by Eduard Schmidt-Zorner
winter’s arrival means fight
he does not knock on the door
he smashes it
A line of rocks marks a ridge overgrown with heather which leads down to a sandy bay at the headland. On an elevation, behind a patch of marram grass, a dilapidated cottage.
The walls are made from natural stone, the roof shingles are covered with moss, the frames of the small windows are jammed and swollen having been exposed over years to moisture and rain. In the nearby water bobs an open boat with fishing lines and nets.
Close to the house stands a rusty fish trap and a few lobster pots.
There are remnants of red paint on the door. Next to it leans another door, freshly painted in blue.
The shed is open and shows shelves, barrels, carpenter equipment and fishing tackle.
Across the forecourt, covered by weeds, lies a broken mast and next to it an anchor.
The fishermen have moved away from this area, left with memories of the rattling and ringing of the rigging, the whispering wind and the lashing, roaring surf, the rubbing of the oars against the rowlocks.
The sight of the lonely, ugly and abandoned neighbouring house fills him with melancholy. The absence of sounds of other people does not bother him.
There is only the clinking of the aeolian harp hanging from a sycamore tree.
He steps outside the door and smokes his pipe. A tame magpie hops beside him. She has only one wing. He found her and took her in. He is her protector.
She jumps around and uses her remaining wing as a crutch. She hopes that he will unfasten his boat and row out on the water, because this would mean fish for her meal.
But on this day, he does not row out. A storm is forecast.
The sky shows a display of all shades of grey, from light grey, through dark grey to deepest dark grey.
Gusts blow sand and loose grass over the shore stones.
He pushes the door further open. It jams, the house has settled. He had smoothened the blue-painted door and made it fit to be installed when the paint has dried.
Inside a table, two chairs, a cupboard, an unmade bed, logs stacked up next to a round iron stove. On a side table an old-fashioned radio running on batteries, no television, in the corner a heap of books.
The old radio is only there to hear the news and weather forecast. He is not interested in talk and sermons.
In the country which he had left behind, he had hated television. He hated all those newsreaders, all those and other types of “teachers” with their eyebrows and forefingers raised, who all rebuke those who think differently, giving marks or awarding points.
The exclusion of TV was part of his fight against the system.
It becomes stormier.
A new fight is waiting for him.
He hastens to pull in the boat and turns it over so that the storm cannot catch and lift it. He carries the blue door into the house. He is particularly worried about the shed gate. It is exposed to wind and weather. A hinge is broken.
Inside the shed he pushes a heavy chopping block against one wing of the gate.
Outside the storm blows up its cheeks. A gust runs against the shed. Light falls into the shed for a moment because the gate gives way. He braces himself against it.
The magpie, he brought to safety, jumps excitedly back and forth on a shelf. In the lower shelf she has a wooden box in which she sleeps and rests.
The storm begins, it roars and rages.
He battles against the wind force, holds the gate with one hand and fetches a lumber to prop it up. He nails a batten right across the two wings to the frame on both sides thus strengthening the gate.
It works, the gate is not moving an inch.
The fight against the element, this old battle of mankind against wind and severe weather conditions is won, for the moment.
The house gives shelter, the storm’s voice is less audible. He lights the stove to make hot water for a tea, which he will thin down with some whiskey, and to boil a few mussels.
The magpie follows him into the house. He caresses her plumage. Poor little bird, he says.
He lights a candle in a lantern. The cottage is not connected to the mains, that means no bills and no visits by the meter reader, who would disturb his seclusion.
Making frugality the purpose of life.
For re-collection. Re-flection. To spell nature, to give nature its meaning back.
Eduard Schmidt-Zorner is a translator and writer of poetry, haibun, haiku and short stories.He writes in four languages: English, French, Spanish and German and holds workshops on Japanese and Chinese style poetry and prose.
Member of four writer groups in Ireland and lives in County Kerry, Ireland, for more than 25 years and is a proud Irish citizen, born in Germany.
Published in 76 anthologies, literary journals and broadsheets in USA, UK, Ireland, Japan, Sweden, Italy, Bangladesh, India, France, Mauritius and Canada.
Writes also under his pen name: Eadbhard McGowan