While there seems to be a ritual about groundhogs and their shadows predicting the length of winter in the USA, in my area they use horses and their riders as an oracle. If the sun shines long enough at noon for a rider to saddle his (or her) horse, there will be such an extreme frost that the Baltic Sea will freeze over between the coast and the Isle of Fehmarn. While latter hasn’t happened for ages, there seems to be some truth in the saying. As far as I know there is a 70 percent chance of a long winter if there is sunny weather at the beginning of February.

It definitely held true last year. While it was unusually mild until mid-February, so that everybody thought winter was over, we all were surprised by huge amounts of snow and frost until Easter. As we had almost exactly the same weather last weekend, there is a big chance of this happening again. Aside from this myth, my favourite oracle are the fieldfares, a kind of greyish thrush that I have only seen here in strong winters. Coming from the east, they move about in flocks of about thirty or more birds, making a great deal of noise, thus bullying our ordinary thrushes, and eating any berries they can find. (Their favourite are said to be juniper berries, thus making them one of the rare fowl who provide for their own seasoning.) As I have seen them flying about the area since December there is a huge chance that winter is still to come.



January blues continued

Though it has got a little colder, the weather is just as undecided as last week. There were some glimpses of the sun on Saturday, mind you. But it soon gave up, leaving everything to the clouds with the only difference, that the drizzle has been replaced by an icy easterly wind. So I still have to take out pictures of past years to remind myself, what a light, tranquil season winter can be.

Seeblick (2)

This is a view of the lake of Selent, just before freezing over. The part of it that is closest to our village is rather shallow, so it’s the first part of the lake to freeze over and thus a safe place for the kids to go ice skating. Sometimes the ice is so clear that you can see the fish swim below.

Wintermorgen Dez2010 (6)

This is the view from our back garden. On that morning the bright light combined with a little fog created a dreamlike, romantic atmosphere. You couldn’t really tell where exactly the earth ended and the sky started.


No winter yet

While the past two winters were very severe — huge amounts of snow, and frost until Easter — nothing of the kind has happened yet. Even though it is rather mild, the endlessly drizzling rain is getting on my nerves. There is no fun at all in going outside. As soon as you leave the paths, the ground under your shoes seems to suck you in making you afraid of getting stuck.

So just for cheering up, here are some impressions from the last winter (although to be honest, I don’t remember being happier then — hibernation would be the perfect activity for me in these months).

SchneemannDill (2)



After this long winter, which, although we had loads of snow, was very dark and dreary because of repeated fog and mist, the first warmer days come as a relief. From next to now everything seems sprouting and growing; the crocuses having just blossomed, are almost gone now, only to be followed by daffodils and tulips on the spot. Somehow everything seems to be happening at the same time.
I used to have an almost photographic memory, which I find dwindling, however, as I’m getting older. It becomes increasingly necessary to take notes and stick little memos everywhere so as not to forget anything important. Nevertheless, this has also got its positive aspects: Particularly this spring is full of surprises. There are so many bulbs coming up that I can’t remember planting, that I keep walking through my garden in wonder. Isn’t it a blessing that just when you think you know and have seen everything, life keeps new impressions in store?


Travels with my Aunt

I’m outing myself as a Graham Green fan here. The consisting search for something more important, sincere, exciting in life that you find in all his main characters, combined with an underlying sense of loss and loneliness have always touched me.

Travels with my Aunt is one of the more light-hearted novels. It begins with the early-retired bank manager Henry Pulling meeting his rather glamorous aunt Augusta at his mother’s funeral. In the course of this first meeting he learns that his deceased mother had only adopted him, and the urn with her ashes is hilariously misused by Augustas much younger lover Wordsworth, who tries to hide marihuana in it.

As it turns out this first meeting marks a new beginning for Pulling, who has lead an absolutely regulated, boring life only highlighted by his love for dahlias, and who now, after the urn being confiscated by the police, joins his aunt on several  voyages, listening to her colourful stories of her life and lovers and being led by her towards a somewhat less regulated existence.

All in all this is an absolutely warm-hearted satire (if something like this exists), letting the reader smile at human eccentricities while enjoying the wonderfully grotesque reminiscences that are woven into the plot.


What now?

I’ve just noticed that I haven’t posted anything for ages, one reason being that I had my mind on different things. Too many of our friends and relatives had tough luck lately. I’ve learned about some nasty illnesses that I never heard the name of before, and I still wish I hadn’t.

Usually working in the garden helps me to relax and drive away dark thoughts. However, this year has been so dry that most of my work consisted of keeping the plants alive by watering. There was even hardly any weeding to do because¬† the weeds didn’t germinate. Or if they did, you needed a pickaxe to get them out.¬† Fortunately it rained a little last weekend but before that all the flowers and shrubs as well as the lawn looked rather grey than green. There isn’t a sadder sight than tomato plants that have lost all their leaves or huge sunflowers that let theirs hang down. So all in all it was as if the garden reflected my troubles.

So at the moment I’m not quite sure whether to keep this blog up or not. I’ve given myself until Christmas to find back into a rhythm of more regular postings, trying to find some more agreeable things to write about.


Getting in the Mood

You can really tell that winter is over when the animals are stirring. The other day Don wrote about bees trying to get into unopened snowdrops. I myself am more in the habit of observing bird life, but only this morning I found out that their song isn’t the only thing to go by as a short talk with my neighbour showed:

“Yesterday I heard the thrush sing for the first time this year. Did you hear that, too?” — “Well, they weren’t only singing in my garden. They were doing other things, as well.”

So if the birds are getting in the mood, this is a sure sign that winter is truly over.