Monday, March 31, 2014

Sunday afternoon bike ride

I took a sunny bike ride around the vineyards at the east end of Flein. If you look at the map, you can see how the L1100 splits into a Y in the middle of the village of Flein (population 7,000). We live at the northwest edge, where the village meets open agricultural fields (wheat, rye, corn, potatoes, rapeseed). East of Flein you can see a small blue lake. Around there the vineyards spread over rolling hills. My route took me to the wooded edge (the green strip).

Up near the woods on the winding paths, I encountered signs of spring. Some creatures inspire me to speak a friendly greeting, like butterflies and birds (and dragonflies, when I see them). Other buzzing creatures remind me to bike with my mouth closed.

Butterflies flew near me, and I had glimpses of their chestnut brown bodies and wings warmed with orange. They were too dark to be monarchs, but they reminded me of them. As I rode, suddenly certain "wood chips" on the asphalt roused to life and took flight. I believe they were out there to catch the sun. In pairs they flew amorous, playful dances in the sky. If they're like the monarch, they have precious little time.

The vineyards stand ready. Above gnarled stems, the plants are reduced two naked branches each, bent or bowed sideways on the wire trellis along each row, ready to sprout this year's new growth. The vintner's winter tasks involve pruning back to the two best-looking vines emerging from the stalk. Bending them takes careful molding in the hands to avoid breakage. I tried it one year, and I felt a few snap despite my effort.

Two main branches kept from last year.

Rows of bent vines.
The grape vines seem skeptical of this very early spring. You can't tell they're growing until you get close and see new growth budding out like tiny white bits of popcorn.

Beginning of new growth.
Spring outside the vineyards is fully here. Flowering fruit trees and magnolias stretch white and pink blossoms toward the sky, forsythia paints hedges yellow, daffodils and hyacinth are giving way to tulips, and—my favorite sighting yesterday—a lobelia-like flower pours like purple pillows from stone walls.

And, because I can't resist, here is my favorite willow tree tucked between the creek and the open fields where I walk near our apartment (about a week ago).

[Returning readers may notice the slight update to the design of this blog. What do you think? And also my attempt to "keep at it" with the shorter posts! The new photo of Alexanderturm (instead of the grapes, remember?) is part of a forthcoming slide show about visiting Berlin.]

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Observed in town today

This morning I walked through Heilbronn at a time when I normally wouldn't. The city bus drivers, among other public service providers, are on strike for higher wages. We're a one-car family, and Markus hasn't yet replaced a recently stolen bike, his otherwise normal means of traveling six kilometers to work. So, we dropped Miriam and a neighbor at school and went into town to bring Markus to campus.

I walked in the city—returning DVDs at the library window, grabbing a coffee. The lady at the bakery remarked on the desertion in her store. Normally, school kids get off at Rathaus (City Hall) and flood her tucked away shop on their path to school. By contrast and for the same reason, I was the unlikely pedestrian/chauffeur this morning, and I was a solitary customer.

The walk along the Neckar River back to campus cooled my coffee, chilled my fingers. A flat-bed tow truck appeared in an ally off the wide pedestrian river walk. I worried about the planters edging a sidewalk café while the truck hurried around the corner onto the walkway. As I was wondering what his errand might be and reminding myself these drivers of large vehicles know what they’re doing, a business name appeared on the green and yellow vehicle’s side:

Ha! Perhaps a family named “Geist” owns the business? Or maybe something more poetic is intended (there’s a little Casper-style ghost in the logo if you check out the web link). Regardless, the word’s associations are intriguing. “Geist” means spirit or mind or ghost. Der heilige Geist is the Holy Ghost. Just how are those recycled?

It bears mentioning, too, that a German person would pronounce that web address this way: “geist minus recycling punkt d e”. Any time a hyphen shows up in a web address, Germans call it a “Minus” and not a “Bindestrich” (the less pronounceable but correct word for hyphen). To my ear, amusing equations emerge. Another example from a call-in radio program with guest experts for various topics: “tausend minus fragen at swr punkt d e” (thousand minus questions). Folks here say it straight-voiced every time, so I assume it’s just me who’s amused.

On my way back to the car, I passed a peaceful cluster of people in yellow traffic vests holding signs against their thighs, drinking coffee, some smoking. They stood outside the city swimming pool and thermal bath, Soleo. Perhaps a strike is another form of recycling spirit?

~~I am inspired by writer/mentor/friend Abigail Thomas and her recently launched blog, which features short-shorts she's called "blogettes", to consider shorter posts. This one counts as short, for me.~~