Nothing Other Than Grass

Mirko Bonné, September 2015

Since June 2012, I’ve been keeping an online notebook, a poetic blog in which I combine everyday impressions and those from my various trips with comments about what I’ve been reading and ideas for texts and poems. Since the start of the Weather Stations project in February 2014, my entries have changed: weather observations have become more numerous, as well as remarks about politics, the climate and the environment. I’ve written down many quotes from the books and magazines I’ve read over the last one and a half years because they seemed to be making some sort of contribution to the climate change debate, in particular those sentences or verses written 20 or even 200 years ago. The overriding question raised by the following selections from my blog “The Grass” is however aimed at the poetic, that is, the part of language and the world that I see as living heritage and that does not seek answers and solutions, but is rather intrinsic to both, both question and solution.

 

 

Yesterday and today, I looked at a squirrel, in two arboreta far apart. Both were looking for something, both brown, yet the one from today had a grey chest and stomach. The one from yesterday scuttled away, its legs far apart, like a rabbit with a big tail, while the one from today was swifter, perhaps akin to a bird, leaping from the bush on to the tree. What knocking and gnawing sounds they made! The alert, yet still seemingly pensive way they looked around them. The way they appeared so suddenly, like a squirrel materialising from the ether, then how they stayed for such a surprisingly long time before disappearing equally suddenly, like squirrels gone without warning. The beautiful red-brown: trees on to which the evening sun falls. (17.2.2014)

 

Summer in March. A summery March, a March summer: “When the forsythias bloom, winter is gone.”

 

Watch out! Roof avalanches! Between Untereinöden and Überruh, maybe also near Oberholzleute, just past the Spitalhof: snow on the side of a valley in Oberallgäu. And the snow poles are still stuck like toothpicks in the roads that lead up the valley to the tidy farmsteads. We’re prepared for any eventuality here. (Isny, 6.4.)

In the morning, the child says he couldn’t sleep, as the window was open. “All the birds flew back and talked and made loud music in the hedges that grow up alongside the house.”

 

A young American author living in Australia and writing a novel about Atlantis said to me at Melbourne Art’s House, the old Meat Market, that it’s only tales, stories of experiences and individual people’s ideas that enable her to grasp something so inconceivable as climate change. Some time ago, she met a taxi driver in Mississippi who told her that she was putting aside as much money as possible in order to move to Florida with her family. She and her husband planned to buy a house on the beach for them and their children so that they would be among the first to be washed out to sea by the great flood, all the way to Atlantis.

Nocturnal gusts of wind in the courtyard, they pass over the dunes and strike the palms. An invisible bird answers each gust with a loud wailing cry that is joyous nonetheless. (Port Douglas, 4.5.)

Clouds that stay still for hours above the Coral Sea. They carry slowness in their very form and are bordered by black and white. If you pass beneath then, they do not conceal their volume. Each is, as Dylan Thomas once said of radio, “a building in the air”.

A green sea turtle in the waters of the reef, nearly the same size as me, yet with the eyes of God. Does it know I’m observing it?

The skin of many Australian women is as red as the earth, reddened by the blazing force of the sun.

 

104-year-old Lizzie Davies of the Coranderrk people was asked how she predicts rain. Lizzie Davis replied: “I touch the mountains”.

The bricklayers’ laughter can be heard in the courtyard, as they stand around in the open garage below, smoking and looking at the sky, where there’s a mid-May hailstorm. Minutes later, the warm sun shines once again and swallows swoop though its light in great arcs. The English, the Australian of the past weeks is still in my mind, I still dream and speak to myself in the foreign language – I think Burundjeri, Brunswick Street and Yarra River to myself on the bank of the Danube. It’s like something is melting away inside me, like the snow left behind in a forest glade. (Ingolstadt, 13.5.)

When I took the umbrella out of my suitcase, it seemed damp and when I opened it out to dry, it was full of drops that had travelled across the world: Australian rain.

 

This question is also of key significance in the climate change debate: how can you make something real (once again) that seems unreal? The question is how to bridge the gap. You assume that they, “the people” want reality. But is that really the case? (18.5.)

Up on the roof of their tower, the meteorologists measure how much sunlight there is on each and every day. A narrow strip of black card with an hourly scale within a semicircular housing is concealed behind a glass sphere that focuses the sun’s rays and directs them on to the strip. When I look at the scale, I see a tiny sun glowing yellow there that has been eating its way through the card since 6am this morning. I see how time passes, time made of light, the illumination of time.

The beauty of the orchard: the dark and light greens, the trees and the grass, the free interplay of the two.

 

A roaring heat. Flies on the window sill, gleaming motionless, dying motionless. The people moving slowly. Haze over the Burggasse. (Vienna, 11.6.)

 

When you run your fingers through the fronds of the Persian silk tree above you in the bright green light, it’s like you’re stroking an animal that’s standing upright in the wind and is compelled to be a tree. The silk tree’s fronds tell of their sex, of the house of the silk tree, of its history stories. (Ellerhoop Arboretum, 5.7.)

 

“There are also seagulls that bite”, says the child.

 

You’re alone with this silence and in it, you encounter yourself as a child once again, the boy that marvels here at the joy of the world for the first time.

 

In spring, travelling beekeepers trek over the island of Fehmarn and put up hives in the blooming rape fields. Intoxicated by the abundance of yellow, the bees collect nothing but rape nectar for weeks, pure rape honey.

 

Of Bojendorf at the northwestern tip of Fehmarn, they say that the boys from the village used to capture the sun every evening and imprison it in a barn overnight. (Fehmarn, 24.7.)

 

The row of plum trees between the S-Bahn tracks – I look into the summer light that remains and I’m close to tears. How long have they been there already? They are still here!

