as if / Thoughts / Ways / Zuihitsu

Saturday Afternoon

File:Flying kites.jpg

Kites are standing above the Rhine meadows, sometimes swishing around with buzzing sounds. Spring had come early this year, now it looks like autumn is arriving early as well. We are in Mid-August, but the weather is cool and windy, with occasional showers. I am wearing a hooded sweatshirt and an outdoor jacket on top of it. The trees are still pretending it is summer, their leaves are lush green and firmly attached to the twigs, but the winds are swaying their branches and chasing grey clouds across the sky.

The wind, however, is not yet too strong for bike riding. I am on the way to Wahner Heide, a natural reserve near the airport. Its heather blooming season and there are some patches of it in that area.

I am following the tarmacked hiking trail along the river. There is a row of caravans with awnings. Obviously, they are standing here permanently; people have built fences and hedges around them and a man is mowing the lawn around his motor caravan with an electric lawn mower. Very typically German!

People are dressed very diversely. You can see here the difference between pragmatic and dogmatic people. The pragmatic people are wearing sweaters and jackets. The dogmatic people are wearing shorts and short sleeve shirts or tee-shirts. It is supposed to be summer, isn’t it? The pragmatic people are having a great time, the weather is wonderful! The dogmatic people are freezing, goose pimples on their naked arms.

For me, the weather is wonderful. After passing the Rodenkirchen Bridge, I am unexpectedly meeting a colleague who is just jogging along the river. I am riding besides him for some time and we are having a chat. I have known this guy for nearly 14 years know, since my time in Hamburg. We were transferred to Cologne together and now we will be transferred to Hannover. This is our last year in Cologne. How free are we? We could have stayed in Hamburg and we could stay in Cologne now, but that would also have consequences. It is like we are moving along a corridor. The left and right walls are far apart and as long as you are moving more or less straight, you can pretend you are free to go wherever you like. The left and right walls are some distance away and you can pretend they are not there. Until suddenly, the corridor bends around a corner and you see it is constraining you. Most of the time, you don’t feel those walls, but they are there all the time. You can go through a door, but there is just another corridor behind it, another set of constraints. However, I found there is some inner freedom. It does not really matter where you are staying. The problems are created by attaching your feelings to things and places too much. In a way, a beam of light is traveling on a straight line by definition, no matter how the gravitation of the stars around it is warping space, curving its way. But it is a difficult situation for many. When we came from Hamburg, 4 out of 5 people did not come along. Maybe it is easier for me since I am a bit of a loner. Leaving friends behind is the hardest challenge for most… Now, the river is bending one way and my way is bending another. I am leaving my colleague to go left towards my destination. “See you on Monday”.

About an hour later, I am sitting on a barkless tree trunk in the middle of Wahner Heide. The sandy way has been transformed into a sequence of round puddles looking into the clouds and I had to follow a serpent-like path around them. I am wearing my rain cape, it is like a wearable little tent. It is raining. On one side, the flowers of the heather shrubs are opening up, painting the area purple. On the other side, there is an open area with gorse bushes. Sometimes cattle and donkeys are grazing there, giving this very special little patch of landscape a certain archaic feeling, but they are not there today; I have seen them on another patch when I was coming, fighting my way along a muddy way. The mud transferred what would have been an easy ride through the forest into a serious bit of sports. I had never been here on a rainy day before. It gives a special beauty to the place, something missed by most people who only come here when the weather is sunny.

Maybe this is the last time I am here. But attaching myself to this place would make me feel sad instead of enjoying it. There is enjoyment without attachment. You enjoy moments, not things or places. The leaves of the oak tree above respond to the falling drops with a gentle whisper. There is also the occasional noise of the air planes starting on the nearby airport, but that is how this place is. Just like the weather, one has to take it as it is.

(The picture is from

13 thoughts on “Saturday Afternoon

  1. I need to respond to this gorgeous piece of writing … but not with a ‘like’ [that’s another topic I wanted you to investigate …. what’s the function of the ‘like’ button?] …. I will give my response a bit of time.

    • Like buttons are indeed an interesting topic. I have to think about it. Spontanously I would say it can mean a lot of different things, depending on the person clicking on it and the circumstances. It is rather vague. It can be an expression of a truely felt emotion or it may even just be spam. And anything between. But I have not yet thougt about it much. An interesting question what is its real function on social media. On places like f-book, it is just a means to collect information about us that can be economically exploited. So there are third parties involved as well. Might turn out to be a topic for a PhD-Thesis 🙂

  2. the summer was mine in Germany… Now I am back in New Zealand and quite comfortably walked in Auckland outside in the same clothes I had left in Stuttgart 48 hours earlier…
    High temperature on a sunny day in Dunedin today 12degree…

  3. In response to: “It does not really matter where you are staying”

    Someone once said to me, ‘it doesn’t matter where you live, you have the same stuff to get on with. It doesn’t go away or change if you move to another city or country. You still have to deal with yourself.’

