This week requires a list of places we’ve lived and note the natural resources surrounding those places. I suppose I could have written about the Passaic River in Kearny, New Jersey or the Meadowlands when we still called them the swamps. But I chose to write about Jacob-Burckhardt-Strasse 35 in Konstanz, West Germany where I lived from September 1977 through June 1978 for my Junior Year Abroad program with Rutgers University.
I wrote about the “Bodensee,” Lake Constance, as a tourist attraction and kiosks with all sorts of snacks and my favorite “Spezi,” a combination of Fanta and Coke. I wrote about the bees and the spiders. But I dwelled on describing the attack of the sheep on the dorms one September Saturday afternoon. They nibbled on the falling foliage and played hide-and-go-seek under the stilts that held up the dorms. They smelled something fierce, awful fierce.
The sheep, who were led to the fields that separated the dorms and the University of Konstanz, represented the Old World. The university itself, founded in the 1960s as a center of social science, represented the modernist New World. It was blocky with blue conical art installations.
Flipping through my photo albums from the time, I found one of the sheep. I wrote about them in my “Writing from and about Photographs” writing sessions using the Amherst Artists & Writers method. Now I can’t stop thinking about all my experiences that year, especially as a Jew in Germany. On Christmas Eve, one of my dorm mates asked, “Do you want to come to Christmas Mass?” I said, “No, I’m Jewish.” “Oh,” he said, “I didn’t think there were any left.”
I may decide to make writing a memoir about this year abroad a future book project.
Make a list of all the places you’ve lived, the actual street addresses. What natural resources were in the area of each? Now choose one and write about it.