Our writer interrogates belonging, community and obligation but mostly just whines about her pet rat Hermann blowing hot and cold.
Temperatures dropped dramatically, spelling and end to The Great Hermann Revolt.
Our furry agitator/pioneer has, it seems, opted against freedom and in favour of the warmth, cuddles and companionship of a life in which the night times are spent behind bars, and the day times are punctuated with spoonfuls of peas, mascarpone and modest excursions.
His favourite hole under the kitchen counter is getting blocked up, and little by little, we’ll be blocking up all his other little hiding places. Kotti is delighted. Hermann is only moderately disgruntled.
We’ve had a couple more escape attempts, all of which have seemed almost half-hearted. Lately I’ve almost been feeling like he's pleased to see me, and appreciative of my affections. Perhaps these are projections.
In Viking Iceland, law enforcement was a relatively simple task. Citizens had to toe the line, because failing to do so meant getting cast out into a tundra in which it was impossible to survive on one’s own.
Communities were strong and pecking orders were adhered to because lives depended on one another. You either conformed or you died.
I am not sure how I would have fared in that context, to be honest. I hope at least that I would have found some witchy friends to while away those aggressively cold winters with.
Because if I had to join any club vouchsafing my survival, I imagine I could find a way to fit in with the one where people get together and draft cryptic texts that claim to ward off dark forces. That’s basically just good marketing.
I think I might actually be a witch, you know? Although I’m Googling now and it seems like Hermann’s not a very good familiar. A thread on r/Wicca claims that a familiar should be so in sync with its witch that they would put themselves on the line in battle.
If I ever found myself in any danger I doubt Hermann would lift a finger. And he would ultimately side with whoever offered him better snacks and left him in peace.
A couple of months ago I brought up my quandary of trying to bring solitary-hero, self-isolating Hermann out of his shell. This was at a discussion at a community art event in a gallery with a grizzly/grim aesthetic.
The works looked like death metal album covers in abstraction, and an enormous whale bone was placed at the centre of a large, Huxley-referencing door propped up to serve as a table over which to discuss the topics of belonging and community.
Why did I bring up Hermann? Because he wants it all. Total freedom, life on his own terms, his favourite cheese on tap, an infinite supply of my favourite underwear to chew through. I mean, he’s a rat, so, fair enough.
I’m just not sure it’s good for him, living with this ruggedly-individualistic delusion that he’s the master of his own destiny who owes nothing to nobody and can tear up whatever he fancies, even if it’s a nice colour and has quite a high silk percentage.
Anyway, at the event I made a friend. She’s an artist, originally from Russia, who had spent the last few months carrying a very long black scarf everywhere she went, knitting it longer and longer as a way of keeping record of the emotional things going on with her.
Since then she has destroyed it. I asked her how she felt now that her scarf was gone, and with this theme of creation and destruction being central to her process.
“Kind of sad, you know. But that’s how it goes. You experience things and you alchemise them.”
A Berlin-based writer engages in the study of belonging and in-between places after years spent faraway from 'home'.