Year of Grace, Day 148. Walking in the rain in the Kottenforst

There is always such a magical light shimmering around the leaves of the trees in the Kottenforst. Most especially in the early spring, when the leaves’ fresh green casts an almost phosphorescent glow overhead. And the steady spring rain on Sunday heightened the effect even more.

With such luscious greenery around, even the rain couldn’t dampen our spirits, even though my friend and I were thoroughly soaked as we took Yoshi the dog for his midday walk.

A brilliant start to the week — to have one’s eyes drinking such enchanting green! Verde, que te quiero!

In the Kottenforst

In the Kottenforst

Year of Grace, Day 144. What’s in a good day?

What indeed constitutes a good day? Every day is different of course. And each day brings its own welcome blessings and grace, and its share of unwelcome things as well. And a good day for me is when the good things outshadow the not-so-good things. Or better still, when there are no unlovely surprises to mar the absolute perfection of a good day.

Yesterday was one such thoroughly good day. First of all, it was sunny, and that in itself already sets the tone for a splendid day. An early walk into the Kottenforst with my friend and her dog, and it was lovely to behold the new spring leaves among the forest’s dark trunks, while we caught up with the week’s happenings. The refreshing colour of young leaves in seemingly never-ending successive tiers was such a delight. And even Yoshi the dog bounded about, excitedly sniffing this and that plant shooting from the ground.

Fresh new leaves in the Kottenforst

And coming upon a clearing full of pale pink lady’s smock was marvellous!

Back home, I potted up pink geraniums and other complementary plants (sapphire blue and multi-coloured violas) into planters. I hope they flourish this year, and I can already see in my mind’s eye cascades of pink and jewel-like blue with touches of yellow and purple here and there. There is nothing I like better than to be outdoors among trees and plants, and after potting up the summer flowers, I happily spent the rest of the time pottering about the garden – checking the progress of the other spring ephemerals – the tall Fritillaria imperialis (said to deter moles — we shall see!), lilies of the valley, and bluebells; gathering tulips for the table, and photographing a few of these spring garden stars.

It will take another two months for the summer bloomers to get into their stride. My first thought was not to plant for summer, as we are planning to move soon. But why ever not? Yesterday’s few hours were what I had for certain, and it was the right time for potting those plants up. To each day, its own blessings. For splendidly good days such as yesterday, I am deeply grateful.

Year of Grace, Day 61. Kottenforst via Melbtal

Yesterday was the third consecutively sunny day in Bonn in weeks – such a blessing – and a rare one at that — at this time of year, often rainy and dreary grey! A foray through Kottenforst, the nearby forest, passing through Melbtal was definitely in order.  A larch – that rare deciduous conifer — with its reddening leaves soon to turn yellow, was brilliant in the sun. I was blessed to uncover several fungi – beige, brown, and white – emerging from their thick camouflage of fallen leaves. Had they been certifiably edible, it would have been possible to make a regal feast out of them – they were enormous and succulent. However, since they were growing by the path and most likely fertilized by passing horses, not to mention dogs and other livestock, it was probably best not to consider them for the table.

Leaves are still on the trees and with the low autumn sun behind them, they were splendid! A walk through Kottenforst and Melbtal – at any season – never disappoints, and on a glorious autumn day like yesterday, a leisurely stroll through truly lifts the spirits.

For mild autumn days and invigorating sights, for the sounds of a woodpecker and birdsong in the woods, to walk through a colourful layer of fallen leaves and revel in their crisp crunchiness underfoot, to discover varied fungi – the crowning glory of every forest walk – I am overjoyed and deeply grateful.

Today began dark and dreary, but the sky is gradually turning a pale blue and the sun is shyly peeking in. A crow — perhaps the same one I’ve been seeing daily — is back on its perch on the Douglas fir; it might have a nest somewhere inside there. The birch has lost most of its golden leaves, but its bare branches form a lovely filigree against the sky and several birds — difficult to identify from this distance — made it a stopover point. A wren and a black tit are foraging among the rain-drenched needles of the yew. A kite, once again in search of prey, circles overhead, but the birds on the birch have gone and taken shelter elsewhere. In the diffused light of today’s cloudy sky, the Kerria’s yellow leaves and the contorted hazel’s orange ones seem to glow. I am blessed with these sights as I write and look out onto the back garden. Thank You!

Year of Grace, Day 56. Praise for the world

The first book of Louise Erdrich’s that I read was The Beet Queen. I think I bought it in a bookshop in Palo Alto during one of my visits to the family. I don’t recall much of the book’s plot but I was struck by the focus of the book on the lives of ordinary people in a small farming community.

I am now reading another of her books – The Painted Drum –bought as I’d mentioned earlier from one of Bonn’s last few remaining local bookshops that stocks English books. It’s the one just across the sculptures of two gigantic severed heads of early Christian martyrs behind the Münster. I don’t believe Witsch, Behrendt, and Schweitzer carry bestseller fiction, as the little bookshop at Bonn’s Central Station specializes in, but they do cover an enormous range. It seems to me they stock most of the recommended reading for the English department of Bonn University, as well as for the linguistics and other foreign languages departments.

As a high school student addicted to books – I used to come home with a tall pile of books from the school library (Mrs. Freeman, the librarian, was so welcoming) – I would often read all night to finish a book – after I’d finished my homework. I don’t often do it now – motherhood, job, all sorts of responsibilities have made me moderate my reading addiction – and I have made it a habit to pace myself and savour my pleasure slowly — reading a few pages at bedtime until I fall into sleep.

There are certain books though which cause me to revive this voracious habit. Books that for some reason touch a certain part of my heart. And The Painted Drum is one such. I quote a passage that has struck me:

“All we crave is a simple order. One day and then the next day and the next after that, if we’re lucky, to be the same. Grief is chaos. Death or illness throw the world out of whack. …. To proceed with and keep that order is a gesture of desperate hope. Protect us. Save us. Let our minds remain clear of sorrow so that we can simply praise the world.”

It is the last sentence that sits on my mind at this moment. “Let our minds remain clear of sorrow so that we can simply praise the world.”

The greedy bookworm in me was tempted to read on to the end of the book – Louise Erdrich weaves such an engaging, fascinating tale of an American Indian family. But I stop right there, at that sentence, and let it seep through me.

I had other plans for today, but they’ve had to be changed because of other people’s circumstances. Perhaps it was for the best. As now I can still take in the last day of the Artists Open House Exhibition in Südstadt. I’d missed it last year, as we were away.

It is raining today — a steady, gentle veiling of the finest mist. In the Kottenforst — the forest nearby — the trees are ablaze with leave-taking. Their leaves seem to be gloriously praising the world as they bid us farewell for this year.

I give thanks and clear my mind on this day to simply praise the world. It is glorious!

Kottenforst in autumn

Kottenforst in autumn