Dear Friends,

There are children, in the courtyard, playing under a slate sheet of sky. They’re shouting, who knows what, and if I were eight or nine, though it’s almost freezing, I’d join them in their game of tag. Perhaps, their use of energy– to play, to laugh, to run, to enjoy the moment they’re in– dismisses the stark surroundings, the stony sky, the impenetrability of winter. To be a child is to be present, and by hearing their voices, there has been a parting, if not in the sky, in my mind. It’s brighter outside.

Let birds, let birds.
Let leaf be passion.

Since I’ve become enamored with Berlin (though I never thought I would), I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading online articles about this dynamic city: articles about the influx of young Israeli immigrants and all the great businesses they’re opening, articles about the abundance of galleries and the vibrant art scene, blogposts about how much it’s loved  and possibly the most expatriate friendly in Europe, but most importantly, I’ve been reading the job boards and searching job sites like, jobsinberlin.eu and venturevillage.eu. There are jobs that I could do and even some that I would enjoy, but I haven’t seen any job, besides those in I.T that don’t require at least intermediate German. There are levels of German from A1 to B something that the jobs I like have required, but my German hasn’t even entered the alphabet yet.

The children are gone; it’s school time, and the birds have come to reclaim their courtyard. From Japan to Indonesia to India to Jamaica to Germany, the morning starts with the sounds, the movement, and the wonder of the birds. Looking outside, there are many things to notice: the residents walking their dogs, who, like the children, jump and yap, the bicycles leaning against the trees,  the smokers in their black hooded coats lighting up in gloveless hands, and the desperate plants on balconies; but, I choose to notice the birds. How we live is all about how we choose to feel, what we choose to see, and what we choose to think, isn’t it? Life doesn’t happen to us, as some say, we select and select and select… continuous choices throughout the day.

I woke up this morning, and my initial thoughts were those of worry, “What if I don’t find a job?” “What if my money runs out and I’m still searching like so many complained of on the board?” “What if I don’t get to stay in Berlin, though I want to?” Filling my mind with worry was uneventful and unproductive, so I did what they taught me to do in India, and what I should’ve done upon waking, I sat in silence for a while, and the heaviness of doubt lifted. The answer came too– there’s always another way, another door, another choice; don’t despair.

Last night, I enjoyed an exquisite dinner with my friend T, and her very good friend M, who asked me to tell no one of the restaurant, because he wants it to remain a “secret.” His exact words were, “I know the owner has to make a living, but I don’t want people to know about this place.” The restaurant, with walls decorated only with wine bottles and a large photo of Marlon Brando, is intimate (seats about 25), candlelit and fragrant with herbs, meats slowly cooking in wine, calamari crisping on an open fire, and pizza baking in the brick oven. The owner and wait staff greet and serve in Italian, with voices as smooth and melodious as the honey they drizzled into the peppermint tea served in a wine glass. At our table, we heartily, and possibly too quickly, ate large servings of a vegetarian white-flour pasta, a seafood black linguini pasta, and a filet mignon with truffles and thinly sliced potato; the pastas were homemade, with the right amount of olive oil, basil and a dash of oregano. The dessert: a light, creamy, tiramisu, and a fresh lime sorbet with mint.  Germans have a charming way of saying, “I invite you to…;” for example, M said, “I’d like to have an appetizer. I invite you to have one;” which in essence means, “it’s my treat.” I’ve never heard the adjective “charming” associated with Germans, but I find quite a few things that I’ve seen, in my short time here, to be just that.

l

There are no sounds of human activity in the building or outside. Perhaps all have gone to school, to work, to the Edeka, the supermarket on the corner; or perhaps, like me, some are snug on a sofa or in bed, drinking mint tea, and looking outside of themselves at the life around them. Perhaps, they are noticing birds. Do the birds who move in quick succession, past the window, worry? Do they think, “It’s too cold out here; my song should stop; my upward movement should halt?” Or, do they keep moving, singing and feeling there’s nothing out there but song and sky?

Let winter impress you. Let spring.
Allow the lost ocean to wake in you.– Let Birds, Linda Gregg

Love,

Val

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