"I am vast beyond all vastness,
I am small beyond compression.
So know my size and measure that
Against your mortal space."
Carolin Krug ascended to the turret in her new home in Dresden. The turret she claimed as her own. A strange structure on this inner city mansion, stuck high on its eastern side, once commanding views of much of the old town but now mainly mossy tiled roof tops, a small section of the River Elbe and Leidenstrasse.
In the distance she could see the sports stadium and see coal fed steam rising from where the railyards lay. She had recently seen an aerial photo of the town and these, the stadium and railyard, stood out as the clearest landmarks by which to locate Leidenstrasse and home.
She had made this tower above the street her own and with cushions strewn across one corner could lie as silent observer of her world. Although not to her mothers liking this solitariness was condoned by her father. The mother concerned at her growing isolation, the father proud of her growing inner strength.
Already she knew her past contacts no longer lay within her powers, but new ones offered scope for the one she must retain. Improbable contact that it was, their reciprocal strength endowed it and made it happen. She and he had already met, not in this time nor in this town but through one whose presence still haunted both time and place. She had now returned alone but filled with dreams upon which to dwell.
She could feel the music that was hers feeding on her thoughts. The music starting, that in starting, sounded notes that never end. Music designed for her, designed by him for them. Slowly her fingers rise tracing recent memory. Slowly turning, almost touching she feels the presence of Toms eyes. That longing presence linked to her eyes, links that will not, cannot be broken. Gentle shivers, pleasant shivers coursing through her body, is it memory or is she cold and tense? Her hand turns slowly to meet her eyes, the palm where he had almost been.
And this tower gives this dreaming strength. It leaves her, strongly aching, yearning, wanting. Such strong emotion underlain by that which is its shadow. Fear shadowed ache to which he was party. Toms fear had grown with her repatriation to this the town of her forefathers. Fear that seemed heightened by a hidden knowledge. It lay strangely alien in him, an alien space, a mental space he would not share with her. She sensed it was linked to her recurring themes, those dreams that left her totally frightened. And he did not return when she returned. He stayed on upon a further mission, one for which he must be alone. Again she sensed it was linked to her and the meaning he imparted to her images.
But here she could dream and watch. Grey suited men with upright bearing scurried from one end of mist to another. She had seen them at dawn when restless she had risen and found solace here. Umbrellas closely held for rain, these men were more serious than she had seen at her recent home in Perth. Here, one felt a sense of worry, of urgency disguised in brutal strength. The pace of walk, offset by evasive eyes told much of their threatened lives, of menace in political change. Carolins family had returned to Germany with some trepidation and this had increased as the hate filled coalition began to exploit its recent electoral victory.
And at a later time of day those victims of the times shuffled wearily by. Poverty and lack of prospects made them take on more villainous looks. She knew it was a false appearance but also knew she would avoid them when in the street, crossing over, remaining silent turning down her well fed eyes. Eyes told the story. Occasionally a child from the working areas would steal guiltily through her realm and glance up, linking fleetingly to her in her observatory. Dark eyes, hollow eyes that spoke of troubled homes.
There was a constancy in each day that she had noticed from her first entry to the tower. A little black and white dog owned its personal observatory. A ten-yard square in front of the opposite house was its domain except at night when its owner, the youngish red-haired lady, took him for a walk. This roving dog built its day around the ten-yard square, sniffing constantly among its pots. She could not help but notice the dog. Its excited bark and wagging tail attracted local attention, the dark suited men excepted. She felt a bond to that distant dog for it caused people to linger, reaching to pat its outstretched nose, pressed through the upper rails. She also felt that more fearful bond, this dog and her destiny.
It was the third day that she had occupied the tower. The street lay quieter enjoying the tranquility of spring, more empty now the butcher, his horse and cart had come, bartered, chatted and gone, the only record of their passing a pile of steaming dung.
The dog, its tail a vigorous fan, nudged keenly at the gate. A gate that, for once unlocked, did not close but bounced upon its post and left a wider gap. The dog, intrepid quick-witted explorer of limited space, recognised the chance. A blackwhite nose curiously appeared; the nose that defines dog. Against the post in eager sniff, its dog universe expands; a world of other dogs traced in their passing scents. From post to post, extra sniffs until at last the corner is reached and he rounds it into the private access lane. Now stillness, pointed, one leg raised; the dog leans forward, alert. Transformed now, in an instant, from exploring hound to ancient world protector; Dresdens most feared vermin hunter. A black white flash, a faster brown, the rodent spurts, the dog-flash follows. Crashing bins send debris flying. A dog, a rat, race in circles until at last the rodents defence, a change of course, a speedy exit, straight down into deep, dark cellar. No change of course defies this pursuer, aroused to full bore chase. And dog and bin and rat with howl, and crash and squeak disappear. A small black cloud rises to silence.
Anxious red-hair appears at the door. "Rover? Rover!". Perplexed, concerned, now at the gate. "Rover!".
