Just words: hope

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Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well. It is the certainty that something is worth doing no matter how it turns out.

Václav Havel

When I grew up in East Germany, Václav Havel was known as – what they called at the time – a dissident and as a writer, whose books we were prevented from reading, whose theatre plays I never saw. During the Prague Spring and the invasion of the Warsaw Pact armies, he provided an on-air narrative on the radio and was banned from all theatres after the supression of the Prague Spring in 1968. Later he was the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic.

I have nothing to add to his quote in the context of his story.

I heard this quote today in a lecture by Margaret Wheatley.

Just words: beginning

Hey, Friend,

New beginning. Always a beginner. Be. Beg. Begin. Gin. In. Inn. Inning.

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Begin is a rare word. Often used over times immemorial. It’s ancient and went through a lot. Begin is unlike many others. Belong. There is a long. Become. There is a come. Behold. There is a hold. Begin. There is only gin; and that does not even come close, only at the end. The be- is transparent. The -gin is obscure. Millenia ago, the Germanic peoples had a verb ginnan. To cut open. To open up. It must have started then. They also had – and we still do – a be-prefix. To cause or to make whatever the verb says it does. These two were merged into a rare word. To cause something to open up. To begin. To make it – cut – open. To begin.

Beginning in the second paragraph. Ing … ing … ing. Something is going on here. Progressing. Progressive. And it fossilized. A little. Into a noun. Static? No! Process—ing. Sometimes fast. Sometimes slow. Always doing. Changing. Progressing. Beginning.

At the beginning of 2022, wishing you all new beginnings. Many. Fruitful beginnings. Often. And a happy ending.

Wrote this in a San Diego writers group today. The prompt was – you guessed it – beginning. I am very grateful for and to this group.

Shaping circles: Is this working?

Uwe told me that it was a great way to make money. I was all ear. Money, even a few of these aluminum coins. I was a little jealous about having to wait for another summer. Uwe and I were in the same class, but his birthday was in summer and mine in December. His older sister had told him that you could only get a summer job after your fourteenth birthday. For two weeks out of the two-months school vacation. So, I went home and told my mom I wanted a job next summer. She must have helped me, but I forget how I found the gig in the little furniture factory in town. Everybody called it the Table Factory – Tischfabrik. I guess that’s what they had done for times immemorial; they made tables in the small cluster of nineteenth-century red-brick buildings in the center of town. The former owners used to live next door. In 1978, the factory had long been nationalized and become part of a centralized syndicate in East Germany’s command economy.

Monday morning. Here I was, reporting to the main office on time. Still sleepy-eyed at 6am. I thought they were expecting me, after all I was the new worker. They had to figure out were to put me. Where do you put a fourteen-year-old for two weeks, so that he does the least damage. Put him with the young folk at the presses at the end of the assembly line. If these juvenile delinquents can do it, so can he.

I reported to the shop floor – everyone was in full swing already – and was assigned to one of the presses. The boy at this machine did not look too happy. I was going to lower his output performance, and he would make less money this shift. I didn’t understand. He took the time to tell me. You get tasks for the day. Put the apron of this table together. With the press. Four boards in exactly the right position. Dip the corners in glue, but not too much. Put the corners in exactly the right position. Turn the lever, but not too much. Not the right position or too much pneumatic pressure and the apron was ruined before it was made. Waste of material, they called it. Put the apron on the pile, the ladies in the other room are waiting and will pack the apron, the top, the legs. These tables are to be exported, the boy said. To Sweden. Each apron counted for a minute or two. Some for three. The foreman counts them at the end of each shift. The boy and I got paid for our total of these minutes. Each day. No money for a ruined apron, when I was not focused. Less money for him, if I did not pull my weight fast enough.

Monday noon. The presses had to be turned off for safety during unionized breaks. I was not sure about hanging out with the boys in my shop. When I went home at three in the afternoon, a social worker came and a bus took them back to the detention center at the edge of town. I saw the movies and read the articles about juvenile detention centers only fifteen years later. So, I went into the factory yard and sat with the women who packed the tables also by the minute. They depended on our work to make money. Money to be able to visit their husband. To feed their children. To buy a blouse. I liked chatting with them. They told me things I knew nothing about.

Monday afternoon. The work was done. I cycled home. When my mom came at four, she could not wake me up for two hours. I had fallen into the sleep of the righteous on the sofa. She was still laughing, when we had supper. Maybe, I got a little older that day.

I have signed up for a year-long online writing course. This is lesson 2 on ‘work’. I am committed to the remaining 50 lessons … And yes, I worked each summer after that. And after I turned 18, each year, all year, I worked. I painted walls and fences, made nuts and bolds, tore down brick and concrete at construction sites, cleaned city streets, was a lifeguard in indoor and outdoor swimming pools and at the Baltic Sea, helped clean and polish the final parts produced in an aluminum foundry, worked at an electric arc furnace producing calcium carbide, built wooden scaffoldings as a carpenter for the mechanics doing repairs, laid cable and pipes, taught at a secondary school and at universities in different countries. And I have looked back often to this first real job.

Shaping circles: My obstacle

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Gosh, I didn’t expect to wake up to this, when I opened my eyes on Christmas Eve. Holy Night. Drenched in sweat. Or tears. My heart is pumping my t-shirt wet. 113 did not let me rest desperately, and I was not awake in my dreams and daymares. I must have been running in my sleep. I need to remember. Should I trace my steps in the dark? I am not sure. I guess I never was. Sure. Darkness within darkness — the gateway to all understanding. That’s what my CD said, when I did the one-minute meditation. Ten years ago. It is darker now. Silent night. I wish! The viral noise of this world has become unbearable. Another nail on the cross. Nine inches. Why do they make them so big? Why do they make crosses and nails and crowns at all? I am anxious. To know. Questions within questions quarrel with each other and crumble my skull. Unholy nights. And the one question has not yet surfaced. All comes in moments of darkness. And then there is a crack. A crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. Oh, thank you, Leonard. You were there when my son was born. And you are here now. How do you do that? You left us years ago. You left me with sadness and silence, when I am walking. The running noise is mine. Mind the noise. I can’t hear the music. Only the heart is silent. What is it writing? If I could read the word … There is on O of surprise of the unforeseen and an E at the end. Or does it start with an old opportunity? The radical center is fuzzy. Is there a B for belonging? My longing that I have had for longer than my being. The S has been bowed like my spine, so that it stays silent each storm. Standing tall, this must be the Cross of Lorraine, pointing up to the Holy Spirit, connecting companions sideways, but wait … The small beam on top connecting me to myself is not here. It is a T that I need to cross one more time. Is there an A for the beginning of the alphabet soup? It might be. It reflects the angst, anxiety, attachment to find the crack, so that the light gets in. What light? How bright! A C starts capere. Meaning to learn, to receive. Ad capere: accept. The d changed to a C for compassion. To suffer with somebody. And myself. In love. That is the L, which I anxiously attached to the A for too long. Love suffered. Loving suffered. I suffered aloof. That is the OBSTACLE. I am relieved to see it staring me in the face. It looks familiar; it must have warned me before. Unheard. Has it never changed shape? For the little boy? For the lad? The fellow? Man? Unseen. It has been standing before me, as obstacles do. I ran blind against this shiny object and bruised myself and hurt. Others. Myself. Unseeing. I shoved the obstacle hard, went back at it unknowing, passed judgement over it, and foreclosed the universal flow. The waters swelled in prior life. Deluge — unheard. The noise — unbearable. The water washed away what we built. On sand. Now I am suffering as Noah before my time and long. Lucky as I am, I did not drown, when I let go of my sinking rig. Now I am using my 150 days or more in the Ark. I submit. I submit to the disorder of words. To nature and nurture myself. Submission. Now I will let my heart write for a year and years and pray that my Ark will land on a mount, when the water subsides and the question is clear.

This the first text for a year of writing. I have just started the course to uncover my self. I am committing to the other 51 lessons …

Just texts: Morning dream

A bright glimpse. Less than two years old. Fading?

If you have the energy to read more of the Just texts you find them in blog order on this website. Please comment on what you associate with them, what you like, what you dislike, what you read in them, how they make you feel …

If you do not follow blogs, which I understand, I also let all know on Twitter and Instagram. See you soon.

Just texts: me & I

Emerging poetry. In various stages of completeness. Walking from the abstract to the concrete and back. Throughout life and relationship. I shall continue this path …

Good tidings. On earth peace, and goodwill toward all.

If you have the energy to read more of the Just texts you find them in blog order on this website. Please comment on what you associate with them, what you like, what you dislike, what you read in them, how they make you feel …

If you do not follow blogs, which I understand, I also let all know on Twitter and Instagram. See you soon.

Just texts: Eulogy for my father

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My father, Herbert Wilhelm Schulze, passed away on June 7, 2019. Papi was 78 years old. This is the English translation of what I said at his last service:

Thank you, Shepherd.

Papi passed away early on Friday morning. On the Pacific coast, it was still Thursday, when Mami phoned. My brother was asleep. And then was Now — for us three. Now, a clock of life stood still; all of a sudden Papi’s lifetime ended. Now, no hand compelled him to get up, no calendar forced trips to a hospital.

Serene peace.

„Old I’d like to grow like a tree so old,

with roots so deep, no spade can reach.“

Papi lived longer than the poet of these lines, Louis Fürnberg; he was older than some trees in our garden. If he could have called it – or we – a few years more would have been nice. His lungs and his heart followed a different plan, and a soul found peace after all his experience.

„From times of legend I would protrude,
the times of pain, an evil dream,
into a time of which people say:
How beautiful a time! And our happiness.“

It was the second year of war when Papi was born – Yes, grandpa had been on furlough. When he was five, the family was expelled. In Frankfurt (Oder) he waited, with grandma and my auntie, for the post-war return of grandpa and my uncle. As he often said: if grandma had not left the march of refugees in Frankfurt (Oder), he would have become Bavarian in all likelihood. But he has always preferred Energie Cottbus to Bayern München. His roots are deep, no spade can reach’m.

From times of pain … Childhood in a town in ruins, from which he brought a recipe for bread soup, which he planned to cook for us now and then. We always preferred his meat salad – cut in tiny pieces and best with garlic and pickles. In his youth — trips to West-Berlin to see a movie and to go to a ball, as they called it then. He was proud, that, all the same, he never missed a church service on Sunday morning. Really, never?

Then he met Mami, and they moved to Finsterwalde. On the train on his way to work in Cottbus, he played Skat. When I was a little older, grandpa, he, and I played this game of cards. And when my brother was older, we three played the whole afternoon in winter. In recent years, my nephew was the better stand-in, better than I, because I do not remember winning – ever. With grandpa, we played for quarter pfennigs, without grandpa, we played to keep tabs. With Mami and my niece, he played Canasta. Whenever I joined them, he won there too.

My dad was a numbers person. He did not only record the points in Skat on small note sheets. Family table tennis or badminton tournaments, annual yields of strawberries and asparagus, daily rainfall in the garden in summer, canned cherries, and the number of telephone calls on his birthday — all was noted, tallied, and archived. Retrievable any time and always honestly accurate.

Numbers gave him inner peace, the feeling he kept a rein on the chaos of this world, and a form to his justice. Sharing and giving for him always meant equal parts to a hair.

Also at children’s birthday parties, he organized the games. In Dinner Tray Memory, City-Name-Country, and skittles, the first and second among the children got a prize; in Drawing Lots, everybody won. He always drew last and yet won the main prize every single time — a bottle of beer, which always stood among the other prizes. Because alcohol one can only get at the age of 16 or older. How he managed to draw this lot every single time, I have not yet fully understood.

He took the time to play with us. He steered us away from the TV set and towards work. Work was important to him. When the Wall fell, he breathed a sigh of relief and rolled up his sleeves. But work was short. Soon the “new” bolt factory had no use for a numbers person. This gnawed at him for long years.

How beautiful a time! A time as this is also beautiful.

After ‘89: trips to large cities, mountain tops and islands, and the small village close by; by car to Rome, by ship into the fjords, and by airplane all over Europe. Only his bicycle, he did not mount again. Mami and Papi saw the world, enjoyed the new and the old in museums, at concerts, and on walks, but their best place has always been home.

Home has always been the same house. First one room, then two. Then Papi’s brother turned the attic into a bedroom. Later more rooms became available to us. In recent years, they were essentially back  to two.

Numbers. Numbers. We are an 11-family. Papi’s sister is 11 years older than he. Her son and my other cousin are 11 years younger than he. And I am only two times 11 years younger than Papi. Lately, numbers made no sense to him. His small note sheets remained blank. Moments, days, weeks, years winded like rivers into one lake. Time was not important and difficult to grasp. He grasped at moments of quiet.

My Papi found his peace after a life, of which he said often that it is beautiful, especially on a vacation day with Schulze-weather (even when it rained).

If he could, he would have looked at all of us today and asked: tell me, what was the best in all this time? Now, I am sure we can give him an answer and keep him in our thoughts.

Thank you all. It is good that you are here.

Just texts: Each of us

This one took me almost ten years. I am struggling with its simplicity, it’s unusual rhythm, its ancient message … and always: its realization. A woman sent me the Russian original, I produced a German translation, which also transferred the ABBA rhyme. In English, my second language, I skipped the rhyme to make it my own. And I love repetition; practice needs repetition. I must have written seven times seven versions. I hope I am getting closer to the meaning.

If you have the time and energy to read more of these texts you find them in blog order on this website. Let me know what you associate with them, what you like, what you dislike, what you read in them, how they make you feel …

Just texts: Winter ’75

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Winter ’75

This was hard work, and the boys had only one shovel. Martin had brought it. The whole thing was his idea. He – like only a few of the others – had skis. From his grandma. Long brown wooden skis with strange rounded tips and metal boot brackets and a very old wired clip binding.
The small sand quarry was echoing the laughter, shouts, and banter of the neighborhood boys. It had snowed overnight. Just a little. Enough for them to hope they could build a narrow slope. Narrow. For one skier in a straight line. One firmed track for the left ski, one for the right. One inch deep. Then the coarse sand of the quarry. The two tracks ended on a jump, a snow-dusted board, as smooth as they could find.
Martin went first. The first day of real winter. First snow. Not every year had a real winter. And the snow came less often and stayed shorter, year after year. But here it was. Not much, but here. Martin closed the wire bindings above the heel of the sole of his wet pigskin boots and jumped on the tracks, as he had seen on TV many times. He heard the sand and small pebbles scratch the wood of his skis. The fleeting thought: grandma will be upset about her old skis. Down in a straight line. All gazes on him. Velocity. Wind. Sounds of downhill. And a melting snow flake. Martin knew they were waiting for him to fall – before the jump or after. To leave the tracks. To stop before the jump. They knew he had fallen often. When playing ball. He was slow when running and clumsy when moving his arms.
The skis were different. He loved them. They gave him small wings, going down towards the jump in a perfect line. Without angst. With joy. And pride. The jump. In the air for longer than he had ever been in shoes. Landing in the sand. He turned around and looked at the other boys. His face under the tuque beamed like it had not in many months. It was the … snow.

2021-12-11 SD Writing / Creativity Group in Zoom

Any text. Any topic. Just with snow. That was the prompt. That’s how I remember it.

If you have the time and energy to read more of these texts you find them in blog order on this website. Let me know what you associate with them, what you like, what you dislike, what you read in them, how they make you feel …