On my walk today I met another German of the same name as the German that I met in Portland. Gunther. Gunther was pruning a young apple tree that had extended limbs into the sidewalk. He asked a lot of guilty questions when I approached. "Are you the neighbor" and "Do you know these people?" but I had no connection to the apple tree or its owners. He had been unable to get permission to prune the apple tree from the homeowner because they are never home. So he decided to take care of it, for the good of all. And I caught him in the act.
It pains Gunther to see a productive fruit tree left to grow wild. He left a 30 acre farm in California to be here near his children. I said I was grateful that he was taking care of the apple tree, and said "How long before we are hungry?" I know the value of food growing in your yard. He said I am the first American woman he has met who knows what is happening. He was happy when I gave him permission to prune any apple tree he wants, for all of us.
Gunther was a youth in the time of the Nazis. He was a inducted into a series of Nazi pre-war children's programs as a pre-teen, and was a soldier under Hitler in the war. He was shot through the groin and lost most of one buttock. He runs and walks anyway, and in spite of American doctors who have since wanted to remove his leg. His family was adopted by a Nazi officer, who protected them during the ravages of the war. We stood on the sidewalk for a long time and he told stories of his family and of the war, about "isms" (There's no ism that's worth no good"), and teaching philosophy and jazz. He spoke of being a "wilderer" which he translated as a wild man who knows where and when and how to get his food from nature. Just like his grandfather.
At one point he broke into an especially inspired oratory. He turned pink in the face and gave me an inspirational talk about doing what you are meant to do. He said "find your creative work and do it". He spoke of how each of us have one thing to give the world, and it is the one thing that no one else can give. If we don't give it, the world won't have it. By the time he had finished speaking he had tears in his eyes, and tears were streaming down my face. What he said meant everything to me.
I hugged him. I look forward to visiting him in the green house, and to meeting his wife Ingrid.