Friday, May 2, 2008

Salzburg, 18.7.03: Evening Storms and Nazi Secrets

Occupying a wet bench this morning. Fierce storms about 4 P.M. yesterday with high winds and rain into the night. As we walked over this morning, I saw lots of branches torn from limbs. The Schloss gardener is using his leaf blower—an intrusive, atmosphere-polluting and quintessentially American device in this quintessentially American enclave—to blow leaves from the lawn. Nothing too good for the Americans in Europe. We’ll out-green-law ‘em and show ‘em how to do it right in the process, by golly.

My mountain clad in beautiful clouds today. I’ll drop the cutesy pretense with quotation marks—it’s mine mine mine! In the sense about which Georgia O’Keefe wrote when she said that, if you paint a mountain, it becomes yours…. I suddenly realize I’ve been writing this mountain for a week; that makes it (them, more precisely) mine.

Steve has just walked up and reminded me the mountains were crystalline clear as we walked over a moment ago. The onion-dome tower of the church at the elder home was glorious against them. Shows you just how quickly the weather changes here, and, in particular, what a personality my mountains have.

I just noticed someone has moved the top piece to one of the two pillars leading to the Leopoldskron pond. Right as the walkway ends at the lake in front of this bench are two square pillars with iron hinges in them. They obviously once had a gate.

I knew, could tell my looking, that the tops moved and the insides were hollow. One has been slightly askew ever since I arrived here.

They’re sinister to me. I connect them with the remark the Indian man made to me early in the week re: how no one knows what dark things occurred here in the Nazi period. They look ugly-functional-heavy, like other things I’ve seen the Nazis put up, particularly that vile crypt under Braunschweig cathedral.

As with the crypt, they do have a dark feel to them, as if they experienced who knows what vile acts? Mareille says the Braunschweig crypt was used for occult acts, possibly human sacrifice.

One of the themes of Tielsch’s book is how the Nazis gradually tried to repaganize holidays like Christmas and Easter. The children were taught in school that Easter was “really” an old Germanic holiday centering on Ostrava, and that the egg (fertility) and lamb symbols both came from pagan days.

She says the Catholic farmers and villagers of southern Moravia simply ignored all this, and the churches remained full, with beautiful music. (She’s frank, though, about the fact that people who reported her parents for infractions like treating foreign prisoners [father was a doctor], giving vouchers for baby clothes to Czech women, getting milk and eggs from the grandparents’ farm, or having a tiny hole in their blackout screen) were fellow villagers, sometimes relatives, who sang just as heartily at the midnight Masses at Christmas and Easter.

What did the church dignitaries think, I wonder, after inviting the Nazis into Austria and blessing their cause? How did they respond as the movement became more overtly anti-Christian?

Another fascinating detail her book mentions is that, on Easter Sunday in 1940, I think it was, the sky over Austrian and all of Europe became blood red. She says at the same time there were fierce magnetic storms in America. Makes you wonder if something was stirred up in the elements with all that occult activity going on, or if God was trying to get attention in the midst of it all and warn where things were headed.

I suddenly realize I have not said what (besides the grim design) of these pillars in front of the pond makes me wonder about their association with dark Nazi doings. It’s the hollow interior. I have a feeling, totally unfounded but hard to shake, that something’s inside them (or has been). What that something would be, I couldn’t say. I don’t want to look inside.

Final thoughts as I leave my mountains? I’m not good at goodbyes. I feel the Proustian insight deeply, that leave-taking is a little death.

They are so beautiful, though, and it’s consoling to know they’ll remain even when I’m going in all senses of the word. It’s that longevity of mountains, and their seeming oblivion to human cycles, that makes them so appealing. This has to be why they figure so largely in world religions including Judaism as symbols of God’s encircling arms or unshakeable love and protection.

I clearly do have mountain blood in my genes, and was drawn to mountains even as a child, when I’d war (in vain) for my father over his insistence that we vacation at the beach. The mountains draw me, and I feel at home in them as no place else.

The colors of the pond and sky—green, blue, gray, and white—are so restful. I’m grateful for such a beautiful spot to read, write, and think in for a week. Can now smell the pond as the ducks stir it up and the sun creeps to the north shore. A dank smell, undertones of fish and the mud at the bottom. Under the darkening sky, the pond is greener, the mountains more blue and silvery gray. Their green patches, both fields and trees, recede into the mountains. One brilliant yellow leaf is sailing west in front of me, its colors caught beautifully by the sunshine.

Uh oh. Angry ducks. They were sunning on the bank and a very frisky pair of retrievers, one golden, the other a black lab, has run up to them. Such a flipping, flopping, and quacking you’ve never seen and heard. One nosy large drake who saw all this and sailed with his harem across the pond has come to investigate and is staring at me head on from out in the pond, cocking his head first this way and then that. I don’t know if he’s curious because he saw the dogs’ owner throw a stick there, or if this is his way of waning me and the dogs to leave the ducklings—his ducklings—alone.

Are there water snakes in Austria? If not, then I don’t know what I just saw swim across snout raised in front of me. The dogs’ activity is making everybody curious. I devoutly hope if it is a snake that it didn’t land east of me and is planning to give me a nasty surprise by slithering past my feet in a moment.

The dogs are singularly uninterested in the ducks. It’s tricks they want. And how they enjoy the water!

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