As much as I love Scharmützelsee, the lake I’ve written about numerous times here (for example, Night On the Lake), I was somewhat ambivalent about going this trip. Only a relatively short ride: by bus, then S-bahn (local) train, a change to an inter-regional train and then to yet another bus…well, it’s a relatively short ride of almost two hours but it does take some effort believe me, but serious walking, waiting and then more walking are a daily part of life in Germany for many people. It’s also why you’ll find far more simply average people in quite good shape. My ambivalence, however, was not based on the journey itself, but that this time I was going alone, without my son, my usual accompaniment. So honestly, I felt a distinct sense of loneliness, which is rare for me.
The weather was almost perfect: warm, almost 30°C (86°F) with that special somewhat still cool breeze that keeps the air brisk and fresh. It was almost perfect just because it’s quite dry, and the schneebaum has bloomed with its unique products that resemble puffs of cotton floating through the air. For someone with allergies: sneezing and watering eyes are a problem. Schneebaum literally means “snow tree” in German, and sometimes, if you have an area with many of them, when their “snow” flies and settles, it looks like snow drifts along the curbs, grass and sidewalks.
The sky was bright, crisp blue, cloudless, and on the last part of the trip, the last bus, it finally made that turn I know so well onto Karl Marx Damm where you can see Scharmützelsee (“see” means “lake” in German) when you glance to your right. The sun’s light on the water made the diamonds and shifting triangles so often described in writing. A few stops more and my friend’s home, a large structure built in the late 1800’s came into view. It’s a seminar house now, with rooms for sleeping, meditation, living, and more. There’s no telling who shall be there. Reiki groups meet regularly, Qigong masters, yoga classes, and special visitors at times: Maori healers, Tibetan monks, or New Age Christians who incorporate a little of everything into their beliefs. My friend welcomes them all, and when I lived there, I also participated and helped, and sometimes spoke about my own people’s history, traditions and life.
I have to pass her home and get off at the nearest stop, and it’s only a walk of three or four minutes back to it. I open the wooden gate, opening point of a fence made out of stacked and interlaced driftwood, unusual for the street as most of the houses are as large at her home but “high class”: nuevo with stylish cast iron fences and electronic devices. My friend’s home is seriously “green,” basic and very conscious of conservation of all kinds. She is sitting with her son, whom I know well, see entry “The Goose God Cometh Forth” as an example.
They are sitting on simple stools made from the sliced rings of a great tree that had been downed last year, as it was threatening the house with its deep lean. It’s like I’ve never been away. There is no fuss or strong greeting, I just ease back in and the bottle of water they are sharing is passed to me and I drink. They continue their conversation.
Completely relaxed at my home away from home, nothing pressing to do, no computer connection, sports or news broadcasts, it was great, especially in that I wasn’t feeling particularly well again. Maybe it’s the changes in the cosmos, the “ring of fire”, all such things which can affects humans also, but since my stroke in April, I can tell when my head isn’t right. The more accurate way to describe it even if it’s vague: there is a mild headache always which might spike suddenly, a sense of slowness in thought: languid. That aspect isn’t bad if you don’t have anything that needs detailed attention.
My friend has garden work to do and her son is working on his old Volkswagen mini-bus in preparation for a “walk-about” he plans to do in Norway. He’s leaving tomorrow, driving up to Denmark then taking a ferry over…then will just choose a direction and drive. It’s the season for it, when many young people go hitchhiking, wandering, in search of adventure, fun, an exchange of culture and good times. I decide to go for a walk down to our favorite little beach area where we often hang out, my son and I, though my friend has a little pier and dock where her boat is moored where one can also sit and fish or whatever you wish to do. This is the same little beach I photographed in winter when the lake was frozen over. You can see those photos here and here.
A short walk through the forest bordering the lake, dappled sunlight, the rushing ocean sound of the wind through the leaves and then I emerge. Again I feel a pang of loneliness. My son loved to clamber over the angled trunks here and wade in the water (this photo is from 2011). It feels more empty without him. I make a few photos, but the light at this hour of the day and the dryness of the air produce results not my favorite. Please see photos from last year, near this time, when the moisture content in the air made for brighter colors and “softer” results.
