Fortune presents gifts not according to the book


That last Tuesday in Germany I had two Xanax I’d saved from the flight last summer and took one when I got back from the artist Matthias’s house, found our place a shit-storm of packing and bad energy and realized Dawn was doing most of the work while I’d been off beard-stroking with the artist Matthias, dreaming up blog posts.

I imagined I’d just run into him at some point while we were there, that we wouldn’t have to make actual arrangements and it would just sort of happen in that predetermined but unplanned way, in the la-la land of spontaneity and universal intention, a place I planned to cover end to end.

But instead we made plans. I couldn’t find his house and thought that meant something, because it’s a very small village and there aren’t many men with long beards and spectacles cycling around making art — besides, Christoph’s son Benny had described where it was, explained that he didn’t actually live in the house but right next to it in a detached studio he’d converted from a medieval barn, the fact he slept there but his wife stayed in the house and yet they were still married, and seemed perfectly fine.

Christoph drew a map for me with a cross as the church and wrote Matthias’s phone number but I didn’t call, it seemed too forward since we didn’t really know each other, he knew my mom, knew my stepdad John, he’d written my mom the most beautiful letter when John died and probably cried and hugged her, and when mom went to his house there was a handwritten note tacked to the wall alongside some pictures and engravings he’d made, and she recognized it was the note she’d written thanking Matthias for consoling her for John, and when she asked why it was on the wall he just smiled and said Because I like your handwriting.

I found his house at last because I recognized the bike out front, it had Asian script painted on the side, a milk crate tied to the front. I asked if I could come see him before we left, we were leaving Mittwoch, and he agreed, had no plans and said come when you want, so I said 10, im morgen.

That night our friend Miriam’s husband Uwe came over and we had beers. Uwe asked what I would do now that it was all over, congratulated me for doing it, but in that way of project managers (which I can relate to), he looked a bit nervous putting himself in my shoes thinking what I’d do for work, the risks, the benefits — and I explained I wanted to write, I wanted to get out of that world of crazy money-making and working all the time, to do something I loved and identified with.

And I said we really wanted our kids to have a different perspective on the world so they wouldn’t grow up like stuck-up white girls, so they’d realize that people who seem different from us are actually quite similar when you get right down to it.

And Uwe spoke about one of his daughters, how she’d just turned 16, was trying to figure out where to fit in, what she wants to do/who she wants to be, and he stressed upon her that she doesn’t have to be like all the others, that it’s OK to be herself.

Before he left he said you should go see Matthias, he’s a good lesson for what I’ve been trying to teach Mara. There are no others like him, he is 100% Matthias.

When we arrived in Germany, I imagined creating a chapbook of poems while wintering in the UK and working with Matthias to publish it (he has an old letterpress and typesets the way they have since the 15th century, the same tools, string, composing sticks) — and after it was printed, I’d mail small batches to friends and followers, as evidence I was making something of myself.

I got there a bit early but wanted to be right on time so I pretended to take pictures of Matthias’s street and waited until the church bells tolled so it would seem auspicious, a scene from a film where I’d taken some time traveler’s potion, entering a story of my own where I didn’t know what would happen, watching myself onscreen.

I told Matthias I like to write and gave him some of my favorite pens I’d brought from the States, but he didn’t react the way I expected, he just smiled and said thanks, and I said we’ll have to spend more time together, nächstes Mal: and he asked if I still had time to see the watchtower, and I did — and realized why he has a key, because he uses the tower for art shows, and they don’t keep it open to the public because falcons roost there, they feast on pigeons the way bald eagles eat kittiwakes in Alaska and make a shit-show of blood and feathers everywhere that’s bad for tourism — and when we got to the top and looked down over the village, I could see Charlotte’s school in one direction and Lily’s in the other, the rust-colored rooftops, the side streets I’d walked, but I couldn’t linger there any longer, it was too much to see now, knowing we had to go.

Here the eagles hang like kites without strings above the trees below Beth’s house dogfighting crows, coming in and out of view, and I write about the look of the lake, how the sun makes spots on the water, that it’s mottled like a steel drum, that there’s music and poetry in all things if you’re fortunate enough to see it, that it’s never the same you expected it to be but if you go there, it might let you see more.

Matthias handed me his card when I left, the size of a postage stamp, a letter never sent.

Post title from the song of the same name by the band Dead Can Dance, 1990.




Categories: travel, writing

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

9 replies

  1. Great stuff. So many thoughts it’s hard to pick one thing to say. The more I study and think about this story-telling, meaning giving habit, that all artists seem to have, the more I am just utterly fascinated and sort of dumbfounded by it, and take it as proof of the divine and supernatural. That’s what I like about your writing this feeling I get sometimes when I read that it could be all made up. I got this vibe in that great paragraph, third to the end there. I had to read it slow and twice to let it settle in as a reality, as opposed to the mythology it sort of felt like in first read. Anyway, thanks again for the good reads.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It does feel like the divine or supernatural, and that’s its own rabbit hole to burrow inside. Your comments are always so colorful and it feels great to hear from someone who reads a lot, writes, and sounds interested in unusual things. Really cool that you are digging into the words and taking the time to tell me about it, that means so much. Heck, I had to stop making a salad and come upstairs to write! Thank you, thank you, thank you. Go dive into your own myths and enjoy your loved ones and the season. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  2. i like your description of your view from the tower and how it was too much to see –

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a cool card. I just saw a 1/12 scale mounted fox head and this may even be better. I’m glad you grabbed the gentle, elusive bull by the horns and made the visit happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love Dead Can Dance. My husband woo’d me with them and it worked. 🙂


  5. Don’t prescriptions have a shelf life? How can a year-old Xanax be any good?

    How can a 16-year old possibly know what she wants to do/who she wants to be? They don’t have all the information yet. We have magnet high schools here in NJ that parents try to get their middle schoolers into. Technology. Maritime. A few others. They all point to a career path. How can a 14–years old know what they want to do in life?! It’s preposterous.

    Mmmmmm. Letterpress.


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