Carolin, driven by the drama cannot help herself. She flings open her high window, lets in the world, betrays her privacy and calls The cellar, he went down the cellar." She has forgotten where she is, her words in English, her accent German. Red-hair looks up, waves a hand , shouts back in English "Thanks" , descends the steps with careful bin evasion.
Now ascending from that hole there emerges as one a figure, a red-haired lady, young and pretty, black and white dog all smudged. Black and white dress all smudged. A patting hand and soothing voice. A closing door and silence.
Carolin closes her window and settles down once more. Ten minutes pass and life takes on its normal pace until the recently closed door, into which the drama had receded, once more opens. Red-hair once more appears with black-white dog, but not as one. Rover is on a leash and the red-haired woman no longer wears the coal marked dress having changed into a neat floral skirt that is impeccably clean.
They cross the road, she looks up, smiles and then continues across the road. Carolin waits. She hears the knock, a soft knock, repeated several times. She hears her mothers voice and another persons more distant tones. "Carolin! Carolin!" her mother calls and she leaves her secret place. Timorously she descends, stopping half way down the stairs to lean against the rail. She can see them from here but she is not part of them; she is as close to her retreat as she can be and still be part of this.
The red-haired lady looks up and says. "Hello Carolin. Im Marlene Wiseman. I came to say thank you for your help. Well only partly, you spoke in English, and well, you can tell that I come from England and my little misadventure gave me the excuse to say hello."
Mother now rejoins "Weve just returned from Australia, Western Australia, its capital city, Perth." The adult women then point and counterpoint in conversation based on domiciles. Carolin observes. She cannot withdraw, would not withdraw but will not venture closer.
Especially now, for mother cannot resist and talks of Carolins isolation. By that universal right assumed by adults to discuss offspring as if absent, she endures observer status and hears how she pines for Australia, her well remembered rambling home.
From there the conversation shifts to the dog and Dresden life, so different from their English farm. The nearby Dresden country-fields have become a refuge sought on pleasant evenings. And Carolin now cannot escape; the wording binds her course.
Marlene says " I know, why doesnt Carolin come with me tomorrow? I will finish early and well take a picnic. Would you like that Carolin?"
She could not say no, would not say no whilst those eyes held hers. How could she politely do so.? Besides she didnt want to say no. She liked this young vivacious woman, her sprightly talk, her gentle laughter. Privacy versus company, each valued but not exclusive.
"Yes, Id like to come."
"Good. Ill see you about fivish. What sort of things do you like? Is she allowed to drink a little wine?
It seemed as though all were satisfied, the meeting had run its natural course, there would be another chance. Doorstep, hallway and stairway emptied as their occupants, each in contemplative reflection, moved back into personal realms.
At ten past five Carolin crossed the road. Dressed not in her best, but in clothes well suited to this venture. A simple frock of checkered blue, black shoes and dark grey socks. Her shoulder length, dark hair, severely brushed, glowed with life as with youthful step she first entered 18A Leidenstrasse.
The house was, as is common throughout Europe, one of those double storied attached dwellings squeezed into endless rows. Each had its character wrought by change as each owner cared, amended or neglected. This was one where all who had resided cared. This showed in neatly painted timbers, a few flourishing plants carefully placed within the limited courtyard space, tasteful awnings, and exterior surfaces, solid and well maintained. It was typical of the style of those who still had money but were not blatantly rich .
Inside the same order and taste prevailed but Carolins gaze was immediately drawn to the artefacts on display, the photos and posters on the wall. They were not German for each contained a script she had not seen before.
Marlene was busy in the kitchen and called out for her to enter.
Marlenes kitchen table was laid out in a manner that belied the difficulty of the times; a loaf of bread, real butter, a range of sausages, a small bottle of Spanish wine and a collection of delightful fruits. There were also glasses, knives and cloths all ready to be packed. Carolin assisted, heeding well Marlenes concern that each was properly wrapped.
When they were ready Marlene took the basket and attached it to her cycle. This bike, with its rear parcel holder, a battery light, black frame and silver guards, was well suited to their purpose, taking away the burden of their bountiful load. As Marlene strapped the hamper in place she paused to say, while glancing at the wall, "Theyre Norse. Viking actually. Its a hobby of mine."
Now ready, with Carolin leading Rover, they set off down Leidenstrasse for the fifty minute walk out of the city. Marlene had been here six months but knew far more of the towns history than did Carolin, for Carolin was just a young girl when her family went away eight years ago, on postings ending with their two years in Australia.
Carolin was well versed in the citys links to Wagner, for this was her fathers special field. However, Marlene did what Carolins father did not, she talked with animated interest at each spot they passed. The burned down cinema, the infamous riot, Wagners flight, all these helped them pass the time.
"This is where the Titchatsheks lived. When Minna uncovered Wagners affair with Mathilde Wesendock this is where she came to stay. They were her friends. They had lived not far from here but he was such a wanderer, both maritally and geographically. They didnt spend much time together after that affair and Minna spent most of the rest of her life here in town and nearby Chemnitz; he in Zurich, Paris and lots of other places ."
