All Quiet on the First Day of Spring

March 19, 2017 § Leave a comment

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This weekend spring has already taken a break and it’s rainy, windy and cold. But that was all very different a week ago and so, on that Sunday, I took a long evening walk to enjoy the sweet light and the very first bits and buds of the upcoming spring.

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On the other side of this old wall is the river.

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Only meters away from the spot I was taking the photos on that first beautiful spring evening of the year, a corpse was found in the early Monday morning hours. It lied or was washed ashore at one of the river’s banks. A man. No more was to read about him that first day. I couln’t stop thinking of all those people I took photos of, most of them from afar, walking at the bank or sitting on the benches: lovers, mothers with kids, and quite a few loners staring at the sunset, some with a bottle in the hand, others, maybe, with a weight in their heart. How did that poor man die? Was he a ghost in one of my photos?

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I don’t know if the man on the bench in the photo above was the dead man found in the river. All I know is that when I got on that wall and walked by this man, I looked at his plastic bags full of bottles and his bottle full of alcohol, I looked at his muddy shoes and dirty beard and thought of the kind of photos I could but won’t take. Then a few steps beyond the benches for the river walkers, I came across an artwork—just opposite a church—an abstract kind of bench out of a single tree-trunk with the inscription: “wir sitzen wie in unserem Grabe” that could be translated: “we sit as if in our graves” *. In thought I did make the connection between the people I had seen sitting on the benches and the artwork’s inscription. Then I went on and went to the movies.

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When I read about the corpse in the river the next day, my first thought was this man, but there was nothing mentioned in the article about the dead man’s age or causes of his death.  

A day later the result of the autopsy was published in the local newspaper. No movie-like murder, but just a fifty-seven-year old man who fell into the river after a heart attack and being firmly drunk.

It might as well have been my ghost man.

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*   I first posted this story on my Instagram feed and one of the local photographers reminded me that “those wooden blocks are made of trees from the western front. There are also some original bullets inside that once hit the trees. The quotes are from the book “Im Westen nichts neues”.  That’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque, a book based on his World War I experiences. A personal story that connects me to this book was that it was the very first book my grandfather gave me as a present. I was something like only 12  in Greece back then, I’m not sure. He, a veteran of World War II, had always thought that it was the best book that had ever been written about the brutality of the front.

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