Le grand homme de la nuit

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The park is immense: we leave the car near the house on the lake, where the couple lived, and where, we can imagine, Hélène planned her acquisitions. We walk around the house, a structure that inspires solid wealth, and a longing for a bygone age. The sombre bricks reflect in the water, children have left their bikes against the steps that lead to the wide terrace. We follow a narrow path that serpents on what must be, in winter, a very wet land. The ground is soft but almost dry, despite the recent torrential rain. The path takes us to a square building, in the style of the house, which encloses a well. Nearby we leave the main track to circle around a small pond covered with lilies: a beautiful toad meditates on one of the larger leaves, impassible. But we want to see the museum and the famed arboretum. Most visitors are cycling and we feel somewhat ashamed of driving.
The sculpture garden closes at four thirty, so we decide to go and see the Van Gogh gallery first, then visit the garden – a museum of modern sculptures and installations. Hélène had good taste, and a large (they say “unlimited”) budget. She bought Van Gogh both before the painter had achieved fame, and later. His early work is astounding: Van Gogh painted peasants in his native land. The Potatoes Eaters show the rugged faces and hands of a poor family, lunching under the light of a small petrol lamp. The beautiful Dutch white coiffes contrast with the dark garments. The profiles are almost medieval. The collection is an amazing treasure trove. We recognise some the best known paintings, the postman and his wife, the village main square at night – the stars in the Mediterranean sky! – the light of Provence. Hélène bought many avant-garde paintings, Seurat, Picasso, Monet, Mondrian… An hour goes by and we haven’t seen more than a third of the museum. You say that we ought to visit the garden, and then come back to see as much as we can before closure.
This is an enchanted place: the sunlight bounces across the green lawns, and lits the sculptures scattered over open spaces, reflecting in small basins, or part hidden in the trees. You guide us through the maze, and we watch, mesmerised, the variety of inspirations and forms. There is la femme accroupie de Rodin, there the columns of the Sacred Grove

Later, you walk back to the museum, as I continue to explore the garden.
I retrace our steps, and discover more hidden treasures. It is there, a little away from the main path, that I sense him. He stands, in the shade of a large tree, on a block of stone so that his small size is not immediately evident. As I look up the reptilian face, taking in the short arms, terminated into powerful triangular wings, and the cruel hooves, the sun disappears behind a dark cloud. The face is inscrutable, the enormous penis, half erect, exudes menace. I dare take a first picture that turns out blank, then try again, this time more successfully. I read the legend, “Le grand homme de la nuit”, and the name of the artist, Germaine Richier (1904-1959). I can no longer hear voices, nor the laughter of children playing on the grass. I feel the malevolent presence, and ask myself, was Germaine his victim? Suddenly I feel the need to move away from le grand homme.

I walk back to the museum, and look for you. “Did you see anything interesting?” you ask. “It’s a delightful place, and we must come back for another visit…” I reply cheerfully.

Inspired by a visit to the Kröller-Müller park and museum, near Arnheim, Netherlands

Germaine Richier (en français)

Control #TheDailyPost #MaiFeierTag

Today’s Prompt, May 2, 2017

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As we approach the well known street, the crowd gets denser, perhaps quieter too, as if listening to itself. There are many people here, young and old, in pairs or small groups. The air is crisp and the sky peppered with cotton-like clouds. Will it rain? People chat, laugh, stop at little stalls that sell food and drinks. Some carry flags, or small hand-written panels that proclaim peace, or the end of time.

We walk hand in hand in this familiar city, our home. We stop at a band, listen for a few minutes, walk on. There are speeches, some photographers stand on ladders, for a better view of the human sea. More people are coming. Residents sit at their windows, admiring the show.

At the limits, barring motors to access the streets, stand the city police, calm, reflective, attentive. Girls smile. Little ones in push-chairs look at the sky. You look at me and say: “You see, this is a great holiday, and all is in control!”

Picture: Sunday morning, May 1, 2017, Brandenburger Tor (Honoré Dupuis) 

Afrikanische Straße

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I leave the lutheran bells ringing clear, behind, the sky a dull lead blanket, but soon I see the green shoots: Nature, the knowing lover, is holding them back, in this chilled Sunday morning, as if to moderate our impatience. She knows how to prolong the foreplay, make us wait, nurse our lust, dream of future ecstasies.

The park is silent, even the birds talk in polite, muted voices. A few runners, the dog walkers, I must be the only tramp. The lake lies still, its waters not yet enticing: the beach is deserted, but for a couple of philosophical ducks. An old crucifix stands, alone, reflecting on a better, perhaps even, glorious past. Yesterday’s winds have covered the ground with small, brittle branches, it may rain soon.

The cool bier goes down so well, a not-quite-Spring treat, solitary pleasure. Some youths walk past, so quiet, survivors of some late Saturday’s party. I take my bulk further north, to the limit of the park; on the other side of the motorway lies the airport. The grumble of sparse traffic can be heard, faintly. The sport grounds are busy, with the serious shouts of enthusiastic soccer players. More dogs are entertaining their mistresses, bored, probably wondering about the human mind . The rain has started its cool morning exercise.

There are two small ponds before the street: I am back in Africa now. I follow Afrikanische for a short while, turn left on Transvaal: where else could I walk in a few minutes across thousands of miles? When I cross over Togo, the pavement is shiny with rain. Soon I find Kameruner: I am home. Girls are walking back to their nests, carrying bread.

Back to my space, I carefully recycle the beer bottle. Bless this city, and its inhabitants.

Image: Samuel Araya, via aeszaaesza.tumblr.com

A Walk in Sacrower Schloss Park

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The leafless trees look over the park, serenity reigns. Not quite free of ice, the Havel flows, almost with an excuse: it may be February, but winter is far from over. In the distance, through the mist, one can guess at the Glienicker Brücke, the bridge of spies. Many years have passed since then, since the hideous wall was removed, new trees planted, the park reopened, and the old church finally restored to its simple splendour.

The Schloss is still closed, its windows blind; a few steps away stands the millennium oak, witness to the folly of man. The old, tortured trunk still proud, even if half of it lays on the ground, finally resting. The path leads to the edge of Scarow, and further to the west, deep in the forest that surrounds the lake. There, in Summer, the young, and not so young, bathe and flirt in the nude, in the cleanest water around, under the shade of the trees. Now the woods are almost silent, if it were not for the woodpecker’s tireless effort. Half melted snow still lies on the ground, covered in patches with the small, pale bulbs of snowdrops.

The lake is frozen, the calm waters undisturbed by visitors. Nature is still asleep, and Spring a long way off.

Photo: Oak tree in Sacrower Schloß Park, © 2017 Honoré Dupuis

Reflections in a Mirror #WritersWednesday

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We retrace our steps, without intention, it just happens: suddenly we see ourselves, there at that terrace, one evening, or there, along those walls, pushing our bikes. It’s later at night, and the Neue Gallerie is not yet closed, we meet there, in a concert of bright lights and laughter.

That was three years ago, then it was Spring; how fast time goes in this City? Those ghosts are us, or perhaps, we have become them. We know those streets, we can follow our shadows. They, us, look at us, interested and tender, those younger faces, ours, so familiar, now observing us from the other side of the mirror.

But which side are we in?

 

Photo: inspired by the beautiful blog https://streetberlin.net/, street photography. berlin.  kulturforum. 2016 © martin waltz

Tempted #Sunshine #Rehberge

From the cheeky crew…

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A ray of sunshine, a reflection on the fresh snow: it is so tempting to think of the new year, and of Spring! Yet we are in winter, souls are hiding from the cold winds behind long coats and wooden scarves, the days are short. Only the ducks appear to be quite at ease in the icy water of the canal. We know it will come, after many other days of staying indoors, just popping out when the sun comes out…

Photo: Plötzensee, Berlin Wedding, © 2017 Honoré Dupuis

Mythical #DailyPost #FaustCity

Friday’s Prompt

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The clouds came with the giant moon, as if to hide us, humans, from the glare of its pitiless light. At the corner of our street workers rush home, to warmth, love and a well deserved rest. Friday night is for joy, dancing, the smiles of lovers, the hopes of poets, and, later, as ghosts start roaming the quieter streets, the shadow of Faust…

Bless be the City, and be pardoned those, who believe in the right of man to walk alongside the gods.

Image: Dr. Fausto by Jean-Paul Laurens

In Praise of Older Streets #BerlinDiary September 11

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We love the cobbled streets, the antique gas lamps. The older city still resists the onslaught of developers and speculators, the “Gentrifizierung” brigade, and it has allies. Yesterday, cycling our way from the Alex to Kollwitzplatz, and the charms of Prenzlauer Berg, we admired the contrasts, the moving groups, the bon-chic-bon-genre façon Berlin. And we enjoyed the ice-cream…

Closer home, back in proletarian Wedding, the new city remains loyal to its history, its heroes, and through the rumble of traffic, its wonderful parks and small lanes, its lakes. This the rough and tumble life of a city that has now grown back to its population of 1944: yes, 1944.

So, we too, remember 2001 and the victims, on the day, and ever since, of the wars that followed. Bless the cities that are reborn from the ruins.

Photo: Petra Flemming, Porträt Käthe Kolwitz, 1985, Stadt Museum, Berlin (“Stadt der Frauen”)

 

Longing #exit #City

Deutscher Dom, Gendarmen Markt
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Maybe one day we will miss the fog, the infernal traffic, the idiotic media, the inept politics… Of course, you might say it’s the same over there. I smile. It can’t be, and even if it were I long for the new, not the old.

We want to ride through the tree-lined streets, in a city where riding is the way to see, to go places. We want to visit the angels, the memorials to heroes, all the history of centuries past, to hear their tales, their longing too. We want to buy our meals at the corner of busy lanes, on markets overflowing with the richness of the South, sit in small cafés listening to jazz, building in our minds a limitless future.

Maybe we want even more, who knows, this is Faust’s city…

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