August 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

A wasp is exploring the rim of my coffee cup. She dashes over to my fingers and face before returning to the same fascinating spot on the cup.

On the radio:

(How ’bout the way he acts?)
Oh no! That’s not the way!
You’re not listenin’ to all I’m sayin’!
If you wanna know
If he loves you so
It’s in his kiss!

The barista has huge brown eyes and bleached bangs. Every woman in Berlin has bangs, some sideswept, some shaggy.

Rob is under the table, plugging in his laptop. He’s listening in on a work call with headphones. He steps out to the street every few minutes – I assume to speak, when necessary.

I’m in the corner, leaning against a wall with my legs stretched out on a padded bench. My laptop, aptly, is on my lap. The coffee is making my heart beat faster. Outside, the wind is shaking chestnut trees and causing cyclists to frown in determination as they pedal on.

A funny looking white dog with brown spots just walked into the cafe on his own. The barista kneels and pets him all over, making cooing German sounds and smiling. The dog has a studded leather collar around his neck.  Now he is sniffing the floor under my table. Rob tries to pet him. The dog considers the offered hand, but turns to leave when he ascertains that the hand contains nothing edible.

Berlin looks and feels like an older version of Tel Aviv. They could be sisters. Both chain-smoke and party all night in yesterday’s clothes. Both are aggressive, emotional, full of life, argumentative and cynical. Both are ugly.

Most of the time I am alone. Rob was assigned a big project, and he works long hours. Sometimes he is still working at 9PM. I only work three hours a day, and I have lots of time for exploring. I’ve been walking a lot. I’m still astonished and charmed by how easy it is to walk for long hours. I look at the map, and I feel a desire to pick a direction and walk, and then just keep going forever. See how far it takes me. Sleep when I’m tired, eat when I’m hungry, like a happy big animal.

The sun is suddenly out and the chestnut trees are still.  Rob steps out again. My wasp is now interested in the mouth of a slender blond girl (sideswept bangs) in a funky striped shirt. The girl closes her eyes and waves the wasp away with a flitting pointy hand. Her blond friend (shaggy bangs) leans backwards and chatters and laughs in German. The wasp abandons her quarry.


Ordinary Lake

May 14, 2010 § 2 Comments

We were sitting on an old jetty on the neighbor’s property, listening to the blackbirds, and watching the lake.

The sky was overcast, a white low blanket with no discernible individual clouds. It wasn’t cold. There was no wind. The lake reflected the whiteness of the sky, and sharp-edged spruces were mirrored on its flat surface without a ripple to distort them. On the opposite bank, the trees were blue and soft, tiny in the distance. Between them and us: water. Flat, clear, deep.

I said, “This is really beautiful.”
Jørgen raised his eyebrows and said, “What, the lake? It’s just an ordinary lake.”

An ordinary lake.

I thought of my childhood. We had one lake. We admired it greatly. We enjoyed the luxury of swimming in a large body of water without getting salt in our eyes. It was a major vacation destination. Everyone camped on its shore, often several times a year. The lake, our one lake, was further proof of the fantastic natural diversity of our country. We knew songs about the lake. The lake was our pride. We regarded it as a national treasure. It was also our national reservoir, the primary source of water for all of us, and it was always shrinking. We went to war once because the Lebanese threatened to divert the river which flowed into our beloved lake. When it rained, we thought of our lake filling up and hoped the rain would continue . On the radio, we anxiously heard: water levels have dropped again below The Red Line. Water levels lower than they have been in years. Government-sponsored ads everywhere saying, “Don’t waste a drop!”

When you live with one lake your whole life, seeing a country full of lakes is like visiting a paradise, or walking in a dream. So many lakes, some never camped by or even seen for years. No songs written about them, no fearful measuring of their depths. No lives depend on them for survival. Lakes everywhere, un-admired, ordinary.


January 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

My life was going in one direction, and now it’s going in another. I don’t know where I’m heading, and I am not going to think about it today. At this moment, right now, I am suspended in the air. I don’t feel any fear.  I’m just observing.

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