(Note: the following was originally written by hand in my tent on the evening of May 26th, shortly after our arrest in Eltville. The following morning we staged our 4-hour “Occupation” of Eltville.)
Sarah and I awaken in our most inconvenient campsite lately, the narrow swampy area between the Rhine River bank and the recreational trail that parallels it. We’ll occasionally face the world and the cops head-on during the day, but at night total camouflage and escape is always absolutely necessary.
Not waning to walk too far out of town, a sacrifice of convenience had to be made in choosing such a hidden campsite. Our tent rests among the dropping dead branches of a big decaying swamp tree. Some of the treetop is still alive while other parts look as if they’ll deliver a crushing blow at any moment. This is a kind of water-loving tree that can be found everywhere along this part of the Rhine, some of which grow as thick as a smart car. The huge lower branches often grow out at ground level, sometimes as long as the tree is tall.
All of these trees are seeding right now, constantly keeping the air adrift with hovering white fluff balls that stick to our clothing and pile up on the ground like snow. The trees are also dripping water, gifts from countless little leaf beetles that like to envelop themselves in balls of their own foamy spit, presumably for self-defense. This same type of spit bug exists in my native land of Southern Illinois, although possibly not anymore, because I have not seen one there in many years. It wasn’t until first noticing them here some days ago that an old memory came back of my dad wiping the spit away to reveal the beetle inside. As could be expected, the bug does not like being exposed and usually scurries off quite quickly to form a new spitball somewhere else.
The tent barely fits in this small space between these low branches, also surrounded by high weeds and driftwood from the last flood. Wafts of swamp stench occasionally pass through the air. The water here isn’t moving at all right now due to a breaker wall running parallel to the shore 50 feet out, constructed of small boulders. Motionless scum and floating debris cover the water surface. There are many such breaker walls at bends in the river, which presumably alter the currents so that sediment does not pile up in the busy barge shipping channel at the river’s center.
We didn’t put the tent rain cover on last night because it was too hot out and the space was too confined to easily attach it, so spit bug spit dripped on us all night, at least once in my mouth and eye. We’re brushing our teeth in the tent this morning when Sarah notices a mother duck and her five ducklings just inches away under low branches. They appear to love the stench and debris in the water, keeping their heads below the surface most of the time, looking for whatever ducks eat. The mother pauses to side-eye the tent suspiciously every few moments, while her children seem totally oblivious of any potential danger.
Sarah unzips the tent door to spit out toothpaste. Mother duck makes an almost imperceptible sound, instantly getting the whole family’s attention except for one duckling that happened to have its head underwater at that moment. With a couple seconds there are no ducks to be seen, with the straggler quickly catching on.
The swans and the red squirrels always seem angry. The swans’s faces are constantly locked into stern expressions and they hiss at any human that happens to get too close. The squirrels react with aggressive chirping and snaps of the tail. It feels that we are simply not welcome here in Eltville, not by the wildlife or the people.