A Garden in the Rain

Garten bei Der Hasse, Lübeck

Später im Tag, nach den Regen.

The house dated to the 1200s at least, and had been renovated and restored several times since then, as one can imagine. As I arrived, low clouds scudded by overhead. The rain that had swept into Husum that morning on the teeth of a North Sea storm had caught up with me.

Thick walls, old walls, hidden behind a severe facade concealed the garden. It ran the length of the house almost, and held hedges and roses, plus a few other flowers. As I checked in, the rain began pattering down, as it would do intermittently over the next few days. Never hard, just a quiet, sound-swallowing misty murmur of drops that filled the air. No wind reached the ground because of the walls of the city and the houses. Grey and silver clouds raced eastbound overhead, but only the weight of rain stirred the leaves in the garden.

The air smelled wet, with a hint of ocean every once in a while. The Baltic lay several miles to the east and north. No major Hansa city sat directly on the water, because of storms and because of raiders. Cool and moist, lacking the soil-smell I usually associate with rain. Here, rain falls constantly, at least twice as much per year as in the Texas Panhandle, evenly around the year instead of in hard bursts.

Although the days had reached their longest, the rain discouraged loitering or casual sauntering. Not enough to deter the determined or the serious worker, but no one “hung out” for the sake of lingering. The temperature stayed in the low 60s to upper 50s, and wet. Hot tea felt as good between your hands as you cupped the mug as it did inside of you. But the birds didn’t mind. They murmured and chirped from hiding. Swallows dashed between the houses, soaring up then zooming down again.

At night the clouds sank lower. The garden’s shadows, such as they were, faded. No one spent the evenings in the garden. An old quiet filled the air, as if the house and grounds mused of days long passed, when the upper floors held the wealth of the Baltic, North Sea, and farther away, grain and timber, fabric and spices, furs and dried fish, the staples of the northern traders.

One afternoon, the clouds broke, the sun shone down. Long fingers of angled twilight tapped down from between the houses, throwing light into the garden, drawing colors and scents from leaves and soil.

Then the clouds returned, and quiet.


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