A little further on.
"You see that shop there across the road, theres a good gossipy story about that. Even before he met Mathilde he was unfaithful and everyone seemed to know it, even though he was in Switzerland and only Minna was here in Dresden. The owner of that shop is supposed to have proposed to her. The thought of this bland man compared to Wagner, apparently led to them being reconciled for a while."
It was not until they left the city that they talked of themselves.
Marlene was born of an English father and a German mother and had lived all of her life, up to this year, in England. It was not said but Carolin guessed her age was a little more than twenty-
five. Her mother and father had died within two years of each other of an illness her English grandparents blamed on the war, on gas of some kind, perhaps an experiment gone wrong. Last year her grandmother on the German side had died leaving all of her estate to Marlene. Not that it was much of an estate, especially now, and Marlene was forced to sell. That was what she was doing here in Dresden and when this was done, on to France, to complete the sale of a small family interest there.
By this time they were well into the countryside and could see numerous fields, most dotted with sheep. And throughout all of this small glades of wild tree growth covering small, flowing streams. At last they found a field empty of sheep, climbed a stile and selected their picnic spot.
Soon the cloth was laden with sausage, bread and wine, ready and exposed. The basket, empty, stored alongside. The young women sank onto the cloth each selecting an item. It was here in this tranquility that the situation changed.
It cannot ever be known what caused the action that followed next. Perhaps a hunters loud cracking shot, or movement of the breeze. It was as slight as the fluttering of a wing. However, the events that followed do not fit into that philosophical pattern of a beautiful butterfly in the Amazon impacting on the world. It turned out to have no consequence but whether it was a natural part of nature or not the nature of sheep led to a new equation.
The first equation had been two fields, their contents and a hedge. One field of fifty sheep , the other containing in its south west corner a well laid picnic, at which two women sat, and a singular dog reclined.
The leading sheep began the new equation. Two fields remained as did the hedge but to these are added a previously unseen gap. So now one field is empty while in the other, in its south west corner are fifty confused sheep, a not so well laid out picnic, two confused young ladies and one not so confused singular dog, happy in extreme.
Now, an equation such as this does not last long in nature, for although nature is known to abhor a vacuum, it cares nought for overcrowding, either. It is a further fortunate aspect of nature that in such situations it finds a willing aid. An aid with superb skill and timing, that needs no prompting to play its part. Such an aid was Rover, that superb rodent chaser.
But Rover, superb dog that he was, knew not what sort of dog he was, and sheepdog he was not.
With sheep in front and sheep behind his chaos mounted sharply. A charge to the fence, a flight to the stream, sheep going hither and elsewhere.To Marlenes alarm and the girls delight Rover took command but riotous pleasure was his right and this he fully filled.
What had been an ordered hamper, of sausage, bread , wine and fruit, now lay trodden amongst the flock. Only the apple in Carolins hand and wine in hostess glass were left to feast the day.
Calm settled as exhaustion bled Rover of his speed and with a kick of heel, sheep retreated to the furthest corners. A new, more ordered equation prevailed which nature could sustain.
Forlorn look turned to resigned laughter as Marlene sank upon a tussock. "Let us be grateful O Lord for that which we are about to receive" she said and drank long and lustily from the glass. Marlene then lingered finger on the glass and with wistful emphasis hinted "This would be better with wild berries for afters" . She quickly rose and dashed off to the woods.
There was no choice but to follow. With the dog now playing around her heels Carolin joined her hostess optimistically seeking ripe berries from wild, thorny strands and bending wild cherry laden branches.
In this manner they moved from field to wood and from the ruins, claimed pleasure. But as dusk closed in and the bright star appeared above the horizon they turned back along the road, satisfied, at ease, in company of their wayward dog.
"What are those markings in your house?"
"The writing you saw is called runes. Theyre like an ancient alphabet but are meant to also have magical meaning. Their shape comes from the way they were written, straight lines scratched on wood or stone."
Marlene then told of her interest and it was quite apparent her knowledge was considerable, more than the hobby she had earlier claimed. In fact, she had written several papers, all unpublished. It was not as though they lacked authority or scholarly ability for many less worthy papers had been published and acclaimed. It was not this that accounted for her unpublished works but the fact that she was a woman. This seemed to put off publishers, much to her annoyance, but diminished neither her interest nor her perseverance.
It was almost fully dark when they entered the house and Marlene seemed keen to show off her collection to this more than curious girl. When Carolin left a little later, they both knew she would return. Marlene, drawn by the girls attention, compelled to an action she had not done before. She offered to Carolin a small rock inscribed with a water-worn inscription.
As Carolin walked across the road, the glowing moon rising fast, she felt those other glows, a day of exercise in outdoor setting, a mind challenged, a new possession of special import. A friend. A dog. A day well spent.