Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bonfire Night



This is our beach. Seriously. It is within spitting distance from our house. It's not on a lake or the sea, but on a big river called the Elbe, just downriver from Hamburg.
Without the fire and with a ship on it, it looks like this.




Our little town lies nestled into a wide, open country called "Marsch", flat lands that go on and on all the way to the North Sea, soft, rich meadows veined with little rivers and interrupted by copses of gnarled willow over which the wind blows without hinderances. if you find a place that is only a little higher up, like a dam, you can see forever.....



We moved here twenty-two years ago, from Southern Germany. The landscape there is so different.
There are forests and hills and mountains and rich fields with golden corn, and well, there are forests. Deep, dark, huge forests.
Here, there were none. Only these meagre stunted trees and the endless green.
And if ever a tsunami should hit this coast, it will roll all the way to our doorstep.
It was not easy getting used to this landscape, and to its people.
The landscape is rough, and the people are taciturn, gruff, with a very special kind of humor. They don't make friends easily, and they are not easy-going, either. On the upside, once you get to know them and they accept you, they'll stick with you for life. They won't talk a lot, but they sure know how to party.




Today is Easter Saturday. The one day in the year when the Marsh lights up with the fires.
In the morning, there will be no more than this: a big heap of wood, consisting of assiduously collected Christmas Trees and and garden cuttings. brought together by the local firefighters. Stands will be set up, and porta-potties, and a First Aid tent.




There were church services in the late afternoon, and now, after darkness has fallen, the fires are going up.
A ship  on its way upstream to the Hamburg Harbor will see our bonfire, and many others like it along its way, since the land is so flat.
These fires are a promise, and a welcome signal.
They promise us that winter is finally over, and they welcome the coming warmth and light of summer.
On a more mundane note, this are also the first official barbeque event of the year. The sausages are a little better smoked than normally, but they are delicious.
Right now, I'm sitting on the couch, in our living room, with the terrace door open to catch the scent of the fires, even if we can't see them.
The night is dry and not too cold. There will be a lot of people down by the beach, and many of them will be there to see the dawn.
Some of them will end up in the ER because they are drunk, or burned a hand, or fell into the water.
But in the end, once the sun is up, it will be Easter Sunday, and spring will be here.