 

The shelf life of a plastic fishing line: 600 years.

 

The wind in the treetops does indeed tell a story but not about itself. It tells you about yourself.

 

After the animal captures and kills a young wren in the early morning, it crawls into a dark, silent corner for six hours, dejected. Then it comes out again, examines the scene of the crime and looks out of the window for a long time at where the bird appeared and will maybe appear again. The animal is ready to forget, ready to repeat. Life continues, killing continues, death continues.

 

In Kalathos, I saw an olive tree growing up through a red Toyota.

There are only dried-up riverbeds across the whole island – or have the rivers just dried out and silted up? There’s red rowing boat half in pieces right in the middle of the Loutan’s pebbled hollows. (Rhodos, 17.10.)

 

The sound of the wind moving into the dried out leaves of the plane tree, a papery rustling or rather a rattling, a cracking. It’s almost like a fire, a fire made of air. (Akra Ladiko, 19.10.)

“Be the rain.” Neil Young

 

You open the door and it’s autumn. (You shut your eyes and summer is there).

 

It’s not the world that is ungrateful, it is I.

 

Sitting by the Salzach on a November day so warm I can’t remember another like it: a warm November wind, the suburbs enveloped in the warm autumn breeze, the mountainside is yellow, green, golden and brown in the mild pulsations of the air. The birds flutter upwards over the river and women sit on its banks and eat up the light from bright bags. (Salzburg, 4.11.)

November 19th and there are still mosquitoes and wasps.

 

Every speck, every handkerchief-sized piece of lawn, every piece of soil, as long as it’s just brown or green, must be covered with tarmac so we can then put concrete on top of it. While every other encounter, be it love, friendship or some other form of affection, is an interstellar event.

 

The entire pain, the entire hatred, the entire fear, the entire greed. The entire destruction and annihilation in the name of this God or that. I bow down before anyone who can keep their mouth shut in a conversation about so-called faith. You can only rely on the empty sky, that is full of birds, full of clouds and air to breathe. (January 7th 2015, Paris)

 

A swarm of starlings flies up into the sky as if a storm had blown apart the top of a huge tree, the birds bursting away across the grey January sky.

 

As Camus quite rightly remarked, the weather is what every single person experiences and what connects us all. It’s just that everyone experiences it differently (like everything else too). My brother once confided in me how much he loved running through the snowy forest, because “your footsteps then turn silent”. How difficult it is, to tell of your feelings about the weather, your different feelings and the feelings of yours that differ from one another!

 

In the driving snow, the swiftly fleeing birds are like snowflakes.

 

“The tree may become a blossoming flame, man a speaking flame—an animal a walking flame.” Novalis

 

“Why is rain not blue if it falls from the sky?” Sylvain Tesson

A barge travels downstream along the Main river, passing under the Holbeinsteg bridge. It’s a winter day, ice-cold, windy, but without snow. It’s only the boat that’s covered with a thick layer of white snow from elsewhere, shaped into rib forms by the wind.

 

In the morning, a tremendous light shines over the green hills. It’s dawn in Ireland and the seagulls sail within it above the deserted car park in front of the huge, still entirely empty Tesco shopping centre “The Square”. (Tallaght, 27.2)

 

The green parakeets are free in the park’s bare treetops, like leaves, a May in flight, trying out places to hold on to. (London, Hyde Park, 16.3.)

Those who make use of the good weather – whom and what do they otherwise make use of?

Beneath the arch of the bridge – a lively green flickering on the masonry, a whirring, a meadow of light on an afternoon just for ghosts that want to stay.

 

Forty-five million “unusable” male chicken chicks are shredded each year in Germany in plants set up specifically for the purpose of destroying birds – dead wood that is alive. I live in a factory of death – a state in which killing is not a past phenomenon, a state which may pretend to be a socially minded, but in reality subordinates everything to profit and efficiency. The CSU minister responsible for this godless, ruthless mass slaughter rejects any criticism of the procedure, making reference to research that is already working on more effective killing methods.

 

It’s the fourth of April, and it’s still cold as winter, cold enough for a winter coat. The trees are bare, the bushes pale-green, full of timid buds. You feel startled when the warm spring sun suddenly falls from the cloudless blue. In the afternoon, it shines for a long time, golden, stretching out the spirit, making your eyes widen and recognise what is beloved in everything and everyone standing around in the car park: children, women, men, dogs, trees, old cars, people who laugh in the bright light. Then there’s a twinkling that flashes through the light, blue and gold. The fourth of April? It’s snowing.

 

As the budding, sprouting and blooming grows quicker each day (and each night), so too does the river become greener with every hour that passes.

 

You can chat to any blackbird at the top of a tree – as long as you have the time and the inclination to do so and a bit of blackbird patience.

 

On this small island in the Elbe, every bit of undergrowth seems unique in its form, with an unmistakable shadow, a specific rustling sound when the wind passes over the river, strange blackbirds in its branches. An amazing bush – as if it were itself an island. (Lühesand, 7.6.)

 

“The people were addicted to hope and blind from it too, that was their fate.” Gerhard Roth

 

Hot days, close to 40 degrees. In the stairwell, the wood creaks at every step. It seems to want to shout at the top of its voice of hot summer days and weeks in the past, of days free from school due to the heat, of children who sat in the cool shade of the stairwell. But the wood of the dead years is just creaking. (3.7.)

 

The people sit on the steps in front of their shops and wait for the rain to come. And when it starts, as it soon pelts down, they remain seated. To live so much more frequently! (Fuhlsbüttel, 7.7.)

 

A rainy day in Jutland. Everything seems slower in a warm wind, even the huge sea gulls over the pillboxes half submerged in the sand.

 

“At one point, the world looked like this”, says the child and shows you it: “there was nothing, nothing other than grass”.

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