It is a truth universally acknowledged, that the months October through May in Germany are spent sneezing, sniffing, coughing, snotting, rasping, wheezing, drinking 800 litres of herbal tea and complaining. As a parent of young children in these climes, if one is not wiping one’s own nose thirteen times an hour, then one is wiping a smaller, snottier nose, thirteen times a minute, every minute of every day from October through May. Occasionally, there are windows of respite, during which the whole family is weirdly healthy and completely smug about it. Then the next bug blows in and the Honig Fenchel** comes out and Apothekes begrudgingly sell you thimbles of pure eucalyptus oil, warning you of its potency, and throw balls of dried dandelion at you as you walk out the door.
I started this sick season off with a bang and took six weeks to shake a virus which began easing up the moment I decided I may as well go to the doctor (why is that always the way?). What struck me, this time around, was how very German I have become in my reaction to illness. I hit the tea, hard, because your body needs plenty of fluids (although I tempered it by hitting the caffeine to get through long work days, despite a colleague’s and students’ suggestions of ginger and lemon, good GOD the ginger and lemon tea obsession in this country) . I hit the supplement aisle in DM and got zinc, Vitamin C and magnesium and have been trying to force everyone I know to start taking magnesium ever since, because I feel like I have discovered the font of youth in tablet form. I took eucalyptus baths, kept my feet warm, walked around the house wearing a scarf to protect my chest. And when I wasn’t getting any better, I waved the white flag, cancelled classes, got a doctor’s note that then allowed SG to take a day off work to relieve the primary caregiver (how is that for a family friendly system?) and rested. I took a cup of tea into bed and rested. It was, really, just one afternoon of rest, but it worked.
Of course, I am now well but I have one child taking some sort of plant-based cough syrup and treating Honig Fenchel like it is oxygen and it is only a matter of time before the other one falls. But that, along with the golden leaves and the Gemütlichkeit and cupping hands around hot cocoa and rosy cheeks and woodsmoke air – all of those repulsively cinematic things that make these months insufferable on Instagram – that is simply part and parcel of this time of year. And winter (with added complaining about the cold, and extra snot and loads of sweat underneath the bulky layers). And spring (with added red eyes and tight chests thanks to pollen).
Tell you what, though, I am getting better at Schietwetter. With the exception of some lovely afternoons here and there, it has been drizzly and grey. But I don’t feel the weight of winter’s impending gloom and doom quite so heavily. The rain, while tedious, doesn’t make me feel simultaneously claustrophobic and rageful, rather somewhat wistful. Perhaps it is because we aren’t even in November yet and I am only just starting to wind up for Christmas madness, the best kind of madness; perhaps it is the new house with more space during the days too rainy to go outside; perhaps it is the knowledge we will be in Australia in just shy of 7 weeks, with family, on the beach, for the first time in three years; perhaps, with each passing year, I am simply becoming more and more eingewöhnt, and my wardrobe more and more appropriate. I don’t know. Perhaps it’s the magnesium. I do know it helps to not fight it. It helps to deliberately seek beauty, even on the greyest of days. I also know, come February, I’m usually singing a different tune, but then again we all are come February, even the most die-hard of Gemütlichkeit fans. No one is really singing in February; most people are curled in a ball keening, begging for sun.
But. I am not going to think about that. Yes, October is on its way out, taking with it leaves and the last of the light, yes mornings are pitch black and the long, languid evenings of summer have been all but forgotten. But the most wonderful time of year is almost here (has been here since August 31st, according to Aldi). I haven’t even had the first bite of Stollen this year (holding out for November. I figure if Christmas Markets start in November, I can eat Stollen in November too) although I did enjoy a Glühwein at 10.30 in the morning at the Herbstmarkt. Like I said, it’s all about deliberately seeking beauty and there is much beauty to be found in hot, spiced wine.
So much beauty.
** That should be Fenchelhonig. I must have been delirious when I wrote this.