Many years ago my lovely husband was extremely ill. For several days he hovered between life and death. It was this time of year, and I remember the hot, airless days I spent next to his bed in neurological intensive care and the long, light evenings when I cycled to the River Weser and found some peace watching that fast-flowing water.
On one particular day, a Thursday, things were particularly grim. I had made getting him well again the centre of my existence and did every single thing I could think of which might help. That evening when I got home the tree he loved most, which stands in front of our house, was humming and thrumming from millions of insects, and its fragrance took my breath away.
Next day, before I went to hospital I cut a (very small) branch off the tree and took it with me. The doctors and nurses already knew that we were a slighly odd couple, and accepted that I lay this (very small) branch across his chest, carefully of course under the ventilator tubes and between all the IVs. I told him to think about the tree. Later I put it on the windowsill, and when he was taken off the ventilator next morning, and woke up, the nurses showed him the branch from his tree.
Text in German and English: https://www.oxfordlieder.co.uk/song/1937
Farmhouses like ours mostly had trees planted in front of them, they were called ‘House Trees’ and should divert lightning, or divert bad luck in general. They could be any type of tree, but the best and most preferred was – like ours – Der Lindenbaum, the linden tree.
In 2011, Japan was hit by a catastrophic Tsunami. We have a wonderful friend who is classical concert pianist, and he and a friend of his organised a concert in aid of Japan. They performed ‘Winterreise’, composed by Franz Schubert the year before he died.
I find it a tough piece to listen to. As a British person, I always had the need for everything to have a happy end, or for a laugh or joke to be slotted – Shakespeare-wise – into the tragedy. As a German, I’ve had to learn to not make the joke, not to try and lighten the situation.
Work in progress.
Anyway, Song No. 5 is ‘Der Lindenbaum’
Text in German and English Translation:
Our tree is buzzing and thrumming again these days, the insects no fewer and the heady fragrance no less because of Corona, and for the first time we came to the idea of making our own Linden tea. Chilled, it’s the taste of summer, and for me, of home.
And, as we’re thinking about trees, I want to share a favourite poem with you, with great thanks to my dear friend Pam Valleni who introduced me to Shel Silverstein’s work many years ago.
The Cabin Fever part: