Jessica Eve Watkins
28th February, 2016
I’ve been in Neukolln for three weeks now. It been a long February. Swinging high and very low, looping like a rollercoaster through strange city at speed, and then shuddering to stops in dark cafe corners. Letting the tears roll. My feet walk miles north, west, or east. I pick a destination and pace tarmac for hours, weaving in and out of parks, city blocks and endless urban landscapes. Berlin spreads forever, her heavy rain, her shining cobbled streets and neon signs. At first I am utterly overwhelmed. Nights brim with eerie dreaming. The sun never shining, German language never forming on my lips. I want to put my tail between my legs and go home.
Why are you here? Asks a friend I haven’t seen in two years.
I’m interested in leaving my cocoon, I reply. I’m adventuring. Beyond that I don’t know. I think I’m here to make art, to explore this mysterious city. Wont the purposes unfold with the days?
And sometimes this purposelessness engulfs me and crosses the shadow-lines into hopelessness. I forget every good thing I have done with my life. I forget that I am good at doing anything, and get very drunk instead. I trawl through old blog posts and videos, trying to remember who I have been, how much magic and music has been felt and heard in this heart of mine. This heart has known genuine euphoria and now it watches too much Netflix.
I pray to feel lighter, I pray to let go of separateness. After two weeks the weight begins to slip a little from my shoulders, I think for no other reason than everything is cyclical, nothing can stay the same. Swelling with full moon I start laughing, I start hugging, I start editing the Anima Rising movie again. I talk to my family a lot and they unanimously tell me to relax. To stop worrying about the big picture, to stop being so hard on myself.
The sun comes. We dive out into mornings. We pack rucksacks with sketchbooks and maps, sunglasses and novels. Sometimes the U-bahn to Alexanderplatz and on to Eberswalderstraße. Sometimes to meet George in our beloved Practwerk or Laidak, for coffee and German wine. Sometimes to Museum Island to remember grand architecture, and sometimes to shuffle amongst the black-coated hipsters of Kreuzberg. Pulling scarves and hats closer to the endless blue chill of early spring.
Feels like conquering America all over again, Helsie says. Yes, I agree. And it does. Each day this place makes a little more sense. But I don’t know where my heart is. Is it here in my body, in Berlin? I so want it to be. It feels suspiciously lost in America still, and I’m crestfallen that maybe it always will be.
I join the Shambhala Buddhists in Neukolln and a mindfulness-philosophy class at Bodhicharya, Friedrichshain, where the prayer flags are strung high and crisscross the courtyard. I meditate more than usual, and practice yoga with Hels some mornings, the sun streaking across our wooden-floored apartment. I walk and walk and walk. We sing at an open mic and get asked to play a show. Eat streuselkuchen and cinnamon bread, drink endless flat whites and fenchel tee in cafes where the candles are lit before noon.
I am aware of human sickness. Endless consumerism. Fried food from paper trays killing insides. The subway carriages of solo-riders, eyes to phones, mouths slack from years of weeks of days of feeling alone. This cold, harsh weather puckers up the faces of the elderly into resigned survivalists; set, stubborn and separate.
But I am aware also of toddlers in puffy snow suits gawping at me with such ernest curiosity my heart splits open wide. I see couples grocery shopping together and somehow it’s like the most romantic scene imaginable. I want to fall in love again. I want to feel like me again! I am catching glimpses, as I point out crocuses birthing in the earth and can’t stop from smiling. There is so much goodness in this city, there is everything I could want if I’m prepared to notice. She is talking to me at lightening speed about all that is, and for now my only job is to listen.