Readers Write: Regein: Irises and Open Sky

Readers Write: Regein: Irises and Open Sky

One day years ago
I discovered the most wonderful irises,
The deepest purple and some yellow—
Swimming in their own vivid pools of current,
White clouds and illuminating sky.
Seeing them, tears of joy fill my eyes.

Author’s note:
Greetings from Munich, and a belated Happy Mother’s Day.
I’ll come back to Munich, but let’s say Regein means rules in German.

Both my grandmothers loved to rise really early to tend gardens. The selection was grand, flowers, fruit trees—pear, apricot, crabapple; vegetables, and rabbits galore munched on the bounty, impossible to keep at bay.

My grandmother toiled, of course, on hands and knees at ground level. I rose early, too, but didn’t like to soil my hands or knees.

One spring morning, I looked down at a patch of irises and said, “Look, grandma, they are pretty, aren’t they?”

“That they are, honey,” was the expected reply, as well as something else. “But don’t be so sure you see everything from where you are.” She patted the ground next to her and offered a trowel to help out. “Set yourself here on God’s green earth and see how things work.”

It took a confusing minute to grasp what she meant. Then I lay on the grass and looked up at the irises. Something unexpected happened that made all the difference. Thus I began my exploration of soil, rocks, and earth.

Then, my babysitter from across the street was a geology major at the Colorado School of Mines and started to explain the idea of geologic time and a changing earth.

I was hooked. By then, I lived down the street from Mike Shannon’s mother, who lived in a little house like ours—he was the great St. Louis Cardinal ball player (1964 and ’67 World Series!).

All the local kids loved it when he’d visit, at the time professional players made normal amounts of money.

In Munich, I was on the way to the Nazi Documentation Center, a modern five-story building with an extensive archive in the basement, when I passed a small, well-tended garden with a patch of irises that brought back an old memory.

The thought of my grandmother’s lesson reached me and brought tears to my eyes. Her melodious voice still sounds good. How I’ve lost track of the time. I composed my tribute poem that night.

Munich is an efficient, clean, modern city of several million. Its transportation system is unparalleled. Most citizens use it, and there are no traffic jams anywhere on the streets. Its system of buses, trams, subways, and trains is inexpensive, finely tuned, on time, and safe at all hours. Everything runs on time. Connections are a breeze and seamless.

Munich was extensively bombed and destroyed in WWII. It was where Hitler founded his Nazi movement. It was where he and his Nazi party in 1923 staged the first attempted coup d’état at Odeonsplatz with leaders of Bavaria, but he was wounded and thrown in prison where he wrote “Mein Kampf.”

Munich is known for its massive Nazi rallies as the headquarters of both the Nazi party and the SS—the brutal instrument of terror and death.

Hitler was released early from prison because even at that time a good part of the Bavarian establishment and judiciary were sympathetic to his cool-aid brand of making Germany great again nationalism.

His Nazi party was still a fringe annoyance, however, and barely received several percent of the votes throughout Germany until the depression hit hard and society began to fray. People became desperate. Hitler offered easy dualistic answers to complicated problems.

Hitler was proficient at reading the social currents and at manipulating opinion and the media. That was his military job during WWI, he learned the lessons well. There are rules to garnering and swaying public opinion, he capitalized his moment during the depression.

I hope to return to what I learned in Munich in a future essay.

Let me end by saying that a great-grandfather and his small family needed to flee from what is now Slovenia/Hungary in 1926, well before Hitler came to power (…the national borders were always pretty fluid).

The poisonous seeds of hate run very deep, and like the soil, there are rules to nurturing anything, including hate.

My rules are this. We must learn from history.

History repeats itself, as Falkner said: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.

Civil society is fragile. Hate is nurtured and this must be understood in order that the worst forms of evil are avoided in the future—hopefully. All forms of hate are destructive and inhumane: antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism and gays, misogyny, and racism.

My grandmother taught me about soil. That it is rich and bountiful.

Stephen Cipot
Garden City Park

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