Then I went back in and he showed me around the flat, a street lined with large trees, a backyard. Sometimes the skype connection broke down and we had to reconnect. While he talks to me often his face turns into a modern painting when the software grapples with the low bandwidth – then sometimes out of the blue, the image freezes, the hissing freezes, and he is gone and we have to dial in again, continuing the exploration of the depth:
His experience in the moment, my experience in the moment. The moment is shared, some mysterious kind of energy is shared, the very fact of someone listening (without judging or valueing or commenting) creates a palpable difference in the atmosphere that changes the way we feel and think. Magical moments when we sync looking at the same thing.
A closeness, a conscious sharing of this, the hard-to-describe reality of what is simply here, something tangible that is obviously in the air and in the body, something impossible to describe that nobody can understand who has never done this, transported by tiny amounts of electricity across hundreds of miles.
Early morning, Orion is already setting in the west beyond the hills, tiny dots of light from distant stars – the one on top of the constellation (al-Dhira, Bed Elgueze, Yedelgeuse … “hand of the giant”, 600 light years from here) is hundreds of times larger than our sun, a wobbling, oscillating, unstable red giant, something much more vast than we could ever imagine with our petty mammal brains, and destined to explode – hopefully, in many thousands of years, and not tomorrow – covering our skies with the flash of its death.
So it vanishes beyond the hill, winter is definitely over although there is snow all around. The clocks will be set to summer time soon. Another round, all things different, all the same.
Later in the morning: The shivering legs of a small dog that has to wait with his owner in the cold outside of a supermarket, probably for the owner’s wife to come back. The trust in the dark dog eyes when I talk to him. We are both here, different brains, but not different in what we are, and in a way, we both know it: Always on the cusp, on top of the wave, riding the mystery.
For those unfortunate souls who don’t live in the countryside such as this, I recorded the walk I took today – click the player and you will hear half an hour of my steps in the muddy forest, stopping now and then to listen to the first spring birdsongs. The most prominent bird one could hear today is the song thrush … their song is one of the most beautiful things I can imagine.
People who grew up musically in the late sixties (such as me) might be reminded of Pink Floyd’s wonderful song Cirrus Minor which contains lots of song thrush singing … that bird must have been recorded somewhere in England, at this time of the year, 40 years ago.
This walk reminded me of Wordsworth’s poem in more than one way. Well he lamented “what man has made of man” … I only was somewhat put off by the incessant loud shouting of a group of kids who played right in the dense middle of the forest, the only place where the deer can hide during the day. Oh well. But then, they didn’t know … and of course, they are a part of nature too, no less than the birds and deer are.