Rudolph Rupert Rocket Dog was spinning in circles yesterday morning, so I decided to take him out for a walk. Normally we turn left at the end of the driveway and either walk the 2 mile loop past the huge Neolithic hill grave or 2 mile round trip to the settlement of two houses, the residents of one of which have chickens, geese, turkeys, sheep, and donkeys hanging around in their backyard (which isn’t anywhere as big as you are probably now imagining). But sometimes I hang a right and go up the hill to or past the set of wind turbines that is a half mile or so away (the closest turbine is closer, although if you follow the farm roads/tractor paths instead of bushwhacking, it takes 2 miles to get to it). Normally, I don’t go this way for a number reasons not least of which is that the distance from the house is such that RRRD generally poops in front of one of the neighbor’s houses, leaving me to either leave a plastic bag full of poop there for forty-five minutes or so or to carry the swinging thing with me for the vast majority of the walk. But yesterday I turned right anyway.
We never even made it to that last house that RRRD likes to poop in front of. Because at the farmhouse just before it, we were met by the two dogs who live there, an elderly border collie and the mostly Jack Russell terrier who is RRRD’s grandma. Normally these two old ladies don’t like RRRD much, so there is a bit of growling and posturing and then off we go without the two dogs pulling their normal annoying stunt of following (for miles!) anyone who walks or jogs by.
But yesterday was different. Both of the dogs were very rather visibly in heat.
A lot of sniffing ensued. Which progressed to carousing. Which progressed to, well, you can imagine the attempts, and none of my entreaties of But it’s your grandmother! cooled anyone’s ardor. At least the border collie, apparently grasping that it was mission impossible (she’s two to three times taller that RRRD), gave up and wandered off. But Grandma could not be dissuaded.
RRRD should only be firing blanks at this point and it boggles the mind that a dog as old as Grandma could still bear a litter. But, still, even though the neighbors are carelessly letting their two dogs in heat roam freely, I could hardly stand there in front of their house (and cow shed, where I could hear someone working) and let RRRD and his grandma do the deed. So I literally dragged RRRD home and Grandma followed us the whole way. After I locked RRRD in the house, she persisted, the two of them standing on either side of our glass-paned front door, scratching frantically at it.
In the end, I had to pick her up and carry all 15 lbs of Grandma all the way back up the hill to her house. She was very sweet and cuddly the whole time, of course (which is not her normal demeanor) but, phwoah, not only do her owners let her roam freely, she appears to have never once had a bath. I know that RRRD was born in the neighbor’s husband’s cowshed and spent his first few months there, some of it sleeping nestled against the bull he keeps there, and given that Grandma also reeked of straw and was splattered in cow poo to boot, I would venture a guess that my neighbors also lock her in with their cows at night. Which is to say that farmers have a very different take on pet ownership than the rest of us do (and the border collie and the Jack Russell are pets; they aren’t used as working dogs). But I guess when you’re used to having life and death control over cows, why would you have the same soft and squishy attitude toward house pets that city slickers do?
Meanwhile, the COVID cases are definitely spiking here in Germany right now, although since testing capacity is way up over last spring, the higher case numbers don’t yet mean we’re hitting the levels of infection that we had last spring. But the acceleration in the number of new cases per day is showing no signs of leveling, so it’s just a matter of days before we’d all be wise to do nothing more than hunker down at home for a few weeks. And we’re not the only ones to have come to this conclusions.
Last night was our weekly grocery shopping excursion and when I gave Spouse a look because he brought a strange brand of toilet paper to the grocery cart–and I don’t mean just strange for us, but strange as in not normally stocked by the store–he shrugged and said people were hamstering TP again already.
It cracks me up that Germans have a cute word that covers all the all of panic buying so you can horde stuff away when we would have to settle for saying “stocking up” or, at it’s most exciting, “panic buying.” I mean, I guess we can squirrel things away, but that just covers the hording end of the process, whereas it feels like to me that to “hamstern” encompasses everything from the going out and collecting to the socking of the things away in your den.
