A German lesson: Geschichte (singular), a story, history
Geschichten (plural), stories
The word contains the word “Schicht” which means layer.
At that meeting of three historians/researchers/professors of history didactics (above), the audience sat around the three talking heads and changed seats ever so often for a change of perspective. Instead, the lesson was that you run the risk of the whole event getting ahead of itself because when three academics get together, they ultimately just talk among themselves. The topic was “Aus GeschichteN lernen?” (Learning from (his)stories?) and as thoughtful as it had been set up, it still got mired in the main challenge of our times: how exactly do we talk to each other, without talking about or at each other?
By contrast, the local courthouse opened its museum in the attic, housing recreations of judicial workplaces of archivists, record binders, and clerks, and giving a tour of the courthouse along with anecdotes of key cases. Plus a rum-laced coffee with whipped cream.
One of those cases from the 1950s was of a couple of fine art forgers.
When the buyer of this supposed Chagall wrote to the artist to clarify whether he had been had, Chagall sent back a handwritten note confirming the authenticity of the painting, claiming it was indeed his. It was not.
Which makes me wonder… do we punish or praise the forger? Do we dismiss the artist because he can’t tell what he has painted? Or do we cherish the artist because his work is worthy of forgery? He has created and released an ideal into the world that is then copied. The ultimate compliment. Should the buyer feel cheated? Did he buy the painting or the signature? Or the monetary value of the work? Will he no longer enjoy it?
Happy Groundhog Day.
At the local monthly Salon, which usually sees me arriving early to meet new and old, I arrived unusually late and tired. Found a corner near the DJ, a woman in her 20s, to hide in, to do nothing but enjoy the music. Which included a bit of observation, character study — the concentration with which she turned the knobs or let her fingertips fly across the soft cover spines. How she let the vinyl slip out of its sleeve, how she handled the LP, she, clearly not of the generation who learned from the elders and practiced in her youth, but what am I saying, of course, she learned from elders and practiced by example. Well, I questioned that, watching her fingers spread across the tracks, thinking, well, we wouldn’t have… but what do I know? There is no but for her, of the generation that rediscovered vinyl, the rich sound of it, which you cannot get from a CD. I sat there for a long while and soaked up the atmosphere, and all the details of this image. The return to an analog age when social media was a photocopied flyer, standing in the street, trying to convince people, and liking people was going out to meet them. When the need or desire to connect something required cables.
A simple man and his fiancé out there in the cold, facing the elements and an uncertain future. Dressed with what they have, providing for the offspring with what is given. Freely.
Peace to you and those you love. Merry Christmas.
A book recommendation. A slim one. Won the Prix Goncourt. Chilling. Beautifully composed. About the prep for the annexation of Austria by the guy with the ridiculous mustache, about hubris, propaganda, bullying, greed, and undisguised self-interest. How topical it is…
My apples going to the press. Not all are mine, even though I harvested in excess of 600 pounds. To the food bank, neighbors, my hairdresser, and yes, this lot waiting to become juice.
While these guys….
We are all entangled. Parts of this and that. All in one big boat even though too many believe on account of some twisted logic that they sit separate, are in fact not in the boat, and deserve better. Because… well, yeah, who knows?! Some personal trait, some inherited thing, some invisible “right” or some right wronged, some opportunity not taken. Like the bus you could’ve been on that left town never to return.
Voting maybe the smallest act to participate in some bigger thing – and to some, I get that, it is meaningless. Getting it doesn’t imply agreeing. But complaining and not doing something – that doesn’t work anymore. Not here, not anywhere. Least of all for the kids.
When Umberto Eco was asked which woman in history he would have liked to spend an evening with, he said, in the first place, above all others, with Uta von Naumburg.
Standing proud, tall, life-size next to her husband, she belongs to the twelve donor portraits inside Naumburg cathedral – carved in sandstone by an anonymous stonemason in the 13th century, 200 years after her death.
A six-day sojourn, five places in the middle of the country. A sprint of about 1000 miles between home, Goslar, Marburg, Halle and Naumburg and back. The latter two in the eastern part of the country. Places we never could visit thirty years ago, and now can, but perhaps don’t – at least not often.
It’s a bit like discovering a shared history you knew of – but that had been and continued to be distant and strange.
Driving into Saxony, with the fabulously goofy dialect at every street corner, we entered a time warp of the 1950s in this cabin.
More lofty heights in Halle.
In the US, we would call this “flyover country” – we used to pass by on the transit routes between Berlin and Munich, never stopping. Division. Alienation. Distance.
Only to be delighted by these faces…
Trips into the unknown familiar.
Endless summer days, full of berries and bright light.
I mull over words, the frail state of democracy, the warped perceptions of right and wrong. The ease with which lies are airborne while the truth trudges along through the mud of ill will.
Sometimes, on the low ground pulling weeds, all is well with the world as a 6 year old circles around me spotting lady bugs, butterflies, bees. She is a motherlode of curiosity. “Can I eat that?” – “No, that’s a flower.” – “Why is Maggie’s ear so soft?” – “Don’t know. It just is. Like velvet.” – “What’s velvet?” – “Can I have another tomato?” – “No, the others aren’t ripe yet.”
And then, there is this leatherbound notebook, an anniversary replica of a Lewis & Clark journal, purchased 2006. Filling it sporadically with quotes, aphorisms and poems by the long dead and the contemporaries, who are writing some amazing stuff. The journal, so much like a prayer book, is a chronicle of where my mind has been, and a wellspring maybe where it wants to go.
And then, as C. and I are resting on lounge chairs in the shade, I read to her from the children’s page in the weekly paper, and when she loses interest, I ask, ‘Does your mother never read to you?’ and she says, ‘No, my mother is always too busy.’