August 31st 2019

I was going to write, in effect, my last post on my journey to Europe. I waited until evening, as I usually do, only for jet lag to suddenly catch up with me. Even typing this first paragraph, I’ve briefly fallen asleep twice. I’ll wait until tomorrow.

in
    no hurry—a porcupine under the bristling
        moon

243: August 31st 2019 | bottlecap

 

August 30th 2019

DSC01948Hello fellow travelers. I’m sitting at the Berlin Airport as I write this. I’ll probably be boarding the plane soon. And so will be writing this post in various parts of the globe. I took photos while riding in the back of the taxi. My sorrow at my daughter’s absence returned while leaving Berlin. It’s a strange thing to have cared for a someone for so long, to have held them newly born in your arms, to have read them stories night after night, to have scared the monsters away, to have played with them and laughed with them, only to see them go off  one day—and have no voice to look after.

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And that gets me thinking about home again. I’m sorry to go and sorry to come home.

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And now I’ve arrived at the Dublin airport. I’d like to try again to formulate my thoughts on what home means to me, but with so little time , I struggle. Robert Frost said that home is where they have to let you in.

DSC01938Maybe it’s also possible that home is where they have to let you go.

And home is where you have to be willing to let go.

midnight
    in a little courtyard—the cricket's worldly
        song

242: August 30th 2019 | bottlecap

 

August 29th 2019

DSC01912Hello fellow travelers. Today was my last day in Berlin; and it’s been too hot. At first all I wanted to do was to hide at Bikini Berlin. That’s a building across from the Gedächtniskirche that was renovated and made into a shopping center. It’s air-conditioned. But to call it a shopping center doesn’t do it justice. I remember the building originally and it was nothing special. One of the businesses on the first floor was a second rate bookstore mostly appealing to tourists and Germans in a hurry. What I like about it is that it demonstrates how a third rate building can be transformed into a first rate piece of architecture. On principle, and being a builder myself, I would rather renovate than forever be building new buildings. The world is getting small, fast; and thinking about it, I suppose I’m that way in my poetry too. Old forms—the sonnet, blank verse, lyrics, haiku—are maybe like old buildings. Let the skilled poet, like the skilled architect, rebuild and renovate these old forms. Make them into something old and new at the same time—and beautiful.

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But then it might also be said that life itself is a thing of constant renovation. No sooner do we think the balance of our lives is plumb and level, than some circumstance puts into us the need for new plans and a rebuilding.

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I traveled as far North as the S-Bahn’s S1 line (the above ground train) would take me—Oranienburg. I had never been up there and the ride reminded me of Boston’s Green Line trip to riverside (though the S-Bahn goes much further and quicker). The ride takes about 40 minutes including all the stops, and one goes through increasingly wooded neighborhoods and, at the very end, a beautiful red pine, I think, forest—tall red pines under which mushrooms grow.

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And at Oranienburg I discovered the Schloss Oranienburg.

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And that’s my photo.

Though it’s hard to see, the tarp on the front of the palace says “Nie Wieder”, which means ‘Never Again’. The tarp shows a picture of the palace from the 30’s bedecked with Nazi regalia and a giant poster of Hitler. Here it is. After the Nazis repurposed the palace as a training ground for the SS, the Russians and then later the East Germans used it for similar purposes—a sad tale for this beautiful building. Though even in its first days it was a showpiece for the aristocracy. Now, finally, if a building can at last be happy and be said to be at home with itself, the Schloss is become a museum of art and keeps a café in its shadow. Behind it is a landscaped garden, a vast expanse of yard and paths, open to the public.

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Tomorrow’s post is apt to be short and possibly late. I fly home and lose six hours from my day.

late
    August's clouds—thin as women's
        dresses

241: August 29th 2019 | bottlecap

 

August 28th 2019

DSC01872Hello fellow travelers. I decided today that all conversation is like speaking a foreign language; there’s nothing that can’t be lost in translation. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s experienced that.

That experience got me to thinking that words are like colors. We all think we see the same colors, but do we really? And we all think we use words the same way, but words are really like little fairy tales. If I ask what a word means, first will come the dictionary definition; if I ask again, a little of the word’s story will appear; and if I ask a third time, who knows but the word is apt to unfold like a fairy tale. If I ask you about jam, you may tell me a story about your childhood, butter, the bread, the flavor and the stickiness of it on your hands. And what made me think of that? The photo below.

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The window is hard to read, but it says: mediapioneer. 100% Journalismus. Keine Märchen. That made me laugh. I don’t know what the business is, but the “subtitle” may be translated as: 100% Journalism. No Fables. I laughed because fables and fairy tales were the journalism of their day. Many stories, like Bluebeard, and many nursery rhymes, were likely inspired my real events. The great fables and fairy tales speak truth to child and adult alike, across cultures and across time.

