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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

An Old Friend ~

He celebrated his 90th birthday today. He used to sing in the choir. He was just a young boy when he partook in the Battle of Stalingrad. Artillery. He had a horse and carts and was to supply the troops at the front. Bloodiest battle of WW II. Two million casualties. Bitter cold: 20 below. But my friend survived. First thing when he got home: join the choir at church. His way of thanking.

I see him every Wednesday at the local store shopping. We chat. One morning he pulled out his wallet and showed me his favorite horse . . .

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Inner Voices ~

How strange one gets. When going down the stairs I say to myself: Don't look at the steps, let the feet look for themselves.

Friday, November 13, 2009

While Playing Mozart ~

At the piano playing Mozart sonatas: There are moments when the music is so overwhelmingly beautiful that I thank him, measure for measure, for making those sounds possible. Something very personal.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Plaguing Insufficiencies ~

Am about to publish some poems. Just before sending them off . . . cold feet. Are they good enough? Can they survive on their own? An awful experience.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

German Reunificaton ~

They were in Berlin today: Gorbachow, Bush Sr. and Helmut Kolh, the men who made reunification possible . . . along with the freedom-seeking East Germans who courageously took to the streets week after week chanting: We are the people.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Conference at the Building Site ~

They are renovating the house next door. This morning I looked up and saw the three in black standing at something like an altar. Were they studying a blue print? Were they planning the day's work? Or were they just having the first beer?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Passivity in Autumn ~

What a beautiful autumn afternoon. Take a walk, I thought, across the fields. As if in a rowboat setting out into the deep. Don't have anything special in mind. Just let thoughts and feelings develop without my doing . . .

Wild geese came flying over in an undulating V shape heading south. My thoughts and feeling flew off with them.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

At a Concert ~

Last evening a quintet from Leipzig was playing Beethoven. The music was overwhelmingly beautiful. The lead violinist captivated my attention. Blond, blue-eyed, surely a most likeable person. Somehow like a school-boy, innocent, harmless. He played with such enthusiasm and intensity.

All at once I imagined him wearing a W.W.II Nazi helmet on a battlefield and me having him in the sights of my M1 at 100 yards. Could I ever have pulled the trigger?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh ~ G-20 Summit

My hometown is Butler, Pennsylvania. But over here in Germany I tell people I am from Pittsburgh, hoping they can connect. But they seldom can. Now today all I hear on radio and TV is Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh where the G-20 Summit is being held there— as if everyone knows. And what is more, the word Pittsburgh even has a rich resonance when Germans pronounce it! I'm elated.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Morning Beauty ~

This morning at 7:30 I was walking along a high path looking down over fog-covered fields with only the tree-tops protruding. Coming up behind more distant hills the sun, a great bright ball. I stood there watching it roll up a distant hill.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Wise Old Monk ~

I was jammering to him about my feelings of inadequacy. He said: if you live out what you know you will receive from God what you do not know.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Reward for Courage ~

Yesterday at 4 p.m. in Munich two teenagers, 17 and 18, were threatening and demanding money from a group of four younger teenagers travelling on a subway train. A 50-year-old Munich man intervened, trying to protect them. After the train stopped at a station the older boys attacked him and beat him to death.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wal-Mart Encroaching ~

Wal-Mart wants to open a Superstore on the Battlefield of the Wilderness in Virginia where 29,000 soldiers were wounded or killed in the Civil War.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Steffi Nerius ~ Gold ~ Womens' Javelin ~ Berlin

"Winning the gold medal was not something I could not achieve, but I did not dream of it! I knew that the others can throw further than me."

[Seldom heard words from a winner.]

Monday, August 17, 2009

Remember Keep Holy the Sabboth Day ~

As of yesterday it is lawful for stores in France to be open for business on Sunday.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Go, Sell What Thou Possesseth . . .

I have possessed this pencil since my grade school days and am still unable to give it up.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Golden Parachute ~

Porsch manager severance pay : $71,000,000

A single person receives 50 times what a normal employee earns in a lifetime.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wedding Anniversary ~ Maulbronn, Germany

A visit to this beautiful medieval Cistercian monastery, a memorable evening dining with my wife of 40 years, a Schubert concert afterwards. . .

Friday, July 03, 2009

Sex Life ~

I asked the Old Monk if monks knew what discovery, creativity, and fulfillment can be involved in intercourse between the sexes and if there was anything in a monk's life that could approach that.

He smiled and said he could not speak for all monks, but that he himself had intimate intercourse with God every now and then, depending on God's willingness.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pat Answers ~

I told the old monk frankly that on all the great issues I had no solid stand . . . always torn this way and that. He looked at me and said: You are on the right path.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Visit to Dresden ~

It was the best we could do! His hotel was near ours. Being a U.S. citizens we were allowed in a the high security zone. All we got to see though was his limousine as it rushed by on the way to the conference with the Chancellor, Angela Merkel. But in the park Dresden celebrated his being in town until late into the night. This city we bombed in 1945 was now light-hearted and in high spirits . . . 64 years later.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Monday, May 25, 2009

An Act of Hope ~

The Old Monk asked me:
  • what I would do if I had a box for a long time in which I believed there was a great treasure but I had never opened it. When I finally did I found it was empty. What would I do? 
  • I said I would get rid of it.
  • He said no, I should hold onto it and keep believing.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Beauty in the Fields ~

Yesterdat they cut the first hay. This morning I walked across the fields glistening with dew, breathing in the fragrance.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monk's Wisdom ~

"Don't you realize that life is essentially God's search for you and your search for Him?"

