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by Shaara
Rated: 13+ · Essay · Biographical · #663369
Reflections on living in Germany...
Note: The following is a scenic tour of a period of my life. I used the haibun* to take you with me.


As the Past Departs

The first year I was married, my husband and I lived in Heidelberg, Germany, or rather, I did. My husband flitted back and forth between our apartment and his job on a ship in the North Sea.

                             Honeymooning couple
                             Separated by distance
                             Two hearts torn apart

I enrolled in the university, tried to learn German, and attempted to make friends. My years of French gave no assistance with German verb conjugations and polysyllabic words that stretched into compounded compounds.

                             Just out of high school
                             Living in a foreign land
                             Feeling so alone

I studied, read, and practiced German. I took dressage on horseback. I became a school librarian. Thankfully, the concerts, ballets, and operas for which the school gave us tickets didn’t require skill at language. Many times my head ached from trying to understand the new foreign tongue. At least while the music played, I could relax, and my heart could forget its tears. And most importantly, every twenty days, my husband came home.

                             If love were measured
                             By heartbeats entwined,
                             Our beat was timeless

I gathered friends, toured the countryside, and learned how to order in German hofbraus. I tasted wines and beer and learned that asking a waitress for water or cola was an insult. I adapted to native brews.

                             Long tabled benches,
                             Steins of beer and German bread
                             Break down barriers

The haufbraus close by the school learned to deal with my vegetarianism. As they cooked exotic dishes for me, I discovered that vegetables I’d never dreamed of eating were delectable.

                             White asparagus
                             Lying atop my omelet

Castles and antiquity became my love. I prowled through cemeteries, reading the history of thousands of years on thick stone markers. Goethe spoke in rhymes that I and the dictionary unraveled.

                             I passed through graveyards
                             Marked by words of those who loved
                             For eternity

I traveled to Paris and met my husband there in a small hostel. We dined on bread and cheese, sipping tart French wine that gagged me. A taxi took us to the Louvre. The paintings were lovely, but the driver’s words will always remain clearer in my mind than the original Chardins. “You speak our language well,” the driver told me in French. I glowed, translated, and my husband smiled.

                             To meet another
                             In his own language of thought
                             Is to open doors.

Paris was all that I had hoped. The cafés on the street, the artists sketching or dabbing at oils, an old man asking a question and then smiling at me as we communicated, the berets, the pinches, the pastries, the chateaux... France with your husband when you are in love is magnifiqué.

                             Paris was people
                             Speaking in blurs of language,
                             Sometimes connecting.

I held in the tears as my husband and I were once more parted. Strange how repetition makes some things no easier. Clinging hands, which with adult stoicism we forced apart, felt empty and cold for days.

                              Happiness stolen
                              By such abrupt displacement
                              Results in bruised hearts.

For ten months my friends and I roamed the streets of Heidelberg after class and weekends. The days in the hofbraus were always merry. Octoberfest with its dances in the street frolicked by. I learned to laugh when the beer barrel music struck up a chord. We cavorted about the crowds in rousing Polkas. Flashes of color -- full skirts with low cut bodices stitched with red and green motifs, the bobbing and dancing, laughing and singing -- those are my images of fall days.

                             To sing is to live
                             They chanted in the hofbrau,
                             Raising steins of beer.

My husband’s company transferred him, and we had to return back to the States. Home to family, to my country, to my language, but all my German and French slowly began their seepage from my brain.

                             Without any plan
                             Words take flight back to their home
                             On wings of disuse.

It is comfortable knowing a language without constantly needing a dictionary in hand. Yet, there are no castles here in the United States or cemeteries two thousand years old, and I can’t slip into Austria for the weekend, or take the train back to France for a day. Yet, I will always own those memories.

                             Yesterday is gone,
                             But the breath of it remains
                             In whispers within.

Over the years, I have returned to Europe several times but I've never revisted Germany. I think the Heidelberg I once knew lives only in my memory. It belongs to the time I was just out of high school with a new husband and a heart full of love.

                             As the past departs
                             In different carriages,
                             Tomorrow arrives.


* Information about the Haibun: A haibun is a combination of prose and poetry, that often has the character of a travel diary. It can look like an essay or just a collection of notes.

A haibun can have haikus or tankas in its midst.
Its style is often lyrical and is more contemplative than just plain story-telling. The prose and haiku should be complementary and flow together, not summarizing the prose part, but deepening what is written.

The haibun should leave the reader thoughtful, ending with a message or reflection of truth.

Information about the Haibun reworded from Bianca's instruction.


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