DSC01906I tried to take some pictures of German houses in the neighborhoods of Wannsee and Dahlemdorf, but I can never make these pictures interesting. You will seldom find a stick framed house or a house with wood clapboards. All houses are built with stuccoed concrete blocks and once they’re built they look just as immovable. There’s something about the wood-clapboarded New England house that makes it feel as though its more apt to one day tell you all its stories—the tired porch, crooked windows, the sway-back roof and squeaking stairs.

 

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Robert Frost once said that to be a poet in New England was as good as to carry a mill stone round ones neck. To call oneself a dreamer isn’t too different. And yet some of our most memorable words begin: “I have a dream…” And one of our greatest songs tells us:

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one.

I don’t know what inspires me to write all that? Maybe describing my dreaming in yesterday’s post. Or it might be that the word dream has in it some of the most beautiful fairy tales in the language—both lived and yet to come.

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summer
    nights—first the mother's then the child's 
        laughter

240: August 28th 2019 | bottlecap

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August 27th 2019

DSC01847Hello fellow travelers. I got to thinking today about home and what it means. Every so often I have dreams of places that giver me the feeling of absolute joy and happiness—the feeling that I’m finally home.

In one such dream I was walking with a friend in a mid-afternoon courtyard that was broad and paved with cobblestone. On two sides was a building that was open to the courtyard with rows of arches and beyond the building I could see an ocean and terrace where there were restaurants and cafés. There were children running and playing. There were teenagers walking hand in hand.

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There were kites and others walking with balloons. About midway through the courtyard, I remember a flock of origami birds swirling around us, then back into the air. I recalled feeling that I had been in this place before.

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When I was a child, I once had a dream that I would find my home when I crossed a wide stone bridge over a broad river. On the other side of the bridge, the landscape changed from pasture and rolling hills to the steep mountains topped with snow. For many years I looked for that bridge, but never found it.

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I would like to say that I have discovered what home really means, but I haven’t. Maybe it’s not something to be discovered out there. Maybe home is in the garden, in the book being read or written, the airplane, a favorite stretch of road, or where we find our friends and lovers—a place being created, changing and lived in every moment.

Maybe.

in
    late August's heat—the cicada's cry
        shines

239: August 27th 2019 | bottlecap

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August 26th 2019

I’m not sure my photographs are all that interesting today. I tried to find new neighborhoods to walk in, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t quite get lost.

DSC01788Something that I liked to do last year was to take pictures of whatever was underfoot. While others were taking pictures of monuments, landmarks and works of art, I was taking pictures of the sidewalk. When I was touring of one of Frederick the Great’s outlying retreats in the neighborhood of Potsdam, and others were asking about the fine china and the works of art, I wanted to know if the wide pine floorboards were original. Builder that I’ve been, I wanted to know if I was standing on the same wood floor as Frederick the Great.

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Apart from restaurants and cafés, unlike the US, businesses are mostly closed on Sunday. I went out shortly after the church bells were rung marking the end of Sunday services. Berlins sandy playgrounds, those close by churches, were filled with children dressed for contemplation. Girls took to swings with ribbons, pigtails, braids and sundresses rippling after and before them—or they chased each other around.

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I had a scoop of oat milk vanilla and oat milk chocolate ice cream in the afternoon.

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I’ll be flying home to Vermont on Thursday and am looking forward to fresh apple cider, the scent of newly stacked firewood and cool Autumn nights.

 

enough
    for the honeybee too—morning
        tea

238: August 26th 2019 | bottlecap

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August 25th 2019

Good morning fellow travelers.  Once again I write to you late in the evening. Earlier in the day was busy with chores, as it were, but I was able to do a little exploring during the afternoon. I took some rough pictures.

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As always, the thing that makes Berlin beautiful is the trees. Though there are exceptions, certainly the most beautiful streets in the Berlin make you feel as though Berlin is a city still in the forest.

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But one difference this year are all the e-scooters. They’re also popular in California, or so I’ve read, but one finds them everywhere in Berlin. And the most striking thing about them is how happy their riders look. All you need to do is scan your credit card and point it in the direction you want to go. And while the older generation grouses about these new obstacles to automobiles to bicycles, I really do think they’re a wonderful thing.

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And while exploring the neighborhoods I found Ludwigkirchplatz again, a spacious courtyard with the Ludwig Kirche in the center. I like the space less for the brick and mortar church than for all the children always playing around it.

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There’s also the bookstore Shakespeare & Co. right around the corner. That sounded like a promising bookstore. I went in last year thinking they would actually have Shakespeare and thought I might pick up a good German translation because why not? The owner told me they carried no Shakespeare. Not enough room. If they actually carried Shakespeare, the store would be nothing but. I don”t see the problem with that, but travelers should know that the bookstore Shakespeare & Co. does not actually shelve any Shakespeare either in German or English. Just kitty-corner from the bookstore, is Hamlet.

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And they do not sell texts of the play. And though I haven’t eaten there, I suspect their food is not Danish cuisine—nor is it rotten. Still, amateur Shakespearean that I am, I may have to eat there one of these days.

