Zu Tanken

You know that feeling you get on a Sunday afternoon. It’s late summer and the sun is still strong and warm, but it is losing its lemony light. It is turning golden, and the afternoons feel like they’ll slip out the back door if you turn your back for a second, rather than hang around for what seems like forever, finally bowing out well after everyone else is tucked up in bed. That sense of endlessness that colours the crisp mornings of Spring, that feeling of ‘we have time’ that seeps into June days, has disappeared, and in its place settles the knowledge that all of this colour, all of this light, is changing.

That feeling pervaded this weekend just gone.


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The curtain is slowly, slowly making its way down on summer. The strawberries are long gone; now people are climbing banks near office buildings to pluck blackberries and gorge on them while en route to an errand. The days of just wearing nappies and sunscreen by the beach, nothing more, are numbered, if not vorbei. The parks and gardens, so lushly green, so filled with people sunning and grilling, will soon be a riot of red and gold, and not long after, so stark and bare. An urgency has replaced the usual summer idleness; pull out the white cotton sundress you haven’t worn yet! Get your legs out in the sun, just one more time! Drive out to the beach, battle the parking lot, and complain about the idea of paying to use the beach, while you still can! All of it is running out – time, the sun, the light, Autumn’s patience.

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The Germans, when it comes to the sun and lying beneath it, have a concept of ‘zu tanken’; literally, to fill your tank. Us Australians, we ‘sunbake’. The summer sun is hard and cruel and so very hot, that to lie beneath it (as we love to do) is to bake oneself. The British bathe in the sun, which is a lovely notion. Here, you fill your tank. You stock up the reserves, so as to have something to dip into during the long, dark winters.

And so, as the urgency grows, and the afternoons close in a little earlier, wir tanken. Die Lüdde spent Sunday in a nappy, digging about in the sand, and breathing in the salt. I sat on a swing and watched her, in the white cotton sundress I hadn’t yet worn. We spent the whole of Saturday afternoon in a big, green, sunny meadow, part of some beautiful gardens near where we live, drinking white wine and Hugos (oh the urgency to drink the light, cold, minty summer drinks before chilli hot chocolates and Glühwein).

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My tank is not yet full – arguably, it never is, arguably, I was born and bred for the Carribean – but I am working on it. We have a handful of time left before the leaves go crunchy and the woolly hats come out. We’ll squeeze every last drop out of summer, of that I am sure.


6 thoughts on “Zu Tanken

  1. hi Liv, find the book “Frederick” by Leo Lionni and read it to the Lüdde. All about ‘tanken’ and use in winter. Cheers

    1. I just googled it – what a beautiful book, I must get my hands on it. I remember Inch by Inch from when I was a child!

  2. Yes, exactly the same here in Ireland, the light turning golden, the beauty of an August evening is tinged with melancholy and I am “tanking” every ray of sunlight I can get to push the onset of SAD away for another couple of days, to help me survive the endless dark-grey-gloomy days to come…and yes, Leo Lionni’s book is wonderful and I still use the story when I tutoring walking-meditation focussing on colours.

    1. Melancholy is the perfect word – but it is a strange happy melancholy, because the moment of tanking is usually so beautiful!

  3. Oh ja, we are very good at “Sonne tanken”. (Since we ‘ve moved to “Straya, it’s been more “Sonne vermeiden” than “tanken” though)

    “Federick” has always been one of my favourite little books and it does prepare so very well for those long and indeed grey and dark autumn and winter days. Store as much golden light as you can!

    And thank you for your wonderful blog! What a find!

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