I head back to the house, back through the forest and its many dancing insects whirling in the quiet. My friend has made lunch: brown rice, tofu Bolognese sauce with sweet cream, majoram and cashews and we eat together with her son. She asks me to stay the night, though it’s her grand-daughter’s usual overnight stay and she’ll be occupied, but we’ll have more time for conversation tomorrow.
Since I’m staying and brought no provisions (and don’t want anymore of her creative meals) I walk to the market, which is the nearest available: about fifteen minutes each way: a Netto. I walk around for almost an hour because I don’t know what I want but finally settle on a small piece of lean beef to make a light soup with spring onions and wild rice. When I return the granddaughter has arrived, five years old, bright eyed, no longer shy of me, they are sitting in the backyard having a dinner of bread, wasa, butter, honey and cheese. Since the evening has softened along with the sky, and apricot arches above us, I decided to make more photos near the water while my dinner cooks. I bid them good night and go for another walk. I want to see the highpoint above the lake where I made great photos in winter, but it’s too far for me to go alone when I am feeling vaguely unwell.
There’s a note on the table that my bed is ready. I head upstairs to the room where my son usually slept, the same bed, and undress and lie down. I count the spiders on the ceiling: nine in total (more about spiders here), so that when I wake up in the morning I can hope to find the same nine still there and not consumed by me somehow. In the room next to the top most level, there are so curtains and only the unrelenting light whenever it comes again: the sky is light until around eleven p.m. then brightens again at five. I awaken and lay for almost three hours, meditating and thinking of many things before I finally arise. I’d heard her leave to take her granddaughter to kindergarten.
Maybe it’s one of the reasons we’ve gotten along so well for so many years, but even though I am visiting and we hadn’t seen each other for months: life and the daily needs of the house and garden go on. My friend doesn’t feel obliged to entertainment me, nor do I need entertainment. We are simply happy to be near each other. She returns while I am washing the dishes in the downstairs kitchen, cleaning up from the day before. We exchange a wave and smile as she returns. She heads to garden watering, for despite being so close to the lake, only some metres away, the soil here is extremely dry and sandy. If one has any plants not indigenous to the area and/or adapted, heavy watering at morning and evening is necessary to keep them alive.
She doesn’t need my help at the moment so I take the time to have coffee and bread for breakfast, rereading one of my few print books, “Intruder” by C.J. Cherryh. One of my favorite authors, my review of it is at the link.
When she comes inside she has something of an adventure for us: today is the big sale at Hof Marienhöfe, which is an all-organic farm offering produce, meats and plants for “green” people. I’ve visited before and written about it: A Trip Into the Past. The large farm itself is staffed by guest workers: if there is space and you will abide by the few rules, you can live in their barracks and work for your food and shelter. There are few electronics or modern amenities, but lots of smiles and companionship. Both families and individuals live there. When they have big harvests, any and everyone is welcome to come and help and they’ll be fed for the day. The next upcoming is June 2&3 when they harvest carrots. My friend is buying goods for her son’s upcoming trip: cheese, sausages, bread and other things, and has promised she won’t buy any more plants because she has too many but I know better than that, and secretly she does also.
The adventure wasn’t the farm itself, but the means in getting there. Usually we ride bicycles, and I’m glad we didn’t because it is 14km or over 8 miles each way. Instead, we are taking her son’s ancientVW mini-bus. And she’s driving. Let’s just say, she gets distracted very easily looking at this or that bird, tree or flower and will wax rapturous and not pay attention to the road, signals and other vehicles….We barely miss a number of high curbs and fences, but we make it. She doesn’t even head for the store first, which is what she has promised but instead strays to the plants. Yes, I am soon back and forth loading the van: four fruit trees, 13 bedding plants, 4 pots of herbs and a special gift for a friend.
Next she gets carried away buying fresh made desserts for afternoon tea: a dozen slices of ananas (pineapple) cheese cake, plus fresh lemon cake, and slices of sweet bread made with rose geranium. The van is large, but we are loaded down on the homeward journey. Just like any other time we’ve visited, though we were on bikes then, on the way down the long hill she takes her foot off the brakes and starts singing. Naja, if we crash we crash but she brings the vehicle under control at the last minute before a big turn that will take us back to the main road. She is laughing like a child. I love it. I never doubted her.
When we get back home, and I’ve unloaded the goods, including milk, quark and cream in the separate garage. This garage, incidentally is completely liveable in its own way, as it has plenty of room inside, a loft, and also a cellar beneath the flooring. Like many houses in this area of Germany, one of former residents of the house, the niece of the Jewish family who lived there, had hidden beneath that floor of the garage for many long months. She later escaped to England and survived, tragically the rest of the family was murdered in Auschwitz. Their memorial plaque is set in the stones of the front walkway.
The garage is used now for storage but also because it is the coolest place to store relatively perishable things. There is no air-conditioning here and she doesn’t use energy for the small refrigerators she has unless a guest to the house needs it. She buys in season, only enough to eat for a few days at best, never to spoil any flavor by natural flavor by chilling it or cooking it too long. I finish the last load and hear her exclaim about something out in the yard. Several of the plants in the front have been flattened. She can’t imagine what has happened.
“It looks as if a bear sat on them!” she says, quite annoyed.
I look towards the parked van, but say nothing. I commiserate with her about the state of the wilted pansies.
“Oh wait, I must have done it,” she realizes sheepishly, smiling.
I agree with her.
Her son, daughter and grand kids will be arriving in a couple of hours and she suggests we go for a walk, as there is a place she wants to show me. I am agreeable to anything and have no schedule. This time we head cross-country instead of along the lake. This whole region, including the lake was created by spreading and then receding glaciers. There isn’t much high ground, but rather very slight hills in between the many smaller lakes and tributaries. One of the most notable and portable evidence you can find are the many water and ice smoothed stones that cover the countryside. My pockets were filled with so many, I was “clacka-lacking” with each step on the way back.
We head pass a group of houses, along a dusty road and up into a forested area. She tells me about the whooping cranes that live in a bog nearby, and about how she comes to this area at a certain point to see and watch the sun go down. She points out a spot where she’d pulled together some branches and logs to make a place to rest. It has a little altar in the center where she offers up whatever she might have. She exclaims at the holunder bushes having already bloomed and she gathers their showy heads to make syrup, tea and to flavor salads or soup. Next she heads to a wheat field nearby where many cornflowers can be seen amid the other stalks. She gathers as many as she can hold to make bouquets to decorate her house. Like the most interesting and unusual stones I’ve been gathering on our walk, the farmers don’t mind in the least, as it helps them out in the long run.
But it’s nearing time for the grandkids to arrive and we’re getting hungry, so we start back. Along the way we pick acacia blossoms from the many trees lining the next narrow path we are newly on. Their sweet, moist crunch is welcome in the dry air and warm temperature. It takes me back to horseback rides and hikes back in the U.S. when we’d sample most anything edible along the way, a little extra vitamin C, here and there. Back to the house soon and very glad of it, and within minutes the girls are running towards my friend, crying, “Oma! Oma! (Grandma)” and are hanging on by fistfuls of her overalls.
One already has a bloody toe from also stepping on a pine cone like I did yesterday afternoon and had been limping on since. My friend does minor surgery on us both, with mine taking longer as she gets a very sharp knife, cleans it and then determinedly slices open my sole and picks the cone petal out then pours over a generous measure of alcohol then covers and tapes it up. Afterwards, she takes a little time to do a little planting, while I set the table for tea and bring out the dessert and beverages. All in a day’s work at the lakeside.
To see it in winter, please see photo journals: The Last of the Ice: Scharmützelsee Winter 2012 Photos and Frozen Scharmützelsee Winter 2012 Photos.