It is almost dawn, and once again sleep fled me well before the sun crosses the mountains. My mind spins with details that must be taken care of before I board the plane a week from tomorrow.
To still the vortex that stirs my mind I have Beethoven’s Ninth sounding in my ears. Right now Schiller’s words from the Ode to Joy--Freude--pulse as this very long symphony pounds it way to an end, just as my days in Salt Lake come to a close for many months.
A week from Wednesday I step through the tunnel and into a winged tube that will port me to another world, that where Beethoven and Schiller trod. Germany has always spoken itself around me, even though it is a land and not a person. It is the place from which my Aunt, Omi (her mother), Klara (my step-Grandmother), and so many other people in my parent’s and grandparent’s generation hailed. Their accents in English always witnessed to that other place, as did the seeming endless stories of World War I and II when Germany was the enemy.
At school Germany spoke through names such as Marx, Weber, Schiller, Goethe, Freud, Hesse, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Bach, and so on. They were the intellects that built the house of reason and art I came to occupy.
Thursday afternoon I will walk through the tunnel again into Tegel Airport, then the S Bahn and the U Bahn until I walk from a sliding door, into Danziger Straße and Berlin where the next two months of my life will take place.
To talk about Berlin to me is like speaking of Xanadu, Timbuktu, Cairo, Benares, Shanghai: exotic places drenched half in the soft enticing light of myth and half in the hot light of realism. But they are not real, yet, to me. I have not walked their streets, heard their sounds, eaten their food, not breathed their air.
Thursday, as I leave the tunnel, Berlin will become real, though myth will like a cloud, float on the horizon to sometimes fill the city’s sky and other times dissipate into a thin background stripe. I have looked at the city on Google Earth, scanned its streets and buildings. But I do not know what it will be like beyond the virtual bubble.
I do not know whether the German I studied so intensely in college, so many decades ago, still has any life and can speak a bridge between the passersby and me. I do not wish to remain a wanderer who passes through untouched by the vast reality of this city that has had so much impact on the world, and me. It stands between east and west in the Eurasian landmass, the major continent of this tiny globe, whose western fringe is all I know. I wish to speak with people, to sit in their cities cafe’s and converse, to learn to see as their eyes see, to take on their Stand, their point of view, like a set of new clothes, though ones I only borrow for a while.
My Stand, my city, Salt Lake in the sharp, dusty light of the Great Basin, will move to the backstage of my mind. It and its people are part of me and will never leave. I carry them, like tattoos, on every cell of my body and mind. But the world is big and, from my earliest memories, I have wanted to absorb its length and breadth, as more than a wanderer.
Berlin is there, over the horizon, where it is already day and people are finishing lunch. A week from Thursday I will eat my dinner there. But today, I must dine at home in a rush to get everything put away and all my tasks done. Dawn is coming soon; the night is darkest. Beethoven’s Ninth has ended, and I must get ready.