Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Curious Case Of Otto Stein


Otto Stern was born with a very unusual condition. Stern whose Father died when he was only a young lad, was brought up after the age of five solely by his mother, Anna, and his older sister, Eva. His mother, Anna, was a sensible and sensitive women, who possessed that well balanced combination of everyday Bavarian practical sense with a considerable degree of artistic talent.

For years, and particularly during the last few years of Otto senior's gradual "fading" (as they called it politely) from his environment and family, Anna, had gradually submerged her whole being into every facet of the family's daily existence, until she totally forgot about those remote interests and passions. At times, young Otto would remember his mother simply standing, motionless for long moments, over the old clay kitchen basin sink, as she just watched the winds come down from the Alps and play amongst the branches of the majestic apple tree in their back-yard. Then suddenly, the spell would be broken, and she would awake, not like the pristine sleeping princess of fairy tales, but more like a dowdy Cinderella, being brought back to the reality of peeling spuds and cleaning dirty clothes for a whole household.

And yet how any life can pass so quickly this way, she would ponder, looking down at the aging skin upon her now not so tender hands. Yet, how could it be any other way, for despite everything she never failed to love what she received in life, Otto was still a good man, brought low by that terrible curse, which, if anything re-enforced her affections for him, and for the children, both who were healthy and unusually intelligent. Eva was the quieter of the two, older by four years, introverted, and something of a loner, even as a baby, she seemed to always eschew the company of others, preferring to observe her surroundings without the need for direct human involvement. She, was nevertheless, close to Otto, whom she often referred to affectingly as the “baby”, even after he had reached the age of ten, and, this could annoy him grealty.

Young Otto, took after the old man in many ways, he enjoyed the outdoors, and, would ramble for hours, often with Jess, their old black Labrador for hours around the village’s surrounding woods and hills. During his ramblings he’ll gotten to know from an early age a lot of the folk from the hinterland, at times he’ll spend the entire afternoon for example in Siegfried’s blacksmith workshop, where the lad was always welcome, so long as he didn’t ask too many questions to the old man when he was busy, as Siegfried could on occasions bark and curse at the implements of his trade when things went wrong!. Still, Otto never minded the old man’s curses, they were amusing and colourful to him, to Otto the process of wielding in definable shapes the raw materials of life, was akin in his young mind to some type of magical process, which old Siegfried had observed in the child from his wise side way glances on occasions. Another, favourite hideaway Otto liked visiting on his ramblings was the boathouse on the lake of a local prince’s estate, here everything in the world was clam, serene, wonderful, here he could spend hours under the distant canopy of the Prince’s castle, letting his ideas form like the tiny ripples that came and went with the wind and the harvest men.

It was to such places that he had hidden away in again, when, eventually Otto senior in the early September days of Autumn 1955 finally passed away in the late evening just as darkness fell. Although, Anna expected it to happen, his now, actual none living presence, confirmed by the black coffin in the house for a few days after (as was custom in these parts) shocked here more than she ever thought possible. And so, half in a desperate need to escape the narrow confines of customs and memories in the village, she decided shortly after Otto's funeral, and, after many years of neglect to take the two youngsters a couple of times each week day to a place she visited years ago, hidden deep in the surrounding woods, a secret place known only to a few, a place where she half remembered miracles once happened. So in the succeeding days that followed, all three of them, set off, a few times each week, with paints and canvasses, and with that vague hope that she might be able to teach them something other than the unbending customs and habits of place and time. This is what she believed painting could do for people, let them see again, that's what she thought!... let them see the world as it is…..and yet how innocent she was to believe this too… a mature women, with her husband just dead... at least this what some of the villagers thought as they saw her, almost without a care, strolling off each time...what was she really up too, some of them shrewdly wondered. It's not natural to be so content after a bereavement, is it??

Yet, she didn't care any longer what they thought, still, if only in the beginning she knew where her paintings would eventually lead, to those domains, few imagined ..... the strange tales and stories that would brew, one wonders would she have begun in the first place. However for now, Anna, was beginning to feel oddly light, fresh, even young again...she still loved her dead husband's memory ..... however as time went on, his passing became to her a kind of blessing, she felt at times a little guilty about .....