Back to reality. It’s time to pack the big green bag for California. It looks like half a grocery shelf that I’m bringing back for family and friends. My cat Calvin, a Rent-A-Cat for the time being, is most likely wondering where his human is. Solitary confinement in a house from his perspective, with squirrels mocking at the windows. But perhaps preferable to the feline brutes of the current neighborhood. I’m sure my old neighbor Bill has spoiled him rotten while I have been gone.

Should I confess to cavorting with dogs? Perhaps a bit later, after my absence has been forgiven. There is a pouch of rabbit in gravy sauce (a German cat food specialty), among the contents of the green bag, which may help to facilitate the matter…

No EU Repercussions

Moana (my brother Holger’s dog) loves to come along on trips in the car. When she hears the word Ausflug (excursion), her ears perk up, and she is ready for the car door to be opened. Little does she know, that today’s drive to pick up a few groceries, includes getting some sausage ends. This store — and I will protect their identity, so there will be no EU repercussions (you may remembers this subject from my prior writings) occasionally has such leftovers, and gives them to deserving dogs — at no charge. If word got around among the canines, there most certainly be a queue in front of the store I would imagine. Off we go, the back rear window dutifully rolled down, so she can hold her head out the window. I bet this dog would love pickup trucks in America.

We arrive at the store and she lies down in the back seat as I go shopping. It’s a short list today, some bread and some Schinken (cured ham), or in other words — a few of the missing ingredients for Strammer Max (an open faced sandwich made with egg, ham, tomatoes, and cornichons — feel free to have a look in Wikipedia). And yes indeed: they have leftover sausage ends today. Success for both man and dog. Some milk for the cats, and then the necessary transaction with the cashier.

There is some sniffing on Moana’s part as I re-enter the car — dinner has been detected. Driving out of the village, and then on the main road, I pull over and park to go for a walk through the fields. There is a very quick exit out the car on Moana’s part as I open the back door. All I can see now is a tail waving in the air as she goes full speed up the tractor path between the fields. I have trained her a bit since I have been here, and she returns most of the time when I call her. I do hope there are no rabbits though, because then all is lost, as the hare amuses him or herself with a contemplated exercise routine. OK girl, time to go back, the groceries are getting warm and the cats want their milk.

Have a blessed week


The World Cup progresses. I was invited to watch a Germany game at one of my brother’s friends’ house in a small village nearby last week. When I arrived with Moana, I met him at the BBQ, where he was grilling sausages (what else?) with his youngest son. In the spirit of the soccer game he had painted a small red, yellow, and black stripe in the color of the national flag across his head to support Germany (in this case a bald head can be quite practical) much to the amusement of the kids. My middle brother had done this once with his dog too — for a prior World Cup. A patriotic canine, and in this case also less work, as the dog’s fur is black.

A projection screen was set up in the barn, the pre-game chatter was on, and Armin’s kids as well as about half a dozen neighbor kids were playing soccer in the courtyard between the barns and the house. A girl – about nine or ten years old, was in the wooden goal where she bravely fought off kicked soccer balls from the overenthusiastic boy ruffians. It reminded me of when I picked up my snow leopard from a summer camp in Yosemite one year, where she had to put up with a lot from her riff-raff compatriots. Easy there with the soccer ball boys — not so hard, she’s a girl. Moana (tied to a post on her leash) was of course constantly barking at the ball, but since there was so much yelling going on, it hardly mattered. That dog considers every soccer ball in sight her exclusive personal property. Not only that, but she is also a retriever that retrieves — and then keeps.

One of the older girls took me inside one of the barns and showed me a kitten and a mom cat, both of whom I got to pet. There is nothing softer in the world than a kitten I believe, and it’s that time of year again, when kittens abound in the rural areas. I found it very hard to leave the barn.

Have a blessed week

First Day of Summer

imageWith all the hoopla of the World Cup, the first day of summer almost got overlooked. The red currants are getting riper by the day and the gooseberries are starting to get a little plump and fuzzy too. I saw a bounty of blackberry blossoms and even some small green plums, so yes — summer is here. Butterflies are starting their graceful dance. For weeks the smell of hay and grass has lingered in the air. It always gives me quiet joy to see the hills and fields in this rural part of Germany. Barley and wheat are growing taller and the cornflowers are more abundant now. As I picked some stalks of wheat today at the edge of a field, it reminded me of The Book of Ruth.

Have a blessed week

Ominous Skies

The other morning I awoke to dozens and dozens of lightning strikes, followed by waves of thunder. The days before had been hot and humid, and as is so often the case, this then leads to thunder and lightning. It made me think of the book of Job, where God declares his mighty power, when questioned by Job. Thunder and lighting in all it’s fury (so prevalent in Europe in the summer) humbles our little human existence.

Unable to sleep anymore, I made my way from the barn to the house to get a cup of tea. My brother’s golden retriever Moana as usual was overjoyed to see me, forgetting the turbulence all around us. It was now nine o’clock in the morning, and the sky was such a menacing black that it felt almost like it was night. I filled the kettle with water and set it on the stove to boil. Looking out the window, I could see the shadow of the ancient apple tree, a dark silhouette against an even darker sky. It was pouring rain now, and the little stream that flows by the house had turned into a raging torrent, tussling small branches in it’s path.

I gave Moana a “cookie”, as the kettle started to boil. She was completely oblivious to the weather by now, as her focus was on her treat. As I sipped my cup of tea, I opened the front door and standing in the door frame smelled the sweet smell of rain, as I watched it cascade down in sheets. This little valley seems to collect thunderstorms in the summer – they linger, but then finally move on.  As the rain softened, the black sky turned a lighter shade of gray, painting the land peaceful once more.

Have a blessed week

The World Cup in Brasil

imageThe author will digress a bit now: it’s time for the World Cup, the most exciting, and globally beloved sports event, held once every four years. I always love seeing the different countries and their kaleidoscope of fans participate. This cup should be a lot of fun again, just like the last one in South Africa in 2010. During that one, I had my neighbors from Brazil, Uruguay, Greece, and of course the US, and Germany assembled in my loft in Oakland, California for several of the games — a diverse international audience. At the top of the hill, I saw a huge South African flag flying — soccer fans everywhere during that time it seemed. Deservedly, with a beautiful game on their part — Spain claimed the cup.

I have a friend who used to own a Brazilian restaurant in San Francisco, so the current tournament made me think of her. Café do Brasil (which during games was packed) has been closed for quite some time now, and Elvia is retired (sadly, I don’t know where — a book I sent to your last address I had came back). I hope you are doing well. We sure had a lot of great food there (our favorite was the Brazilian national dish: feijoada). Obrigado.

On a musical note (if that term may be used) one does hope the upcoming cup will be without Vuvuzelas. En masse, the do tend to be a bit abrasive, as South Africa clearly demonstrated.

While grocery shopping the other day, I saw displays of World Cup merchandise: glasses, flags, musical instruments, and this may be unique to Germany — a garden gnome dressed in the national team garb. Who would put this eyesore in their garden is beyond me, but they do exist, just so you know. The television coverage here in Germany has been delightful, including the roving reporters covering the various locations in Brazil.

Juntos num só ritmo™ !

Bach and Pommes

imageI had forgotten that Ascension Day (Himmelfahrt) is a state holiday in Germany. Because it was drizzling that day, the outdoor Service that is normally held in the nearby castle was relegated to a huge tent, that also serves for the village festivities afterwards. Never having been here in May, this was new to me. What made up for the confinement to the tent, was a brass band playing some beautiful hymns. This made me think of my friend Gary, who besides being a composer and pianist, also plays trumpet and trombone. Some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard, are Bach cantatas played on the trumpet.

On to matters of the table: My brother Christian’s daughter Jacqueline had suggested Pommes (French fries) for lunch to go along with the BBQ chicken that my brother was marinating in Marburg and bringing with him. When they arrived, the search with Jacqueline for frozen Pommes in the freezer proved fruitless. So, I suggested making some, at which she was very surprised, that this could be done. Apparently, she must think that they are harvested in supermarkets. So I showed her, that potatoes could be peeled, sliced, and diced, to look like Pommes. She then went into the basement, and this time I was surprised, that she knew how to turn on the deep fryer — but then again, this girl loves to eat (or devour things). Unbeknownst to me however, the temperature setting (there are two) she had set it to, proved to be nonfunctional, so when I came in to check on matters (she had put the fries in by herself), I found our Pommes sitting in cold oil. Well — we then heated them on the other setting, but I will leave it up to your imagination what they tasted like after soaking up all that oil. Luckily we still had the BBQ chicken and a cucumber salad I had made. Both dogs were also grateful to lick said plates afterwards, as well as some spilled mayonnaise from the cobblestones. Convenient clean-up!