    I have moved homes many, many times in my life. I think it’s always much easier if the distance you are travelling to (from the place you are leaving) is not that great – I think if you are moving only a few hours away (by car or train or plane) from where you are currently living, the separation anxiety isn’t high. The mind is comforted somehow in the knowledge that ‘you can always go back’.

    When you move great distances – from continent to continent (as I have done again in recent years), the separation anxiety is much greater. As human beings we DO attach ourselves emotionally, spiritually and physically to our surroundings on an ongoing continuous level, even when we are sleeping – if we don’t, then we are in a hospital bed lying comatose.

    We create bonds, even with the cement in the buildings we inhabit, with carpets and upholstery (familiar smells of our own surroundings), with the way light plays across the sky during the day. We absorb colour, sound, touch, smell deep in our subconscious, it doesn’t go away, it stays with us, enriches us on our journey through life. Then there are the people we interact with. We can choose to be isolated and alone but even in those extremes, it can still be necessary to interact with human beings – shop assistants, bank workers … all of this interaction creates a kind of cocoon around us and we fill it up and feed off it. We give it signals and we interact with the reverberations and echoes. We are a lot more like cats than we would care to think.

    When I factor into these thoughts the bonds of close family ties, separation anxiety levels are very high (for me, at any rate). I have moved back from the massive continent of Africa to this tiny little United Kingdom and even though I am British born, I feel like an alien and probably will do for a very long time – that’s a very incongruous feeling! But one I hope to overcome eventually.

    Thank you for your posts, they are always very interesting and stimulating.

    • Indeed I am dealing with small distances here. Germany is a relatively small country and from Cologne to Hamburg you travel in a little bit more than 4 hours by train, bus or car. Hannover is between these cities, closer to Hamburg. That is something else than your or my wife’s move from Africa or my sister’s move to Canada and then to New Zealand. So I am having it easy here. My mother is living in Hamburg and since she is quite old now, I am even feeling good to move closer to her place. And of course, what I am writing here is quite subjective. The fact that only about 20 % of my colleagues moved to Cologne shows that most of us are quite rooted where we are living. As I wrote, I am kind of a loner, tending not to form a lot of close relationships with other people, so I am less deeply rooted here than some other people are.
      I had a strong bond to the house where I grew up (see Moving out of there was not a problem initially but it was difficult for me when my parents sold the house and it became inaccessible, although rationally I knew it was the right thing to do ad so I supported (and even suggested) that step. The house was too large and maintaining it and the garden absorbed too much income and work, and it tied up a lot of money. But this had been the place of my childhood, with lots of memories attached to it. Since then, I have never had such close ties to any place again.
      It is also a matter of attitude. I don’t want to attach myself too intensively to any particular thing or place. I have found that I can enjoy the situation as it is, as long as it is lasting, and then move on. There is a little bit of sadness or melancholy in moving, but things are changing all the time and this slight undertone of melancholy is a basic ingredient of life (at least for me) all the time. However, the basic attitude is one of being instead of having. I have found that once your basic needs are satisfied, being happy or unhappy is more or less a matter of decision. I am not a Buddhist, but this way of looking at life has something to do with it. Of course, I am only speaking of and for myself here, somebody else might feel and think quite differently about these matters.

      • Hi Nannus, Thanks for your thoughts, interesting to see your big house. What a wonderful place to grow up in for sure! By the way, I’m female. 🙂
        Cheers for now

  4. We all have certain things we cling to which keep us between the walls you write about. Some things are physcial and others are mental. While letting go of the physical things can give me a sense of becoming free…often it is the mental things I cling to that trip me the most (and keep me within the walls). And releasing the mental things seems to involve more steps and hesitations.

    I enjoyed your account of a day outside. I find inspiration for my art by going outdoors. I especially enjoy looking at the clouds, but not with the intention of finding shapes or things within them. I just look at them and through them like veils. Here are some examples of how I look at clouds:

    Be well!

  5. Your piece makes me realise I should get out more. Slaving away at an easel is a different kind of journey, sometimes full of frustration, sometimes my eyes are filled with a sensory pleasure that takes my breath away.

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