12 Türkengasse

If you believe in souls, or souls without homes they call spirits, than you can keep yourself occupied in my mom’s house imagining them. It can also make you nuts—mom says it’s hardest living alone here this time of year. The main area with the dining banquette is the oldest, but the framework on the ceiling is so low it presses you down, and the darkness from the old wood absorbs all light. I’ll stand in the passageway with the framed pictures on the wall, versions of ourselves when we were younger…and it feels like we’re peeking in through windows at our former lives, and fills me with a sense of loss and sorrow that creeps in like the cold.

It’s just past 8 in the morning and I’ve had two bowls of chili, a liter of fizzy water, my second cup of coffee—I took a walk along the river Enz and back again and then thought about a beer, but thought better of it. Monday morning before 6 and the Germans are starting to surface on Kronenstrasse, workers out salting the roads, doing it by hand on the walkways over the bridge in criss-cross patterns like a religious rite, like they’re thrashing the ground to keep the bad spirits down.

I had the early morning ambient drone music going and sometimes you can’t even tell if it’s on, it’s so quiet. I tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t, lit some candles to celebrate the changing light between the dark and morning so dull this time of year but precious, what little light we get.

We were all tired from flying but agreed to take a short walk in the snow so we could admire the scenes around town along the old wall, but there wasn’t much to see at night except the snow on the rooftops, and on the nearby hills where they grow the grape vines it had a ribbed look, the way the snow staggered along the rows—you could make out vague outlines of the hills, and I imagined the woods I used to walk through when we lived here, when I’d dream about what’s coming next.

Someone wrote something on the high wall along the bottom of the train tracks at the foot of the vineyards. It says in all capitals, in perfect characters LIEBE, LIEBE FRIEDEN!, which feels like a political statement, though benign (‘love peace’).

With no plans to go anywhere, Dawn and I speculate about making some. The kids and my mom want us to leave for a couple days, so we said no problem. We looked at Budapest, Bruges, Munich, Reykjavik, Transylvania (Romania), but landed on a small town near Strasbourg called Colmar.

I held my head on the chair in the dark and thought about death: is there something special you’re supposed to do (for your soul), something akin to birth, where you need to come out a certain way and if you don’t, your soul won’t live again? Is it a passageway where you have to make the right turns without getting the chance to practice it first…like so many things in life we have to get it right the first time, you just have to know?


Categories: Memoir, travel

Tags: , , , , , ,

18 replies

  1. The Writers in Stuttgart have a public reading at Merlin Theater on January 8. Maybe you and Dawn can make it. PS: Colmar is beautiful.


    • Hi Jadi! Hope you are well and nice to hear from you…! We are heading back 28 December, too bad we will miss that. But happy to hear about Colmar, thanks for that! Will send you a note via email too. Bill


  2. Sounds like Lennon and Ono have been doing the graffiti in that town …

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I bet death, the transformation of the soul, is like a roller-coaster, or a car flipping at seventy, or a good roll in the sack. You just sort of hold on and go with it. Love the descriptions of that old house. Hearing about places like that give my centarian home hope.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The men ritually salting down walkways are like in the old Punic Wars histories, done I guess as a kind of ceremonial curse, and your breakfast combination also reminds me of the Romans salting down the ruins of Carthage, you must have a bronze stomach. Pictures of childhood are like windows into former lives, that struck me as very poignant. Kodachrome! Give us those nice bright colors. I sometimes am looking at old photos, fading to gray, and it reminds me of Back to the Future (I think?), where when the image has completely vanished, so does the person (maybe a different cheesy movie). I hope Colmar proves interesting, sure it will.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your comments are mini kaleidoscopes yourself Robert. Totally happy to have that Paul Simon song in my head now, thanks for putting it on! Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day oh yeah. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Re death: “we have to get it right the first time.” But if you screw up, you won’t have regrets. Although maybe that explains some ghosts. And if reincarnation occurs, you get a second chance.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. i agree with audrey, no need to worry, just come back as a feral cat and try it again – enjoy your adult only few days


  7. If your Mom’s house is as old as you suggest, those low beams probably just reflect how much shorter people used to be. So if there are old souls wandering around, still looking for that correct turn onto the afterlife perhaps they see the contemporary giants and think themselves oppressed.

    Or maybe they still have hangovers from drinking German beer before the purity laws kicked in.


    • Gosh, that’s funny Dave! I love the look of the kind of sagging beams here, the unevenness that comes from +500 years of gravity and just wear and tear. Some of the old houses look like they’re leaning forward, like an old-timer on his/her cane bent over with a bad back.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: