It's your old fuzzy pal Marko with another percolating pint of profundity. 'Tis Coffee Hour, Tea Time, a Hot Cocoa Hootenanny, the Era of Eggnog -- Or simply, a place to rest your heels and wet your whistle here in a quieter quarter of the vast orange cesspool. Sit a spell and spin a story to share.
My writing environs are somewhat unusual today. I'm off in the mountains that form the border between the Czech Republic and Poland. I've got a bitsy little netbook computer with a clumsy keyboard to plickity-tlip on. Can't even get a good clickity-clack out of this thing. No sign of a Spell Check app hidding among the spruce covered hills either, so it's bound to be a bumpy ride.
The usual disclaimers also apply here. The comments are open to all and everything while my usual yowling that fills the void beyond the ginger hairball may be safely ignored.
I'm seated with my back to one of the five windows of a partially spruce panneled room under a heavy beam braced ceiling. The walls above the panneling are mostly roughly smoothed wooden beams painted with a thick brown paint, the spaces between the beams filled with thin boards, packed with clay and plaster and coated with whitewash.
Around all four walls are hung hunting trophies. Nothing glass-eyed and grinning though. Mostly bits of roe deer craniums with their delicate, pronged antlers still attached neatly mounted on little shields of stained wood. There are a few racks from larger deer, they seem enormous among the roe deer remnants. And there's one tail fan from a black pheasant with the date and place it was killed in gold paint on the curiously shaped bit of wood it has been attached to.
A couple of signed lithographs of roe deer, a monocrome painting (perhaps ink wash? watercolor?) of a black pheasant displaying his tail while a couple of curious females peer over the grass behind him. Another lithograph on the opposite wall of a Springer Spaniel, or similar pooch, with a limp rabbit clamped in its mouth. Two small oil paintings both featuring a broad stretch of mountain river with pine covered hills and ragged, snowy peaks in the background of a scene that wasn't painted from any of these windows. You don't find peaks like those in the Czech Republic. For ragged, steep and rocky you've got to head into Slovakia or preferably south into the Austrian Alps. And now I've noticed that the painting that was always here is gone. A deftly rendered oil painting, larger than the painting of the black pheasant, showing a snow covered lane in a little village with the light low and rosy, the shadows cool and blue-violet. It could have been painted in almost any small village around here. Not now of course, the fields around here are green and liberally dotted with yellow wildflowers.
I miss that painting.
Above the high, beige-curtained windows are wooden shelves that display a few odd pieces of ceramics, mostly jugs and pitchers with only two that seem to belong to each other. In the corner of the room opposite my seat there is a broad, squat, brown glazed tile stove with a broad sheet of iron to cook on and two little ovens with metal doors that rise in a chest-high tower and are topped by a jointed length of thick iron stovepipe that doubles back over the stove before vanishing into the wall.
Most of the furniture in this room, our dining room for our stay here, are pine benches covered with a motley collection of cushions and matching pine tables. There's a large, cream-colored, chipped paint slathered, cupboard taking up one corner. It's topped with a small, kitschy ornate porcelean clock and a carved wooden figurine of the patron of these mountains, he looks a bit like a flat-hatted Gandalf, complete with long pipe-- I think someone has lost his staff. In the stories however, he's a character more akin to Paul Bunyan with a bit of Tom Bombadil mixed in. He's partially hidden by a dusty tangle of plastic plant, some sort of ivy perhaps. Whatever it's supposed to be, it's balanced by a different plastic plant on the opposite end of the cupboard. Some of the plastic leaves cascade over the glass doors of the upper secion of the cupboard. there are three cream painted, wood framed doors, each featuring the same large sticker of a bunch of multicolored pastel roses that doesn't do much to conceal the oddments of ceramics and bric-a-brac adorning the shelves behind them. Shall I now describe the old, steel grey Panasonic television on the table covered with the brown checkered plastic table cloth?
Maybe not. I suppose none of this is terribly interesting. I don't really expect this is going to be widely read and appreciated. But for me, writing isn't always about communication. I enjoy the act of writing. It's a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle; finding pieces, making connections, and taking a moment to admire the results before lifting it by one corner and trying to fold it back into the box without it falling completely apart-- oh, wait, I think I've muddled my metaphor. I will sit back a minute after I've finished writing before I publish it. Perhaps publishing is like putting the puzzle away. It will then be a puzzle for someone else to put together. Hopefully it will hold together. Hopefully there won't be too many pieces that have fallen out. I don't know why I put puzzles back into the box like that. I myself don't want any pieces stuck together before I begin a puzzle. Must be really annoying to tear one of my puzzles apart-- so much time lost in destroying the puzzle just to rebuild it. And here I've built a puzzle of words and stuffed it in a box. And here you come along to tear it apart piece by piece, piece from piece-- starting up in one corner and working your way through this 1000 piece puzzle. And when you've finally reduced my words to a jumbled, multicolored pile you can flip over the ones that are showing their backs to you, sift out the edge pieces, and begin to put it all together. Good luck, and patience to you as you attempt to make sense of this.
I'm sitting here watching one of the most wonderful people to have shared a portion of my life get a fire started in the stove and sweep up some of the mess of splinters and dust, bits of bark and ash that have accumulated on the floor. I'm curious to see how long the wood I split this morning will last. We've just returned from a long hike up, up, up along a ridge and around and back down, down, down before climbing the hill, as the rain began, for home. We're, all of us, a little lacking in energy and eagerly anticipating dinner. My little family is enjoying a long weekend in a cabin, more properly called a chalupa , with a couple of friends and their kids. Oh, and we have one girl on loan from her parents. 4 adults and 6 children, relaxing with various games and unhurried tasks, as the rain falls outside on the pasture around us and the forests that stretch on beyond and over the rising lines of hills. We've been coming to this place, with various configurations of friends, for a dozen years or so-- once or twice a year, in the spring and autumn.
The man who rents this place to us lives just down the hill from us. He's an interesting character-- well, I find him interesting. His last name is Schlitz and is related to the beer brewing American family of the same name. He has a shelf of Schlitz Beer coasters and cans and things that people have given him over the years. Less than a week ago he was lying in a hospital in Prague after a procedure to clear out a narrowed artery ended up causing a minor stroke. Now he walks with a walker and has said he'll have to sell off or slaughter his cow and goats-- at least until he's better able to take care of his animals again. Living on his own at age 73 I suppose he's just being practical but we've always looked forward to visiting him and seeing his collection of critters. Everyone in this whole valley knows him. He was something of a caretaker for the forests here for most of his life. I think he looks like a white-haired Charlton Heston.
When we arrived yesterday and he told us about his hospital stay and told us about how he'd have to stop caring for any animals for awhile he looked up at me and said, "70 years and I didn't even have a health insurance card, but the last three years have been ... this is what the end looks like." -- said with a grin and a glint in his eye but I know that not that long ago he was having radiation treatments for some form of cancer. So I wonder how much longer we'll be coming here. How many more times will I be able to sit under these antlers? Many of the people who usually come with us to this retreat in the mountains did not come this week. Of the four adults here, I'm the only man; divorces have also trimmed our troop. Maybe, even if the seemingly unsinkable Schlitz recovers fully, we'll be seeking a smaller place to rent as our children get older and are less interested in spending their vacations with their parents. There are a lot of years in this place, this room, and I'll be sorry to say goodbye to it. This visit has a special feel to it. I find myself staring at the carpet, trying to memorize the pattern. I hope we manage to spend an evening with Mr. Schlitz before we leave.
Supposedly there are lynx stalking the forests here again. They're slowly moving back into the area from the northeast. I spent some time examining tracks in the mud and sand today: roe deer, wild boar, a big horse of the working variety, and the occasional large dog. I left a few tracks of my own.
I hope I'll be back to leave more tracks in the autumn.