But it’s bonkers that the numbers are skyrocketing here. People are generally excellent about wearing masks and not shaking hands (which Germans are even more gung ho about than the French are about fake cheek kisses). Apparently, the outbreak is more or less down to two things: “young people” who can’t stop partying in large numbers in the crowded bar areas of big towns and everyone who can’t quite seem to manage to stop vacationing, carrying the virus with them either there or back.
I find it baffling. Is it really so hard for to take a year off????? Or even just dial it down a bit so they’re not interacting with hundreds of people at a time???? Do people not believe the virus exists? Do they think they can’t get it? Does it not occur to them that by catching it and/or passing it along they could cause life-changing damage or even kill people or themselves?????
But I guess I never liked partying anyway, so why would I understand?
I’m not on Twitter, so, apparently, the Orange Man’s campaign has reached out to me through the medium of the shadow cast by the towel we use to clean mud off the belly and paws of the low-hanging dog before he’s allowed back inside after a walk or after harassing whatever wildlife there is to be found in the backyard.
Speaking of wildlife, Rose, the braver, feistier sister of Gaston, was the duck of our next door neighbors’ who didn’t survive the alleged wolf that hopped over three fences to drag her off in the middle of the night a few nights back in a flurry of feathers. I think it was a fox, though, which can also leap even high fences (and the neighbor has complained that ever since the cornfield where the fox lived was mowed down, the fox has been wandering into the artist studio she leaves the door open to all day long). Surely a wolf would have gone for a sleeping alpaca instead. Anyway, RIP Rose, who has already been replaced because Gaston, having lost his anchor, wouldn’t stop pacing the garden.
Also RIP Big Kitty, who was my cat for 15 years, who passed away yesterday after having what must have been a number of strokes. I’d seen it coming (about four days ago, she suddenly very clearly had lost most of her vision and a bit of her balance and seemed a bit…vague…), but was unprepared for how rapidly it all unraveled yesterday morning after a bigger stroke hit. At least the alpaca people knew about a very kindly vet who makes house calls, even on Sunday mornings in the middle of a resurging pandemic (because Big Kitty was so evacuate from all orifices and froth at the mouth kind of terrified of car rides, there was no way I was going to subject her to one in her last hour).
That’s the third cat this year. Have I mentioned yet, fuck you, 2020.
I’m catless now, for the first time since 1988, if you include the five years where the cat I had at that time lived with my mom and I lived in England.
Anyway, Orange Man, the towel campaigning is way too little, way too late (and you didn’t stand an ice cube’s chance in the place I’d happily believe in, if it would guarantee you end up roasting there for all eternity). I already received my absentee ballot, filled it out, mailed it back, and got word from the country registrar that it was received and the signature was verified and my vote, which was not for you, will be counted.
It isn’t every day you learn something because of a bottle of mineral water, but the other day I did and was reminded again of how much the development of language proceeds along strange chains of logic. It was lunchtime and the glass bottle Spouse pulled out of the crate of mineral water he’d bought a few days ago wasn’t a standard middlingly fizzy Gerolsteiner like all of its crate-fellows, but a bottle of the “Heilwasser” line sprung, if not from the same spring, then at least from the same company.
“Huh,” I said, tasting it and deciding it tasted a lot like a normal standard Gerolsteiner but shifted up in tone a few notes. “Is Heilwasser holy water or healing water?”
It turned out to be the latter. Holy water would have been heiliges Wasser if it wasn’t actually Weihwasser, meaning ceremonial water, the way Germans call Christmas (Eve) Weihnacht (ceremonial night) because it was that one night a year everybody was sure to pack themselves into the church for mass? At any rate, how odd that the German language uses more or less the same root (heil) for holy (heilige), for the verb to heal (heilen), and for salvation (Heil), not to mention for that Heil that was used to mean Hail! in association with a certain massively murderous 20th century personage with Ceasorial aspirations. It’s enough to make you wonder what grew out of what grew out of what.
Interestingly, when you question the great oracle known as the Online Etymology Dictionary, you discover that it all comes from the proto-Indo-European root (kailo) that means “whole,” including the word whole itself.
Apparently, originally, to heal someone or something was to make them whole, hence the link between words like heal, healing, healthy, whole, and wholesome. Hail, as in Hail Caesar, or Heil, the Old German greeting, was wishing good tidings, such as health, happiness, and prosperity, upon someone. And holy came from the idea, perhaps, that that which was holy (and I quote here from the Online Etymology Dict) “that must be preserved whole or intact, that cannot be transgressed or violated.” Then I guess it must have bent itself around backwards to encompass the idea that that which was holy could cure you of ills.
Anyway, if you read the fine print on the Heilwasser, all it was able to legally claim to be able to do was support your conventional medical treatment for kidney stones that have migrated into your ureter.
Hmmm, next time I have lunch with Spouse, I’ll have to ask him if there is a single German word for that.
Last Thursday, apparently Germany tested its disaster warning sirens, or what is left of the network set up maybe as long ago as during the Second World War. I say apparently because I heard about it instead of heard it, although I would have thought that the three volunteer fire stations within earshot of the house would have made noise. “Yep,” said Spouse, “Not a single siren went off in the entire state of Schleswig-Holstein.” Not even a single mobile phone either, because the network overloaded when it tried to send an alert out to everyone at once.
So I guess it was good that they tested the system, in part, so they can figure out what went wrong, and because sometimes I wonder what it would be like here to be out on a walk with the dog and have all the sirens go off and wonder if I shouldn’t jump into one of the drainage ditches (the ones allowing the local area to be farmland instead of bog) and follow it to one of its little tunnels and thus escape the flash of radiation from a nuclear blast (for surely they’d hit Hamburg and maybe also Kiel). But then maybe it would be better to die and get it over with because we don’t have a basement so where would we hide away from the worst 2 weeks of fallout and what would I do if Spouse was out and never came home? Would I go out and look for him? Would the dog and I (and the cat) slog through all alone? And and and… (Doesn’t everyone have what ifs like this?)
But today we heard one, at roughly 11 am, when we were hammering holes in the garden with a wooden stake, not because the lawn is a vampire, but because we were planting 90 crocuses (every September we remember to, we plant a bunch more, and some spring, our front lawn is going to be fucking amazing, a veritable carpet of white, yellow, orange, and purple crocuses). It wasn’t our fire station and it wasn’t the station of the village to the northeast of us, but of the station of the village due north from here. So, hmm, so what, we thought. It can’t be that the next door neighbors caught their back garden on fire again by dumping hot coals on the compost pile, not if our fire station isn’t involved, and we finished the crocus planting.
Thirty or so minutes later, we took the dog for a walk. When we reached the bigger road at the end of our street, there were two people standing at the edge of the field, right by the new big electricity switching box that was just installed (substation is maybe the better word…?). As we meandered by, they said moin, moin and pointed out that one of the wind turbines was on fire, although, to be more accurate, at this point, it was merely streaming a few ribbons of black smoke.
So a bit of Sunday morning excitement! That’s the second time in 3.5 years that that exact same wind turbine has burned up. They do that, I guess, from time to time, as they’re rotating, they’re generating a lot of voltage, and they’re full of very flammable oil. But the same one twice in such a short period of time (well, not the same same one, since they had to rebuild the cabin and put in a new motor and install new blades) speaks to some sort of higher problem with the wiring in the base, I would presume.
While we were walking the dog, the fire managed to consume one of the three fiberglass wings. When we biked out there after lunch (along with half of the surrounding community), we saw that the firefighters were still driving back and forth between the nearest firefighting pond and the wind turbine, and hosing down the bits on the ground that were still smouldering and, phew, I might add, blowing a horrible stream of toxic air downwind of the turbine. Unfortunately for the picture taking, we couldn’t get within about a kilometer, not without tromping across the fields freshly sewn with winter wheat or winter rye.
I wonder if they’ll just give up on this particular one now. It costs a lot of money to rebuild it and I don’t even know that they had ever turned this one back on after rebuilding it after the last time. They had a lot of trouble rebuilding it, too, because it would have lost its grandfathered in status is they’d used a bigger motor or bigger wings than before and it was hard for them to find such outmoded stuff. But without its grandfathered in status, it isn’t legal anymore in this area because we’re full of endangered raptors, like white-tailed eagles and red kites, which have a bad habit of flying into the wings, so it’s outmoded or shut entirely down.
