Autumn // Herbst

Autumn, is that you? You snuck in the back gate, didn’t you, clipping an hour or so of light from the evenings, pulling armfuls of red leaves down from the trees. But you’re looking good, you’re looking good. I can’t help but note the pumpkins are selling out faster than the shops can stock them, and lebkuchen is already on the supermarket shelves. Please don’t skip ahead too quickly.

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I was never much one for seasons – I was happy with just one, Summer. At a stretch, I could do Spring, because Spring carries with it this sense of excitement, anticipation. My mother, on the other hand, World’s Best Gardener, has always waxed lyrical about the seasons, Autumn being her favourite. To me, Autumn was always a quick slide into Winter. I could understand its pull – red leaves, pumpkin soup, cosy nights, the smell of wood smoke – but Winter was always waiting.

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Autumn in Mum’s garden.

Since being here, I’ve started to get the whole season thing. Parcels of time, so neatly delineated, the switches so obvious, the markers of time so clear. Winter is stark, naked, freezing. Spring air rustles with new growth. Summer days are long and warm. And Autumn, she is smoky and golden. She still means Winter is just around the corner, with her pitch-black mornings and icy fingers that will wrap triumphantly, greedily, around more months than are her share – but that’s okay. Winter is another thing I have gotten a little better at since living here. A little. Probably only because Winter means Christmas and glühwein and markets and twenty-four little boots strung up across the wall, stuffed with treats.

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I found myself in Nürnberg this week and had a pumpkin spice latte. We don’t have Starbucks in Weiden (not because Weiden is steadfastly devoid of all things inauthentic/American/chain storeish, but because there are only so many cafes that can fit in an Altstadt the size of a pea that already has several cafes with names featuring ‘bean’) so it’s always a novelty. The young barista at the machine was a little uncertain as to quite how to make it, checking to see if I had ever had it before, if I’d be able to compare his concoction with previous experience. He was going for the salted caramel shaker when a co-worker stopped him, ‘nein, das ist für Salzkaramellatte!’ Whatever he did with my latte, it was spicy and sweet and comforting.

Autumn, you can stay a while.

*** I’m trying something new! A challenge! And my God, you’ll have to bear with me while I do. For the sake of practice, progress, and keeping my little brain busy, I have decided each Friday I will write an English post and then translate it into German. It will be messy, unattractive and basic. SG has obviously been called in for some assistance (although he claims my English is difficult to translate). Here goes nothing … ***

Herbst, bist du da? Du hast dich durch die hinter Tür Hintertür geschlichen, du hast schon eine Stunde des Tageslichts gestohlen und nimmst händeweise rote Blätter von den Bäumen. Aber du siehst gut aus, du siehst gut aus. Ich habe bemerkt, dass die Kürbisse schneller ausverkauft sind als die Händler sie bereitstellen können, auch Lebkuchen sind schon in den Regalen. Bitte sei nicht so schnell.

Mir sind Jahreszeiten egal. Ich war nur mit einer glücklich – Sommer. Wenn ich mich entscheiden müsste, wäre Frühling auch in Ordnung, denn der Frühling bringt Vorfreude mit sich. Meine Mama, beste Gärtnerin der Welt, hat immer über die Jahreszeit mit sehr viel Liebe gesprochen. Herbst ist ihre Lieblingszeit. Für mich ging der Herbst immer schnell in den Winter über. Ich konnte seinen Charme verstehen – rote Blätter, Kürbissuppe, gemütliche Abende, die der Geruch von brennendem Holz – aber der Winter hat immer gewartet.

Seit ich in Deutschland wohne, verstehe ich dieses ganze Jahreszeiten Ding. Diese Zeitabschnitte, so genau abgegrenzt, die Übergänge so offensichtlich, die Anzeichen der Zeit sind so klar. Winter ist nackt, eiskalt. In der Frühlingsluft raschelt das neue Wachstum. Sommertage sind lang und warm. Und der Herbst ist verraucht und goldig. Der Herbst kündigt den Winter bereits an, mit seinem schwarzen Morgen und eisigen Fingern, die sich gierig um mehr Monate klammern als ihnen zustehen. Aber das ist okay. Winter ist eines von den vielen Dingen, in denen ich ein bisschen besser geworden bin, seitdem ich hier lebe. Ein bisschen. Wahrscheinlich weil Winter Weihnachten, Glühwein und Markt und vierundzwanzig kleine Stiefel bedeutet, welche gefüllt mit Süssigkeiten an der Wand hängen.

Ich war diese Woche in Nürnberg und habe einen Pumpkin Spice Latte getrunken. Wir haben kein Starbucks in Weiden (nicht weil Weiden sich gegen amerikanischen Einfluss wehrt, sondern weil es in der Altstadt bereits zu viele Cafes mit dem Namen und der Größe einer Bohne gibt) also ist es etwas Besonderes. Der junge Barista war sich nicht sicher, wie er den Latte zubereiten sollte, also hoffte er, dass ich bereits solch einen Latte getrunken habe, so dass er sein Gebräu mit meinen Erfahrungen vergleichen konnte. Er griff nach dem Salzkaramelstreuer, wobei seine Kollegin ihn stoppte und sagte, ”nein, das ist für Salzkaramellatte!’ Was auch immer er mit meinem Latte gemacht hat – es war schaf, süß und tröstlich.

Herbst, du kannst hier eine Weile bleiben.

After I did this and hit publish, SG found a couple more errors. In the interests of learning and helping any other readers who are learning, I have crossed out the errors and then put the correct version next to it, so you can compare.

31 Replies to “Autumn // Herbst”

  1. Liv, thank you, for the beautiful imagery of the change of seasons… not too keen on winter, but I love the other three seasons… I’ve got to try that pumpkin spice latte… 🙂

    1. It was delicious! And I tracked down some all-spice so I can make it myself. I’m not too keen on winter either, after about two weeks, I’m ready for it to end … which is about 4.5 months before it actually does.

      1. I’m the same way 🙁 I hate winter… Caribou Coffee (in MN) does a FANTASTIC Pumpkin Chai that actually tastes like it’s got pumpkin in it… like a perfect pumpkin pie, and chai, in your mouth. Sometimes I add espresso…

    1. Oh I got plenty of help, don’t you worry! Sometimes I feel mastering the German comma is as difficult as the bloody language.

  2. Liv, I really like the bilingual post idea. I have not taken German since middle school and then a few months in Munich during college. I think you should give a quick pronunciation review for the lingually obsessed reader like me.

  3. Good for you. Seems like you could well and truly start writing from scratch in German, as well as doing the old translation lark, that way you’d probably force your German brain forward, perhaps.

    1. As I said to Karin, the writing from scratch = preeeetty basic. But I do it! I just keep it confined to emails to friends and family. The translating is to expand my vocab and understand my own style in German, which is very interesting. But one day, one day, I will torture all with German pennings from scratch …

  4. I’m terrible, I think… I got to “Du hast..” and then started mentally keeping rhythm with rammstein’s classic rock song… “Du….. Du hast… Du hast mich!”

    Honestly, though, I love the idea of a bilingual post 🙂

  5. Agree with Isa! it is easier to start rrom scratch since both languages have their own rythym. I have been doing De-> Eng translations for years. but write my blog posts separately they don’t have to be word for word. You did a great translation job though. xox

    1. Writing from scratch in German, for me at this point in my amateur career (!), means the text would be extremely basic. Which is fine. But in order to maintain continuity on my blog which is a vehicle for my writing career, I thought it’d be a good thing, and an interesting way of spreading my little German wings, to translate my English writing style – and I found it really useful to grammatically and in terms of vocab. It is just one of the things I am trying – along with writing daily emails (from scratch!) and reading and German TV etc. In isolation, I can see how this exercise wouldn’t be ideal – but when added to a bunch of other learning methods, it’s useful! But of course, both languages are super different, and writing from scratch in either one is a different experience. xx

    2. Nah, I didn’t say it’s easier to start off writing in a different language, rather than translating. I would say both translation and ‘off-the-ball’ writing are very different approaches to language learning, of course. Translating your own stuff early on may well lead to developing a transliteral language acquisitional approach, ie. developing a tendency to translate from your native language to the other, before leaping to thinking in the ‘other’ language; this may hinder jumping into the other newly acquired language further down the line, if you catch my drift. Translating texts from Der Spiegel is perhaps a good exercise, depending on your ability, or even translating a parts of a literary work. Translation is a hard game. Steve Pinker vs Noam Chomsky?

      1. ps. That was a reply to Karin, whoopsie! Nb: translating your own stuff is of course fun and useful, I couldn’t agree more. Translating other stuff is also beneficial.

    1. Will take a gander. With a name like Tinka, it’s ‘gotta’ come up trumps. Übrigens, your mum’s the word on Autumn – couldn’t agree with her more – season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, blip-blerp….experiencing it right here again in MS.

  6. Really liked reading this post since I have the opposite feeling nowadays.. I absolutely love winter and it’s going to be my first one in Southern California 🙂 So I don’t really know what to expect haha. Great job on the translation too! I always have trouble sticking to a true translation since the rhythm of languages is so different. English is really difficult to translate!

    1. Ooh, does southern California even have Winter? Or is it just a few degrees cooler than Summer?

      And yes, the rhythms are super different – I can tell, reading that German, that it’s ‘my’ English translated, as opposed to a natural German text. In my limited experience of translating ENG-DE, I note that English seems to have this adoration of phrasal verbs and collocations, not to mention its tenses, that make it a really slippery language.

      But it’s an interesting exercise and something I am going to force myself to keep up with!

  7. Congrats on your first bilingual post. I know that is incredibly difficult. Sadly I cannot read German so I will just imagine that it is amazing. I cannot believe how quickly Autumn came. I do love it but I feel that winter will come so fast and I will wonder where all the time has gone.

    1. Imagining it is amazing is probably even better than reading it.

      I can’t believe it’s October tomorrow. We will blink and there’ll be snow on the ground and glühwein in our hands. I am dreading the dark mornings and dark afternoons – cold I can do, I just need more light!

      1. I admire anyone doing that ‘splits’ move, a leg in one culture, an arm in another –

        Never have seemed to manage to get the balance right though somehow, despite being resident in Germany now for almost seven years.

        Really appreciate your posts and insights anyway! So thanks a lot!

    2. I second that! Great job and am enjoying having a go at reading it in German too.

      On a personal note, I should probably have a friendlier attitude towards ‘ cases’ in German. Nah….. it can wait ’til Sylvester. – 😉

  8. The promise of Pumpkin Spice Latte is almost worth the trip to Nürnberg (its not too far away from here). As someone facing her first winter in Germany with a mixture of dread and curiosity (friends have made bets I won’t last it out), I will be following your lyrical seasonal reflections with interest …

    1. Oh, I think you have chosen a cold Winter to have as your first. I have been hearing scary things about this Winter – but then, let’s face it, they’re all cold, grey, wet and depressing (after Christmas, and you’re faced with three more months of awful weather with no distraction.) GOOD LUCK!

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