Let me start by saying how much I love Berlin. I love Berlin so so so so so so so so much. So much. I have been here two and a half days and I feel certain that I am going to live here sometime in the near future. Being here feels like a movie montage where the young ingenue is finding herself for the first time and the birds are singing and they’re playing “Here Comes the Sun” and all of that.
But let me talk about labyrinths and then I can gush more about Berlin. On this trip I am reading “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco for the first time and I love it. And it keeps telling me exactly what I need to hear exactly when I need to hear it. Here is a quote that struck me and stuck with me, so much so that I decided to illustrate it in my journal.
‘”How beautiful the world is, how ugly labyrinths are,” I said.
“How beautiful the world would be if there were a procedure for moving through labyrinths,” my master replied.’
I arrived in Berlin at the end of about two days’ travel. A ten hour flight to Stockholm, seven hours of layover, three more hours to Berlin, and then an hour to my AirBnB. I know that only adds up to 21 hours but it was spread over two days. Anyway, I arrived a bit exhausted and loopy with no ability to map my position and only the helpful instructions from my host that made absolute sense in daylight and were completely obscure to my sleep-deprived brain. I got on a train that I hoped was the right train with what I hoped was the right ticket. I disembarked at what I hoped was the right spot and then wandered in every direction for half an hour until finally asking a Donor vendor where on God’s green earth I was.
Turns out I was in Berlin.
Long story short (too late), I made it to the flat and fell into a much-needed sleep.
And the next day I struck out again, this time to find the East Side Gallery, the section of the Berlin Wall that was turned into a series of artworks in 2009. I left around 7:30 and didn’t find it until 2:00. It’s about a mile away…
But find it I did! And along the way saw the circus academy, old men playing table tennis in the park, couples sitting drinking beer by the canal, Katie’s Blue Cat Cafe (misnomer: did not have a blue cat), and the whole of Berlin in the grip of an absolutely gorgeous spring. And it was in this wandering that I happened upon the above mentioned quote.
I have walked reflective labyrinths before, and I have gotten lost in several places, so that now I feel I have some sort of idea about the procedure. Labyrinths, it seems, are places where you must get lost in order to find yourself.
This trip so far has been about letting go, letting go of all the anger and fear I’ve been carrying the past few years, letting go of my sense of who I’m supposed to be and when and why, and letting go of my need to control things, even things as simple as directions.
On my thirteen hour wander yesterday, I got turned around more times than I can count, but every misstep only revealed something new that I would have hated to miss. Which I suppose is my way of saying, let the labyrinth guide you. Let the path speak to you. Let go of your need to control it all, because it turns out you can’t.
The most hauntingly beautiful thing I saw yesterday was in the Jewish Museum of Berlin. It was the Holocaust Tower, an empty vertical space that reached up through the building. Gray cement walls, no controlled heating, no light except what came in from outside. I stepped through the door and felt myself moved by the ghosts around me. And where they pointed me in that great open space was again and again towards the light.