My tail is wagging as I bound through the undergrowth


the leaves are beckoning

The sky seems to have moved in closer, and the day slams shut so much earlier. Knowing that sundown is creeping towards us makes me want to pack as much into those depleting moments of sunlight. 

The leaves that are left are somehow racing to the ground now – they pile up and make their annual bed. I kick them relentlessly and swear to myself that I’ve never enjoyed autumn as much as I have this time around. If I allowed myself, I’d just hold my photo-taking devices out in front of me the entire time I was out there. As if it were my first digital camera. Or even more preposterous: as if I’d never before seen the these changes of seasons. 

On these days, I’m like one of my dogs when it comes to going outside. I imagine the keys rattle and remember I promised myself a walk. I accompany me down the stairs and out into the crisp air and say repeatedly, ‘No need to take a photo of every single thing. You’ve captured that exact shot again and again and again.

Most of the time I can keep walking and stay focused on the moment. Most of the time. 

In German this season is called Herbst, which is a fine word. It rhymes with ‘flair‘ or ‘stare‘, which seems entirely fitting from my vantage point. So often I hear people whinging about the passing of warmer weather. Remembering how rainy fall days can be, they simultaneously dread the long cold days of winter. 

While I can intellectually comprehend what they’re talking about, I feel increasingly foreign in their company. I see the words form on their lips, but my thoughts are meandering outside into the already decaying foliage. My tail is wagging as I bound through the undergrowth. 

give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit


Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love – that makes life and nature harmonise. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

[Letter to Miss Eliot, Oct. 1, 1841]

George Eliot

This text was shared with me by one of my favourite people, who I only know via social media. She knows I adore autumn, and sent this excerpt of a letter along to me. Thanks Shirley!

I used to go into bookstores demanding to know why George Eliot wasn’t shelved in the Women’s Writers section – luckily, I think having such a section in a bookstore was a trend that came & went years ago. Now her & other women’s literature is thankfully shelved with everyone else’s. 

It’s a bit odd that the above-mentioned letter is known to have been written to Eliot, but the author of the letter was curiously left out. It’s a fantastic text, though. That someone thought of me when she read that means I must be doing something right.  

How did the American get on the roof of the toilet?


one of our local papers this morning

This blog has been only about refugees lately, and as much as I’m still obsessed with the topic (more on that another time), there’s so much else going on. Other things need to be dealt with. And quickly. 

For example: people climbing objects in public & standing on said objects. Like in the photo above. 

The headline reads: ‘How did the American get on the roof of the toilet?

My strong suspicion is that he climbed up there. The question they probably wanted to ask was: What on earth was he thinking when he decided to scale the toilet inside the tent at the Oktoberfest? Why indeed. 

Good question. 

It is the Oktoberfest. There are plenty of similar stories during these two weeks. 

The curious thing is this isn’t the only instance of something like this happening these days. Not just in Munich & not just during this exceptional time of year.

While scrolling through my feed on a social media site, which I choose not to mention by name, I saw a photo of a rather curvaceous woman naked from the waist down standing on a pay phone with multiple police officers below apparently trying to coax her to come down. 

Despite the outlandishness of the visual, my immediate reaction was, ‘Where did they find a pay phone? I’ve not seen one of those in ages.

Once I got over that shock, I could move on to the more pressing question. Specifically, why are people climbing atop such objects?

Is this part of the Zeitgeist & I missed the memo? Should I be climbing on things & belligerently refusing to come down? That’d certainly make this blog more entertaining at the very least. 

I’m not going to include the image here of the woman I’ve mentioned. Nevertheless, I’m confident if you type ‘naked woman on top of pay phone‘, you’ll locate it rather easily. But you should probably do that soon. My suspicion is the web is going to be flooded with this stuff before you know it. 

Oliver Sacks has died and I can’t get Rilke’s Der Panther out of my head


Sein Blick ist vom Vorübergehn der Stäbe
so müd geworden, daß er nichts mehr hält.
Ihm ist, als ob es tausend Stäbe gäbe
und hinter tausend Stäben keine Welt.