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Change of Direction ~

Sometimes life is routine and monotonous that I thought I needed a spectacular problem to grapple with, just to know I was up to it— and alive.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

One by One They Pass Away ~

He was 55. They found him yesterday in his room on the floor, dead. We had taught together for over twenty years. His subjects were German, philosophy and religion. Both of us had seminary backgrounds, something in common. He lived alone on a Black Forest hillside. Being together with young students was his life.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Teacher's Delight ~

Those were the moments in the classroom: when you talked about Shakespeare, about a poem . . . and their eyes would light up.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

And Thou Shalt Renew the Face of the Earth ~

The world seemed to me to be a better place this morning because one man is trying to make peace, not war.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Wise Old Monk ~

He was saying that in order to have something you must give it up . . .

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Good Friday ~ 2009

They were talking about what it meant to suffer — and our inability to. How we immediately grasp for the pills . . .

Monday, March 30, 2009

Friend of Teachers ~ J. C. from California

He invited the English Department to dine in a cozy restaurant in this Black Forest village near the school where I taught. Even though I am retired, Jack thought I belonged.

Twenty-five of us sat at the table. Lively conversation. Older members talked about change and what it causes. I looked around and saw the young teachers, those who will be carrying the torch. They will be doing it their "new" way, not ours. It has to be that way. And it will work. . .

Friday, March 20, 2009

Undying Love ~ After 50 Years

He a young Soviet Officer, she a teenager in Leipzig. 1946. They fell in love. For disobeying orders concerning fraternization with the enemy he was sent back to Moscow. She wrote letters. He did too, but his were censored and withheld telling that he was married and had children.

After the opening of the Iron Curtain in 1989, some fifty years later, she traveled to Moscow to look for him—and found him. He had never forgotten her, never married.

The undaunted couple celebrated their wedding in 2001.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Why Ask Why?

It is her birthday today. Twenty-five years old. In the little town of Winnenden, Germany, not far from here, they are burying her. She was a young woman doing her practice teaching when the boy with the pistol came into the classroom and shot her through the head. And killed fifteen others. Then himself.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Party Talk ~

I told them one of the nuns in the 5th grade had a thick, wide paddle she would whack us with, and a thin ruler to swat our knuckles with. "Holy smokes!" someone said.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Piano-Playing Rewards ~

I learn something about myself, namely, if I let go, the brain shows me that it already knows the patterns that determine where my fingers should be.

When playing I feel I am in the company of the Giants: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven. . . partaking in their creative genius.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Follow-Up ~

Flight: Quint Buchholz

One week later Nikolaus sent me this postcard.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Black Forest Restaurant ~ Flight of the Crow

Nikolaus and I sat in this quaint restaurant and over cocktails hit upon a subject that fascinates both of us: crows. We found out that we both envy these birds passionately and would do anything to be able to be one with them in flight.

Friday, February 20, 2009

John Updike ~ The Polished Word

Our American craftsman with words — oh, to be able to say things with as much feeling insight as he had — passed away today, January 29, 2009. He said he polished words to make them come out right.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

German Semantics ~

I keep hearing a new phrase they have coined over here in Germany: "The Obama Effect". They use this whenever they talk about the future and the hope of change for the better.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

A Mother's Pain ~

Does the suffering of the mothers who have lost a son in war ever cease, or does the pain only end as she breathes her final breath?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Candor ~ Daschle Affair

On the radio this morning I heard the President say this: "I screwed up . . . made a mistake. I must see that it doesn't happen again." Amazing words. Amazing man.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Anticipation ~

Click on the picture

So bitter cold this week. Ice and snow. 

I stand at my window and think about my path along the edge of the woods. That will be happiness: to walk there, quietly, in the summertime, with the sun shining on my back.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day ~

Many of my German friends called today to congratulate me on our new President!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Not Knowing ~

Maybe it has its advantages. Had the pilot known what was about to happen would he then have been able to perform the Miracle on the Hudson?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Christmas ~

. . . and once again that deep nostalgic awareness I comes over me only when taking down the Christmas tree.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Castitas ~

I dared to ask the Wise Old Monk if living a life bereft of sex didn't give him the feeling that he was going to waste.

Yes, he answered. . . but added that it was that very feeling that kept him focused on God.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Findings ~

They call it a basal cell carcinoma. Located on my ear. Operated on it three different times until it was finally removed. The ear is smaller now.

I left the hospital and drove off making two mistakes: a wrong turn-signal indicating I was entering a driveway where the other driver was pulling out, and a full stop at a green light in a busy intersection where I was in the lane going straight ahead when I wanted to turn right. Much honking.