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The forest-gene

Actually he didn't even want to go to the forest that day. But recently he had seen a beautiful piece of wood in the forest on the other side of the village. Perhaps a beautiful figurine could be made out of it, he said, even though he had actually decided to close his workshop not long ago.

He wasn't a man of big gestures. But on this particular day he brought his wife a bouquet of her favorite flowers. And then he went to the woods for one last time, in order to return to his home.


When my grandfather, my Neni, died I was ten years old and over the years the memories have faded. But he came to my mind recently when I was walking in the forest. The forest, again... it seems to be so important for this next chapter of life and maybe that's why I suddenly thought about my Neni, because the woods were his empire. Maybe a forest-gene has awakened in me that I maybe inherited from him. Be that as it may, I like the thought.


My Neni was a quiet man, down-to-earth. A calmness emanated from him, which our cat Minka must have felt, too. This feisty little beast would sit on his lap for hours and become all cuddly in his presence when I wasn't even allowed to pet her without getting swiped by her paw (and if you know me at all you can imagine how difficult this situation must have been for me!).

On Christmas Neni would always bring his accordion and play a waltz. I honestly don't know if he also knew other songs but I still remember him rewriting Christmas songs in a funny way for us.

When I think about my Neni I automatically think about his wood carvings, too. In his spare time he made wooden nativity sets and figurines that he would sell on markets.

The nativity set Neni made for me.

Still today the smell of sawdust brings me back to him and his workshop in the basement of my grandparent's house. It still exists, even though my Neni has long since gone.

Although my memories are fragmented I realize today that behind this pragmatic man must have beaten an artist's heart. Every year on Christmas we set up his nativity sets and every year I'm amazed by the detailed manger and the beautifully carved sheep, camels, wisemen and shepherds. These honestly are amongst my most precious belongings.

It must have been his passion to create these little pieces of art out of wood and I don't know why he decided to give it up by the time he was 76, when it meant this much to him. In any case he cleaned his workshop, closed the door and declared an end to his nativity sets.

I believe it was my mother who asked him to keep at least making each of his grandchildren one, so that they would have something lovely to remember him by. Probably he wasn't keen on that much sentimentality and still, he went to work again and made over ten nativity sets, each different from the other, carved fifteen figurines for each set, put them carefully into a box and stored them on a shelf in his workshop, ready to be picked up by his grandchildren. And then he made for the forest. One last time, for he fell asleep under the tree with the beautiful piece of wood.


December 7th, 2020

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