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Around Home in Franconia

August 16-31+
written August 22 & later

Dear Friends and Families,

After 15 years in Europe, 11 of them in Germany, eight of those in Pommersfelden, we are edging our way out.  There's the obvious part: selling our dream Schmuckkästchen (jewel box) home. We will never again have a house so special, certainly not one so old.  In a way, it has been part of the definition of our life here in Franconia, financially for sure, but also emotionally.  We will always remember our quiet just-the-two-of-us time on the patio as well as the crowds of friends when we could create our own beer hall in the barn.  Now, there are people looking to take over our project.  We wish them well.

Otherwise, our leaving seems focussed on the people around us and I will try to capture the story in people-pictures over the next few months.  I just read a magazine article in Wired, my favorite printed/electronic source for outside the box ideas and it proposed that, thanks to smart phones, pictures are the new universal language. The world communicates with images more than ever before, thanks to the ever-present phone camera.  A century ago, the Kodak Brownie brought photography to everyman.  Phones now add communication to everyman photography.

Enough intro, here's what we are remembering today.

A major reason for our return to America is the desire to be closer to grandkids.  This has been reinforced by fairly long summer visits this year from Rich and from Ava and Sam.  Since then, we are more comfortable leaving behind our European life.
Ava and Sam left here and stopped off in Ireland for a family wedding.  Ava threw bubbles instead of rice or flower petals.  Sam was a handsome two-year-old. (Pictures courtesy of mom, the profi photographer.)
Meanwhile, back in Maryland, Sean was celebrating his first birthday in the most traditional cake-in-your-face manner.  Big brother Ryan helped him get the hang of opening presents.
No pictures from Rich, but I did manage to see him in last week's Skype call.  Another part of this communicate-with-pictures theme, even if I forget to grab the screen shot so I can add it to these memory records.  Next time.

We do NOT look forward to losing touch with our friends here, so we very much appreciate memories such as Knut's 70th birthday party a week ago.  Our regular gang was there of course, but there were also lots of Knut's other friends, as well as his two "kids" and their kids.  It was fun meeting new people.  Wolfgang Bodenschatz sang a whole range of English and American oldies, appropriate for our vintage.  The younger generation could sing along, but got much more animated when the music moved up a decade or two and shifted to German!  A great gathering.  Thanks, Knut and Winnie.

Part of our summer life in Pommersfelden is maintaining our ground and harvesting our veggies and fruit.  This year, it seems the gophers are winning the garden contest.  OK, we give up.  We'll move.

On Saturday, after our garden work, I tied to capture a sense of the rest of our Pommersfelden environment.  We'll miss it.
Record number of gopher holes:  11 in just three hours!  Butterflies are nicer.
Vegetables are almost all gone.  Cauliflowers never looked worth picking.  Zucchinis grew faster than anyone couple possibly eat them.
Out front, a carriage passed by on the way to a Schloss wedding.
In the surrounding fields, sunflowers are ripe, hay is being rolled, and the grain elevators are probably full.  Local road traffic is at its most interesting.

This week's plan for Marianne flying to California prompted another gathering of our group of friends.  Marilyn and Dieter treated us to a Mongolian BBQ, along with stories about previous uses of the giant griddle in Africa.  We will miss the exotic stories from this bunch of folks.
Hemmingway-esque Dieter, pensive Peter and Dale and Marilyn each making conversation points.

d130822_02_traveler.jpgNow it's Thursday, August 22nd.  For the zillionth time we drove up the A3 autobahn to the Frankfurt airport.  Marianne was catching UA902, the 2pm direct flight to San Francisco.  The check-in email we had received from United Airlines suggested arriving three-hours before flight time, due to "increased security starting the 21st".  What more could they do?  We are not reporters or anyone else of interest, I hope.

In fact, the drive was uneventful and there was no line at check-in.  It seems the only inconvenience was that of arriving hours early.  As I write this, Marianne is five hours into her 11 hour flight.  Better her than me.  I'm sitting on the patio of the Kellerhaus Cafe, sipping wine and eating cake.  She does have Gabby, Ava, and Sam waiting for her, whereas I have an empty jewel box.

d130822_06_staged.jpgI am away from the house because there are potential buyers being shown around.  I did my "staging" thing and left.  I hope something works out, because we are ready, sad but ready, to move to a new chapter.  Besides, Marianne may find a house in Fresno next week.   Yikes!

I am adding to this diary to keep M aware of what I am doing until she returns five weeks from now.  I have NO plans.  Any suggestions?

On Day #1, I did all those dull things that some people write up in Facebook: ate meals; washed clothes; cleaned house; grocery shopped; attacked gophers; etc.  I made a pot of Brazilian black beans to tide me through five or six of my upcoming meals, again a sort of tradition while Marianne is gone.
I have to report on meals.  Not bad on the first day.

