It is a travelling of melancholy, years since my last long train journey through Germany. Fog, low hanging November clouds, specks of light on grey green brown patterns, rows of trees marking edges and possessions. Horses, cows, a flock of geese, a single wading stork pass by the window. I have to switch trains three times to get to tubingen.
The Eastern country is old and roof tiles covered with mold, discolored facades, bales of hay, folded into white plastic covers, orderly stacked. Small curvy roads leading to tiny, invisible villages hidden behind rolling hills and yellow woods, merely imagined, church spires peeking over tree tops. Driftwood collecting under a medieval bridge. How long will it last? Maybe until the spring to be washed further downstream by the mass of molten snow, to travel like a living thing, the home of insects and birds. Home for everything that can hold on to it.
The cream the woman sitting next to me applies to her hands is the same that my mother used when I was a child, something I have not smelled for 20 years. This is the travel of melancholy and an attempt to reconnect with something that has long since become unknown. A landscape I once thought I knew but somehow unlearned. An overgrown graveyard, where people visited and went away, glad to turn their backs, once again. An old tune, hated but strangely appealing.
The cities start to look different as we cross the border that once divided the people. More geometric and modern, the edges grow rougher. I am going to where I was born, Western Germany, to give a talk about how writers imagined the American West. It is only now, half asleep on a train, that I seem to realize I have forgotten how to imagine the places I grew up with. Because I have changed, and my fear is, so have they.