Bach
    at the train station—flutist, cellist,
        wren

237: August 25th 2019 | bottlecap

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August 24th 2019

‘Methinks thou dost protest too much.’

Another of Shakespeare’s memorable lines, and so I won’t go on about my daughter’s absence, except to say this: I remember reading a book in German when I was a teenager called Der Mann ohne Schatten. I think. It was a 19th century novel about a man who trades his shadow to the devil in return for the devil’s powers. But without his shadow, he’s soon cursed to a life in shadows, darkness and loneliness.

It’s then that I thought that losing ones child to age and time is a bit like loosing ones shadow. Throughout the day I felt like a should be able to turn and see my shadow following me, but that if I did, my shadow would be gone. I may have to find some different light in which to see my children’s shadows anew.

DSC01718I wasn’t able to go about the city during the day, and so I took some pictures during the evening. Unlike my last visits, when I relied on my smart phone to take pictures, I took my camera this time. I’m no photographer and don’t know how to use most of my camera’s features, but it takes much better pictures in the evening.

I thought I’d share some images of Berlin on a warm August night:

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And along the Kudamm:

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And restaurants full of diners well into the evening:

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And I took a couple pictures through the store fronts. The neighborhood that I’m in mostly hosts DSC01739high end stores. They may carry a handful and paintings, or lights, or a couple racks of clothes. It’s a mystery to me how these stores stay open.

Later in the day I heard from my daughter. She made it to Bonn and has moved into her little room. She met the two children for whom she will be Au Pair’ing. One is speaking English to her and the other hasn’t yet spoken.

My daughter writes that she’s already struggling with numbers in German; but she’s set her mind to learning German during her year here, and so I suspect that numbers will seem very easy in a short while.

hiding
    in her mother's shadow—the child's
        shadow

236: August 24th 2019 | bottlecap

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August 23rd 2019

I took my daughter to the train station this morning, and saw her off. Among the most sorrowful moments of my life, but a moment that every (or most) parents experience. I couldn’t keep the tears from my eyes for the next hour. My beloved companion was gone, the girl I had carried home when she weighed a little over 2 pounds. Basho once wrote a famous haiku on the pain of separation:

行く春や                 Spring passing—

鳥啼き魚の            birds cry and tears

目は泪                    in the eyes of fish.

I couldn’t stop thinking of it. The pain was my own. Preferring to be alone, I walked to the Schloss Charlottenburg.

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That was where the Queen Charlotte stayed, and rarely consorted with Frederick the Great. Frederick was gay and had been forced into marriage. The Schloss was mostly destroyed in the final months of WWII. Only a handful of rooms survived. The rest is a reconstruction. I didn’t actually go inside (having already been inside) but walked the extensive garden in the back, then along the canal that abuts the garden.

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I picked a park bench where I wrote another page or two in my novel. I sat under three hundred year old oak trees that every so often dropped acorn.s Later I had too much to drink, and walked it off during nightfall.

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I’m not normally a drinker, and look forward to the apple cider of Vermont’s September. I do love Berlin, but am discovering that my real home is in my writing.

city
    streets but even so—hearing only the falling
        acorn

235: August 23rd 2019 | bottlecap

 

August 22nd 2019

DSC01665Today was my last full day with my daughter. We started out by visiting the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer. We had visited the year before, and she has so far enjoyed revisiting the same places. The Museum of the Berlin Wall is dedicated to one small stretch of the Berlin wall famous for picture of escaping East Germans. The wall was built a matter of feet from apartment buildings, and these soon became famous for pictures of East Germans leaping from windows, over the wall, the way one might jump from a burning building into a stretched tarp. The East Germans quickly got wind of the escape route and mortared the windows. After that, they demolished the  apartment buildings and a church as well—the latter in the mid 1980’s.

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This portion of the wall was preserved. The area that is now grass used to be on the East German side and was peppered with land mines. I know a place, close by, where the wall still stands, unknown to tourists, and not a part of the museum. It’s half-hidden in weeds and half-grown trees.

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As far as I know, the Gedenkstätte is the only location where a watchtower is still preserved. I remember Berlin before the wall fell and was well-acquainted with it. The old lights that you can see, like street lights next to the watch tower, had a sickly, greenish hue to them (at the time). I’ve seen the Gedenkstätte at night and the museum doesn’t reproduce that sickly light. We wandered round Berlin a little after that.

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As always, one never knows what one is going to discover around the corner. And after that she wanted to go up into the Fernsehturm, a tower built by the East Germans and, despite all their other failings, a remarkable tower.

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And enjoyed a cocktail at the bar. The elevator, we were told, rose at 6 meters per second. My ears were popping the whole way.

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And after all that we had dinner out. There were lots of families, crying children, happy children, Berliners sitting in their balconies above use. Just down the road, the S-Bahn came and went. I gave her a sweet-dreams kiss before she went to sleep tonight, the last I’ll be able to give her for a long time, and shed a tear.

even
    overseas, the crow looks down
        on me

234: August 22nd 2019 | bottlecap