Here’s what it looked like 3.5 years ago, two days after it burned up the last time and a few minutes after the wings, spinning out of control, shredded in the strong breeze (taken by Spouse from a vantage point that had required tromping across the fields and getting yelled at by the wind turbine inspector).
Out of stock already, sadly (https://www.laborsofloveneedlepoint.shop/shop/c/p/Heres-to-2020-x50194553.htm), but you could always find your inner avid needlepointer and rustle one up for yourself.
Which is all to say, I think we can all agree that 2020 has long since surpassed 2016 in total fabulousness.
That year, in December, a friend of mine sent me a link to a great way to lick the wounds of the year: get some colored felt, some glue, and some shiny embroidery thread and turn the awful events into Xmas ornaments.
OK, we haven’t lost as many beloved rock stars this year, but I think you could go with a tree covered in nothing but felt ornaments of face masks, hand sanitizer, rolls of toilet paper, and spiky viruses. If you want to dip your toe into icky political waters, there’s no shortage of possibilities there either, starting with a certain orange-faced man and his minions and not even vaguely ending with a kneeling policeman, and it’s still just the beginning of September (as I write this). Who knows what the next few months will bring. Given that we need to get through the next two months leading up to the first Tuesday in November, the next few most certainly bring things we’ll all need to get over.
Speaking of processing grief, trauma, and disappointment, the coup de grace, where safe, sane, and legal to do so, would be to take the tree, ornaments at all, and burn it in the backyard on New Year’s Eve. Barring that, I suppose you could sacrifice the ornaments in the fireplace or a campfire. Then, lighter, we’ll all be in better shape to face 2021.
Oh, yes, this most definitely sounds like a plan. Not to hit you with Xmas stuff eight weeks before Halloween, but I, for one, will have to hit the craft store later this week. Because I’m not the sort of person who has sheets of colored felt just lying around and, on top of that, I’m a slowpoke who will definitely need the next three months to make a sufficient set of ornaments for purging the pain of the year from my psyche.
We definitely all need one of these.
https://www.getdigital.de/2020-Would-not-recommend.html in case you’re wondering.
I don’t know when the idea first entered the public consciousness of the English speaking world that the German language, partly through its ability to mash words together to make bigger words, has a word for everything that it would take a phrase or even an entire sentence to convey in English. Maybe it was in the late 80’s/early 90’s with VW’s Fahrvergnügen (pleasure of driving) add campaign, or maybe it dates back centuries. And everybody loves the concept of Schadenfreude (joy of the misfortune of others) and is probably still sick of people talking about the Zeitgeist (spirit of the times), since that was a totally zeitgeisty thing to do for a while.
People love examples like Wirklichkeitsverweigerung (denial of truth/reality), and Kastenstandhaltung (the raising of animals (i.e. pigs) in (inhumanely small) crates) instead of in Kuschelstroh (literally: cuddly straw, but obviously it means in more comfortable conditions).
But sometimes German doesn’t have a word for that. And, okay, maybe this isn’t a fair example, since it’s a French word we’ve absorbed into English, accent mark and all, but today I was wondering what the German word for crudités is. That’s raw vegetable sticks served with dip, in case you’re wondering, and that’s more or less how the first German-English dictionary I queried translated it into German: rohe Gemüsestäbchen mit Dip. The second German-English website did suggest just saying crudités would also work, but when I hit Spouse with that word last week, when I was preparing a plate of carrot sticks, he was just like, Was?
Speaking of Spouse, I was Skyping with my friend Don yesterday and he was relaying all his oldest memories, which, except for the time he hit his head on the back of the piano in his kindergarten (hah!) classroom and covered his whole shirt in blood consist of feeling incredibly loved by his parents. My oldest memories span a gamut from my first swimming lesson (at 9 or 10 months), to the first time we saw the house I ended up growing up in (at less than 2 years), to the day my brother was born (3 years), and my dad, really embarrassed, contributing to my potty training by trying to show me how to measure out the toilet paper by wrapping it around my hand (not really sure when that was), but are united by me generally simultaneously thinking that everyone around me was an idiot.