Der weiche Gang geschmeidig starker Schritte,
der sich im allerkleinsten Kreise dreht,
ist wie ein Tanz von Kraft um eine Mitte,
in der betäubt ein großer Wille steht.

Nur manchmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille
sich lautlos auf –. Dann geht ein Bild hinein,
geht durch der Glieder angespannte Stille –
und hört im Herzen auf zu sein.’

I can’t help it. Oliver Sacks is dead, and there are a myriad of thoughts shooting through my brain. I want to write about all of them.

Actually, I’d rather brew a pot of coffee and settle in to watch each of said thoughts explode into the room. The same way I did with a percussionist friend I knew in college who turned me on to a particular man who mistook his wife for a hat. That’s not even the best Oliver Sacks connection – just the first one I knew.

Later I read his ponderings on music and the ways it impacts our brains – fascinating stuff. Stuff with which to brew another pot of coffee, I assure you.

I’ve read so many obituaries and essays today about how important he was to this or that writer or thinker or scientist, and I want to link to every last one of them. I wish I could take you on a tour through my obsessive day of Oliver Sacks devotion, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t do his memory justice. Having said that, I think he might’ve moderately appreciated the attempt to tie in all these disparate ideas that’re still overloading my brain.

Instead, I’m just going to get a tad bit obsessive about Der Panther, which is the German poem I’ve included above. Although I was well aware of his poetry before I saw the film Awakenings, Rilke’s words grabbed me and shook me out of a weird slumber. In the hands of Robin Williams’ character, I was thoroughly jostled by the image of the big cat pacing back and forth in his cramped cage.

This isn’t normally a place where I allow myself to analyse poetry, so I’m loath to go down that road. Although it’s tempting, I’m more inclined to provide a few links and let you go there if you’re so inclined.

First of all, quite an impressive selection of translations can be found at Alternate Translations of The Panther by Rainer Maria Rilke, and if you’d rather have a ‘Best Of’, here’s Der Panther: Six Ways of Looking at a German Poem. There’s a nice article by John Banville in The New York Review of Books called Study The Panther!

As he says there, ‘…Rilke had no illusions about the solitariness of the artistic project, or its difficulty…‘, and that’s where my thoughts finally settle in the darkest corner of the night as I continue to consider Oliver Sacks.

I could wax philosophic about how he faced his death and expressed himself so exquisitely in the process. Were I to do so, I’d certainly focus on that last stanza and how he recently announced his illness so publicly and fearlessly. Instead, I’ll just wrap this up with the Stephen Mitchell translation of the poem:

‘His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold anything else. 
It seems to him there are a thousand bars;
and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides 
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils lifts, quietly–. 
An image enters in, 
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.’

serenading those of the feline persuasion in my best owl voice


Normally, I provide the source for photos/artwork when I include it here, but this is something that was included in a comment thread & I’ve got no idea where it originated. If I find out, I’ll definitely come back and mention where it came from. 

The drawing certainly reflects some nicer moments of the summer that we’ve already had, and at least here in Munich there’s only more goodness to come. This is the time of year when there’s nearly always an event going on in the city or another street fest around the next corner. 

What I’m most excited about in the near future is the Filmfest, which I like to refer to as the best week of the year. Plenty of independent film & movies that are making the international filmfest circuit before their theatrical release. I’ll be reviewing films, as I’ve done for quite a few years, & might even include some contemplation here that doesn’t belong elsewhere on other platforms. 

In the meantime, I’ll be serenading those of the feline persuasion in my best owl voice while floating along in the moonlight. That’s what summertime is for, isn’t it?

they’ve just locked away their goods for the rest of the weekend


Reading more blogs about living in Germany, I’m noticing there’s quite a lot of material I’ve not even bothered to cover here. When you live somewhere long enough, even as an outsider, you begin to take local oddities for granted. 

Last week, for example, I was rushing out the door to grab some milk, and I muttered under my breath how much I hated it that there’s no grocery store right on my block. In most central districts of Munich, there’s at least one supermarket, if not a few, within stumbling distance of almost anywhere you might live. 

