Year of Grace, Day 139. Spring blues and consuming passions

Alternating sun with double digit temperatures and rain with freezing nights seem to be what spring blossoms are partial to, and they are all looking their best. Yesterday was a glorious and brilliant sunny spring day, and it was great to be out and about!

In my garden all sorts of blue flowers are out – such a delight to blue-loving me!

The cherry blossoms and magnolia are magnificent.

At the Bonn Botanical Garden

At the Bonn Botanical Garden, a carpet of grape hyacinths beneath a Kanzan cherry.

One of the best magnolias

One of the best magnolias, blooming in the elegant neighbourhood of Suedstadt.

I stumbled upon an antique market in downtown Bonn, and took the chance to search for turquoise earrings. Alas, except for a couple – one too large and too heavy, the other clip-ons – there were none that caught my fancy. It will take a while to find another pair as unique as those lost ones were.

It was fun wandering around nevertheless, just having a look. The stalls were a mix of high-end antiques and junk without any pretensions at provenance. A lot of the jewelry were amber, understandable as we are very close to where European amber gets washed ashore. There were furniture and household linen from France, silverware, and even a couple of stalls with lovely jade and Japanese lacquer.

Although my cupidity was aroused by certain things, I was intent on turquoise earrings, and came away having bought nothing at all. I wasn’t disappointed though. And it felt good not to have succumbed, for once, to indulging in the “consuming passion” that appeared to have affected quite a number of people.  And I look back on how my younger, avid consumer self used to be, especially amidst the irresistible temptations of similar markets in Kyoto and Tokyo. And now many decades on, I realise that less is indeed more.

Year of Grace, Day 62. Too old to rock and roll, too young to die

Jethro Tull – the band, not the English inventor of the seed drill and pioneer practitioner of scientific agriculture – played at the Beethovenhalle last night. Ian Anderson was in top form: how he manages to balance on one leg, lifting the other so gracefully, while playing on the flute is such a wonder! I am 4 years younger and standing on one leg for longer than a few minutes is beyond me. The songs – Bourree; Too Old to Rock and Roll, Too Young to Die — took me back and I could barely keep still in my seat – no one else twitched so much as a muscle – as if it were a classical music concert — except for one mid-thirtyish man seated in front of me who bobbed his head in time to the music. The audience was, as expected, mostly of a certain age – silver and grey were the predominant hair colour. Salt-and-pepper ponytails and hair buns were much in evidence on ageing men. I thought we would be among the oldest, but no – there were wheelchairs aplenty and venerable citizens with gravitas — even a rock-chick matron in a shiny black leather jacket and over-the-knee red skirt with black pointy-toed boots. There was also a solid group of thirty- to forty-somethings and even, possibly the youngest there, a pre-teen girl with her mother. Jethro Tull responded to the standing ovation with such a rousing encore, I expected the staid audience to erupt into some sort of spontaneous physical response to such stirring music. After all it was the end and they were already standing, some in the aisles and the space in front of the stage. But no. “Too old to rock and roll”? Och, man!

Perhaps it was because the performance was at Beethoven’s Hall. What would Beethoven have said, were he alive today? He’d be sorely disappointed, I would’ve thought. He was not one to stand on ceremony. One famous incident had him turning his back to visiting royalty, and when asked, he is reported to have said: “Royalty you have aplenty, but there is only one Beethoven!” Which is why it is said his statue in the Münsterplatz has him with his back to the building behind, once a Royal Palace, now Bonn’s main Post Office.

Lately I have found time to do some things I’ve been putting off. One is mending – somehow it seems so time-consuming, sewing on a missing button or stitching a frayed seam. But I found that it is actually quite pleasant to take time – it only takes a few minutes – to sit down and sew and mend beloved pieces of clothing. And when, every so often, I can lift my eyes from my sewing and can gaze at the garden where there is always some sort of action – blackbirds and robins and wrens scrounging about on the lawn, or blue tits and magpies and jays sampling the peanuts and suet balls dangling from the yew – it is time and attention well spent.

Another long-put off thing that I’ve finally accomplished is planting the spring bulbs that I’d bought earlier. Although I have until December theoretically to plant them, I am glad I’ve done it. Into a large clay pot (to deter the resident moles and voles) I’ve put in layers, from the bottom to the top, tulips – dark purple, almost black to go with pale apricot ones; grape hyacinths – a deep blue almost black on top and paler lower down, at least the photo shows them to be so; and blue crocuses. The button alliums (Allium sphaerocephalum) I’ve planted among the lavenders and rosemary in front, where their pale green and purple bubble heads will go nicely with the silver- and blue-greyish foliage of the herbs, the Elijah Blue Festuca grass, and the nearby artichoke (which I hope will survive the winter again). I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the voles find these tiny onion bulbs not to their taste (or so I’ve read, but I don’t know whether the voles read the same publications I do) and that the moles do not dig them up before they’ve bloomed and seeded themselves. I love having these spring bloomers to look forward to during the cold months.

Although I am a sun lover, I do relish the subtlety of a foggy early autumn morning and the aesthetic effect of a translucent veil on the back garden and nearby woods. Amazingly, even the sounds of traffic seem deadened. Despite the lack of sun, it is lovely.

For all of these that have made my days enjoyable – stirring music from my youth, planting spring bulbs and anticipating their blooms, morning fog veiling the trees, the regularity of bird visits, and even the homely but satisfying and strangely comforting task of mending – I am thankful. The sun has finally burned off the fog and the crow is on its perch atop the fir. Unbelievably, it promises to be yet another sunny day!