When I asked Spouse what his oldest memory was, he didn’t even let me finish the sentence before he blurted out, “Sunburned penis!”
“Oh you poor thing,” I told him. “That would be unforgettable, and not in a nice way.” But it wasn’t his.
It turns out his first memory, from when he was 2 or 3 or so, was of being on vacation with his parents in East Germany (because they lived in East Germany), who had been lucky enough to get one of their company’s few allotted spots at a certain remote, seaside facility coveted despite its lack of electricity and running water. East Germany being East Germany, beaches were “textile free” affairs and apparently the image of a man sunburned all over strolling by, lobster red member bouncing, seared itself into the psyche of one certain young, impressionable child. Perhaps it was even the first moment in his life where he realized that life could come with an unasked for side order of consequences.
Sadly, I did not think to ask him if German has a word for either of those two ideas (sunburned penis and life’s occasional unfortunate but also slightly humorous consequences). Unfortunately, he’s out working at getting his business off the ground right now. So let me get back to you on that.
Today is a good day, warm, but not too warm, and while I was using the freedom granted to me by Spouse taking the dog for a long walk this morning to attack the unstoppable masses of dandelions that in the cracks between paving bricks in our driveway, I heard the most wonderful sound: that of someone who wasn’t me scooping alpaca poop out of their stall and pens. Yes! Barring any further accidents befalling my neighbor, I am no longer on the hook for taking over alpaca care and feeding (and poop scooping) during the half of each week her husband is away for work.
And if that wasn’t cause enough for celebration, I also, thankfully not literally, stumbled across one of the Freds who lives in our front garden. (Don’t ask me why any escargot snail that lives in my garden (or anywhere else I see one (and by this I mean more hanging out on the side of a tree than swilling in garlic butter on a plate) is named Fred. It just is.)
Fred was chowing slowly down on some dandelion that was growing in the lawn instead of the driveway.
That’s my index finger for scale. I don’t know why anyone eats Freds. Because, A- you could eat a rubber tire instead, which are just as chewy and just as palatable under enough garlic butter, and B- a lucky Fred (i.e., one not resident in France, or Poland, which is where the ones come from that the French eat now, because they’ve eaten through all of their own) can reach the ripe old age of 35. Needless to say, I’m terrified of accidentally stepping on one of my Freds. I’d hate to be the one to do in a snail that had been chugging happily along since 1995. Anyway, no one here is eating them, at least, because they’re rare enough as to be protected (however, no one has told that to the hedgehogs, although none of the our resident hedgehogs, nor our resident grass snake, have managed to find either of our two Freds in the year or so they’ve been living in our garden).
Yesterday was also a great day, although it started out with enough rain to making the scooping of alpaca poop, which I was several days totally over at that point anyway, even ickier and heavier than normal. There were not one, but two green woodpeckers boring holes in the back lawn all day yesterday and when I took the dog for a walk in the afternoon, the sun came out and the day was just warm enough to be pleasant given the insanity of humidity and the wind was exactly just right. The rolls of hay were out standing in the mowed, golden fields and you just had to think that sometimes it is actually quite pretty here.
Then, when Spouse came back from registering the van he bought as a company car for his fledgling enterprise, I had a peek at the license plate. Because of where we live, all license plates have to start with PLö, which you can write in English as PLOE, and is pronounced sort of like the love child of ploo and pluh. After that, you get to pick 2 letters, and because of the name of the company, he chose RD. (After that you get 2-3 numbers of your choice, depending on what’s available.)
So i was like, PLö RD! It’s the Ploerdmobile!!!!
So now every time I get to ride in it, I’m going to say, in my most serious Adam West voice, To the Ploerdmobile.
It is the little things that bring joy into one’s life.
