12/30/12

Man in the Holocene by Max Frisch

One summer the woodpeckers got a sudden idea, as it were: they stopped pecking the bark of the old chestnut tree and started on the windowpanes; more and more of them came, all seemingly obsessed by glass. Not even strips of glittering foil frightened them off for long. It became a real nuisance. If one went to the window to shoo them away, they at once moved to another, and one could not be at every window, clapping one's hands. Geiser found it more effective to strike the granite table with a lath, which made a sound like the crack of a shotgun—then they flew off to wait in the surrounding branches. Later one would hear them again at some window or other; they could not get a grip on the smooth glass, and with their wings fluttering they could tap on the pane only two or three times, occasionally but rarely even four times. By the following summer they had forgotten all about it. Twice a week a blonde butcher woman drives the length of the valley, selling meat from her Volkswagen; she is of German extraction, married to a man from Ticino. Fishing produces very little. Many of the chestnut trees are cankered, but all in all it is a green valley, wooded as in the Stone Age. The bracken grows almost head-high. In August, when it is not raining, there are shooting stars to be seen, or one hears the call of a little owl. When there is mist in the lower valley, the moonlight on the mist can give the effect of a lake with jagged bays, a fjord; all it would need is a ship lying at anchor below the village, a black cutter or a whaler.