Chorin Abbey

The Cistercians founded this gothic abbey in Chorin/Brandenburg in 1258.

After centuries of power and influence, secularization in the 16th century led to a long decay, until it was partially restored under Karl Friedrich Schinkel in the 19th century.

For me, it is a place of contemplation:

Walls and missed opportunities

Passages and impossibilities

Age and decay

Time and loss

Trillium Ovale (Muir Woods I)

At this time of the year, the monthlong Brown here in the Midwest is broken by the appearance of the first Spring wildflower, the Snow Trillium.

I have written too often about it.

At the same time of the year, the Pacific woods already burst with wildflowers.

Here we see the Trillium ovatum, whose white flowers slowly turn pink while they age.

The threefold symmetry sees the occasional exception with the appearance of a quadrillium, which has fourfold symmetry, like the four leaf clover. With astonishment I saw here a specimen with two-fold symmetry of leaves, petals, stamen and sepals. Duollium?

Patience

Our human sense of time is deeply flawed — linear, homocentric, short.

The majestic redwoods of the Pacific Northwest capture our centuries in moments of their existence – past, present and future become one.

Each year a circle, circle after circle, in perpetuity.

Time here has become space that is occupied by fragile instances of hope.

Burnt, scarred, fractured, hollowed, and yet still alive, stubbornly providing support for what is more important.

We humans have managed to reproduce the size of these trees in our cities. However, what we have missed is to also capture the organic beauty of every little detail, each sliver of bark.

We still haven’t acquired the patience and the determination to allow something to happen.

Let’s not forget that trees will remember us when we are all gone.

Birth (Ferns 7)

My first visit to Fern Canyon in summer was shear awe, with the abundance of fern and growth. In winter, time seems to be in balance.

Everything is suspended, in space and time. This is a moment of not-knowing, of anxiety.

After descending into the canyon, the intense presence of water shows how everything is in flux. Are we ready?

Curiously, the walls of the canyon give safety and comfort and embrace.

The walls move back and forth, and eventually recede and relax.

Are you there, too?

Trillium Falls Trail

After visiting Fern Canyon in Northern California, the Trillium Falls Trail offers a convenient loop to conclude a rainy day.

What do our short years matter to these trees? Having this much time, and not messing up, not failing, is not for our kind.

Even falling takes an eternity here.

The giant redwoods carry themselves with a grace that is beyond us, and create a space that is entirely their own.

Palimpsests of textured bark record stories of pain and healing. If only we had skin like that.

Or are we the ones who are blessed not to know what is contained in so much time and space, because we could never bear it?

Is seeing time pass quickly really healthier for us?

And is fragility only possible because others bear the space and time that is intolerable for us?

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Three and a Half

The first three pictures are from the summer in 2018. My daughter and I were on our way back from Northern California to San Francisco.

We stopped for a night in Mendocino, precariously perched on a cliff, the morning fog obstructing the view of the beginning day.

The last three pictures were taken this January, 3 1/2 years later, again on our way back, again in Mendocino.

This time the evening clouds leave the view open.

What happened in these 3 1/2 years? And what will happen in the next 3 1/2 years?

Humboldt Lagoons

The Humboldt Lagoons in Northern California offer plenty of exposure to the elements, even on a mild winter day.

Walking the dark sand bank that separates the ocean from the lagoon becomes a search.

Nothing could be more ostensibly temporary, but still life holds on.

Shouldn’t we live so that our life becomes a story worth telling?

This place – like each of us – is a challenge – what words, what language can contain it?

Winterreise (Berlin XVIII)

Any mention of a Winterreise evokes Franz Schubert’s song cycle from 1827 based on the poems by Wilhelm Müller.

Anselm Kiefer’s tight installation with the same title at the Diversity United exhibition in Berlin displays a wintry landscape on a stage in a narrow optical perspective.

Actors appear as labels on wooden tags: Names like Joseph von Eichendorff, Madame de Staël, Ulrike Meinhoff, Hermann Hesse and many others make it clear that the scope is larger than German Romanticism from the 19th century.

The extension happens in space, towards France, and in time towards our century.

The choice of objects include mushrooms from a fairy tale forest as well as war relics: A discrepancy between imagination and reality that has only been partially processed by the actors-writers on stage.

Schubert’s and Kiefer’s Winterreise both warn us about illusions. Why do we never listen?

Below is a stereo pair for creating a 3D illusion for those of us capable of cross-eyed viewing.

Leaves and Shadows (Berlin XVII)

The Dorotheenstadt Cemetery is permanent home of more eminent German writers than any other cemetery I know. It is located in in Berlin-Mitte and belongs to the former eastern part of the city.

There are very famous ones like Bertold Brecht with Helene Weigel above or Anna Seghers with Johann-Lorenz Schmidt below.

The style of the tombstones varies enormously – permitting individualism that the living did not necessarily enjoy.

While looking for a proper quote from one of all these writers that have come here together, I came across this little sonnet by Wolfgang Hilbig:

Blätter und Schatten

Nicht neu kann sein was du beginnst –
denn immer nimmst du was dir längst gegeben
und gibst es hin:
wie in der Liebe da es mir gebricht
an jeder Kenntnis: rot wie die Buchen Laub verstreun
maßlos am Wegrand wo ich schon sehr frühe ging …
und kannte nicht den Weg
und kenn ihn jetzt noch nicht
und kenne nicht das Kind des Schatten mir vorausläuft
und weiß nichts von der Sonne die ihr rotes Gold
dem Blattwerk einbrennt.
Und weiß nicht mehr den Herbst
der ernst in meinem Rücken ging und dem ich Schatten
war: stets neu entworfner Schatten ungezählter Herbste.

Leaves and Shadows

New cannot be what you begin –
because you always take what you’ve already been given
and give it away:
like in love where I lack
all knowledge: red as when the beeches scatter leaves
along the trail where I walked so early …
and did not know the way
and still don’t know
and don’t know the child whose shadow runs ahead
and know nothing about the sun that burns its red gold
into the foliage.
And don’t know the autumn anymore
that once walked solemnly in my back and to which I was
its shadow: Always newly drafted shadow of countless autumns.

Having become a shadow doesn’t mean to be forgotten.

The words still reach for us, like the hands in George Tabori’s tomb stone below.

Krumme Lanke (Berlin XVI)

Berlin has no Pate Hollow trail, but it offers many lakes that can be walked around, and that are, alas, similar in the type and amount of gratification they offer.

The Krumme Lanke is one of them, and a part of a chain of lakes in the Grunewald, connected by streams.

The lake itself is elongated and curved, as the name suggests.

In the summer, the water level rises considerably when hundreds of brave locals immerse. I don’t know.

I prefer the dark winter hours when the scraggly trees start to talk to each other.

Do ducks write such long poems elsewhere, too?