In other news, this morning, I noticed that my two headed sunflower has become a three-headed sunflower, so I guess it’s now more Cerberus than Zaphod Beeblebrox or totally bonkers ending of A Canticle for Leibowitz. I have no idea what has gotten into that plant. And I can only wonder what tomorrow will bring.
I was out watering the garden today and realized we’ve got a bit of Zaphod Beeblebrox action going on in the sunflower department.
So, yeah, that is a two-headed sunflower, not two different sunflower plants. That sprouted from a sunflower seed that either escaped the chickens’ notice in their feed and ended up in compost that ended up in the raised bed, or a sunflower seed that passed through a chicken and then ended up in the compost that ended up in the raised bed. In any case, you have to wonder exactly what kind of chemicals it got hit by to end up producing two heads.
Meanwhile, nothing any of the cats ever dragged in quite prepared me for the stuff we have to pry out of the growling, clenched jaw of the dog, who will generally eat anything, provided it’s absolutely and utterly disgusting.
Exhibit A: The dead, decapitated, mummified head of a rat
I don’t know if this was a new find or a treat he had buried previously to savor another day (that day being today).
But, holy cow, check out these teeth!
Remind me to never get bitten by a rat.
A few days ago, it was my FIL’s 71st birthday. Since there isn’t currently much of an outbreak where the ILs live and the one where we live, while growing, is also still at the point where you need really bad luck to run into someone who is infectious, I was forced to accompany Spouse down for the weekend. My ILs are nice people, but we have approximately three things in common: we’ll all (most likely) human, we all breathe oxygen, and we all know Spouse. It’s now Sunday morning and, having hit my limit, I’m hiding upstairs until it’s finally time to leave.
Sitting up here, I’m just listening to MIL pound around the house in her bare feet, opening and closing cupboard doors, cleaning this, rearranging that. She is German and while not all German houses are spotless, the general standard is pretty high and this one scores well. It’s not the most spotless spotless German house I’ve ever been in, but in that one other house, the level of spotlessness was beyond deranged (meanwhile, MIL, who was also there, took it as a sign of personal failure that that house was so much more spotless than hers). As it is, my MIL works from 6am until about 9pm keeping everything clean. She’s the sort of person who cleans the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher and then wipes dry the dishwasher after every use and she cleans–and mops!–the bathroom at least three times a day.
Sitting here listening to all that going on, it’s… kind of sad. She’s not having fun. It wouldn’t do any good to point that out, thought. She’s stubborn and would refuse to see that she could cut back by half and the house would only slide into a state that is 90% as spotless as it is now (and that would still be 150% more spotless than most other homes, even here in Germany).
I often wonder what kind of person MIL would have turned out to be and what she would have done with her life if she’d had sympathy and support from her parents when she was a kid. She’d maybe have confidence in herself and there wouldn’t be quite so many people she’s stopped speaking to out of outrage over some perceived slight.
Anyway, while I was sitting up here in the doorway of her tiny little computer/sewing machine room that is across the hall from the upstairs bedroom, listening to my MIL stomp around the house and thinking how sad it all was, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I glanced up and staring at me with its big, shiny round eyes was a cute, little brown mouse, paused there at the door jam to the bedroom, hiding behind the ancient case holding the accordion FIL may or may not still remember how to play. Given it’s trajectory, the mouse must live in the little under-the-sloping-roof cupboard that has been opened exactly twice in the last 20 years (both of which were last August, when, searching for the enlarger Spouse said he owned, we found that all of Spouse’s film developing chemicals back from when he was in high school had boiled over out of their containers and evaporated and left a mess of glinting crystals all over the floor).
Now, I am a very open person and what I’d love to do most is run downstairs saying I saw a mouse!!!! But, of course, that would end in more than tears for the mouse, because, of course, most people, when faced with a mouse in their house, would put out traps. So, although this maybe makes me a bad person, I’m just going to be silently and secretly amused that there is a little mouse and its family living in my MIL’s otherwise spotless house.
But, wow, I have no idea how our little terrier, who has now spent two nights with us in the bedroom and loves nothing more than to chase small, cute, furry things and play with them until they’re dead, has failed to notice the mouse/mice. That’s surprisingly clueless of him.