The first snow of the year

The thing with snow in this part of Germany is that it’s usually short-lived so it is actually extremely stressful for people like me who love snow more than anything. As soon as it starts and the temperature is just below zero and some gorgeous white begins to blanket everything – even here in the city – I’m like: OH GOD THIS COULD BE IT. This might be the only day of snow we get this season. Cancel all plans. You CANNOT miss this. Ohmygodohmygod. Get gloves and a scarf. Where is a good place to enjoy this? I don’t know I don’t know. It might stop any minute now. I need a thicker coat because I’mma stay outside until it stops. WHERE IS THE CAMERA. I DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT SHOES FOR THIS. I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS SINCE LAST MAY. WHY HAVE I NOT BEEN PREPARING. PLEASE LET IT STILL BE SNOWING WHEN I’M DRESSED AND AT THE PARK. OK I’M OFFICIALLY PANICKING. OH GOD.

— And then I got to the park, and it was perfect. Just all white and quiet and peaceful, and soft and cold and lovely. A few people were walking their dogs. Cars’ headlights made the freshly fallen snow sparkle. And I was just wandering along, smiling like a lunatic, caught between the joy of the moment and the lingering fear that it might be over by the next day. I looked up at the planes coming in from Barcelona and Casablanca, dipping through the thick clouds, and I imagined the pilots announcing: “We’ll be landing at Cologne airport in approximately 10 minutes. Local temperatures are below zero and it is snowing heavily. Thank you for flying with us and have a great day.” And I could just hear the passengers groan about how much they missed the sun and the heat already, and I thought: YOU IDIOTS, you got this so wrong.

Snow turns the world into such a magical, beautiful place. How can you not want this every day?


Gray day

I read “Fall of Giants” until 4am last night. I finished it. The First World War is not an easy subject matter for those early morning hours but I couldn’t put it down. And I really wanted to get started on “Gone Girl”. I’ve been eyeing it, just sitting there on my nightstand. Now I can finally dig in – after wrapping up this post.

The roommate is home sick with a very unkind stomach bug that I’m really, really hoping I won’t catch. It’s been quiet and gloomy around here, each of us holed up in our bedrooms. Not really eating or talking.

So I went for a long walk in the afternoon, to the city park about 5 minutes from our apartment. It’s one of the city’s major recreational areas. Unfortunately, it’s located between two major Autobahnen (Germany’s speedways). The A3 and A4 intersect right at the north-west corner of the city park. And incoming flights to Cologne-Bonn Airport approach landing right above. I love seeing the planes fly so low right above me but- This so-called recreational area is not exactly quiet and idyllic, or really very recreational at all. The air was crisp (albeit polluted, one can safely assume) and dry and there were none of the usual freaks at the park, though, so I was glad I went. Oh, except for the middle-aged dude with the beer belly who jumped up onto tree branches and attempted to do pull-ups. Like: WHAT are you doing, sir? He was a little weird.

I’m typing this on my balcony. It’s almost dark out. I can’t see the sunset from here but I can tell by the dark blue of the cloudless sky that it’s just slipped past the horizon. I had to wrap myself in a cozy cardigan because even though it is August, this summer just hasn’t been kind: it was 8°C (46F) last night. It is chilly and dark out here but I can’t seem to move.

I put my book aside only moments ago; I read until my eyes couldn’t find the letters on the darkened pages anymore. There are no bugs or mosquitoes here, even by the light of my laptop screen; an unexpected convenience of city life.

I hear crickets and wind rustling in the trees, but mostly traffic noises – from the two big national highways and the railroad line that, together, form an almost perfect triangle around where I live. And yet, it’s a peaceful Saturday night. To me, now, right here, it is a quiet night. The traffic noises are so much part of this place, I forget what real quiet is; how deadly silent a night out in the country can be.

I hear the planes. I can see them, too. The airport is but 12 minutes away by car. When they cross the sky above my home, they are already flying low, approaching for landing, zeroing in on the runway lights. They’re mostly commercial planes – Germanwings, easyJet, AirBerlin – transporting people around Germany, Europe and Northern Africa. Sometimes I spot cargo planes; their body and wings look different, FedEx is printed on the side in giant letters. After sunset I follow their blinking lights across the infinite indigo; bright white in front and back, a red one on each side. I can see the planes long before I hear them but it’s the sound of the engines, so distinct and powerful, that gets me every time. I love living so close to an airport more than I can say. Each plane sparks my imagination and my passion for travel.

The book about Afghanistan is really good, by the way. It has, among other things, made me want to write again, and write better.