I felt I SHOULD do something with photography, but all I could manage was a trip out the back door, into our garden and the fields behind us.  I enjoy the walk and will soon miss this opportunity, either because the weather will shift to cold rain or we will make our break from rural Franconia.  Sad. (Melancholia is also a tradition while Marianne is gone!)

Saturday.  A day off.  Oh, wait a minute, I'm retired and they are all days off.

Our normal routine is to walk over to the bakery for a special roll, only prepared on Saturday.  The walk goes through the courtyard of Schloss Weissenstein, our neighbor.  The sun was just coming up and I recognized that we will certainly miss this ritual in a few months.
I took my breakfast roll home for the first of my three meals of the day.
The backyard needed work, as usual, but I was done in just a couple of hours.  I could tell that we were entering the season when growing, and the work load,  slows down.  This is part of the change of seasons we appreciate.  I wonder, does Fresno have seasons?

I took an after-lunch drive over to Höchstadt, our big village neighbor.  They were having a street festival, but apparently it is mostly for evening eating, drinking, and music.  I ran into our friend Jay, who was helping his son Christian set up a flea market booth to off-load old toys.  Where were these toys a month ago, when we needed a supply for grandkids?

From Höchstadt I just drove through local hills, exercising Marianne's sporty car, with the top down.  Rain is forecast for the rest of the week, so I needed to enjoy the car when I could.  I was very conscious of the reality that I won't have many more drives in our 12-year-old Porsche.  Too bad.

For evening exercise, I grabbed the camera and tripod and tried to capture a good sunset.  The forecast was for a storm to hit at about sunset time and I hoped for a dramatic sky.  No luck.  There was a small bright sky patch, but nothing to write home about.  (Oops, what am I doing then?)  Nonetheless, this excursion reminded me that what I like is the process, even more than the photo product.
Sunday will be the quiet weekend day, because that's tradition here in Germany.  I'm not sure how much quieter things can get!

d130825_02_wet.jpgSunday was indeed quiet, except for the sound of rain pouring down.  Seriously, I don't think I have ever seen rain as heavy as it was sometimes on Sunday.  That meant I didn't even leave the house.  I read, watched Sunday news on CNN, surfed the internet (always a great time killer), talked to America, and cooked my required meals.

d130827_birdies.jpgMonday.  Less rain.  Not appreciably more activity on my part.  I watched the birds in the backyard. Sheesh!

Tuesday.  Clouds but no rain.  Still not much activity, other than a bit of grocery shopping.

Wednesday (as of about 2pm when I am writing this).  I started the day resolved to be more active and I did do a few indoor chores, but as soon as I finish this diary entry, I am going to force myself to go outside.  Just like mom used to force me outside when I was a kid.  It is still cool and gray, but no rain, so I have no excuses. 

I will be glad when one of the folks thinking about buying our house makes a positive decision so I can go about messing the place up in preparation for moving.  With luck, that might happen by the middle of next week.  If not, I am just going to go nuts in this limbo state.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday continued the slow pace.  Friday's excitement included cleaning and staging the house for another potential house buyer.  This is a little piece of theater that may not be necessary, but if it helps even a little, I am willing to take the time.  Besides, it's nice being in a clean house.  Marianne has made sure that's the condition I have gotten used to.

I was also invited to a beer cellar Friday evening.  Marilyn and Dieter wanted to squeeze in one more German summer ritual and it certainly sounded good to me.  The Bavarian (Franconian?) beer garden tradition is one we will sorely miss when we are back in America.  Unfortunatel,y our other friends had an assortment of maladies, so our group was smaller than ever.  Next time.

On Sunday I forced myself to walk out of the house and walk in the fields behind the house.  The walk was special, perhaps because it wasn't out of our local normal.  The sun was mild, the fields were green, the wildflowers were everywhere, and even the bugs seemed friendly, not threatening.  I took the camera along to record my impressions.  No world-class shots, but a few more bits to remember our Bavarian farm life.

Saturday sunset
Out for a walk, looking back at home.
Wildflowers, worth slowing down for.
And there are a few crops left (as well as hiding grouse).
My walk was rewarded with a spontaneous invitation to lunch at the Dorn's.  Georg was out walking his dogs and we chatted about selling houses (his also is for sale -- sorta), fall weather, world politics, and food. Hermine had fixed a wild duck that Georg had harvested in the backyard just a day or two before.  I was glad there was plenty of food so that another hungry guest was easily handled.  All in all, it was a Sunday meal much above my expectations!  Thanks.

Now, what will this new week bring?


John and, in absentia, Marianne


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