-A reportage in 5 parts about a bicycle tour through Germany – June 2007-
– 4 –
– A house in Germany –
– Our former home –
One day we reached Wetzlar our former hometown and the site of a wonderful episode in our lives. We had been riding in gentle, warm rain all day along the lovely river Lahn. The sky was dark and threatening when we pedaled up the well remembered last extremely steep grade to our old house and what was once our castle in the sky. We had lived up there on top of a former vineyard mountain, tucked away behind trees and flowering bushes, almost invisible from below and yet with a spectacular bird’s view on a fairy-tale land deep underneath in the valley. That view up there never really ceased to take our breath away even after residing there for 10 years. To come home to this place, while the sky was finally opening up, was like waking up from a dream, lightning flashing left and right, and thunder rolling, demanding a primordial kind of attention.
With juvenile naivety and with an unspoiled sense of adventure we had built this house in the sky mostly with our own hands.
It takes 85 steps on a steep, narrow path to reach that house from the street below, and that’s the only way to get up there. Even the fittest person was bound to be out of breath when he/she made it up to where we lived.
— * * * —
Maybe one cannot really live up there forever, but for a while it was heaven. We built that house without much burden of what is usually called experience, without that fear that, later in life, seems so inevitably to contaminate our true originality. For me it still breathes this wonderful spirit of aliveness and adventure. We let it go after 10 years, restlessly searching for new horizons.
* * *
It is an extraordinary feeling to come back (home) to a place like this that was once created with the free sacrifice of genuine heart blood and perhaps left behind as a weighty piece of identity. Returning after 20 years, more than rekindling those feelings of passionate creation it seems to reveal the dreamlike nature of life in general. The one who once built this castle and left a piece of himself in it is not the man who returns and looks at his work, it is clearly somebody else, someone who remembers himself but also someone who has tasted the illusive nature of selfhood by now. We create things, we live to create, but a very important part of it is to let them go again, sometimes let them have a life of their own, but let them go to regain the ultimate freedom beyond self, beyond the prison of self, beyond the slavery of me and mine.
It is quite interesting that the next owners Peter & Christine have just sold the house again to a much younger couple. After 17 years, life in the sky can actually become lonely, they say.
* * *
Two other houses I once built further down the same mountain contain even more heart blood.
I only look at them briefly from outside.
Passive solar houses, a little ahead of the time, then, maybe;
I’m not sure if I really want to know how well they actually performed in all those years, but one has still the same owner, I hear.
They look pretty, organically imbedded into a difficult north slope.
I’m uneasy when I walk by – expensive black cars parked outside – unexamined feelings welling up from unconscious depths.
I turn away and smile, I don’t know about what.
* * *
The skies are breaking again and incredibly intense rainstorms crash down on us when Karl-August shows us around in town by car. There is only little I recognize. Wetzlar has become a different place. My old workplace is gone, many brand new high-tech companies have moved in. The ancient picturesque town center, once a run-down, ugly place that smelled of urine and mold, is now a showcase of interesting, modern architecture integrated into a lovingly restored medieval core. Luxury homes now in what were 700 years old ruins to me before. I’ve lived here but had never really seen this town. Between blinding rainstorms I wade through glimpses of memory and sights of a brand new place.
I also see the numerous equally brand new malls in town – not a bit different from what I know so well in the US. The consumption terror is clearly a worldwide disease. People tend to measure the quality of a place by how much and how conveniently you can buy stuff, Germany is not at all different.
* * * * * * *
— to be continued —
Klaus July 3, 2007