Little House on the Heide
Herr K’s Finger

We finally planted a cherry tree. Actually, the wonderful Herr K (who replaced the miserable Herr G after he ghosted us) planted the tree. Or an employee of Herr K did the digging and heavy lifting, since Herr K wasn’t able to do much physical work due to an accident.

He had recently severed a finger, which had to be sewn back on. We corresponded over the fall and winter about the plantings and about his finger. Traversed by Frankenstein scars, it can now bend to a right angle, but it will never be quite the same – a reminder, he said, not to be so careless ever again. 
Along with the cherry tree, Herr K also planted a row of bushes — lilac, hawthorn, jasmine — intended to block out the view of the road and of the blue blob – the Rights’ above ground pool. I wanted to drive out much earlier to have a look at the new plantings, but one thing led to another over the winter and then suddenly we, like the rest of the world, plunged into an unforeseen set of circumstances.

We attempted to homeschool O while cursing the spotty internet and toilet paper hoarders. Then R returned from Spain earlier than planned and the four of us played a lot of cards in quarantine, our nights and days punctuated by the sound of neighbors clapping and sirens blaring.

On Easter Sunday we finally drive out. The bushes look small and inconsequential, a line of twigs in the sandy soil. Like two stranded seamen, the Rights wave with both arms as soon as they see us pull up. We wave back, just as starved of contact, just as stranded in this new reality. The pool, I notice, isn’t such an eyesore anymore since they wrapped it in bamboo.

When M and I first talked about the plantings, I started using the verb ausblockieren, a Germanized version of to block out. M kept telling me there was no such word. I thought he was being pedantic, unreceptive to my bilingual creativity. But now I appreciate the absence of the word in an otherwise verbose language. If I have learned anything in the last few weeks it is that the things I can’t see are still there.

And somehow this whole undertaking seems grotesque in the face of a global pandemic – the desperate need to mark a boundary, the whiney personal symbolism of planting a cherry tree, the bourgeois self-help of blogging about a second home while most of the humans on the planet are sheltering in overcrowded spaces. Like Herr K’s finger, the world is hanging on, but it will never be quite the same. The question is, will we have learned not to be so careless again?
Though I don’t deserve it more than anyone else, I am grateful to have a plot of land to retreat to, so much open space to roam, a cherry tree to watch blossom and grow. Back in the careless days of late 2019, when we had talked about how the sun would rise behind the tree in the mornings, Herr K had said: What more could you need?