Where I used to live in Munich’s Neuhausen-Nymphenburg there were not only plenty of larger stores on offer, and even in the side street around the corner was a bakery that had emergency supplies available on Sunday morning in case you forgot to grab something before the stores closed on Saturday. 

That’s another oddity about living in Germany, well certainly Bavaria at least: once places close up shop on Saturday evening, they don’t open again till Monday morning. Sunday is quite literally a day of rest when it comes to commerce. Although there are exceptions for petrol stations and news agents, it’s actually against the law for most businesses to be open on the Day of The Lord.

A bit of a pain to get accustomed to – what with making sure you’ve got supplies for the entire weekend – it’s ultimately a relief to have a day where not much is going on mercantile-wise. People go for long walks or drive to the mountains or talk to each other. Can all of those things happen even when the shops are open? Sure they can. It just seems like there’s more of it going on when most everything’s closed. 

Don’t get me wrong. When I’m visiting friends in London or even spending the weekend in Berlin, I appreciate the longer opening hours. There are certainly times I’ve wished my adopted hometown was a bit more with the times when it came to this sort of thing, but it’s curiously something you get used to. 

When I first moved here, Saturday hours were even shorter. I’ve been told that weekday hours used to be even shorter, as well. Glad I didn’t have to deal with that. 

So here I am in one of the nicest parts of Munich, and I’m complaining that I’ve got to schlep down the hill to grab some milk & sundry items. As I’m going back up the hill admiring the beautiful old buildings that I rarely fail to notice & appreciate, I look in the reflection of a small pond. The tree in the photo above is what I saw. 

Now it’s Saturday evening & they’ve just locked away their goods for the rest of the weekend. Who knows how I’ll enjoy my Sunday, but it won’t be stuck inside some  shop. Might even end up having a conversation. You know, like with a real person. 

Generosity toward the future

My boy dog Louis enjoying the moment

‘Real generosity toward the future consists in giving all to what is present.

(Albert Camus)

Perhaps it’s a side effect of aging, but I find myself complaining about weather more than I did when I was younger. When I was quite young, my grandmother was obsessed with watching the evening news, and the part that seemed to always perk her up was the weather forecast. For some reason the nightly ordeal baffled me. ‘Why not just look out the window in the morning & plan accordingly?‘ my childhood self would quietly ponder. 

And now? I’ve joined my grandmother in the legion of people who can ignore most of the rest of a newscast if need be, but the minute we hear the weather mentioned, we salivate like Pavlov’s proverbial dog. It’s really quite nice here because the German Tagesschau, which is the national evening news that comes on punctually at 8 o’clock, is rather regimented in its timing. You can almost set your clock by when the weather forecast is coming. Right near the end, you hear the newscaster say, ‘Und jetzt die Wettervorhersage…‘ (And now the weather forecast), and if you’re one of us, a sense of curious security washes over you. 

Why is that? What is it about me (and perhaps you, as well) that gets such pleasure in knowing what weather patterns are headed this way in the next 24 to 72 hours? Even when the forecast is wrong, and my grandmother used to delight in discovering that last night’s forecast wasn’t accurate, there’s still some sort of reassurance to know what is coming over the horizon. 

Is there still some of that obstinate 9-year-old in me who wishes we could just take the weather as it comes? If you look out the window in the morning & see dark clouds, then bring along an umbrella. If the weather turns in the middle of the day, what’s the worst that happens? You get a little wet. So be it. 

I’ve noticed that I’ve banged on about the weather quite a lot on this blog over the last several months. It’s a bit harder in the dead of winter to read that above-mentioned Camus quote and not want to throttle the old Frenchman. If he were still around, that is. 

Yet now it’s springtime. It should be somewhat easier to live in the moment. To watch the flowers blooming and hear the birds chirping and think, ‘This is what it’s all about, right?

A small, steady voice in the back of my head doesn’t miss a beat and answers, ‘Yes, but it’s not exactly summer, is it? That’s when it gets really good. That’s something to look forward to.

Take that, Uncle Albert.