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Pastoral with contemporary ruin

Von Autor Erdmann Wingert

The dream of country living can become a nightmare. Or an adventure.

The first wind gusts had the charm of novelty. They howled through the ash grove that screened the house from the west wind, made the chimney wobble, combed the sedge that covered the salt meadows around our country estate flat.

Our estate! Though it was only a farmhouse in a bog, deeply dembedded in thickets of nestles, we never missed an opportunity to use that ennobling term when describing our new domicile to friends. We learned only later that many of them called it a “half-ruin” – so much later that we didn’t care, since in the meantime we had installed a functioning toilet and replaced the windows on the upwind side.

Not that we had any choice. We had been warned, particularly by locals who saw themselves as being on a first-name basis with the forces of nature. Hubristic and deluded, we sought a rural idyll near the long-vanished city of Rungholt, where the great Manndrenke once drowned with all his vassals and livestock. But this flat bit of exposed seafront was our Eden, our Orplid, as the poet Eduard Mörike called his island of the blessed.

When the first storm arrived, I was instantly reminded of childhood nights spent in Berlin during Allied bombing campaigns …